Le Muguet – Becoming French

Au mois de mai, fais ce qu’il te plait.

In the month of May do what your heart fancies.

 Provencal proverb

So today I feel like sharing a little bit of French culture with you, the 1st of May is a public holiday in France for the Fête du Travail and the day you will find people offering Le Muguet (Lily of the Valley) to their friends, neighbours and acquaintances, a tradition that began during the Renaissance in 1561, when Charles IX offered them to his subjects as a symbol of porte-bonheur or good luck.

Now associated with the Fête du Travail on 1 May, anyone can sell the flower on the street without requiring a licence or permission. Today I walked into the centre-ville and came across many people who are spending their day, sharing the magic of Le Muguet with the public.

The first year I came to live in France, I learned of the tradition when my next door neighbour knocked on the door and presented me with this delightful flower, explaining its significance.

Six months into adapting to this life, language and culture, it was a welcome gesture and reminded me how important it is to reach out to others, even if they appear to be coping, we can all do with a little ‘porte-bonheur’ from time to time.

And in the spirit of acknowledgement and small celebrations, congratulations to Juliet Greenwood whose book Eden’s Garden’ has been named ‘Welsh Book of the Month’ for May 2012, a sprig of ‘Lily of the Valley’ for you Juliet. To celebrate she is giving away a free signed copy of her book, click here to enter.

Finally, with Spring emanating everywhere, I thought I’d share my recent discovery and purchase of a book of 12 stamps (un carnet de timbres), with its theme ‘the language of flowers’, I hope you can guess the English equivalent:

Le Langage des fleurs

Pensée / Affection

Coquelicot / Joie

Arum / Ardeur

Muguet / Bonheur

Tulipe / Amour

Violette / Modestie

Iris / Tendresse

Œillet / Fidélité

Rose / Passion

Pivione / Générosité

Marguerite / Attirance

Dahlia / Admiration

Bonne fête à tous!

Eden’s Garden

If you plan on taking a holiday in Cornwall or Wales in the near future I can think of no better accompaniment than Eden’s Garden. If not, don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in this delightful, intriguing tale which unravels family secrets while celebrating women returning to the creative work they were born to do – and I refer not just to the female characters in the novel but to the author Juliet Greenwood who fulfilled a lifetime dream in writing this, her second novel, leaving the bright lights of London behind to immerse herself in gardening and writing projects in a country cottage nestled between the Isle of Angelsey and Snowdonia, Wales.

Eden’s Garden follows Carys in the present day back to her childhood village to attend her mother who is convalescing from a broken hip; she has little choice being the unmarried sister though the unplanned return stirs some long dormant memory in her, pulling her back towards the estate of Plas Eden, it’s garden, the mysterious statues, the old farm house and David Meredith, the young man she left for a career many years before.

The two become involved in researching a possible family link that takes them south to Cornwall and another garden leads them on a shocking search through a piece of Victorian history that will leave you grateful to be living in the 21st century (especially if you are a woman).

Ann we meet in 1898 on a bridge overlooking the Thames at a low point in her life, seeking refuge at a Charity Hospital. Greenwood keeps the mystery of this intriguing character alive all through the book, we know there is a connection but she leaves few clues to allow forward predictions, cleverly increasing the tension and desire to know both her past and her future.

Within the first few pages, we are drawn into Carys’ experience as if it were our own, that not so comfortable feeling of returning to a childhood environment as an adult, without the husband and/or children that society expects, and on the verge of heartbreak. However, the suspense of a family secret soon replaces the discomfort of village gossip and Greenwood keeps up the pace and intrigue all the way through.

Driving through Wales

For me this was not only a wonderful and engaging read, but one that brought back fond memories of driving through the Welsh countryside and witnessing many of the memorable landmarks of Cornwall.

‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ at the open air Minack Theatre, Cornwall