In Paris, all over France, in former colonies and in the diaspora, July 14th, ‘le 14 juillet’ is a very big day, ‘la Fête nationale’ commemorating the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the Fête de la Fédération in 1790. Yesterday in the early evening the streets were buzzing and the weekend of parties had started, noisily — there will be fireworks tonight, of that I am sure, I heard some already.
Between 1793 and 1805 a calendar was used in France that eliminated all religious or royalist influences, Saint’s Days in particular, attempted the decimalisation of time and money and initiated the metrication of measurement. In the ‘calendrier révolutionnaire français’ which started each year on the autumn equinox, with ten-day weeks called décades, three weeks in a month, and twelve renamed months in the year, today would be Sextidi, the sixth day, and the date would be expressed as 26 Messidor 225. There are a number of ways of calculating the day — I tried three, two came up with 26, one with 25…I chose 26 because I thought that 26/225 looked nicer than 25/225, I preferred the asymmetry, so sorry if I am off by a day.
Messidor is the month of the harvest. During the French Revolution a rural calendar was developed that identified every day with a plant rather than a Saint, except the first ‘barren’ month of the winter which used the names of minerals. Today is Sage, the plant, Salvia officinalis, medicinal, used in cooking and witchcraft, associated with the element, air, the planet, Jupiter, and the celestial mother, the Virgin Mary. In another calendar that I like — you might remember — the Calendrier ‘Pataphysique, ’le 14 juillet’ is the ‘Fête du Père Ubu’, a surreal celebration of the tragic, comic, absurd figure, Père Ubu, Ubu Roi, Ubu the King, Ubu the innocent, Ubu the idiot drunk on power, Ubu…
Today’s military parade on the Champs-Élysées is due to start with the inspection of the troops at 10:10 CEST — there is a lot at stake.