De Charentes

A long overdue update on the research into the life of Bob Richel. After four days of Parisian mayhem we were up for some peace and quiet, so we got into the car for our travel to the south-western part of France, De Charentes, where Bob’s daughter Jeannet lives with her husband. And the muse was with me, as Martine, Bob’s other daughter, was also staying at her sister’s, so I could interview both children of Bob at the same time. But first we had to escape Paris, which proved to be a lot harder than we expected. Not only was the city quite busy when we departed, a lot of inhabitants of this city are travelling by motorcycle or by scooter, both driven by an engine or the ones you have to power up yourself by stepping. And these people have a deathwish. But also, Parisienne traffic is brutal. You have to become a Parisian to come along with the traffic. Where we arrived in the city quite fast and safe, now we had to cross the city to the south, in which we had two near-accidents and it took us an hour and half. Our estimated time of arrival of 13.30 hrs was slowly getting much later.

Once we got to the highway, it became a lot easier and we could make it to Orléans in about an hour, from there we had to take the direction to Tours, where you leave the ‘péage’, the toll road, and after you crossed town in Tours, you get back on the highway in the direction of Poitiers. There we had to take the road to Angoulême and from there it was still an hour and half drive. We arrived at the Richel-Jongeling residence at 15.30 hrs in the afternoon. After a warm welcome, I was shown what my workload was, and actually I was startled by it. Four plastic crates of which three carried correspondence and other documents, one crate filled with drawings, and then there were nine boxes in total with drawings. There was the installation “The Alchemist”, some small cardboxes of Bob, two small diaries of his sister, a few photo-albums, I feared that I could not get the job done, but eventually I did.

We also got aquainted again with the local cat Monsieur Titi, who was actually A LOT BIGGER than last time we saw him. He killed a lizard, so he is off my favorite list. A lot of wildlife has surprised us again: huge beetles, a horde of bats which caught insects in the twilight, when we drove to Angoulême on thursday to get us some spirits at a wine-farmer my wife nearly ran over a squirrel (the critter lived to tell, fortunately!), which scared the living daylights out of her, and a few miles further up the road a snake was crossing, which was actually fascinating to see. The working conditions in Southwest France were not in my favor: a heatwave was going on, and I drank a lot of water, which is also something you have to be careful about in France, as they add chloride to the tapwater, which first has to vaporize by leaving the water open for a couple of hours. So Jeannet had a number of bottles in the kitchen which were approved to drink from.

By working hard the wednesday, I could finish up around 11.00 hrs on Thursday, so now the work starts to read everything, to filter the right information from these documents and put these into a timeline. That is something to do when I arrive home. The Friday we started around 10 AM to drive back to The Netherlands, and with our new car that would be a better job to do than with our previous one. The chairs in the car are quite comfortable, so we could sit for a long time, and Martine was travelling back with us. The drive should have taken about 10 hours, but with a few stops and a traffic-nightmare around Paris, we arrived home about 13 hours later. I made a research vlog of this particular trip, and you can watch it below. The book about Bob Richel has come a lot closer to completion.

© 2019  Wilmar Taal

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