I have been present at two subsidised meals in the run-up to Christmas.
The first was a Christmas tradition common in many French villages; a lunch for the oldies of the commune. Being over 60, we both qualify this year, and we were not in England as we have been in previous years, so we went along.
The food was prepared by local volunteers, and the table decorations created by the children in the local school. It was explained to me how this gives the kids a sense of community and involvement in the village, as well as a feeling of obligation to look after the "seniors".
The colour theme of the table decorations was silver and gold, furnishings of silver- and gold-coloured ornaments were provided by the school kids, with carefully-handwritten menus rolled up and tied with raffia, decorated on the reverse side with stylised trees in the same colours. The table runner in brown wrapping paper provided a gold background. Place holders with our names on were made from carefully-selected autumn leaves.
The meal itself was superb, beginning with a natter and fizz around apéros provided by the mayor, and then a starter that was a complete novelty to me; scallops served with a slice of Parmesan on a mound of egg custard. Extraordinaryand delicious. Main course was quail, seasoned on the skin and stuffed with dried fruits, follwed by a ripe Camembert with salad, and then a home-made fruit and nut cake topped with an apricot jelly. Our ex-mayor, who was sat opposite me, explained that he had done his best when in office, to ensure that if the meal was going to be done, it would be done well. His legacy continues.
I noticed a guy sitting a little way down from me, in his late 80s I would guess. After each course his plate was clean, and I mean it looked like it had just been washed. Even with the quail that inevitably results in some detritus on the plate, the bones looked like they had been sand-blasted. I got the impression that he has known hunger.
The second meal was a dinner, organised to mark the end of season for the wind band, the Harmonie of Ste Suzanne. Again, subsidised for the musicians, it's an opportunity to thank the players (and their families for the time they spend away), and to recognise contributions from individual members. There were several long service awards, but the standing ovation was reserved for Claude, for 70 years of playing in the Harmonie. He must have started young.
I have the impression that rural France at least, is better prepared than most for the return of small community living in a post-oil age.