Rouen’s biggest claim to fame is that it was here that the mischief-maker Joan of Arc got her comeuppance. She was burnt in front of the Cathedral by the occupying British who, as we know, are normally a tolerant and fair-minded race of people. However, she’d greatly upset them by inciting all manner of rebellious behaviour and then claiming it to be the fault of God’s voice in her head. Back then the most compassionate way to treat those deemed to be insane was a medically prescribed course of aspirin, torture and burning.
Rouen is also famous for a bridge that crosses the River Seine. One of its piers stands on a little islet in the middle of the river. You can stand on the bridge, look down on the islet and watch the mating behaviour of tramps, drug addicts and alcoholics. It’s a bit like a nature reserve, take your camera.
I spent ten minutes watching some spaced-out old trout obviously enjoying getting banged by a tramp in broad daylight, until one of his acquaintances hit him over the head with a bottle. This erotic little scene was further enhanced when the impact of the bottle caused him to vomit up all the previous evenings’ cider. The French are famed for their romance.
I was in Rouen as a guest of a conference. It wasn’t a particularly big affair, so everything was done on the cheap. Hence I was put up in a hotel that oozed olde world charm out of every sheet of thin plasterboard.
I was in the ‘Saint Joan Suite’ and I could understand how, if she had actually stayed in this hotel, she would have heard voices. On one side I could hear the constant coughing of a chain smoker and on the other side I had the rutting grunts of someone having it away with his secretary. I presume neither of them were God, but you never know. He moves in mysterious ways.
Another highlight of the trip was witnessing a street performance of the legendary Mister Moon Carrot (see picture). Contrary to popular belief Jimi Hendrix did not die of a drugs overdose but sneaked out of the limelight to seek a better life with his puppet collection on the streets of Rouen.
If you ever go to Rouen make sure you catch the show, I mean the bridge one.
More of Johnny’s words of wisdom on the subject of France can see by clicking here