Moulin a Paroles

Change is in the air. It’s been coming for some time, but I first felt it for real in the grounds of the ORNC yesterday. As I passed by the building works and the remains of the Greenwich Comedy Festival (which, from the bits I went to, was great…) a little scurry of wind eddied and swirled a whole bunch of yellowing leaves from the trees.

I’d worn a t-shirt, and was rather wishing I’d taken a woolly with me. It was that moment that I realised that Autumn is wiggling her twiggy fingers at us and that it’s just going to get cooler now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – just a change. Autumn has great stuff to look forward to.

I am going to get onto that in another post, but for now, a moment of deep embarrassment for me – but that also passed-by the Great British Public (save for Seamus, who reminded a red faced Phantom about it) but is creating a Bit Of A To-Do in Canada.

Yesterday marked the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Quebec – and that means it also marks the 250th anniversary of the death of Britain’s greatest military hero (until Nelson came along and rained on his parade.)

We’ve talked about General Wolfe before (from which, if I paid any attention to my own archives, I would have known about planned celebrations…)

There’s something a bit broken on the James Wolfe Society website, so I can’t tell if they actually held a ceremony at St Alfeges and a wreath-laying at the statue. I really wish I’d been on the ball – I’d have gone. Did anyone here go?

But ultimately, let’s face it – most us just didn’t know about it. Even the fab photo was sent to my by Stephen some time ago and I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment. A great British hero – more or less forgotten.

Not so in Canada. Benedict tells me that there’s still a whole load of controversy surrounding the Battle of Quebec across the Atlantic. I guess it’s understandable – it was, after all, a time of toughing-up the French in French-speaking Quebec.

There was a massive 24 hour read-a-thon held on the Plains of Quebec on Saturday, according to CBC attended by thousands – but boycotted by many more.

During the Moulin a Paroles 140 texts were read out, relating to the history of Canada from 1759 to the present day. Trouble is, to the disgust of federalists, a text from 1970 was also included – the manifesto of the Front de Libération du Québec – who became notorious when they kidnapped a British diplomat – the manifesto was a statement of their demands.

While the Canadian government officials boycotted the event, the opposition said the boycott was ridiculous and that it was a part of Canadian history. The sort of spat you get all over the world over small but significant changes of attitude. The organisers were a bit shocked and admitted they’d been a bit naive. “We didn’t expect this kind of controversy.”

Benedict, still a relative newcomer to the ‘Canadian’ way of life, agrees. “I am surprised a little at how sensitive this all is still,” he says. “But then I guess it changed the course of history.”

I’m still feeling a bit embarrassed today though. I, of all Greenwichians, should have remembered James Wolfe’s big day. I hereby apologise profusely and hang my tricorn in shame.


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