I am currently in Saint Quentin, having decided that the time has come to give my ankle a chance of recovering!
I spent 2 nights in Peronne, with not much real improvement, and while here, one of the women in the Tourist Office sort of nicely bullied me into seeing a Doctor. She arranged an appointment, and left her number in case I needed help. The man at the hotel contributed by writing a letter to the doctor telling him what was wrong and where it was painful, and with the doctors few words of english and my few words of french I managed to communicate the problem! I was sent off for X Rays (again aided by my wonderful friend in the tourist office) and had it confirmed that no - it wasn't broken - something that had been niggling at me, I must admit! I am now doped up with 2 different tablets, and a special kind of gel to rub on the area. It, combined with bed rest for a day, seems to be working as I can now walk with only a slight limp. I am hoping that tomorrow, when I plan to start walking again I will be pretty much back to normal.
I really liked Peronne. The town, much like here in Saint Quentin, has an energy and vibrancy about it. Despite being battered and bruised by numerous wars over the centuries it has come out on top of things. The church - one of 7 a couple of centuries ago - is the only one left, and that only had it's front facade after WW1, and it has a wonderful feeling of outreach about it.
The castle was virtually destroyed in the war and, hidden behind its walls is an international war museum - a centre of research. They were hosting an exhibition of "The Missing of the Somme" which was very moving. One of the missing was from a family of 6 sons. Not only was he listed as missing, but 4 of his brothers were either missing or killed during the war, with only the youngest son surviving. The tradgedy was that this, the last son, died of meningitis not long after the war - and this poor family lost all its children!
Alexia at the tourist office was a wonderful help to me in Perrone, helping me find the delightful hotel I am staying in here which, thankfully, hasn't broken the bank!
Yesterday (my bed rest day) was May Day - not sure why it is the 2nd rather than the 1st - and a bank holiday. Here in Saint Quentin it was mild, and at times even sunny. I could here the belfroi Carillon ringing each quarter hour through my bathroom window, and at 6pm decided I had to go out for at least a half hour. My friend at the hotel issued instructions not to walk too far, and I walked a couple of hundred metres up to the square and sat and watched the world go by. This is a lovely town, with a huge square in which there were roller skaters practicing their routines, young children learning to ride their scooters, and slightly older children practicing on their bikes. The skateboarders oviously had somewhere else to go as they walked through the square carrying their boards.
While travelling around the town, on the night of my arival, imagine my pleasure when opposite the Basilica what should I find but two old friends! A yellow arrow, and a shell painted on the ground.! Those in the know will understad my instant re-action of having to follow it to see where it went! My Tourist Office friend filled me in on the fact that Saint Quentin is on one of the St Jaques paths - I shall have to check which one.
Tomorrow though - I am back on the Via Francigena. I must say, that as I slipped and sloshed my way along the muddy (a mixture of chalk and clay) path from Peronne it felt like I was home. Mind you my first prot of call after a shower was the laudromat - I was covered in mud! Now that I am away from the front there is a different feel to the pelerinage. It is cheaper for one, I am out in the country, and it is cheerful. Now I am left with a few hours to have a look at a few things in the town, hopefully including the Basilica, and get a stamp for my pilgrim passport.
Thank you for your messages and emails, they do cheer me along the way. Sometimes I get to read them but have no time to post, but be assured they are appreciated!