“This is amazing!”

Words spoken by a teenage guest at Sprocket’s birthday party.  What kind of grown-up throws a party awesome enough to amaze a teenager?  A very cool one, no doubt.  One who is celebrating a Significant Birthday that ends with a zero, for sure.  But, most importantly, a very well-situated one…

You see, Sprocket lives right beside an abbey called Salagon just outside of the town of Mane.  And his birthday (which funnily enough coincides with my brother & sister’s birthdays so I never forget it) falls around the time of the Fête Votive in Mane.  For rural Irish readers, a Fête Votive is a bit like Pattern Day.  For everyone else, each village celebrates its chosen saint around the time of that Saint’s feast day.  This always happens in summer time, so I am thinking the saints are chosen to coincide with when everybody is off work…

Anyhow, both here in Provence and in rural Ireland, these celebrations can occupy a whole weekend or they can last just one day.  What’s happening more and more here is that the celebrations take place on the weekend nearest the official day of the chosen Saint, which is what happened in our own village of Reillanne the previous weekend, and which is what happened last weekend in Mane.

Unlike in Ireland, where fireworks are still generally frowned upon (something to do with our bomb-making prowess back in the latter half of the 20th century, I suspect) every village around here finishes off their celebrations with a fireworks display.  And this is where the amazing-ness of Sprocket’s party starts to emerge.

Each village tries to outdo its neighbours in terms of pyrotechnic brilliance.  As we sat and watched the Reillanne fireworks with friends a week ago, we speculated as to what our display would have cost.  We all agreed that €50,000 was a conservative estimate.  That’s €50,000 of our taxes gone up in smoke.  Was it worth it?  Hell yeah.

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Reillanne Fireworks, photo by the LSH

The Mane fireworks are discharged over the ancient abbey, Salagon.  Beside Sprocket’s house, remember?  So at 9.50pm, all of the party guests trooped over a little wooden bridge and into the field which lies between Sprocket’s house and Salagon.  All of the other spectators were restrained by red and white tape, strung along the roadside, ten metres inside the field.  We were treated like royalty, arriving late and making our way to the best seats in the house (for ‘seats’, read groundsheets).  We even had our very own pompier, Coco, who called into the party to let us know the fireworks would be starting soon.  Royalty.  Treated like.  I’m not joking.

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Aerial view of Sprocket’s house and Salagon, also taken by the LSH

So the fireworks began.  Unlike our teenaged co-partyers, I knew this would be more than a few loud bangs and a couple of sparklers dancing around the sky.  Even so, that young lady was right.  It was amazing.  I only had my iPhone with me (forgot to charge my camera grrr) but it did a respectable job nonetheless.

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As a loyal (if new) Reillannaise, I have to admit that we lost to Mane in the battle of the fireworks.

And if the Reillanne fireworks show cost the bones of €50K this lot had to be close on €70K.  So yeah, that’s where your taxes go, Sprocket!

Happy birthday, my friend.

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