Category Archives: World War I & II

Forgotten Love Letter Saved for Posterity

Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways. In this case, it saved for posterity a wonderful letter that would otherwise have been consigned to the flames with a heap of junk.

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Death of a Village: Oradour-sur-Glane

I wasn’t sure if I should write about this at all. Visiting Oradour-sur-Glane near Limoges this week, I felt like a voyeur. The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich slaughtered 642 people and torched the village on 10th June 1944, … Continue reading

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8th May 1945: End of a War

Yesterday marked the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. We went to the annual ceremony in our village. This is always a moving event, attended by local dignitaries and representatives of the nearby military camp, the site … Continue reading

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Monsieur C – One of a Dying Breed

Today, we visited an elderly farmer neighbour, whose wife is in hospital with respiratory problems. They were the first local French people we met in 1997. Monsieur F has always been difficult to understand because of his strong regional accent … Continue reading

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World War I and SW France

Just after 7 a.m. on 21st February 1916, 100 years ago today, German artillery unleashed a 10-hour bombardment that could be heard more than 150 km away. Thus began one of the longest and most devastating battles in history. The … Continue reading

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Le Drapeau Tricolore: How France Got its Flag

Today, in homage to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November, President Hollande has asked people to hang the French national flag, le drapeau tricolore, from their homes. We don’t have one and, where we live, … Continue reading

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Every Château Tells a Story #5: Les Châteaux de Bruniquel

Les châteaux? Yes, there are two, built at different periods. The village of Bruniquel is one of France’s plus beaux villages (most beautiful villages). It is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the River Aveyron and once commanded a strategically … Continue reading

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Four Famous Frenchwomen

Today is International Women’s Day. It celebrates women’s achievements and highlights the plight of the millions of women around the world who are oppressed, living in abject poverty and certainly not considered equal to their menfolk. Fellow blogger Finding Time … Continue reading

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Sheltering Jews in SW France During World War II

  Today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops. The unspeakable horror of these places has been described in memoirs and contemporary film footage. But very few survivors remain and … Continue reading

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Bordeaux #2: Sustenance for Body and Soul

  Our mouths watered as we strolled past the displays of fish, fresh produce and pâtisserie at the Quai des Chartrons market. The air rang with the raucous cries of the fishmongers as they broadcast their wares, while wielding filleting … Continue reading

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The Liberation of Montauban, 19th August 1944

  This is a year for commemorations in France. The most obvious is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I on 4th August. It’s also the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the eventual liberation of … Continue reading

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Every Château Has a Story: #1 Le Château de Cas

Châteaux, large and small, have played an integral part in the history of France. Some have been at the centre of national events; others have been less affected by them, but nonetheless have a story to tell. This is the … Continue reading

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French Women and World War I

  It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I is almost upon us. Huge amounts have been written about almost every aspect of the war. But some topics have received less … Continue reading

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Unexpected Finds About World War II at a Vide-Greniers

It’s that time of year again. You only have to park the car for five minutes and you find your windscreen bristling with flyers for vide-greniers (jumble sales). Around here, there’s at least one a week for the foreseeable future. … Continue reading

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Trip Along the River Aveyron

I went to the hilltop village of Puycelsi in the Tarn département on Friday to interview some victims for one of my magazine articles. It’s about 50 minutes’ drive from here but the route is one of the most spectacular … Continue reading

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Discovering French Street Signs

We take street signs for granted. They’re useful when we need to find an address. Apart from that, we don’t give them much thought. This may appear to be an abstruse subject but delve into the history a bit and … Continue reading

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A French Country Upbringing

‘Of course, Occitan was my first language,’ our friend Georgette said. I was sitting next to her at an association lunch today. She has never talked much about her childhood but, once I had started questioning her (no one is … Continue reading

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Remembrance Day 2: the Ceremony at Parisot

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 … Continue reading

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Remembrance Day in France

If you went to any French village today you will have seen the commemoration of Armistice Day. At 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns finally fell silent and, after a brief eruption … Continue reading

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Foreign Encounters, a New Anthology from Writers Abroad

Writers Abroad, the online writing group for ex-pat writers I belong to, is publishing a new anthology today, entitled Foreign Encounters. It contains short stories, non-fiction and poems by writers who are, or have been, ex-pats. They live in, or … Continue reading

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The Spanish Cemetery at Septfonds: a Moving Monument

Returning from an airport run yesterday, I decided to stop off at the village of Septfonds. I wanted to visit the Spanish Cemetery, one of my 10 things to do in SW France this year. There’s a poignant history connected … Continue reading

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A Brief History of (French) Time

Apologies to Stephen Hawking. This has nothing to do with black holes etc, or not directly. The clocks going forward last night prompted me to think about how the standardisation of time started. In doing some research, I found that … Continue reading

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The Little Train from Caussade to Caylus

On 11th July 1913 a momentous event took place that would influence the lives of many people in this area of southwest France for the next 20 years. The tramway line opened between Caussade and Caylus. Today, this might not seem much … Continue reading

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A Story of the French Resistance during World War II

This week, during our walk with our local group we took a route that we had never followed before. At once point we crossed a road and came upon the granite monument above, which marks the spot where a local … Continue reading

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When the Mona Lisa Smiled on the Aveyron

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Now permanently exhibited in the Louvre in Paris, it is probably one of the best travelled as well. It even had a brief sojourn in southwest … Continue reading

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Favourite French Films # 1 Le Vieux Fusil

I am not a great devotee of French film. I find it either self-consciously existentialist or self-conscious full stop. However appealing Audrey Tautou might be, I found ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain’ desperately irritating and had to switch off after 10 … Continue reading

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Anniversary of La Marseillaise – or should that be La Strasbourgeoise?

  Today (and possibly tomorrow – I’ll come back to that) is the anniversary of the composition of La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. (Thanks to a Tweeting friend for reminding me.) The song was composed by a French … Continue reading

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French country novels

French country novels celebrate rural life, which changed out of all recognition during the 20th century. Continue reading

Posted in Auvergne, Aveyron, Books/writing, Customs, French life, History, World War I & II | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

French country life a century ago

  I have often wondered how it must have been to live in our house a century ago. Nowadays, we take for granted running water, inside lavatories, central heating and double-glazing. The people then had none of those things.

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Forgotten love letter rediscovered

Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways. In this case, it saved for posterity a wonderful letter that would otherwise have been consigned to the flames with a heap of junk.

Posted in French life, History, Personalities, Places, World War I & II | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments