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Friday, 27 March 2015

Friday 27th March: Tempting Fate

This morning Celine and I decided to visit the town of Quimperle. Although the town is a popular tourist spot neither of us have been there before. Celine had read a report in the local paper advertising a stall selling books on Breton culture at the brocante (flea market), and this was the reason for our visit. 

We took a chance and went in my car. I tried to ignore the strange whining noises the engine was making while Celine was talking about going to Paimpont, where Merlin was supposed to have lived. She wants to include something about the forest in her book. So far she's collected hundreds of interviews from many elderly residents detailing their childhood memories. She's decided to include only the most interesting so at the moment she's trying to decide what to keep and what to throw out.
I don't usually listen to music in the car as I find it distracting but didn't mind when Celine switched on the radio as it took my mind off the noise from the engine. She searched the channels until she found a local one playing traditional Breton music. A very interesting interview followed with the lead singer of the band (of which I didn't get the name) who was discussing the changing attitudes towards Breton music and culture. Celine translated as we drove (chugged) along.
Until a revival of interest in the 50s and 60s Breton music was in danger of disappearing altogether and it wasn't until the mid-century the Breton language was banned from schools; even children being punished for speaking it. I believe parents were banned from giving their children local names right up until the end of the century. Now things are very different, and Breton culture is very much alive with the distinctive Breton flag being seen everywhere and the language being taught in schools for a few hours a week. I suggested to Celine now would be a good time to contact the local radio stations to discuss her book.
Quimperle is certainly a very picturesque town with a riverside setting. We walked around the medieval centre and took a look inside the 11th century Abbey. Although photography is prohibited, Celine sneaked a few photos of the beautiful 16th century altarpiece on her phone. The oldest building in the town is a lovely half timbered house with a cafe nearby where we did a bit of people watching.

Eventually, we found the market. The place was packed out even though it's a week day. There were all sorts of stalls; home crafts, antiques, books, clothes, and of course, food. I was pleased to discover several albums of stamps from Dominica, St. Lucia and Martinique. I was inspecting these when Celine called me over. She was at one of the bookstalls, talking to a small dark haired person dressed in black trousers, black boots, a biker's jacket and a black beret: Josephine from the bookshop in my village. I paid for my albums and went over to join them. Josephine was in a cheerful mood, much more animated than when we first met. She showed me two bags of books she'd bought. Apparently, one of the stall holders was from England and selling off his history text books from university. I helped her carry them to her car; an ancient 2CV Deux Chevaux (no surprise). She said she'd always wanted one of these back home in New Orleans and dreamed one day of owning one. Hers is from 1990, the last year of production, and so far, hadn't given her any trouble.
We said goodbye and after about ten more minutes of browsing Celine and I decided to make our way back. Celine showed me a book she'd found called A Childhood in Brittany, with numerous pictures, recounting the author's recollections of growing up in the thirties. It's just the sort of thing she's looking for. I was also pleased with my stamps, so, a worthwhile trip.
We hadn't driven far when Celine pointed to the side of the road up ahead. It was Josephine. She was standing glaring at her car; fumes were streaming from the hood. With people hooting as they passed by, we managed to push the car along the road and into a supermarket car park. 

We said we'd give her a lift back to her hotel in Carnac and, if she felt her French wasn't good enough, Celine offered to phone the towing company and garage for her.
Josephine was so distressed that Celine had to remind her to bring her books. She then had to go back again to collect her pipe and tobacco. (I don't think I've known many women who smoke a pipe). She said she didn't know why she was so upset by this as she's had to deal with much more in the past; including Hurricane Katrina back in New Orleans.
Celine told her about my writing and Josephine suggested I give her some copies to sell in her shop. She also offered to put some posters up in the window. I asked if she was keen on doing any singing and told her to phone Alexander. I also mentioned that Andre, the owner of the restaurant in Carnac, might be interested in booking her. Celine asked if she'd had many customers in the shop. She admitted things had been quiet. We suggested she do an official opening night with cheese and wine. Celine was enthusiastic about this, saying she could help Josephine prepare everything but Josephine didn't say much.
We dropped her off at the hotel. Celine took down all the car details, promising to phone the garage.
Back at the cottage the sun came out and we were able to sit outside for a while. Celine mentioned the opening night idea but I can't see it happening! I got the impression Josephine was focused on the books she's interested in and not the books her customers might like. Perhaps she doesn't need the money. She doesn't seem to have much of a head for business.
We had a Spanish omelette for dinner and finished off a bottle of wine.
After Celine phoned the garage to arrange for Josephine's car to be towed in, I told her how, with all the strange noises it's been making, I thought my car was about to die.
She warned me not to tempt fate.
Listened to some Billie Holiday later: so similar to Josephine's voice.

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