Posts Tagged ‘Ste Severe’

Silences

September 25, 2013

Saturday morning and the air has stilled.  September sunshine brushes the market square and the warm stone houses in the hilly village of Ste Sévère.  No movement in the little streets, except for mine – and I a stranger.  In the Post Office – nearly midday, nearly closing time – I am the only customer.  A peaceful woman weighs the card I want to send – it rests, light on the scales, while she tickles my cheeky dog.  Those huge ears.  The local bar is sleek with the smell of leeks cooking. I drink excellent coffee alone, and chat quietly with the chef about black pepper and circuses, and leek fondue.  (Did he really mean ‘leek fondue’?)

 The ancient square is still empty, but the church bell strikes its rich tone, calm and precise.  It hardly resonates in the dry air, so limpid, and for once I don’t bother to count the strokes.  I slide the car gently out of town.

 Not a soul in the fields – no sound of machinery, no movement of beasts or men.  The great black and white donkeys stand at angles, close together but detached.  Wheat stubble rests; sunflowers and maize are drying – so slowly – imperceptibly small changes darken the grains a fraction more.  Across an empty field, the brook’s rush-rustling tumble runs below the silence.  For a few steps my boots crunch gently across a sprinkle of last year’s acorns.  Some small cautious creature briefly disturbs the dry grasses by the path; a tiny grasshopper lands on a papery dead leaf with the lightest of sounds: flick.  A pale, grey-brown sound.  Down the hill, across the little iron and concrete bridge and past silent well-kempt farmsteads, the dogs romp and I walk quietly, into the shade of the woods on our left.  On the other side, expanses of tall-growing flowering balsam run wild, all the way down damp margins to the stream. 

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They say a blog is better with pictures – I’m not sure that I want to chop this one up. 

Here it is again with pictures – tell me what you think!

Silences

Saturday morning and the air has stilled.  September sunshine brushes the market square and the warm stone houses in the hilly village of Ste Sévère.  No movement in the little streets, except for mine – and I a stranger.

empty streets

empty streets

In the Post Office – nearly midday – I am the only customer.

The Post Office - ring to be admitted.

The Post Office – ring to be admitted.

A peaceful woman weighs the card I want to send – it rests, light on the scales, while she tickles my cheeky dog.  Those huge ears.  In the local bar (the Relais du Facteur), sleek with the smell of leeks cooking I drink excellent coffee alone, and chat quietly with the chef about black pepper and circuses, and leek fondue.  (Did he really mean ‘leek fondue’?)

no-one needed behind the bar

no-one needed behind the bar

The ancient square is still empty, but the church bell strikes its rich tone, calm and precise.

Across rooftops, the bell tower of the church.

Across rooftops, the bell tower of the church.

It hardly resonates in the dry air.  For once I don’t bother to count the strokes.  I slide the car gently out of town.

I slide out of town

I slide out of town

Not a soul in the fields – no sound of machinery, no movement of beasts or men.  The great black and white donkeys stand at angles, close together but detached.  Wheat stubble rests; sunflowers and maize are drying – so slowly – imperceptibly small, molecular movement.

maize drying on the cob

maize drying on the cob

Across an empty field, the brook’s rush-rustling tumble runs below the silence.

stream bubbling in the distance

stream bubbling in the distance

For a few steps my boots crunch gently across a sprinkle of last year’s acorns;

acorns scatter, shatter on the path

acorns scatter, shatter on the path

something disturbs the dry grasses by the path; a tiny grasshopper lands on a leaf with the lightest of sounds: flick.  A pale, grey-brown sound.

a grasshopper, still and undetectable on the dried grass

a grasshopper, still and undetectable on the dried grass

Down the hill, across the little iron and concrete bridge

concrete and iron

concrete and iron

and past silent well-kempt farmsteads,

well kept farmsteads: the Moulin Gras

well kept farmsteads: the Moulin Gras

the dogs romp and I walk quietly, into the shade of the woods on one side;

DSCF1293

on the other, expanses of tall-growing flowering balsam run wild, all the way down damp margins to the stream.

flowering balsam on the field running down to the stream

flowering balsam on the field running down to the stream

the combat of Genest

October 20, 2010

The little village of Le Chézeau has about twelve inhabited houses (counting that of the couple from Toulon, who are sometimes here, and ourselves, who are here for some part of the summer).  There are some crumbling unoccupied cottages too, so at its height through the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries I suppose it would have had maybe fifteen to twenty farming and farm-labouring families.  It’s too small to have its own shop, church or café, but it does have a post box, and the charcuterie van comes round from Ste Sévère on a Wednesday afternoon. 

There’s a big ugly corrugated iron building that appears on the map as a ‘silo’, but it’s really some sort of animal feed store.  It has a large parking area for the transport vehicles to pull in, and an office in a semi-derelict mobile home.  A few years ago a fine marble plaque incised with blue lettering was placed in the parking area.  The effect was rather like the headstone on a grave.  Then, a little later, the concrete pillar supporting it was upgraded to a more stylish plinth.

memorial to the resistance - le chezeau

If my photo isn’t very clear, the French says:

 

A la mémoire
des résistants du groupe Indre-est qui cantonnerent
sur ces lieux en juillet 1944
avant de participer au combat de Genest.

  in English:

To the memory
of the resistance fighters of the group Indre-East who were billeted
at this place in July 1944,
before taking part in the battle of Genest.

 

Genest is a short pleasant walk from here, nowadays, along a waymarked official walking path.  From le Chézeau you go along the road towards Ste Sévère for a couple of hundred yards, then onto a track past some large fields, beside an oak wood and down to a little stream.  On the other side of the stream the path rises through the woods of Beaulieu, and on up to Genest, which is on the main road (if that’s the right term for the D110) between Boussac and Ste Sévère.  There’s a fine view back to the south over the fields and villages of Étoubet and le Chézeau towards the hilly wood of les Pièges.  Tractors steadily working their fields and the telecommunications mast barely keep us aware of which century we are in.  It’s a little hard to see how this can be a battle site – one might suspect that the village fathers are exaggerating the matter, in their zeal to support local patriotism.

The full story of the Battle of Genest can be pieced together via Google (in French), but briefly it goes like this.  To coincide with the Normandy landings in July 1944, a call went out to the French nation to rise up, join with the Résistance, and attack the occupying German army.  The response was massive, especially in Centre.  (see the Wikipedia entry for Pérassay) At the same time, German troops were urgently moved north from their stations in the centre and south of France to reinforce the battles taking place in northern France.  The Germans were furious with the French who impeded their desperate march northwards, and presumably also rather well aware that they would be fighting a bitter rearguard action in a war now lost.  Massacres had taken place in the Dordogne.  A group of the SS were stationed at Chateauroux, but I can’t find out quite why they were moving southwards in July.  Certainly there was a tumult, and bitterly personal reprisals within La Châtre at that time, and Ste Sévère is not far from there.  At Genest on the 16th July, according to the journal of Jean Gaultier, a schoolteacher at Saint Chartier, the German troops made an ambush near two lorries that had broken down, and fought a pitched battle with local people and the Resistance.  Gaultier’s journal is at http://creban.ifrance.com/liberat/gaucum.htm .  The regular troops won, of course, and there is a list of the seventeen French casualties on a memorial at Genest. 

 The thought of that wholesale popular uprising, which has been largely forgotten or denied by ordinary English-speaking people, is one I find intensely moving.  These genial local farmers look well-fed and comfortable as they glide past, high up on their huge tractors, but even so the memorials are new and well-tended.

the memorial on its plinth

 

More to come:

* I will blog another part of the story – and the tale of the courage of the mayor of Vijon – another time, when I can flesh it out with the relevant photos.  

 * More detail about the resistance in the Indre at:
http://creban.ifrance.com/repress/repallete44.html


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