21 July 2010

Churches, museums, names, and cousins

Okay, I got the computer working again, I think. This is a test. It is only a test. And it's a brief report on what we did yesterday.

CHM spent the morning at the Hôtel de Ville, where the town's museum is housed. I took a walk around, looking at what remains of the château and other monuments. Most of the town was destroyed during World War I. It was rebuilt afterward. It's hard to imagine a town that had to be entirely rebuilt — except, remember, Walt and I lived in San Francisco for 17 or 18 years.

This restaurant called Le Provençal
is in the town of Péronne in Picardy

We had lunch with the museum director in a restaurant called Le Provençal. In Picardy! The food was very good: a gratin of crayfish and leeks, roasted lamb, veal kidneys in a cream sauce, a salad with cheese, and ice cream for dessert.

The museum director is a man of about 40, I would say, and not at all stuffy. He's an archeology and history specialist. From him, I learned why it is the case that so many houses up here in Picardy are built out of brick. More about that later. It has to do with... what happened here between 1914 and 1918.

In the afternoon, we drove north about 10 miles to see things and meet people in two villages where the M family originally came from. We were guided by one of CHM's cousins. We went to the local church, which had to be rebuilt after the 1914-18 war too. For two people who are not at all religious, at least in any "organized" sense, we have spent more time in churches over the past 48 hours than the law allows.

Windows in the post-WWI church in the village
are dedicated to Joan of Arc and Saint Martin.

One of CHM's cousins is the mayor of one of the two villages. CHM had never met him before. He took us to see the local church, and then he invited us into his house for a drink — we had water, because the weather has been so hot and we are always thirsty. We met his wife, daughter, and a couple of grandchildren. It was a lot of fun for me to see their house and hear them talk.

CHM's grandfather was and still is quite a celebrity in these little towns. There's a plaque on the house where he lived. Well, it's not exactly the same house. It too had to be rebuilt after WWI, but the house is on the same plot of land where CHM's grandfather lived. And there's a monument in a little park in the village that features a bust of CHM's grandfather, with information about his birth and death.

A monument to the memory of CHM's grandfather
was erected in this Picardy village in 1909.

CHM also has or had cousins in the village whose last name is Cousin, so we made a lot of jokes about "the Cousin cousins" — les cousins Cousin. As in small towns everywhere, including and maybe especially in the ones in the little North Carolina county where I grew up, most of the population seems to belong to one of three or four local clans. Many of them, then, have the same last name.

And it turns out that many of them here in Picardy also have the same first name. There were or are Charles and petit Charles, two sisters-in-law both named Madeleine (who couldn't stand each other), and so on. CHM has exactly the same first and last names as his grandfather. Just as I have the same first and last names as my paternal grandfather (not to mention my father).

Later in the afternoon we drove back to Péronne, the bigger town, to go back to the museum in the Town Hall. Madame le Maire of the town came to greet CHM. He was quite the VIP, and very gracious about it.


  1. What happened to the computer?

  2. The bust is quite elegant.

    I did not know there was such destruction in World War I. Was this confined to northern France?

  3. Loved your post. The bust of CHM's grandfather looks a lot like CHM to me. It would have been cool if you had taken a picture of CHM next to the bust.
    Sounds like CHM is quite the celeb. And it must be fun for him to meet and catch up with so many relatives. What a great day it must have been. Can't wait to hear more about it.

  4. Diogenes, the original bust of CHM's grandfather was in bronze, but the Germans took that one during WWI and melted it down to make cannonballs or bullets or something. The one there now is in concrete.

    The computer issue turned out to be a missing driver. I figured it out and then downloaded and installed the driver. Now keyboard and touchpad work normally.

  5. Diogenes,
    Northern France, the Belgian Flanders and many other towns (like Leuven) and villages in Belgium were almost completely destroyed during WWI. After WWI Belgium went down into history as 'the battlefield of Europe'.

    The impact and tragedy of the heroic battles in Flandres are very well depicted in the famous poem 'In Flanders' Fields' by a Canadian officer who lived the honors on the front.

    At the 'Menen-poort' in Ypres (Belgian Flanders) a 'last post' sounds every night to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of English, Canadian, Australian and American soldiers that were killed in Flanders' Fields.

    P.S. Sorry to put this morose comment on such an interesting blog post.

  6. Of course, I meant to write the 'horrors of the front' (not the'honors').

  7. Religion has only two redeeming features; the fantastic cathedrals and the beautiful music composed by masters.

  8. Thank you, Ladybird and Ken.

    I travel often to Belgium (good antiquing) and was unaware there were many Belgian towns leveled in WWI. Thank goodness the wonderful Gothic and Romanesque architecture of Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges survived.

  9. Martine, thanks for that very helpful information. I don't know enough about WWI. Has anyone here read the book, Birdsong? It's part of a trilogy by Sebastien Faulks, and this part follows a man's life before, during, and after WWI. It's very eye-opening.

    Ken, I'm wondering if more photos of CHM's grandfather's artwork will be forthcoming!? Please tell me so! :))



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