One of the things we noticed in France was the popularity of the Dacia range of vehicles. I guess it’s not too surprising given that Renault bought out the former Romanian state car brand a few years ago. The cars are famously affordable and very much aimed at the budget end of the market. Fair enough and by all accounts they’re doing good business in France, Bulgaria, Turkey and all sorts of places. The vehicles look a little like they’re designed by British Leyland’s Allegro stylists but I’ve nothing against them. Except the names they’ve come up with for the range. Now very old readers will know that I’ve written on the subject of car naming in the far-off past; it’s something of a thing of mine. I especially enjoy really crap vehicle names and the marketing men at Dacia (who must have been recruited from Bucharest’s top hardware and ironmongers store) have come up with some lulus.
Well we’ve just returned from a super family holiday with my lovely daughters and son-in-laws and great grandsons spent in a delightful old farmhouse down in the Lot valley. Everything went beautifully and we had loads of fun, great weather, and nice food and wine. Sadly all great holidays are over much too quickly and we spent the last couple of days driving back. Yesterday we were en route to Calais from our overnight stop in Compiègne and we had a little bit of time to spare. We’d pulled off from the autoroute and headed to Arras to get some shopping from a Leclerc supermarket. Having done that we headed on the A road up to Bethune before picking up the A1 again. En route we passed several of the war cemeteries which pepper this part of N France. I passed the turning for the one at Vimy ridge which I fancied seeing but the traffic was heavy behind me so reluctantly I continued on for short while and came across the British cemetery at Souchez called Cabaret Rouge, named after a former cafe on the site. It looked beautiful and I pulled over for a walk around.
Now I’ve been meaning to visit a First World War site for ages. It may sound a bit dark but the reason is my grandfather saw action in this area losing his leg and killing several of his unit colleagues when he triggered a German mine’s trip wire. He returned home from the war badly smashed up physically and emotionally at the age of just 17. It’s staggering when you think what these young men endured. I was talking to my son-in-law about it on holiday. He had a bit more time on the way back and he and my daughter and the boys were planning to visit Ypres to witness the last post which sounded cool. 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the terrible war after all so what better time to make a visit?
I wasn’t disappointed by Cabaret Rouge. It contains nearly 8,000 graves – it’s nowhere near the largest but the sight of all those pristine white headstones is just so moving. The British soldiers buried there were mostly from London regiments and there were many headstones for fallen Canadians. So many of the graves were for unknown soldiers. I couldn’t believe just how many there were. I have to say the Commonwealth War Graves Commission do a fantastic job keeping these cemeteries in stunning condition. We were the only visitors and spent some time just walking round taking things in. It is a poignant sight and I had a moment or two to think about my grandfather and all these men who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we and my family have the freedom today to visit France on holiday. Nobody spotted but I got a little, er, reflective.
I left some words in the visitor book. Many, many people had been there before us and obviously felt similarly. Back in the car I talked to C about making another less hurried visit at some point so we can check out more places and some of the preserved trench systems and the like. I’d like to take in the Somme where I believe my grandfather fought but for the moment I’ll have pleasant memories of an hour at Cabaret Rouge to round off our holiday…
Oh baby Jesus I’ve just watched the BBC’s latest attempt to showcase celebrities doing stuff outside their comfort zone. Entitled Tumble it features a bunch of C-listers doing tumbling and simple gymnastic stuff. It’s like Splash! but not as scary or fascinating, which makes it about as much fun as anal warts. It is beyond dire. It’s diarrhoea.
I caught that documentary the other night on the 4-match spell Ryan Giggs had as interim player-manager following the late season sacking of David Moyes at Manchester United earlier this year. If you can recall there was a lot of media and pundit/player commentary at the time saying that the board at Man U should award the permanent job to Giggs and pass the club baton on ‘within house’ having seen the external candidate (and Sir Alex’s personal choice as his replacement) fail abysmally. After all he was the Premiership’s most decorated player, scorer of over 150 goals and a real one-club player having appeared for ManU almost 1000 times over the last 22 seasons. It’s hard to dispute the logic of the argument. Then I watched the film…
Now regular readers may recall that when we were living in the apartment overlooking Bushy Park, there was a spell when the road immediately beneath us was dug up in virtually the same spot 4 times in under 6 months. First was the water main repair, then installation of a new gas main, then remedial repairs to the gas main, then the whole road was relaid. Unbelievable. I watched fascinated as these huge diggers and grinders, tarmac layers and rollers came and went, laying tarmac down on exactly the same spot. I thought that was it in terms of my tarmacadam education.
Well Kylie duly appeared in something very skimpy, apart from the head-dress which was HUGE. And she sang her stuff including CGYOOMH just for me (TYK). Then to close the show we had Dougie MacLean. Who? He must be big in Scotland and he sang something folksy but surely, surely it was crying out for the Proclaimers to close it on 500 Miles. Ah that was probably a bit of self-irony too far. So the final scene was the ‘whole cast’ singing Auld Lang Syne. There must have been at least 7 people on the largest stage and landing strip I’ve ever seen. Sigh. Anyway enough of my mocking, it was a great event and showcase for Glasgow, like the TdF was for Yorkshire. It’s been a good summer for highlighting what our great country has to offer beyond London I think.
Look I thought the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, which seemed to receive universal praise, was a bit celtic inscrutable; i just couldn’t tell where the irony and self-deprecation stopped and the Scottish whimsy took over. But at least it was a hoot. I’ve been watching the closing ceremony for over an hour now and it’s been as much fun as a colonoscopy. Lots of tents (there’s that irony bit – got it, but no midges? because there sure were the only frigging time we camped in Scotland – and rain) and Lulu singing Shout (groan) and Deacon Blue singing something awful then some diddly dee singers then 40 minutes of crap speeches and a tourist advert for Australia’s Gold Coast, ya big gallah. It has been as much fun as a big jobbie in the Commonwealth Games pool. I’ll give it 10 more minutes and if Kylie isn’t on singing Can’t Get You Out of My Head in something very slinky and skimpy, I’m off down Sauchiehall St and heading south to C4.