avignon grand – choses

December 29, 2012

Perversely, my intention for the title of this post is not used in the more usual negative meaning. Instead, I mean the phrase to be read in a positive fashion. So these are just some snap shot thoughts and comments of my first impressions of Avignon – the old, historic, walled and ramparted area – still in festive mode at the close of one year and the start of the new. These aren’t just holiday snaps! They’re necessary research. The closest public space is Place Saint Didier and years ago,  the site for public hangings.

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A couple of diagrams on the information panels show the medieval layout of buildings and the position of  the gibbet. This has been replaced with a public phone box . . . . but only  a temporary feature as all of France seems to be moving around with mobile attached . . .

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. . .  a living sculpture – complete in tone – was an appropriate introduction to the the large and generous spatial areas around the Palais des Papes. It’s a busy Saturday just before New Year – families are enjoying the last remnants of Christmas – the market, lights, shopping – and also wandering up the the Rocher des Doms to sit around in the winter sunshine. Many smiling faces . . . .

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. . .  the architecture amazes.

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The details are also exquisite. For example, the craftsmanship in laying the textured patterns in the hard landscaping, more recent but of a similar level of quality to the older stonework.

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Always enjoy and appreciate how the spaces are used alongside the composition of the architectural features.

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The limestone outcrop of the Rocher des Doms is the highest vantage point. Here, the plane trees as everywhere in this well composed town, are magnificently managed and also  from here, Pont St-Benezet, offers the invitation to the dance . . .

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. . . rays of sun, sculpted in decorative stone, spread out from the Ancienne Comedie d’Avignon. . .

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. . but a very modest shrine delicately hanging on the corner of a narrow passage, crafted by a monk, seemed to bring me back down to earth.

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Curling back into the centre of the old town, on Rue Joseph Vernet, the courtyard entrance to the Musee Calvet hosts strong and theatrical light patterns as the sun drops.

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Any solitude
Without a swan or quai
Mirrors its disuse
In the look I abdicate

Here from that pride’s excess
Too high to enfold
In which many a sky paints itself
With the twilight’s gold

But languorously flows beside
Like white linen laid aside
Such fleeting birds as dive
Exultantly at my side

Into the wave made you
Your exultation nude.


Unconquerably there must
As my hope hurls itself free
Burst on high and lost
In silence and in fury

A voice alien to the wood
Or followed by no echo,
The bird one never could
Hear again in life below.

The wild musician,
The one that in doubt expires
If not from his breast but mine
Has spurted the sob more dire

Utterly torn apart will he
Lie on some path beneath. Stephane Mallarme  Little Air

evening lights

December 22, 2012

old town highstreet

A ‘ dark’ post  but appropriate for the time of the year.  Early evening in the Old Town High Street shows glistening puddles – it’s drizzling yet again, so very few folks out and about . . .  but quintessentially British.


At Schmizu, the window and the shop inside, look stylish – as always – beautiful display and the shop’s still open . . .


bells bicycles

. . .  equally creative are the windows of Bells. Many buildings – houses and shops –  have discreet festive lighting  – just visible. Curtains are left open at Christmas time, to allow the outer world to enjoy what is happening within . . .

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discreet 2

discreet 3

. .  some shop windows are all about window shopping – dresses – yes, possibly . . .


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hendys 1

. . .  and such fragile memories from childhood show in the double frontage display of Hendy’s Home Store.

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Pretty swags across George Street . . .

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and smaller swags in the windows of Skylon in Norman Road


In the windows of Wayward, it’s a complete composition with intriguing details of ribbons and of carefully selected ornament . . .


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windward 3

. .   this lighting on the Marina building, however, stays with me night after night. Am very fond of this facade. Other posts on festive are here and here.


The poems take exception to the rain.

They complain of their ankle-joints,

their elbows.

They reserve the right

not to be relied upon.

They put on weight.

They hoard their sleep

like currency –

not a crumb or a word

let slip, not a coin

in the collecting-plate.

Under the Christmas tree they lie

Immobile, with their travellers’ eyes.

When the day drowns them out

they look to the merciful night.

Night that takes the form of a train

crossing a forest.

shaking snow-pillows

from the silent branches. Jo Shapcott  December 4

port of stranded pride

December 11, 2012


In Winchelsea, in a garden looking towards Rye, both ‘ports of stranded pride’ in the Romney Marsh landscape  as tagged by Rudyard Kipling. Years ago, in Roman and Norman times, both towns were ports where the sea washed this land.


I like the effect that the iphone pix have when fiddled with in instagram software  – just playing around, of course. Looking within and beyond the site, wondering what to do with it . . . noting the structure of the trees, hedging, spatial areas in the winter landscape. My knowledge of Winchelsea is just about OK but I thought to roam around the outlaying landscape to breathe in a little more  . . . .



. . .  down Monks Walk towards Wickham Manor Farm, the road passes under the New Gate. A flock huddled around the structure – looked interested and then quickly looked bored – picturesque nevertheless.  These pastures were owned by William Penn.  . . .and below is a wall of an almshouse. Stunning as a landmark now but humble as a piece of construction.


The views framed by the streetscape (horrible planners terminology) must have been fairly breathtaking before the arrival of the car and  vehicle parking  lining each street. I had to crop out the cars to get a feel of how things were – not much left but  . . .


. . .  attached to the gable of the Old Court Hall is an elaborate piece of metalwork that may have been a hoist or  . . . .


. . .  and the other major building standing slap bang in the middle of the town is the church – the new church as the previous  late 12C building was battered by high tides and, in the mid 13C, and finally destroyed by floods that changed the course of the river Rother. Edward 1 was instrumental in the siting of the ‘new town’. It remains unclear whether the arches that stand like wings were left incomplete or left to fall as ruins on this 2 acre site . . .  lovely stone from Normandy.







Spike Milligan lies here . . . somewhere  . . . in a graveyard surrounded by exquisite houses. I hope, and am completely sure, that the towns folk  follow his advise:

People who live in glass houses

Should pull the blinds

When removing their trousers. Spike Milligan




Humble head gently overseeing all who pass through the grounds. Some thoughts and experiences to ruminate on – useful and  thanks to the small town with a modest but well heeled character.


God gave all men all earth to love,

But since are hearts are small,

Ordained for each one spot should prove

Belovèd over all;

That, as He watched Creation’s birth,

So we, in godlike mood,

May of our love create our earth

And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,

As one some Surrey glade,

Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament

Before Levuka’s Trade.

Each to his choice, and I rejoice

The lot has fallen to me

In a fair ground — in a fair ground —

Yea, Sussex by the sea!

No tender-hearted garden crowns,

No bosomed woods adorn

Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,

But gnarled and writhen thorn —

Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,

And, through the gaps revealed,

Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,

Blue goodness of the Weald.

Clean of officious fence or hedge,

Half-wild and wholly tame,

The wise turf cloaks the white cliff-edge

As when the Romans came.

What sign of those that fought and died

At shift of sword and sword?

The barrow and the camp abide,

The sunlight and the sward.

Here leaps ashore the full Sou’West

All heavy-winged with brine,

Here lies above the folded crest

The Channel’s leaden line;

And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,

And here, each warning each,

The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring

Along the hidden beach.

We have no waters to delight

Our broad and brookless vales —-

Only the dewpond on the height

Unfed, that never fails —

Whereby no tattered herbage tells

Which way the season flies —

Only our close-bit thyme that smells

Like dawn in Paradise.

Here through the strong unhampered days

The tinkling silence thrills;

Or little, lost, Down churches praise

The Lord who made the hills:

But here the Old Gods guard their ground,

And, in her secret heart,

The heathen kingdom Wilfred found

Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

Though all the rest were all my share,

With equal soul I’d see

Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,

Yet none more fair than she.

Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,

And I will choose instead

Such lands as lie ‘twixt Rake and Rye,

Black Down and Beachy Head.

I will go out against the sun

Where the rolled scarp retires,

And the Long Man of Wilmington

Looks naked towards the shires;

And east till doubling Rother crawls

To find the fickle tide,

By dry and sea-forgotten walls,

Our ports of stranded pride.

I will go north about the shaws

And the deep ghylls that breed

Huge oaks and old, the which we hold

No more than Sussex “weed”;

Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s

Begilded dolphin veers,

And black beside the wide-bankèd Ouse

Lie down our Sussex steers.

So to the land our hearts we give

Till the sure magic strike,

And Memory, Use and Love make live

Us and our fields alike —

That deeper than our speech and thought,

Beyond our reason’s sway;

Clay of the pit whence we were wrought

Yearns to its fellow clay.

God gave all men all earth to love,

But since are hearts are small,

Ordained for each one spot should prove

Belovèd over all;

Each to his choice, and I rejoice

The lot has fallen to me

In a fair ground — in a fair ground —

Yea, Sussex by the sea!   Rudyard Kipling  Sussex

sheep and more sheep

December 2, 2012

A visit to Rye – to the dentist  – just by the church. Amusing comments from others in the waiting room – “it’s just the thought of the dentists that makes one feel nervous” – ” I’ve never really been hurt” –  ” I dread it”. Fortunately, for me, it’s never a bad experience as luckily my dentist is brilliant. I wander down through the town walls feeling mellow rather like the sheep grazing on the marshes by the river Rother. Back on the road home – the Royal Military Road at the junction with Sea Road at the base of the Winchelsea hill, temporary traffic lights provide an opportunity to pause and view down the stretch of land carved out by the construction of the canal. Beautiful tones on the rushes – but no sheep.

Having negotiated the hair pin bends around the base of the town and started to pick up speed on the down hill run after Rectory Lane, a large flock  came into view captured in the geometric areas formed by the network of ditches and streams . . . .

. . . quiet and ‘nothing to shout about’ willows line the stream . . . .

The ancient mounds that hold the ridge of Monks’ Walk form a spectacular background.

Off they scuttle – across my idea of a seventh heaven landscape.

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the colour of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells –
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water. Sylvia Plath  A Sheep in the Fog

Another post more related to the poem and another about sheep and I’m not sure if Romney Marsh sheep had bells – but I do know who might know.

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