The whole of France has been in mourning this week after the death on Tuesday night of its most famous rock star, Johnny Hallyday. For the past three nights the news has been devoted to stories about him and his life.

Johnny Hallyday

He was born to a Belgian father in Paris as Jean-Philippe Léo Smet (15 June 1943 – 6 December 2017). He was better known by his stage name Johnny Hallyday which he took from a cousin-in-law from Oklahoma who performed as Lee Halliday. The latter called Smet "Johnny" and had become a father figure, introducing him to American music. Hallyday’s career as a rock and roll and pop singer and actor spanned 57 years, completing 181 tours, he had 18 platinum albums, and sold more than 110 million records worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists of all time

Live à la tour Eiffel in 2000, attracted an audience of 500,000 and 9.5 million television viewers (the show was broadcast live on French TV). Yet he was virtually unknown outside France. I knew the name and his fame but never listened to him singing. Almost all the French people I know have a copy of his music.

His funeral service on Saturday was like the death of royalty in Britain and to the blast of electric guitars, the revving of Harley-Davidsons, applause and tears, France bade an emotional farewell to 74-year-old Johnny Hallyday, 

The centre of Paris ground to a halt as the wave of national grief that had overwhelmed the country following his death finally broke.The police said a million fans had lined the route of the funeral procession, which was accompanied by Hallyday’s band playing live, as it made its way from the Arc de Triomphe along the Champs-Élysées to Place de la Concorde and on to the church of La Madeleine.

At La Madeleine three French Presidents were in attendance and the current President, Emmanuel Macron gave a moving speech part of which said: 

“Yes, this December Saturday is sad, but you have to be here for Johnny because from the beginning Johnny was there for you. In moments of your life one of his songs translated something you had in your heart … an indefinable humanity that made us feel less alone. That’s how Johnny came into our lives … he became a necessary presence, a friend, a brother.”

It is difficult to believe that a rock star any where else would attract such adulation and such grief at his death. But, this is France and they work to their own rules! An interesting side line is that the funeral service took place in a catholic church, with a catholic service. As France has strict rules about the separation of the state from religion Monsieur Macron was careful that he should not make the sign of the cross as he was there officially as President.

The other thing that has gone crazy this week has been the weather and on one day somewhere in France there appeared the whole variety of weather. Mrs. Parish, who is a great student of the weather, always watches the French news followed by the weather. The weather presenter is just great and very French. She is called Évelyne Dhéliat and is very expressive both verbally and with her arms.

Madame Meteo

She is known as “Madame Meteo” and has been presenting the weather on TF1 for over 40 years. She is also immaculately dressed and looks as if she is off out for dinner after the weather slot. On Thursday she told us that there would be a “complete panoplie du temps” full panoply of weather across France on that day including high winds, driving rain and snow with blizzards and avalanches in the mountains but the South of France would have some dry and sunny weather. She talks of “perterbations” for cloudy and changeable weather and “giboulees” for sleet. She also talks with great enthusiasm and very quickly as she has only a short spot. It is sometimes a bit difficult to follow but you just have to listen out for the key phrases and watch the weather chart!

So, this week, here, we have had a little bit of snow but mostly cold weather, with high winds and today heavy rain. It has meant a lot of indoor jobs. The good side of this is that Mrs. Parish has been making sausage rolls and cheese straws for me to taste. And very good they are too.

In a lull in the rain we went out to the Christmas market in nearby Ambrieres this afternoon. The publicity promised craft stalls and various local products as well as gallettes and hot wine. There were also rides to be had on a “Caleche” a sort of horse and cart affair. What they didn’t tell us was that there would be entertainment. This took the fairly normal woman juggler on stilts to a rather bizarre juggler on top of a very large ball which he walked on and rolled it around the town square. It was amazing to watch and incredible that he did not fall off. 

French jugglers

We managed to buy some of the local craft products and more impressively bought some hand made chocolates from our local baker, who is also a “chocolatier”. The local school was also there selling home made cake to raise money for school trips and so we just had to but some lemon cake. We had to try the lemon cake with a nice cup of tea as soon as we got home and it was very nice. Although I was very quick to point out that it was not as nice as Mrs. Parish’s cakes!

The lull in the rain at least allowed the cats to be fed in the dry. They are not liking the cold and wet weather and there seems to be the smell of mutiny in the air when the cats are not allowed in for extra warm up time despite their plaintive tapping at the window. I will remind them of how good life is for them when they get their supper which today is left over veal in a nice gravy. How many French cats would have that I will tell them!

Anyway, enough for this week and before it rains I may need a quick trip to the wine cave to get some supplies in for tonight. We bought some nice French bread from the market and this will go nicely with some French cheese and a glass or two of red wine and an evening in front of the log fire.

Bon weekend