Wednesday 27 May 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Train

More thoughtful reflections on our pilgrimage to Chartres may follow in due course, but here's the first thing I want to relate. 

After the pilgrimage, huge numbers of pilgrims crowd onto two specially chartered trains to take them back to Paris. You can imagine the good humour and celebratory mood.

In our carriage was a large group of friends who didn't know we were English. They were in high spirits, and singing for large parts of the journey: traditional French songs, drinking songs, that kind of thing. I knew very few of them. One, which I hadn't previously known, rejoiced in this chorus:

Buvons un coup, buvons en deux

A la santé des amoureux
A la santé du roi de France
Et merde pour le roi d'Angleterre
Qui nous a déclaré la guerre!

Of course, we had to decide how to respond; we toyed with Rule Britannia, but were not sure that they would recognise it, so settled on the National Anthem, which we were sure they would. And of course it is directly in support of our monarchy, so doubly appropriate. 

So the second they finished, the children and I, and a friend with whom we were travelling, launched into the National Anthem at full volume.

The response was very gratifying: recognition, shock, applause and laughter in quick succession. By the third line the whole carriage was clapping in time, and at the end we were cheered and applauded to the rafters (not that French trains have rafters, but you know what I mean).

Somehow it was a moment that epitomised the good humour, and not least the international rivalry always superseded by international camaraderie, that characterises the pilgrimage.

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