sept 30, 2003.
A while ago, at the Montreuil flea market, I bought a cardboard box full
of old home recorded cassette tapes. I'm not good at negotiating prices,
I guess, and also I probably came across way too enthousiastic. It must've
been somewhat too obvious that I was pretty eager to get them, so at the
end I almost seemed to be lucky that the merchant - a former middleweight
European boxing champion, or so he said - let me have them at all :) ...
There's 71 of them, spread out on a table in my office, waiting to be listened to and archived. Most of them - though not all - are part of one collection, and seem to have belonged to a priest named Pierre Delhumeau. (There's a stamp with name and address on the label of one of the cassettes, and the same name appears, written, on several others.)
To me this is nothing short of a treasure.
It'll take me a while to go through all of them, but here is a first example:
* Two of the cassettes are (part of) a spoken travel diary. The A-label of the first one reads: "Novembre 1980. Voyage au Liban via Rome". The B-label says: "Beyrouth la nuit nov. 1980". The diary starts like this:
"Rome, samedi premier novembre mille neuf cent quatre vingt. Voici mon journal de voyage. J'ai donc hier décollé de [..] à treize heures trente - plus exactement : à trente cinq. Nous avons mis cinquante cinq minutes pour arriver à Rome. Très vite la Provence a disparu dans une légère couche de brume et de nuages. De temps en temps on voyait un peu de terrain et puis à Saint Tropez on a quitté la côte et on est parti au dessus de l'eau. On a passé à la verticale de l'île d'Elbe et puis tout de suite on a eu la côte, et Rome était là ..."
The month long trip takes P.D. to Beyrouth, where from the confines of his room he and his recorder wittness (on the night of 9 to 10 november 1980) fierce fighting in the streets. There's the sound of guns firing, far and near, and heavy explosions.
"Dimanche neuf novembre. Vingt et une heure trente, vingt deux heures dans la ... pardon, vingt deux heure quinze. Déjà une grosse explosion ..."
... [listen (unedited)] ...
"Il est vingt deux trois heures vingt. Les mitraillettes ont parlé, des voitures circulent tout de même, mais d'un instant à l'autre ça peut redémarrer encore [...] Je suis sur la terrasse au dessus de la rue [.?.] Une grosse brume arrive de la mer et peu à peu va recouvrir toute la ville de Beyrouth."
... [listen (unedited)] ...
"Lundi dix novembre.[...] Et là ... je suis passé donc au milieu pour aller plus loin, jusqu'à une libraire, acheter un plan de Beyrouth, et ...[...] ces voitures piégées étaient problablement là quand je passais, ils ont éclaté une demie heure, trois quarts d'heure après mon passage. Je mets juste de rentrer ici ... deux formidables explosions. [...] Etaient-elles déjà là? Problablement ... Ont-elles été amené un peu après? Qui le sait ... J'ai presque envie de retourner à voir un peu ce que ça a fait comme dégats ..."
... [listen (unedited)] ...
The second cassette's label reads: "Egypte", but it is part of the same 'travellog'. There's a long recording (not a very good one, though [very low levels]), of street sounds - cars, a man whistling, birds, carpet beating ... this recording is made on, and maybe partly also before, november 28. It ends with a few minutes of sound on the B-side. ([pM03_07/08])
Added sept. 26th, 2005 - On september 11th 2005 I received an email. This is what it said ...
"Gode Dag ! Bonjour
I am Herve Offredo, French somewhere ... in the US. Just back from Provence where we had a good time. In Lumieres I went to ask about my old friend Pere Pierre Delhumeau ... but he passed away in 2001, aged 84 ... amazing for a guy who had half of his body paralyzed. I then looked for news about him on internet ... Yes, he loved to make tapes because writing was difficult for him ... he told me about trips... to Rome, about his life in Vannes, Poitiers, Marseille (I have lived in all of these cities too) ... not about Beyrouth, Cairo ... My wife is Lebanese, she bets she was there close to him when he registered his tapes in Lebanon.
I am amazed of what you found ..."
Somewhat later, on september 20th, Herve sent more details on his meetings with Pierre Delhumeau. I am very happy that he did. Herve's information adds an interesting new dimension to this set of 'found tapes'...
"If I remember rightly I met Pierre Delhumeau in 1986, the year I met my future wife. At that time he was already a resident of Lumieres. (I will check that when I get a chance.) My future wife (Stephanie) had known him for many years through a religious organisation, but I don't remember the details. She helped to file his tapes. He liked to do tapes of classic music and she was helping him in the filing; he would typically starts the tape with his comments ... "This is Smetana" ... and then came the music, we had many of those ...they may be now in France.
I have my journal of 1987... I met Delhum' - as we used to call him - three times ...
Phone calls on February 4th
Meeting on 22 & 23rd of june
Monday june 22nd ... I slept in Lumieres.
OK, a reminder that Pierre was a missionary for the order of Oblats. He spoke with me about prehistory, a shared interest. He told me stories about WWII (unfortunately I did not write which stories).
He had a car, made specially for him as half of his body was paralyzed (but I don't remember why !). That day we took the car to go to Lacoste, to Beaumette and to see the Roman bridge Jullian ... and had the opportunity to talk about his trip to Rome.
October 9th, 10th
'I took the bus from Cavaillon to Lumieres and (...) met Pierre ... told me he was born in 1918 in Vannes (56), he lived in Germany, Reims, Poitiers, Marseille ... strange parallels as I was born close to Vannes, lived in Poitiers, Marseilles and then Reims myself! His father was a military, his brother (or nephew) a Colonnel. At school he was not so good as he had to redoubler 2 or 3 times, he was not focused and prefered to give time to his passions: plane, planeur ... If I recall rightly, he met Merlioz, or St Exupery ... forgot which one ...
The title in my journal on october 10th is 'Pere Delhumeau'!
'Breakfast with him at 7h45. I spoke to Colonel Delhumeau on the phone for 15 minutes. Then we paid a visit to the brother of the colonel, who studied at Grignon (INA ... National Agronomic Institute - you have to be smart to be accepted at this school!). He works at ORSTOM in pedology, lived in Tunisia, AEF, AOF, Brasil ... I helped Pierre (as Stephanie used to do ) to fix a shelf , his handicap would not allow him to do it. I left the 11th.'
November 1st , another visit to Lumieres ...
'We went with him to a mass for my father who passed away that year ... Pierre gave me stamps of South America ... and we left.'
Then I don't have my journal of 1988 and following, until 1995, when I was still in France but in the last two years, when I was living in Reims we were in touch but we have not seen each other. I don't know from what I have here in the US when I last saw him ...
But I kept him in my memory.
I thought a lot about him during my divorce in 2002 ...
This summer with my second wife, Lebanese, we were on vacations close to Lumieres and that's how I found out that he passed away in 2000 or 2001 in Paris ... or close to Paris ...
I can tell you that I met many many people in this world, the Pope Jean Paul, Ambassadors, CEO's, etc ... among them Pierre Delhumeau was somebody very special and interesting."
[ next related SB-entry: "rockin' satan" ]