It’s the fourth of July, a meaningless date in France, except that today happened to be the day that France played Germany in what we think were the quarter finals of the Football World Cup.
We arrived in the very centre of the city of Verdun and moored beside the lost Englishmen, not entirely tranqully between cafes and bars and mad clowns in the sort of dress which marks them either as one-eyed supporters of the home country, or as deranged beer stealing lunatics. As the fireworks and drumming and tooting of horns carries on into the wee small hours of the morning, and the bridges are closed by people simply parking on them to celebrating the loss and perhaps fire off the odd skyrocket, we are starting to feel a tiny bit grateful that France didn’t actually win. It's hard to imagine a more enthusiastic celebration although perhaps there would have been no tears.
But there’s also something a bit odd happening in our heads as we brace ourselves to visit some of the surrounding areas over the coming days. Verdun is a living reminder of a grim world history and it's a grim irony that the same protagonists were at the centre of that history all those years ago. The contest of a hundred years ago, left almost six hundred thousand people lying permanently in the surrounding areas and another eight hundred thousand wounded.
Many of the trenches and battlefields remain untouched to this day. Fields have remained unploughed for a hundred years, as they were at war's end. That was a contest no one could win, nor did they, and the trophies from that one are perpetual.
Perhaps that constant reminder puts losing a game of football into its proper perspective, and the celebrations too, win or lose.