Where is Poitiers? (Part One)

Regular readers, an ever-dwindling number now so small that the proprietors are considering sending handwritten letters of thanks to each one individually, will no doubt be wondering where this circuitous discourse is heading. We are all busy people, what with e-mail, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram … and that’s before one’s even had a first look at the crossword and the sports pages. Why waste one’s time on the ramblings of some geriatric holed up in a French backwater wittering on about dead philosophers and his drinking habits, when one could be settling down with a nice cup of tea and Poirot on ITV3?

Well let me reassure you. I share your concern! It’s time to get a grip. ‘Wake up and smell the coffee’, ‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’, ‘It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark’, ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ … where was I? Ah yes …

I learnt very little at school. Those middle-class Jesuits and a guttersnipe like me were never really going to hit it off. However they did manage to beat two things into me: the equal importance of ‘defining one’s terms’ and ‘showing one’s workings’. With these in mind, I thought I would try to clarify the present situation for our mutual benefit. As I see it, what I am attempting to do is nothing less than to produce the Idiosyncratic Encyclopaedia of Poitiers in English. I have checked on Amazon, and no such volume currently exists; a clear gap in the market that I intend to fill before Dan Brown or JK Rowling spots it. My work will cover every aspect of the place, its history, geography, economic and political development. The ‘idiosyncratic’ element will allow numerous digressions on everyday life here in the city (and sometimes beyond its boundaries), and indeed anything else I want to add to the mix. The nature of a blog lends itself perfectly to showing my workings. The whole thing should be considered as a loose-leaf binder of work in progress. While I am front of house producing elegant essays on whatever takes my fancy, a team of backroom staff will be working on these as they are produced, sifting them into a coherent classified structure to be eventually published, probably in several volumes. There has been talk of some accompanying CDs and possibly even a Netflix series, but these are early days.

So there we are. I hope that by setting out my stall I can persuade you to accompany me on what I am sure will be a fascinating journey of discovery.

Having spent a little time last week on the ‘local’, I thought I would step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture. Going back to my school days again, but primary school now, I remember that in amongst the first books that I read, somewhere between Janet and John and the William series, I was given a copy of the Catholic Truth Society’s Catechism of the Catholic Church. From the age of seven, for a couple of years, we were drilled regularly in class until most of its questions and answers were known by heart. (Now that I think of it, it was a small red book, very similar to the Thoughts of Chairman Mao, which was to prove so popular a decade or so later. Rather apt, really.) Over the years I have forgotten all but the very first question in the book, the diabolically deceptive ‘Who made me?’ This has given me so much fascinating food for thought ever since, each one of its three little words having lost me untold hours of sleep. So, by way of starting off my encyclopaedic research, it struck me that it would be interesting and useful to ask myself the equally simple ‘Where is Poitiers?’ I say simple, but a little delving reveals that by posing this question I have opened a metal receptacle of Lumbricus terrestris just as tricky to deal with as the CTS starter for ten. Nevertheless, let us begin.

Poitiers is in France (as any fule kno), but within France …

Alas! The dinner gong! The signal that Madame S. has the decanter of amontillado raised and ready to pour. I am afraid we must leave it there for now (the question about Poitiers, that is, not the decanter, obviously). I shall return to this topic at the earliest opportunity. Do feel free to do your own individual research but, if I may, I would offer a small piece of advice. Use the expression ‘Poitiers NOT Sydney’ when employing search engines, You will thus avoid the many tedious cul-de-sacs that I have found myself exploring, The man is undoubtedly a fine actor, but he brings very little to the table in our current endeavours.