Thursday, 12 February 2015


I was talking to our ex-mayor not long ago, about, amongst other things, the recent closure of one of the two bakers in our local village.  The owners have retired, but they can't sell their shop, he explained.

Now it's not really surprising that the shop would be hard to sell: the one next door has been for sale for all the time we have been here; getting on for 8 years.  But this one in particular (he told me) has also been hit by an update to the norms that apply to bakeries.

Norms abound in France.  They are government-imposed specifications that range from the size and content of school dinners for children of different ages, the weight and height-of-fall of children that a swimming pool cover must withstand, to what we would call building regs.  The norms have legal status.

In this case, (as I understand it) our baker used to make the dough in a building separate from his oven; across the street in fact, and carried the resultant unbaked loaves between the buildings to be baked.  I guess he covered them with something to keep the dust off them in this short journey, but I don't know.  Anyway, the norms now say you mustn't do this.

When a new norm comes into being, it's often not applied to existing premises, but takes effect when there is a change of ownership or major renovations.  As a result, our baker was happily baking bread that people were buying and eating, with, as far as I am aware, no ill effects, but now he's gone, the premises can no longer be used as a bakery.  And I'm willing to bet that the sale value of the shop reflects this.

P.S. As an aside, many villages, including my own, had a central, communal bread oven, and when it was fired up, the women of the village would carry their dough loaves (through the village, in the open air), to get them baked.  And what's wrong with that?


Tim Trent said...

Yet we English in England perceive France as a nation of folk who ignore rules that they dislike. We remember well that the best place for a roadside BBQ of lamb was northern France some years ago.

So, why can the same apparent disregard of regulations not be brought to bear on this bakery?

James Higham said...

Mark, I know you don't agree with all the politics at my place but this you've written is a classic, perfect example of what we go on about. Has carrying that loaf between buildings ever brought anyone down with food poisoning? Has anyone been hurt?

And yet that simple journey for the dough might be the very thing which gives the loaf life.


Mark In Mayenne said...

I get the impression that the ever-increasing stringency of "norms" is intended to keep reducing the value of real estate, while at the same time guaranteeing employement for artisans who bring presmises up to date.

ivan said...

You mean like the norm regarding having smoke alarms in rented buildings that comes into full force on 08/03/2015.

My village had two public bread ovens, one on the high part and one on the low part - the joys of a village built up the side of a hill. The one in the low part shut down just after I moved here twenty odd years ago when the last baker died.

Helen Devries said...

The EU has been doing a thriving trade exporting its idea of norms to Costa Rica where it is openly admitted to be a way of making work for 'professionals'....not that there are, as yet, the plethora of norms which apply in France....

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