Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Le Dernier Mot - articles by Samantha David

 

DERNIER MOT - DOING UP THE CHURCH 

 

      Albert, our local Maire, is also the history teacher so naturally he's potty about what the Junior Members call "the oldern days".  So much so, that every time he makes a speech the whole village recites the opening lines along with him: "Back in the 12th century..."

      Much to the JMs' amusement he is also potty about the church and er, religiously dresses up as a priest for the annual village fête.  He even once won a jive competition whilst wearing his ebay soutane. 

      So obviously the first thing Albert did once he became the Maire of Moisson was tart the church up.  He had all the old crépi torn off the exterior walls to reveal the historic stones beneath and once they had been cleaned and repointed, he screwed a snazzy new information board to the naked masonry: a brief history of every stone in Moisson.

      But Albert didn't stop there.  Within months he had turned his attention to the interior of the church and not before time.  There was so much rising damp that the plaster was gently crumbling off the walls almost up to waist height.

      "There's no point in replastering," said the specialist architect from Avignon.  "These churches were often built on a foundation of rubbish.  Until you dig the floor up, it'll always be soaking wet in here."

      Albert immediately passed a Council motion and took out a loan.  Then he fetched his pickaxe and started heaving up the tiles on the church floor.  Underneath them was a thick layer of between-the-wars cement.  Obviously a previous attempt at solving the damp problem said Albert, nodding portentously. Nothing daunted, he drafted in a team of destruction experts from the café-bar in Moisson-la-Cèbe, and they got their power tools on the job.

      The floor cracked under the onslaught and within minutes dust was billowing throughout the little church and out of the doors into the village square.  A skip arrived and Albert's minions began wheelbarrowing rubble out of the church.

      Which was when the floor suddenly fell in and lo there were the bones of some long-dead inhabitant of Moisson.  The work stopped.  Albert called the gendarmes who arrived and gazed at the destruction inside the church with dismay.

      "What on earth is going on?" they asked in faint voices.

      "Restoration!" said Albert.

      "Well, it's mayhem, but probably not murder," cackled Old Eglantine, peering over their shoulders.  "I don't remember anyone being bumped off." 

      "Nevertheless, these remains will have to go to the laboratory for analysis."

      "Wait!" said Marie-France rolling into the church with her camera.  "I have to inform the Midi Libre!  We will be on the front page!  I must do a picture!  Yes, all stand beside the grave... a leedle closer... merci!"

      Having got her shot, she bustled off to telephone Maurice the reporter with her scoop on the Medieval Man of Moisson.

      Albert was overjoyed.  Finally the village had historical significance.  The car park would be full of tour buses and there would be enough people to re-open the bar.

      "I don't think so," said the gendarmes as they left.  "These bones usually turn out to be some Victorian priest or other.  Nothing remarkable at all."

      Albert sniffed, convinced that "his skeleton" is a 12th century king or at the very least a Resistance Hero.  Maurice the reporter chewed his lip. 

      "Moisson," he wrote, "has hit the headlines once again but this time the excitement is not merely fiction.  The village has discovered mysterious remains..."

      "Mer-credi!" exclaimed the JMs reading the article over breakfast.  "Look at what Albert's found! 

      "History in the making," said the Senior Partner.

      "No!" they chorused.  "A real live DEAD SKELLINGTON!" 

 

 

 

 

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