Sunday, November 30, 2014

La vie dans une ferme française (Life on a French Farm)

Another old (1950's) documentary with some incredible berets: La vie dans une ferme française ("Life on a French Farm"). The film is American made, but French spoken (poor subtitles available)
The film shows what a typical small French farm looked like, under the assistance of a Mr W.R. McConnell, Professor in History at the University of Miami. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Les Bergers Carthares

Olivier et Marielle Chautard live on a farm in the foothills of the Pyrenees (Ariège) in the heart of Cathare country. For them, the best decision they ever made was to take on the family farm where they primarily breed sheep and angora goats.
"We live each day in complete happiness knowing how lucky we are to live within the framework of nature: the seasons, the sun, the rain, the snows (There'salways a reason for farmers to talk about the weather!)
Above all else, our trade is a passion. Olivier is a true breeder at heart, recognizing all his animals, attentive to the least sign indicating that a goat is ready for lambing or is sick... this often requires much patience and effort.
Marielle, is passionate about the creation and manufacture of the sweaters, jackets, coats..."
But what does their particular breeding mean? They have about fifty angora goats whose principal function is to produce mohair. Twice a year they shear them because their hair grows very quickly and each adult goat produces 3 to 4 kg of mohair. The fleece is sorted and classified in various categories of smoothness, length, cleanliness...
The mohair is then entrusted to the best home-workers to be transformed into various yarns for weaving or knitting.
Marielle developed some beautiful berets in a mix of mohair and silk.ore information here

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Small Community in the Vosges

A few good berets in this beautiful 1969 documentary about a village in the Baganelles Pass in the Vosges, where small scale farmers cling to their farms.   
The farmers explain their working conditions which are so much more difficult in the mountains. In winter, they become lumberjacks for the municipality. The images linger on the activities of daily life, milking cows, making cheese or landscaping. 
Even if you don't master the language, very worthwhile watching!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Basque Painter Patrick Larcebal

Basque artist painter Patrick Larcebal paints the land of his roots, expressing history and his attachment to the Basque Country through his paintings.
His paintings reflect the beauty and variety of landscapes of his country and tell through authentic scenes, the life of the Basques.

Larcebal made ​​the watercolor his favorite medium because it embodies softness and lightness, while his oil paintings  express the strength and presence of his characters and landscapes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Boinas of the Fábrica Nacional de Sombreros

The brand new page for the berets by the Uruguayan Fábrica Nacional de Sombreros is LIVE!
The Fábrica Nacional de Sombreros is a long-time player in the world of berets and one of the oldest beret manufacturers in the Americas. The manufacturing processes remain artisanal, a combination of handwork and machines that has hardly changed from 80 years ago. 
Making berets, or boinas, can't be studied - it is taught by masters to apprentices from person to person, from generation to generation. The Fábrica Nacional makes a variety of berets in a beautiful light density merino wool and pure cotton. Berets that are durable work-gear for the gauchos, farmers and peasants, adapted to South American conditions; breathable, warm in winter - cool in summer and due to their diameter, offering great protection form the sun.
South Pacific Berets stocks the medium diameter un-lined Nutria merino berets, the standard 295mm diameter Castillas in both merino wool and pure cotton in a variety of colours, as well as the custom made Cataluña Plato Grandes in 350mm diameter. 
All are top quality berets, made for South Pacific Berets (see label) and hard to find anywhere outside Uruguay.

The Almost Vanished World of Bernard Peyrol

French photographer/writer/director Bernard Peyrol makes me think of my photographer friend Jesus Arruabarrena, documenting rural living that is close to extinction.
 Peyrol also produced a film, introducing Pierre from Boutières. At the foot of Mt Mzenc, located on the border of the Haute Loire and the Ardeche, Pierre chooses to live on his modest farm and refuses all forms of "modernism". 

The scenes of Pierre come from the DVD "Le Monde Rural" (The Rural World). For more information and ordering, visit:

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.