In July 1968, I was 14 months old and probably doing something unspeakable in a nappy. Meanwhile, over in Fayl-Billot and the Mecanique Generale, someone was doing a roaring trade in either car repairs or television sales. That’s 45 years ago. 45 years later I’m wandering around the increasingly crumbling and derelict garage and find the ‘Caisse’ lying on the ground outside a broken window. Being in France of course, the temptation is to go all Proust like – but unfortunately, my first exposure to Proust was Monty Python’s ‘Summarising Proust Competition’ so I’ve never been able to take “Remembrance of things past” seriously. But look at this still from the video – July 1968 M.Fernand 30FF, M.Raymond 40FF and this particular sales ledger was full on every page and went up to 1975….It’s a piece of ordinary history. Of ordinary people, working hard – but no less wonderful for it. History just isn’t made from the stuff of the extraordinary.
In 40 years from now, what kind of physical ordinary history is going to be left lying on a damp windowsill in provincial France, or indeed anywhere ? Me, I do my accounts on a spreadsheet. I type everything, so that even if I were hand-scribing my ledgers, they would actually, be illegible.
There’s a real connection to the people who created this ledger. A human connection seen in the firm stroke of the pen and the flourish on the capital letters. The age of the document is both palpable and visceral. This isn’t about nostalgia, it’s about a very beautiful old building, going through it’s final death throes and knowing once, that it was thriving and lively with shouts and the smell of Gauloises & coffee. I suspect in the next year or two the building will be no more as it’s decline has accelerated over the last year, so here is, what maybe, it’s last video epitaph.