To midnight mass in a nearby village last night. There was incense, candle light, a giggling altar boy and wobbly benches. We had to carefully synchronise standing up and sitting down so as not to end up lying in a heap on a cold stone floor. According to Martine the benches are new and are already notorious for miles around. Meanwhile, I was amused to discover that Pontius Pilate is actually Ponce Pilate in French (it sounds much less threatening.)
Everyone was very dressed up - high heels and cocktail wear despite the glacial weather - and I assumed it was for Christmas. But no. Martine provided the inside scoop, explaining that since Claude, the handsome black priest from Guyana, arrived in the parish, attendance at mass has shot up dramatically for miles around. (He is also responsible for at least five other nearby villages.) And high heels and full maquillage are now the norm, adding a whole new meaning to the phrase endimanché (Sunday best).
Sure enough, a crowd of well dressed young women gathered by the nativity scene when mass was over, apparently hoping for a glimpse of Claude in his trendy leather jacket and jeans. (Claude is actually one of my neighbours, so I am privileged to see him in this ensemble, as opposed to his flowing white robes, on a regular basis.)
And so to Christmas day. The champagne is on ice, the turkey is in the oven and Biff is licking his lips. All that remains to do is to wish everyone JOYEUX NOEL.