14 Juillet

The frenetic pace of rural life is killing me. I need a break in some escargot-paced haven like, oh, I don’t know, New York. Yesterday was of course Bastille Day, otherwise known as “Let’s tear down the prison and behead the king” day, but here in Maury it is an occasion to honor France’s soldiers and for that we need to put aside politics, ignore the immorality of colonialism and simply say: “Merci”, because the only surviving ancien combattants in town served in Algeria. So while Macron was beguiling Trump with war toys in Paris, Charlie, the mayor, was pinning another medal on an old soldier.

The Mayor says a few words
Les Pompiers Salute

The day began with citizens, elected officials and the fire brigade marching from City Hall, looping around town to the cemetery where flowers were laid at the war memorial and after a few moments of respectful silence, Charlie said a few words about sacrifice and the responsibility of all of us to remember the terrible cost of war. I talked with the Mayor as we walked and asked him why Macron was hosting, and thereby honoring Trump. He said he thought Macron honestly believed he could make some progress and perhaps persuade the American to reconsider his position on climate change, but also the young French President wants to be the leader of Europe and saw an opportunity when it became obvious that Trump and Merkel will not be buddies.

The Mayor, members of the Council, honorees

The procession made its way back through town to City Hall where the old soldiers were acknowledged, pictures were taken, and most everyone adjourned to the Maison du Terroir for an apero. I had to skip the drinks because a Brit from my French class had invited me to a village meal in Palairac, a tiny commune about 40 minutes away in the Corbières mountains. Lovely melon with a bit of smoked ham, squid stuffed with pork, rice, ice cream, and lots of very nice local wine. There was music, dancing, and a lively mix of French and English. I was introduced as an American but endorsed as anti-Trump.

The Musicians
Band Uniform

Back home, I met Bardot in the garden who blessed me with a sack of the summer’s first tomatoes. There was time for a brief nap until Michel came by to fix a leaky faucet and then off to St. Paul for dinner with Marcel, Carrie, and Marcel’s parents. As quiet and darkness settled in on us, and Carrie put Jordi to bed, I went back to Maury to end the day with fireworks and a glass of Maury, along with the largest crowd I’d ever seen in town. I’d guess there were around 300 people there, including an unusually large number of children, an optimistic note to close a full day of gentle wholesomeness, the best of village life.

©2017 Ron Scherl

Bastille Day

The weekend celebration actually kicked off Friday night with a tour of the outdoor art exhibit throughout town, followed by a paella dinner at the kiosque. I had every intention of covering this event for my loyal readers but there was serious competition, a very good group was playing at the café. Three women playing guitar and various percussion instruments and singing beautifully took a wonderful musical world tour: Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Africa, Spain, the US and France. It was a great show so I opted for the music and merguez over the paintings and paella.

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl

Bastille Day ceremonies began about 10 AM when people gathered in the Place de la Mairie. Flags were flying, the mayor wore his sash and the veterans their medals. Not many left now and the ones that are served in Algeria. Since official France does not consider that war to have been a war, the medals were awarded for service in the “maintenance of order.”

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl

The firefighters and their teenage trainees led the march from the Mairie through town to the war memorial, which is in the cemetery. There, flowers were placed, the mayor made a short speech and asked for a moment of silence for those who sacrificed for France. Then we marched back up to the Mairie for a short ceremony honoring the living veterans who were present at which point the mayor invited everyone to join him at the café for a drink. That’s France in a nutshell: patriotism, recognition and a pastis.

Bastille Day: The Mayor ©2012 Ron Scherl

I felt it was my duty as a legal resident to see this through so I joined the group at the café and received cheers and nods of approval when I ordered a glass of Maury. This was not your usual café crowd. For one thing, it’s probably the first time since I went to shoot bingo at the club for the elderly, that I wasn’t the oldest person in the room; and also, the place was not quite up to the standards of some of the first-time patrons. The tables weren’t properly cleaned, the glasses didn’t sparkle and the Schweppes was lemonade. When the Maury was served, several people were sure it wasn’t the real deal, so the glass was passed to Pierrette, the president of the Cave Cooperative, who pronounced it real Maury Blanc. That still didn’t satisfy, so the glass went to Paul, the former president who agreed with Pierrette. With the wine suitably blessed, another round was ordered. Still not everyone was happy and the lemonade went to water the tree.

The evening brought fireworks, a rock band and more eating and drinking for a distinctly younger crowd outdoors at the kiosque. It’s getting hard to keep up.

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl