For starters, here’s a picture of my in my moment of glory at the carol service!

Photo provided by Wendy Collier-Parker

Today we were at Nouzerines church. Every year, to coincide with the Marché de Noël in the village, there’s a small service aimed at the children to install the crèche. There’s a different theme every year. We’ve had tents and wool in the past. This year it was lanterns. Rors and I rustled up a few paper ones, simple but effective.

I had my camera with me for the first time in the church so I made the most of the opportunity to take some photos of this wonderful old building. Parts of it date from the 12th century. It began life as a priory founded by the Abbey of Déols and there’s a reference to it as “prior de Nozerinis 1201”. The Condé princes took it over from the abbey, and then in 1627 it passed to the Lords of Nouzerines, the de Bridiers, and from them to the de Ligondés. Then the King decided he should have a shot at ownership of it in the 18th century, but, because of the Revolution, not for long.

Up until this point it was called St Clérence, and this saint’s body is buried in the church. However the name changed to St Clair’s and that’s what it’s known as today. Just down the road is St Clair’s miraculous spring which apparently has the ability to cure eye diseases.

It’s a beautiful church. I’ve blogged about it before since we’re in the middle of much-needed renovations for it. The tower has been replaced but there’s lots more to do still. Here’s the old weather vane, lurking in a corner of the church.

And here’s the crucifix and a statue of St Anthony.

The crèche was beautiful. During the service we all put lighted candles in and around it – always slightly worrying – and the lanterns went in front of it. We had a guitarist this year and it made the ceremony even more enjoyable. It turns out this was the mysterious guitarist who appeared at our carol rehearsal the other week!

At the end the children gathered for a photo. That’s Rors in the yellow coat, looking pensive.

I spotted this plaque on the wall, referring to the benefactor who paid for the bells to be electrified in 1963.

The Beaufils family have a lot of connections with our home, Les Fragnes. They lived here for quite a long while. In St Anne’s church in Boussac, there’s a plaque commemorating the fallen from the Second World War. André Beaufils is listed. We had an André Beaufils here. I wonder if it’s the same man, and if Reine was his widow. Time I went back to the archives in Gueret. The electric carillon referred to in the plaque was removed during the renovations and replaced. Chris and I found the old one at the back of the church one day while waiting for Rors to come home on the school bus. Here it is. This must be what Mme Beaufils paid for. It lasted nearly 50 years.

Père Noël, this year accompanied by Mère Noël (something I shall never get the hang of – there wasn’t a Mrs Claus when I was a kid and it was better that way!), came down to the church for the candle lighting. This added another element of anxiety since he had a very large, nylony beard. He brought a big basket of sweets with him which were much appreciated! It was a very enjoyable occasion and I’m even starting to feel a little bit Christmassy at last.