Jeanne Koré Salvato

hat is the value of cheating? “Value?”you ask. First, cheating is fun.  It is more fun to do than to read about, I’m guessing.  What?  Cheating fun?  Well, only in certain contexts.  For example, in playing the card game, “GO FISH” with your daughter, it is a way of livening things up.  (I think my daughter would disagree.  You do not cheat playing cards with a child, I can imagine her saying.) 

It’s true that I got off to a bad start, cheating at cards, with an old boyfriend.  You may know about the card game bridge.  Two pairs are adversaries. In the game, you have to bid with a partner, not showing each other your hands, just by making an educated guess about how many tricks you might take.  It is very serious.  And after the bidding, when you play, you have to keep track of who plays what card.  This is deadly serious. 

One day, said boyfriend and I thought it was all too serious.  So we bid a number of tricks it was very unlikely we could make.  The way an opponent conveys that you are full of $%#@ is to say, “doubled.”  This means that any points you lose will be doubled on the score.  Naturally that word was used. “Doubled,” said our opponent with glee.  What if the old gleeful opponent was wrong?  There is justice in this game.  We could still claim our dignity and say, “redoubled,” meaning that when we did make the tricks we’d bid, we would get lots of extra points.  So with even more glee, I redoubled.  How did this game turn out?  Boyfriend and I lost 1000 points.  How we laughed!  (The opponents were less amused.  They were trying to play a game.)  It was all about the fun, ‘bout the fun, not rules. 

King and Queen, the belote

I think of our vagabonds passing the time of day out there on the French heath, so to speak.  (I don’t think France has heaths.) Surely, they played cards?  There is a French game called belote which is sort of like bridge (not really but enough like it) with the addition of all trumps as a possible contract, giving you extra points for certain things.  A belote is a “royal” pair of a King and a Queen of a trump suit. A belote is worth 20 points, and must be declared when the first of them is played (not necessarily during the first round).  Well, okay then! 

I read about this game being played in a murder mystery.  Two couples, one man was ill.  Yes, it was the wife, poisoning her husband just like she poisoned the last husband.  I have to bone up on Irish card games, and when I do, you’ll be the first to know about them.  Until then, remember that cheaters never prosper.  (They do have fun breaking the rules, though.)

Here lies a French soldier who died for his country.

On a more solemn note, today, at least my today, Thursday 11 November, is Veterans Day, as you know. I was thinking about how, on the one hand, that death cheated these soldiers out of their lives: no children, no aging, no reflections as time passes. But, on the other hand, in a way, this particular holiday memorializes the soldiers and cheats death, after a fashion. My father, a World War II vet, always loved the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of l’ Arc de Triomphe in Paris. From the remains of several unknown soldiers on a battlefield, a young private was asked to choose one of the coffins to bury in Paris. He picked the 6th coffin because 6 was the number of his regiment. An eternal flame always burns in remembrance underneath the Arc. We were all excited recently about the wrap of the monument, originally erected to celebrate Napoleon. I wondered how it would go with this tomb to the unknown soldier. We’ll have to check in with our French readers!

Veterans Day, London

In England there was a spectacular memorial for veterans of WWI when poppies were planted all around the Tower of London. Bright red poppies bloomed profusely over the broken war ground, impressing John McCrae, Canadian solider, poet and physician. His poem created a remembrance movement worldwide to make and wear red silk and paper poppies.

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Soldiers’ boots, innovative soldiers’ boots at that, could also be at the root of the title of Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot. Early in the play, Estragon needs help getting off his boot. There’s a long discussion about this, which culminates in Vladimir saying, “There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the fault of his feet.” Beckett himself was not very forthcoming about the title, but I like to think it may have been a sideways homage to veterans of WWII. Beckett was, after all, a resistance fighter in France, having joined a small cell in Paris, early on, when the movement was quite small. Most people at that time preferred to wait and see, attentisme, in French. He never spoke at length about this period of his life. En Attendant Godot is the name of the play, written first in French and then performed in English. Could that also be a glancing reference to the War? Let us say, at least for today, that it is, and join the world in remembering those who lost their lives, rightly or wrongly, in war.

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