Sunday, 26 June 2011

Driving to Church

It's been 39 years since I had a driving lesson. I haven't needed one since. I've been driving virtually all my life, manual or automatic transmission. I've even taught my daughter Laura to drive. But there I was, today, feeling as if I was a complete nervous novice. The temperature was a sweltering 31 degrees celsius.
I was driving a large unfamiliar car with everything arranged on the other side of the dashboard. But the worst thing was driving on the French side of the road. It's a lot harder than you'd think. The last time I drove in France (the only time, five minutes worth) was when I collected my ill-fated car for the first time and tried to drive on unlit country roads in an unfamiliar car. I wiped out a wheel and my miserable wallet. I certainly didn't want a repeat performance of that.

This time I had Jean-Claude beside me, in his big BMW, as instructor. He's patient, firm and tries not to get too nervous (he had a couple of reasons to but we got there). I had a tendancy to drive too far to the right and to drive too fast for my competence level (hence my previous accident). However with patience and attention I managed to improve my driving to where I was focused on keeping as close as possible to the centre line and keeping my speed matched to the situation. I SO didn't want to cause JC any problems by damaging his car or him. Next time I'll know better how to kick off. I find JC's car much too big for me but it's automatic, which I prefer. We took the back roads near Ymeray and Gallardon.

After my lesson we stopped off at Gallardon which, as you know, has the remains of a tower that was important during the Hundred Years War between France and England. It turns out it was the French themselves who destroyed the Tower because, at the time, it was in English hands. Near the Tower is the church of Saint Pierre - Saint Paul. It has an interesting history and interior.

The foundations were laid in 1003-1037. Various additions and amendments occured over the centuries and by the time the Tower was destroyed in 1421 with the villagers taking refuge in the church, the bare bones were finished and a bell was installed.

Later the church enjoyed additions, restorations of older work and the ceiling was painted between 1704 and 1711. There have been a number of tempests which have caused major damage eg 1728, 1788, and possibly 1999. The stained glass windows suffered greatly over the centuries. Many of them are missing now-it's too expensive to replace them.
Some of the carved designs and artworks that were set on the floor have been so worn-off over time they have had to be installed into the walls. There's a mix of Gothic and Renaissance design with a touch of Roman at the entrance.

A tiny free museum-exhibition contained some examples of ancient pottery (mostly with broken bits) which have been dug up in the area. It's interesting. Village churches can tell a lot about history and the activities of common people. Gallardon is small but it sacrificed a lot of residents to the First World War. Their roll call is inside the church.

That's the thing about France. Even small places can offer something fascinating to those interested in learning and understanding about life and events in the past.

Later it was time for me to go home. Once again, I'd enjoyed my time with JC. We'd visited his cousin in Mantes for an elegant french dinner where I understood a resonable amount of the conversation with everyone. Very interesting and convivial with champagne, red wine, politics and other key french topics in a beautiful setting. We'd done our individual workouts for fitness and had lunch outside under the umbrella in the heat, I'd had a driving lesson and we'd explored Gallardon. JC's a wonderful person and it's truly sad for me to say goodbye. I wonder if it's the same for him. Already I miss him and am looking ahead to seeing him again.


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