The Fête of the Giants in Saumur + a football winge.
Having greeted our latest guests, given them some welcoming drinks and settled them into our gites in the Loire Valley we ambled down to Saumur to watch the Fête des Geants. This was originally instigated after the French World Cup triumph in 1998 when giants walked down the Champs Elysée to universal aclaim. In 2002 they arranged it to coincide with Frances’ expected victory in that years Coupe de Monde, only to be sorely disappointed when the Team failed to qualify from the group. This year the fête has been arranged as a stand alone event, mainly because the chances of France winning this years title seemed totally far fetched. This view was reinforced by the way France’s ageing team just about crawled through their opening games, struggling against the might of the Ivory Coast and Switzerland. .
On the French equivalent of Spitting Image they carefully explained the options before France met Togo in a match they had to win to proceed to the next round; If France win by one goal and Sweden draw they will not go through, if France win by two clear goals they will go through etc. etc., you get the picture. Such was the national disbelief in the effectiveness of their team, that the programme then went on to explain the options for France to get to the final. If the Brazilian team are kidnapped and sold into slavery then France will get to the Semi-Finals, They will beat England or Portugal in the Semis if all the opposing players catch chickenpox and are consigned to the terraces.
And then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, the players start to perform to their real ability and they are in the Final, with a real chance of winning it, taking the whole nation by surprise and leading to scenes of mass elation in the streets. The side effect of this is that the Fête des Geants was held the week before the Final. Tant Pis!
However, the Fête has enough going for it to be a worthy attraction in its own right. It features an hour long procession through the streets complete with floats, men on stilts, 4 meter high giants, (I assume there was someone inside the costumes)! And loads of marching bands and dance troupes
I always find there is always something slightly and delightfuly dotty about most French fêtes and this was no exception. From the float depicting Snow White and the Five Dwarfs. I assume that the EU Working Time Directive even applies to dwarfs and the others must have reached their limit.
Then there was a float which depicted a Sphinx with Tutenkamuns’ head. Not his actual mummified head, that would be much too grisly, but the famous gold death mask. But also, mounted on the float just in front of the Sphinx was something that looked like an old British Rail Signal! I haven’t got a clue what that was about.
In fact as I write this I cannot but think about the possibility of using a real head. You could not use King Tuts’ of course, the museum would never release it. So, you have to use someone else’s, someone who would not really miss it. The obvious solution would be the head of Kilroy-Silk, he rarely uses it, spending most of his time, as he does, talking out of his ass!
But, if we did that, I would lose my primary hate figure who is very important in relieving stress. Sheila uses Sven Gormless Erickson and shouts abuse at him every time he appears on TV. This is very odd as watching football is number 999 in Sheila’s list of things to do. Coming just after standing in a bath and putting her finger in an electric light socket. She cannot even tell you why she hates him. I, on the other hand am quite clear; he is a useless, limp, brain-dead manager who talks an endless stream of b…….! Oh, sorry, I forgot to include the words; overpaid, uninspiring, disloyal, conniving, venal and immoral. And that’s the shortened version. I have left a lot out.
Then, just to make sure that he could not change my mind by doing something vaguely sensible, he leaves us with one of the most outlandish management decisions ever. On a par with the British Airways decision, from a few years ago, to let graffiti artists practise on the tailfins of its aircraft, he tells a schoolboy striker who has yet to appear on the bench for Arsenal to pack his satchel and come to the world cup and play against the best, most accomplished defenders in the modern game. And the incredible thing is he has never even seen this lad play! I will repeat that loudly just in case you missed it. “HE HAS NEVER SEEN THE LAD PLAY”. Of course he has no chance of getting on the pitch. Long John Silver, parrot and all, stood a better chance, and the poor lad spends the time writing an essay entitled, “Wot I Did on my (free) Holidays”. Sven Gormless then says, in his last interview, “Well I took him so he would have some world cup experience which will prepare him for the future’! Yeah, right Sven, bloody wonderful, so we lose this World Cup so that a child, who may or may not prove himself in four years time, can feel slightly more at home down in South Africa by virtue of doing sod all for three weeks in Germany.
He will forget the experience anyway, most lads of that age even forget how to speak.
But I’ve got a better idea, instead of taking just one untried Arsenal player, why don’t we take their whole reserve team to the next World Cup? It is true that we will stand a better chance of collectively catching Leprosy than actually winning anything but think of all the useful experience these young players will gain!! What a Pratt!
Sorry about that folks, seem to have got a bit hot under the collar and gone a bit off track. I am better now, after that nice man in the white coat gave me a cold compress.
So, what was I talking about? Oh yes, the British Rail Sphinx.
Strange as this float was, there was an even weirder thing in the shape of the Belgian Leeks. These were a troupe of guys from a Belgian Leek Society who wore costumes which were white from shoulders to feet with a tall green headdress going into ‘leaves’ at the top, three holes were cut into it for the eyes and mouth. The overall effect was that of a Vegetarian Klu Klux Klan, they probably burn images of Nut Cutlets on the lawns of Meat Eaters. Just to add to the perception of weirdness they played no instruments and did no dancing, apart from some mincing Maypole like skipping, but they were equipped with Tickling Sticks. Yes, I kid you not, Tickling Sticks, as if they had arrived in Saumur via. Knotty Ash.
Doddy was undoubtedly having problems with the taxman again, so he probably persuaded the Diddymen to sell the Belgians a job lot of the now obsolescent Mark 2 stick, having been replaced by the much improved, heat seeking, Mark 3. And did the leeks take to these with a vengeance! mincing up and down and stroking people with their Mark 2s for all they were worth.
If anyone can tell me what that was all about, I would be delighted to hear, I’m totally nonplussed.
Whilst still trying to get my head around the Belgian Leeks the leader of a Caribbean Marching Band suddenly appeared “au terrace” and started to harangue the clients in quite a hectoring tone. Apparently one of his troupe had asked to use the toilet in the restaurant. The waiter had said yes, of course, but the owner stopped her and told her to use the public one across the road. Now, no one but no one uses that particular toilet, even the germs stay out of it! And to tell a troupe member with a huge feathered outfit to go into that cess-pit did seem a trifle unfair, especially as his restaurant was bursting at the seams with people who were specifically eating there to see the procession. Perhaps he had been stroked by a tickling stick! All the eyes of the fifty or so diners fell accusingly upon the Patron who went red and wisely disappeared into the depths of his restaurant. ” Why are you such a miserable, awkward bastard”? I yelled. I didn’t really, of course. But I felt like it. And I won’t shake hands with him again.
The Troupe leader then had to return to his position as he was holding up the procession and a couple of stilt men were finding it difficult to stay upright without being able to move forward.
I never did find out if his colleague finally used the toilet.
Incidentally the stilt men gave a wonderful display of formation dancing on stilts. Superbly done.
Everything then seemed to calm down a little. The rest of the parade was very well done. For the hundreds of families who were there with their children it was a obviously a very satisfying evening and that, at the end of the day, is what it is all about.
On the way out of Saumur we passed the VKKK., loading their gear into a coach. They looked somewhat disorganised and I could not help thinking if they needed a manager. I know just the man…….
PS. A few days later it was the Fête de Rue St. Nicholas and, early in the morning we were sitting outside a bar, having a drink with two Leprechauns complete with green hair, huge,yellow bow ties, tartan coats, bright green trousers and yellow shoes. Inside the bar their mates were playing a rarther slurrrrred version of Greensleaves, 20 metres into the street, their drummer was banging away, obviously playing a different tune altogether. Meanwhile a guy behind me was doing Charlie Chaplin immpressions pretending to stabilise a tree growing out of a litter bin. …….Wonderful, normal service resumed!!!