Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Marseillaise

As many of you blog followers will have read in the past, we are avid wreath laying ceremony goers. No not just for the free glass of wine…

The highlight of the wreath laying is the playing of the Marseillaise which always used to be done using a crackly cassette player mounted on the boot of Monsieur P’s car which sounded like the marvellous rendition from Casablanca. But last November a brand new CD player appeared. The Armistice Day ceremony passed off with a perfectly clear well played version and it left us with a very nostalgic feeling of days gone by and the crackly old rendition of the national anthem.

Deportees’ day arrived at the end of April and we all carpooled down to the Bois Dernier monument, half way to Taizé. We accidentally left a few people behind who then had to run after the cars to catch us in time for the national anthem, but that was a minor hitch. Although the new CD player was in place, it appeared not to work. The flag carrier (Monsieur N - the CD player expert) agreed with Monsieur P that it didn’t work and with a Gallic shrug of the shoulder’s, Monsieur P announced the end of our little gathering with “No music today. It may not be modern technology, but at least my cassette player worked.” and with that off we went for our glass of wine and recriminations in Café de la Poste.

It seemed that the battery had not be charged properly, so on 8th of May we waited with baited breath at to what was going to happen. This level of high technology is definitely not familiar to Monsieur P and Monsieur N had to say a number of times “click up to number 7 then press play”. Why Monsieur P insisted on twirling all the knobs as well was a mystery to most of the people waiting. Finally Monsieur N put on his glasses and balancing the heavy flag so as not to clunk Monsieur P on the head, he bent down and too started pressing buttons like a madman whilst saying again “click up to number 7 then press play” and right on cue to the word play the Marseillaise blared out loud enough to deafen the inhabitants of Cluny 7 miles away. Monsieur P nearly dropped the whole machine, which was at that moment balanced precariously on his knee, as he stood to attention. Monsieur N shot to attention too and the rest of us desperately tried not to laugh. By the end I had tears running down my cheeks which I hoped no one noticed.

At the Bois Dernier we assumed that things were now in order, the CD machine worked and now Monsieur P knew how to work it. First hitch - at these events Monsieur P likes to play some patriotic songs, but of course when he presented his cassette to the CD player it did not fit. Not to be defeated, he sprinted back to his car opened the doors wide, blocking the road and put the cassette in the in-car player and wound the volume up. All in vain, we really couldn’t hear a thing. So on to the Marseillaise. By now even I could repeat the famous sentence “click up to number 7 then press play”, to no avail, the technology had finally beaten Monsieur P and before poor Monsieur N had a chance to rebalance his flag and get his glasses out, the CD player had been put down and with the French equivalent of “bugger this for game of soldiers” Monsieur P had started singing. It became quite evident that not everyone present knew the words, I think we managed about half of them, the Mayor – none, I’m sure Monsieur P changed key halfway through, but it was a valiant effort, even the Mayor had tears in his eyes by the end and before we went off the Les Blés d’Or for our drinks and nibbles and his final words “I think we need a different flag carrier next time”.

So June 18th arrived and the remembrance of the Appel du General De Gaulle and we were itching to know what was to happen. At the Mairie no sign of Monsieur P but when we arrived at the Bois Dernier monument what a relief it was to see him with his trusty old cassette player, sitting on the boot of his car. And to quote his own immortal words “It may not be modern technology but at least it worked!”

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