Monday, 18 June 2012

Special people, special places...

A sharp climb out of Besancon into the hills, cross a main road and suddenly the cows all wear bells; such a reassuring noise to hear the constant melody of the gentle animals grazing away.

Higher up now, mine is a world of enormous falaises of limestone outcrop and steep ravined valleys with raging streams and rivers galloping their way precipitously to the relaxing plains now way below. This is exhilarating and challenging country; a welcome break from the tedious monotony of the French flatlands.

And then, in a flash, a wheel chair shoots past me on the other side of the road - Sylvane from Lintz is also on her way to Rome, having left London on 25 May. For her, the journey is but by road and never once, while we chatted and ate wild strawberries on the roadside, did I ever see her not smile. A remarkable and humbling person to be in the presence of.

Tonight, I am in Ornans, a delightful town where mountain fuses seamlessly with river and every other person is a duck; birthplace of the nineteenth century artist, Gustave Courbet who shook convention with his enormous tableaux like the Stonebreakers and Burial at Ornans which took after van Rijn's famous Night Watch.

But today, for us, is a special day; it is Appel du 18 Juin, the day after France capitulated in 1940 and de Gaulle, with Churchill's support and the BBC at his disposal, called the Free French to arms and set the Resistance to their work. Dark times in the history of the War, we stood alone in the face of the Nazis and, as such it is a key date in Anglo French relations.

"Quoi qu'il arrive, la flamme de la resistance francaise ne doit pas s'eteindre et ne s'eteindra pas." (Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not go out and will not go out)

The Duke of Wellington was victorious on the field of Waterloo, 197 years ago this evening...

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