We can rebuild it

So did you all miss me when I was gone? It did feel weird not blogging especially as I saw so much to blog about but a holiday’s a holiday, although at time this one felt like a bit of a busman’s holiday, as you’ll see when I go on.

I won’t blog about the whole trip in one go – I’ll split into manageable chunks.

On our first foray to the Saint-Quentin centre ville HimIndoors and I took a stroll round the deserted square on Easter Sunday. The town hall looked like something out of a gothic fairy tale and the chimes every quarter-hour were like an old-fashioned music box. The whole thing is over-the-top and the exact opposite of our B listed white monolithic tower in South Lanarkshire. Compare and contrast if you will.


council offices

When we went to Arras the next day we found a similar square with an even more impressive (on the outside) town hall.


However, on referring to the two Great War books I’d taken for research – Walking Arras by Paul Reed and St Quentin: Hindenburg Line by Helen McPhail and Philip Guest – I discovered that both had been practically demolished by bomb attacks. Both had also been painstakingly rebuilt and renovated to the way they had been.

Taken around 1918. The National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons licence via Flickr.

Taken around 1918. The National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons licence via Flickr.

When I did a little more research I discovered that when they rebuilt the town hall in Saint-Quentin they wanted the interior to be modern and in 1925 that meant art deco. If the council chambers aren’t being used you can take a look for free. I love art deco so I’m now wondering if they have room for a comms professional who speaks very bad French.



Other buildings that got the art deco treatment in Saint-Quentin include the chemist and the fish market.



But the most impressive rebuild has to be the basilica which is still being worked on. The whole roof fell in after a munitions train exploded nearby during WW1. This place is truly impressive, even more so than Notre Dame in Paris. The building isn’t as wide but the ceiling is enormously high at 34 metres inside and 56m outside. I felt dizzy looking up and these photos don’t do it justice due to a lack of tripod and a lack of light.




From all that I learned:

  • some things are definitely worth restoring
  • restoring the town hall and the basilica has added an infinite amount of civic pride in Saint-Quentin
  • the hard work of the council and local businesses has led to an upturn in the town’s fortunes
  • it might sound strange but it hadn’t dawned on me that art deco was seen as controversial at the time but I suppose that’s the same for all design and architecture

Today’s track

Why this? Because someone mentioned them on Facebook and you need to remind yourself every now and again just how good they are.


I need to empty the freezer of leftovers so I can defrost it and fit actual food in so the recipes for the next wee while could be a bit random.

Today’s recipe


Crathie chicken (because it’s not quite Balmoral chicken 😉

Serves 1


oil for frying

1 chicken breast

1 haggis and pork sausage

2 cocktail sticks

a couple of cms of chicken stock in a mug

a small knob of butter

2 mushrooms chopped

a slug of whisky

a dollop of creme fraiche

Method: Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 6. Heat the oil in a small pan and brown the chicken and remove. Slice the sausage and remove the filling from the case. Slice a pocket in the chicken if it doesn’t have a natural one and stuff in the sausage filling. Skewer it closed with the cocktail sticks. Pour a little stock into a small oven proof dish, pop in the chicken and roast in the oven for 35 minutes.

When it’s nearly ready melt the butter in the pan you browned the chicken in – don’t wash it out as the chicken juices and bits add flavour. Cook the mushrooms then our in the whisky and let in bubble for a minute. Add the stock then the creme fraiche and heat through.

Remove the chicken from the oven and slice onto a plate. Serve with the sauce and some mash.

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