Virginia Barton

14 July 2017: Bastille Day


14 July 2017

Remember Nice, and pray there is no blood shed this year.


BH has a deep distrust of anything that smacks of revolution. A victim at first hand, he will have no truck with it. Any romantic ideas I had as a young wife about changing the status quo were swiftly crushed. (“But couldn’t we..? shouldn’t we..?” got nowhere.)

It is said they only found one mad old man in the Bastille when they stormed it on this day in 1789. This info may well be fabricated and based on Dr Manette in A Tale of Two Cities. (A book to be re-read often, if only for Jerry Cruncher’s Missis habit of “flopping”; the fight to the death between Mme Defarge and Miss Pross, and the unforgettable last sentence…)


If you can spell Le Marseillaise, you can probably sing it. A great tune that one loses track of in the middle, like many national anthems. We had to learn Le Marseillaise at school in our French lessons with Mam’selle Mortgat. Our beginner’s text book was called En Route and from that we progressed to En Marche. A title that of course reminds me of President Macron whose political party has that full frontal Napoleonic approach. It sounds like a Party that is going places.

How different to Conservative! Or Labour! Or even Liberal — although that at least has Democrat tagged on to it.

Just as things are getting interesting in France, we’re quitting. (Wish you could see me roll my eyes.)


The British do not celebrate Bastille Day. Perhaps they remember their own “Glorious Revolution”; but the Americans do so widely. The 400,000 or so French citizens living in London may make their way to Battersea Park, Camden or Kentish Town for some gaieté and fraternité.

A great many of BH’s family are buried grandly, in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. One of them was wounded eleven times, and lost his nose, at Waterloo, fighting for Napoleon of course.

My own grandmother is also buried less grandly in Paris, in the Protestant cemetery, surrounded by the high rise district of La Défense.

Perhaps we will open a decent bottle in their memory and have un petit coup de rouge.







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