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Sunday, 22 May 2016
Saturday, 7 May 2016
Today, 8th May, we celebrate Victory in Europe Day, known as V-E day, VE Day or just V Day, to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of WWII of Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. This day, in 1945, thus marks the end of WWII in Europe.
As every year in the rural French village in which I live, La Municipalité and les Anciens Combattants have invited all the villagers to assemble on the central market place, from where we will begin a walk to the cemetery, in commemoration of this important date. It is especially significant around here, since it was a powerful centre of the French Resistance forces against the German Occupation during WWII.
The presence of La Résistance in this area, as well as the tragic war crime that occurred in Oradour-sur-Glane, formed the basis of Wolfsangel, second standalone novel of The Bone Angel trilogy, which is currently on sale for only 99c/p for a limited time only.
at Amazon stores, Smashwords, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.
Extract from Wolfsangel...
Thursday June 8, 1944.
The sight of all those familiar faces made me feel a little better. The SS would never go to all the trouble of assembling the entire village and surrounding areas if it was only me they’d come for.
Calm and confident, the soldiers positioned themselves around the perimeter of the square, the red flag with its black swastika flapping above them. Even as they levelled their machine guns at us, nobody seemed truly concerned. After the Allied landing, their caution wasn’t the least bit shocking.
In a quiet corner of the square, a stray cat was crouched in the shade of an awning, carrying a bird in its mouth. It dropped its prey onto the cobblestones, plunging its claws into the tender flesh.
The heat was overwhelming, the shade sparse. Conversation became strained. Babies started wailing, and children whined for drinks.
‘I want to finish my lunch, Papa,’ Anne-Sophie said with a scowl.
‘Baby, baby. Little baby wants to finish her lunch,’ her brothers needled, dancing about and jabbing fingers at their sister.
‘As soon as they’ve finished checking our papers,’ Uncle Claude said, his face tightening in a frown, ‘we’ll go home and finish lunch.’
‘I’ve got cakes in my oven,’ Yvon Monbeau said to one of the soldiers. ‘I need to take them out.’
‘Don’t worry, you’ll get back in time for them,’ the soldier said with a smirk. But the baker flung his hands up and sighed.
I too was hungry and thirsty, and started to get impatient. Besides, if this went on much longer, it would be too late to get to Julien to see my mother, and I’d miss Martin.
Some of the soldiers began separating us: men and boys on one side, women and girls on the other. Uncle Claude took his sons by the hand as a soldier pushed Paulette and Anne-Sophie in the direction of the women.
‘Papa, Papa!’ the little girls cried.
‘I’ll take care of them,’ I called to Claude, taking the girls’ hands.
Olivier’s uncle dashed me a fearful look as the soldier hustled me off to line up against the church wall with the other women and children.
‘Where are you taking my husband?’ Ginette Monbeau said.
‘What are you doing with them?’ Simon Laforge’s wife said, holding the hands of her two youngest children.
The SS, chatting and laughing amongst themselves, offered no replies.
A clipped order was barked in German and the soldiers divided the village men into groups and began marching them down the westbound street, away from the church.
‘I want my papa,’ Séverine cried, clutching my hand tighter.
Several babies were wailing, and young children complained loudly.
‘Pee-pee, Maman. I need to do pee-pee.’
I detected the first signs of panic in the women’s voices as they tried to calm their children.
‘Silence!’ an officer snapped. ‘No more talking.’
The minutes ticked by. I felt my rising fear, as cloying as the hot summer air that thickened over the square. The children kept crying, their mothers placating them with hushed words.
‘All into the church!’ an officer snapped, and the troops began herding the women and children up the steps of Saint Antoine’s. We all fell quiet, and my heartbeat quickened as I held the hands of Anne-Sophie and Paulette and trudged into the house of God. Mothers carried their babies and small children, neighbours and friends helping when there were too many to carry. I felt not a breath of air.
Get your copy of Wolfsangel for only 99c/p now at:
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Sunday, 1 May 2016
French Provençal proverb: En mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît! (In May, do what you like!)
On May 1st, the French celebrate La Fête du Travail (labour day) or La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley day). A national holiday where people offer sprigs of muguet –– lily of the valley –– to each other, this tradition dates back to 1561.
People in medieval times often gave each other bouquets of muguet in spring, but the tradition became official on May 1st, 1561 when King Charles IX, having received a sprig himself, returned the gesture and gave the flower to every lady in his court.
The tradition continued, more recently becoming associated with the worker’s rights movement when demonstrators wore lily of the valley sprigs during protest marches.
Today over 60 million bouquets of lily of the valley are sold in France yearly, charities and labour organisations being allowed to sell the sprigs, tax-free, on the streets on May 1.
So, if someone offers you a sprig of lily of the valley today, accept it graciously, for it’s meant to bring good luck! However, glancing out at the grey skies and cold, sleeting rain of today, I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to go outside and buy any!
We might just stay inside and singalong to: Le muguet du 1er mai