Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Le Mal est Fait (Evil is Done)

Lozère is the least populated department of France, pretty much cut off from the world with an aging population. There are plans to relocate a village in order to build a power plant...
This gentleman has something to say about that, from under his beret.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Melons (and Green Berets) from Lectoure

Each year the city of Lectoure (Gers, France) organizes the Day of the Melon.

A variety of tastings and competitions; growers giving lectures on the locally famous fruit; dress ups in melon colours (green and orange) and a huge communal meal in the evening.
And many, many green berets!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mossant Berets

Mossant’s Hat Industry was the most prestigious company in Bourg de Péage during most of the 20th century.
Founded in 1833 by Casimir Mossant, the company expanded thanks to the development of the railway which enabled supply and dispatch from and to distant places. In the 1880s, Casimir Mossant entrusted his company to his two sons, Charles and Casimir.
In 1908, when Charles Mossant died, Antoine Vallon, his son-in-law, took the company over with his two nephews, André and Henry Argod. In the 1920s, the Mossant Company reached its peak. The factory hired 1,200 workers and made up to 2,000 hats per day, half of which were sent to the USA.
In 1929, a fire destroyed part of the factory which was rebuilt with concrete in an Art Deco style. At the top of the turret, two bas-reliefs represented rabbits and beavers, the hairs of which were used as raw material for the manufacture of Mossant’s hats.
After 1929, the economic crisis affected exports and the company diversified by making felt bags and berets. 
The manufacture of hats gradually decreased. In the 1950s, the factory became a clothing industry. In 1985, the company was finally liquidated.
In 2008, the factory in Avenue du Général de Gaulle was turned into a shopping centre.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Mus is a Spanish card game, widely played in Spain and Hispanic America, and to a lesser extent in France. Most probably it originated in the Basque Country. The first reference about this game goes back to 1745, when Manuel Larramendi, philologist and Jesuit basque, quoted it the trilingual dictionary (Basque-Spanish-Latin).
In Spain it is the most played card game, with many Mus clubs or "peñas. The origin of the word Mus is uncertain. It could come from the Basque language, where "musu" means "kiss", the established signal of the better possible card combination (3 Kings and one Ace).  Larramendi wrote about the word mus or "musu" meaning lips or face and suggests that the name of the game could have derived from the facial gestures used while playing.]
Following another theory, the word mus comes from the latin "musso", that means "keep silent". It is conjugated as "mus" ("I keep silent"), in opposition to "talk", that is the word used to open the game.

Friday, November 21, 2014

In Memoriam: Antxon Sorondo Aguirre

Antxon Sorondo Aguirre (1946 - 2014) was a historian, anthropologist , ethnographer and author of more than twenty books. He also co-authored several collective works and dozens of articles in professional journals, mainly on the history and culture of the Basque Country.
Although an industrial engineer by profession, he is best known for his work in history and lore of the Basque-Navarre area, especially in Guipúzcoa , the northern Castilla-Leon and the Cantabrian fringe. He was a regular contributor to the press and media as a science writer in The Basque Journal, as well as the Journal of Ethnology and Ethnography of Navarre or the International Journal of Basque Studies.
He is the author of the excellent book La Boina Vasca, which was (unfortunately) a limited publication of 500 copies only (I feel very lucky to have been given a copy by the publisher). 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Basque Chef Alain Darroze

Alain Darroze , born 21 April 1959 in Bayonne , Pyrenees Atlantiques, is a French (Basque) chef.
Alain set up his private Elysee school for chefs in the Basque Country and is well known not only for his culinary qualities, but especially for his originality and culinary (media) madness. He is the author of Mon Pays Basque
He is the uncle of 2-Star Michelin chef Hélène Darroze.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mike Grgich turns 90. Again!

I posted on Mike Grgich some five years ago for the first time, but the founding father of the US wine industry really deserves more.
Mike's Chardonnay made for Chateau Montelena outscored France’s best white Burgundies at the now famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting and this victory transformed the status of Napa Valley wines forever. America knocked the French off their fancy schmancy wine pedestal - on their home turf! And Mike had made the killer Chardonnay that changed history.
So important was Mike Grgich’s contribution to American culture, in fact, that the winning bottle of Chardonnay is now displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History along with one of Mike’s famous berets. 
In 1958, Mike landed in Napa Valley, with one suitcase (now at the Smithsonian too), some wine textbooks, and $32 hidden in his shoes. The rest is pretty much the story of which dreams – and Hollywood movies – are made.
Last year Mike Grgich turned 90 years old, and did so some 200 times! turned 90 years old yesterday. For the 167nd time.Napa Valley celebrated the winemaker’s birthday as many times as possible throughout the course of the year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Uncle Eddie

UNCLE EDDIE = Eddie Fitzgerald = a storyboarder, writer and director in the animation industry. 
Surfing across Uncle Eddie's web site, it becomes clear that Uncle Eddie has a fascination for beatniks and, where there are beatniks, there are berets. 
Enjoy the fun! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Irene's Blog

 Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1972
These photographs come from Irene's Amber Reunion blog; a blog about the life and history of her (Lithuanian) family. 
Door Country, Wisconsin 1980
Irene's father was a keen beret wearer and many pictures of him feature on the blog, with beret of course.
Glacier National Park, 1972 (beret pointing the way)
The pictures tell a long history of Lithuania, immigration and the genberal history of the 20th century. Much worth a visit!
Smoke Break Glacier National Park, 1972

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Beret (Boina) in Spain

The main Spanish regions where the use of the beret took hold are the Basque Country, Navarra, Asturias and Castilla. The ultra orthodox and conservative catholic Carlists were interestingly the ones who popularized the use of the beret; they could not have envisioned that it was specifically the workers who later made it their headgear of choice.
After the ending of the Carlist Wars, and especially from 1900, the beret gained popularity in Spain among artists, writers and bohemians, becoming an icon of the arts and a symbol of good taste and an "alternative" against the political and social stagnation of Spain at the time. During the Second
The advent of the Franco regime in 1939 put a big stop to much of Spanish culture; the “bohemian beret” disappeared as there were simply no bohemians left to wear it. It’s use was massive though throughout the Basque Country, Leon, Navarre, Castilia, Extremadura and by much of the Andalusian peasantry. In the years following, the beret became a symbol of rural, agricultural Spain. With the big urbanization in the 1960’s, berets increased in city life, but was still very much seen as a peasant symbol.
The agrarian revolution of the 1980s (with manual work being replaced by machinery) only speeded up the progressive abandonment of the beret. Berets became rare in the country and farmers had to travel to the city to buy a one; this resulted in the advance of the nylon American baseball cap, often given for free by the distributors of chemical fertilizers and machinery dealers.
And so, these days it is mainly the elderly who still hang on to their traditional beret; younger generations being hat-less or wearing the universal ball cap. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Miguel Delibes

Miguel Delibes Setién (1920 –2010) was a Spanish novelist, journalist and newspaper editor associated with the Generation of '36 movement. From 1975 until his death, he was a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, where he occupied chair "e". He studied commerce and law and began his career as a columnist and later journalist at the El Norte de Castilla. He would later head this newspaper before gradually devoting himself exclusively to the novel.
As a connoisseur of the fauna and flora of his geographical region and someone passionate about hunting and the rural world, he could give form in his works to all matters relating to Castile and hunting from the perspective of an urban person who had not lost touch with that world.
He was one of the leading figures of post-Civil War Spanish literature, for which he was recognized through many awards. However, his influence extends even further, since several of his works have been adapted for the theatre or have been made into films, which won awards at competitions such as the Cannes Film Festival, and television shows.
He was marked deeply by the death of his wife in 1974. In 1998 he was diagnosed with colon cancer, an illness from which he would never fully recover. As a result his literary career came almost entirely to a halt. He fell into apathy and became virtually isolated until his death in 2010.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pig Wrangling in Chile

Both trout fishing and pig wrangling are very far from what I would think of as my favourite pastimes, but the comments on berets on the blog of Dale Ratliff, are too good not to relate here.

"What ensues involves three guys, one older gaucho in a beret, two very excited farm dogs, chickens, a large angry wild pig, and lots of yelling. What you learn is that pigs are real fast, that dogs aren’t afraid of pigs but should be, that old chileans in berets rule, and that a good old fashioned pig wrangling is really the only way to end a day of fishing." 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Intoxicating Paris

Pamela PJ Adams is a psychotherapist and author living in California. 
"Are you interested in finding your inner Parisian? Intoxicating Paris: Uncorking the Parisian Within is PJ Adams's quirky journey through the byways, kitchens, shops, cafés, closets, boudoirs, and creative heart of Paris. Intoxicating Paris takes you through the ancient streets of Paris, where you'll find the secrets of creativity that inspired the likes of Hemingway, Hugo, and Rodin. And so it goes on and on...
Who would love this book? Style lovers, foodies, creative hearts, romantics, and anyone who simply loves Paris." No, not really the right book for me, even though I have to admire PJ for finding those few berets in Paris that can be found there these days...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dawn Beret

Okay, not quite "beret" in the usual sense on this blog, but after some 2200 published posts on berets (and still counting), one has to be a little creative.
Dawn Beret was born in 1941 in Aldershot, Hampshire, England as Dawn Berrington. She is an actress, known for Victim (1961), Highway to Battle (1961) and Don't Bother to Knock (1961).
Long searches ended up to nothing, as far as her wearing a beret is concerned, but, with such a name...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Little Shu Qi with Red Beret

Pan Shuangshuang, or Mavis Pan, also popularly known as “Little Shu Qi”(1987) is a Chinese model and actress from Hong Kong. 
In 2006, a bossom-less and broad faced Mavis Pan was known as Pan Danshuang. Between 2008 and 2009, Mavis’ breasts started to grow (to the size of 36D), while her cheekbones became more pronounced and the film and modelling offers flowed in. 
Little Shu Qi starred in movies like Cannibal Grassi and Jagged Angels

Monday, November 10, 2014

Elliott Erwitt's Frenchman/men on a Bicycle

One of the best known photo's of a Frenchman wearing a beret (and the most stereotypical of Frenchmen too, for that matter, with a baguette thrown into the mix), is this photograph by Elliott Erwitt.
It is a nice photo, still, but I was quite taken by this more recent follow-up (photographer unknown):

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Woody Allen in Company Man

Company Man is a 2000 comedy film starring a beret wearing Woody Allen.
In the 1960s, Alan Quimp is a schoolteacher of English grammar and married with the very demanding woman Daisy Quimp. In order to avoid the constant mockery in Daisy's family, Alan says that he is a secret CIA agent. Daisy tells everybody, the CIA acknowledges the lie, but due to a coincidence, Alan has just helped and hidden the professional Russian dancer Petrov who wanted to leave Russia. The CIA decides to hire Alan as an agent, to get the credits of bringing Petrov to USA, and immediately decides to send him to a very calm place, Cuba.
The film grossed a very poor $146,193 on a $16 million budget. Company Man received generally negative reviews, currently holding a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "A flat and misconceived movie with big stars."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

L’étape du Berger

L’étape du Berger is a restaurant located at 2146 meters on the legendary Route du Tourmalet, one of France’s famous hikes, to the Pic du Midi in Bigorre (midi Pyrenées).
Roland and Juliette built the restaurant in 1969 and their children Françoise and Eric have continued the family tradition for 25 years. A tradition that at some stage will be taken on by son Sacha.
The kitchen is traditional for the area with lots of fresh produce from local small farms, cabbage soup, homemade charcuterie (sausages of the local black pigs, lamb, goat, ham) and heavy duty desserts.

During summer the place is accessible on foot (and by car), in winter by ski lift. You’ll encounter a good many berets…

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jean Abadie

Proud beret wearer Jean Abadie from Oloron Sainte Marie is a singer of traditional Béarnaise songs and the author of the book “Soùnque tau plasé de cantá", in the Béarnaise dialect (English: “To the Pleasure of Singing”).
It is a poetic and musical work, a collection of original songs from Béarn. The idea to write the book was born after a discussion with members of Biarn Toustem, an organisation that promotes Béarnaise culture and language.