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 thoughts on “Q IS FOR QUIMPER, FRANCE

  1. 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

    1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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. 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.

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      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. 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 🙂

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  5. 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

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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.

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    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.

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  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

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