Small Town Talk
Gossip flies round this village at the speed of light, usually about who’s planted their aubergines too early and who was seen picking flowers in the chateau gardens when they should have been at aerobics with Yvette.
But this time the subject is sizzling. In fact I’m amazed that the national press haven’t picked up on it. So remember - you read it here first. The French Minister of Defence, in the framework of the protection of the cultural heritage of the Republic, with a view to dismantling part of the French war-machine, is coming to inspect our tunnel.
Not that it’s a particularly special tunnel, you understand. It’s just a bog-standard, SNCF-issue tunnel, originally built between the wars as part of the Nimes to Millau line, which was abandoned after the WWII when the local population failed to re-establish itself and cars took over. Actually, gossip has it that various other tunnels in the Cevennes have been used to store nuclear waste; but our tunnel has never aspired to such heights. Bat-filled and musty, it serves as a rat-run for the sanglier hunters.
But it turns out that life wasn’t always this humble for our tunnel. During the war, being sited right beside them, it was requisitioned along with the disused mineral mines above the village, as a possible hiding place for artworks from the Louvre. It’s difficult to imagine the Mona Lisa lurking in a damp and sooty disused mine in the middle of the Cevennes, but whether or not she was ever in residence, that’s where the problem lies.
The Mairie wants to build some tennis courts on the land surrounding the mines, and since the Maire was elected to push this project through and elections loom next year, the heat is on.
So Monsieur Chirac has been sent a petition from the villagers of the commune of Moisson, all 85 of them, requesting the de-requisition of the mines and the tunnel - which apparently isn’t much of a problem involving as it does only the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Heritage, the Ministry of the Environnment, the Ministry of Museums, and the Ministry of Defence. But he has also been requested to de-requisition the tunel and that’s more difficult as it also involves the Ministry of Transport, and for some un-known reason, that’s a problem.
Which is why the Minister of Defence is coming to inspect our tunnel. Which is why they’re re-painting the offices at the Mairie. Which is why they want the step-ladder back from the arts club. Which is why there’s a scandal going on.
Because apparently the arts club were putting on a play about a village Maire who failed to get the tenis courts built and how he lost the election to a new man... and without the step-ladder the show is off.
But the tennis courts are probably on their way.
Next column will be uploaded around 1 March.
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