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A Letter From Win

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-30-2002


pour assister a ma soutenance de these :
to attend the viva voce of my thesis :
tot het bijwonen van de verdediging van mijn proefschrift :
ad assistere alla discussione della mia tesi :
mam zaszczyt zaprosic na rozprawe doktorska nt . :

A La Recherche du Sens Perdu : l’OEuvre de John McGahern

vendredi 29 mars 2002 ( 14h30 )
Friday 29 March 2002 ( 2.30 p.m.)
vrijdag 29 maart 2002 ( 14.30 )
venerdi 29 marzo 2002 ( h 14:30 )
ktora rozpocznie sie 29 marca 2002 roku o godzinie 14.30

Universite de Rennes II – Haute- Bretagne
Campus Villejean
Salle des Theses
6 Avenue Gaston Berger
35043 Rennes
France / Frankrijk / Francia / Francja

ensuite pour feter avec moi l’obtention de mon doctorat, je vous invite a diner au
afterwards, to celebrate my doctorate, I should like to invite you for dinner at
aansluitend nodig ik U uit voor een maaltijd om mijn promotie met mij te vieren in
di seguito per celebrare it mio dottorato, ho il piacere di invitaria all cena preso
Po obronie doktoratu mam przyjemnosc zaprosic na kolacje do restauracji

Restaurant ‘ Le Troquet
19 Quai Gambetta
35260 Cancale

It depends on how I’m a-feelin’.
Bob Dylan, Boots Of Spanish Leather

Last Thursday was only the second time in 10 years that The Father and I have taken off for more then a few hours alone. In the morning, I made bag lunches for The Boy and The Girl and had arranged for Oma and Opa to pick them up at 3.30 from school. All that was left to do was to drive The Baby and all of the paraphernalia needed for a three day stay to Loon, and we were off for Rennes. As we pulled out of Oma and Opa’s driveway, I felt amazingly relaxed : there was nothing and no one I had to take into consideration for the next three days, we could just do what we wanted without fussing about the availability of fresh milk, diaper changes and trying to figure out how long was a reasonable time to expect the kids to sit in the car.

The Fther’s car has a navigation system , named Jane, as in ‘Tarzan’.( Here I have to make a small digression. Saying ” The Father’s car” seems to imply that we have more then one car. Not true. It’s just one of those ‘ boy ‘ things. Our family car, our one and only car is in no way ‘ our’ car. It is “The Father’s car”. ) As we drove out of Loon, he punched in our destination, and Jane gave us the most expeditious route to follow. As one could predict, it was basically banging south in a straight line, and making a right after Paris.

Although Jane has made my job as navigator redundant, I still enjoy following our progress on a map, so shortly before we hit Lille, I pulled out my map. ‘Armentieres‘, I read. St. Omer. Dunkerque. Abbeville.

And being the highly overindulged housewife that I am, The Father ignored Jane’s advice and took a right, so that I could read road signs like ‘ Armentieres’, could scan the scenery for vestiges of trenches ( although I wouldn’t know a drainage ditch from a real trench ), look for old bunkers ( I saw two) and some of those tiny cemeteries – like those around Ypres – which usually sprinkle the landscape of WWI battle sites ( I didn’t spot any on the way down).

We arrived in Rennes at 6.30, hours later then Jane would have brought us, and spent the next hour looking for our hotel : Mummy forgot to bring the address of the Novotel. The Novotel, by the way, was just as I expected : about the only good thing I can say about it was that the beds didn’t have any cooties.

A La Recherche du Sens Perdu : l’OEuvre de John McGahern

All of these months with Mr.Jo have paid off : I was able to keep a polite, interested look on my face for 2.5 hours while Win defended his thesis on a writer I have never read, in a language I don’t understand.


19 of us had gathered to hear Win defend his thesis : an Italian, an Englishman, a Frenchman , his wife from Senegal and their three children, two Polish women, an American ( that’s me), and 8 people from the Netherlands. Once we had ‘hurrahed’ for Win, we climbed into 4 cars and took off for the coast, to party. Hearty.

And we did. After dropping our things off at our hotel in Cancale ( a beautiful fishing village, packed with restaurants and small bed and breakfast type hotels) , we walked over to the restaurant. We had three large booths, and after some shuffling around ( because of the various languages) we had an excellent seafood dinner, accompanied by much red and white wine. The Father and I sat with the guy from England ( who spoke french and english), the Frenchman ( who, it should almost go without saying, spoke only french), his wife from Senegal ( who spoke a small amount of english), and two of their daughters. Win changed tables with each course, so we were able to bullshit with him as well. It was one of those perfect evenings, great food and great conversation.

After we closed down the restaurant, around 10 all of us headed for a bar. It was rather small, but they scooted three tables together for us, behind the ‘dance floor’. We continued our talks, well oiled by calvados or beer or wine until we were the only customers left. All evening they had been playing music oddly reminiscent of disco, and when we realized that we were the only clients left, we called out for different music, for ‘something old’ . What could have been more perfect ? They put on Dylan’s The Freewheeling Bob Dylan.

How I suffered

Did I mention that our room had a sea view, and that in the morning we could see Mont St. Michel ? It was a large attic room, complete with a shower and toilet, and while it wasn’t a Sheraton, it certainly was nicer than the Novotel. And half of the price ( at 45 euro).

Although Friday night had been very late, we decided to get up early: we could lie around in bed for a few hours more or use those extra hours for a slight detour to Omaha Beach on the way home. Waving goodbye to all, we began our trip home. We drove past St.Malo and agreed that it’s stunning walled city was certainly worth a trip back to see.

Omaha Beach

Han and I were hoping to use our ‘saved’ hours to go to Omaha Beach, as Han had never been there. Jane only knows the highways in France, so it was up to me to get us there. My map of France only had the major roads on it as well, so we had to rely upon my memories of 20 years ago, which had been based upon a trip I took there as a child. Then, our family went to Arromanches, and I was told that that was Omaha Beach. It would indeed be too simple for the french to put up a sign that said ‘Omaha Beach’, so we ended up in Arromanches, at Gold Beach ( what do you know). It was a bit disappointing for Han, but we didn’t have enough time to head down to Port-en-Bessin, so we stopped at a butcher’s and bought some sandwiches and headed home, following the most expeditious route- heading for Paris and then shooting up north.


Han : There’s another toll coming up.
Sue : Well, you’re just going to have to break a fifty, I’m not using anymore of my euros.
Han : How many do you have to have ?
Sue : That’s not the point. I just used 4 of them to pay the last toll, if I keep paying, I won’t have any left.

On the first day of the trip, I made a point of cleaning all of my dutch euro ( coins) out of my wallet and collecting the french ones that we received as change in Han’s wallet. I wanted to come home with a shit load of french euros to spread around town, and I did. I must have 70 euro in coins, making my wallet a lethal weapon at the moment.

That’s My Boy

Shortly before we reached Lille, we were stopped by the police and given a speeding ticket. We were driving 176 in a 130 area. Oh well, I suppose it could have been worse.

As Han went through the procedure for paying the ticket, he engaged in polite chit-chat with the officers of the law ( Han can chit-chat with anyone. He is very good at it.) He asked them if it had been a busy day. Mwah, so-so, he was the biggest one they had caught today. Then one of the cops told Han what a great car he had.

That’s my boy.

Yes, I confess : Mummy had a blast. In France, of all places.

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