We went back to the same voting hall to follow the count last night.
We found a crowd milling outside…
close-packed and tense in the room.
It feels timeless–only the clothes people are wearing defines the century we are in.
Two tables, fenced off with barriers, on either side of the room with four tellers seated round each.
People hanging over the barriers listening intently to the low mumbling of the tellers announcing each vote.
Bardou, Bardou, Bardou, Gros, Bardou, Gro and on and on…
The atmosphere is charged, expectant.
People greeting each other with brief handshakes, a quick double kiss. Few conversations ensue.
The incumbent Mayor, Monsieur Gros, the only person in the room wearing a suit, paces back and forth between the tables, occasionally disappearing into a side room with a pile of blue envelopes. Displacement activity–something to do while he waits with the rest of us for the tellers to complete their task.
Bardou, Bardou, Gros…
It is surprising how long it takes to count just over a thousand votes.
I’m unaware that a third count has happened at the school below the village and the result has filtered back up to the crowd gathered outside the hall.
I am feeling increasingly pessimistic and the expression on M Gros’ face does nothing to reassure me.
It’s hot in the room–fetid even.
As I turn to open a window the woman standing next to me shakes her head and I remain rooted to the spot not daring to break the tension and pull the focus–if only briefly–my way.
I ask her if she can point out M Bardou to me.
His family tomb is in the cemetery adjacent to the house and I know he is the chef/owner of a restaurant just up the road but I have never met him.
“There, with his back to the door” she says, pointing out a tall man wearing spectacles huddled by the exit–looking pale and nervous.
Neither side is acting as though it’s in the bag.
After half an hour, our friend Sylvie squeezes past me–she’s been monitoring the table to my right.
She shakes her head–“c’est cuit!” (It’s cooked i.e. lost).
“The count at the school below went M. Bardou’s way by over 30 votes and here it’s neck and neck but there won’t be enough votes for M.Gros to turn it.”
I edge my way out of the room and into the street where Meredith confirms what Sylvie has told me.
M. Bardou has won–he got out the vote.
Lautrec will have a new mayor–after twelve years.
A 92% turn out is impressive–local democracy at work.
Spring is in the air–it’s April the first tomorrow.
A time of change and transition.