It’s already beginning to get dark, and even though I’ve been up to Caen, further north to Colleville-Sur-Mer and back, it’s like all’s been a dream and I’ve not really done anything.
I got back to the flat 15 minutes ago. All was dark, no sounds from the girls, no lights scraping out under the door frames, no evidence of movement or daily duties being completed. So I open my notebook, and I write.
This morning, I woke after a pretty shit sleep, getting up at 0640 in order to walk to the faraway collège for the trip to Caen. When I arrived, I luckily found the histoire-geo teacher so shamelessly latched onto her to ensure I’d find the buses. There were sixty 3ème (15-year-old) students in total, including those with learning difficulties, and in two coaches we headed north. Although I sat up front with two male teachers (one who attempted English well, and one who nattered in the gallic), I tried to nap, head rattling against the window.
I managed to wake as we pulled into the car park. We waited for thirty minutes to be let into le Mémorial de Caen war museum (it was obviously Normandy’s national collège WWII awareness day). Finally collecting my audio guide, feeling completely like a student, I wandered round the Cold War exhibits (explanations for which I could surprisingly understand in French!) The kids had to fill in a booklet proving their comprehension of the scenes, which they weren’t too happy about. They had only an hour to zoom round the Cold War section, watch a video on the D-Day landings, force down a huge packed lunch (French style) then squeeze back on the bus, direction Omaha beach.
I think I would have been able to appreciate the cemetery more if I hadn’t been with sixty fidgety school kids. Some clearly didn’t give two shits about the fallen, which I thought was very disrespectful and had a hard time bottling my opinions. The scenery was stunning though, and it was humbling to have the beach on my right and a lawn of white crosses on my left.
One astounding thing about the American Cemetery, aside from the expanse and incomprehensibility of the land, is the security. Before entering the visitor centre, you must have your bag scanned and go through an x-ray machine. My mind rewound to my 2009 trip to Georgia, USA, being stopped and stared at customs. “So much freedom, so many rules,” one pessimistic professeur commented.
After all the fighting, challenges, pain – on this grass remained peace. To walk along the paths towards the shore, to see the timeless waves cursing the bruised land, to nevertheless spot spring pushing through the frozen soil: to remember.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.