If music be the food of love, play on That surfeiting the appetite may sicken and so die.
William Shakespeare – Twelfth Night
I’ve never been a great fan of techno music with its mind numbing repetitive beat. So when I woke up in the middle of the night to the distant pounding of techno music ringing in my ears, I initially thought I must be dreaming! They surely wouldn’t be holding a techno race in this remote part of France would they?
The longer the night wore on, the more I wondered what the noise could be. Perhaps it was a factory which continued working throughout the night. Perhaps somebody in the village was having an all night party. Eventually I dozed off expecting peace and tranquility to have resumed when I woke up in the morning.
It was raining when I woke up. If you have ever been in a one man tent and heard the sound of rain belting down on the fly sheet outside, you will know that it is a great incentive to remain safely ensconced in your sleeping bag!
The thought of eating a couple of pains au chocolat from the village bakery was enough to eventually nudge me into action.
As I munched on a pain au chocolat and made my way out of the village, the techno beat started getting perceptibly louder. I hadn’t dreamt it up after all. There must be a techno concert taking place on the outskirts of town. Soon I could make out a field where a large number of cars were parked. Even though I was still over 1km from the site of the concert, the noise was unbearable. I shuddered to think the damage the concert goers must be inflicting on their ear drums.
As I walked towards the small village of Outines I could hear the occasional sound of a shotgun being fired. It was Sunday morning, but somebody was obviously out shooting. And then I noticed something on the path in front of me. It was black and shiny. I stopped and bent down to inspect it more closely – it was somebody’s mobile phone which they must have dropped!
Losing my mobile phone on the walk would be one of my greatest nightmares! I also happen to keep my debit card tucked in to the mobile phone case! And I am completely paranoid about losing it, and consequently check that it is safely in the outside pocket of my rucksack umpteen times a day. Better safe than sorry!
But what should I do with the mobile phone? Should I leave it en situ so that the owner could retrieve it? It was an extremely remote stretch of the VF and I hadn’t passed another person en route since I’d left Baptiste nearly 24 hours earlier. The person who had mislaid the phone could be days away on the VF.
At this point I saw a couple of men out shooting with a pointer. I crossed the field, wearing my orange capsule and waving my walking stick to ensure they didn’t mistake me for quarry! They were mildly surprised at my appearance but understood the situation and took the mobile phone. They hadn’t lost it, but promised to make enquiries locally to find its owner.
I asked one of them what they were after. ” Pheasants” he replied. ” But we haven’t had any luck today”, he added somewhat ruefully.
Shortly after I came across a signpost to a small settlement called ‘The Middle of Nowhere’. It summed up this region of France which is extremely sparsely populated with small scattered farming communities. I was tempted to make a small detour and see if I could get a stamp in my pilgrim passport there!
The village of Outines was charming in a picture postcard sort of way, particularly the half timbered church which is a particular feature of churches in this area. The lack of stone and the proximity of the Forest of Ger meant that oak was the preferred medium for building houses and churches in small villages like Outines.
I took a closer look inside the church at the next village I passed through at Bailly-le-Franc. The church of Sainte Croix en son Exultation was built in 1510. Its roof was made of shingles and batons known locally as ‘tavillon’. On its gables were Roman tiles, there were flat tiles on the porch and slate tiles on the tower.
The weather had turned and during the afternoon I was hit with several heavy downpours. I couldn’t complain though. Since I started walking over a month ago the weather has been glorious and there has been barely more than a couple of brief showers. In contrast, if I’d stuck to my original plan of embarking on the walk on June 15, I would have faced 8 weeks of inclement weather in northern France.
There were ominous black clouds and the occasional flash of lightning on the horizon as I made my way along the ridge towards my final destination for the day, the small hamlet of Rosnay l’Hôpital.
I was welcomed at my lodgings for the night by Jean-Philippe and Blondine Mignot. They live opposite the 12th century church which dominates the village. No sooner had I showered and changed for supper than Jean-Philippe offered to give me a tour of the church.
The church had originally formed part of the chateau which dominated the town. It owed its opulent design to the Counts of Metz ( one of the richest and most powerful families in France) who owned the chatesu and church.
The basement of the church, which resembled a crypt, had been built in the 12th century. Thomas Becket had visited the church during his exile from England in 1170 before he returned to Canterbury to meet his tragic fate. Jean-Philippe pointed out a couple of statues to St Thomas.
We then ascended to the 17th century part of the church which was built on the exact dimensions of the church below, with supporting columns exactly aligned with those below.
The original 17th century stained glass windows were some of the most fascinating features of the church. Made at a local stained glass factory in the 17th century, several of the windows featured stories from the life of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. A number of them featured an image of God the father at their apex, an extremely rare feature in stained glass church windows.
I asked Jean-Philippe how many services thay had a month in their magnificent village church. Three or four a year was the response. The local priest is responsible for 57 churches apparently!
For those interested is seeing more of the church, please follow the attached link!
We then sat down for a delicious supper that Blandine had prepared including a salmon and courgette terrine and a strawberry and rhubarb crumble. I enquired if it was a traditional local recipe. No came the response, it was the first time Blandine had made it! Perhaps because I was only the 2nd English pilgrim they had staying with them! It was delicious nonetheless.
As I headed up to my room after supper, Jean-Philippe said to me, “Don’t worry about the church bells. They are electronic and don’t get switched on again until 7am in the morning.” That was a relief, I thought to myself, at least I’ll wake to the melodious chimes of church bells rather than the discordant throb of techno music!