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.