Farewell Verdun

January 8, 2013

Verdun290The thermometer  at the front of the bus says its five degrees but I could care less really. I have just realized we are driving down the Voie Sacree  or Sacred Way on the way to Bar le Duc, places I have referenced in the novel. The Sacred Way became such when Marshall Petain established it for the sole purpose of resupplying the garrison at Verdun and even posted military personnel along its route to ensure farmers didn’t use it to shift their turnips. Good for him. Read more


January 7, 2013

heart290_1The old man picked his way up the long road from Verdun. He skirted mules carrying bread, horse drawn wagons full of supplies, the endless procession of coughing munitions trucks and the equally endless procession of ambulances creeping back the other way. No one tried to stop him. He had been here before and they knew his white hair, weathered face, and bandy legged walk. Besides, they had too much of their own cares to be concerned about this man in his tweed jacket and bright rimmed glasses, who seemed hell bent on getting in harms way.

The old man had indeed been here before. It was a trek he knew well but these days the incline up onto the escarpment above Verdun caught his breath and he paused now and then to regroup and to pull out his old tin of cigarettes, light up another and then keep trudging. He had been smoking them ever since the battle started and the pungent scent somehow took him to other places, away from the horrors of what he lived through.   Read more

Verdun – and A Girl with a Map

January 6, 2013

Fleury290Never trust the directions of a woman armed with a map. Especially do not trust her if she is behind the counter of the city’s tourist bureau counter.  Just walk up here, through there, cross there and you will be at  the Verdun Memorial. Oh, by the way everything is closed in January. Of course it is. Read more

Fred of Verdun

January 4, 2013

Verdun290It only takes ten minutes or so and we are in open country. I am mildly surprised. Though how open is hard to say since it is still dark . But we are running fast through cuttings and against the first hint of light I see the outlines of winter trees. As we roll towards 0900 the day is bright enough at last for me to see the rolling farmland though at this speed I am only catching the briefest of glimpses. The cloud is hanging low and it’s a grey day. But it’s not raining which is a good start and I am encouraged by a weather forecast that suggested the next three days will be clear and sunny. We’ll see – this is the middle of winter in Europe after all.

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