A Knight’s Tale (88: The Firing Squad)

It was most likely the holiday on which we discovered Villeneuvette that I began by facing the guns.

During her teens Jessica enjoyed numerous exchange holidays with a French family who will feature later; and after London University spent six months at the Sorbonne. As a result she was bilingual.

Which is what got me into trouble.

I’m a little hazy on the exact date on which we began our holiday in Montpelier, and how and why this was so. The event itself is more memorable.

My French is based on A Level qualification at school, and therefore not very practiced in conversation. In fact it is a miracle that I passed the oral exam. At that time it took me a few days to dare to open my mouth. Except when aroused, as I was on this day.

Jessica’s large shopping bag was stolen in the town square. Among other items, probably needed for Sam’s care, we lost all our cash and travellers’ cheques.

We visited the police station where we were sent from pillar to post – in different buildings. Naturally Jessica did all the talking. Eventually we were told to wait on a bench outside a room into and out of which streamed a steady flow of uniformed police.

We waited. And we waited. Until I blew a gasket.

Suddenly having mustered my best French I burst through the closed door and found myself looking into the barrels of a number of handguns. I had forgotten that these officers are armed.

But I had started so I finished. I demanded to know why we had been left unattended for so long.

“We thought your wife was French” was the answer. “What has that got to do with it?” I replied. My memory of the rest is purely visual. I do know they were not exactly pleased.

Needless to say, the bag was never recovered.

Published by derrickjknight

I am a septuagenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs

55 thoughts on “A Knight’s Tale (88: The Firing Squad)

  1. Ha, who knew. To everyone’s surprise I failed my A level French so the head of languages wrote to query the marking. It seems I sailed through all the written and literature tests, I’d completely blown my oral. I was offered the chance to redo it but since by then I’d a place at Bristol to read law I declined and swore I’d not speak the bloody language aGain.

  2. Bizarre to say the least. Whenever I’ve gone to the police station to report any incident I’ve been dealt with promptly and correctly.

  3. Yikes! I’m glad it was France and not the US or you wouldn’t be here to tell this tale. It must have been awful to lose everything, Derrick. As an aside, if I could be Queen of Everything for a day I would gather every weapon know to mankind and melt it into oblivion.

  4. What an interesting story! This could well be a story unfolding in an Indian police station (except for the “firing squad” barrels!) I don’t know how it is now in India, but when I was living there it was much like this.

  5. Top of my list of such stories was the shopkeeper in Normandy who, after he and the staff had been really quite rude and nasty for no obvious reason, apologised to me when I got to the front of the queue, and said, “I’m sorry we were all so nasty, Monsieur. We thought you were German”.

  6. Snap. I, too, had all my valuables stolen in Paris, in the evening of my first ever arrival. The police station was so busy in the early hours that the constable took my statement outside, leaning his notepad on a car roof. My French-speaking companion was German, so he didn’t get Jessica’s treatment, nor did he get the cold shoulder as per Knifton’s experience.
    What a pain it all was, waiting for replacement passport, traveller’s cheques, youth hostel card, Eurailpass etc etc. I got stuck in Paris for two weeks, and believe it or not, that was not pleasant. Some months later the passport turned up at the Australian embassy. The thieves had thrown it in a bin. Go figure. Perhaps Australian nationality was not highly prized 🙂

  7. The stolen bag and the experience at the police station sounds like a bad dream. I loved my three years of French in high school but have forgotten much. It’s a beautiful language.

  8. LOL! “Your wife is French.”

    Reminds me of the time my friend who lived in Paris, experienced an apartment fire. Well, the fire was in the restaurant in the ground level of his apartment. He lived on the fifth floor. He smelled the smoke and rushed out to the street. Asking around, he learned the fire had started about an hour earlier, that the firemen came, put the fire out then left a bit earlier. He suffered anxiety because of the chance he could have been burned to death. He complained to the fire department that would have been the responders. “You should have evacuated the apartments till you knew the fire was in control and out!” he protested. He noted he’d had problems sleeping afterwards. ” That’s your problem,” they told him. “You should see a psychiatrist.” They totally disagreed with the need to evacuate the apartments when there was a raging fire in the restaurant on the bottom floor!

    Another time, he was in his local pub where the barkeep was a good friend and generally pretty nice guy. A stranger came in and asked directions. The barkeep gave him directions that were the exact opposite of how the stranger should go. “Why did you tell him to go the opposite direction?” my friend asked the Frenchman. “Because I thought it was funny,” said the barkeep.

    The French are lovely people in my personal experience, even the Parisians.

      1. Me, too! I personally found them all pleasant and helpful. It’s a beautiful country, one I wish I could visit again.

        My friend had a way of attracting trouble. When he lived in New York, I visited him there. On the way to his apartment in Greenwich village, I saw a group of young men standing around a parked car. They had a German shepherd pup – neartly grown. I was in the US Army at the time, in training at Ft. Monmouth, NJ. It had been a time since I’d seen a dog and I walked over to the group and asked them the dog’s name and if I could pet him. They had strange looks on their faces, which I took to be because some stranger came over and asked to pet their dog. (This was NYC! Do people do that?) He was a nice dog, and I thanked the young men for letting me pet their dog.

        When I told my friend about this episode, he turned white. “They are a gang. Last week they robbed me of my Accutron watch at my front door, and they used that dog to intimidate me!”

        He further noted they’d been in a fight with another gang earlier where one of the other gang was killed!

        “Well, he was a pup, Ralph, and he was very friendly when I pet him.” LOL!

  9. You’ve made the French police sound like the careless custodians of civil law of my native country, the difference only being in periods of time where ours is an ongoing and increasingly dystopian machinery. I felt sorry about the misery you had to put up with, the police adding insult to injury.

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