Ian Moore: summer in France
PUBLISHED: 09:17 06 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:46 20 April 2016
Comedian and expat Ian Moore has found that the French habit of a verre de l'amitié throughout the summer has taken its toll on his liver
Well, thank goodness that’s over. The pool has been ‘hivernage-d’, the well pump removed for the winter, garden furniture safely rehoused and hefty knitwear demothballed; at last summer is finally over. I realise that celebrating the end of long, warm days, outdoor eating and sun-baked restfulness seems somewhat churlish, but I have my reasons: namely I need to dry out.
It is a little known fact but French law stipulates that any gathering of more than three people cannot break up without a feu d’artifice firework display – any gathering at all. Well they seemed to have added an amendment to this law: the verre de l’amitié. The direct translation is ‘glass of friendship’, but what it really means is: ‘Tuck in folks, we’ve bought a shed load of rosé.’ So now, at any formal, informal, social or civic get-together, not only will you be deafened by assorted fireworks, you’ll end up sozzled in the process.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, ‘a glass of friendship’ is a wonderful thing, most convivial in fact in the summer months, and I can honestly say that new friendships have been made while under the influence of the grape, but there’s no respite. One of my sons won a prize in a spelling competition; he came eighth in the whole department and, puffed with pride, we arrived for the prize-giving ceremony, an hour’s drive away. The French take these things very seriously and on the stage were assorted dignitaries all lined up to give speeches.
The speeches, four of them, rightly centred on the theme of education and its importance and so on, but then the prizes were dished out with what bordered on unseemly haste. The last speech had made mention of the said verre de l’amitié and everybody’s mind was now set on that. The dignitaries had clearly all worked up a thirst, and the prospect of a local rosé to re-wet the whistle was just too enticing. Think of a similar ceremony in the UK with someone rushing in to say that the ‘pubs shut in ten minutes’: it had that effect.
We popped by the local football club to say goodbye to one of the coaches, who has decided to hang up his boots. He made a lovely speech but behind him you could clearly hear the uncorking of wine bottles and so again people’s attention wavered. The next day, we signed in at a new football club and I was offered a glass of rosé in celebration.
It seems that from about the end of June until early October, you cannot move in rural France without someone suddenly producing a jerrycan drum and thrusting a plastic goblet of rosé at you. To paraphrase Eddie Izzard: “You’re leaving the football club? Rosé! You’re joining the football club? Rosé! You’re in a queue at the boulangerie? Rosé!”
Personally, I love the stuff. My favourite is from the Var area in the south and it’s called Les Tourettes; childish I know, but if you quaff enough of the stuff, it does exactly what it says on the label. I’m not a rosé expert you understand; just, because of its ubiquity in the summer months, something of an addict.
And you don’t feel you can say no either. We want to fit in with local customs as much as we possibly can, be part of the community; well if that means taking the rosé bullet almost every time I go out, then so be it. We all have to make sacrifices but really, there is a limit. We shouldn’t need a designated driver for a spelling competition ceremony!
So, like I say, roll on the non-rosé winter months, and the chance for my liver to rest; summer is finally over and I’m celebrating the fact. Actually, I may just raise a glass to its passing…
Read more about Ian Moore’s life in France: