Fiona Alderman: Blogging from Rural France: Le Tour and the yellow jersey
Le Tour and the yellow jersey
On Tuesday the 11th of July, starting from early in the morning, the crowds came to watch the famous cycle race, Le Tour De France. This year it was in the Dordogne and passed by us by just half an hour. We were going to go but eventually watched it all on the TV. Marvellous aerial shots of the cyclists starting from Perigueux through to Bergerac and taking nearly 5 hours. I was amazed to see how many chateaux there were in this area, most of which I have visited, but from the air it takes on a completely different view – showing wonderful countryside that you wouldn’t see really otherwise. We had already seen Le Tour on the ground whilst on holiday here in the 1990’s when Barry made a short film about it which won an award at the time. To be there on the spot is great with the atmosphere and the French “joie de vivre “. Even if the procession of lead cyclists is over in a flash, the resounding feeling is of great pride and compassion between all nationalities. Two hours before the head of the race comes “la caravane” the publicity, the media, all the anticipation is there. The cheers, the clapping and the claxons, whilst souvenirs are thrown to the crowds out of the cars piled high with the teams' bicycles.
It first began in 1903, with participation firstly French, then the race was lengthened and it became worldwide. It is always in July and the route varies every year, travelling through all corners of France. It starts now in neighbouring countries also ie England and Belgium but for me it is always France that is home for Le Tour. It comprises 21 stages , averaging 3,500 km with 20 to 22 teams with 9 riders in each. There is the leader ie the yellow jersey “le maillot jaune “ the sprinters (the green jersey ) the mountain riders ( the polka dot jersey) , the young riders (the white jersey ) and also the fastest teams. All very technical and I don’t really follow it but I am impressed by the skill and the strength required. I watched a stage, again on tv, that was going up the side of the Alps that looked very steep but they just pedalled on and on seeming never to tire.
Doping however has been a problem for a number of years which finally caught up with many times winner Lance Armstrong. This caused grave problems for the race and its reputation.
The final stage is thrilling, ending in Paris around Les Champs Elysées. 8 times they go round it and at great speed too. I know, because we have seen it a few times and have walked up it but no one realises it is on a hill! The closeness of the cyclists is astonishing – one false move and it could be fatal. Congratulations go this year again to Chris Froome, the yellow jersey , his fourth win, and very well merited . Bravo!
A tribute to Simone Veil
Simone Veil has just died at the age of 89. A strong political figure who waged the war for the right to women’s abortion, she was the Minister for Health during the government of Valéry Giscard d’ Estaing in the 1970’s. Born in Nice within a modest family background, she was one of four children and the most talented, gaining her baccalaureat at just 16 years old.
However this was in 1944 during the Second World War and she was captured by the SS with the rest of her family and deported to Lithuania . She would never see her brother or father ever again. She was then taken with her mother and one of her sister’s, to the extermination camp at Auschwitz -Birkenau and transferred to Bergen -Belsen where her mother died of typhoid. A tragic beginning to her life but she survived.
Returning to France after the war , she would study law and politics in Paris and would meet her future husband, Antoine Veil. They would have three children and would be happily married for 67 years.
A brilliant career would unfold for her. In 1970, she became the Secretary General of the “Conseil supérieur de la magistrature “ where she would impose her own style and determination.. She would be elected in 1979 as the first woman Prime Minister of the European Parliament. By the 1990’s she would be in Jacques Chirac’s government but leaving politics finally to devote her time to write her memoirs of the Holocaust and to her Foundation for Shoah.
Her husband would die in 2013 , leaving her distraught and she would follow him a few years later.
It was hoped she would be buried in La Panthéon in Paris , where royalty and respected people are ceremoniously laid to rest ,but her wish was to be near her husband in the cemetery in Montparnasse. A brave and pioneering woman who is very much missed.
The great big mushroom
This last paragraph is about my neighbours. I know everyone in this street now , which I suppose is what it is like in small villages everywhere. My French neighbour next door had a big party for the Fête Nationale on 14th July and the next day she came bustling in to hand me some huge mushrooms. She excused herself hoping they had not made too much noise, and gave me these as a present. They are in fact cêpes which are wild mushrooms and have a unique taste. Barry made a delicious omelette with them .
We were woken up one morning early ie 6am to hear the police van coming to take away another neighbour for having cannabis on the property. My other neighbour across from him saw it all , as he is a very early riser. He told me that the man was taken away in handcuffs and that sniffer dogs had been put to work to find the drugs. Very dramatic but not unusual it seems in these parts . He has since returned and been warned but I wonder if he will pay much attention? There is always something happening and that “sleepy Salignac “ is not so quiet as people think.
That’s it for this month , until the next time. “Fifi’s story from rural France “ July 2017. www.salignacfoundation.com Dance and film courses in SW France.