David Bouchier

One of these days we are going to see La Grotte des Demoiselles. This is an obscurely famous limestone cave in southern France, a big tourist attraction, which we drive past about once a year on the way to somewhere else. Every time we see the sign we say “One of these days…” and perhaps one of these days we will, and perhaps you will too. But probably not. The grotto may be a remarkable sight, but not remarkable enough to overcome the gap between intention and action, and to find a parking space.

Everything moves outdoors in summer, including music. We happen to be in a place where a lot of outdoor performances are going on this season. It's a common sight to see temporary stages being put up in parks or open spaces, ready for the next show. Typically the stages are pretty basic structures, made from scaffolding covered with boards, and about three feet high. From Carnegie Hall to the village square, every performer needs a stage.

There is something special about ancient places and things that are part of our history. The Roman Colosseum, the Alamo, or the Taj Mahal are like time capsules, which is why great efforts have been made to preserve what's left of our past. History is profitable, too. People will cross the world to see certain iconic places, which is why Machu Picchu and Venice are as crowded and busy as Times Square on a Saturday night.

Most of us, I think, remember bits and pieces from our childhood, but not the whole thing. One of the bits I remember is a ritual I shared with my mother three or four times a week. It was called "Going to the shops."

Now, "going to the shops" was not the same as shopping. Shopping was an entertainment, and I never learned to do it properly. But going to the shops was serious.

Tomorrow is Bastille Day, which is impossible to miss if you happen to be in France. There will be parades and patriotic speeches in every town and village, and fireworks and festive dinners too. This year’s celebration will mark the two hundred and twenty-sixth anniversary of the French Revolution, and it has a certain poignancy because the two hundredth anniversary of the battle of Waterloo (which the French lost) came around just four weeks ago.

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