Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Advent Day Fourteen, a story that wanted to be told

French Village Diaries Poitiers Mannekin Pis
Mannekin Pis, Poitiers

Advent Day Fourteen

Today I have a story that wanted to be told so much, it kept popping up in my life, until I took notice.


I’m sure you’ve all heard of Manneken Pis, the bronze fountain sculpture of a little boy having a wee, that is one of Brussels’s most famous tourist spots? Well, this week I’ve discovered there is a double, with a lovely story attached to it, and it lives in Poitiers. 


In 1940, when Europe was at war and Germany had begun its invasions, Belgium asked France for help, specifically for somewhere safe for their officials to operate from. Despite Poitiers being over six-hundred kilometres from the Belgium border, it was the town that welcomed the government, administration and police from Brussels. It wasn’t a long-term arrangement, in fact one book I read mentions a period of only twenty-six days, but as a token of their thanks, the Belgium police presented a Mannekin Pis to their Poitevin colleagues in May 1950. 


I’ve been dipping in and out of local history and tourist books for many years, but it wasn’t until finding Poitiers Remarkable in the library last week, that I discovered this interesting story and so far, none of my local French friends I’ve spoken to have known about it either. Only days later, at a brocante sale in our village, I stumbled upon a small statute of Mannekin Pis on a table of unloved ornaments. As I tried to explain the Poitiers story to some French friends, whilst browsing through the second-hand books, I found Voici Poitiers, a guidebook dating from 1978. There at the back (as if to prove this mad Englishwoman wasn’t quite as batty as they feared) was a page dedicated to the Poitiers Police commissioners very own Mannekin Pis. I think you will agree he was doing his best to get my attention and I’m guessing he wants his story shared with you too.


I would love to share a photo of him, but Ed and I loitered outside the Police HQ yesterday afternoon, doing our best to peer in through the closed doors (without arousing suspicions), but neither of us were brave enough to demand entry, just to see their famous little statue. Maybe next time. 

Would you have dared?

French Village Diaries Poitiers Mannekin Pis
Poitiers Remarkable, Geste Editions 2022
Voici Poitiers, Editions Pub 86 1978

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