(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Q" is for "quarrel")
Welcome to another in the exciting series titled “Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures.”
This week: My participation in the French Revolution.
No, not that one, not the one in the 1700s. The more recent one, back in 1962. Didn’t know there was a French Revolution in ’62? Well, there was, or just about; it got snuffed out at the last minute. And I was there.
A bit of background. When WWII ended, there was a general thrust for independence on the part of various geographical possessions throughout the world. The major powers lost most of their colonies.
France lost Indo-Chine – Vietnam – one of its two most important colonies. And French leaders were seriously resolved that the other, Algeria, would remain French at all costs. You see, Algeria was different. It was not just a colony; it was legally classified an integral part of France.
Yet around 1960 many felt that it was time for Algerian independence. And the President of France, our old friend Charles de Gaulle, was suspected of getting ready to grant it.
This threatened French political right-wingers. So there was quite a quarrel going on between the right and the left, occasionally a violent quarrel. A group of generals actually formed an army, the OAS, the “Organization of the Secret Army,” to assassinate de Gaulle and take over the country. They planned a real revolution.
They got things boiling by setting off bombs, “plastiques,” planted in cafes and such places throughout the country. At the right moment, with the President killed, thousands of OAS paratroopers would drop from the sky and take over all governmental agencies.
France would cease being a republique and would become a military dictatorship.
It was in 1962 that young Berowne, somewhat ignorant of the above, showed up to shoot a film to be titled “One Man’s Paris.”
I thought it odd that folks in the city were constantly looking skyward, and that there was a lot of talk about “plastiques.”
I had gone to a place to rent a battery for my camera. All they had was a really ancient one; I think it must have been one of the first professional motion-picture batteries ever built. It was an unsightly wooden, clumsily put-together item, about the size of a shoe box, with wires for the camera connection.
One day after a morning’s work, I stopped in a café and took a coffee break. I was getting used to French coffee – though that takes time, believe me. I placed my ragged-looking camera battery under one of the tables and…
Suddenly the patron rushed in and shouted, “Plastique!” and the whole joint, all the customers, rushed full tilt out the front door.
As I sat there, pondering over this development, a couple of gendarmes ran in and escorted me out of the place too. How they could have thought that crummy-looking wooden shoe box was plastique was beyond me, but I guess they were taking no chances.
Anyway, I convinced them the device was a camera battery and that I was a de Gaulle supporter from way back.
Speaking of whom, the OAS later set up an elaborate squad of snipers and machine-gunners at a special intersection to get the Prez as he rode by. His car was riddled by bullets, but Citroen had provided a special vehicle and neither de Gaulle or his wife were hit.
With the President still alive and well, the Second French Revolution just sort of fizzled out.