Archive for July, 2020

Summer in Essoyes

Essoyes on a summer evening. Photo by Phineas Rueckert.

I don’t really think of Essoyes as a tourist town, but it is, among other things, a wonderful place for tourists to visit. This is partly the legacy of Alain Cintrat, who has just ended 20 years of public service as our mayor, and partly the legacy of his mother. Of course there were many other people involved in making their dream of memorializing the history of the Renoir family in Essoyes come true; but if not for their dedication and determination over a period of many years, it would probably not have happened.

In any case, it did happen, and as a result Essoyes has become a lovely and very interesting place for tourists to visit, along with the many other lovely villages in this part of southern Champagne, very near the Burgundian border.

So it was that, just before the quatorze juillet, I noticed that the village square was suddenly full of cars, the physically distanced lines outside the bakery and in our little grocery store were longer, and there were lots of tourists strolling through the town. (You can tell which ones are the tourists: they are the ones wearing sporty casual vacation wear, walking at a very leisurely pace through the streets of the town, rather than on the sidewalks. This is irritating only when you are trying to drive a car through those narrow streets, but it is irritation tempered by the knowledge that having tourists come here is a good thing for Essoyes. It is…)

The rate of COVID cases has begun to tick up in France again, and France is responding. Everywhere you go there are signs reminding people what they can, and in some cases must, do to help protect themselves and others, and slow the rate of infection. In Essoyes, starting in August there will be testing available once a week in the community center. And everyone is hoping that, if everyone continues (or begins!) to follow the recommended guidelines for containing the virus, we can avoid a second wave that would be worse than the first. I suspect health care workers are hoping that more than anyone, let’s try to help them out with that, everyone, shall we?

And so, life has returned more or less to normal–well, to the “new normal”–at least for now. For our family that means raspberry tartes for July birthdays–and we celebrated two of them in our home this month.

Happy Birthday, Phineas!

The tartes at lunch were followed by a delicious meal at La Guingette des Arts, on the banks of the Ource River, which flows through the center of Essoyes. (The photo at the top of this post, by the way, taken by “the birthday boy” that night, is not retouched. Believe it or not!) And here’s a photo of him enjoying his escargots at La Guingette.

There will be an organ concert in the church in Essoyes this weekend. How exciting is that? (After nothing happening in the churches for such a long time? Very!)

Wishing everyone a safe, happy continuation. Stay well. Stay safe. Prenez soin de vous.


Janet Hulstrand
 is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “
A Long Way from Iowa.”

July 29, 2020 at 6:01 pm 2 comments

Merci, M. le Maire d’Essoyes

 
 
 
Maire d’Essoyes depuis 2001, M. Alain CINTRAT ne s’est pas présenté à la mairie en 2020. Il a ensuite été élu conseiller municipale dans la liste électorale de notre nouveau maire, M. Thierry MERCUZOT, et continuera de s’engager au service du commune d’Essoyes dans ce role — celui aussi important. 
 
 
Son service en tant que maire désormais achevé, j’ai pensé que ce serait un bon moment de réfléchir sur son mandat, et de lui remercier de tout ce qu’il a fait pour notre commune. Alors, en janvier, je lui ai envoyé plusieurs questions, et il m’a répondu par mail. J’ai pensé de publier ce poste juste après les élections municipales, au mois de mars, mais à cause de la crise sanitaire, le deuxième tour a été reporté et son mandat prolongé pendant quelques mois. Enfin, voila ses réponses à mes questions envoyées en hiver :
 
(An English-language version follows the original, which was conducted in French.) Janet Hulstrand  
 
Parisien de naissance, j’ai grandi à Essoyes, qui est mon village même si j’aime Paris ou je vais toujours avec grand plaisir; c’est le berceau d’une partie de ma famille qui y réside encore en partie.
 
J’ai grandi à Essoyes, j’y ai travaillé, je m’y suis marié, et j’en suis devenu le maire en 2001. Mes parents m’avaient ouvert la voie: mon père en plus d’un travail très prenant s’était engagé dans les pompiers, il en est devenu le chef, j’ai suivi sa trace en étant moi même pompier, et je lui ai succédé comme chef du centre de secours.
 
Ma mère a toujours été portée vers les autres, c’était naturel chez elle, la maison était ouverte à ceux qui en avait besoin pour remplir des papiers, pour des aides diverses, ou pour se faire faire une piqûre à une époque ou il n’y avait pas d’infirmières. Elle a été conseillère municipale, je pense qu’un de ses regrets a été de ne pas être maire. Elle a compensé en créant avec quelques passionnés l’association Renoir, elle s’est investie avec toute la fougue qui la caractérisait. Aujourd’hui ce qui existe autour de Renoir c’est en grande partie grâce à elle.
 
 
M. le maire Alain CINTRAT (a gauche) et sa mere (a droit)
 
J’ai suivi la trace peut-être inconsciemment, c’était naturel; quand on m’a proposé d’intégrer le conseil municipal je n’ai pas hésité. C’était mon devoir de travailler pour ce village qui a accueilli ma famille et ou nous nous sentons bien; j’ai la chance que mes enfants puissent y vivre. Je n’avais pas d’idées préconçues, je n’avais pas de plan, j’apportais ma pierre à l’édifice sans ambition autre que celle de participer activement à la vie d’Essoyes.
 
Je suis devenu maire naturellement; j’étais passé de conseiller municipal à adjoint, puis 1er adjoint. Maire était la suite logique, c’est une fonction lourde, prenante, qui demande beaucoup de disponibilité; c’est surtout une fonction passionnante au service des habitants. Je crois qu’il faut aimer les gens pour exercer cette fonction, car c’est parfois (meme souvent) ingrat; il faut savoir faire abstraction des critiques, il ne faut pas attendre de remerciements, ce qui va bien aux yeux des habitants c’est normal, par contre dès que quelque chose ne plaît pas, la critique est là. Il faut être fort pour être maire.
 
Le quotidien est relativement simple: c’est de la gestion, il faut gérer le personnel, animer l’équipe municipale. La plus grande qualité pour être maire est à mes yeux d’être visionnaire: il faut savoir ce que l’on veut pour Essoyes dans les années futures, préparer des dossiers, lancer les études, demander les subventions demandent beaucoup de temps. Il ne peut pas y avoir d’improvisation, un mandat de six ans peut paraître long mais c’est très court pour des dossiers de plus en plus complexes à monter.
 
Un village qui perd des habitants est un village qui meurt à petit feu, c’est le constat que j’ai fait quand j’ai été élu maire, j’ai mis toute mon énergie à inverser cette spirale négative et si je dois aujourd’hui être fier d’une action que j’ai mené c’est celle ci. Essoyes gagne des habitants c’est suffisamment rare pour être signalé.
 
C’est une fonction enrichissante que j’ai exercé avec passion mais qui demande un engagement personnel important, il faut parfois être fort c’est le maire qui annonce les mauvaises nouvelles (par exemple les décès), et qui gère les situations difficiles–incendies, accidents…
 
 
 
Le conjoint doit accepter cet engagement permanent au service des administrés.
 
Je m’apprête à quitter cette fonction sans regret: il faut que des idées nouvelles émergent, c’est nécessaire pour continuer à progresser.
 
 
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE VERSION (translated by Janet Hulstrand)
 
 
Mayor of Essoyes since 2001, M. Alain CINTRAT did not run for mayor this year. He was recently elected as a member of the municipal council, along with the team of our new mayor, M. Thierry MERCUZOT. So he will continue to be involved in serving the commune of Essoyes in this also quite important role.
 
But, since his term of service as mayor is now over, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on his years of leadership, and to thank him for all he has done for our community. So, last winter, I sent him some questions, and he responded to me via email. I had thought to publish this post just after the municipal elections in March, but the pandemic caused everything to be prolonged, including the mayor’s term of service. Now, at last, here are the answers he wrote in response to my questions back in January.
 
I was born in Paris, but I grew up in Essoyes, which is my home, even though I love Paris, and I always love going there; it’s the home of some members of my family, who still live there.
 
I grew up in Essoyes, it is here that I worked, I was married, and where I became mayor in 2001. My parents prepared the way for me: my father, on top of a very demanding job, was a volunteer firefighter, and he became the chief. I followed in his footsteps, becoming a firefighter myself; and I also followed him as chief of the centre de secours.
 
My mother was always engaged with others, it was natural for her: our home was open to those who needed help filling out paperwork, or various other things, even to have a shot given in a period where there were no nurses in town. She was a member of the municipal council; I think that one of her regrets was to never have been mayor. She made up for it by creating, along with several other enthusiasts, the Renoir Association, and she gave to it all the energy that was characteristic of her. What exists today in Essoyes about the Renoirs is in large part thanks to her efforts.
I followed a path more or less subconsciously, it was just natural: when it was proposed that I run for municipal council, I didn’t hesitate to do so. I felt it was my duty to work for this village that had welcomed my family, and where we had done so well. I’m fortunate that my children can live here. I didn’t have any preconceived notions, I didn’t have a plan, I just added my stone to the building, without any ambition other than to participate actively in the life of Essoyes.
 
I became mayor also quite naturally: I went from municipal council member to deputy, then first deputy. Mayor was a logical next step. It’s a heavy responsibility, very demanding, and it requires a lot of availability; above all it’s passionate service to the residents of a village. I think you have to like people to do this job, because it is sometimes (even often) thankless: you have to know how to take criticism, you can’t expect thanks, when things go well, the people accept it as a matter of course; on the other hand, as soon as they don’t like something, they’re critical. It takes a strong person to be mayor.
 
The daily duties are relatively simple: it’s a question of management, you have to manage staff, and inspire the municipal team. The most important quality in a mayor in my opinion is to be visionary. You have to know what will be good for Essoyes in the coming years, prepare documents, launch studies, request grants. It all takes a lot of time. It can’t be improvised: a term of six years may seem long, but it’s actually very short given the more and more complex dossiers that must be prepared.
 
A village that is losing inhabitants is a village that is dying bit by bit. That’s what was happening when I became mayor. I have put all my energy into reversing this downward spiral, and if I can be proud of anything it is that. Essoyes is gaining inhabitants, which is rare enough to be noteworthy. It’s been rewarding work that I have done with passionate engagement; it requires significant personal dedication. Sometimes you have to announce bad news, or manage difficult situations: fires, accidents.
 
 
 
The mayor’s spouse also has to accept this constant personal engagement in the service of the town. I’m ready to leave this position without regret; it’s important for new ideas to emerge: that is necessary for things to continue to progress.
 

Janet Hulstrand
 is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “
A Long Way from Iowa.”
 
 

July 22, 2020 at 8:16 am 2 comments

Bastille Day in Essoyes 2020

…In France this holiday is called “la fête nationale” or, more commonly, le quatorze juillet. This year, as usual it started on the evening of the 13th of July…

Continue Reading July 15, 2020 at 9:14 am 1 comment

Déconfinement, Paris-style

It was time for another trip to Paris last week, and oh how lovely (and interesting! and joyful!) to be there again…

Continue Reading July 4, 2020 at 7:53 am Leave a comment


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