An end-of-month miscellany

We were going to blog about the shift of autumn into winter but with temperatures back up in the mid-20s (mid 70s Fahrenheit) we feel disinclined to do so. Instead here are a few things from October that probably didn’t merit a blog on their own.

Chris has been up to Paris for an A Rocha presentation. It was an evening event, which gave him a chance to fill in a few gaps about the great city. He managed a visit to the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle but probably picked the wrong part by going into the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie where those in charge have greeted the challenge of what to do with a traditional museum of bones and skeletons by deciding to leave things just as they are. It’s easy to criticise but frankly what do you do with several thousand skeletons?

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The evening meeting was at the Temple du Marais in the 4th Arrondissement. There are many historic churches in France and some lively ones. Le Marais is one of the few that are both. Its history is well worth reading about – Le Marais has borne the brunt, sometimes dramatically, of almost every major event in French history over the last 400 years. There is a good Wikipedia article which for instance notes “During the World Wars the church crypt was used as a shelter from bombardment and under the German occupation of France during World War II the organ was used to hide Jews.” It is currently a very lively evangelical church with several services in French and also Japanese and Arabic. It was a good meeting with some very interesting and potentially significant attendees: those presenting didn’t simply talk about the work of the two A Rocha centres in France but also outlined a vision for eco-churches, something which has taken off in the UK and which we hope will take off in France.

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A Rocha meeting in the crypt

"Advice in case of a terrorist attack"

“Advice in case of a terrorist attack”

Our own church has seen good numbers this month. However as with all churches in France (as well as any other place where the public gather) we now operate under a situation of heightened security. This is, we hope, largely invisible but we have put up a couple of examples of this poster which is now very widespread in France. Sobering stuff.

We have been out with our local walking group a couple of times and a recent trip was into the upland area to the north to walk along one of the smaller gorges. The weather was fantastic and there were spectacular views in the clear air. A reminder that we were very close to the enormous European military training area of the Plateau de Canjuers came in the overflight of some German attack helicopters. As the picture suggests they were very low.

If you can see the rivets, they are flying too low...

If you can see the rivets, they are flying too low…

After a walk you need an aperitifs before your picnic (the middle bottle actually contains wine).

After a walk you need an aperitif before your lunch (the middle bottle contains wine).

We were however somewhat unprepared for the picnic at the end which turned out to be a much more lavish event than anything that would have happened with a similar British walking group. When we commented on this someone made the wry observation that it was typical of Les Anglais that they had invented the sandwich in order to eat in the minimum possible time. A fair point.

It wasn't quite what we had expected from the instructions to bring a picnic in our rucksack.

It wasn’t quite what we had expected from the instructions to bring a picnic in our rucksack.

Finally, we have noted a rare positive repercussion of “Brexit” over here. A recurrent feature of France which we have had to endure over many years is the “John Bull” type of Briton. These are the sort of characters – they are almost all men of a certain age – who will corner you at some meeting and tell you gently over a glass of wine – and belligerently after several – that France is a mess, that it is badly run and that it has a stupid and incompetent political system. Implicit in these criticisms (and sometimes explicit) is the view that the British (by which they really mean the English) know how to run everything properly and that if only France could be run on British lines or even by the British, it would be paradise. Curiously enough, over the last few months such characters seem to have been become rather awkwardly silent. For which relief much thanks.

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