I met Denis Poulot by the old lavoir as I ambled down to the Salle des Fetes. We’ve known each other for 24 years now; we’ve never been especially close but we share a relaxed camaraderie. We paused in our journeys to shake hands and exchange formalities, then carried on. Inevitably, this being Bastille Day, 14 July and we were both going to the ceremonial vin d’honneur, we chatted about Bastille Days past.
Denis drew up and looked into the distance. ‘It’s not the same any more.’
Molinot is a village deep in the Arriere Cote of Burgundy, has been a part of my life since 1993. In those days, the village was famous for the extravagance of its Bastille Day celebrations and people would come from miles away to enjoy them. Indeed, ours was so popular that many villages around had their celebrations on another day, since all the locals were at ours; and of course we reciprocated, making for a thoroughly convivial week.
I don’t know why it is that I have accumulated such a collection of ─ well, I suppose you might say ghost stories, though I tend to think of them in less definite terms myself. The fact is that I have never seen a ghost with my two eyes, and in fact I long ago gave up any hope of doing so. I must not be one of those gifted with the sight, as it were. However that may be, though, I seem to be a magnet for stories of the weird and the macabre, as if they seek me out─ and in the strangest of places.
The most recent addition to my collection was found in just such a casual way as all the others. I had been on holiday in France, when I was suddenly called back because of an illness─a very severe one─in the family. It happened that the nearest airport from which I could get a flight home was Lyon, so I made my reservation and got myself there as soon as I possibly could. Continue reading “The Horror of the Blocked-Up Window”
Yesterday, the 7th of May 2017, will be long remembered. It is the day of the Fall of France.
This is not the first Fall of France. In 1940, German troops stormed through the Ardennes, completely surprising the French General Staff.
Nobody who has read Chester Wilmot’s ‘The Struggle for Europe’ can fail to recognise the similarities. In 1940, the French Establishment was represented by octogenarian and even nonagenarian generals. Their incompetence was complete. Counter-attacks were so badly organised that battalions engaged on different days or in the wrong place. Communications were by carrier pigeon. The French armour, superior in numbers and quality to the German, was not allowed to operate freely and instead was used as semi-mobile artillery for infantry support.
The result was that France capitulated. That was the first Fall of France. An uneasy truce was declared, in which the Germans gave the French permission to govern themselves in territory not already under a German jackboot, but it didn’t last long; in 1942 the Germans assumed complete control.
Seventy-two years later, the second Fall of France has just occurred. Instead of dottering relics from bygone wars, fought decades before, today the French establishment is represented by a dandified fop called Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frederic Macron. This poodle sans couilles is now the President-elect of France.
I have begun wearing kilts again. I used to do this years ago but, erm, passage of time rendered them, uh, too small. Alack, the Fleming waistline now oscillates between 36 and 40 and those distant days of 32waist/32leg are long since departed. However, last year I bought a few more and now I wear them pretty much every day. And when I’m not wearing the kilt, I wear tartan trews.
Now what could possibly have spurred this aberrant behaviour? A sudden dose of ‘alt-fashion’ in the old fool’s noggin? A passionate longing for the owld country? Simple homesickness? Senility?
Last week we had the first wedding in Molinot for five years. The Bride and groom have been together for years and decided to make it all official. It was a lovely event, very redolent of a rural France that is fast disappearing. Yes folks, la France Profonde is contracting. Soon it won’t be there at all.
Meantime it was nice to see an event like this, with all the colour, hilarity and distinctly earthy humour. This is the Arriere-Cote.
I don’t know when we’ll see the next wedding in Molinot, so better enjoy this one.
We wake to a morning of black tragedy in Europe as it has, again, been scourged by a Muslim terror attack. This great continent with its myriad and vibrant culture, that has given so much to the world, is on the long march to its final Calvary. And all I can say, my heart breaking, is ‘I told you so.’
Yesterday, the 14th of July, a Muslim terrorist hired a truck and drove it at speed through the crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Weaving from side to side to kill as many as he could, the driver, a Franco-Tunisian, brought death and horror to a 2-kilometre long section of the Promenade des Anglais, on the seafront. At least 84 people were murdered and another 18 may not survive their injuries. The killer’s name was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. The attack is typical of those carried out by Daesh, aka ISIS or ISIL.
Bastille Day is as great a family celebration in France as Christmas is, perhaps even more. Children, among the dead and maimed, were out having fun with their parents. Whole families were run over. Wives were murdered in front of their husbands as they shared a brief moment of happiness.
Islam is locked in a war with secular democracy and moderate Muslims themselves.
In one week in, June 2016, a Canadian, Robert Hall, had his head hacked from his body in a brutal public murder. Two days later, over 100 people were gunned down in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida; forty-nine died. Two days after that a married couple, both police officers, were stabbed to death in their home outside Paris and their infant child held hostage until the killer was shot by police. All in one week. And the carnage has not slackened.
There was nothing whatsoever to connect these victims, on the face of it. Nothing. A middle-aged professional, young people in a nightclub, serving police officers. They died in equally unrelated locations — the Philippines, the USA, France.
But they are connected all the same: they were all murdered in the name of Islam, the ‘religion of peace’.
The Qur’an is the base text of Islam, which is today followed by approximately 1.2 billion people.
Most people know about the activities of so-called Islamic extremists, operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and, most prominently and gaining the most attention, in the Levant conflict zone, principally Syria and Iraq. But how extreme are they? Do they have justification for their behaviour from the Qur’an, as they repeatedly claim to?
I was out on my Ducati on Friday; you know, Friday the 13th. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and mild, and I was thinking how nice it was for what would probably be the last time I venture out on a motorcycle this year. The sun struck low across the landscape and the trees, which are already mostly bare of leaves, filtered its rays. But they were still strong and sometimes it was hard to see, even though I had cleaned my visor before venturing out.
The contrast in light between the sunny parts of the road and those under the trees, especially those grouped together where they still have their leaved, was huge. It was like switching the lights off as I passed onto the shade.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for four decades now and you don’t do that without learning a thing or two. I was reminded of one on Friday: watch it! It may be beautiful and sunny with perfect dry tarmac out in the open, but under the trees the road will be wet.
A man was killed yesterday during a mass attack as at least 1500 people attempted to board trucks entering the Eurotunnel in Calais. This brings the death toll in the ongoing crisis, which began in June, to nine.
Eurotunnel, the operator, has invested heavily in security fences and personnel at the French end of the Tunnel but it is clearly not enough and they are swamped, daily, as would-be immigrants try to get into the UK.
The crisis has caused reduction in the frequency of freight trains through the Tunnel. Around Dover, the UK terminal, motorways have been closed for weeks as trucks waiting to depart for Europe are parked on them in what is called ‘Operation Stack’.