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Un Anglais à Marseille #7ter

Prof d’anglais et coursier à vélo à Marseille, Rory Launder livre son regard sur la ville tout en vous donnant une occasion de réviser votre anglais. Alors que l’on s’apprête à commémorer le drame du 5 novembre 2018, il livre ici la troisième et dernière partie du feuilleton qu’il consacre à la rue d’Aubagne, où il résidait alors (1).


And in the absolute cold and silence of an evacuated zone I awoke. I left the remains of the now three-day old Durum kebab on the table. A relic frozen in time, a symbol of a happier, more innocent reality. The end of a drunken night before falling asleep. The night before the buildings fell.


I slunk quietly out of my building and out onto Moustier unchallenged. The police presence in the street had vanished. Due to the unique placement of the Domaine Ventre having two accesses 78 rue d’Aubagne and 14 rue Moustier, I was still able to enter and sleep in my apartment.


For the other evacuees of the Rue d’Aubagne this was not an option. The street was blocked off, no through-way, doors locked shut with chains.


Slowly over the following days I would collect clothes, documents, and other essentials, and move them to friends’ houses. A box here a box there. Half of the people I met offered me their couch to sleep on. By complete luck my apartment had electricity and was thus habitable (the others in my building did not).


The sensation of trying to fall asleep. I pivoted from ‘how do you know it’s not going to fall down? You’ve been evacuated for a reason, they’re the experts.’ (While imagining being torn apart by fallen rubble, imagining suffocating under masonry.) To ‘it’s fine, your building is totally safe, no holes in the roof, you can sleep here.’ It was unpleasant, but sleep there I did. Desolation, not a light, not a sound, no neighbours, no one. Just this acrid smell coming from the other apartments. Fridges and freezers cut of electricity burst their doors, rotten food glouping out onto the floor.


At some point a friend offered me an empty apartment behind La Blancarde. I jumped at it.


The Marche Blanche was tough. Joyous, proud, old and young, everyone on the brink of crying. Tensions with the police were already high. But all attention on La Plaine dissipated. This was bigger, this was worse. This was our Grenfell. A tenth of the size, (72 people died in the fire at the Grenfell Tower in London) but much the same story: neglect, oversight, corner-cutting. Poor people die in poor housing.


There was a communal zombification, people trudging around slowly, blank expressions. Stopping, chatting, trying to smile. Rumours of financial aid from CAF, the Red Cross. Attestations, and dossiers to complete. It was all word of mouth. The frizzy-haired dancer lady filled me in, and I spread the info on to others. The handsome couple with the long hair and round shoulders were ebullient when speaking of their goldfish “well they haven’t eaten for three days now, we’ll have to wait and see just how tenacious they are”. Stories of cats being left behind, of thieves moving through the evacuated apartments.


I learnt a lot of new words that week: effondrement, marchands de sommeil, arrêté de péril.


Two local dignitaries, Yves Moraine, mayor of 6/8 and Laure-Agnès Caradec, assistant for town planning – rather than cancelling their official engagements – famously shared chocolates the evening of the 5th of November. “It was the rain” Gaudin said.


It was not the rain.


There are four survivors of the Rue d’Aubagne. A young couple, their friend who lived downstairs, and a type de quartier who has worked both at the night shop and at the gas bottles shop. The young couple had water dripping down their walls, the friend downstairs could no longer shut her front door such was the deformation of the floors and walls (they left in the evening to sleep at a friend’s house). The fourth survivor, waking in the morning to find he had no cigarettes, left for work earlier than usual.


A gaping emptiness, now bleached white. I still find it hard to look at, this sickly heaviness. Place Homer has been renamed Place 5 Novembre by locals, but no official memorial for the victims exists. Rather than rebuilding 63 and 65, perhaps a little garden with flowers, and eight benches.


Rory Launder


  1. Retrouvez la première partie ici https://www.journalventilo.fr/un-anglais-a-marseille-7/
    et la deuxième ici https://www.journalventilo.fr/un-anglais-a-marseille-7-bis/[]