Wednesday, 30th July
At the end of our ‘resting day’ some of us took off in a convoy of fast moving cars (poor Ollie was a little pale and sweaty around the upper lip after 20 minutes in the back of a low slung Saab) to Huegueville and Pont du Roc which 70 years ago to the day was liberated after intense fighting.
Bunting in red white and blue, a ladies’ choir also clad in the colours of France and a very moving procession of elderly veterans, moving steadily to a bank near the old bridge, which is still impassable.
All bathed in golden evening light.
Here they stood with all their standards as speeches and tributes were made and the flags of America, Canada, Britain and France were solemnly raised.
My French is just good enough to catch phrases like ‘hope for future generations’ ‘gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives’ and to grasp the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers ‘where there is discord, harmony’ and so on.
A nonagenarian faltered with his standard but adamantly declined the prompt offer of help.
The ladies sang the Marseilleuse after we had heard all the other national anthems. They were all impeccably turned out, naturally, but in 40’s style and lovely details of flamboyant scarves or berets.
Another Veteran, on hearing I was English, broke ranks to kiss me on both cheeks and apply lashings of typically French male charm.
Then the wafting smoke from the hot dog stall with the last of the sun streaming through in shafts as the clouds turned pink.
After a day of I can’t really remember what at the chateau, it was great to get out, make connections with our French neighbours and feel so much a part of a local event.