Vive la france - continued

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

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Flag of France  ,
Saturday, May 10, 2008

OK, were was I?
Standing outside the Salle des Fetes, a year ago. Patsy and Gordon had arrived by now, good, some familiar faces. Gordon, clearly in his element amongst the ex-soldiers, some in uniform, smiling, keeping an eye on Pasty, who was almost skipping with delight, most likely reliving the days she was the belle of the ball.
I have no idea what the procedure is, but some meaningful looks are exchanged and a frail old boy proudly manages to lift an enormous flag, the pole jammed into his soft protruding belly, and off the assembled march without much ado, chatting and exchanging greetings, not too many steps up hill to the monument.
The mayor will make a speech there. An amiable tall, middle-aged, white haired feller, with ears I can't take my eyes off - very big and pink, sticking out, making me think of Noddy - it's hard to refrain from smiling. Especially as he was the one that gave me the French equivalent of a poppy, something like a large postage stamp, picturing a cornflower. The back is sticky, so you can just press it on to your lapels or whatever. He was most helpful, sticking it on to my breast, rubbing it, stroking it to make sure it would stick, giving me meaningful looks while he was at it. But hey, never offend your local mayor, you never know when you might need his benevolence in case of some required license or permit - and you will, the French are famous for their bureaucracy.
He stands at the memorial, that is strangely adorned with empty bombs ? at each of the four corners, containing little French flags, desperately trying to keep their heads above the surface, as their sticks are too short. It as if a child was given permission to decorate the monument.
After a short speech, I don't get much of it, the names of the fallen are called out, one by one, followed by: 'mort pour la France.'
And the crowd echoes those words solemnly. 44 times, if I counted well.
It's mesmerizing, it's touching.
Soon as the last word is spoken the group breaks into a merry amble, down the hill and down the red lane - drinks are awaiting,
Drink to the past, drink to the present, any excuse......vive la France!
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