Pere Lachaise Rene Mouchotte

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 9th May 2011


My long awaited visit. I wanted to go immediately to the Tomb of Rene Mouchotte - I think I could have found it with my eyes closed. But I had a friend with me who very much wanted to visit several other tombs and it seemed only fair to go there first.

Pere Lachaise Metro Station is an old one in the beautiful Art Nouveau style and, as we walked along to the main gates, we saw one of the few remaining old-style and very attractive drinking fountains. My last visit to Pere Lachaise was many years ago but I still had the map of the cemetery and spent much time highlighting around a dozen tombs which were of interest. Little did I realise how difficult it is to follow the map and how hard on the feet are the uneven cobbles. In fact we only managed to visit less than a third of the tombs we'd hoped to see.

We started off well as I knew where to find Heloise and Abelard - the 12th Century lovers - only to discover the tomb covered in scaffolding which appeared to have been there for a very long time with no work being carried out. There were far fewer flowers than before strewn around inside the railings and it was difficult to get decent shots through the scaffolding but it was still good to revisit the monument.

Being a great lover of Egyptian history, I wanted to see the memorial to Champollian (who broke the code of Egyptian Hieroglyphics) It was a relatively modest affair. We then made our way to the graves of Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison - the latter being surrounded by a barricade and with a guard. It was covered in all sorts of tributes, floral and otherwise making it look quite a mess which I thought rather sad - although I'm sure the visitors meant well. Oscar Wilde's grave - a huge and to my taste ugly Epstein creation was absolutely covered in lipstick kisses, graffiti, and surrounded by all manner of assorted bits and pieces - there was even an old trainer shoe. In my opinion it looked horrid and spoiled the dignity of the surrounding area.

We were very moved by the memorials to the those who perished in the concentration camps - who could fail to be? I had picked out several famous names in the Columbarium but had totally forgotten how vast it is to the point that it was impossible to find the plaques to Maria Callas and Stephane Grapelli - only two of the names on a longer list. One thing has puzzled me. On many of the Jewish graves at Montparnasse and also at Pere Lachaise, there were many small pieces of stone. I wonder if they have come from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

We'd already spent over an hour and a half wandering around among the graves and tombs - some absolutely massive, others old, dejected and falling apart and the cobbles were taking a toll on my feet so we decided to end our visit with the very special one - of course, to the tomb of Rene. It was well kept and relatively modest and has been the Mouchotte family tomb since the mid 19th century. Of course I'd seen many photos on the Internet but there is nothing as satisfying as making a personal visit - a pilgrimage I suppose and one I've been wanting to make for three years since I first sponsored Rene's name carved on the Sir Christopher Foxley Norris Wall at Capel-le-Ferne in Kent.

I shall continue in my search for contact with Rene's family and will not give up on the Documentary.

A bientot - Jan


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