Sunday, October 8, 2017

Charleville-Mezieres Says Good-bye

Tragedy struck Charleville-Mezieres!   Yes, our young missionaries were withdrawn from our small Branch that had become rather unresponsive to the missionary effort.  As our Mission President Sorensen explained, he has a responsibility to use his resources wisely as he fulfills his responsibility to build the Kingdom.

Missionary resources are truly more scarce in France these days - the number of young missionaries sent to France continues to decline and Senior Couples are few and far between.  We were not the only small branch to lose the young missionaries, but it still hurts.  We are down to five Senior Couples in the entire France Paris Mission now - two are in the Mission office.
Elders Hunter & Crane - leaving Charleville-Mezieres, France
Elders Hunter and Crane caught the 7:10AM train for Paris on Wednesday the 27th of September, 2017.  We certainly miss them as we find ourselves a little more isolated from things and people American and as we no longer have benefit of their good work.  It was always comforting to know there were two kind and service oriented young me we could turn to should we ever need help.  Also comforting and most helpful with the administration of the Branch as they took care of the Sacrament each Sunday, visited and taught members and spoke in meeting often.  We love the young missionaries, especially those we have come to know so well.  We miss them!

Elders Hunter & Crane - leaving Charleville-Mezieres, France
We find it interesting that in September of 1969; while serving as Zone Leader in Charleroi, Belgium, we helped load missionaries and their belongings into a VW bus and transported them to open Charleville-Mezieres to missionary work for the first time.  Then, in September of 2017, we loaded missionaries and their luggage into our car to transport them to the railway station as we closed Charleville-Mezieres to full-time missionary proselyting for the foreseeable future.  

Our members are very concerned that the next step will be to close Charleville-Mezieres as a unit of the Church when Sister Clark and I leave in nine months.  We are not sure how founded their concerns are but the reality is that the possibility exists.  This has been a bit of a distraction for our few faithful members.  In any case we will be saddened to leave when we do.

Premiere Event of the City of Charleville-Mezieres

One of the more remarkable aspects of the small city of Charleville-Mezieres is found in the prolific schedule of events the city undertakes for it's citizens.  We have shared some in the past and others include the Beer Festival, Soup Festival, Saint Nicolas, Marche de Noel, Nuit Blanche, etc.  There is always an event taking place here in town, but the premiere event of all only takes place every other or every third year  -  that is the Festival Mondial des Marionettes.  Charleville-Mezieres is the self proclaimed (perhaps otherwise proclaimed also) world capital of Marionette Theater.  We have a giant marionette and theater, we have a marionnette institute/school, we have the only building especially constructed for marionnette performances and a museum full of marionettes.  Charleville-Mezieres is the world capital of marionette theater and to prove it we hold the Festival Mondial des Marionettes.

We have to is a big deal!!!  For a full week the city is full of foreigners - some here to perform their marionette shows and others to see them.  The streets and places in the central part of town become extremely crowded with street performers and on-lookers.  In addition there are many in-building performances - many for free but still requiring a ticket in order to control the crowd and other more spectacular events for which one must pay and entry fee.

Publicity - Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes

One is able to see just about anything marionette in the streets.  Some are interesting and some not so much so.  Performers come from all over Europe, South America, Asia and we even encountered a group from Vermont in the United States.  By the way, the show from the United States was not one of the better ones we saw - in fact, in our opinion it was in effect a protestation against many of the great problems people find in the world today - climate issues, war, crime, etc.   It was just out of place and not that well done nor fitting.
Argentine Performer - using a Human as Marionette
One of the acts we found rather entertaining was a gal from Argentina who uses a variety of marionette media.  Above she is using a man from the audience as her marionette and below she is using a large doll-like prop.  She was extremely funny, especially for Sister Clark......perhaps her use of some English and American music did the trick.
Argentine Performer - using Doll-like Prop as Marionette
There were several acts in the street where the marionettes were playing instruments and/or singing musical numbers.  Below is a picture of a man and women manipulating a marionette pianist and vocalist.  The detail of their stage and props were outstanding.
Street Performers - Pianist & Vocalist Marionettes
Many of the street performances were very appropriate for younger children and these seemed to draw large crowds.  It was fun to see large numbers of young kids seated on the ground interacting with the marionettes.  Below is a picture of a marionette cat as it plays with the kids.  It was uplifting to see the wholesome nature of some of the performances and to see how much the children enjoyed them.  Many large numbers of children on school field trips came to performances throughout the week.
Marionette Cat interacting with Children
There were several performances on the spooky or dark side.  Most of these we found less entertaining.  Below is Eduard rising from his grave.  A little morbid at times but still drawing large crowds.
Eduard the Marionette Rising from his Grave
We caught an interesting Spanish (the puppeteer) man performing near the Charleville Theater.  Interesting what they can get these marionettes to do - even the Elvis moves.  This marionette (below) was an Entertainer who sang and danced on his make-shift stage.
Spanish Performer - The Entertainer
Below is a picture of a man and wife show (only the man for the instant) interacting with the young children.  The kids wanted to get a little more hands on sometimes than the puppeteers would have preferred; however, they handled those occasions skillfully.  One has to think that on a day in and day out basis some of these performances depend heavily on the interest of children.  We enjoyed these performances as well as any we saw.
Man and Wife Marionette Act Entertaining Children
Near the post office we found a marionette that intrigued us.  We first saw this cat between acts and at rest.  It was the great number of strings and joints to be manipulated that first caught our attention.  We went back later to watch a performance - pictured below.   This cat was extremely life-like in its movements and behaviors.  While we found it all interesting, we had difficulty sticking with an act to its end - once we had ten minutes to appreciate the skill of the performer we found it rather repetitive and moved on in search of another.
Marionette Cat - Very Life-like
Below is one of the first performances we saw......a marionette playing base.  The marionnettiste was extremely skilled in manipulating the marionette to the tune of classical music.  Enjoyable!

All of the street performers depended on the generosity of the crowd - hats were passed into which many coins were tossed.  The performances were generally worth paying for.
Marionette Playing Base
Below is one we never figured out because it was a night performance we never saw.  Still, an intriguing part of the festival - certainly must have been interesting?  We watched as it took several days to put this head up - heavy still structure underneath which then had to be skinned and painted.
Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes???
And yes, the vendors of everything marionette were out in force and a part of the festivities.  For the most part, the vendors reminded us of a troop of gypsies.  There were some very interesting things for sale all the same.  Yes, we broke down and got some simple marionettes for the grandchildren.
Vendors were Included in the Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes
Maubeuge, France Revisited

A few weeks ago, as a diversion on a trip to Stake Meetings in Lille, we took the opportunity to visit another of the cities in which Elder Clark worked as a young missionary.  This time it was Maubeuge, France where we spent time in the Spring and Summer of 1969.

Maubeuge was nearly completely burnt to the ground in 1944 as the Germany armies of World War II retreated back into Germany.  Evidence of a re-built city is found in the picture below where the architecture is much more modern but less interesting than most French cities.  Maubeuge is another small French city that seemingly has fallen on hard times and appears somewhat neglected and less than prosperous.

While the Branch was very small back in 1969, there was one, which is more than one can say today.  The Branch was closed years ago and there are no missionaries working in Maubeuge today. 
Maubeuge, France - Commercial Area
We have been rather disappointed by what we have found in returning to some cities we knew 50 years it was with Maubeuge.  And then to find that one really did not know the city when one was living there is also an interesting experience.
Street Where Missionaries Lived in 1969 - Maubeuge, France
In 1969 the principal church in Maubeuge was still in ruins from WWII bombardments and, as it was one of the few specifics we remembered about Maubeuge, we were anxious to see what had been done to rebuild it.  For ugly!!  It appears they tore down the ancient structure and put up a monstrosity in its place - very disappointed with what we found - pictured below.
Rebuilt Church Saint Pierre Saint Paul in Maubeuge, France 
We don't recall the Chapelle des Soeurs Noires from our time in Maubeuge, but here it is pictured below.  We share this only to make the point that there is not much to see in Maubeuge these days - this was one of the few tourist sites promoted by the Office of Tourism.
Chapelle des Soeurs Noires - Maubeuge, France
We were able to see things in Maubeuge that we had no memory of, even though they were very close to the apartment in which we lived.  We had no recollection that Maubeuge had been fortified, but here you go - fortifications just a few blocks from where we lived.  Some of this area has been turned into a zoo.
Fortifications near Porte de Mons - Maubeuge, France
Nor did we have any memory of a river running through the center of Maubeuge - again just a couple of blocks from where we lived.  These things must not have been important to young missionaries or otherwise one would have retained some recollection........No?
La Sambre River - Maubeuge, France
Coq of the Week

One thing has become clear during the past two months - the coq is more reliable and diligent than are we.   While we took a break from blogging, the coq never vacations - he is constant, ever dependable and faithful.  The coqs we encounter are very inspiring and great reminders of how we must become in our efforts to complete this mortal life successfully.  We hope to stand as firm and persevering as our coqs.

We share two coqs that we found not only inspiring but also very interesting.   The first we have shown before but who was adorned with birds - the coq we presented as "some coqs are for the birds".    He really is one of the more majestic coqs we have found.  He sits atop the Eglise Saint Nicholas in Rethel, France.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Nicholas - Rethel, France
Our second coq hails from Coulommes, France and is perched above the Elise Saint Pierre.  This one has the feeling of being combative and proud - we like his uniqueness.   Regardless of his temperament, he does the job faithfully and reliably.  So it is for each of us.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Pierre - Coulommes, France


  1. Welcome back to the blogosphere! Very interesting post. I've always been fascinated with puppets - both hand puppets like Gignol (from Lyon) and marionettes. We are sorry for the set-backs in the Work. You are a supreme example of courage and faithfulness. Love, the Kennards (separate email to follow.)

  2. Your blog is BACK! I love the updates. Glad you were able to do something other than yardwork/construction/quiet books ;). And it's fun to see the pictures.