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950 year anniversary of a ‘Good Thing’ (1066 and all that: a memorable history of england. yeatman + sellar). The town celebrates this after voting for Brexit which many think, was an acknowledgement for the predicament that the fishing fleet had found itself in during years within the EU.  So, to stop being conquered and thus able to become ‘top nation’ again, has a new meaning . . . mmmm . . .

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. . . here sheltering from the rain by The First Inn Last Out pub, we await the procession.  The rain stops and here it comes down the Old Town High Street . . .

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. . . drumming, shouting, clapping, explosions. This event continues in a Sussex town every week until November 5th when Lewes holds the culmination bonfire event celebrating and commemorating the burning of protestant martyrs and of a papal effigy following Pope Pius’ decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy. Images and models – guys – of  popular hate figures were placed at the pinnacle of the bonfire. Some discussed who might be honoured this year . . .

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. . .  costumes are important, as are masks. There is an order for who wears what in the procession, for example, those dressed in striped smugglers tops should process before anyone in black tail coat. This year, a few Normans, but mostly it’s a motley collection and with surprisingly a good few tiny sleeping tots in push chairs – the overall feel is of bonhomie.

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The crowd follow the procession to the Stade where the bonfire is lit and then the explosions, in the sky, commence. Great evening.

The poem needs to be read with any sort of English country accent that you can muster.

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I’ll tell of the Battle of Hastings,
As happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England,
And ‘Arold got shot in the eye.
It were this way – one day in October
The Duke, who were always a toff
Having no battles on at the moment,
Had given his lads a day off.
They’d all taken boats to go fishing,
When some chap in t’ Conqueror’s ear
Said ‘Let’s go and put breeze up the Saxons;’
Said Bill – ‘By gum, that’s an idea’.
Then turning around to his soldiers,
He lifted his big Norman voice,
Shouting – ‘Hands up who’s coming to England.’
That was swank ‘cos they hadn’t no choice.
They started away about tea-time –
The sea was so calm and so still,
And at quarter to ten the next morning
They arrived at a place called Bexhill.King ‘Arold came up as they landed –
His face full of venom and ‘ate –
He said ‘lf you’ve come for Regatta
You’ve got here just six weeks too late.’At this William rose, cool but ‘aughty,
And said ‘Give us none of your cheek;
You’d best have your throne re-upholstered,
I’ll be wanting to use it next week.’

When ‘Arold heard this ‘ere defiance,
With rage he turned purple and blue,
And shouted some rude words in Saxon,
To which William answered – ‘And you.’

‘Twere a beautiful day for a battle;
The Normans set off with a will,
And when both sides was duly assembled,
They tossed for the top of the hill.

King ‘Arold he won the advantage,
On the hill-top he took up his stand,
With his knaves and his cads all around him,
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

The Normans had nowt in their favour,
Their chance of a victory seemed small,
For the slope of the field were against them,
And the wind in their faces an’ all.

The kick-off were sharp at two-thirty,
And soon as the whistle had went
Both sides started banging each other
‘Til the swineherds could hear them in Kent.

The Saxons had best line of forwards,
Well armed both with buckler and sword –
But the Normans had best combination,
And when half-time came neither had scored.

So the Duke called his cohorts together
And said – ‘Let’s pretend that we’re beat,
Once we get Saxons down on the level
We’ll cut off their means of retreat.’

So they ran – and the Saxons ran after,
Just exactly as William had planned,
Leaving ‘Arold alone on the hill-top
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

When the Conqueror saw what had happened,
A bow and an arrow he drew;
He went right up to ‘Arold and shot him.
He were off-side, but what could they do?

The Normans turned round in a fury,
And gave back both parry and thrust,
Till the fight were all over bar shouting,
And you couldn’t see Saxons for dust.

And after the battle were over
They found ‘Arold so stately and grand,
Sitting there with an eye-full of arrow
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and. Marriot Edgar

 The Battle of Hastings

olives-pont-du-gard

a post with few humans – a couple of tourists and some carved in stone – it’s easier for me to engage with this landscape as such. At Pont du Gard, in the terrain around the landmark, those maintaining the landscape show good skills – using just enough management. The olives in this grove have a balletic quality  – a certain strength underlying a lightness of form . . .

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. . . equally, the dry stone walling is rhythmic in contrast to the static character of the remnants of this ancient aqueduct that carried water from Uzés to Nimes. Some is very fragile awaiting restoration, perhaps . . .

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. . . a sprinkling of chêne vert left to edge the informal track leading down to the first dramatic glimpse. Nothing could be more powerful and appropriate.

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Masterful engineering – perfection in the detail of the construction – a simple and beautiful junction of stonework.

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At the Monastère, ‘the antechamber to heaven’ but also close to home, the small church is receiving attention – completion of the interior next year perhaps  – with the facade finished and decorated with a frieze of ‘Eric Gill’ style carving.

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Eclectic architectural details which somehow work spread around the entrance, the spacious courtyard which I was to shy to photograph, the chapel and the nuns gathering room – they’ve employed a sensitive architect. Also, stupidly, I didn’t pluck up the courage to ask to see the productive gardens – all that convent schooling still affects me badly . . .

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. . . but here at the quarry at Vallabrix, no hestation on pushing through fencing and security bondaries to get as close as possible. This sand is used to manufacture Perrier bottles – so much better to drink water from glass than plastic . . . and it’s a stunning landscape to behold and walk around although the locals are not so keen on the noise and night time working. Two poems for this post, Attwood and Paz, what can I say . . .

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The moment when, after many years

of hard work and a long voyage

you stand in the centre of your room,

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,

knowing at last how you got there,

and say, I own this,

 

is the same moment when the trees unloose

their soft arms from around you,

the birds take back their language,

the cliffs fissure and collapse,

the air moves back from you like a wave

and you can’t breathe.

 

No, they whisper. You own nothing.

You were a visitor, time after time

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.

We never belonged to you.

You never found us.

It was always the other way round. Margaret Atwood

 

 

Between now and now,

between I am and you are,

the word bridge.

Entering it

you enter yourself:

the world connects

and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,

there is always

a body stretched:

a rainbow.

I’ll sleep beneath its arches. Octavio Paz

 

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