The sunshine of the past week has gone and in its place we have mists and drizzly rain. Rather gloomy or ‘triste” (sad) the man at the gas station remarked yesterday. But hey, I’m not here to get a suntan. When you’re poking about in museums and walking over fields where trenches once were, it adds to the sombre memory of all the horror that took place in this area.
The writing has been going in fits (small) and starts( many but not necessarily long-lived) as I’ve been able to get out and about quite a bit, thanks to Jacques and his little Citroen. He jokes that he is at my service as chauffeur, guide, French teacher, cook, translator etc. but in truth it is no joke as he has been exceptional at all of the above.
Saturday I went to Corbie, about 12kms away, on the hunt for a hospital that was here in 1916 (but of course is long gone), but at the tourist office I was given the name of a man who will help me find it. He was phoned but unfortunately was ill that day but I shall email him. I was also given the name of a woman a forty-minute drive from here who apparently is a great source of information. Another synchronistic event among many that pile up here. I already had this woman’s name in my notebook from a couple of years ago when I saw her on television program about archaeological digs around the Somme.
So yesterday I was off to Auchonvillers (or Ocean Villas as the British soldiers called it) to meet Avril. And sure enough there in her back yard was the actual trench the archaeologists had excavated! We had a great talk over a cup of tea (she is from Glouchestershire). The cellar of her house was a Dressing Station and her old barn which is now a tea room ( she runs a large guest house) was a stretcher-bearers’ post. Amazing! Plus, a man whose book I was able to unearth at the reading room at the Imperial War Museum in London 6 weeks ago in visiting here to give a lecture/walking tour on Sunday. So that’s where I will be, tramping across the front line of July 1916. Plus another man is coming on the 15th to her house who has just written a book based on a WW1 diary. And he comes from . .. . DUNDEE, my home town.
Do you think the universe is telling me something or what? I think it is reading me a story, word for word for me to follow.
This week, I was also at the WW1 museum in Peronne which is probably the best of its kind, attended the English conversation class again and had a wonderful dinner (my first authentic pot-au-feu) in a 300 year old farmhouse, the home of friends of Jacques.
So now it’s heads down today.
Re the photo:
we harvested the apple tree on what turned out to be the last sunny day.