I don’t know if this is unusual in France but Parisot celebrates Remembrance Day (11th November) on the Sunday following the actual date. The ceremony at the Monument des Morts takes place after Sunday mass. By virtue of belonging to the Parisot Choir, the SF and I took our places by the memorial to sing the Marseillaise – an innovation this year by invitation of Monsieur le Maire.
At last Thursday’s choir rehearsal we had practised La Marseillaise for 10 minutes or so. After all, everybody knows the tune. But the words are a bit difficult to fit to it. At least we sang only the first verse – the full version goes on rather longer.
Monument des Morts
Today, around 30 choir members turned up at midday in unusually mild and dry weather. Naturally, nothing in France starts on time and so it wasn’t until 12h20 that we saw the standards wielded by the anciens combatants of the Algerian War bobbing along in procession towards the car park where we had assembled.
The monument des morts is not particularly attractive in my opinion. But it is set in what used to be la place du foirail. As the site of the former livestock market it is a natural meeting point. Two plaques list the dead of World War I – 43 in all. Five families lost two members while one family lost three. Six Parisotians died in World War II.
Monsieur le Maire laid a wreath at the altar inside the war memorial. Then one of the deputy mayors struggled for a moment with the sound system before the traditional trumpet voluntary sounded. The four bearers dipped their flags and we stood in silence for two minutes.
At a signal from the Maire, the choir belted out La Marseillaise. Singing outside isn’t easy, as we already know to our cost, so we were instructed by maestro Peter Nowfel to add another 17% to our efforts. I had set myself the challenge to learn it by heart but I surreptitiously clutched my music, just in case.
Confluence of anniversaries
A speech from the Maire followed, in which he evoked the convergence of various anniversaries. 2014 is the centenary the outbreak of World War I and the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the lighting of the eternal flame by André Maginot, Minister of War, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris. It is also the 70th anniversary of a defiant parade by maquisards in the town of Oyonnax (Ain), when they laid a wreath at the war memorial with the inscription, ‘Les vainqueurs de demain à ceux de 14-19’ (from the conquerors of tomorrow to those of 14-18).
Today’s ceremony was short but poignant. Afterwards, we repaired to the salle des fêtes for apéritifs and cake. As often happens in rural France, nobody wanted to be the first to pile in, so people stood around self-consciously. A few of us grabbed the pitchers of kir and juice and went around the room serving them, which broke the ice.
Considering that Parisot has only 500 inhabitants, there was a good turnout today. I can imagine that next year it will be even bigger.
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