Monday, September 16, 2013

French Horns

One of the local lads has the habit of announcing his arrival from afar by playing Dixie on his car horn – something that started with Boss Hogg and the Dukes of Hazzard and should have ended with them. 

But there are other occasions when the sound of a horn – or even a whole orchestra-worth - is welcome. 

On Saturday there was a wedding – the first we’ve seen in our tiny little church. 

You know when there’s a wedding happening somewhere  nearby, because all the guests and the bride and groom drive around the locality tooting and parping.  The cars have bits of gauze on wing mirrors and aerials, so that should you rush out ready to shake a fist at the disturbers of the peace, you realise your error and wave instead. 

There’s a civil ceremony, and a church one; and between the two there is a lot of noise to be made, and joy to be shared. In times gone by, the bride and groom might have been carried aloft by their friends and paraded through the village, so this is the modern version. They go into the church for a short ceremony, and emerge for photos, and perhaps go into the Salle de Fêtes for a couple of hours, and then off they all go again, horns blaring. 

It’s very exciting and good-natured, and it’s an invitation to share in the event even if you don’t know them – though, this being Brittany, and close-knit, you probably do. 

On Sunday morning, the Chasse was about. They are allowed out to play with their guns on Sundays and Thursdays in our commune, so you know which days not to go walking across the fields dressed in fur. They have their hunting horns, which, by and large, the dogs ignore, especially if they can dash across a road in front of a passing car and frighten ten years off the driver’s life instead. Still, it’s the traditional note of Autumn. 

The nature of the land here is such that you can hear things coming for miles, especially when they make a lot of noise. So in the afternoon, alerted by approaching sound, we dashed up to the road to wait, and our patience was rewarded by a cavalcade of old cars.  There were a couple of real veterans, but mostly they were all from the 50s and 60s. A Mini, a Frog-eyed Sprite, a Triumph, numerous Renaults, Peugeots, and Citroens, 2CVs of course, a few boxy Mercedes, some khaki Jeeps, a Caravelle; there were two or three huge American cars, white-wall tyres and chrome enough to blind, and lots of little round utility ones like Morris Minors but even more minor. People were smaller when they were built. Cramming four modern adults inside makes one appreciate the Breton fondness for the sardine tin.

There must have been 40 or 50 cars in all, all to be greeted with a wave and a smile – because it’s infectious, all this excitement. It’s people enjoying themselves in their own treasured vehicles, sharing the magic of old-fashioned motoring on a sunny afternoon, stirring some memories, and inviting us to be part of it. 

You will rarely, outside of the cities, hear a car horn sounded in anger; but you’ll hear it often sounded in fun.  I know which I prefer.

© lms 2013

1 comment:

  1. Car rallies - two memories. One 44 years ago when we watched the London to Brighton Veteran run and OH saw the 1914 vehicle he had first driven as a child of 11. We followed. It broke down. Oh joy! He got to help while a passenger drove me and baby (I didn't drive then) in our car to the competitors enclosure in Brighton.
    Second memory - my grandsons "collect"minis, and I told Dylan when I saw 5 classic ones here. "That's 10 points, Nan - I only got 4 for 4 modern Minis today". Result!