Wednesday, 14 July 2010

71. Summer music

11th July 2010. The telltale signs that the Fête de Bayonne is approaching are starting to become visible around town.. Council workmen are erecting barriers on central reservations and roundabouts to stop parking; big signs have appeared warning the unwary that the centre of town will be closed to traffic; in the Place des Basques, barriers have been installed to enforce orderly bus queueing (haha!). What is the Fête de Bayonne, I hear you ask..? Imagine a cultural spectrum with say, a Welsh Eisteddfod at one end and the San Fermin festival at Pamplona at the other.. The Fête de Bayonne lies somewhere between the two.. Bayonne's population hovers around the 40,000 mark and, over the duration of the Fête, well over a million visitors will descend on the town.. the overwhelming majority of whom will be dressed in white with a red sash around the waist and a red neckerchief.. I must admit to finding it slightly disturbing when walking through town during the Fête and everyone's dressed the same. It's something to do with the loss of individual identity of the public. (Rightly or wrongly, I always draw a mental parallel with Germany in the 30s) Here's a short clip that gives a flavour of it:

This next clip features a song close to the hearts of all in the Pays Basque, but especially Bayonne.. 
Here's some of the madness.. not sure what you'd call this animal.. it's not a bull but I don't think you'd want to get involved in an exchange of views with it!
San Fermin is currently running as we speak and buses are available (Bayonne-Pamplona direct) in the Place des Basques to take people.. yesterday I saw some getting off the Pamplona-Bayonne bus looking very much the worse for wear! And quite a few waiting for the next one. Today promises to be a big day in Pamplona.. One, it's the Sunday and those who are still working can attend and two, Spain are in the World Cup Final.. which is today.. If Spain win, I think Pamplona will erupt!

We've decided that we're going to take a break from the Fête de Bayonne this year. Our neighbours kids are keen participants and they invite all their friends back in the wee small hours. The first year we were here, we only had single glazed windows and we discovered the hard way that a group of 15 or so French teens and twenties, hyped up on the occasion after a few Sangrias, can generate a fair amount of noise out in the rear garden - all talking & no-one listening in the classic French manner! We could hear the pop as corks were still being extracted at 6am.. That first year they finally called it a night at 10 in the morning.. Even now that we've double glazed the house, the hoots and the hollers still penetrate our bedroom. This year therefore, we've booked a hotel in the mountains for a few days. It's not that we're a couple of old fuddyduddies.. but we like our sleep!

14th July 2010. Summer would not be complete without Bastille Day - 14th July - which, by a freakish coincidence, happens to be today! The presenter on Télématin (breakfast TV on France2) introduced his report on the glittering Défilé (military parade) that will take place on the Champs Elysées later on this morning as "the most beautiful army in the world marching down the most beautiful avenue in the world". I have to admit on mature reflection that he's right. It's arguable that a Scots Pipe band should be up there with them but, hey, let's be charitable on this day of days. We're not talking about military capability or effectiveness but the French military, on days like these, does look good. I've often wondered why other nations (such as the US or the UK) are strangely reluctant to parade their military.

Anyway, setting all these arguments aside, I enjoy watching the spectacle every year and, as always, the parade on the ground is preceded by a fly past. This clip of the 2009 parade - when the Indian military was strongly represented - runs for about 1.5 hours. The legendary French Foreign Legion make their appearance at 44:15 - they are traditionally the final unit to appear on foot with their distinctive slow march, with the pionniers (combat engineers) carrying axes on their shoulders and wearing leather aprons. Time now to make yourself a coffee, get comfortable, watch the clip and then tell me afterwards if the France2 presenter was right or wrong:
(Tip: to watch it in Full Screen, click the symbol to the left of Daily Motion)

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