Driving to St Félicien the other morning I found myself behind a long cavalcade of trucks and trailers, all brightly painted red, making their way steadily, if laboriously, over the bridges, round the bends and up the hill to the village. On the outskirts, they all drew up in a long line to regroup, and let the traffic past. It was a truly impressive sight. Enormously powerful lorries were towing up to four full sized trailers. I counted around 25, some carrying a couple of cars, some loaded with all the paraphernalia of the big top, one or two with barred windows . . . Le Lydia Circus was in town for one night only!
As you can see from the poster, there is not much to take exception to here. No caged lions or other wild beasts held captive and compelled to perform for our amusement. There do seem to be horses (and is that a cow?), but mostly it’s clowns, trapeze artists, juggling and suchlike. There are any number of these little family cirques which travel around the countryside during the summer months. They set up in someone’s field or frequently at the municipal campsite and provide a popular evening of harmless entertainment for locals and holiday makers alike. It has always been a feature of rural summer life in France and has just that touch of exoticism and razzamataz to get people out from in front of their televisions. This one did a couple of shows in Lamastre and then headed off into the Auvergne. I’m not sure where they were on the opening night of the Olympics but they might have struggled to get an audience on that occasion!
On my way back, I stopped at the cross-roads to get some pictures of the various other local events on offer – there seems to be something for everyone!
There is such a contrast between summer and winter here. From All Saints Day to Easter, as the ferociously secular French are likely to put it, nothing but the most traditional events and seasonal rendezvous are held. But for the next six months you can take your pick from star gazing and lectures on astrology in the aptly named village of Mars, to stock car racing, free concerts, the annual dog show, fireworks and the bals des pompiers (village dances) for the 14 July to name just a few.
Since the BBC blocked access to transmission of the extravaganza at the London Olympic Stadium, we had to console ourselves with a magnificent harp recital in the church of Empurany.