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Best of Demotix Widget |   Leave a comment

Best of Demotix Widget |

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Posted June 21, 2009 by Richard Williams in Uncategorized

where this weblog has gone   1 comment

It’s gone here :

Its owner has got all fired up about the protohistoric vestiges littered around this corner of Languedoc. And has taken upon himself the pleasurable task of unearthing what still remains.

It’s a week-by-week stumble  through the garrigues of the Corbieres and the Minervois, in search of a few humble prehistoric stones.

Being a good Communist, pt.2   Leave a comment

First you have to be registered.


Blablablah magazine is like that older sister : to us, lurking in the wild hills and wet valleys of the Aude she seems strident, successful and demanding. She only lives a few streets away. . . in a permanently sunny and prosperous departement  that we couldn’t afford at the time, and haven’t the energy to keep up with now. But big sistas are good for a few things, and getting prodded into registering is certainly one of them. Bullying Martyn Turner into doing a cartoon is another. That’s your Big Sister pointing at you.


So that’s me told.

We know what we’ve got to do. Register. But don’t point out the glaring typo. It’s one thing to upset the entire French electoral system by voting in a Dutch or British mayor (it has happened) – it’s another thing entirely to snipe at your nearest & dearest.

Posted December 15, 2007 by Richard Williams in Uncategorized

Alcohol and History   Leave a comment

Since I started on this research into the families of those who lived in the Big House, I’ve unearthed a great deal – often stuff I wasn’t even looking for. And I’ve discovered one underlying principle: alcohol and research go together most effectively. Particularly in France. Especially in this village. Specifically with me.
I visit la Mairie quite frequently these days : the secretary – subject to the approval of Monsieur Le Maire who somewhat resembles a benign Joe Stalin with a reputation for being un animal for ‘pastis’ (no surer way to curry favour than to offer him some unusual bottle of aniseed-flavoured booze) – has given me the run of the archives: boxes of photos and yet more postcards from before WW1 plus dozens of leather-bound registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths, known collectively as Etat Civil : the civil status of each citizen.
So when I am not here …

… I am out visiting some elder of the village who has tales to tell.
Now if the arrangement is for, say, 11am I arrive with a notebook and an expectation of un p’tit café. Three hours later I’ve just about managed to keep pace with his ‘petit peu plus de whiskee’ and have covered several pages with illegible scrawl that will take hours to decypher.
But the thing is – or are – the tangents. The way one is led down them. The way the way back becomes harder and harder to find. The way one stops caring about french grammar or pronunciation or vocabulary – or where we had got to in the reminiscence.
Meeting an old fellow who loves his history and his ‘aperitifs‘ is wonderful – we are both gambolling wildly down the byeways of time and memory: he, delighted to be given an opportunity to revisit – me enthralled at the immediacy of all this new information.
The trick is to keep writing – as you drink, as you ramble. And never mind the spelling. There’s time enough to be sober.

And as I heard one neighbour say of another – with such utter absence of sentimentality I mistook it for malice – as her coffin was being slid into the family vault : ‘Elle ne parle plus.’