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

The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David

 

Fireworks! 

      What a laugh... Moisson is covered in confetti after the Bastille Day celebrations.

      It all started on Wednesday when they set the bar up in the square.  Then the lights had to be put up and the Maire solemnly opened the cupboard behind the bar in the village hall and got the props out - wax heads, a cardboard guillotine, several pikes and choppers, and a large box of dressing up clothes.

      Meanwhile the hunters were plugging the holes in the chateau wall with fireworks, and everyone else was maniacally peeling potatoes round the fountain.  Various 4x4s arrived with crates of drinks, plastic cups and boxes of ice cubes.  More props were discovered in the cupboard behind the picture of Chirac, and a stage was set up so that the children could recite revolutionary speeches.

      Oh, and a disco arrived complete with smoke machine and flashing lights.  Then the dressing up clothes were dished out - everyone fighting to be a sans culottes because the powdered wigs you have to wear with the aristo outfits are excruciatingly uncomfortable.  Friends arrived, some of them old hands, others Newbies.

      Kick off was at seven with apéros followed by a large noisy meal in the square, people falling off the ends of the benches and flinging bread about.  Then a hush fell.  The speeches were beginning.  These are all revolutionary in tone, but thoroughly local in character containing hundreds of libellous references to the Maire, the teacher, the postman, etc.

      Then the committee dished out paper lanterns on sticks and all the candles finally being lit, the kids formed up in a ragged procession and set off round the village shouting “Allez les Bleus!” and “A bas, les aristos!” finally ending up back in the square where the hunters got over-excited and started firing hundreds of rounds into the trees.

      Twigs and leaves rained down and the noise drowned out the Maire who was doling out wax heads covered with fake blood.  “I’m counting these heads!”  Bang!  “I want them all back at the end!”  Bang!  Bang!

      “Get the canon!  Get the guillotine!  Light the rockets!”

      Total chaos reigned.  It simply isn’t possible to imagine such a scene back in the UK.  Kids and dogs running wild, fireworks, wax heads, choppers, pikes, crowds of half drunk people surging into the fireworks until finally the guillotine appeared on the chateau ramparts and the wax heads came tumbling down into the hysterical mob.

      “I want those heads back!  If I see any boy playing football with a head..!”

      “Allez les bleus!  Vive la révolution!”

      At which point the disco started up and the dancing began.  As the committee retrieved the props, the waltzing prize was awarded, and the rock and roll competition got underway.

      At midnight, the DJ hauled a pile of cardboard boxes onto the stage and the kids screamed with excitement.  The confetti!  The fight, the fight!  Large bags of confetti were tossed into the mob, grown-ups jumping for them with just as much enthusiasm as their off-spring.  The air was thick with whirling paper, the square filled with people hurling confetti at each other until drifts of confetti started to build up under the plane trees...

      It was way past midnight, and various items of fancy dress were draped over the statues and the fountain, the dancers were still crowding the floor, the bar was doing good business.  The smoke machine and the light show ground into action and the merry-makers settled down to make a night of it.

      Old ladies did The Shag, old men drank and drank, the younger children gradually fell asleep on benches and in prams, the older ones leapt and yelled on the dance-floor until finally as the sky began to turn silver, the music stopped and everyone went to bed.

      And now, the next afternoon, as flakes of confetti drift through the village streets, the only noise or movement out there is the fountain.

      This afternoon, everyone is sleeping...

         

                 

Next column will be uploaded around 1st Aug.

 

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