Saturday, May 28, 2016


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.

This morning Bob and his master are up bright and early for a walk along the ridge. Sophie waits behind and has breakfast with 'The Font'. A bright, sunny, perfect morning. 

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.


Coppa's girl said...

Fascinating photos - yet, apart from the loss of the fence and the demoltion of the houses, the scene remains remarkably unchanged. I didn't know that the second glass of champagne was an aide memoire, Angus, (must remember that when I'm looking for my car keys) but what wonderful stories it must unlock.
Not sure about Bob supervising Loic, he's having a little power nap by the looks of things. However Sophie looks in fine voice !

Kittypup said...

Title of photo number four...'Bob's Country' and it is certainly wonderful.

Taste of France said...

What's wrong with bifocals?
Those old photos are fascinating. I love when the locals recount stories of what happened back when.

Fat Dormouse said...

When we pause and look at the seemingly endless lists of young men lost in WW1 Mr FD often muses that it was not surprising that in WW2 France capitulated to the Nazis so quickly. They feared the devastating loss of another generation of young men. And who can blame them?

rottrover said...

Is it my imagination, or is Bob a little green in his photo? Rolling in the grass in "Bob's Country," perhaps? I think your preliminary research method for the Village History is perfect!

Kari said...

What a splendid thing for you to do, Angus. A rather tragic history , your village. You will, of course, review events with several village members before publication. I'm sure memories felt with passion but dimmed by time will vary greatly.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing the old photos and a bit of village history; all most interesting.