Seems like I am beginning to establish a pattern of nomadicity. Routinely trekking from the Isle of Britain to Brittany. This time an entourage in tow. As usual I find it hard to shake my day job and thoughts of Pakistan comes flooding, quite literally. I am unable to resist thinking and feeling for those who have suffered and who are suffering. So day one I find myself at the American cemetery in St. James. Rows of white headstones causing the tears to pour down my cheeks. My two boys too are moved. Having watching Saving Private Ryan only days before – they can visualise the ghastly deaths of the 4,500 American soldiers whose bodies lay here. All died in the summer of 1944. A single American family are also pacing somberly around the graveyard. They take photos and the younger ones pat the older ones on the back. We are voyeurs to their grief, but feel it non the less. My grandfather was tucked away in India during the war – flying missions over Burma. During the Normandy landings he was far away in Asia.
Oh happy holidays – I attempt to prise myself away from conflict and up to Avranches. But this is another significant site from the war….it’s hard to avoid the Sherman (no, not “German”; “Sherman) tank in the centre of town and as we take in breathtaking views of the Mont St. Michel from a pretty sun-flower filled botanical garden, my 8 year old boy can’t stop imagining the bullets flying as the Americans break through the German front. He dances across the lawns and poses dramatically as the Statue of Liberty.
We buy pétanque, the sunshine appears and we head for the beach at Jullouville. Holiday and laughter at last. And I checked – no D-day landings on this beach. We might even get a bit of a tan.
But I’m not getting complacent. As we drive south in a few days – we are making a stop at Oradour Sur Glame. Resistance is futile.