It’s taken nearly five years, but now most of the major renovation work has been done, and Chris and I have spare energy to start having a life outside Les Fragnes.

It’s time to start giving back. I’ve been on the ‘bureau’ of the informal parents’ associations for the co-operative of the three schools of Nouzerines, Bussière St Georges and St Marien. But I suppose there I’ve really just been making up numbers, although I have been actively involved in various fundraisers. At the end of January, I was in charge of the cashbox at our ‘Récreation des Génerations’ games afternoon and did the washing up afterwards. Useful or what!

I’d long been impressed by the activities organised by AIPB – Amitiés Internationales du Pays de Boussac – a group of English and French people who have got together to integrate our two cultures in this region, since it has a sizeable British contingent now.  We’ve been to two of their carol services and to the phenomenal Battle of the Bands last year. So I contacted AIPB to sign up and see if Chris and I could help out in any way. Well, by chance they were looking for people to take over the website management and write press communications (in English). Those just happen to be things Chris and I are rather good at. So we met up with some committee members and have been taken on. Last month we went to our first meeting to be introduced to the rest of the committee and get involved, and today was March’s meeting. Everyone was delighted with how Chris has transformed the website and with my press communications so far.

Boussac's central square

The committee meetings are fun. There’s about a dozen of us, slightly more Brits than French people. Wendy, our chairperson, takes firm control, but breakaway groups can form and chat away instead of concentrating. Not for long. We – I mean they – are soon brought to order. There are differences between French and English culture. Only today a quandary arose. An English member proposed that we donate around 50 euro towards the Nouzerines Church Restoration (see my earlier posts http://www.bloginfrance.com/2010/a-difficult-birth/ and http://www.bloginfrance.com/2011/cant-see-the-point), in return for having our logo put on the programmes for the music festival that is being organised. The Brits were in favour, but the French were horrified. Effectively, we, an Association (asso is the abbreviation used in France) would be giving money to another asso and that isn’t the done thing at all. In fact, a couple of the French members thought it was ‘interdit’ – forbidden! So we non-French compromised, as we often do as ex-pats. We proposed that we’d encourage as many AIPB members as possible to go to the various concerts and donate as much as they felt they could afford to. But whether we’ll still get our logo on the programme, I’m not sure! There are times you have to tread carefully so as not to squash French toes.

A busy year lies ahead for AIPB. The summer fête is scheduled for 3rd July and will introduce French people to the delights of an English fête, with skittles, hula-hoop, rubber ducks to hook, a tombola, face painting (by our Caiti and some friends), a pets corner (we’re providing the pets but we haven’t told the animals concerned yet!), artisans’ stalls, white elephant, food, cakes, dancing displays and music in the evening. It will be held at Lavaufranche.

The AIPB will be running cake stalls at various local functions throughout the Pays de Boussac, such as the Nouzerines Fête, the race day at St Sylvain Bas le Roc, and when the Tour de France hits Boussac and Lavaufranche in July. Don’t groan – cake stalls may sound a bit grannified, but they are hugely popular. French people love trying English cakes. We’ve introduced some Irish baking into the mix too!

The awesome Argyle, winners of 2010's Battle of the Bands

The next events will be an awesome Battle of the Bands round 2 on 5th November (Boussac Salle Polyvalante). Argyle, last year’s popular and well-deserved winners will be back. (Find out about them http://www.myspace.com/argyle4.) The Christmas carol service takes place at St Anne’s church in Boussac on 9th December. There will also be several member-only outings during the year, mainly designed to discover the local history in this wonderful region.

AIPB makes donations to local organisations and charities and is starting to make an impact on the local residents, so the only way is up! The new look website is well underway at www.aipbboussac.fr.