Sunday, 23 May 2010

62. Summer's here

23rd May 2010. Up early (just after 6am) to savour the peace and quiet of a summer's morning. The window is wide open, the birds are tweeting, a church bell in town is calling the faithful to church and the early morning shadows are slowly sinking down the walls of the big white Basque house across the avenue as the sun climbs up. It's going to be a hot one today.  

I went down to the rowing club yesterday for an outing for the first time in 6 months. It wasn't a long outing - I'd guess only about 8-9k - but as far as my knees were concerned, it went fine. That is, apart from when we returned to the pontoon and I couldn't stand up in the boat to get out! I had to flop out in an undignified heap! We opened up the bar afterwards for an apéro to mark my return.. Some things don't change! It was good to see them all again. Tomorrow I'm signed up for the final day of the Trois Rivieres event organised by the other rowing club in Bayonne - Aviron Bayonnais.

Four of us from our club are going to take a 'yolette' for a 20k row up the Nive as far as Ustaritz. It's my old cycling route so at least I'll know where we are in terms of how much more pain to go.. And, of course, being France, all this is followed by a 'pot' from midday to 1pm and then lunch till 3pm.. then a wobbly ride home on my bike..

Speaking of which, Madame and I went out this morning on our bikes up the Nive.. With it being such a beautiful morning, all of Bayonne was out there.. There were quite a few boats out on the slow moving green waters of the river too - single sculls, pair scullers, fours and a couple of eights.. in perfect weather. It wasn't all confined to the river - it was also happening on the towpath - there were trendy mamans on  inline skates swishing along at high speed with their babes in hi-tech push chairs, Mums & Dads & offspring various on bikes of all sizes.. walkers, power walkers, joggers, every variety of cyclist, fishermen, etc etc.

I've been reading up on Le Réseau Comète (known as the Comet Line in English) which was set up by Andrée de Jongh, a 24 year old Belgian woman. She established a network that helped hundreds of Allied soldiers and airmen to escape, evade and return safely to the UK. It stretched from Belgium in the north, down through occupied France, over the Pyrenees to Spain and hence to Gibraltar and home. By sheer coincidence, Villa Voisin, one of the safe houses at the south western end of the line in France, is in Anglet which is but a 5 minutes car ride from Piperade Towers and I'll be taking a look at it very shortly.. There were two other safe houses in Bayonne and I'll be looking at those too.

The safe houses in the Pays Basque at the south western end of the Comet Line are shown here:
It struck me forcibly this morning that I wouldn't be experiencing the pleasure of living down here in my retirement were it not for the heroism of those involved in the Comet Line. It would have been all too easy for them to have kept their heads down and just got on with daily life as many chose to. Choosing active participation in the Resistance was an extremely fraught occupation and the penalty for being caught was the absolute certainty of being subjected to barbaric methods of interrogation and punishment of the kind last seen in Europe in medieval times. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the courage of those unsung heroes who stepped forward to fight tyranny when it became a reality in their own country. To all those brave men and women of the Resistance who died lonely deaths in nameless cellars across Europe - we owe an eternal debt of gratitude. 

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