ISSN : 2266-6060

Almanac Memory

By our guest: Victoria Brun

Ugine, October 2022.

While emptying my grandparents’ house after their death, I came across a stack of ‘Almanachs du vieux Savoyard’. Published since 1946, it is an institution in the Savoy region. About a hundred pages long, it is composed of articles on fauna and flora, traditions, historical events, and, of course, a monthly calendar with the dates of fairs, the position of the Moon, weather forecasts, and a list of seasonals chores.
I systematically opened them on the January page (between 1999 and 2020) and I noticed, when they were not completely blank (lassitude? forgetfulness?), that they contained three types of information:
– the weather, with the temperature (either expressed in degrees Celsius, or as “fine” or “cold”) and the amount of rain, ice and snow (sometimes with an indication of intensity, from “whiteness” to centimetres; most often in front of a precise day and on the place of residence, but sometimes across several days or on a neighbouring place) ;
– gardening work, which is not very numerous in January, and concerns planting, growing, digging out and treatments (“removed the eyes from potatoes”). I read more numerous and diversified occurrences later in the year, when weather is nicer, for example in April 2008 “sowed carnations” or “leeks are growing”;
– and, more surprisingly, accidents (“fall in the corridor”) and hospitalisations.
What strikes me again and again is the contrast between this scrupulous activity and the relative absence of writing in this (almost) digital-free house. Dates on the envelopes of bills, names opposite telephone numbers in the phone book, and, on fun days, circles drawn on scrambled words. No diaries, few letters, no names on the back of photos. I leaf through albums filled with the faces of strangers in formal wear, but I do know when the potatoes grew during the last twenty years. Besides, I can find no trace, apart from the signatures on identity papers, of my grandfather’s handwriting: it was therefore my grandmother’s job to keep the household going with her pencil stroke, because writing is not a hobby. Unlike the kitchen calendars thrown away every first of January, on which she filled in appointments and memos for watering the flowers, the Almanach was carefully archived, and with it the entries she considered precious: to remember the vagaries of the weather, the harvests, and the accidents – perhaps because they also jeopardised the work in the garden… or because they counted down her autonomy in the house that she animated so much.

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