Vive la france

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Flag of France  ,
Friday, May 9, 2008

Yesterday I woke up with a start. For some reason or other the shops were only open for a couple of hours, so I'd better get a move on. No time to wash, I grabbed some clothes off the floor, found the car keys and bumped into my lower neighbor on my way out. After the 'good mornings and did you sleep wells?' I asked what the occasion was and she answered: La Commemoration de la fin de la guerre. Ah, now I remember, I attended it last year, with my dear old English friends, Patsy and Gordon. They have a house just across the road. Gordon is so old, he must have served in both wars, and proud of it. He wears a shabby suit, decorated with medals and fumbles for a yellowing envelope in which he keeps his poppies, solicitously handing me one for the celebration. Patsy has Alzheimer's but can vividly recall the parcels of silk knickers and sweets her soldier boyfriend sent her, much to the envy of her sisters and friends. She tells me this, many times, with an impish smile on her face.
I feel a surge of affection at the memory and long to see them again.
What time does it start? My neighbor shrugs her shoulders, saying it's on the notice board at the bottom of the slope, but when I check I find a tatter of paper, for the greater part eaten by the slugs. Not a very sophisticated way of making public announcements.
I rush off to the shops, we must eat too! but on my way back I see there are already little clumps of people huddling around the memorials you find in even the most insignificant of villages. I decide to go straight on to St. Rabier, the community we officially belong to, a couple of miles from our place.
To my regret, I find the official ceremony is over, and walk into the Salle des fetes. For some reason unknown to me, the French Salles des Fetes are always the most dismal buildings you can find. A wall of pastis hits me, gosh, it's just gone eleven. The spacious room, barren of furniture or decoration, save a long line of fold-out Formica tables and some scattered plastic chairs, holds maybe 25 or 30 people. On one table a variety of dispensable cups, some filled with stale peanuts, a bottle of pastis, red vermouth and wine. Not much really, specially as every one seems so boozy. On a closer look, I see quite a few visitors have confiscated the liquor, waving the bottles in the air as they talk excitedly.
There is a slight hesitation in the bustle as I enter, a lady behind the drinks table wavers and reaches for a cup, casting me a furtive glance. I pretend not to notice, and after a quick look around, sadly no Patsy and Gordon, or anyone else I know, I turn to the door and leave.
It's a short up-hill walk to the monument. I remember last year. I arrived in time then, maybe ten minutes before it was to begin. Not a soul in sight. After dithering around for a bit, I decided I'd got the times wrong and was about to leave, when the first farmer wandered in, then the next, and another, within five minutes everyone was there. A motley crew, if ever I saw one.
to be continued.....
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