Today (Tuesday, May 8) is a national holiday here. No, not to celebrate the election of a new President, but rather to mark Victory in Europe Day, the end of World War II. Whenever we’ve been able, my wife and I have attended the Huit Mai ceremony in Daglan, and today’s assembly was easily the smallest we’ve seen.
Part of the problem of the low attendance may have been the weather. As I’ve mentioned several times in Radio Free Daglan, we’ve been having a fairly bad spell — completely unlike the spring of 2011. We’ve gone from a very cold winter (especially in February) to a spring that’s marked by days upon days of grey skies and lots of rain.
Within the past week, we’ve had some thunderstorms, and even hail. They weren’t large enough to do any damage, but hail is still fairly rare in the Greater Daglan Area. Those little crystal balls you see in the photo below are some hailstones that landed on one of our stone window sills:
In any case, weather may have played a part in today’s poor showing. It wasn’t raining at 11:30, when the ceremony began, but the skies were certainly grey. Here’s how the event began, with our Mayor, some officials, and a few residents walking from the Mairie (the Mayor’s office) to the war memorial that stands in front of Le Petit Paris:
Once the officials were in place, and a few of us residents were standing under a tree watching them, the ceremony began. It started with the raising of the flag:
With the flag raised on its pole, the Mayor and another woman placed a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the war memorial:
Next came the speeches. First, one of Daglan’s war veterans read a speech made by General de Gaulle at the end of the war:
Then it was the Mayor’s turn, reading a lengthy speech that described the war and the eventual victory (although, once again, the roles played by the Americans, British, Canadians, Australians and others were conspicuous by their absence). Here is Madame Le Maire:
The last steps included observing a minute of silence and then playing the national anthem on a CD player; that didn’t go all that smoothly, since no one seemed to know exactly how it worked. But eventually the song was played, and in less than 15 minutes the ceremony was over.
Then our Mayor invited us to join her for a complimentary apéritif at Le Bistroquet, the bar at the south end of Daglan. She concluded by thanking us for attending — and also made a rather cutting reference to the village councillors who had not bothered to show up.
As always, my wife and I were glad we went. Chatting with one of our neighbours at Le Bistroquet later, we both got the “thumbs up” sign when we could identify various départements by the numbers on the licence plates of passing cars. Local knowledge can be hard to develop, but it’s appreciated.