Depending on the year, the month of Ventôse began on the 19th or 20th or 21st of February. Eugène Le Roy, whose work, L'Année Rustique en Périgord, we have been quoting in our series on the months of the Republican Calendar, gives a few paragraphs to descriptions of the wind howling through peasants' homes, down their chimneys (and, we might add, blinding with smoke the grannies cooking there), in through all the cracks in the wall, tearing slates from roofs and sending them whipping murderously though the air (well, actually, he says that they float "like feathers", but we have seen them fly like flung tomahawks). This writing of wind and fragile homes calls to our mind the times when we have watched on French television a news report of some hurricane or other in the Americas; French observers in the room always shake their heads like the Third Little Pig and invariably say "Americans always build their houses out of wood." Stone is the thing, you see.
Le Roy tells that your French farming ancestor would have begun planting alfalfa, oats and clover during Ventôse, and then......Carnival! Forget those Republican rules on religion and its festivals, Mardi-gras is the time when dispersed families reunite at the "paternal home" and party. Apparently, these celebrations brought forth unforgivable sneering from those "bourgeois who have two meals a day AND eat both with a fork". What do they know of the struggling peasants' rare opportunity to have a bit extra on the table? He then waxes lyrical once again on the noble, ever-suffering French peasant.
With this month of Ventôse, Le Roy ends his year, but not his book. Throughout, he has praised his peasant and the virtues of the agrarian life. His last chapter, Sans-Culottides, (originally those days that did not quite fit into the calendar) sums up his, and the Revolution's manifesto:
- No one should own more land than he and those living under his roof can farm themselves.
- Everyone has the right to enough land to feed himself and those living under his roof.
He goes on to say that accumulation, capitalism, speculation and usury are all the activitites of those that should be hunted, trapped or poisoned like animals (espèces nuisibles). His fury against those with large estates is boundless.
Thanks to Le Roy*, we understand France a bit more.
©2015 Anne Morddel
* We have finally managed to sell our lovely house and many thanks to all of our Dear Readers who helped us to do that. The new owner plans to turn it into a museum dedicated to the life and works of Hautefort's native son, Eugène Le Roy!