Myriam unlocked the mysteries

Now after six months here in Toulouse I decided this weekend that I ought to learn a little bit more about the history of the city that I have made my home.

So on a totally glorious day weather-wise, I decided to take a tour of one of the most ancient sections of the city. I met with a terribly well-informed guide called Myriam who knew everything – so we had lots in common.

We began in one of Toulouse’s most famous museums – the Mus�e Des Augustins.

I discovered, thanks to Myriam, that before it was a museum it was a monastery and it remains a very good example of Toulousain gothic architecture.

Myriam said: “It became a museum after the revolution. In 1793. In Toulouse the revolution wasn’t so violent but people were killed.”

To this day much of the works of art – found in spectacular grand salons on the first floor – carry the description “saisie r�volutionnaire” which means it was seized during the revolution from someone rich.

On the ground floor is the most important collection in Europe of Romanesque capitols – tops of columns to you and me. These are getting on for a thousand years old and the majority of which were rescued from monastery cloisters which were destroyed in the 19th century to build bigger streets in Toulouse.

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On the more sombre side there is also a collection of funeral monuments. This collection includes a sculpture that once adorned the tomb of the bishop of Rieux – a nearby town.

Myriam said: “This dates from 1333 or 1334 and it is one of the treasures of the museum. All the decoration of the funeral monument was preserved. It is very famous.”

Probably not as famous on the Felixstowe peninsula as me, I hasten to add, but interesting to have it pointed out nonetheless.

After leaving the museum and its collections, Myriam and I walked blinking into the bright sunlight and lit up a cigarette.

Our next stop was another of Toulouse’s other great sites – the great cathedral of St Etienne – St Stephen in English.

Inside we were treated to some Bach on the organ – someone was practising – and Myriam informed me that a lot of people don’t much like the cathedral because it was never finished and doesn’t feel complete. She’s right, it is a bit of an odd shape but impressive nonetheless.

Near the cathedral is the prefect’s palace. Apparently the prefect is not an over-important schoolboy but the representative of the President in the south west of France. Behind his palace, near a car park, are some old ruins.

These are what are left of the ancient ramparts of Toulouse. And it was there Myriam and I returned to the 21st century – it was lunch time.

I was most interested to watch the big news in Britain last week – that an election is coming. I wonder who will win as from over here it looks like it could almost be anyone’s race.

More amusingly, however, was the BBC’s internet coverage of the event. I was entertained to discover that Mr Brown, right, was in what was described as a “cavalcade” to Buckingham Palace at 10:05am – I wonder if he sang a show tune in the back of the Jaguar?

Then, as I watched the news develop, one of the corporation’s reporters added this strange aside: “Incidentally, it is only when one gets an aerial view of London that the true length of a ‘bendy bus’ becomes apparent.”

Thank goodness, I thought to myself, while history is being made in our nation a reporter somewhere is at the heart of the story.

IT is this week, dear readers, that my plain- speaking photographer friend Lucy, my theatrical chum Julian, and a few others will be slapping on the make-up and heading down to the Regent Theatre for the latest production by the Ipswich most Operatic and definitely Dramatic Society – The Full Monty.

Julian, who tells me he is keeping his clothes on throughout, says it will be a good show.

I shall be wishing for broken legs for them all.

MY sister Claire, who enjoys murder mysteries and wants to marry a farmer, has promised to visit me here in France when the weather gets better.

I am most delighted and shall be buying a sofa bed – a significant transaction here in France which will undoubtedly require my passport and various other forms of identification – for guests.

First, however, I am expecting a visit by my mother Sue, who’s currently taking a computer course and enjoys flower arranging in her spare time, and her friend Eve, who likes France. I am planning a trip to Carcasonne – it is where everyone takes their visitors apparently.

It’s not so often I take to the stage nowadays, though as regular readers will know I was once an enthusiastic member of the Felixstowe-based Dennis Lowe Theatre Company.

Nevertheless, despite the lack of a full orchestra and make-up, I found myself in an entertaining mood in one of Toulouse’s hot spots.Indeed, after a few beers, I thought why not. Trouble is, dear readers, apart from a small selection in English, of which none took my fancy, most of the choice was in French. I plumped for Comme D’Habitude – it’s the same tune as My Way – and was joined by a lady whose name I never caught. She helped me place the accents in all the right places.

When I finally struggled to the end and belted out the final Comme d’Habitude, I felt some sense of achievement. And as I faced the final curtain, dear readers, I was pleased to note my rendition warranted a standing ovation, or at least I think I did. The bar was so busy there was nowhere to sit anyway.