Saturday, 9 May 2015

V Day Commemoration

1945 V Day commemorations in the village. All roads (the two crossing in front of the church, which make them four - do you follow?) blocked hours before the "Maire" and the "Conseil municipal" and the "ancients combattants" and other influential representatives of the "commune" come to put flowers at the foot of the "monument aux morts".

In fact there are two war memorials because one is placed where there was an execution made by the Nazis in 1944.

Am on my Sunday and "special days" errand to the bakery for fresh croissants. Croissants are synonyms of "fête" at home. But centre of the village blocked, locked, closed. No parking place left. Try before the newsagent/bookseller shop. Car noses slowly. Yes! The parking place for handicapped persons free so may park even if handicapped sister is not with me. But have all papers with me to prove she might have been. Administrative papers very effective and efficient in France. Most of the time, saved by them more than by facts...

Hurry to the bakery. "Morose" attendants and baker's wife: this blockade is bad for trade."Who will come now? They could  have waited later to close the roads. But what can you expect ? These are 'les cantonniers' for you!"  "Les cantonniers" do all menial things in the "commune", bear the burden of all unpleasant things that happen in the streets, on the backroads and lanes, and other common public grass cutting. It is only nine a.m. and the ceremony does not start before two hours, to be ended by the "verre de l'amitié" (the wine and orange juice drinking for friendship) that marks the high point and the signal of departure in all celebrations of South-Western France. More grumbles at the newsagent's. "No wonder the "bourg" (the centre of the village) is dying: people will go to the Intermarché (local supermarket) and find all they want: flowers, newspapers, books they have heard about, bread and pastries. Everything. I tell you, mademoiselle, this is the end for us!"

It is true of course. But when must the village should have been blocked? Not at the last moment. And the fight against the supermarket is almost lost. Little shops are closing, one after the other. The remaining ones make a gallant try to survive and some patrons help them out of sheer fidelity. Some of these shops go back to the end of the nineteenth century and their owners are great-grand-children of their founders. But this tradition is slowly fading into history (or perhaps, more exactly, History).

Mission completed. May drive back slowly home. No need to go to the supermarket. Shall go leisurably by the back lanes. What will there be at eleven a.m? Flags, flowers, a neat little speech done by the "Maire", the "Conseil municipal" partly in attendance, war veterans - less every year -, the music band, the "sonnerie aux morts" and "la Marseillaise" - flat, as usual. Some people who remember - less every year - and some people who care - less every year. But do not touch at the day which is a holiday. The French like their holidays!

Coming back slowly through the lane, caeful of the ditches with their grown wild flowers and the hedges of hawthorne. Thinking of the writers and the war poets. Louis Aragon, Vercors, Sartre, Camus, Paul Eluard: "Liberté", Jacques Prévert: "Barbara"-
".... Don't forget
That good and happy rain
On your happy face
On that happy town
That rain upon the sea
Upon the arsenall
Upon the Ushant boat
Oh Barbara
What shitstupidity the war
What's become of you
Under the iron rain
Of fire and steel and blood
And he who held you in his arms
Is he dead and gone or still so much alive
Oh Barbara
It's rained all day on Brest today
As it was raining before
But it is not the same anymore
And everything is wrecked
It's a rain of mourning terrible and desolate
Nor is it still a storm
Of iron and steel and blood
But simply clouds
That lie like dogs
Dogs that disappear
In the downpour drowning Brest
And float away to rot
A long way off
A long long way from Brest
Of which there's nothing left."

This is part also of V Day, this complaint of those and that which disappeared. Not all joy and smiles although we tend to remember these only, until they are forgotten and disappear as well in History.

But right now, errands accomplished. Croissants and bread and newspapers secured. Let's smile! It is a holiday and breakfast only looms ahead in safety, peace and freedom thanks to those who fought for V Day.

Monday, 4 May 2015

This was April

Too much time has elapsed since my last entry. I was hindered by spring cleaning - though the house is still being spring cleaned;  by spring gardening - though the garden is still being is a state of wafare against the growth of every sprig and bud; and by catching up with reading - though there will always be reading to be done.

Sunday mornings are my favourite time when I drive to the village to buy fresh bread (banettes) and croissants and, sometimes, some pastry for dessert. There is also the occasional magazine as I park the car just in front of the newsagent's / bookshop door and my eye is caught by a picture or a title that would please "my girls".

I go early, in between eight and nine o'clock. I shop as fast as possible - which is not easy as everybody knows everybody and it would not do not to say "good morning" to all, adding a comment about the weather and our mutual health. 

When I leave the "bourg" (the centre of the village with the church in the middle of it), I then relax and take time, going home by back lanes and not the direct road. This is when I see the differences, so quick to come from one week to another.

We have had sunshine almost all Sundays, sprinkled with the occasional April shower. Therefore, there has always been dew on the blades of grass on the roadsides.

In mid- April, there were buds tightly folded on every tree, except on the cherry trees dressed in white and the "prunus trees" in vivid pink.That Sunday was a typical April day when the weather does not know its mind and hesitates between showers, pale sun, chilly wind and gentle heat. The grass was grown and growing still. 
The other trees were hazed in various shades of green going from pale yellow to russet, from young green to bronze. And, at home, the wisteria was tightly folded in silver buds tinged of purple.

From this Sunday onwards, it has been a cascading rush into May bloom. No more reticence but the candle-like bunches of lilac have opened small white, pale and deep purple flowers as well as apple trees, white hemmed with rosy blushing pink, and the wisteria a riot of purplish blue running down from the height of the cherry tree it has invaded. It has been a clouded scent of honey as soon as the sun and the heat showed more. Blackbirds hopping everywhere and birds twittering.

Now, this splendour has gone but there are buttercups and cow parsley and Queen Anne's lace in the ditches, irises in marching order, straight on their stalks, from light washed sky blue to deep ink blue, from bright yellow to golden brown. And underneath all the pulses of germination and pushing up of the earth for grown seeds to see the sun and the sky. A primeval force that comes back every year.

I think of Faulkner line in "Absalom, Absalom!": "It was a summer of wisteria". I think - who knows why? - of Anthony à Wood and Oliver Goldsmith, of Parson Woodforde and Francis Kilvert, and closer to us of "Word from Wormingford".by Ronald Blythe. I think of Colette and her love for nature, her felicity with the words to convey her feelings.

I go to the bookshelves in the library and pick up Faulkner's novel.

“It was a summer of wisteria. The twilight was full of it and the smell of his father’s cigar as they sat on the front gallery after supper until it would be time for Quentin to start, while in the deep shaggy lawn below the veranda the fireflies blew and drifted in soft random- the odor, the scent, which five months later Mr. Compson’s letter would carry up from Mississippi and over the long iron New England show and into Quentin’s sitting room at Harvard.”

Nothing of MY spring in it and nonetheless it always comes first to my mind when I see or smell the odour of wisteria, that means Spring to me. Words have a heady scent, different for each of us, but a heady scent that we share and relate to different things. What is wisteria for you? What is wisteria for me? What does the word call to our minds? Which images? Which senses come to life - keener than usual?

This was April. The days, like water, have glided into each other. And from this long, long, day that made a month, I awake, faint with too many colours, too many scents, too much beauty - head spinning, happy, ready for another heady month and another, and so until the first frosts of November and the other celebrations of the Earth when she goes to rest. This was April.