Champagne season. At six thirty a group of villagers arrive with old photos from the 1920's. Illustrations for the village history that M'Ongoose has been tasked to write. The villagers aren't quite sure what is and isn't interesting so the conversation starts off tentatively. A second glass and the memories come pouring out.
In the first and second photos the village priest, a ghostly figure in cassock and black broad brimmed hat , can just be seen. He was so shocked by the death and mutilation of so many parishoners that he painted memorial frescoes on the walls of the church. A quarter of the village males were killed. A half wounded. We think this is one of only two churches in France still decorated in this 'naif' way. The priest died in 1923, within a week of finishing the last fresco. This helps with the dating.
The war memorial had a rather splendid low wooden railing running round it. The railing has long gone, replaced by box hedge. The two houses behind it have also gone. After the war, with all the young men dead and the lines of inheritance severed, the population started its decline from nearly four hundred to todays sixty seven. The empty farms were handed over to Polish miners and Italian immigrants. The Very Old Farmers family was one of the latter. He arrived with his mother and father from Puglia in 1924 when he was two.
By the time we make it back home Loic the bifocaled gardener is hard at work. The chimney sweep has also arrived. The PONs supervise from the wooden garden table.
A wonderful day lies ahead.