Tuesday, 22 March 2011


JP was in a retrospective mood the other day at lunchtime; not unusual, but these moods are becoming more frequent as the years roll by.   I blame his Grandmother Margot, who took him to have his fortune told when he was quite young. The woman - who had quite a reputation among the great and the good in Cannes, having read the crystal ball for many a star and starlet - told him that he would marry a blonde [not specifying bottle or natural] that they would have three children and that he would live to the [what seemed to him at the time]  ripe old age of 76. Now at 74 he seems to be convinced that - as she was right about the wife and the kids, she must be spot on with his departure date. Hence the looking back.

He began by talking about his mother - how she managed to bring him up alone - her strong right arm, her inflexible decision to keep him away from trouble by locking him in their flat, and his many ways of thwarting her. How he loved to escape and play with his friends, always managing to return home before she arrived back from her work.

And, as always when JP tells a story he digresses as other characters are introduced. His uncle Marcel, the fisherman who went barefooted summer and winter, with the exception of his wedding day,  from there he segued to his Tante Carmen, perhaps the most Italian of the brood. She was a hearty buxom woman, always laughing - totally different from her sister Antoinette, JP's mother. She adored JP and it was on one of the many occasions when they were together that they witnessed what I want to call The Italian Comic Opera Invasion

It is 1940 and JP is 4 years old, a charming black-eyed cherub with a naughty streak. He remembers being taken by Tante Carmen to the Croisette and that there were crowds of people. He could hear some chanting and booing in the distance that grew louder with every passing minute. At last there was movement in the road  some flag waving and then, as the procession arrived he could see they were soldiers, in full uniform and all wearing long plumes of feathers in their hats.

And riding eight abreast in wobbly formation, on bicycles.

The chanting was now loud as, all around him, young man were shouting:

Les Bersaghlieri sont venu avec les plumes aux chapeaux
Ils sont reparte  avec ses plumes au "cu".

Les Bersaghlieri have arrived with their plumes in their hats
They will  leave with the plumes up their arses.

JP was shouting loudly along with the chant until Carmen grabbed his ear and tugged on it. 'Be quiet idiot' she scolded him...'You have more Italian blood in you than French.'

What amazes me about this story is the fact that, after going on fifty three years together, he can tell me a story I had never heard before.


  1. It's both charming and disconcerting how they can keep you on your toes from time to time!;-) Lovely story that makes me smile.

  2. Oh how lovely. Such a story and the fact that he can still surprise you.

  3. Oh, he's still the charmer! And you, my dear, for retelling the story in such enchanting ways.

  4. Well, I'm glad he did. This is a great story.

  5. And a very good story. Maybe he should visit another fortune teller.

  6. If she was a very good fortune teller, then like all her kind, she wouldn't have said that a customer would actually die at a certain age, but that they would live to reach that age. That leaves open all the years past that age - when the customer thinks, Well She Was Right Wasn't She!

    As ever, I enjoyed the story and the plumes waving on the hats.

  7. Being of Italian heritage...many generations removed...it is fun to hear a traditional story like this...although I am not sure I understand it!

  8. I honestly wish I could come over for tea and just hear your stories live. You're the best slice of life in 'blog universe'. Really. I mean it.
    This was wonderful (and not just because I'm half Italian).

  9. what a funny story. and it is a marvel that there are still stories to be heard isn't it? thanks for sharing it with us.

  10. Love this story!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. Makes you wonder if you ever REALLY know a person. Isn't it nice that he did finally get around to telling you though?

    I have been married to my husband 38 years now. His brother asked him about Vietnam about a year ago through email. My hubby dictated to me his reply....and it was ALL new to me. Even though I had asked about it before, he never saw fit to devulge all the gritty details to me. I had an entirely different view of him after that... One of total respect.

    And I agree that age makes you reflect on you life. Tell him, though, that my brother-in-law had his fortune told when he was in college. The fortune teller has been right about many things, but not all. My aunt also had her fortune told once, and that fortune teller had it all wrong. I believe they hit and miss.

  12. I bet he was a mischievous little imp - But I thought he was all French! LOL!

    How funny that he can still surprise you.

  13. One just wonders how many things lie buried in our hearts that for want of reason or opportunity never come out. You can spend years without expressing that which might have changed your complete being...!