Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Olden Times and the Newen Times

Winter vacation continues apace, punctuated by real-world news about gasoline refinery strikes today (averted - whew!) and orange-level high winds and thunder storms tomorrow (heeded - yikes!). We found ourselves at the Lists (surprise!) at the kids' instigation - usually we're the ones to round them up and get them outside. They were just in great moods all day long, filled with projects and questions. The potential "pénurie de carburant" (lack of gas) strike fascinated them - I don't know that we explained it well at all, but at the end of the day Oliver and Iris had a whole scenario going in which they were workers in a carrot factory (don't ask) and "we're going to go on strike because we're being exploited" - Mac and I could barely contain our laughter (they were being totally serious).

The politics of this particular almost-strike were fascinating and intense: I wish that I understood better why and how Sarkozy's government got involved, but they did, and Total (the company in question) backed down and guaranteed no refinery closings for the next 5 years. There are a lot of double-binds here (and I mean here: Total's headquarters seem to be in Rennes!), including a surplus of refineries in France (Total is building new ones in China, the burgeoning market) and a resulting overproduction, in large part because consumers are using a lot less gasoline. So here, a clash of the drive for better ecology with that of the economic status quo. Not easy to figure out - apparently even America wouldn't be a market for the French surplus gasoline as even there, gas consumption is down (wow!).

There's no doubt we're relieved as, even though we could function very well without a car in town, we appreciate knowing that gas will be available. There were huge lines at all the gas stations yesterday and today in anticipation of the strike. We told the kids that, if the strike were to go on for even one week, we'd all find ourselves pretty close to back in the "olden times." This sparked something in Iris, and she ran around the room gathering objects, and then ran upstairs. When we were called up, we were ushered into her "Museum of the Olden Times and the Newen Times." She had set up all sorts of comparisons: one stuffed animal (a mountain goat) was an animal of the olden times, whereas the purple sea horse was an animal of the newen times; a wooden stick was olden times, a plastic arrow was newen times. My favorite was the spoon (olden) and fork (newen - complete with the information that Eleanor of Aquitaine had brought the fork back from the Byzantine court after the Second Crusade). It was thoroughly educational! But the sign on the door said "Pay to Git In" - she doesn't mess around my Iris!

There was even a booklet for sale at the Museum of the Olden Times and the Newen Times! I guess that she was paying more attention than I realized at the Village of the Year 1000 yesterday. The back cover (on the left) shows a woman of the olden times holding a bag with important things in it; the front cover (right) reads "Olubawt the Odin Tims" (All about the olden times) - "Ubawt, &, Hawsis in ar odin time haws" (About, &, houses in our olden time haws) - "Wrs and pikshsrs bi Iris" (words and pictures by Iris).

The interior (transcribed) reads: "How to make the house. U(se) stone foundations and wood log wood and then straw and interweave it. How to make the weapons. Sharpen a rock until it looks like an arrowhead or, take metal that they never used otherwise and tie it on a stick." And then three helpful drawings of a house, a stone weapon (I love "wapin" - whap!) and metal weapon. And a drawing of a house on the left. Woo-hoo! We all decided that the gift shop was excellent as well.

All this "olden times" talk did prompt several questions in discussion later between Mac and me: how far below the feudal and religious radar were those people in that forest village of around 1000 A.D.? Did they, like the inimitable characters in the unforgettable Monty Python scene from The Holy Grail, live in blessed ignorance of the fact that they had a king? Did they have knowledge and practice of Christianity that we would recognize as such today? Only one third of the site has been excavated, and no evidence of religious architecture yet, but...I need to reread some of Georges Duby's fantastically dry, thorough and ever wondrous agricultural history. How apart from the developing feudal world were our peasants of the year 1000? Maybe Iris could write a book (actually, now that I look at the Monty Python scene again, I see where the kids are getting their language about being exploited workers!!!) (we've watched The Holy Grail with the kids more times than I should recount, including the night before we went to the Village of the Year 1000 - great prep!).

I hope that there was a place in the village for the children to run around (Oliver's perfect running posture in this photo cracks me up, as does Iris's gusto in her pursuit of him). We'll be staying in tomorrow, as per the orange alert warning (they're saying wind gusts up to 110 km/h!) and thus delaying our trip to Nantes, going Thursday to Friday instead. Gives us more time to read up on this amazing city - Mac and I have been fans of the Edict of Nantes from way back... :-)

1 comment:

  1. Help! Help! I'm being oppressed! Come see the violence inherent in the system!