Friday, November 11, 2005

Armistice Day

Down here in the South of France (I love saying that, sounds so classy...), the weather is usually beautiful on Armistice Day. Last year I took the boys to the village next door where we used to live in our big, unfinished house. My eldest moaned, but was told that honouring the men who died so that he could live in freedom was something I considered important and we were going whether he liked it or not. He was mollified by the fact that many of his schoolmates were also there, so could be respectful to the dead in comfort.

Today, having moved, and me being ill still, I decided that we would walk down to the ceremony here, and not get in the car to go to the other ceremony where we used to live. This news went down like a lead balloon as my eldest had intended meeting his friends there and having a laugh at the aperitif after the ceremony. Going to a ceremony where he knew no one was not a prospect he wanted to consider, but he got dragged there anyway.

The turn-out at the War Memorial was reasonable, if mature. There were a few children there. The local schoolteachers had told the kids about the ceremony and, apparently there were more there than usual. They must have numbered about 20, for a village of 4700. The French are pretty good at solemnity and despite a tinny sound system, there were no hitches in the music and the flags got raised, half-masted and raised again with decorum.

The Mayor read out a topical speech. I wondered if he had got it off the internet 'Speeches for Mayors on Armistice Day', but maybe that was a wicked thought... Anyway, he mentioned the riots and the fact that more vehicles have been destroyed in the past week due to them than were blown up during the Battle of the Marne. A salutary thought.

The ceremony was followed, as always, by that fine French tradition, the aperitif. Well, it was nearly midday, so we all trooped off to the exhibition room where we were offered muscat wine, whisky, pastis or fruit juice, with nibbles. It was most civilised, but while people didn't studiously ignore you, there didn't seem to be much mingling. That was typical of experiences at other Armistice Day events elsewhere. People talk to those they know or to whom they are introduced. Towards the end, I made some flippant comment to a gentleman about the drink and he took that as an opening to conversation, which it was, so did actually talk to an Unknown Person. Found we had professional contacts in common so it was all cosy and matey. He seems to be on some social committee at the Mairie, so asked if I was going to the newcomers' get-together on Tuesday. Think I will if only to find parents of boys the age of my eldest who is somewhat lost in this village where he knows no one.

I hope we get him sorted out; I love living here.

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