Q IS FOR QUIMPER, FRANCE

Q

A STORY OF QUERULOUSNESS IN QUIMPER, FRANCE

‘It’s unusual in that it bends in the middle to match the contours of its location and avoid an area of swamp,’ Agnes read from the guide.

‘Probably couldn’t build it right,’ muttered Archie.

Agnes gave him a withering look and carried on reading from the pamphlet. ‘Some have suggested the odd shape of the cathedral’s inclination to the left as representing Christ’s head leaning to the left on the cross.’

Someone tutted and shooshed in Agnes’ direction as her commentary disturbed the solemn peace in the cathedral. Unhindered she opened her bag and after a fair amount of rustling found the boiled sweet she had been searching for. ‘Want one?’ she offered it to Archie.

Archie shook his head and left her to follow the guidebook round the building. As he walked away he heard the crinkling of the wrapper being unfurled and caught the grumbles of those seated near to Agnes.

It wasn’t that Archie wasn’t impressed by Quimper cathedral, it was perfectly fine as a grand gothic monument, it was just that he had lost count of the many churches and cathedrals and grand old buildings he had been dragged round over the last fortnight.

Agnes had been insistent on booking the holiday. ‘Who knows what hoops we’ll have to jump through to get to France this time next year,’ she said, referring to the ongoing and unending chaotic process that was Britain leaving the European Union. Archie was fairly sure that whatever the outcome, they would still be able to vacation anywhere in Europe, but it was easier to go along with Agnes when she set her mind to something.

They had shared many enjoyable breaks in France before, however, they had stuck to the main cities: Paris; Nice; Marseilles. This trip was different. For a start it was a coach tour which meant they were on the travel company’s timetable and itinerary and were stuck with the group of fellow travellers crammed into the bus with them.

Agnes had, of course, struck up a number of friendships along the way with other couples, whether they desired her company or not. Archie had resolutely stayed in the background, speaking only when required to do so out of politeness. Occasionally he spotted the look of sympathy directed his way from other passengers as Agnes volubly gossiped with them. Not that any individual on the tour was particularly objectionable, it was more that collectively the group of pensioners and retirees reminded Archie of how old he had become.

He thought back to his youth, when he had first visited France he had been in his early twenties. He had jumped on a ferry from Dover, hired a car and toured Brittany and Normandy, with a final carefree stay in Paris, and all the romance that that city imbued. This was before he had met Agnes of course, and he never did tell her of his hedonistic fortnight with Berenice.

Ah, Berenice. There had been nothing like that on this holiday. Quimper was to be their final stop before heading back to England.

‘Come on, Archie,’ he heard Agnes call across the hushed cathedral. ‘Time to get back on the bus.’

Archie sighed and headed back to the grand entrance doors. Age rather than Brexit would make this the last time he would see France, or Europe, but for the future generations that were to follow, he hoped that the opportunity to explore the wonders of different cultures and societies would not be inhibited.

‘Coming, dear,’ he mouthed back at the beckoning Agnes. He looked forward to resting his feet on the coach and falling asleep as they trundled back to Calais and the English Channel.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s catching up with some regular characters from my blog fiction in Quimper, France – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

To read more stories featuring Agnes and Archie, visit here: THE AGNES AND ARCHIE STORIES.

87 responses to “Q IS FOR QUIMPER, FRANCE”

  1. That was something he shared with Berenice- wonder what Agnes would say if she got heed. https://akswrites.com/2018/04/19/que-sera-sera-atozchallenge-blogchattera2z/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure they’ve been together for so long now she would understand it was before he met her 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thank you for the wry smile. I look forward to reading some more of you A-Z adventures. I went to India with an organised tour, it seemed to be the only way I would get to see some tigers in the wild. Indian trains are quite something.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Something many of us (of a certain age) can relate to! 😉

    Like

  4. This reminded me of the Topdeck tour I was on, when I went to France. I was the oldest on board and boy, didn’t I feel it?! Great story

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sarah, I’m sure you fitted in with those youngsters 😉

      Like

  5. Ah, I was wondering when you’d be bringing Archie and Agnes into this series. Nice, quirky story, Iain. Loved the bit of backstory to Archie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you should introduce Agnes to Keith’s friend Rosey 😀

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh yes, they would get on wonderfully well 🙂

        Like

    2. Thank you – they had to make an appearance of course 🙂

      Like

  6. Poor old Archie has the patience of a saint! I only live 50 miles or so across the water from France and the thought of not being able to pop over for lunch, as I often do, is awful!

    A-Z of My Friend Rosey!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s hoping they sort something out so you still can without being frisked by the immigration services!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Keith,
      Popping over for lunch in France seems like a dream although I was there for 6 weeks many years ago. It’s along way from Sydney to Paris and even more expensive!
      Best wishes,
      Rowena

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Rather sad, yet often true. At least he has his memories. Excellent, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A full life of them. Thanks Jennie.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. France is one country I would love to visit. Somehow it has eluded me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely worth visiting, I could spend every holiday there.

      Like

  9. Oh my this trip sounded quite torturous on poor Archie; wonder where he is heading next.

    Q is for Quirky Roald Dahl #atozchallenge

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think he would like to just head home to a comfy bed! Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a lovely little tale 🙂 I would be ready to rest my feet on the coach too if I was Archie. Sounds like an odd design of cathedral (having only seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail yesterday, at the mention of swap I expect Sir Lancelot at any moment :)).
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yes Monty Python would have fun with a wonky cathedral 🙂

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    1. Thank you Seema 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My trips to England and France were similar to Agnes and Archie’s but, unlike poor Archie, I eagerly studied every bit of architecture I could lay my eyes on and every painting and sculpture too. Here in America, we do not have anything nearly as old as in Europe and I wanted to drink it in while I had the chance. I was a bit odd at thirteen (and before then and now) so I spent a lot of time educating my mother on every scrap of knowledge I had on art and architecture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do remember being on holiday in Rome and catching the American tourists making comments, being astonished about how old everything was. Being from Europe it was nothing new to me (although Rome is magnificent), but it is easy to forget how little of America was built up only a couple of hundred years ago. And the old architecture is amazing, I’m with you on that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Quimper, Brittany even 😉 I haven’t been back to the homeland in nearly three years, this was fun to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope I did it proud for you Franck 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, I was there again 😉 Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Fun! I liked the bit where Agnes got shushed for reading aloud from the guidebook. I’ve embarrassed my husband doing that several times!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, thanks for reading and commenting Joy 🙂

      Like

  14. I know this couple.
    (Nicely done as always!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all know a couple like this – thank you 🙂

      Like

  15. Well, too much of something can definitely be a drudgery. I had an experience when I went to a flower show. I love flowers but after I got dragged around for more than half a day with a guide explaining everything about each flower including its scientific name and so on I was happy to head home finally. I sympathize with Archie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, you are right, everything in moderation 🙂

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  16. Agnes struck up friendships whether they desired her company or not. I’ve met a few people like that! Thanks for bringing Agnes and Archie on this adventure too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet, glad you enjoyed catching up with them 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Got to love Agnes and Archie. I must admit not totally understanding the issue, though. Tourist money spends like any other type.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you mean the issue of travelling from Britain to Europe? Well, we ‘re not sure how it will be resolved, but at the moment, as members of the EU we can travel from Britain to EU countries without needing Visas or other paperwork, we’re covered by EU Health insurance and other benefits, and we could go to live and work in any other EU country too. Once we leave, we will no longer have the right to do that, so it will become potentially more complicated, and definitely more expensive to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One of the benefits of hobnobbing with a multinational group of authors is that I get to sample other cultures and the politics of other nations.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly, it seems a shame to put up barriers that would make that exchange more difficult, but we shall see.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. We all tend to circle the wagons (American idiom) when we feel threatened.

            Liked by 1 person

  18. Poor Archie. Lovable Agnes (unless you’re sitting next to her on that coach!)
    I may be too much of a dreamer but I sincerely hope Brexiting will spare the free movement of tourists (at least). Watch and see, as they say. So let’s see.
    I’m curious about your process Iain. How did you pick the names of cities/spots you’ve used in this challenge?
    Q is for Quotes on my fridge door in Qatar

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    1. I sincerely hope free movement is not affected, but the British government seem to be dead set against it at the moment, which is a travesty. I picked a place to fit each letter first, and narrowed down one for each country – Q was tricky, and Quimper was about the only one I could find in Europe, so that had to be Q, which ruled out France from the other letters (alas, no trip to Paris!). Some I knew from the start – Glasgow is my home city so had to pick that one for the British story. By a process of elimination I managed to get one city or town from each country – plus a couple of border towns so i could fit 28 countries into 26 stories! Took a bit of planning 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! That’s really impressive and inspiring Iain. Thank you for the hard work: it’s been a pleasure visiting these places through your stories.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Loved Archie’s backstory. Great write as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ah yes, the quieter spouse. Still waters run deep. I bet he’s really happy with her, although he might not admit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Liz, you are right, they are happy and have reached an age where they know how to tolerate each other’s annoying habits!

      Like

  21. I like how you narrate, especially the details which make the story so real. It seemed as if I’m watching a video clip from their life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, very kind 🙂

      Like

  22. A very fun story, Iain.
    I admire Archie’s patience. 🙂 wonder how old they might be!
    I hope to visit France, someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely worth the effort to visit. They’re both retired, I’d say somewhere in late 60s – that’s how I imagine them most of the time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Love Agnes and Archie, I can picture them so clearly. Thanks for sharing!

    https://katseaholm.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/q-is-for-quiet/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kat, they’ve been appearing on my blog for a couple of years now, like old friends 🙂

      Like

  24. I think he’s having some fun even if he is a bit curmudgeonly. How can you not when traveling? I’ve done a few bus tours and they do a downside but at least you get to visit a lot of places. I tend to like smaller, adventure type tours although Agnes and Archie are probably a little old for those type of trips. Weekends In Maine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course he is really, and of course he and Agnes couldn’t live without each other 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Once upon a time in a previous vocation, The Powers That Be discovered that it would be cheaper to transport 3 x 50 seater coach loads of us to a centre near Lille than to have the conference in the UK. From Wisbech, my starting point, that would be around 290 miles and nearly 6 hours without messing around for other pick-up points. We were timed to leave at silly o’clock in the morning – from memory about 05.45. And from the time we got on the coach to the time it stopped at our destination the woman in the seat behind me Did Not Stop Talking! I could hear her even when I was dozing – sleep was impossible – and, bad enough though it was for me I felt really sorry for the woman sitting beside her!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She wasn’t called Agnes by any chance, was she? At least it wasn’t a ruined holiday and you didn’t have to pay for the pleasure. Thanks for reading and sharing.

      Like

  26. I loved the onomatopoeia in this piece, but then I might be biased considering my A to Z theme this year. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you Jen, I try to run the alphabet theme through all the stories, part of the fun.

      Like

  27. Glimpses of yesteryear’s images down memory lane, just off to the right… such a sweet story of past and present love, Iain!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I was kind of wondering if we were going to learn that Berenice was on the tour bus with them. Alas, the story had to end. Well done once again, Iain.

    Emily In Ecuador

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing so dramatic, just the wistfulness of memories here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Wowsa! Archis and Agnes make a come back! :-)) I’ve been waiting with bated breath for so long, Iain. And I never realised they had aged so much in all this time. I really dig Varad’s suggestion of introducing Agnes to Rosey. They would make quite a pair, don’t you think? I wonder what Keith has to say about this. :-))))

    https://natashamusing.com/2018/04/r-is-for-reminiscing-the-yesteryears-atozchallenge/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Perhaps Rosey could go with Agnes on her next holiday and Archie could stay home for a bit of peace and quiet!

      Liked by 2 people

  30. Archie has only himself to blame. He could stand up to Agnes and say “enough bloody cathedrals, I’m going to have a coffee/beer and sit and watch the world go by”. I do know a henpecked husband like him who tries to keep the peace, although there are occasional huge rows. They seem happy enough. I suppose there is always one partner whose view is “happy wife/husband, happy life”. The alternative is probably divorce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Archie is at an age where he has made his peace with it and accepts Agnes with all her faults – and realises it’s easier not to argue! Thanks Linda.

      Like

  31. Urgh! A coach tour – I imagine that must be absolute hell on earth – and I actually really like people and will happily talk to anyone. I feel for Archie. First story where you’ve directly linked the departure … and you’ve gone for the protagonist with the wearied acceptance. Nice!

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, the most direct link so far – wearied acceptance is about as much as I can manage as well.

      Like

  32. Some secrets lay deep down somewhere, hibernating only to be awakened by the slightest nudge. Loved this sepia toned flashback.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we all have these moments from our younger years that surface later on in life.

      Like

  33. Hmm…in spring a young man’s fancy turns to love – or so I hear.
    Secret crushes…dalliances – can’t wait to read what’s waiting for me as I wind through your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes to be young and in love 🙂

      Like

  34. “Coming, dear”. What attracted her to him back when they were young? Still, I bet they deeply love each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course they do, a lifetime has passed since they first met. Thanks Alana

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  35. Agnes and Archie are a wonderful couple. Great story Iain. Very fluid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dan – they certainly are.

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  36. These two are so relatable as a couple. Relationships, ultimately, are about compromises in the real world, or they just can’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I hurt for Archie! He seems so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe just tired, he’s not had a bad life after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. Hi Iain,
    I’m glad I took the train as a sprightly 22 year old backpacking through Europe. A coach tour feels so claustrophobic. I think Archie might take off for a weekend to join his friend in Rome. Much better scenery than on the bus.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I agree, he would love a few quiet moments in the sun and with a nice drink!

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Such a lovely portrait of the pair. I’m with Archie in hoping European travel will be as easy and open after Brexit. I imagine Agnes would ride roughshod over anyone who stood in her way if she were to go back though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true, she wouldn’t let some silly new regulations get in her way 🙂

      Like

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