Sunday, June 01, 2008

THE CAMBRONNE PICNIC

i. Alberto Giacometti and the End of the World

Paris, June 13 1940, 10 AM

Rolande has washed the breakfast dishes and carefully put them away in
the proper cupboard. Our bicycles with their neatly packed baskets
front and rear are leaning against the wall by the entrance door. We
open the door and bring the bicycles out
The lady in the apartment on the other side of the corridor, the one
who owns a hole-in-a-corner beauty salon in the next block, opens her
door a bit but keeps it chained, she has always been afraid of
burglars. She is haggard, disheveled, after many sleepless nights she
is unsteady on her feet, but her voice is quite flat and
matter-of-fact. "The Germans are fifty kilometers from Paris," she
says. "It is the end of the world,". She slams her door shut, locks
it, bolts it, and goes back to her regular post at the telephone.
We turn for a last look at our own little apartment, to make sure we
have overlooked nothing. Rolande never overlooks anything, her little
birdseyes are never still, but she also believes in last-minute
checkups, and she has the example of our downstairs neighbors, who
have a name that sounds like Champignon, the ones who own a drygoods
store, to warn her against careless haste. They had noisily packed a
pile of suitcases, with violent disputes as to what could or could not
be left behind,, at the very start of the panic, a month ago, when the
German offensive was only a few days old, and last Satuday they they
had run down the stairs with all their and suitcases and some boxes
and their children and the mattress to put on top of their car, and
they kept remembering things they had forgotten, and they were
continuously running around and looking up apprehensively at the sky
for dive bombers and bumping into Madame Cécile, of the fourth floor,
the mistress it was said of a prominent official (he was the one who
had called up to say the war was lost while the papers were still
talking of a triumphant Allied advance through Belgium), who had even
more baggage than they did, which she threw helter-skelter into her
sports car and shot off into the rue Cambronne leaning on her horn.
Traffic was quite normal on that day, all the roads leading out of
Paris were open. She must have been a mile away, going south or
southwest or west before the Champignons discovered that she had gone
off with one of their suitcases, the one full of clothes and toys for
the children, leaving behind for them one of her own, full of beauty
products and indecent underwear. And they spent three quarters of an
hour, with their motor running, shouting imprecations at each other
for not keeping their eyes open and at their children for getting in
the way and at the departed whore Cécile who represented all that was
wrong with poor France.

And so we take that last lingering look at the apartment where we have
spent six delirious weeks, and which we can not be sure of ever seeing
again. Everything in it is charged with sentiment, everything is as
usual, neat and tidy and scrubbed clean. The water and the gas have
been turned off The furniture looks suitably domestic, rather grand
furniture for a working-girl, but she had once had a boyfriend she
called Coco Déménageur [the Mover], who worked for Grospiron the big
moving company and had worked his way up to the post of making
inventories of the furniture being moved out of upper-class homes,
often after funerals when the bereaved were too emotional to be able
to notice slight discrepancies in the number of Louis XV chairs or
Second-Empire mirrors being recorded on the lists they were
countersigning.

We check our watches, we have a good half an hour to make it to our
rendezvous at the Café de Flore with the Giacometti brothers.
Rendezvous for the end of the world.

We check over once again everything we are taking with us to make sure
that what we are taking is just the compact necessities we will need
for survival and a minimum of comfort pedaling for an unknown number
of days over unknown roads and sleeping in unknown fields: sleeping
bags, blankets, changes of underwear, toilet articles, toilet paper,
canned food and a can opener, tampax, a first-aid kit, some bananas
and oranges, some bottles of water, some bottles of wine, Michelin
road maps, matches, a wrench, a corkscrew, identity papers, a
sentimental memento or two, a knife, a flashlight, tire-repair
equipment, money.

We lock and double-lock the door, we go downstairs with the bicycles
and their baggage, and we mount and take off in the bright spring
sunshine. The air is dry and clear -- Hitler weather, they call it,
because it makes things so much easier for the panzer divisions which
the military experts had been sure would sooner or later get stuck in
the mud if they didn't run out of gas first. The sky is a warm tent, a
uniform cobalt blue broken only by some puffs of smoke from burning
fuel dumps down the river, replacing the puffs of the previous days
which had come from the bonfires of secret documents in the courtyards
of the Interior Ministry and the Defence Ministry and Ministry of
Foreign Affairs.

We are out in the middle of the rue Cambronne, and there is not a car
to be seen either up or down it, not a window which is not shuttered,
not a soul on the sidewalks if you don't count some stray pussycats
and puppydogs, left behind because they would be a nuisance in
overloaded automobiles.

No, as we pedal down, we see that the rue Cambronne is not quite empty
after all. Where it begins, across from the elevated railway, there is
a corner bistro where the owner is pulling down his blinds and pulling
in his chairs. He cannot pull them all in because there is a policeman
having his ritual coffee and calvados at one of them, and since he is
on active duty looking for German parachutists disguised as nuns, and
for ordinary civilians who might be fifth-column saboteurs, it would
not be wise to break his routine and provoke him into keeping the
place open another hour by asking passing cyclists for their identity
papers and an explanation of where they are going with all that
baggage. Diego Giacometti, we couldn't help remembering, was briefly
incarcerated a few days ago because a cop, perhaps this very cop,
found the cigarette burns in his rumpled old raincoat suspicious, they
might have been caused by bullets.

For when the world ends, government employees are among the last to
get the message. At some point the French government had issued a
decree proclaiming that since mass movements of refugees had clogged
the national highway system and were interfering with movement of
troops, policemen, letter carriers, meter-readers and other civil
servants, it was henceforth forbidden for civilians to pass from one
département to another without presenting a valid identify paper
stamped by the proper authorities, such stamping only available to
people who could present documentary proof that their presence in
another département had been made necessary by some official demand or
personal emergency. With hundreds of thousands, soon to become
millions, of people already on the roads, it seemed unlikely that this
decree would have any more effect than the other decrees being put out
daily by government officials when they could spare time from packing
their own bags for getting out in time. But out of sheer curiosity one
afternoon we had cycled over to the address on the Boulevard Exelmans
which was the stamping office for the million or so inhabitants of the
Seine département. There were a few dozen people milling around on the
sidewalk quarreling about who had gotten there first, but we managed
to maneuver through them to a point where we could peek inside. There
was a small row of desks lined up, and behind each of them sat a sober
pinched-faced civil-servant with a pinched civil-servant mustache and
a great volume opened to a page neately divided into columns before
him. As each aspirant refugee turned up, he or she would produce his
or her identity paper and a document attesting that his or her
presence was necessary at a funeral in Bordeaux or a board of
directors meeting in Toulouse. The man behind the desk would look over
these papers, write down the name and address of the applicant in
Column One and then he would either write Approuvé in Column Two and
stamp the card and hand back the papers, or he would write Refusé and
hand back the virgin papers without a word and stretch ouf his hand
for the papers of the next applicant.

As we made our way back, a rumor began spreading through the crowd.
Everything is OK: the Russians and the Rumanians have joined the war
on our side. Every one began getting momentarily cheerful and excited,
but one little man refused to give way to irrational emotion. Que
voulez-vous, he said, c'est le balance. Balance is the law of life,
everything works out all right in the end, and there is no need to get
excited about anything.

But soon the cheering people had figured out that if the Russians and
Rumanians had really stabbed Hitler in the back it would be shouted on
the radio and not whispered on the streets, so they all quieted down
and resumed their muttering places in the lines waiting for the stamp.

As we pedal past the stolid cop who does not raise his eyes from his
coffee and calva, the owner waves and shouts to us, "The Germans are
forty kilometers from Paris." No need to ask where he got his
information. The telephone system is still working, like the traffic
lights. And any stray passerby can bring a bulletin.

People have long ceased paying any attention to the military
communiqués on the radio, or in the newspapers, though some editors
had figured out a way of outwitting the censors. When they were forced
to blank out the names of the localities where fierce fighting was
reported because it would be bad for morale to know where those
localities were, they simply printed a map without any arrows or
captions which would tell any one who had seen the map in yesterday's
paper that the fighting front, such as it was, had moved more in the
last twenty-four hours than it had in four years in the first World
War. But the papers had ceased coming out for the last couple of
days, and the last map we had seen in print was of a region at least a
hundred kilometers from Paris.

W are now cycling at moderate speed through street after empty street,
the solid stolid bourgeois structures of Paris, all with their windows
shuttered, stray bits of paper and garbage in the gutters, a few
frittered posters on blank walls with a map of the world showing in
some bright color, I forget which, the immense range of the French and
British Empires spread over every continent and sea, surrounding a
small patch of black, like some crouching spider which was the Third
German Empire, and at the bottom in bold letters NOUS VAINCRONS PARCE
QUE NOUS SOMMES LES PLUS FORTS. We will beat them because we are
bigger.

What would Cambronne, the general who had given his name to the street
that had been so briefly our home, have made of it all? He was, as
all French-speakers know, a general at Waterloo who, when the
English shouted to him to give up like the more sensible of his
comrades, replied with the single word MERDE meaning SHIT, ever since
known as le mot de Cambronne among polite people who teach their
children that what the general really said was, The Old Guard may die
but it never surrenders.

Cambronne meant his mot as one of defiance, but it could equally well
serve as one of disgust at the utter futility of all things. It might
well have meant, So this is what the end of the world is like! An
uncoordinated mass of little stupidities! So that is all there is to
it! His own world had really come to an end that day in Waterloo, with
the army and the Empire to which he had devoted his life gone like a
wisp of smoke, with the Emperor to whom he had sworn total allegiance
slinking off in plebeian disguise to catch a boat for America. Of
course it was not the end of everybody else's world, nor even of his
own life: he was badly wounded, but he survived, he was taken prisoner
and taken to England, lived on for another seventeen years, and he
died in his bed.

And so it has been with all the other ends of the world that have
taken place regularly since our first ancestors began to be aware that
there was such a thing as a world around them.

Alberto Giacometti, whom we were due to meet in what was by now
sixteen minutes' time, had put it in one of his usual tart nutshells
in one of those long nocturnal conversations at the Flore in which we
were accustomed to shine a bright light on the state of the arts, and
the sexual activities of the artists, and the state of the world.
There can be no such thing as an end of the world, he said on this
occasion, because if there was, there would be by definition no one
left to know that any such thing had taken place, much less know
whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. There was some kind of
crackpot painter with us that night, and he insisted on proving out of
a combination of Rosicrucian and cabalistic texts that the day of our
doom was fixed, and was fixed in our own year, the year 1940. "It's
down in black and white," he said, "the end of everything, and we are
almost half way through the year." "If that is so," said Alberto
quietly but firmly,, "kindly take this pen and write me a check for
twenty thousand francs and date it January 1 1941. Go on, don't
hesitate, if you are right you have nothing, absolutely nothing, to
lose." The man hesitated, he might be a mystical dreamer, he remained
a Frenchman too. "But what do I have to gain?" he finally asked. "My
respect for you," said Alberto, "as a man with the courage of his
convictions."

Of course, we all had to agree that Alberto was right. Though his
favorite generalizaion was, "All generalizations are wrong." When all
of us talk about the end of the world, we do not mean the world, we
mean our world, the mass of things we live with and by and for. The
Bible tells us that . there will be an apocalypse any day, in which
everything will be destroyed, everything except the New Jerusalem
where those of us who are members of the right church will go on
living happily forever in a setting of pearls and gold and jasper ,
saphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl,
topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth and amethyst, a consumer society in
excelsis. The scientists tell us that around the year 4,000,000,000 AD
our whole solar system will implode into a black hole. But uncounted
numbers of subatomic particles will escape, they say, to go carousing
through space and perhaps link up with others to form a new earth even
more unsatisfactory than this one.

But there were more important things to talk about that evening. Once
he had disposed of the tarot-card man, Alberto launched into one of
his rapid-fire epigrammatic discourses to the little group of
painters, writers, admirers, who circled around him, warning them to
wax their ears against the siren songs of the abstractionists who were
then drowning out all other tunes in the playground of the arts. Art,
he reminded us, is a triangular affair. Messages, pulsions, emotional
and intellectual throbs are being flashed back and forth between the
artist's eyes and the material the artists is working on – canvas,
marble block, whatever – and the world out there, what the artist sees
with his eyes. Take out one of the three elements, and the work of art
collapses. Take any abstract object, he said, a beautiful one, a
Brancusi, a racing-car motor, and break it in pieces with a
sledge-hammer, and you have a pile of junk. But dig up out of the
desert a Sumerian sculpture of which only four fragments remain, and
you have four masterpieces.

Why Sumerian? I wondered.

Perhaps in his mischievous Swiss way, he was suggesting that there was
an end of the world in the air after all.
The world had ended one day for those Sumerian sculptors, they had
disappeared leaving nothing behind but a few fragments of stone and
clay. Modern scholars can make only educated guesses about what those
sculptures meant to the sculptors who made them or the kings and
priests and functionaries who ordered them. They have no social
context for us, they live alone in their eternally private space in
little niches in our museums.

Alberto might have been one of those sculptors himself when I used to
drop in at his studio in the rue Hipplyte-Maindron, a dark dusty
little place off a courtyard lined with reproductions of Parthenon
friezes and watch him at work, a grizzled gnome stamping and fretting
and mumbling curses around his sculptors stand, yellow glints coming
out of his eyes as he reached out with nicotine-stained hands to stab
or scratch at the little plaster head there which may have started out
life-sized, and was now hand-sized, on its way to being
fingernail-sized or to total extinction, stopping only to dip a cloth
in wet plaster or to throw a cigarette stub in his asthtray on the
floor which was the hollow belly of his famous surrealist bronze of a
woman with her throat cut.

It was all a matter of getting the exact relations right, of ear to
chin, of eye to nose. The day he did that he would be able to make his
statues any size he wanted. For now, it was the little things that
counted.

One day he asked –he would ask anyone – what I thought of the tiny
object he was working on. I said it looked like a very large object
seen at a very great distance. He nodded approvingly and went on to
tell me of a great day in his youth when he was in a famous museum in
Italy looking at the sculptures in the vast halls. Up to that time he
had been working in a traditional vein, "Donatello et tout ça." but at
that moment he saw an Egyptian statue at the end of a long corridor.
He would learn later that it was the work of what is now considered an
inferior dynasty, but at that moment it was a revelation for him: a
statue all to itself, in its own space, with no connection to the life
or the ideas floating around it. And that was just what he was trying
to do now.

His sculptures were indeed blood kin to the characters in the books of
his friend and fellow Flore habitué Samuel Beckett. They were created
in what Beckett called our "next-to-the-last times," to be left in the
desert after the end of the world. Not survivors. Leftovers.
Alberto was considered by most people in the art world of 1940
something of a leftover himself. His career which had started so
brilliantly a decade and a half ago had come to what everyone agreed –
except for our little handful of disciples and admirers – was a dead
end.

Once he had been the darling of the surrealists, they had loved his
hallucinogenic hypersexual constructions like his Unpleasant Object, a
knobbed limp humanoid penis, a genuinely unpleasant object compared to
which the boisterous visions of Dali and Max Ernst were good clean
fun. They loved the quick barbed wit with which he played le Jeu de la
vérité, the truth game, in which, every one asked his neighbor the
most unsettling question he could think and he shot back with the most
disturbing answer. (On one celebrated occasion one of the players
committed suicide later in the evening.)

But then when André Breton, the Pope or Ayatollah of the surrealists,
heard that Alberto was doing heads, recognizable illusionistic heads,
he pronounced ex cathedra, "Every one knows what a head is," and
excommunicated the backslider. And the collectors dutifully ceased
from collecting, and Alberto to survive had to start, in collaboration
with his brother Diego, making sturdily spindly pieces of furniture
and decorative objects for the dealer Jean-Michel Frank [who, as we
were to learn later, had a little schoolgirl niece named Anne in
Amsterdam who one day would be more famous than all the art dealers of
Paris combined].

Peggy Guggenheim when she was sweeping through France in the spring of
1940 to snap up works of art at bargain prices, took one look at what
Alberto had in his studio and decided it had no place in the gallery
she was going to call Art of This Century; she reached for the most
scornful adjective in her vocabulary to spit out, "Greek!" and snapped
shut her pocketbook.

Alberto had his own adjective for her that night at the Flore.: "The
stupidest woman I have ever met." [But he always retained a kind of
schoolboy loyalty to Breton. When once I dared to suggest that the
Pope of Surrealistm might be a fumiste meaning phony, he called me a
salaud meaning son of a bitch.]

But it is now 10.25 a.m. and the deadly Sumerian silence of the streets is giving way to a distant noise, a kind of subterranean ill-tempered rumble. We know
what we are about to get into, the greatest traffic jam in human
history up to that point, half the population of France trying to
squeeze itself through the leafy boulevards of Paris.
And we have made our careful plans to be part of it.

It must have been that very Peggy Guggenheim evening that we held a
kind of meeting and came up with the conclusion that whatever it was
the world was up to, we could no longer just sit in the Flore and
watch it, we had to do something.

It was in many respects a typical evening at the Flore, the familiar
faces, the regular waiters, the steady buzz of chatter about the
latest books, the latest news bulletins telephoned in from friends
working in topsecret government agencies, the sexual pecadillos of
famous artsts, the formulation of aesthetic principles. The beautiful
Sonia was telling again the story of how she went, clad only in a fur
coat, to dinner at a fashionable restaurant with a prominent literary
critic, and how at critical moments she would pull the coat open, long
enough to create consternation in her partner's eyes and shut it
tight before waiters or other diners could react. Isabelle Delmer,
Alberto's titular girlfriend (he could only, as he liked to confide to
his friends, achieve anything like adequate sexual performance in the
luxury whorehouse The Sphinx) was loudly twitting a young artist we
called Basil because he apparently modeled himself on an Evelyn Waugh
character, who spent all his days drinking at the Flore when he wasn't
experimenting with a new sculptural medium, crumpled paper; she was
twitting him on being all alone now because the other two members of
the holy trinity they had formed when they left the university,
swearing never to give up their traditional homosexual pattern of life
when they went out into the great world, had both broken their oath
and both recently gotten married, one of them was now a war
correspondent and the other a prim stiff-collared sub-secretary at the
British Embassy [ who, it would not be known till many years later,
was copying secret documents at the Embassy and delivering them to the
Soviet secret service].

But there had been a change in the habitual pattern. When you entered
the café and looked around, it was no longer to see if there was any
new face in the familiar throng, it was to see which familiar face was
missing, since last night or since breakfast. One by one they had been
slipping away, in overcrowded automobiles or trains automobiles,
headed for the south, for Lisbon, for America.

And the newspapers you got when you ordered de quoi lire were not much
bigger than pocket notebooks because there was no more woodpulp for
paper coming from Scandinavia since Hitler had scooped up Norway and
Denmark. Nor could the café any longer provide reams of paper, de quoi
écrire, if you wanted to spend the day sipping brandy while writing
love letters or love poems or philosophical novels.

Sam Beckett had gone off to the country to try to cheer up James Joyce
who liked to say that he had been trying all his life to wake up from
the nightmare of History. And now History was dropping from the
daylight sky to pound on his door.

On all our doors. And what exactly are we going to do about it? The
Germans are a few days or hours away, and we have to get out. But how,
and where do we get out to? A Sam Beckett character might know how to
sum up our dilemma: nowhere to go, no way of getting there, must go.
We are not totally impractical. We have all acquired bicycles, that
was the thing to do. With a bicycle you had a certain liberty unknown
those who entrusted themselves to trains or autos, you could twist and
dodge and maneuver through or around the solid mass of vehicles which
then occupied the highways of France.

Can Alberto ride a bicycle? Of course he can. He might always walk
with a slight limp and with a cane in his hand, ever since he had been
knocked down by a drunken female American driver in the front of the
statue of Joan of Arc a couple of years previously, but the cane is as
much for show as for anything else.

In between snatches of art talk, we make up lists of necessary
supplies, we schedule a rendezvous, on the terrace of the Flore, we
sketch out the route of our odyssey.

I have a stack of Michelin Tire maps which Frank Parker and I had used
the previous summer on our excursion out of and back into Paris when
every one was expecting a German invasion which instead ran off into
Poland. Now it is France's turn, and a glance at the history books
will tell us that while the Germans may well take Paris this time,
they will have to run out of steam at some point, the way they did in
1914. There will then be a stalemate, say on the river Loire, as on
the Aisne in 1915, and sooner or later, Russia and America will get
into the war, and there will be a victory as there was in 1918. [In
the light of what happened shortly afterwards, this might seem
hopelessly naive and uninformed; but it is almost exactly what Winston
Churchill is telling the demoralized French statesmen and generals at
almost exactly the same time.] But in the meanwhile it was best to get
as far behind the fighting front as possible, and I suggest that St
Jean-de-Luz, on the Bay of Biscay just short of the Spanish border is
the logical place to be, in summer time, and if the worst comes to the
worst and the French government has to flee to North Africa the way
the Dutch and Norwegian governments have fled to London, we will be
able to slip out via Lisbon and see what will happen next.

As many as a dozen people may be taking part, more or less seriously,
in these planning sessions any one time. But, as the nights and the
days go on, and every day brings a new defeat and the Germans got
closer and closer to Paris, some grow impatient and walk out, and
find, and find some other method of transportation, or at least they
are seen no more at the Flore.

Basil the Crumpler complains of his own lack of foresight in not
acquiring a bicycle before every bicycle shop in Paris was stripped
bare of its wares. Rolande, ever practical, suggests he try the Trois
Quartiers. Whatever for? he demands; what would a posh department
store be doing with something as lowclass as bicycles? That's just it,
she says, no one would think of going there for a bicycle, but their
advertisements say that whatever it is you need, they have at least
two of it. And sure enough, when Basil went there the next day, they
did have a shiny hew bicycle down in a sub-basement when he went there
the next day, and he showed it to us, and promised to do a version of
it in crumpled paper one of these days.

In the end, there are only seven us who finally agree to leave
together at eleven o'clock on the morning of June 13. Rolande and I
would will meet Alberto and Diego and Diego's friend Nelly, on the
sidewalk in front of the Flore at 11, and then we will pedal down the
rue de Rennes and the avenue du Maine and pick up Francis Tailleux, a
young painter who was one of Alberto' s acolytes, and his American
friend Eileen Forbes; they are going to get married at about that time
in the church of St. Pierre de Montrouge, strategically located at the
crossroads out of which branch the two avenues still open out of
Paris, the one leading to the Porte d'Orléans, the other to the Porte
de Chatillon.

10.30 a.m.

And now here we are, we have come through the constanttly swelling
noise of motors, horns, crashings, scrapings, shouts, curses, a rumble
of frustration and impatience and sheer disgust, one long-drawn-out
multi-decibeled mot de Cambronne echoing down the boulevard, and we
are part of it, we are under a canopy of green leaves on the boulevard
Saint Germain, part of the great stream of vehicles -- cars packed
with children and steamer trunks, cars with mattresses on their roofs,
buses, trucks loaded with factory machines and factory workers,
horse-drawn farm-wagons, motorcycles, wheelbarrows, baby carriages,
bicycles, dogged foot-plodders, filling the street from curb to curb,
all headed in one direction, out of the city.

The day before yesterday everyone in the endless parade fitted more or
less easily into the patterns and routines that make up modern urban
life. They all in their separate ways cleaned their kitchens, opened
their mail, took the subway to work, listened to the radio, cheated on
taxes, went to school, dreamed of adulteries, lit candles in church,
ate too much at lunch, had three of four drinks too many at night
But now they are all alike, all in unison, interchangeable: every pair
of eyes, every thought, concentrated on one practical question, the
question that comes stage front whenever you find yourself in an
end-of-the-world situation: how do I get out of this mess, how can I
take advantage of the car up there which has broken down or run out of
gas, to wriggle out of line and gain a few yards, get a little closer
to the city limits, pick up a little information on what to do, where
to go, where to find food, shelter, the latest bad news?.
Weaving in and out on our bicycles, either riding on them or, more
often, walking with them, our rate of advance is slow, but there is no
trouble in getting the latest information. We are back to the birth of
information, to word of mouth, gossip. We learn quickly that the
Germans are twenty kilometers from Paris. The Germans are eighteen
kilometers from Paris. They will be marching in tomorrow. The
government has declared Paris an open city, meaning it is not worth
fighting for. The government is in Tours. ("A hundred kilometers
away." mutters one disgruntled man trying to inflate a flat tire. "An
easy afternoon excursion for a slow tank.") The government is in
Bordeaux. No one cares where the government is, All eyes in all those
vehicles are staring straight ahead, calculating how long it will take
to get to the right turn southward at the rue de Rennes and then
starlight on to the Gare Montparnasse and then around it, and then
down the avenue du Maine. and then – no one is quite sure. There are
still those two gateways open out of Paris, the Porte d'Orléans and
the Porte de Chatillon. The Germans are fifteen kilometers from Paris.

We squirm and skirt our way through the lava flow of traffic. We pass
a right-wing book-store with a display in its window featuring copies
of a book called Du Mariage by Léon Blum, written many years before he
became Prime Minister of France, in which he advocated what was known
in Anglo-Saxon countries as companionate marriage. On a strip of
cardboard below the books is written in bold capitals LISEZ LA
POURRITURE DU SALE JUIF, read the slime of the dirty Jew.

The right-wing intellectuals whom I occasionally ran into in those
days at the Flore must be going through some uncomfortable moments.
They have been brought up to believe that international Jewry and the
republican form of government were evils which had to be eradicated,
but they have also been brought up to believe that the root of all
evil, the everlasting enemy of France, was Germany, the pagan
barbarian jack-booted Boches. Now the Boches are fourteen kilometers
from Paris, and the right-wing intellectuals must be uneasily aware
that they will have to spend at least the next few years licking those
jack-boots, with or without mental reservations. They will go all the
more stridently denouncing the Jews and the rotten Third Republic,
they have nicknamed la Gueuse, the Harlot.

Things were no easier for the left-wing intellectuals, some of whom
are no doubt examining the situation over their breakfast coffee at
this very moment at the Flore, from which we are now only a few
minutes away. For years they have been demonstrating against war and
then against war and fascism, and now there is a war on and fascists
at the door, and all they can do is scratch their heads and wonder how
it could happen, as I could imagine the archeologists of the fourth
millennium, digging all this up and scratching their heads to find an
explanation of what made all the inhabitants of what must have been
the most luxurious city of all time decamp overnight leaving their
spacious homes and their elegant furniture intact and a billion wine
bottles aging in their cellars.

There is only one road open out of Paris, through the Porte de Chatillon.

10.59 a.m.

Just as called for in our plan, we worm our way through a tangle of
stalled cars, and arrive with a minute to spare in front of the Cafè
de Flore, where we find a tree we can lean our bicycles against.
And just that moment, as if planned as well, the whole chaotic scene
turns quiet, there has been a big traffic accident somewhere way
ahead, near the Montparnasse railway station no doubt, no one knows
how long it will take to do anything about it, and meanwhile the
drivers have nothing to do but turn off their motors and and save the
gasoline which they hope against hope will take them somewhere before
nightfall. The sky is cloudless, not a leaf flutters in the trees, for
that one moment no one is screaming in frustration, or bawling out
another motorist or a spouse, or offering a carton of cigarettes for a
can of gasoline, or singing a drunken song, or praying. At the foot of
the massively tranquil twelfth-century tower of the church of St
Germain des Près, all is peaceful, all is frozen.

Only at the curb in front of the café there is suddenly a single
flutter of motion, a string of curses. It is Alberto, he is trying to
pump some air into the flat rear wheel of his bicycle.
Diego and Nelly are leaning against another tree, along with their
tandem bike, silent, like the two or three customers sitting on the
terrace, like Pascal the waiter standing at the front door, like the
tower of St German des Prés.

"I don't know what is the matter with this fucking machine," growls
Alberto, "I do not understand." And he jams down the handle of the
pump again, and again. And he stamps his feet and his face swells and
reddens, and he curses in Italian and German. But the tire will not
budge.

Rolande steps up in her practical way, leans down without a word and
unscrews the valve in the inner rim of the tire. Alberto keeps on
pumping, and this time he is rewarded, the tire puffs up, Rolande
detaches the pump and screws the valve shut, Alberto without a word,
restores the pump to its proper place, casts a last look to check if
all is place in his baskets, including the cigar box in which he has
said he would pack all that is worth saving of his production in the
past year, he mounts his bike, Diego and Nelly mount theirs, Rolande
and I mount ours, and we are off into the river of traffic, which is
starting to budge slightly again, round into the rue de Rennes headed
for the Porte de Chatillon.

11.30 a.m

We work our way through one more traffic jam in front of the church of
St. Pierre de Montrouge.

The same rumble and crackle of frustration over all.
Diego looks up at the sky, the soft cloudless springtime sky, and
remarks in his matter-of-fact way, "A great day for a picnic."
Alberto replies by spitting out the mot de Cambronne. He is an
impatient man when he has something to do, and he sees no reason to
waste precious time while the world is falling apart for something so
insignficant as a wedding "Tell them to get it over quick," he shouts
at us as we push our bicycles through the doors of the church.
My mind runs back to a moment in a Marx Brothers movie, where some
one says, Let's have a picnic, and Groucho says, We can't have a
picnic, we don't have any red ants, and Chico says, I know a Indian
he's got-a two red aunts.

Here we are, scurrying like two red aunts out of the sunlight into a
darkened church, with that unceasing noise behind us..
Shall we call it a Cambronne picnic?







ii. Picnic Notes


Under its grave gray neoclassical arches, the nave of the church is
almost empty, almost silent, A few candles flicker, a few elderly
ladies are kneeling before a statue of St. Rita de Cascia surrounded
by plaques expressing gratitude for saving lives, curing deadly
illnesses and solving family problems. Another plaque records the
rededication of the church to the Virgin Mary in gratitude for saving
the church from German bombs in the dark days of 1918.

There is a sound of benediction coming from a chapel down by the
altar, and there we find Francis and Eileen at the moment of being
bound in holy matrimony, The priest is racing through the ceremony, he
barely has time for his last blessing before he is running, his skirts
flapping, for his own bicycle which is propped against a pillar in
the nave.

We take a minute out for embracing bride and groom, then we all head
for our own bicycles and out of the church into the universal growl of
the jolting and jerking parade of traffic turning on a right diagonal
off the avenue du Maine and into the avenue de Chatillon.

No sign of the Giacomettis, Alberto's patience had been stretched too thin.
Perhaps we will catch up with then in Saint Jean de Luz. .Perhaps they
have looked at a map and decided that Switzerland is closer to Paris
and if they must face the end of the world they might as well do it
in their native land.


There are four of us now, threading our way through the endless stream
of vehicles down to and past the Porte de Chatillon, down through the
tree-lined boulevards and shuttered windows of the Paris suburbs, down
through the tree-lined highway heading south.

There are stretches where everything is moving steadily, slowly.
Periodically there are accidents, pile-ups. panicky screams, then the
slow steady rumble resumes, the slow steady crescendo of the mot de
Cambronne through the haystack-studded fields, the church towers and
chateau gates and village streets of the lovely French countryside
under a lovely June sun..

After a couple of hours, suddenly there is a colossal pile-up ahead,
no one seems to know what caused it, a flat tire on an oil truck, or
an enemy bomb or an ordinary driver who had fallen asleep or gone mad.
The road is a tangle of wrecked cars, with their doors hanging open,
people are scurrying around through the scatterings of broken glass
and undergarments spilled out of suitcases to search for survivors or
to salvage or steal lost property or to clear away the wreckage that
is holding them up. There is nothing we can do but offer water to a
woman who has fainted, help her round up her children, maneuver
somehow through the smoke and the screams, the ditches and the
brambles, and by the time we come out on open road again there is no
sign of the Tailleux, Perhaps we will catch up with them somewhere on
the road, or in St Jean de Luz. Perhaps they have thought it over and
decided that, since Eileen's family owns some property in
Aix-en-Provemce that once belonged to Cezanne, they will feel more at
home there.

At all events, we are alone now, two more anonymous ants in the
chaotic picnic-ground, scurrying southward amid what are now the
familiar noises of motors three or four abreast on the roadway, a
gentle wind in the trees, a gentle sound of chirping birds, not a
cloud or a plane in the sky.
\
Except that there is a new noise now. the plaintive wails of cows,
abandoned by their owners who have fled, and are now stumbling
painfully through the stubble of the hayfields with their huge swollen
udders, swollen with the milk of which no mouth or fingers will
relieve them.

Except for one good soul, a woman we come across who has gone out into
the fields, rounded up some cows and relieved them of their burden,
spurting most of it into the ground but some of it into a pail she has
picked up somewhere, and she sits by the roadside, flagging down
motorists with children so that she can offer them some fresh milk.

*

It is the most beautiful month of June in living memory. Saint Joan of
Arc has spurned the anticlerical government leaders who turned up last
week at her statue on the rue de Rivoli (the very spot where Alberto
was maimed) to pray for the rain that might get the German tanks stuck
in the mud. Warm cloudless days have been followed relentlessly by
clear windless nights, and the tanks of the Wehrmacht have never run
out of fuel because, it is said, when their gas tanks are low they
have only to fill them up at abandoned gas stations.

The beginning of the last German offensive, the one that brought them
Paris. coincided with the beginning of mowing time, and the fields we
pass are dotted with towering golden haystacks.
As night falls, what is now being spoken of as the Exodus comes to a
stop, no one in his right mind is going to go racing on unlit roads
among unlit cars. We all head for the haystacks, our legs aching, we
all carry our baggage of worry and uncertainty, what, we ask
ourselves, waits for us tomorrow?

But the night is warm, ancient gods are re-aroused, the hay is soft
and crackles uncomplainingly

*

Our Michelin maps live up to their reputation, they show us side
roads, roads we can meander through, run up extra miles but save
precious hours. A few hundred yards off the frantic highway there are
villages where there is no sign that there is a war on, you can stop
in a café for a coffee and calvados, listen to the latest catalogue of
calamity on the radio -- the Germans are in Paris, the government is
in crisis, Mussolini has stabbed us in the back, the government has
fallen, the Germans have made a breach in the Maginot Line – pick up
tips on which roads are open, which bridges have not been blown, where
you can find gas stations which are closed but if you are a driver
whose tank is low and you have plenty of hundred-franc bills in your
pocket, the owner or his brother can tell you were to turn off and
cross a little bridge and you will find a fellow who has thriftily
stocked down a little road under the third tree on the left a quantity
of cans of gasoline in the expectation of days like these.

*
"In days like these," says a man we run across, at a turn-off beside a
cemetery, "you have to be a débrouillard." That is to say, a fixer, an
arranger, someone who knows his way around anywhere, who knows how to
get what he wants done, inside or outside the law makes no difference.
This man is a lieutenant in the French army, he has been through some
harrowing days, fighting on the Aisne till the final breakthrough,
running ever since. "But not running like rabbits," he insists, though
he admits that It has been quite a while since he has had any contact
with his regimental headquarters. He still has a few men left in his
unit, they are camping in the wood s over there, he has no orders to
take them anywhere, but he knows that if he keeps going south he will
come to the Loire, and there maybe they can hold that line. They are
blowing up the bridges over the Loire, but he has heard they are
keeping one open, at Gien.

"Why am I telling you this?" he says. "Why am I worrying about Gien?
Every road to Gien will be jammed tight. Refugees. Refugees. Screwing
up everything. What do you think you're doing on all these roads, all
you fucking refugees? You haven't been bombed, have you?"
No.

"What did you expect? The Boches are intelligent, you have to give
them credit for that. They can see what is happening, and they say to
themselves, why should we waste a valuable bomb on all this scum, all
these refugees? Why should they worry about you when you're doing
their work for them? How can we move our own troops around when you're
blocking all the roads?

"Look at me. Wandering around with ten men and no equipment, hoping to
get to Gien, get to the Loire where can stop them. A week ago we were
stopping them, they were throwing everything they had at us,
dive-bombers, tanks, everything. But my men were ready for them, we
were holding our ground, one day, two days, we have them stopped cold.
Then a message comes. There is a crisis a few kilometers to our left.
Our men are being pounded badly there. They need some fresh troops and
fresh equipment, and my unit can provide them. We load up a few trucks
and take off. There is a straight little road leading right to where
we are wanted, a narrow little country road, it runs through some
woods where we can't be seen by their planes. We can be where they
need us in half an hour. The only trouble is, our road crosses a
highway at one point, and when we get to that point what do you think
is there? A crazy driver or two crazy drivers, or two hundred crazy
drivers, have plowed into each other, there at the crossroads, so what
we run into is one solid heap of twisted car bodies and human bodies,
and exploding engines, and smoke and screaming women, burning women,
and who do you think they are? They are the inmates of two big
whorehouses, refugees, running away to the south in two or three
trucks that have all come apart, and of course nobody with an idea of
what to do, just screaming, and it takes us two hours, two hours,
before we get our vehicles through all that mess, and by the time we
get to where we were going, there is no more where to it, the line is
broken, the Germans are pouring through, there is nothing between them
and Paris.

"I tell you, I am a history teacher in real life, and I always liked
to tell my students that it's the little things that count in history,
like the flock of geese that honked one night and woke up the Romans
just in time to save Rome. Now, if there is still a school standing
for me to teach in, I will be telling my students how a flock of
whores from Amiens lost Paris."

*

It is the first bomb ever directed specifically at me. We have been
grimly pushing on, and suddenly the word spreads down the line that
this time it is for real, that those planes we have heard off in the
distance to our left are headed our way, headed for us, getting louder
and louder. And we all abandon our vehicles to tumble into the
shallow grass-lined ditches on the roadsides, to lie or crouch and
wait.

We have a second or so to wonder if this is just another false alarm.
And then the whistle starts.

We have been told in the newspapers that the Nazi stukas have whistles
attached to their bombs to make them more terrifying as they fall.
And before I know it, there is this bomb, with this whistle, getting
louder and louder as it heads straight for a spot halfway between my
shoulder blades.

A frozen second of eternity, and then a big bang, just like in the
newsreels, but rather reassuring. For the whistle has come to an end,
just like in the newsreels, and here we still are, face down in the
grass and the dirt.

Then there is another whistle. a little louder but aimed at the same
spot halfway between my shoulder blades.
And another.

Then total silence. And after another long second, the normal world
returns, we are all scrambling up and brushing ourselves off and
babbling to reassure ourselves that we are still alive and leaping to
our proper seats, and the wheels turn and the picnic can go on.
In roadside gossip sessions along the way we learn that none of the
bombs came near the road, but exploded more or less harmlessly, in
fields or woods. It is the general opinion that these bombs must have
been dropped by incompetent pilots, they could not have been Germans,
they must have been Italian planes.

France may face her doom with the expressionless face of shock, but
she can call up one look of scorn for what she chooses to call her
sorella latrina.

*

It is a little town south of the Loire where everyone grouped around
open windows to listen to the radio. There is the tired cracked voice
of Marshal Petain announcing that France has fallen. The war is over.
Or will soon be over.

Everyone listens with wooden faces.
Then everyone goes back to looking for a place to spend the night.
There is a man who says he must get right back to Paris. He sells
antique furniture in the Flea Market at the Porte de Clignancourt, and
he knows some very reliable German collectors.
*

"Hello there. Is this the way to Bayonne?"
We are on a sidewalk chatting with an old friend of Rolande's who left
Paris a while a good while ago to stay with a distant relative in this
little town. But the bicycle bearing down on us carries a refugee of
more recent date.

It is Basil, our old friend from the Flore, on his Trois Quartiers
bike, which looked somewhat the worse for wear. He has tales to tell.
"I got up that morning with a terrible hangover, and I staggered down
to get on my bicycle and waver my way to the terrace of the Flore. I
ordered my usual, and Pascal served it to me just the right way There
weren't more than three customers in the place, and everything was
quiet, the streets were empty. This is eerie, I said to myself, what
has become of all the millions of people who were right here yesterday
on the boulevard. And then all of a sudden there is a blast of bugles,
and drums, and clack clack clack, boots marching smartly in my
direction. Those aren't French boots, I said to myself, the French
don't know how to march. Can they be English? Have the English turned
the war around and come to save Paris? Can all this tragedy have a
happy ending?

"And then I look up the boulevard, and there were soldiers marching,
and by God they were goose-stepping. They were Germans, bloody
Germans. And I say to myself, my boy you are now an enemy alien, and
you'd better get yourself out of here. And I jump on my bike, I can't
thank you enough for having steered me to it, and I was half way down
the rue de Rennes by the time they turned into it, and the streets
were empty, and here I am."

He had been hit by anti-aircraft fire: there some German planes
cruising harmlessly in the sky, and a gun had opened up on them
without any effect, but some fragments rained down on and had dented
his handle bar and one of the fragments had torn his trousers and he
was convinced it was lodged in his left buttock, and he knew a surgeon
in London who would cut it out one day, being careful to preserve a
few fragments of flesh attached to it, and it could be exhibited at
the Tate and it would be the start of a new movement in art.

"And there was this town they actually bombed, and when I came down
the main street there were still some buildings burning, and bodies
hanging over window-sills, and then there was a shop with it whole
front wall gone, and it was a Wine and Liquor shop and I was naturally
drawn to it, there was broken glass everywhere and such a smell you
couldn't walk through it without having visions, and I picked up a
dozen untouched bottles of quality cognac."

Which he would be glad to share with us over a leisurely dinner, but
he is in a hurry, he has to keep pedaling traveling day and night if
he expects to get to Bayonne in time: he has picked up the latest news
and he knows that the French have starting kicking the Royal Navy our
of what ports they have left, but the Royal Navy is still using
Bayonne to pick up any struggling troops or others who need to get to
London.

And he speeds off into the night, singing..

*

[And as I learned when I saw him in London years later, he actually
made it to Bayonne, and there was a destroyer taking on passengers,
mostly Polish soldiers, and he stepped up to board it with his
remaining bottles, but they said there was no room for any kind of
baggage, so he sat on the dock drinking till the last call was made
and he jumped on board.

He would be decorated for valor in serving on a fireboat in the Thames
during the bombardments of London later in the year.]

*

Roadside chatter:
"So now we will be working for the Germans. Well, there are worse
things that could happen. The Germans are socialists – national
socialists. The working man gets paid vacations. Of course, if they
decide to ram their Gestapo down our throats, it won't be so
pleasant."

"They'll have trains to take us back to Paris." "What are you going to
do with your car?" "I'm gong no hide it in the woods back of my cousin
Marcel's pace, till the English give up. Then there will be gas
again."

*

It is summer now in the vineyards of Bordeaux, they say that if there
is not rain soon it will be a bad ear for the wine.
The summer sun shines on empty roads. We are alone in the scenic southwest.
The act of surrender has been signed in the very railroad car where
the Germans surrendered in 1918.

The Exodus is over, we are in a new biblical book, the book of
Numbers. The Germans have taken two million French and British
prisoners. The Germans will the occupying seventy percent of France.
Twenty thousand people have returned to Paris, where life is slowly
returning to normal.

*

We are pedaling at a normal speed, we come across a roadside café. It
is a little early, but we will stop for lunch.
A lady has finished laying out the tables, she is writing the day's
menu on a slate. She wonders what the world has come to. "The English
have sunk our ships at Oran, can you imagine it, our allies. And the
Germans are coming, they will be here soon. We must be polite to them.
But not too polite. There were some girls in the village, you know
what girls are like these days, they were expecting the Germans to
come early this morning and they were out to greet them, with
flowers. Happily, they did not come when they were expected, and some
of us grown-ups had time to get together and give those girls a
talking-to, and they won't try it again. I can tell you that,."
Hardly have we sat down and ordered our aperitifs then there is a
noise up the road, and the Germans are indeed coming, a dozen
motorcycles, they stop in front of us with a squeal of brakes.
They are cheerful, talkative young men, settling comfortably into
chairs, they are SS men of the Totenkopf, the Death's-head Division,
they might be noisy young picnickers anywhere, welcoming a few days of
well-earned unbuttoned leisure after long hard days of work. They
speak no word of French, though one of them has studied the language
in school and learned a song by heart there (Il était un petit navire
Qui n'avait dja dja djamais navigué) which he chants several times
over by popular demand. Our hostess speaks not a word of German. They
try not too successfully to communicate by sign language, though they
get across the idea of beer, they are stumped by the food they are
dying to order, one of those famous French meals. They are clearly
under orders to be correct, to treat the conquered enemy politely They
pull rolls of paper out of their pockets, which are occupation
currency, to show that they have not come to loot but to pay their
correct and friendly way.

Since I have a few words of schoolbook German, I offer to translate,
and help them order the dish of the day which, when it arrives, they
recognize instantly as frankfurters.
They are under the command of a noncommissioned officer, a
Rottenführer, who seems to be something of a political commissar as
well, who sees to it that they will obey orders, make the right
impression, to put the proper emphasis and significance of every word
and gesture. He explains at some length that the German people has no
quarrel with the French people, nor indeed with any other people of
Europe except, for the time being, the English. The Russians, for
example, are a good people, good friends. Without the Germans they are
nothing, but with loyal German support they can play a productive role
in the New Europe. It is sad that hired propagandists have poisoned so
many minds, have done their best to spread lies and slanders about the
German Volk. The German Volk is not at all what the hired
propagandists of the Jewish press say it is. Wir sind keine Barbaren,
he says emphatically. We are not barbarians, as you have been falsely
told. Die Neger sind BarBarbaren – referring to the Senegalese troops
in the French army with whom they had a bloody skirmish early in the
campaign. The German Volk, he insists, is a good Volk, not a böse
(bad, mean) one. "We are not böse with any people in Europe, we want
to be friends, building together a New Europe. Only with the Jews are
we böse, for they desire the destruction of Germany."
"Including the children?" I interject, a little rashly.
"They will grow up to be Jews like the others." he explains patiently.
"To them we must be böse, to them we will be böse."

As they are leaving, after wolfing down their frankfurters the
Rottenführer offers me a copy of the little illustrated magazine which
is passed out to soldiers of the Wehrmacht. There are pictures of dive
bombers and of columns of tanks and trucks and motorcycles passing
through the empty streets of French villages. There are soldiers
gaping at the Eiffel Tower. There is a snapshot of a scene which had
often struck me as we were roaming about Paris, a sign in front of a
building on the Rond-Pont des Champs-Elysées reading A vendre
bourgeoisement, meaning only, I suppose, that it is to be sold as
private residence and not turned into offices, but to foreign eyes it
certainly looks a little strange, and the editors of the magazine have
a good time with it, this is what we are getting rid of, they say, no
more nasty bourgeois looking down their noses at us, we are the Volk
and we are going to win this war and change the world..

Off go the Deathshead men, grinning and shouting at each other as
their motorcycles sputter into motion. They are straining to get their
first look at the Atlantic Ocean.

*
In the towns they are putting up posters with a picture of a young
soldier of the Wehrmacht helping a bewildered old lady to cross a
crowded street, with a caption reading ABANDONED POPULATIONS, PUT YOU
TRUST IN THE GERMAN SOLDIER.
*

In Bayonne, we pass a German soldier guiding an old lady through a
tangle of cars and bicycles and pushcart and wheelbarrows on the main
street.

*

In Biarritz, the local paper reports splendid beach weather, but warns
against high seas. Seven visitors were reported drowned over the
weekend.
These "visitors" are German soldiers who have shown they were able to
brush off anything the French and British and Dutch and Belgians could
throw against them, but nothing in their training had prepared them
for ocean waves.

*

Now we are in Saint-Jean-de-Luz at the height of the summer season.
We have found a room with a kitchen to rent from an old lady who had
seen bad times before, and knew how you had to deal with them. She
knew how a Basque farm woman who would come down regularly from the
hills with eggs of chickens and she was still coming down, no matter
which way the war went, and she was selling them, because she spoke no
French, at the same regular peacetime prices, so that we can feast
ourselves daily for a few pennies.
The movie houses are open, the bars are open, it is perfect beach
weather though the waves are high.
None of our promised fellow-exiles has turned up, but there is a
familiar face every so often in the streets, someone we might have
said hello to in Paris, and is now full of stories of adventures on
the way down and speculation on how they are every going to get back.
There are even a couple of Americans, last holdovers of the Lost
Generation, who are headed for the border at Hendaye where it is said
the Germans, anxious to preserve American neutrality, will let anyone
with an American passport on into Spain and eventually Greenwich
Village.

We are on the terrace of the Bar Basque, the local equivalent of the
Flore, from which Hemingway and the others had covered the opening
days of the Spanish civil war, and a familiar face appears on the
sidewalk. "Gerassi!' cries Rolande, and it is indeed our friend
Fernando Gerassi the painter, and a momentary panic marks his face,
which he quickly suppresses, and he comes over to join us for a
cordial dink. He has something to be panicky about, for though he has
a passport, it is not such as would stand up to rigorous examination.
It is one of those handed out by the young playboy and seducer of
millionairesses who has a job in the Embassy of the Dominican Republic
in Paris and has with rare generosity handed them out to people in
desperate need of a document.

Fernando's need is desperate enough, he was an officer in the
International Brigades which had fought on the losing side of the
Civil War, if the Germans took him in for questioning might not go
well for him.

To continue reading
THE CAMBRONNE PICNIC visit http://www.robertwernick.com/

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5 Comments:

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Blogger ExpressJodi said...

Great expectations

Life is full of surprises, particularly if you are a newly - wed . Expressjodi you a glimpse into the future and tells how to be prepared to face married life

Love is all about romance whereas marriage is a lot about responsibility. When two different individuals from different backgrounds live together, differences of opinion on things like spending habits, career, having and raising a baby, sharing household responsibilities etc, are bound to crop up, the key is to broaden your outlook and accept all the changes that marriage brings, and to remember that marriage is a momentous change for you and your spouse. And, fear not, over a period of time, you will find a way to make it work.

Responsibility

With marriage comes a whole lot of responsibility. "From the time you ger married, the decisions you make will not be yours alone, but your partner's as well. This is because your choices will impact both of you. But this doesn't mean that you're tied to a ball and chain. "It only means you have a companion with you for life. In fact, in your capacity as a spouse, you become your partner's caretaker, friend, confidante and even punching bag etc.

Finances

Arguments over money are bound to happen, so be prepared for it. And unless you establish some ground rules for dealing with financial issues, you will continue to have these arguments. Bear in mind that you are now a part of a unit, and no longer flying solo.

In - laws or outlaws?

if you thought that marriage is all about sharing your life with your significant other, think again, and this time, factor in your in - laws into the equation. When you're used to a particular lifestyle, moving in with your in - laws can be a rude shock. You will be required to make changes in your daily routine. Like waking up a little earlier to help around the house or rescheduling your plans on weekends or even modifying some of your eating habits. these might seem like an additional burden, particularly if you are a working woman. Remember to keep an open mind when it comes to handling your in - laws. They may be rigid in their ways, but there is always a way to work out a compromise.

Sharing space

Marriage involves sharing everything - whether it is sadness or glad tidings, chores or finance, which can be a difficult task. This is why marriage necessitates an equal contribution from both side. " Sharing is absolutely essential for a happy marriage,. Besides making it easier to run the show, it also brings you closer to your partner, and cement a bond in a way that only experience can.
Differnces of opinion

Shaadi brings two different individuals together, as well as two sets of arguments for everything. Remember that your husband is as new to the marriage and the relationship as you, and he is facing the same issue for the first time as well.Irrespective of the nature of the relationship, any two people are bound to have differences of opinion at some point of time, It is how you handle these differences that mtters. The best antidote for deviant interest lies in adapting to the situation. "Be carteful not to retaliate for the sake of it,"

Planning for the future

As a single independent working woman, you may be used to your lifestyle, going on holidays or splurging on the latest pair of Jimmy Choos. But married life is a journey and you need to plan carefully to get to your destination. "Planning is the key. Make sure you and your husband are on the same page as far as long - term goal are concerned," "Whether or not you plan to have a baby or deciding on investments for the future and are thing that you should discuss in advbance, if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises in you married life,"

4:17 AM  
Blogger ExpressJodi said...

Brahmin Shaadi
Historically, the Brahmins in india were divided into two major groups based on geographical origin of the people. The Brahmin groups that lived to the north of the vindhyas were referred to as Dravida Brahmins. Each group was further divided into five sections according to the regions of their settlement.

Sagaai
The Sagaai or the engagement ceremony symbolises commitment However, the South Indian Brahmin do not lay stress on the presence of bride and the groom in their Sagaai, rather it focuses on commitment between the parents of the groom and the bride. 'Latto' i.e., 'engagement plate' Which consist of coconut, flowers, turmeric, betel leaves and betel nuts hold more importance, in their engagement ceremony. The Maithil Brahmin bride of bihar makes her wedding affair stand apart by receiving the blessing from the Dhobi's (washerman's) wife - a compulsory tradition in the Bihari Brahmin wedding.

Haldi
In Haldi ceremony turmeric powder is mixed with milk, almond oil and sandalwood and applied to the bride and the groom. In Kashmiri Pandit this ceremony has a twist becuase cold, white yoghurt is poured on the bride as an alternative to haldi. ritual is followed by a special custom called Shankha (shell) Paula (coral) in bengali Brahmins, where seven married women embellish the bride's hand with red and white bangles, the shell is supposed to calm the bride and the coral is believed to
be beneficial for health. Mehndi is also applied on every bride's hands during the Mehndi ceremony. However, a Bengali Brahmin bride applies alta (red dye).

Jaimala
After the ceremonious arrival of the groom, the garlands are exchanged between the groom and the bride, while the priests chant mantras. Jaimala is the symbol of unifying two souls into one. But in tamil nadu, "Oonjal", a unique jaimala ceremony is performed and could be best decribed as a tug of war. In this ceremony, the women sing songs to encourage the bride and groom to exchange the garlands while the uncles persuade the soon to be couple not to Exchange the garlands.Before the ceremony of jaimala, the bride makes a majestic entry in Bengali weddings.

Mangal Phere
Fire is considered the most pious element in the Brahmin weddings and seven circles around that fire holds the seven promises that the nuptial couple make to each other amidst the Vedic mantras. The Brahmin wedding is deemed incomplete without the seven rounds around the sacred fire. Unlike other Brahmin weddings, in Gujarati weddings only four pheras are taken which are called the mangalpheras where the pheras represent four basic human goals of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Miksha (religious, moral, prosperity and salvation). Likewise in Malayalee Brahmin weddings, pheras are taken only thrice.

Post wedding ceremony vidaai
After pheras, the bride's family and friend bid her teary vidaai (farewell). The Kashmiri pundits make their vidaai even more special. their charming ritual, "roth khabar" is performed on a saturday or tuesday after the wedding. In Roth
khabar, the bride's parents send a roth (bread decorated with nuts) to their son - in - law's family. But the bride accompanies She stay with her parents and returns only when someone from in laws comes to fetch her back.

Griha pravesh
The new bride is greeted by her mother - in - law with Arti and tilak. The bride, who is regarded as the Goddess laxmi, enters the groom's house after the groom's house after kicking rice - filled pot. In Kannada Brahmin marriages, the groom changes the name of his wife in the name change ceremony where he decides a name for his wife and inscribes it on a plate containing rice with a ring. In Bihar, a very strange ritual is performs at the groom's place.

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