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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Food, France and a man called Ron

Poitrines de poulet.

I know NOW, but I forgot the word for breast (as in chicken) while I was at the boucherie in Segrie Fontaine the other day. At the time I had two options: direct the butcher`s attention to my own breasts, by touching them, (would I cup a breast in each hand? Point at them with my finger? Subtly brush my hand against one with a raised eyebrow?) and hope he didn`t get the wrong idea.

Or....I could simply opt for the chicken thighs,completely change the recipe plan for dinner that night, and beat a hasty retreat.

So, blushing profusely and irritated at my forgetfulness; I took the second option; paid, and backed out of the door. My guests were none the wiser, and scoffed the lot.

One of them was Margaret, and, amnesia forgotten, we switched that night to remembering Ron.

He was a great bloke, her late husband. Entertaining, caring, incredibly clever and a joy to be with. He died earlier this year and is so sorely missed--not just by his family and friends in England, but by people in the tiny Normandy village of Breel where he`d been holidaying for more than twenty years.

Ron was fascinated by the tale of three British airmen, who were killed in action on August 8th 1944 when their Wellington crashed at Breel. He spent many, many months painstakingly researching their lives and families so that there could be a lasting memorial to these young men in the village, and to a fourth airman who died later that year.

He managed to trace their relatives and bring them together from all over the world to join a poignant memorial service to them on August 8th 2008. It was a moving, bitter-sweet occasion, with grieving family members supported by villagers and expats. There were readings in French and English, smart uniforms and medals, a few tears, and some smiles too at the French national anthem firing off on the loud speaker at the wrong moment, but that added to the charm of the occasion.

And on every August 8th since then, flowers have been laid at that little memorial in Breel as a mark of respect.

It happened this year too, but without the wonderful man who`d helped bring the memorial, and that special act of remembrance to fruition. So seven of us gathered at 11am on August 8th to support Margaret as she laid flowers at the memorial. Martin Weston, who`d worked so hard alongside Ron during his research, read a poem and then invited us back for coffee.

There were cheese scones, rich tea biscuits, some friendly banter and a chance to check out Martin and Linda`s chickens and sheep. It was a lovely morning.

When it was time to leave, I went off for a wander through the village that Ron Vickers loved so much. I pushed open the creaking door of the tiny,16th century village church and stepped out of the August heat into the cool stillness of this simple, beautiful building. And because it seemed right, I dropped some euros in the box and lit a candle for Ron, and for the fallen airmen .

You can struggle to remember the right word sometimes. But some things...and some people....should never be forgotten.

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