Success and disappointment

On Tuesday 22nd I was finally able to get into the Mémorial du Souvenir museum in Dunkirk at the third attempt. Readers of the MCoB blog will remember our late arrival last year, and on the Spring expedition I was scuppered by the museum’s being closed for the winter season.

This time the gates were flung wide so in I went and handed over the necessary euros to the gent at the desk.

Mémorial du Souvenir, Dunkirk

Mémorial du Souvenir, Dunkirk

Note how the flags are flying stiffly to attention in quite a strong breeze.

Perhaps surprisingly, the first displays related to Worl War 1, and one of the display cases house what has become known as “trench art” – pieces of discarded equipment such as shell cases crafted into something useful or decorative. I suppose it’s turning swords into ploughshares, and such items (many of which are intricately worked) sometimes turn up on the TV show “Bargain Hunt”.

Trench Art 1
Trench Art detail

Trench Art detail

Then the story of Operation Dynamo was told. It included a film show, some newspapers of the time,

Newspapers dated 31st May 1940.

Newspapers dated 31st May 1940.

maps,

Maps

displays,

Displays

contemporary photographs showing the devastation and carnage,

Photograph
Photograph 2

dioramas,

Diorama

and many artefacts.

Artefact 1
Artefact 2

Items still turn up from time to time:

Finding of truck part
Truck part

Eventually it was time to leave and bid a fond farewell to the two gentlemen manning the enquiry desk.

Guides

Note what the gent on the left is holding in his hand. After having exchanged a few words with him on the way in (including “Are you a teacher?” etc; it must be written on my forehead, along with “Englishman”), he presented me with the facsimile paper you see him holding, a French paper since I “speak such good French”. Well, I do my best with what I learned 50+ years ago. A highlight of the trip, I have to say – everyone likes a compliment.

And so to the disappointment. The 4 years at Bothal Middle School which ended in March were 4 good and happy years. Having worked in the Food Technology Department my diet has changed considerably, working on the assumption that “if an 11-year-old kid can do it …” One of the French staples I was introduced to was the Croque Monsieur, a fairly simple concoction of ham, cheese and tomato.

Whilst preparing for this trip I used Google Streetview to do a bit of research. There, in Bray Dunes where a lot of Operation Dynamo happened, was a brasserie.

Croque Monsieur 1

In case you missed it, here’s a close-up of the signage:

Croque Monsieur 2

See that? Croque Monsieur, as I live and breathe. So for the past few months I’ve been dreaming of and drooling at the prospect of an authentic Croque Monsieur eaten on (not off) its native soil.

I therefore instructed Lori the SatNav Lady (who, it has to be said, has behaved impeccably this trip) to deliver me to the doorstep, which she did. I parked the car, strolled over and took a seat at a vacant table. Not long after the garçon shimmied over, so I put on my most winning smile and said “Un Croque Monsieur, s’il vous plaît”. Although my French is not all that good, I did manage to understand from his repy that “we don’t not ‘ave any o’that ‘ere”.

Imagine the shock. The best I could do was to ask him to let me have the menu he had brought over, but after studying it carefully I came to the conclusion that it was Croque Monsieur or Lidl sandwiches. Lidl won.

In all fairness, the establishment seems to have changed substantially since the Google car went by. Here’s what my dashcam recorded as I arrived, and you can see the difference for yourself.

Croque Monsieur 3

I’m still looking.

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