Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Connais tu Domfront?

Well, I’d never heard of it a month ago, and most of my French friends hadn’t either, except Pierre from the Insitut Français who was able to quote some 12th century religious relic or ruin. But this small Normandy town (see http://www.domfront.com) has forcibly impressed itself on me twice in the last weeks.
Firstly, when Brian and I were driving from St Malo to Couptrain, and as I was casually admiring the passing beauties of the town (undoubtedly the most picturesque through which we drove), we missed by much less than a metre a very bad road accident. As we continued (slowly, which saved us) along the main road, a mad local driver erupted at top speed from a side street, to our right. Brian stood on the brakes, and somehow – with a crazy curve – the madman succeeded in not crashing headlong into the passenger side of our car. Barely slowing, he somehow got past our bonnet, and zoomed away. We were so stunned, that we simply revved up and moved on. Only later did the enormity of what had almost happened dawn on us.
So Domfront has been somewhat engraved on my brain. Now, of course, its engraved on my heart, for my second experience of the town, three weeks later, was the debut of Rosy des Baux.

I now know a little more about the circumstances, for both Jack and Marion telephoned me and – how necessity cures all ills! – I was able to understand much of a telephone conversation for the first time in ages. Rosy seems to have behaved like a lady. She got away splendidly (Marion has a talent for that!) and went straight to the lead, while behind all was chaos. During the running, six of the eleven neophyte runners lost their gait and were disqualified, and one even fell. So, heading for home, Rosy had but four viable contenders chasing her. I have yet to see the DVD, but I suspect they were well spaced down the track. Anyway, none of them got to her. The horse that had trailed, Riceys, gave it a go, but Rosy held him off to win ‘comfortably’ by half a length. Since many French provincial tracks don’t time their races, nor issue margins with the results, I have no idea as to the former, but Marion reports half a length.

What I do have, via Marion, are some photos of the occasion. So here is Rosy warming up on the green cloverish grass of Domfront racecourse – grass which apparently covers more than a few holes! – wearing her brand new silks. There was quite a hoo-ha over defining the colours, between New Zealand (thank you hugely, Lyn at HRNZ!) and France, as the English and French ‘perceptions’ of such words as 'jaune' and 'or' and 'orange' seem to differ and, as a result, the original soft-boiled egg yellow now has a definite tinge of Amsterdam orange to it – but who cares?

And here she is, with Bernard, togged up in her 'après-la-guerre' gear.

I don’t know whether Domfront has a Colin Berry, but I suspect not, so for a photofinish I may have to wait eternally. Maybe Colin can do something from the DVD of the race which apparently I can get.

I am now waiting eagerly to find out where she will run next, and if it is before I am due at Dunkirk, and if it’s somewhere in that direction, I shall make a best attempt to go there. There is nothing to hold me in Paris – I came here to see my friends Christophe, Pierre and Jean-Baptiste and, after next week, when I escape from the Chinese dosshouse where I am presently immured and go to stay with Jean-Baptiste on the other side of Paris, that will be ‘chose faite’. A little breath of the French countryside to finish my stay here appeals greatly.

In the meanwhile, we make merry in the Café des Chineurs -- which has changed owners and staff since last year -- and in a variety of local restaurants. Alas, my favourite couscous house from last year is gone (with the rent unpaid, the manager ran away one night with the till) but there are plenty more, and last night I sampled a tripoux d’Auvergne – yes, its another variation on tripe, and delicious -- at a nearby bistrot.
The very drunk gentleman who kindly photographed the four of us dining al fresco the night before, at another delightful bistro, cut Pierre and I in half, so in the picture you have only Christophe and Jean-Baptiste… but, even if we aren't, the atmosphere is still there!

Yesterday, Christophe and I visited the Bibliotheque Nationale to do a little delving in the theatre collections, à propos our various books-in-the-making. And there, to my delight, I found … me! On the top shelf of the ‘music’ section, standing binding to binding with umpteen volumes of Grove, the three volumes of The Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre by Gänzl, K-F. Permission asked and given, I proudly photographed them in situ. Fancy, me in there, along with Corneille, Racine, Feydeau and Goscinny & Uderzo.

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