Yesterday morning, when I opened my shutters... quite late, several soldiers and gendarmes were pacing up and down the beach.
This is not unusual. The sea has been very rough those last few days. From time to time, freighters at sea loose containers. Some are filled with dangerous products. So the prefect who represents the State in our department sends a few trucks filled with soldiers and gendarmes who are supposed to recover those potentially dangerous whatever.
Sometimes it’s all about drugs...
Ok, our «hatchet man» is a joke. But weird things can happen on the beach below.
In Brittany, there is quite a history of buccaneering, smuggling and wrecking ships. Most of it is history and legend. But smuggling is still going on whether it is about tobacco or drugs.
The beach below our house is very long (about 4 miles from one access to the other one) and very empty from fall to the end of spring. And completely lonely as soon as night falls.
We are not very far from Jersey. So from time to time, launches cross the sea, from Jersey to our beach and drop their bundles of cigarettes or drugs. There are people on the beach, ready to pick them up... Just like in old times, folks, just like in old times...
French Customs are well aware of the problem. It’s fun to watch their launch drop anchor not very far from our house. Impressive, I tell you. Beautiful ship too. Sometimes the launch goes into hiding behind the Verdelet and this is when we know there will be action!
Several times, we’ve witnessed the boarding of the felon ship... The custom officers really go at it, very swiftly. You see, they have to get on board before the smuggled goods are thrown overboard. No smuggled goods aboard, no felony, even when bundles float away! French law!
When they were younger (still children and young teenagers), ‘our’ children used to play a silly outdoors game they called ‘Manhunt’.
They’d play in teams. Yes, they were numerous enough to form teams... It was summer camp at Les Tertres!
They waited until nightfall. As soon as it was very dark, one team would go into hiding which was an easy thing at Les Tertres. The others were the hunters. For safety reasons, we gave them flashlights which they almost never used anyway, except for the hunters. But it made us feel better! Woods and cliffs can pose a hazard.
So one dark night in September, just before school started, there was a «manhunt» we’ll never forget!
We were enjoying a quiet evening while the ‘kids’ were ‘playing’ outside. All lights off except for a few candles. A well-earned rest, I imagine after a day of boating and feeding the cubs. All of sudden, overexcited boys and girls rushed home. (By the way, how long can you call teenagers ‘kids’?)
All together! All at once!
Farewell to our relaxing evening!
They were chattering so much we couldn’t really understand what had happened. Being seasoned parents, we waited until they cooled down.
And then, boy, we were in for quite a shock!
One of them said: «Don’t turn the lights on!»
«Don’t turn the lights on, please!»
And then they managed to tell the story... One team was hiding in a hole down in the cliff, very happy about their hiding-place. Then looking down at the sea (it was low tide), they heard a boat getting near the shore. A launch, they discovered, as soon as it started turning its searchlights on, off and on, as if signalling its arrival to someone!
What goes through the head of teenagers? A launch sends signals. They have flashlights and they signal back of course!
The launch turned its lights off. And suddenly from the beach, strong flashlights were switched on obviously looking for ‘whoever’ used a flashlight up from the cliff.
Lucky us. The kids were not this stupid after all. They turned their flashlights off and got out of the hole at top speed. They met the other teams and run home for ‘safety’ therefore disturbing our well-earned restful evening.
We didn’t turn the lights on and we saw cars on the beach below coming and going away after a while. It was really weird. We called the gendarmes but they answered that ‘teenagers tend to have a vivid imagination’ and ‘there is nothing to fear.’
So we locked the house, sent everybody to bed... and spent almost the entire night wondering about what had been going on down there, on the beach. I no longer was a teenager but I did have a vivid imagination.
The next day, we packed and drove some kids to the station. Then we left by car with the others feeling a little bit depressed because school and work were about to start again!
Several weeks later, I read in ‘Ouest-France’, the Brittany newspaper we were subscribing to, that a gang of smugglers had been arrested after several months of investigation by Customs and the police. The smugglers were from our village and neighboring cities: among them, a few fishermen, doctors (!), druggists (!), teachers (!), etc.
The gang operated from our deserted beach, right below our empty house. Launches would come from Jersey loaded with drugs. People would be waiting for them with cars and take the bundles away. The drugs were sold all over Northern Brittany.
Then one night, the custom officers in charge, helped by policemen, set a trap and got them all: from the gang leaders (two doctors) to the underlings! Including the customers. And the launches.
It was quite a shock in the area! And a very efficiently managed operation, worth telling us that ‘our teenagers had too much of a vivid imagination’.
Why did I tell you this story? Oh yes, because yesterday morning, I saw a few soldiers and gendarmes on the beach below!!!
Funny how my imagination still is lively! I’m feeling like a teenager today!
Happy New Year 2010!
*Good luck, and Good Night*