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Saturday, 31 May 2014

In France

Tuesday, May 31st., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I went down to Moret on Saturday morning to see Davray and nearly missed the train owing to my servant. I was astonished how, during the journey on the Metro, the apprehension of missing the train at the Gare de Lyon got on my nerves, though it was a matter of no importance as there are plenty of trains. My nerves were all raw when I arrived at the Gare, and I was physically exhausted through urging the Metro train to accelerate its movements. So simple it is to lose one's sense of perspective.

In the afternoon I saw the ceremony of the annual Revision des Chevaux which takes place all over France at about this time, every horse in France, except certain mares, being at the call of the government for military purposes. It occurred under a tree in the open space between the Mairie, the church and Davray's garden. As each horse of the commune was brought up, the vet looked it over and described it very briefly for the captain to write down. At the last moment a young man galloped up on a black draught horse, and in answer to some query replied as he slipped off the horse: "C'est un etalon, comme mois."

Later Davray and I walked down to the banks of the Seine which to my astonishment was close by. A beautiful stream, broad, and surrounded by fine scenery, and not a pleasure boat in sight. Everywhere the most superb acacia trees with their aphrodisiac smell.
For more on Davray see 'Rumours of war'

On Sunday we messed about and in the afternoon went to a river restaurant where the amoreux of the district forgather and amuse themselves in swings. A partie carree of two brothers and two sisters diverted and interested me much: they were so human, and so French, and so naive; and the fleeting charm of the girls (neither of them pretty) was so soon to fade, and the men were so soon to become mature and bete.
For more on Moret see 'French excursion'

We then walked along the canal and inspected the life of the canal people. The hovels on the bank, where they live when they are in the district, were disgusting. The general landscape, viewed at large, and ignoring many small blots, was simply superb.

An English couple (a Liverpool merchant aged 32 and his pretty wife aged 24, on their honeymoon) were arrested on Saturday for having, or attempting to have, sexual intercourse in the Place de l'Archeveche. This struck me as one of the funniest examples of crass 'Englishness' and contempt for foreigners that I have ever come across - the funniest.

Additionally for May 31st., see 'A rural retreat'

We are staying here for a few weeks. The cottage is small but the landscapes and food are excellent, and I am working. Occasionally I have to go up to town. I went for a walk at 10.10 along the straight Storrington Road., and sat on stiles while thinking out my next chapter. I am making very good progress with "The Vanguard".

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