Eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month

 

Poppies

“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

“We stood around for a bit, smoking and taking the occasional pull from the bottle. A couple of their men spoke English but no one said much. We were just a group of lads hanging about. We could have been anywhere. That’s what struck me. These Fritzes were ordinary people with parents, sisters, brothers, wives, sweethearts back home. Just like us. Exchange uniforms and you wouldn’t have noticed the difference. And yet up till now we’d been trying to thump each other into the ground. It made me think.”

‘Bertie’s Buttons’, short story in French Collection: Twelve Short Stories

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2018, all rights reserved.

D-Day: the Beginning of the End

Oradour - tramway station 2

Oradour-sur-Glane, one of the casualties of German retaliation following D-Day

Today marks the anniversary of D-Day, 6th June 1944, the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. Down here in SW France, the weather is equally damp today, but perhaps not quite as cold and windy as it was on that significant day back in 1944. The decision to go or not to go that Eisenhower had to make must rank as one of the most difficult in history. Continue reading

True Inspiration for Fiction #4: Angel Makers

Thiézac Village

Angel makers practised their trade in cities as well as isolated rural villages

In most Western nations, the practice of backstreet abortion has virtually disappeared now that abortion has been legalised. I don’t intend to open a debate here about the moral issues, but rather to look at the historical background, especially in France. Continue reading

Short Stories Inspired By #France

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie - view of village from above

Saint-Cirq Lapopie, one of the beautiful hilltop villages for which SW France is renowned

To celebrate my 20 years in France, I’ve decided to publish a collection of a dozen of my short stories. They are all linked by being set in France, many of them in the southwest region, where I live. This part of France has rich and varied landscapes and a strong tradition of separatism and independence. Continue reading