Angry or happy, let’s “salouer la gueule!”

Did I need a bag? I looked from my shoemaker to my repaired boots and full shopper.
“Yeah, might be handy.”

He handed me one with a yellow and red logo. Presuming it was advertising his shop, I had a good look: “Strong muscles and supple joints?!”
“Hey: I’m not responsible for the bags my customers leave behind”, he replied.
“Boy!” I said, “I leave with repaired boots, strong muscles, supple joints.”
“Service hey! What more do you need?” he joked as I waved goodbye.
More money in my pocket, I thought morosely.

I walked down the street through the rain. A few shops down, I had a look at the bookshop’s first window. The shop only sells second-hand books. Its first window contains bound books. Bound books – first and umpteenth hand – have always been too expensive for me.

Passing the shop entrance, I glanced at the second shop window. It’s usually full of second-hand pockets, sold at a discount. But not now: the owner had changed its content. Gone were all English second-hand pockets.

Instead, the shop window was stuffed with back issues of Charlie Hebdo! In front lay second-hand French pockets by people who had been killed just over a week ago. Each cover made me grin.

The cartoons on the front of the Georges Wolinski pockets were really out-ra-geous!! I remembered at least one of these cartoons angering French feminists. It’s awful, but I couldn’t help laughing.

One French pocket’s title translated into “The French make me laugh”. Another one stated: “I don’t want to die stupid”.

Sniggering, I tried to decide which old Charlie Hebdo front cover I liked best. The shop owner wanted 5 Euro for old issues. The repaired boots had left me out-of-pocket.

If I’d had five Euro, I think I’d have settled for the cover which showed a delighted boozer. Red nose in the air and with a big grin, he spreads out his arms. Each hand holds a full glass of wine. The caption kind of translates into “Angry or happy: let’s booze!”

No idea what this cartoon had referred to or had ridiculed in the past. It now made me smile sadly. Other cartoons made other passersby snigger. Nobody walked on without a smile.

This window full of back issues and old pockets was both a moving tribute and defiant statement. It was far better than any muscled fist in the air. Angry or sad, let’s toast all victims whose lives were cut short last week. Nous sommes Charlie and life’s too short to spend it hating.


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