les couleurs

January 30, 2012

Evening – standing on the bridge over the canal by Place d’Arago –  the sky a bonfire of delights –  in contrast to the more muted tones in daylight.

And the paintbox that is Collioure . . .

These trees, with yellow fruits that I shamefully can’t identify at the moment, against the limpid winter sky. Update, is that it is Melia azedarach, thanks David !

Strong definition of coloured materials behind the Église des Calmes in Ille sur Tet

and a shiny and soft chalky  composition of components in Place de la République. .

Natural tones of flints and sandy stones on the ramp in Plaςa des Ouls . . .

the Plaςa, itself, dressed in Catalan garb. . . . .

. . . the evening sky towards Canigou.

Au pays parfumé que le soleil caresse,
J’ai connu, sous un dais d’arbres tout empourprés
Et de palmiers d’où pleut sur les yeux la paresse,
Une dame créole aux charmes ignorés.

Son teint est pâle et chaud; la brune enchanteresse
A dans le cou des airs noblement maniérés;
Grande et svelte en marchant comme une chasseresse,
Son sourire est tranquille et ses yeux assurés.

Si vous alliez, Madame, au vrai pays de gloire,
Sur les bords de la Seine ou de la verte Loire,
Belle digne d’orner les antiques manoirs,

Vous feriez, à l’abri des ombreuses retraites
Germer mille sonnets dans le coeur des poètes,
Que vos grands yeux rendraient plus soumis que vos noirs.

Charles Baudelaire  À une Dame créole

In the perfumed country which the sun caresses,
I knew, under a canopy of crimson trees
And palms from which indolence rains into your eyes,
A Creole lady whose charms were unknown.

Her complexion is pale and warm; the dark enchantress
Affects a noble air with the movements of her neck.
Tall and slender, she walks like a huntress;
Her smile is calm and her eye confident.

If you went, Madame, to the true land of glory,
On the banks of the Seine or along the green Loire,
Beauty fit to ornament those ancient manors,

You’d make, in the shelter of those shady retreats,
A thousand sonnets grow in the hearts of poets,
Whom your large eyes would make more subject than your slaves.

storm clouds gathering

January 29, 2012

The forecast for tomorrow is snow . . . .

the gulls are already getting ‘playful’ together thinking the warm weather means spring is imminent. Spring is for pairing up and nesting .

The childish part of me hopes it’ll snow . . . . if it does, the gulls will get a sharp shock and hunker down to wait for the season to adjust itself.  There’s a touch of blue Quink in the clouds and the sea – powerful layers of disturbance.

The page opens

its dark portrait

of a rectangular mouth

and says believe

in alas. Believe

in mourning and

a proper afterlife

which you will come

to understand once

you strip off, fall in

and swim in ink.   Jo Shapcott   The Black Page


January 28, 2012

Majestic battered walls form the ramparts of the Palais des Rois de Majorque.  Beautifully crafted brickwork with cut stone corbels. The kings built their palace on the hill of Puig del Rey and made Perpignan the capital of their kingdom in mid 1200’s.

Doors, corridors, stairs, armatures and the main towers in Gothic style are all made of cut stone – ochre stone is from Les Fonts, the Baixas Blue and Sandstone and  Red Marble from Villefranche-de- Conflent. The marbles are from Céret. The palace is organised around three courtyards 60 metres square – other courts lead off to the gardens that spread within the firm shape of  the top of the ramparts. The palace is closing early on New Years Eve, so empty and, not at all as it would have been centuries ago – full of bustle, movement and noise – but I can appreciate the spaces – quite sublime.

And in retrospect now a month on, still hungry and excited about the year to come.

The future is space,
earth-colored space,
color of water, air,
black space with room for many dreams,
white space with room for all snow,
for all music.

Behind lies despairing love
with no room for a kiss.
There’s a place for everyone in forests,
in streets, in houses;
there’s an underground space, a submarine space,
but what joy is to find in the end,

an empty planet
great stars clear as vodka,
so uninhabited and so transparent,
and arrive there with the first telephone
so that so many men can later discuss
all their infirmities.

The important thing is to be scarcely aware of oneself,
to scream from a rough mountain range
and see on another peak
the feet of a woman newly arrived.

Come on, let’s leave
this suffocating river
in which we swim with other fish
from dawn to shifting night
and now in this discovered space
let’s fly to a pure solitude.  Pablo Neruda  The Future is Space

The blue street signs stand out clearly, which of course, is their job but they have stood the test of time in their design. Street furniture at its best! Good to see that other forms of signage are being maintained as part of the building fabric too. The use of serif and sans serif  in the lettering is meaningful. The signwriter employed by M. Blanchon, the sabot maker, cleverly used a serif with added knobs for the name and so identifying the stoutness and longevity of the product to be found within.

Just readable lettering on the Auberge au Lion d’Or . . . . cul de sac sign not so good!

In Céret, the signage in Place des Neufs Jets is a mix of fonts with sans-serif  – only the numeral is serif (Walbaum from Berthold) – and also upper and lower case  . . .

. . . upper and lower case mix here at the fruit and veg shop quite delightfully positioned and hand painted with elegant drop shadow.

Faded French blue quite lovely with the mottled texture and tones of the trunks of the plane trees . . .

and the use of a gentle Art Nouveau style font on the arch of a covered walkway. Quite welcoming and definitely unthreatening.

This sign is far more to the point – means business –  whatever is for sale in here.

And a frontage still retaining its original character but now an upmarket B+B . . .

. . . an another Brousses business, Studio René and one of his photos

. . and something more recent – a few affiches displayed in Saint Antonin at New Year . . .

the sharp, brittle and surreal nature of one side of Les Mis made me smile. And just letters through this aperture please. No junk mail should enter here!

‘Twas midnight in theschoolroom
And every desk was shut
When suddenly from the alphabet
Was heard a loud “Tut-Tut!”

Said A to B, “I don’t like C;
His manners are a lack.
For all I ever see of C
Is a semi-circular back!”

“I disagree,” said D to B,
“I’ve never found C so.
From where I stand he seems to be
An uncompleted O.”

C was vexed, “I’m much perplexed,
You criticise my shape.
I’m made like that, to help spell Cat
And Cow and Cool and Cape.”

“He’s right” said E; said F, “Whoopee!”
Said G, “‘Ip, ‘Ip, ‘ooray!”
“You’re dropping me,” roared H to G.
“Don’t do it please I pray.”

“Out of my way,” LL said to K.
“I’ll make poor I look ILL.”
To stop this stunt J stood in front,
And presto! ILL was JILL.

“U know,” said V, “that W
Is twice the age of me.
For as a Roman V is five
I’m half as young as he.”

X and Y yawned sleepily,
“Look at the time!” they said.
“Let’s all get off to beddy byes.”
They did,then “Z-z-z.”  Spike Milligan The ABC

drama in Perpignan

January 20, 2012

An eclectic grouping by Pont Arago in Perpignan. Buildings with differing functions? I kept driving past  thinking how interesting the installation looked. So, eventually, on my last morning . . .

discovered that this is Théâtre de l’Archipel  designed by Jean Nouvel and it all started to make sense! Since visiting Cartier Foundation and Musée du Quai Branly  in Paris, I’ve become a fan of him and his buildings. So there’s something silver, gold some building that looks like local sandstone although it isn’t and something that looks like a doughnut finished with a layer of blood red nail polish. OK and why not – it’s theatrical anyway. The supporting landscape elements – pines, escallonias and  clethra –  are recently planted so need time to knit in and start to flourish.

Corten steel is a good backdrop and contrast for green foliage.

A galvanised steel structure – about 4 metres high – will be covered with Trachelospermum within 12 months. Crazy enough to fit in well. Loved it!

And the outside face of the auditorium looks like this – 2 large shiny buttocks!  . . .

. . . . no compromise on anything with this construction. So in relation to the previous blog, lets see how this stands up in 50 years . . . .

A few quotes on the theeaarrtrical:

(Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), French theatre producer, actor,theorist. “Preface: The Theater and Culture,” The Theater and its Double (1938, trans. 1958).)

The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything—gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness—rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations…. To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theatre.


There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.


Where there is a stink of shit
there is a smell of being.

Wonderful foresight from Artaud. How did he know that the French have to have pets  in their apartments. These pets then cover the streets in shit because they can’t help it!  And the French see the cleaning up of this as beneath them!


January 19, 2012

The magnificence – confidence, scale, ‘in yer face’ pomposity – of Chartres cathedral early on a Sunday morning  – when admittedly there is little competition. It is breath-taking! The town sleeps – a few at early morning mass  – but hopefully a boulangerie and a bar for coffee and croissant!

I seemed to be doing the driving on this trip when the huge building came into view on the journey down and then on the return trip. It’s this first glimpse across the plain that stuns me  . . . . so a pic from the web and another in support that sort of shows the scale within the close environment of the medieval town.

A bitterly cold morning and the severity in the climate seems to provide the correct atmosphere. Elegant gestures from the carved figures here  . . .

and equally elegance on the fluted edge to the garments of the figures below. The odd hand and nose has gone astray but little matters in the event of what might have happened . . .

Some info from the web: The city suffered heavy damage by bombing in the course of World War II, but the Cathedral of Chartres was spared by an American Army officer who challenged the order to destroy it.]Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the strategy of destroying the cathedral and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the German Army was occupying the cathedral and using it as an observation post. With a single enlisted soldier to assist, Col. Griffith proceeded to the cathedral and confirmed the Germans were not using it. After he returned from his reconnaissance, he reported that the cathedral was clear of enemy troops. The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn and the Allies later liberated the area. Col. Griffith was killed in action on August 16, 1944 in the town of Leves, near Chartres. Heroic stuff!

Behold! just coming from above,
The judge, with majesty and love!
The sky divides, and rolls away,
T’admit him through the realms of day!
The sun, astonished, hides its face,
The moon and stars with wonder gaze
At Jesu’s bright superior rays!
Dread lightnings flash, and thunders roar,
And shake the earth and briny shore;
The trumpet sounds at heaven’s command,
And pierceth through the sea and land;
The dead in each now hear the voice,
The sinners fear and saints rejoice;
For now the awful hour is come,
When every tenant of the tomb
Must rise, and take his everlasting doom.

Thomas Chatterton On The Last Epiphany (Or Christ Coming To Judgment)

that day of the year again

January 18, 2012

the unique special day of the year when lovely people spoil you . . .

. . . this day last year was sunny and looking at last years post, I can see that I went for a stroll. No such luck today so I made my own landscape of gifts and cards . . .

. . very pleased to see the ‘red hand’!

and not many people will receive Ratte potatoes as a gift on their special day! Look forward to tasting these from France.

Also many texts and emails and this greeting:


. . . and the poem well for all those born in January and because Alison Fell is special too.

January gives me dark eye

and a light,

one patched like a pirate,

obliged to look in,

the other squinting out at thepark

like a spring animal.

What my dark eye knows

is the blind underbelly

of the turf.

the brown dog

in the dream that defies gravity,

and, in the premature dusk,

Concorde swooping down from the storm-cloud,

not silver for once

but tar-black, lucid

as a galleon in the hieratic spread

of its sails.        Alison Fell  January/6  Lightyear

spring cleaning the trees

January 17, 2012

In Avenue Du Général De Gaulle in Perpignan, the Xmas lights that hung and filled the night sky with repititous excitement are removed from the trunks of the palm trees. It’s quite an operation . . . .

. . which involves numerous operatives and vehicles. With this manoevre, the opportunity is taken to clean the trunks of old matter – dead bark and foliage – and do some arboricultural tidying up to ensure the health of the palms  . . .

. . . in this case, the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), is managed and maintained quite superbly. I was in awe!

Palm-tree: single-legged giant,
topping other trees,
peering at the firmament –
It longs to pierce the black cloud-ceiling
and fly away, away,
if only it had wings.

The tree seems to express its wish
in the tossing of its head:
its fronds heave and swish –
It thinks, Maybe my leaves are feathers,
and nothing stops me now
from rising on their flutter.

All day the fronds the windblown tree
soar and flap and shudder
as though it thinks it can fly,
As though it wanders in the skies,
travelling who knows where,
wheeling past the stars –

And then as soon as the wind dies down,
the fronds subside, subside:
the mind of the tree returns.
To earth, recalls that earth is its mother:
and then it likes once more
its earthly corner. Rabindranath Tagore  Palm Tree

la côte vermeille

January 13, 2012

à bientôt a la côte vermeille.

Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur
D’aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Les soleils mouillés
De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
Si mystérieux
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Des meubles luisants,
Polis par les ans,
Décoreraient notre chambre;
Les plus rares fleurs
Mêlant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l’ambre,
Les riches plafonds,
Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
Tout y parlerait
À l’âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Vois sur ces canaux
Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l’humeur est vagabonde;
C’est pour assouvir
Ton moindre désir
Qu’ils viennent du bout du monde.
— Les soleils couchants
Revêtent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entière,
D’hyacinthe et d’or;
Le monde s’endort
Dans une chaude lumière.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.   Charles Baudelaire  L’invitation au voyage


un château fort

January 13, 2012

Fort de Salses  –  half buried now within the surrounding landscape of vines –  comes as a surprise. It’s also hidden from view from the fast A 9 and from the town of Salses-le-Château. The town’s not great – provincial in the French manner – sorry France!

An example of power and strong military architecture of 15C. The building lost its importance when the boundary with Spainwas redrawn.

From medieval  – keep and round towers and long curtain walls  – to the modern restoration. Pink sandstone and brick – perfect combination

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool’s heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counter-part
In the whole world. The tempest’s mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see? because of night perhaps?—why, day
Came back again for that! before it left,
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—
“Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!”

Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet, each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew. `  Robert Browning  `Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

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