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Sunday, 31 March 2013

A "Garden City"

Friday, March 31st., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Le Creusot
I went round with Vallee last night to see some of his patients. One was at Champagne - what is called a Cite Jardin, built for the employees of the Creusot Steel Company. The population must certainly be over a thousand, and is probably much more. We arrived when it was nearly dark. Vast blocks of houses four or five stories high, of dark stone, and fearfully ugly and forbidding. A place here and there, and plenty of vacant plots. It was extraordinary how a four-or-five-storied block struck one as being out of place in the country, where land is plentiful. The houses were a cheap imitation of Paris houses. No lights on the stairs, no nights in the streets, but windows lighted here and there, giving hints of mean interiors.
He stopped in  narrow street (why narrow I cannot imagine), quite short, containing, however, three cafes - all pitchpine and zinc and a too cheap simplicity. It was Mi-Careme and the air was full of the sounds of uncouth instruments. A little troupe of masqueurs arrived from the outskirts, where the large residences of the Creusot managers are, and passed into a cafe. The whole impression was terribly forlorn, ugly, and dispiriting. It was a beautiful evening, with a warm, caressing wind, and flashes of lightning.

The origin of Mi-Carême is lost in the mists of time. It has been celebrated in many European communities since the Middle Ages.The essence of the carnival-like Mi-Carême is a spirit of joy, laughter and mockery that contrasts with the Lenten period of austerity, severity and penance leading up to Easter. Lent begins the day after Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter. Mi-Carême literally means the middle of Lent.

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