Fiona Alderman: Sad News From France
Plunged into silence
I am sure very few people outside of France would have known about the satirical newspaper”Charlie Hebdo”. I myself knew about it but had never bought it. By now, of course, everyone around the world knows. The whole of France has been shocked by the terrible events. I listened on the radio as the first attack happened when it was reported that two perhaps three masked gunmen had raided the famous offices. To French people, freedom of expression is as essential as breathing. When this is questioned, in such a monstrous way, it has mighty repercussions. Young people talking about it later on the news were touched by it for the very first time in their lifetime. The cartoonists who were killed, were of the very heart and soul of French people , almost like family. I have watched such emotion when they speak about these men that it is very touching. The moments of silence at the Place de la Concorde in tribute to those who had died was also very powerful.The singing of the “Marsellaise” at the Assembly, with all the members of Parliament who for once were in total unity.
Everything then escalated over the next few days when a further attack happened and hostages were taken in a printing factory. I have never seen so many police and trained terrorist army forces that were now being deployed. France was under high alert and the President of the Republic was viewed , grim faced, delivering his speeches. Someone said he had a “Churchillian” manner and he is being really told to say the right thing because the country is watching him.
The next one in parallel was on a Jewish supermarket and the images of GNN forces , the anti terrorist army,which is an almost alarmingly effective group of armed soldiers specially trained in these circumstances.
Eventually it was finished, the soldiers storming in to kill the terrorists but what is next? It is in everyone’s mind that no matter and no matter when it will happen again. My neighbour was telling me he had been visiting his relatives in these outskirts of Paris and had seen and heard the helicopters . He also saw the armed police on the streets surrounding the seige area. He is frightened for his grandchildren and their safety at school. Worrying times. Does drawing a cartoon have to be so dangerous? Here in Salignac there are slogans everywhere “Je suis Charlie” to say we are not afraid and we stand together against terrorism.
A bolt from the blue
I received an interesting e mail a few weeks ago when a former colleague of my father’s contacted me. Dad flew for Loganair in the late 1970’s retiring in 1981. This man was his co pilot and had Googled me in order to find out whether dad had ever started his memoirs. I was very pleased to hear from him as my sister and I have already thought it would be a good idea to do but unsure as to where to start. Dad had been in the RAF during the war and a bomber command leader. He was awarded the DFC and the George Cross for his bravery and ability to bring back unscathed all his team. My sister has a lot of memorabilia and logbooks dating back to these times and afterwards too, when he flew commercially. We hope that we can collaborate with an author specialising in “old time pilots” to do a book.
My father was certainly a character and had many adventures during his life as a pilot from being hi jacked in Beirut to meeting famous people such as Frank Sinatra, the Shah of Iran , and Martha Graham the great Amercan dancer. His no nonsense not “by the book” methods sometimes landed him in trouble! Flying over France when he was with KLM he decided that the runway planned for him in Paris didn’t suit him so he decided otherwise. Luckily it didn’t cause too much havoc and he was able to report in his logbook “Ops normal!’
The cat and the Buddha
Our newish arrivals, the kittens, have kept us busy and also kept us smiling at their antics. Full of energy and ready to play then, like children, suddenly tired and they fall instantly asleep. They also seem to know when you are not feeling too well and come and give you a little miaow of love. There are cat -cafés in Paris that are so successful because people can come in and unwind, have a cup of coffee, and stroke a cat or two. Very relaxing and good for your health it seems, as long as you are not allergic to cats!
We are now calling one of our kittens Charlie, in memory of Charlie Hebdo. He is mischievous and has a powerful voice. He likes to sit by this Buddha with a lampshade on top that gives out some heat, and he can survey the world. I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that 2015 turns out well for everyone, no matter what religion and no matter what race. Be strong!
January 2015. Fifi’s story from rural France. www.salignacfoundation.com
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