In this blogposting…
* The New Year
* La vie en France: Noël - Part Three
Go ahead; what have you got to lose?...
THE NEW YEAR…
The poem below - an extract from Tennyson’s In Memoriam - is well-known as a New Year poem. At least, the first couple of verses are.
But, if you can spare the time, I’d like you to read it through, as I just have. I found the experience unsettling because many of the feelings, sentiments, thoughts and wishes expressed in it are as relevant today as they were when the poem was written in 1850.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
We’re still waiting for most of Tennyson’s wishes to come true, aren’t we? Let’s hope we can make some progress during 2012.
I hope everyone has a peaceful, healthy and happy year.
LA VIE EN FRANCE / LIFE IN FRANCE
NOËL / CHRISTMAS - PART THREE
Having retired the previous night in moderate good spirits, I woke up feeling a lot more mangled. After all, instead of a view of the blue hills of Beaujolais I was looking out on an eight-lane Dutch motorway with Schiphol airport hovering mistily in the middle-distance. I was barely halfway to my Christmas destination and the second half would be a lot more complicated than the first had been.
And that’s because there’d be no-one at Lyon airport to pick me up when I finally got there. If everything had gone according to plan yesterday, I would have arrived in Lyon at 2230 or so, with Serge’s smiling - if tired - face to welcome me.
But today, he was at work. I’d have to make my own way to St Georges de Reneins. It was going to be another long day.
And the day was as good as its word. It developed into something like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, in which Steve Martin and John Candy team up in an effort to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving; ahead of me lay a day of changes and timetables which involved a coach, a bus, an aeroplane, a tram, a metro, a train and a very long walk.
The coach was first. It arrived at the hotel promptly at 0720. There were so many people waiting for it, though, that it very quickly became hopelessly and dangerously overcrowded, like one of those buses in India you see in films like Slumdog Millionaire. We were sitting in the seats, in the aisles, in the luggage racks, on suitcases and even on each other’s laps. No-one complained though - we all needed to get to the airport, after all.
Once there, we finally dispersed, hugging and good-wishing each other and each taking our chances with flights and destinations. I watched the Croatian mountaineer disappear into the crowds, my fingers firmly crossed that he would get to Dubrovnik, which is where his heart was.
One of those hateful airport buses took me to the aeroplane and my flight left on time. We rose into the thick Dutch fog and emerged from it five minutes later into the unreal and blinding sunshine above the clouds. It was enough to lift and reassure the spirit. Everything was going to be alright.
We landed on time, too - at about 1130 - and I was grateful, once again, for the relative calm of small regional airports such as Lyon St Exupéry. No crowds, no hassle, no frustrations. Polite, unhurried civility - the way airports like London, Paris (God forbid) or Schiphol must have been before they got too big for their boots.
Antoine de St ExupéryI had a quick coffee and looked at the monument to the man who gave the airport its name: Antoine de St Exupéry. Born in Lyon, he had been one of France’s aviation pioneers in the 1920s, had written lyrically about his life in the skies, had won many international awards, had campaigned for the USA to join the Second World War after France capitulated and had died over the Mediterranean whilst serving with the Free French Air Force.
He is now a national hero in France, as well he should be.
I'm genuinely ashamed to say that I'd never heard of him.
This not being England, public transport from the airport is awe-inspiringly plentiful, varied and cheap. The airport has its own TGV (fast mainline) station from which trains whisk you, at breakneck speed, to almost anywhere you want to go - including even Geneva and Milan; there are buses and coaches to destinations nearer to hand; and there’s the brand-new express tramway to Lyon city centre.
You shouldn’t need to guess which one I chose.
It’s about 8 miles to Lyon city and the Rhône-Express tramway does it in no time, travelling at train speeds across the fields and into the suburbs. I had just begun to enjoy what was, for me, the rare pleasure of riding on a tram when it was time to change to the Metro on the outskirts of Lyon.
I decided I didn’t really mind that Serge was working that day. Once again, I was enjoying the sense of urban adventure my missed connexion was giving me.
I’ve extolled the virtues of Lyon’s trams, metro and trolleybuses elsewhere (in blogposting 242, in fact, where you can also see a picture of the new tramway) so you'll be glad to hear that I'm not going to go through it all again.
There I was in the heart of beautiful and stately Lyon, at its Perrache mainline station ( - say pair-ASH). There aren’t many trains to the little wayside stop at St Georges de Reneins so I caught the next one that left. It takes about half an hour.
Local French trains are not, of course, as supremely fast or luxurious as TGV expresses. But they are very comfortable, airy, spotlessly clean and - in common with all Continental trains - they are much bigger than ours here. During my Grand Tour, I thought that this was an optical illusion until truckshunter Nev pointed out that trains over there really are much wider than ours. I’ve often wondered why this is so. After all, the railway lines are the same distance apart. Aren’t they? Nev?
So there I was, deposited - along with two other hardy souls - on the platform at St Georges de Reneins, watching the train disappear into a dot - like an old tv - and contemplating the most arduous part of my whole trip.
The walk to the house.
St Georges is not a large village but unfortunately the station is on one side of it and my ultimate destination is on the other. It’s just over 2 miles, although - after my journey from Amsterdam - it seemed like 102.
I took my time ( - as if I had any choice). Trundling my suitcase behind me, i walked from the station to the village church, where I sat down.
From the church, I walked down past the chateau and sat down again.
From the chateau, I walked past the park gates to the House of the Barking Dog and sat down again.
From the House of the Barking Dog, I walked to the moto-ball court and sat down again.
At this point, a very old lady - whom I had seen in the village - put me to shame by walking briskly past me at what seemed like 20mph. She had turned the corner to Bourchanin before I was able to rustle up the moral fibre to follow in her footsteps.
At the house, I stroked the cat (Moumoun), made myself some coffee and gazed at last on the hills of Beaujolais I had missed so much that morning. Slowly and quietly, the peace of the French countryside descended and re-adopted me as its own. It wrapped itself around me and made me smile.
Which is what Serge did when he got home an hour or so later.
Serge was working the next day - Friday - so I had some time to make notes about my epic Christmas journey. The seasonal mixture of expectation, disappointment, adventure, over-indulgence and ultimately calm and peaceful pleasure had made the trip unique. I was glad of the experience. And I was glad that it was over.
I also had time to scribble down some memory joggers about the latest difficulties I’d been having with the French language. As usual, these problems centred around what I call ‘False Friends‘ - word which look as though you know what they mean, but don’t mean that at all.
Here’s the latest bunch….
Attendre does not mean ‘attend‘ - it means ‘wait’.
The idea of ‘attending‘ (a concert or a wedding or something) is expressed using assister, which therefore does not mean ‘assist’.
As they crossed the channel, talons have moved back along the foot; they aren’t claws, they’re heels.
Gratter doesn’t mean ‘grate’ - it means ‘scrape’ ( - a skyscraper is a gratte-ciel). 'Grate' is râper.
Actuellement doesn’t mean ‘actually‘ - it means ‘at the present time’.
Eventuellement doesn’t mean ‘eventually‘ - it means ‘possibly’.
Profiter doesn’t mean ‘profit from’ - it means ‘make the most of’.
Arriver doesn’t just mean ‘arrive’ - it also means ‘to be on your way’. You have to be careful with that one.
You also have to be careful with promiscuité, which doesn't mean 'promiscuity' but 'lack of privacy'; and intoxication, which means 'poisoning' rather than mere drunkenness.
You have been warned.
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