The cultural differences between the French and British attitudes to government are too great to go into here, even if I thought I understood them all. But the French do local government in a big way. Every little village has its mayor, and St Pierre sur Erve (population about 150 depending on who's on holiday) is no exception.
It is the practise at this time of year for the mayor to hold what is effectively an AGM, where the village is invited to hear about what has been achieved during the last year, and what is planned for the next. He or she traditionally offers his best wishes for the coming year, and the event is known casually as the voeux. Ours was yesterday. Most village families were there, though not all, as were mayors from the surrounding villages and representatives of other political bodies such as the Communauté de commune (CC) and the Conseil générale.
France is in the process of trying to reduce the overheads of its local government, and part of this is that small CCs representing fewer than 5,000 people have to merge or be merged, into larger ones. Ours merged pre-emptively, and now embodies four former, smaller ones. No-one seemed to comment much on this or question it. The politicians did say that local taxes wouldn't go up, despite central government trying to offload its responsibilities onto local ones. Time for a pinch of salt.
St Pierre sur Erve is now a Petite Cité de Caractère, something the mayor has been working at for years. The idea is that villages are so designated because they have some special combination of architectural heritage, countryside, or other things of interest for tourists to come and see. For those villages that, unlike our own St Pierre, have local businesses, this is good for trade. The good thing from the villagers' point of view is that grants are available to help towards the cost of improving your property; the bad thing is that you are more likely to be encouraged to do it.
After the strategic, it all got delightfully local. There is a wonderfully ugly set of corrugated iron gates right at the village centre. This "Portail de Caractère" (sorry, the photo didn't come out; I'll try again when the sun is not behind it) was discussed, along with various creative ways of getting rid of it, involving errant tractors stuck in reverse, and so on. The ex-deputy mayor was thanked for his efforts in killing over 100 coypus that had been eating the crops. The village baker was thanked for his contribution to the running of the village, and presented with a nice metal sign for his bakery. After that, fizzy wine, the traditional galette des roi. And a chin-wag.