Spring has finally put in an appearance and, after January’s sub-zero temperatures and February’s perpetually grey skies, life feels a little brighter as a result. (The fact the end of term is just over two weeks away may also have something to do with that, but I digress.) Grassy verges in the Parc de la Tête d’Or are covered in swathes of golden daffodils, bees are buzzing amongst the blossoms, and primroses, forget me nots and daisies are abound.
Not so long ago, I joked to one of the secretaries – the one who I know on a first name basis – that the tail end of Lyon’s winter is akin to a British summer. On February 1st, it was a balmy 16°C; I could happily have worn shorts, but for the fact I was teaching and that probably wouldn’t have looked all that professional. (The fact I’m often mistaken for a student by administrative staff is beside the point.) Temperatures are climbing steadily upward, and at this rate I’ll be spending afternoons in the park reading my books sooner than I had anticipated.
You can take a Brit out of Britain, but you can’t take Britishness out of a Brit. In other words, as Michael McIntyre astutely noted, complaining is our national sport – be that whinging about the weather (wholly justifiable here, it’s -7°C in the mornings), lamenting the lack of cheddar cheese in the supermarket (sorry, but emmental is just rubber masquerading as cheese) or fussing over the French aversion to queues (a near-constant source of frustration). The highly-anticipated Vacances de Noël were a welcome respite from all of the above: England was positively balmy compared to freezing France; cheddar cheese was in steady supply; and queues formed naturally. (This is all intended in a very tongue-in-cheek manner; for all my complaints, I do still love France.)
The start of December heralded the end of term – or rather the end of teaching, for there were still piles of marking to come and several surveillances (sleep-inducing invigilating – which ironically derives from the Latin word vigilare meaning ‘to stay awake’). Instead of toasting the end of term with a glass of Côtes du Rhône, I celebrated by binge-watching The Crown (which in my defence I had almost finished anyway), Paranoid and Luther on Netflix.
Last weekend, the Fête des Lumières returned to Lyon: windowsills were illuminated with flickering candles in glass jars, the streets were bedecked with strings of festive lights (and lanterns!) and eclectic light-and-sound installations took over the façades of the city’s key landmarks.
November kicked off with 25°C sunshine in sunny southern France, and is ending with sub-Arctic temperatures here in Lyon. The leaves in the park have gone from lush greens to fiery oranges and reds to non-existent; the streets are now bedecked with fairy lights, an enormous Christmas tree complete with giant bears is the new centrepiece of the Part Dieu shopping centre, and the Christmas markets have opened. Christmas is well and truly on its way – and the festive-themed lessons have begun before it’s even hit December.
France, 1943. In Lyon, amidst the roundups, barbarism and inquisitions, the French Resistance was gaining ground. Losing faith in Pétain and his politics, the Lyonnais turned to the clandestine resistance movement, a lifestyle fraught with risk.
Montluc ceased to be a military prison in February 1943, at which point the Gestapo transformed it into an interrogation centre, prison and internment camp. For many, it was a holding pen prior to being transferred to Drancy; for others, it was to be their final resting place. Today, the Mémorial National de la Prison de Montluc is open to the public, offering a heart-wrenching insight into the fate which awaited those who sought to free France from the German Occupation.