Showing posts with label Christine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christine. Show all posts

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Holy days

A few days ago, when I took this photo of the last section of the road leading up to my house, I had the false impression that the warm dry season was under way.

The grass and weeds had shot up rapidly over the last few weeks, so I put the two donkeys down in the paddock where I used to run my sheep... until they strayed to my neighbor's place last year, at the time I went out to Australia. My neighbor and I had been waiting for winter snow to drive the sheep down from the rocky slopes, enabling us to capture them. But this did not happen, since last winter was exceptionally warm. My neighbor told me that the five stray sheep did make a brief appearance at his house, accompanied by three baby lambs! But they moved back up the mountain as soon as the snow melted. We have the impression that they've become totally wild, and there's no obvious way of catching them. Pierrot, a local sheep owner, has tried to coax them towards his van with a bucket of food pellets, but the sheep are not attracted by this familiar technique. It's amazing that they haven't been decimated yet by roaming dogs. For the moment, they've never ventured near the road, where they could become a traffic hazard. Naturally, if this were to occur, our only solution would be to go out with rifles (with permission, if possible, from the local gendarmes) and cut them down.

The warm dry weather didn't last for long. It has been drizzling at Gamone for the last twenty-four hours or so, and I have the impression that I'm dwelling in the middle of an equatorial rain forest.

When strolling around in front of the house a few hours ago, waiting for Sophia to return (drenched) from her morning piss/turd excursion, I noticed that my neighbor's huge truck (I'm talking of another neighbor, down in the valley, not the guy with my stray sheep) was still parked in front of his house. This reminded me that today is in fact a religious holiday in France. Ascension Day. Isn't it amazing that the whole economic activity of the nation grinds to a halt because of an alleged miracle that took place two millennia ago, when an individual who had been nailed to a wooden cross, up until he was pronounced dead, apparently recovered magically his good health and finally drifted up into the heavens like a hot-air balloon?

I remember above all Ascension Day in 1964, when I was residing at the Franco-British College at the University City in Paris. I had recently encountered a Breton girl, Christine, whom I would end up marrying one year later. She had been obliged to explain to confused Anglo-Saxon students such as me why the country was on holiday once again, just a fortnight after the May 1 holiday... celebrating workers! Christine's theological English wasn't sufficiently fine-tuned for her to give us a convincing summary of the events described in the gospels concerning the ascension of Jesus. So, she resorted to mime, and flapped her arms and wiggled her fingers in such a way that we immediately understand that Jesus had in fact taken off like a bird.

Another of Christine's excellent mime acts concerned the illustrious writer Chateaubriand, shown here in a famous painting by Girodet:

He lived in a castle in the small Breton town of Combourg, not far away from Christine's childhood home in Saint-Brieuc. Well, to inform us Anglo-Saxons that she was talking about the writer, rather than the fat steak of the same name, Christine would resort to a mime act that consisted of waving her fingers at the level of her hair to simulate the appearance of Girodet's Chateaubriand contemplating the ruins of Rome. Much later on, Combourg would become one of my hotel halts during my annual bike trips from Paris to Brittany and back.

In exactly eleven days, the French economy will halting once again, on the final Monday of this jolly month of May, to celebrate the religious festival of the Pentecost (also referred to as Whitsunday). Initially, this was a Jewish holiday. Well, after the above-mentioned ascension, it appears that the Holy Spirit chose this festival day to descend upon the heads of the former friends of Jesus, accompanied by a huge gush of wind and tongues of fire, causing them to speak in new languages ("in other tongues"). I don't think Christine had invented a mime act for this complex affair. I guess she thought it was high time that we Anglo-Saxons, blessed by the Holy Spirit, got around to understanding a new language, which would greatly simplify our communications: French.