jeudi 31 juillet 2008

End of a Century

The origins of this blog date back to a Spring night in the mid-90’s.
Back then, I was in college in Toulouse and I had come back to my hometown for a four day weekend. My parents were gone that weekend, but the goal of that little trip was not to visit them, but to spend the week-end partying with friends.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned. Phone call after phone call, I quickly realized that none of my friends was in town. Either they had stayed in Toulouse, or they went somewhere else, but none went home. I had to face the fact that I was going to spend four days alone.

I love cinema and watching films, but I must admit that after spending 12 hours or so in front of the TV, I was starting to think about doing something else and I was out of ideas. For some reason I was not in the mood to read (what wouldn’t I give these days for four full days devoted to reading), and back in the days, the Internet was a thing I had just heard of, and the concept still was a little vague for me.

So reading what I was going to do, whether I liked it or not, was reading. I started to browse my mom bookshelves, which, even if they were full of books, didn’t really inspire me that much (I have since “taught” my mom about good literature). This is when I noticed the box.
What box?
The cardboard box on top of the shelves. This box had been sitting there for ages. It was the kind of things that’s there, you don’t really no why, and for some reason I had never really paid attention to it until that day. I realized that I didn’t even know what was in it.

What was in it was a series of old postcards, very old postcards. Most of them dated back to World War One and they were my grandpa correspondence.
You need to know a couple of things about my grandfather. First of all, he died long before I was born, in the 50’s. I don’t know what he died of, but he was very old back then as he was born in 1885. Yep, you read right, he was that old (he had my dad when he was already in his fifties). Another thing you need to know about him is that I basically don’t know anything about him. My dad never talks about him; his family never talks about him. Mostly because he died so long ago, but also because from the little bits of information I have gathered, he didn’t really leave a positive impression behind him. I can’t really tell more, simply because I don’t know more.
Of course, I’d love to know more, but I feel like right now it’s useless to wake memories that don’t need to be. I’m sure my dad’ll talk about him someday. If not, no big deal.

But because of this, there and then, I felt as if I had just discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb or the Lascaux caves or something of that importance (except that it was on my family’s history scale).

So, I started reading… I read, I read… I read all of them… There were several stories (or half stories, as I obviously didn’t have in my possession the cards that he had written, only the ones written to him)… And this ended up being one of the best week-ends of my life (and definitely one of the most unique).

And here are these postcards. They'll be posted more or less randomly. You’ll discover visions of France in the first years of the 20th Century, and when possible, I’ll transcribe and translate some of the stories in the cards; you’ll learn about my grandpa’s cousin that was sent to the front (my grandpa didn’t go… because of bad health, if I understand right), other family members that were going on road trips (or train trips), things that were kinda rare at the time. And you’ll learn about Amélie, this young woman that had temporarily moved to the South West of France away from the warzone, and who, it seems, shared a love story with my grandpa. A love story that is never explicit, but when reading between the lines, was there. A quite moving story that ended when she moved back to her home area after the war, or shortly thereafter. A story one wants to have a happy ending, except that if it had had one, I wouldn’t be there typing these lines.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the blog and the postcards. They really are a piece of French history.

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