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.
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.
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.
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.