DERNIER MOT - GUY FAWKES
Alphonse The Maire is planning a series of themed cultural events to keep the village amused this winter: a Cuban Dance night, a Japanese tea party, an Australian story-teller, and er... "quelque chose Britannique". He and Marie-France came round to see if we could suggest something suitable.
"The tea is no good," he explained. "The Japanese are doing it. We need something different. We want excitement if Moisson is to become an international hub of culture."
Now just between you and me, I think the chances of our forgotten little village becoming a tourist attraction, let alone an international hub, are as remote as the chances of me going to Bernadette's Keep Fit class. But Alphonse has a bee in his bonnet. If the endeavour kills him, he'll put Moisson on the world map.
"Beer?" said the Senior Partner. "That's international. Everyone likes a decent pint."
"But it is German."
The SP raised his eyebrows.
"Halloween?" I said quickly.
"Guy Fawkes!" screamed the Junior Members. "A bonfire! Loads of sausages, baked potatoes, fireworks..."
"And beer!" said the SP.
"Well it's certainly British," I said, giving him one of My Looks.
"Guffox?" said Marie-France. "With saucisses? Patates? It's a barbecue?"
"Yes!" shrieked the JMs.
"No," said the SP.
"Sort of," I said. "There is food but there is a guy too. A sort of male doll. You make him out of old clothes and straw and you take him for a walk in a pram..."
"And get loads of money!"
"Think of it as licensed mugging..."
"And then you burn him!"
"You burn the doll!" said Marie-France. "On a bonfire..."
"Yes, a huge pyre. Because he represents Guy Fawkes. He tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but he was tortured to death.
"And you celebrate this er... torture?"
To be honest, I always thought we celebrated the man's courage and his revolutionary spirit, but sitting opposite Alphonse, whose soul belongs to the secretary of the Communist Party, and Marie-France, who is still awaiting the return of the Dauphin, I did a quick body-swerve.
"Um, well have fireworks and sparklers too, and then there are sausages and baked potatoes. And salad. Coleslaw usually, although I don't know why. Auntie Jo always used to do mulligatawny..."
"Ah bon! Un repas in the village hall..."
"Well, no. You eat outside."
"You put all the tables outside in the cold?"
Marie-France and Alfonse just gazed at me and suddenly I blushed. Yes, I explained, it doesn't matter how cold it is... even on a freezing cold winter's night the Brits troop outside and stand around on the wet grass. Yes, often the fireworks don't go off. Yes, it rains more often than not. Yes, it's dangerous, muddy and often results in flu. Yes, you stand around in the dark eating burnt sausages with your fingers. You usually drop your drink down your anorak... and well, yes you're right, as for the children, they do run mad while my husband satisfies his inner pyromaniac.
MF and Alphonse exchanged glances. "They do this all over the British Isles? On November the 5th? You are sure?"
We all nodded enthusiastically.
"Well, it's different," said Marie-France.
"Most unusual. Very British," nodded Alphonse. "So it is settled. As soon as the rains come, we shall make a big fire, burn a large male doll, ruin several kilos of perfectly good sausages and then throw soup down our coats."
"Time for a little apéro I think," said the SP getting out the Pastis.
Alphonse added two large ice cubes and lifted his glass in a toast.
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