Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day

It being the 14th. of July here in France (as well as in other parts of the world, I understand) the nation celebrates the equivalent of the American July the 4th., with fireworks and, more importantly, a day off. It celebrates, if that's the right word, the fall of The Bastille at the hands of the citizens, something which must have proved a bit of an anti-climax since there were only seven prisoners immured within at the time and, viewing the rabble outside, they would probably have voted to stay there for their own safety had they been asked. But it has proved a great excuse for a party over the years and I got to wondering why the British don't have something similar.
Guy Fawkes is hardly much of anything to celebrate, although a modern day equivalent might be welcome, provided he were more successful, and the nearest the nation gets is to scattered "Bank Holidays." Why there should be such rejoicing concerning establishments that collectively bring a good deal misery to most is beyond me - perhaps it's because they're closed on those days.
That perceptive observer of the scene, Froissart, observed that, during the Hundred Years War, "The Englishmen in France enjoy themselves gloomily as is their fashion," so perhaps it's a hangover from that (they lost).
But Britain is rich in opportunities for celebration, fun and laughter. What other nation could have a Deputy Prime Minister (or Vice-President, perhaps) of ample proportions leading a parade down Whitehall in a thousand dollar regalia of Stetson Hat and Cowboy Boots? It would draw crowds of fun-loving citizens, I'm sure.
Of course, I understand that fireworks would have to be banned. After all, someone might get hurt!
So, no work for me today. The champagne (actually our wonderful equivalent from The Loire Valley) starts flowing around midday, the sun is shining and tonight the village has a firework display. It all adds up to a jolly good day and, as much as celebrating the fall of The Bastille, it starts off the French holiday season. That the French take long holidays is a frequent criticism of the British. I suppose they prefer to enjoy themselves gloomily.


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