Vichy France

We have been beset by rain for the last couple of days.  Yesterday it was pretty steady throughout; today very heavy showers.  Don is regretting having arrived in shorts with no outer clothing.  Last evening he had to borrow my only sweater here.  It E45is a bit moth-eaten and fitted him rather well in the body, provided he hitched up the sleeves.  In length it covered his shorts.  But it did keep him warm.  Since mosquitos seem to feed at night and the discomfort isn’t really felt until the following one, the rain offered me no respite from excruciating itching.  Without Jackie to absorb the attentions of the first phalanx, I have received more of their bites than usual.

Judith and Roger collected us for an evening meal at Andy and Keith’s, and Don and I stayed over, to be driven back this morning by Andy.  There we met two other entertaining couples, Claire and Paul, and Jane and Roy.  An hilarious evening followed.  Andy’s meal was wonderful.  We consumed an array of meats and salads with a delicious potato and onion dish, augmented by Roger’s barbecued charcoal sausages.  There was plenty of red wine and Spanish brandy.  Sweet was summer fruits and ice-cream.

After the other guests had departed, Keith and I got talking about local history.  I mentioned that I knew a memorial on the Pomport road to two French people shot by the Germans during World War Two (see 8th. June post).  The farmhouse and barn which Andy and Keith have spent six years skillfully renovating had been owned by a woman who remembered those times.  Apparently the local people had rather accepted the invaders, who had only been interested in acquiring their cattle, to be sent to Germany for food.  They had paid the indigenous farmers for them.  The area was under Vichy control.  I had learned that a significant number of the members of the Vichy government were actually pro-German, being convinced that they would win the war.  There had, however, been a gunfight in a nearby building which is to this day remembered in an annual memorial service.  A group of Resistance fighters, travelling in a lorry loaded with weapons, were chased into the village by enemy soldiers.  Having fled from Perigeux, they were not local people, but this is where four of them met their end.  They are honoured by the village of Saint Aubin de Cadeleche.  My knowledge of Vichy France comes from a history of that time called ‘Petain’s Men’, and from an excellent film entitled ‘La Rafle’ (The Round-up), which tells how French police and military rounded up Jews in Paris to meet a quota imposed by the Germans and accepted by the occupied government.  Of 13,000 people entrained and sent to the death camps, one small boy who managed to escape, was the sole survivor.  It was the film which had prompted me to buy the book.  Beautifully, albeit harrowingly, filmed by Rose Bosch, the stars are Jean Reno and Melanie Laurent.  The actress had puzzled me throughout.  Who did she look like?  I knew her.  Surely.  But who?  In the role, dressed in a gradually more and more sullied nurse’s uniform, losing weight, and becoming ill, I just couldn’t place her.  My version of the production is a two-DVD set.  The second disc contains a recording of a televised discussion of the work.  Among the panel are the now elderly escapee, and Melanie Laurent.  Out of role, looking fit, healthy, and glamorous, I instantly recognised her doppelganger.  I downloaded a photograph of the actress from the internet and passed it around among a family gathering in The Firs.  ‘Who is that?’, I asked.  Without exception, ‘Louisa’, they replied.  Louisa is my youngest daughter.

This evening I will treat Don to my chippolatas and pork steak casserole to be accompanied by a 2009 Borgogne Pinot Noir.

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