Finding the edge of the village according to the bells.
Around 600 people live In the village of Sainte Valiere. There’s a corner store – the Epicerie (literally, Spice Shop), open for 3 hours each morning (but not on Sundays or Mondays). It sells basic groceries, is the post office outlet, and serves espressos constantly throughout the morning to locals who stop to have a coffee and chat to the lady behind the counter, or whoever else is around.
There’s the old Cave Cooperatif (Wine Co—op) built in the 1920’s which sits neglected after the government of the day gave farmers subsidies to neglect their vines due to an overproduction of wine in France.
At the edge of the town, in a very nondescript suburban house lives a man who used to be an advisor to the Prime Minister, and who now spends his days creating intricate and elaborate embroideries, weaving the history of the Chemin de Compostelle with coloured thread true of the era the stories were unfolding.
In the place d’eglise – the town square, there are not one, but two town bells. Every hour, on the hour, the bells ring to indicate the time. Two minutes later, you will hear the time again.
I assumed that each single bell chimed to tell the hour – slightly misaligned in timing, just a little out of sync. But on closer observation, one bell remained still while the other rang twice.
With the help of my host, I asked around. According to locals, the repeated chime harks back to a time when workers in the field would listen for the bells announcing the end of a working day. Often deep in thought, concentrating on their field work, a worker would miss the first chime so the second chime re-indicated the time.
The second chime – 2 minutes after the hour, also meant that workers toiled an extra 2 minutes each day, to 7.02pm say, rather than 7pm. Insignificant perhaps, but over a lifetime a significant accumulation.
The Sonic Edge of Town documents a walk to locate the edge of town, as defined by the absence of the sound of bells ringing.