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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

November 11 commemorations - and the lonesome boar

There's a certain ambivalence among the French as to how they honour those who died in World War One.

On Tuesday, there were the very official ceremonies, with the French president, François Hollande, leading the commemorations by unveiling a new WW1 memorial, "l’Anneau de la Mémoire" ("Ring of Remembrance") next to the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette military cemetery in northern France.

François Hollande at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (screenshot BFM TV report)

Up and down the country, there were similar services to remember those who had fought and died in WW1.

But that didn't mean the whole of the country came to a standstill.

Far from it.

For many, it was simply yet another public holiday - and a pretty long one at that.

With November 11 falling on a Tuesday, plenty took the opportunity to extend the usual  weekend into a four-day break.

Others, of course, had to work.

The usual services - transport, emergency and local supermarkets (yep, the country's - somewhat erratic - shop opening hours might be at the centre of a debate at the moment, but clearly there were still those who needed to pop out for groceries) for example.

And for international bankers (oh, what a shame) it was business as usual because the markets were open in many other countries.

Meanwhile, if you happened to be in rural France, you could well have been in for a very special treat.

The weather was mild - at least in the southwest of the country - and ideal for a pleasant stroll in, for example, the forest of Sivens (in the news recently for the death of 21-year-old Rémi Fraisse, a protester at the controversial dam project) in the département of Tarn.

Accompanying you on your walk, would have been the blood-curdling howls of hounds as they ripped through the woods and spilled out on to the roads, chasing their prey a dozen or so kilometres across the countryside and into the fields surrounding the picturesque village of Castelnau de Montmiral.

Yes, the hunt was on with some locals seemingly intent on paying tribute in their own special way...letting out the dogs, allowing them to rampage, and saluting the memory of those who had died by opening fire on their quarry - a lonesome boar.

How very appropriate for November 11.

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