Croutons and Cheese: French Onion Soup 2 is the second in Rod Fleming’s hilarious series of memoirs about his life in France. Filled with anecdotes about aviating cats, the Bull in the Back Passage, what to do about ex-pats, transporting the cheese to Scotland, it’s a laugh a minute.
With the lovable and roguish characters you first met in French Onion Soup!, this book will keep you entertained all right, so much you’ll come back for a second read!
Available now in paperback: ISBN: 978-0-9572612-4-2
Life certainly has an interesting tapestry here in P’tit Moulin. This morning I was awakened at some ungodly hour—well, just before ten actually, but I am semi-nocturnal—by an excessively enthusiastic clangour (good word that) of my front door bell, of which more later.
Well, I threw on a pair of jeans and a T and went to see who had disturbed the peace in this manner, and there on my doorstep was a rather scruffy individual, definitely of the traditional French horny-handed persuasion. Behind him was a truck that looked, to my bleary and unaided vision, even older and more dilapidated than my Isuzu, and that’s saying something.
He must have recognised my absence of recognition. ‘Sir,’ he said (in French of course, I’m just trying to make it easy for you. Do keep up.) ‘Sir, the last time I passed you said you had some scrap.’
I met Denis Poulot by the old lavoir as I ambled down to the Salle des Fetes. We’ve known each other for 24 years now; we’ve never been especially close but we share a relaxed camaraderie. We paused in our journeys to shake hands and exchange formalities, then carried on. Inevitably, this being Bastille Day, 14 July and we were both going to the ceremonial vin d’honneur, we chatted about Bastille Days past.
Denis drew up and looked into the distance. ‘It’s not the same any more.’
Molinot is a village deep in the Arriere Cote of Burgundy, has been a part of my life since 1993. In those days, the village was famous for the extravagance of its Bastille Day celebrations and people would come from miles away to enjoy them. Indeed, ours was so popular that many villages around had their celebrations on another day, since all the locals were at ours; and of course we reciprocated, making for a thoroughly convivial week.
Yesterday, the 7th of May 2017, will be long remembered. It is the day of the Fall of France.
This is not the first Fall of France. In 1940, German troops stormed through the Ardennes, completely surprising the French General Staff.
Nobody who has read Chester Wilmot’s ‘The Struggle for Europe’ can fail to recognise the similarities. In 1940, the French Establishment was represented by octogenarian and even nonagenarian generals. Their incompetence was complete. Counter-attacks were so badly organised that battalions engaged on different days or in the wrong place. Communications were by carrier pigeon. The French armour, superior in numbers and quality to the German, was not allowed to operate freely and instead was used as semi-mobile artillery for infantry support.
The result was that France capitulated. That was the first Fall of France. An uneasy truce was declared, in which the Germans gave the French permission to govern themselves in territory not already under a German jackboot, but it didn’t last long; in 1942 the Germans assumed complete control.
Seventy-two years later, the second Fall of France has just occurred. Instead of dottering relics from bygone wars, fought decades before, today the French establishment is represented by a dandified fop called Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frederic Macron. This poodle sans couilles is now the President-elect of France.
Well, summer did finally arrive here in P’tit Moulin and the warm balmy days are back. I must say they are very welcome, and could have been here sooner. The girls are all out in their skimpiest dresses, to show off their golden-tanned skin and the boys…well, who cares about the boys anyway?
This Bastille Day was celebrated with the usual style in our village. I have photographs of this going back twenty years now, and it’s amazing to see how people have aged. Children who used to run around the square or sit on the banc outside our house have children of their own now. It’s always the same band, who come from the next town. And it’s always the same tunes… Continue reading “Bastille Day!”
Les Flics: just as you can’t write about life in France without discussing wine, you can’t write about it without discussing that greatest of scourges, the bugbear and bane of everyone’s lives and a daily topic of conversation all over France, third only to the weather and politics. And what are les flics? The cops, of course.
Mostly, when the French talk about les flics, they are talking specifically about traffic cops, who are universally regarded with almost unlimited contempt and no respect at all. However, when the occasion merits, they expand the concept to include any other kind of cop who’s been getting in the way of the French being French. Continue reading “Flics: Traffic cops in France”
Napoleon was actually a tall guy. Did you know that? It’s true. The legend that the great conqueror of Europe was severely vertically challenged is just that—a legend. Maybe not quite an urban myth—I don’t think they had those back then—but nevertheless, a myth.
My friend Antoine the potter had a little incident with the Gendarmes from Bligny not long ago. Now before I begin this tale, I feel I should put to rest a belief that has become, apparently (according to my children,) current in the UK in the last few years.
This is that the Gendarmes in France are not real police. Well, they are, and this is a classic bit of Anglo-Saxon, er, confusion. I believe it has even been aired on that odious arch-slimeball Stephen Fry’s television show; not that that would make it any more the truth.