I was relaxing, reading, in the conservatory, immersed in the latest Tarzan adventure, when I felt that I was being watched. I looked around to discover that my neighbours cat had taken up position, outside looking in. Perhaps it too was enjoying Edgar Rice Burroughs description of the latest exploits of Jad-bal-ja, the golden lion, trained by Tarzan.
These October morning are getting a little cool. Just blow on my fingers to get them warm again ….
All that stealing food from the bird feeder has made me thirsty…….
A little bit of sunshine and this little beauty pops up.
Here we are, October, and it’s that time of the year. Every morning as we step out of the front door we have to wave to the world. Similar to the Melbourne wave in the summer, only this time it isn’t because of the flies. Our deeply recessed front door seems to be the ideal place for spiders to construct their webs. Sadly, we have to break the fruits of their nightly labours. Quite often we can’t actually see the webs, or the single strands that are the anchor points for the more elaborate works of art, so we end up pulling the debris from our hair and clothes. Don’t you just love cobwebs across your face and eyes.
However, a few mornings ago we were treated to a quite beautiful display. Here are a few pictures that I took. They really don’t do justice to the real thing, but I hope you enjoy them.
Yet another misty morning and we were treated to a visit from a Red Squirrel. We had been throwing out the stale bread for the birds, using the wooden barrow as an impromptu bird table. Tufty seemed to like stale bread too. He certainly had the teeth for it which is more than could be said for us old codgers in the gite.
Our itinerary for today, Thursday, was to take us to Oradour-sur-Glane a few miles north and west of Limoges. Chosen by me because, a couple of years ago, I had read an excerpt from a book that had just been published. The excerpt, published in one of our national papers, told of the tragedy that befell the residents of this French village.
So to set the scene …
On 10th June, 1944, 642 of its inhabitants, almost the entire population of Oradour, including women and children, were massacred.
From Wikipedia: A massacre is a specific incident which involves the violent killing of many people and the perpetrating party is perceived as in total control of force while the victimized party is perceived as helpless or innocent.
Although the true reason for this atrocity is not known, one explanation is that members of an SS Panzer Division entered the village to avenge a German officer, kidnapped by the French Resistance.
The SS ordered all the townspeople to assemble in the village square. To keep everyone calm, this was done under the pretense of having their papers checked. Some 400 women and children, separated from the men, were herded into the church where the SS placed an incendiary device. After it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows of the church, but they were met with machine-gun fire. Only one woman, 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche, managed to escape from the church. She was shot and wounded as she escaped but managed to hide until she was rescued the next day.
The men of the village, more than 200 were herded into a barn where machine gunners opened fire, shooting at their legs so they could not move then dousing them with petrol and setting them alight. The SS then looted the village and set fire to the buildings before leaving.
A few months later, after Liberation, de Gaulle visited Oradour-sur-Glane and it was decided that the ruins were to remain, untouched, as a monument to the martyr village.
Oradour-sur-Glane now has a visitor centre, the “Village Martyr, Centre de la Memoire” which leads you through world history and the events that lead to the war and ultimately to the events that occurred in Oradour itself.
The centre sets out to put Oradour into its proper context in the war. The village was quite prosperous and, with several cafe’s and restaurants, was a popular destination for people from Limoges and the surrounding areas. All this came to a dramatic end on that fateful day.
This then, is the Oradour-sur-Glane left behind by the SS on that summer’s day.
As you walk through the village you become increasingly aware of how quiet it is. It isn’t just that you are requested, on entry, to remain quiet. Having been through the visitor centre you are well aware of the tragedy that occurred here and the enormity of the crime seems to be underlined.
Deserted streets which were once busy with the footsteps of the local residents. No more greetings as friends and neighbours meet, going about their daily business. Visiting the boucherie, charcuterie, boulangerie or even ladies chatting about their appointment at the salon de coiffure. Silent.
The tram lines and wires which once carried many visitors now lead nowhere and, like the streets, are silent. The quiet settles about you like a mantle. It’s not oppressive here although you might expect it to be.
The plaque on the wall of the ruined church reminds us that some women and children were massacred by the Nazis and asks that you make a prayer for the victims and their families.
The heat of the fire was so intense that the bell dropped from the church tower. Just a molten blob remains, with only the clapper giving a clue as to its original purpose.
Another symbol of the heart that was ripped out of Oradour is the infants school. This being a weekday, there should have been the sounds of the classroom and the playground. Silent
A memorial to a family, victims of the massacre, their ages ranging from 5 to 67.
There are, in the ruins, many symbols of normal, daily life. Perhaps the one that I became most aware of is the sewing machine. It seems that almost every house had one and the body of such machines is the lasting reminder of the fact that these were indeed, people’s homes.
Other reminders are scattered around the ruins. The ornate metal frames of beds, perambulators, bicycles and cooking pots all serving as a memorial to the lost people of this village.
I found myself getting angry as I walked around the ruins of this once prosperous village. Angry, not just at the men that had perpetrated this act of barbarism, but also, at the fact that despite the many years that have passed, human kind still hasn’t learned the lesson.
In the last seventy years, since Oradour, there have been many, many events that can be classified as massacres. Some, initiated by disturbed individuals, but many carried out by armed military against unarmed and non military people. There have been too many such incidents.
The sad thing is that they are still happening, perpetrated in the name of religion, race or “I was just following orders”.
Day 6, Wednesday, designated a relaxation day. Although the sun was shining on the gite, the view across the valley was very misty.
As usual I made the journey into Masseret to obtain fresh bread and as is my wont, en-route back to the gite I made a small detour.
The start of some of our previous excursions had taken us past a sign, at the entrance to a small lane, indicating that it serviced something or somewhere called Landes du Pierres du Mas. Being inquisitive by nature I decided to find out what was what and after following the lane which meandered for maybe a mile or two I was rewarded with a beautiful view.
Here I met a gentleman who introduced himself with a hearty “Good Morning” and laughed at the surprised expression that must have been on my face. I had expected at least a “Bonjour” and had, as he approached, been preparing my best franglaise. His immediate interest was to see if I was planning to fish as the pond is owned / administered by the local fishing association. I assured him the only thing that I was fishing for was a decent photograph, or two. As we were talking I discovered that he was a brit and that he originated from Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire. He has been in France for over thirty years and had originally come over as a shepherd, working a farm north of Limoges. He eventually took over the farm but had sold up and was now living in La Porcherie and fulfills the role of “guardien de peche”. During a pleasant conflab he explained that Landes du Pierre du Mas roughly translated to “the moors of Pierre Mas” and that anywhere we see “landes” indicates moors or heathland, areas of special interest.
After he took his leave, I strolled part way around the pond, disturbing a pair of kingfishers who launched themselves across to the far bank. No chance of a photo, they were almost supersonic. This brief sortie served to show that here was a venue that deserved a longer visit but rumbles in my stomach told me I was long overdue for heading back to the gite for breakfast.
Later in the day a couple of us headed out to walk the lanes again, this time heading away from the centre of La Porcherie. We hadn’t traveled very far when we came to an almost complete stop. Having discovered a hazel tree loaded with nuts we spent a few minutes cracking the shells and enjoying the contents.. Moving on, we hadn’t gone very far when we stopped again. This time it was Sweet Chestnuts that were on the menu. This was how our walk progressed, walk a bit, much a bit, walk a bit more. The nuts were supplemented by the blackberries we discovered in the hedgerows. Very healthy.
Our route around the lanes took us to a point where we could look back at the gite and on towards La Porcherie.
The view from the lane, over the pond, back towards La Porcherie demonstrates just how rural this area is. Beautiful.
Although our walk did not cover many miles it kept us occupied with so many beautiful things. Berries and Harebells in the hedgerows, blue Cornflowers (?) in the fields …
One thing noticeably in abundance around the gite are birds, birds of all varieties. Our perambulations were regularly punctuated by the cries of large birds soaring out over the fields. Obviously birds of prey, but we never got a really good look at them. They certainly did not come close enough for us to be able to make a positive identification. Of course it would have been helpful if we had taken the binoculars along with us. That would be the ones sitting in the glove box of my car. My guess would be that they were kites or buzzards, judging by their size. However, the heron posing on a rock in the pond was a little easier to identify. I think the beak was a bit of a give away.
Having seen a few trains passing in the distance, we decided to take a detour to the station at La Porcherie.
Probably not a good idea but it had to be done.
As we headed back towards the gite we passed this sign which was very informative. Unfortunately the site that it was telling us about was fenced off with nothing to see from our position on the road.
The gist of this is that, back in the 11th Century, there was built a “castle” on an earthen mound with a moat. This type of construction was introduced during the 10th Century but was eventually replaced by stone construction during the late 12th Century. My translation may be a bit flaky but it seems that this place was home to a family called De La Porcaria. This area was a centre for agriculture and in particular “pig breeding”. La Porcherie translates literally to The Pigsty.
So my holiday for 2014 was spent in The Pigsty.