Wiseppe, Val de Meuse, NE France

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Not on many people’s itinerary but for me a rare opportunity to drop in on an old friend/work colleague and introduce Ruth to Terry Lee-Wright, formerly one half of Green Ginger UK, puppeteers extraordinaire – the other being Chris Pirie, who lives and works in Bristol – but now one half of Les Green Ginger France, the other half being his lovely wife Laurence (Lo).

I hadn’t seen them for 6 years – then on my way to Sweden, to present a commercial idea to sweet manufacturers, Lakerol, featuring Franco Bassetti and onwards to visit my oldest brother, Phil and his Swedish wife Eva. (I had worked with Green Ginger in various guises, notably as part of a festival put on by Carrefour in 1994 at all their major stores in France – we got lucky with Paris!)

Terry gives us a guided tour of their extraordinary home – an 11 metre tall converted barn, with spacious living quarters and a beautiful long garden, complete with shaded bar! Stepping into the work- space, with its green-screen and puppet workshop, is like entering an alternative universe: characters and posters from past shows seem to cover every inch of floor and wall space and yet there is still ample room for work benches, props and storage. The timing of our visit is ideal, as they are about to show a film they had made with nearby school children, to be followed by a performance of their current opus Petit’Tom, in a village some 30km away.

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There is a tremendous buzz in the hall as we are all drawn into the strange world of Ormonz and it’s wonderful to see the children engaging with the characters and the imaginative journey they embark on. Nico, Terry and Lo’s 11 yr old son, is also a joy to be with and at home is keen for us to hear his guitar playing – a lively mixture of rhythm and melody with a distinctly Spanish flavour. The day after the performance we cycle to the river and spend some relaxing time taking in the unspoilt nature of the area and looking for fossils on the river’s edge.

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I’m keen to accompany Terry and Nico on a trawl through three nearby vide grenier, something I miss whilst travelling, tho’ we don’t uncover any bargains – in fact, for me, the highlight is a small vintage car rally at one of the villages, featuring some beautiful old citroêns.

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Otherwise, we hang out, enjoy some great meals together and catch up with each others’ news. Terry and Lo tell us of their imminent project, the nature of which they are struggling with, given the restrictions they face working in a high security prison, where their brief is to foster a better relationship between a small group of inmates and their children out in the real world. Research shows that there is 80% less chance of re-offending in cases where there is a meaningful relationship between prisoners and their children….we can’t wait to hear how this project goes.

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For more photos taken during our time in Wiseppe, click here


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Along the Moselle

We leave Ungersheim at 4pm and travel westwards, circumventing most of the Alsace/Vosges mountains until we reach the source of the Moselle, which we follow along until dark, when we reach a little town called Charmes, although it has precious little of it. There is a camperstop, so for a few Euros, we find ourselves surrounded by ‘plastic fantastics’ for the night, as we call the campervans that have all the mod cons that we don’t, such as television, satellite dish, toilet, shower, etc. We catch up on UK news, these days mostly not a very pleasant experience as it tends to be “find out what other outrageous scheme has our darling prime minister cooked up since we looked last”. When will we learn not to do this just before going to bed, I don’t know… it give us nightmares. This night, I have persistent bad dreams, of people shouting at each other, fighting… a war-like situation…

The next morning, Frank tells me, people were indeed shouting until about 3am right outside our Emma, a group of drunks hanging out under the vaults of a little building that houses showers and toilets for the campers. Well, you never know what the nights are going to be like and you have to take the good with the bad when you are travelling. In a van, you are a bit vulnerable to boy racers practising their handbrake turns, or drunks, or people otherwise up to mischief in the car park that you thought you’d have a quiet night in. On the other hand, sometimes you are parked up with the same view that you’d pay hundreds of pounds for in a hotel room.

The next morning, the sun beats on our Emma, so despite a night of broken dreams, we rise early to do our Yoga before it gets too hot. I have a lot of admin to do, so after breakfast, I put a table outside and buckle down to it until 3pm. It’s great to have a portable office, always with a different view!

We set off into the afternoon sun, continuing our travels along the Moselle until Toul, at which point we veer off into the countryside, heading for Lac Madine, following little but straight roads through fields and fields of green and yellow (rape is in full blossom).

About an hour before sunset, we arrive at Lac Madine. There is a huge car park but just a few vans are dotted about the place. A family with three children sits outside one of them and once we have settled in they visit us, curious to see Emma from the inside. They only live a few kilometres down the road, but if the weather is nice, they sling dinner in a bag, pile into the camper and come down to have a meal by the lake. The boy is full of bouncy energy, eager to help with cutting the wood for our stove. There’s a lovely father & son moment, when they saw the logs together..

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Thankfully this night’s sleep is accompanied only by nightingales, so we sleep soundly and set off early the next morning, after a quick swim and a yoga session by the lake.

 


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