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…
So far I’ve resisted the temptation to do any postings at all on Strictly CD; so much candidate material but the knighthood for the stumbling, bumbling old goat Forsyth has done it for me nor for X Factor – I’ve just had too much of that highly-processed sausage machine for talentless wannabees. But after 4 weeks still no blogs on the Rugby World Cup; the project I was brought back into BT to handle in 1999 and, in doing so, had the best time of my career. I must have written more about the 2003 and 2007 tournaments than I ever did about my first love football but 12 years on what’s not grabbed me?
Well an interesting day in the 6 Nations yesterday. After trouncing Italy, Wales roll on towards a possible Grand Slam. It’s not going to happen again is it? That match again Ireland will be tough, especially because the Irish seem to have found their form following up their storming second half against France with a comprehensive win against Scotland yesterday. The Scots are looking poor this year – they found a try at least yesterday but it could be a lonely soul in the season. I blame their shirts. Ever since they’ve been wearing these barbeque shirts, they’ve played like king prawns –
The Irish one is as bad – a real horror of pea and avocado greens:
Anyway the key point of this posting is to write favourably about England’s performance away to France yesterday. Thankfully the team have stopped Steve McClaren from doing the half-time team talk and they turned in a second half effort to match the first half performance. If only they’d done the same thing against Wales who they absolutely pasted in that first 40 minutes, it would be they looking at a potential Grand Slam now. Ah well.
It’s not been a classic tournament but it’s turning into a good 6 Nations with 4 of the teams aiming and fully capable of winning it. I can’t wait for the next round now.
I think I was a little excited by the England’s win in the RWC semi-final when I wrote the recent posting about my top 10 favourite victories over the French. I’ve had a few comments about it. I’m not going to apologise because it was a bit of harmless fun and I’m broad-shouldered enough to realise that the French could compile an equally long and light-hearted look at their famous moments over us. Like er…. Continue reading →
I don’t know a lot about the politics of world rugby (even though I was once hauled before the IRB at the end of RWC ’99 – you’ll just have to find the earlier posting) but I do know that Argentina have been a bloody revelation. It would seem that the Tri-Nations don’t want them in their tournament and they’re not exactly well-positioned to compete regularly with Japan and the Pacific Is teams. And playing against the USA and Canada wouldn’t exactly light their fire as an annual competition. So, is it just me but why shouldn’t we invite them to join the 6 Nations?
Winning against les bloody French has always given the English a warm glow. We’ve always had issues with the neighbours but those buggers across the Channel have always been our national ‘derby’ team. The Germans have been particularly annoying in recent history but in reality they are a lot like us (apart from the arrogance, first on the sun-lounger mentality and sense of humour). But anyone’s who’s holidayed in the Dordogne and popped out in the morning to buy 3 baguettes, 5 croissants, some ham and cheese for breakfast and commented on the pleasant landscape and lovely weather without speaking in perfect French knows how sneering they are about we English and our slight mangling of their beautiful language. What’s so wrong with il ne pleut pas comme dans Angleterre? We love France and they hate us. Pourquoi mes amis? Continue reading →
Great result for England last night and today it’s Wales’ and Scotland’s turns to qualify for the QF stages. Come on you Celts. After an indifferent start by the Home nations (make that crap in England’s case), the tournament is just brewing up nicely now. The only blemish is the form of Ireland who really do look out of sorts. Something’s not right in that camp. The match against Argentina will be really tough. If all clicks they could do it but all their key players have got to hit top from simultaneously you feel. But come on you Greens. Continue reading →
I don’t want this posting to become a rant about how bad driving on British motorways is compared with Continental ones, though it might veer towards that I suspect. Fact is though that I have being driving 50k miles a year in this country for the last 20 years and now spend a lot of time on French, Swiss and, mostly, Italian motorways. So I reckon I’m well-placed to comment generally. And in general I find motorway driving increasingly painful, especially in the UK.