Friday, 26 June 2009


The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle
Blog of La Tuilerie de Chazelle by Sue

The French are very proud of their past. The fall of the Bastille in 1789 is celebrated with great vigour throughout the country, and every little village has got fireworks on that day, or at least a brocante or vide grenier in the main street, which turns passing through the village into a nightmare.
But a great past has also its shadowy sides. The French have lost a tremendous amount of young men during the Great War, and on 11 November, Armistice day, again every village has a wreath laying ceremony at the omnipresent war memorial.
Our commune (Cormatin) forms no exception. Interestingly enough, Cormatin has two war memorials.
In front of the church there is the monument for those who fell during WWI, WWII and the colonial wars, and just outside the village, near the hamlet of Bois Dernier, lays the monument for those who were deported to the various concentration camps by the Germans. This monument has an urn with sand from Bir Hakeim, a piece of stone with Buchenwald written on it, which was brought to Cormatin from Buchenwald by one of the survivors, Monsieur P., and a quotation from one of the radio broadcasts General de Gaulle made from London in 1940.
The ceremonies in Cormatin follow a strict logic, although, strict…..
The last Sunday in April is the (national) Remembrance Day for the deportees. Until recently there were two survivors of the camps in the village, but now only Monsieur P. is still there. He is the one who knows how everything works, or should work, in the village. A wreath is laid at Bois Dernier only.
8 May is Liberation day, and wreaths are laid at the Cormatin and Bois Dernier monuments. The same applies to 14 July. On the 11 November a wreath is laid only in Cormatin.
That is how it should be. But our Mayor is not always as interested in these things as he should be, and sometimes he is a wreath short, or has one too many, and then one can hear the grumbling of some grumpy old man: “I told you, we never go to Bois Dernier on this day!”.
Not all these ceremonies are well attended.
One of the least popular is 18 June, in commemoration of General de Gaulle’s call to arms addressed to those who lived in France. The procedure is quite simple. At a given time everyone gathers at the Mairie (town hall does too much honour to this run-down building!), and when the Mayor sets the example, everybody goes to his or her respective car, and off we drive to Bois Dernier (about 500 m from the Mairie). That walking is not done, must have something to do with the way the French go from one place to another, which is preferably not on foot. That the average age of the participants plays a role as well, would not surprise me.
This year the participation was minimal. Half the city council was not there, only a handful of Sappeurs-Pompiers turned up, and also quite a few of the “ordinary” citizens were not there. The mayor was supposed to read a letter from the Minister of the Interior, but that part was skipped after consultation with Monsieur P. The mayor put the flowers on the monument, and then there was the obligatory 1 minute silence, which last normally not much longer than 30 seconds. Next Monsieur P. read out the “Appel du 18 juin 1940”. The last part of the ceremony is always the best. Monsieur P. has a very old car, almost vintage, and in the back of it he has a cassette deck. He opens the boot, plugs in the deck, inserts a cassette, and then the racket starts. His cassette deck and cassettes must be as old as his car, which makes understanding a 1940 radio broadcast recording not exactly easy to follow. After the Gaulle’s speech the Marseillaise is played, which sounds like it was recorded under water.
After all this is over, the Mayor invites all participants for a vin d’honneur at one of the local bars (they all get their turn).
And then it is time to clamber back into the cars, drive to the allocated pub, and enjoy a (free) glass of wine. That is also the time to catch up with the latest village gossip.
What one has to go through for a free glass of wine……

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