Dear News Of The Area,
THREE weeks have now passed since returning to France.
As previously mentioned, our arrival coincided with the terrorist attacks in Nice.
Since then an 86 year old priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was murdered in his church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen by two youths who were subsequently shot dead by police.
In many ways this latest attack has cut deeper into the core of French values than any before.
An elderly priest in a church – age and religion are sacrosanct in France. As such, the whole country remains in a state of high alert and will most likely stay this way for the foreseeable future.
Many significant events have already been cancelled, such as the braderie (flea market) in Lille this weekend, the largest in Europe, which attracts between one and two million people.
On Friday 5th August the annual Lautrec festival of pink garlic was also placed in doubt.
The organizing committee was told that the safety of visitors was paramount if the event was to proceed.
Lautrec is a beautiful medieval village about an hour south of Toulouse.
As members of the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or of Sigoulès, Kerry and I were invited to participate in the activities.
As expected, security was tight. Access to the village was controlled by volunteers wearing pink shirts.
Bags were opened, baby carriages searched, and locals were quizzed by locals. Gendarmes stood on corners and patrolled the streets in groups of two or three, machine guns ready for the first sign of any trouble.
However, this was not enough to prevent thousands of people from gathering in the square to sample the complimentary bowl of creamy garlic soup that had been specially prepared for the day by volunteers and to enjoy the mandatory glass of midday rosé.
There was no trouble, or if there was it was well concealed. It now seems that these precautionary measures will now be integrated into everyday life in France. One thing is certain: the French people are not going to let anything get in the way of a good party!
Tea Gardens (Reporting from France)