Sunday, 4 March 2012
Lo 28en Carnaval Occitan de Besièrs
Yesterday Helke and Stéphane invited us to join in the procession for Béziers' Occitan Carnaval. Occitan is the language of the local culture, a cross between French and Spanish. In Béziers there is a strong Occitan community and a school, La Calandreta, which teaches the children (including Helke and Stéphane's children) in Occitan. It is the school, along with the parents and students, which organises the Carnaval. The Carnaval philosophy is most salutary. Like carnivals around the world the order of the day is disorder; society is turned upside down and power is given to the people. Halfway through the procession the revellers welcome their sovereign, the Caramentrant. But as the procession continues there is a gathering rumble of popular discontent against the king. At the end of the procession he is disgraced and put on trial. For the Béziers Carnaval the jury is composed exclusively of children. The king is condemned, of course, and then burnt. And with him are burnt all the unhappiness, the failures and the frustrations of the previous year. Everything goes up in smoke and the year starts anew.
Despite the melancholy skies, being part of the procession was wonderful. We wandered through the streets of Béziers, dancing along to the elemental beats of the musique d'Oc, enthusiastically supplied by La Bande à Béziers, Matilda scattering confetti in our wake. Both minibeasts were enthralled.
Now, I don't want to sound crass (you can take the girl out of Blighty, you can't take Blighty out of the girl) but perhaps my favourite memory of the day was when, the embers of the Caramentrant still glowing, we all sloped off to the local Irish pub for a pint. Nothing beats the feeling, after an afternoon in the fresh air, of nursing a pint into gentle tiddlydom, and feeling the anxiety of the kids running riot slowly fade into the beerosphere. I have always been an amateur of the humble pub but it is only since becoming a parent that I realise its true worth.