May 4, 2015
Another year, another May, another Jack-in-the-Green and some delicate window displays, some enigmatic. One of the oldest public holidays in England – the celebration of Spring and the return of life to the land after long winter months. In this quaint seaside town, where passages and ‘twittens’ thread through the narrow streets that lead down to the net huts and fishing fleet on the beach, strange dressing up happens on this day . . .
. . . locals and visitors stop and converse . . . but there’s a focus on arriving by the net huts where Jack will be released and burst out centre stage. For previous posts click HERE. Posts from 2010 will pop up.
The headgear always takes my eye immediately . . . so well crafted, so imaginative, so detailed, so individual . . .
. . . but some simple.
Often the couples dress as pairs but occasionally they can’t restrain themselves. The Hums, the couple below, are always intriguing and so beautifully ‘dressed’ – by themselves. Spend a few seconds looking at the craftsmanship of the back of her jacket and her headress – then Bob Hum’s shoes – from Primark apparently.
Another couple who make returned visits . . . neat, elegant footwear
. . . thank you so much for your gracious presence. Costume detail absorbs me. But to get bak to the main event, Jack, clothed in foliage is like the cows let out into the meadow, full of frolics . . .
Following the Jack and the Bogies are Mad Jack’s Morris, the Sweeps and the May Queen, Hannah’s Cat, The Lovely Ladies and the Gay Bogies, Giants, visiting performing groups and the rhythm section in no particular order.
A high vanatge point is useful . . .
. . . but sometimes a lower position is required.
Music and drumming and, of course, dancing are integral elements . . .
. . . motorbikes are also part of the day. A large exodus from South London, Kent and West Sussex arrive and fill the seafront down to St Leonards. Shiny metal, much revving and large leather nappies on the riders.
A mature ‘sweep’ with interesting headgear . . . quite delicate . . .
. . . more costumes on the gregarious and the less so.
This year, a new group, displaying magnificent headresses . . . no clue on the concept or the rationale but good fun!
But always time to greet friends and acquaintances when the procession has wound down to the Old Town High Street. Wonderful as always.
This is the laughing-eyed amongst them all:
My lady’s month. A season of young things.
She rules the light with harmony, and brings
The year’s first green upon the beeches tall.
How often, where long creepers wind and fall
Through the deep woods in noonday wanderings,
I’ve heard the month, when she to echo sings,
I’ve heard the month make merry madrigal.
How often, bosomed in the breathing strong
Of mosses and young flowerets, have I lain
And watched the clouds, and caught the sheltered song –
Which it were more than life to hear again –
Of those small birds that pipe it all day long
Not far from Marly by the memoried Seine. Hilaire Belloc May
April 23, 2015
OK, I’ve been sitting on this post for a week now and, within that week, the garden at Sissinghurst will have changed as gardens do. Some April sun to bring on the plants and fill out the borders but the temperatures are still low. So these images are just about relevent and the journey shown here is on the most obvious route. On arrival, a delicate pleasing planting in the urns in the forecourt, even though the hyacinths are ‘over’ . . .
. . . and more delicious container planting – Iris bucharica and auriculas in the front courtyard under the tower.
Gloomy weather and not ideal for photography – too few shadows and a general sense of indistinct – although in this atmosphere the garden seemed to merge more successfully into the surroundings. From the top of the tower – an overriding softness floating over a particular countryside . . .
. . . but down on the ground, brilliant chaenomeles and an interesting signature below the gateway into the Rose Garden.
Just peeking through another entrance from the Rose Garden . . .
. . . this time of year, the expertise of the management of this special garden is easy to see and worth noting.
Perfection in Harold’s Lime Walk, ‘his life’s work’, where the carpet of spring bulbs, like overlaid small Persian rugs, weaves below the espaliered structure of the tree stems . . .
. . . the effect relaxes through the Nuttery. The groupings are larger and the softness of tone provides a floating feel. Always admire the stonking trilliums that interupt the effect . . .
. . . and also the hard landscape detailing. Such craftsmanship; so sublime and impossible to find today. Big colour contrast in the Cottage Garden, as always . . .
. . . and out in the Orchard, snakes heads on the floor and blossom overhead.
The moat is quite congested where it ends – looks like someone else’s close by – but is cleaner where it runs . . .
In Delos, blossom abounds with spreads of anemone and magnolias in full frontal. It starts to rain – just a little – enough to take shelter in the library where this arrangement takes my attention. Colour . . .
. . . but I’ve never taken to this colour composition – the Purple Border. Why? It’s a colour I like, but not here for some reason – perhaps this needs some analysis.
The White Garden is restful and low key in April – neat and composed – maybe overly so – but to be respected. Here she is reading a little from The Land.
Days I enjoy are days when nothing happens,
When I have no engagements written on my block,
When no one comes to disturb my inward peace,
When no one comes to take me away from myself
And turn me into a patchwork, a jig-saw puzzle,
A broken mirror that once gave a whole reflection,
Being so contrived that it takes too long a time
To get myself back to myself when they have gone.
The years are too strickly measured, and life too short
For me to afford such bits of myself to my friends.
And what have I to give my friends in the last resort?
An awkwardness, a shyness, and a scrap,
No thing that’s truly me, a bootless waste,
A waste of myself and them, for my life is mine
And theirs presumably theirs, and cannot touch. V Sackville West
March 4, 2015
A cabanon – small agricultural building – standing alone. Almost all are unused, neglected and generally in disrepair. These stone and tile constructions are liberally dotted across the landscape here in the Luberon and quite obvious now before the foliage on the cherries fills out. One is for sale for 95,000 euros in the village estate agent’s window. It is shown as a charming and romantic habitation decorated with a spread of wisteria frothing across the facade . . . water from the well but no electricity. It’s a simple cabanon under the gentrification.
Cherry orchards interspersed with olives groves, vineyards and the occasional lavender field are the prime managed elements hugged by the indigenous white oak and pine woodland. The generations of cherries show a marked variety of treatment. The ancient are left a while as skeletons and then decimated close to the ground before the roots are dug up – sounds harsh but there is a sort orf reverence for the trees that during life have produced hundreds of kilos of fruit.
The village looks good from here – the chateau and windmill stand proud – clusters of pines within the chateau confines mark the highest point above the terraced terrain.
Light playful showers tickle the senses. Clouds scud across Mont Ventoux . . .
. . . another cabanon comes into view. Turning to the east, the ochre rock of the Gardi and the remaining winter foliage on the oaks is pleasing. I hadn’t noticed this subtlety before – only being conscious of the more obvious contrasting dark tones of pine.
More abandoned buildings – stoic and solitary – not needed now for machinery, animals nor shelter.
And these two are not abandoned and not the slightest interested in my offerings of apples. The poem, more Beckett, he lived around here for a while after all and his poems have sparked an interest that is difficult to ignore. I can imagine those long thin legs striding out into this landscape.
what would I do without this world faceless incurious
where to be lasts but an instant where every instant
spills in the void the ignorance of having been
without this wave where in the end
body and shadow together are engulfed
what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die
the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love
without this sky that soars
above its ballast dust
what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness
que ferais-je sans ce monde sans visage sans questions
où être ne dure qu’un instant où chaque instant
verse dans le vide dans l’oubli d’avoir été
sans cette onde où à la fin
corps et ombre ensemble s’engloutissent
que ferais-je sans ce silence gouffre des murmures
haletant furieux vers le secours vers l’amour
sans ce ciel qui s’élève
sur la poussieère de ses lests
que ferais-je je ferais comme hier comme aujourd’hui
regardant par mon hublot si je ne suis pas seul
à errer et à virer loin de toute vie
dans un espace pantin
sans voix parmi les voix
enfermées avec moi Samuel Beckett
February 22, 2015
Along the lanes between Frittenden and Sissinghurst, single elegant specimens and more functional lines of trees screening the fields of fruit – all with intrinsic character. Birds inhabiting the top canopies. A busy time of year for them – sounding happy . . .
. . . stands of sweet chestnut, hazel, birch and more solitary statuesque oaks.
No one around just endless cars but the the inhabitants of these missed the beauty that I enjoyed.
I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone. Robert Frost.
February 4, 2015
No one is out here in the village . . . but a few have been busy. A chance to observe shapes and patterns accentuated by the thick layer of snow . . .
In the graveyard . . . what to say? Just quietly and slowly move and absorb. Sorry to disturb.
The poem – beautiful and melancholic – just like today.
There are lone cemeteries,
tombs full of soundless bones,
the heart threading a tunnel,
a dark, dark tunnel :
like a wreck we die to the very core,
as if drowning at the heart
or collapsing inwards from skin to soul.
There are corpses,
clammy slabs for feet,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
a bark without its dog,
out of certain bells, certain tombs
swelling in this humidity like lament or rain.
I see, when alone at times,
coffins under sail
setting out with the pale dead, women in their dead braids,
bakers as white as angels,
thoughtful girls married to notaries,
coffins ascending the vertical river of the dead,
the wine-dark river to its source,
with their sails swollen with the sound of death,
filled with the silent noise of death.
Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot, a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring, stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth, a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo, hushed like a tree.
I do not know, I am ignorant, I hardly see
but it seems to me that its song has the colour of wet violets,
violets well used to the earth,
since the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death green
with the etched moisture of a violet’s leaf
and its grave colour of exasperated winter.
But death goes about the earth also, riding a broom
lapping the ground in search of the dead –
death is in the broom,
it is the tongue of death looking for the dead,
the needle of death looking for the thread.
Death lies in our beds :
in the lazy mattresses, the black blankets,
lives a full stretch and then suddenly blows,
blows sound unknown filling out the sheets
and there are beds sailing into a harbour
where death is waiting, dressed as an admiral. Neruda Death Alone
February 2, 2015
Today is Candlemas or la Chandeleur, the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox- the pagan festival of light when the churches blessed their candles. Snow is forecast so a prompt to get out . . . and walk down from Goult through the pine and white oak scrub covering Les Terrasses to the valley of Lumieres. Poplars, planes and some willow line the river here – delicate ivy clings on its upward journey . . .
. . . a solitary young soldier on a plinth. As yet I have failed to come up with identification. Maybe a question in the epicerie will supply an answer. On the plinth: ‘Ge suis venne au roi de France de par la Vierge Marie”.
Scrambling up the Mange Tian ( a regional cooking vessel at the first level of research – the shape of?? or where food was offered??) – precipitous, slippery but exhilarating climb to the plateau covered with pines . . . and a few bories that young master H. Dupont Fogg would love to investigate . . .
. . . dry stone walls retaining the terraced land and also free standing structures as boundaries. Some ruins of a hamlet . . . about 6 houses clustered here no doubt with livestock – cereal growing, olives, vines and other crops – on the open plateau. The terrain would have been intensely farmed enough to sustain a small community. Now holm oak and the white oak have regenerated to cover the land and the lack of light is evident.
. . . where nature has started the process of reoccupation.
The journey along the narrow paths has dramatic interludes when and where unstable or tired trees perform their dance of death. More dancing from those lively specimens alongside too – all elbows, hips and flashing legs . . .
. . . and then a solitary sign of another wasted object left to rot – Citroen Ami? Interesting that the lichen and algae have inhabited the surface – shows how clean the air is.
Down and beyonds lies an area called Les Fenêtres Rouges where the ochre landscape sits centre stage. This occurs intermittently within this intimate terrain but always surprises visually and evocatively . . . No other souls around. Bliss.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. Robert Frost The Road not Taken.
January 7, 2015
The terraces in Oppède-le-Vieux hold a decent collection of native plants – all labelled with correct nomenclature and explanation for herbal or culinary use if applicable – but it’s difficult to concentrate on these when the panorama is so splendid – the Luberon valley, Mont Ventoux and part of the Vaucluse – like tiers of old stage flats punctuated with pencil slim cypress. Clients often express the misguided notion that trees will block the view but there are ways of planting trees to emphasise the view as shown here . . .
These terraces are dedicated to Sainte Cécile. Flat plates of Umbilicus rupestris – navelwort – are springing forth now in the crevices not only here but in many dry stone walls in the area. Below is the site of the old threshing floor – aire de battage – now an angular foot print but originally it would have been circular so more practical for the tethered animal to do his or her circuit.
From here, the old village is seen spread across the north facing side of the Petit Luberon. The winter sun starts casting its shadow by midday so houses beyond the medieval ramparts are dark, humid and tricky to maintain apparently. The domination of the restored church of Notre-Dame-D’Alidon and the ruins of the castle are felt from a distance as well as within the village streets. I found it a charming and quirky place and many others have enjoyed it and settled here. Following the armistice of June 1940, architect Bernard Zehrfuss founded a commune of artists in the old town, a project that attracted French sculptor François Stahly and the writer and artist Consuelo de Saint Exupéry. The commune proved short-lived but, interestingly, it was the basis for Saint Exupéry’s fictionalized account, published in 1946, called ‘Kingdom of the Rocks’.
Looking at close up details, the clock and bell tower on the town hall and then at even more smaller scale . . .
. . . a statuette, religious of course, as the Popes, based in Avignon, dabbled religiously and relentlessly here. The main route up to the church and castle was the village street; access points of the wash houses and modest homes are still evident . . .
. . . they retain a theatrical feel (like a discarded film set) of the past – very beautiful and evocative. In the 19th century, the inhabitants had enough and started to move down in the valley, dismantling the roof of their houses to stop paying property taxes. By the beginning of the 20th century, Oppède-le-Vieux was a ghost village and a new community was officially established in the valley, with larger streets, cosier houses and farmers closer to their fields – the new village – Oppède-les-Poulivets (“nice view” in Provençal),
The Chapel of the White Penitents is set half way up the stepped ramp path, beautifully laid, and then, in the full light at the summit sits the church (12C) and the medieval fortress.
Spacious steps with integrated landings below cantilevered gargoyles lead to a rocky unmanicured area where temporary safety fencing protects the castle – an engineered structure integrated within the natural environment. Work due to start in 2015.
A line of Renaissance villas line the north facing rock face – a mix of superbe, mysterious and the fairytale. Glamorous and expensive.
Sitting in the cemetery, something I do in a regular fashion, and looking beyond the walls, the tiers of vegetation – ivy in flower, Viburnum tinus in berry, olive, oak and pine gave me goosebumps. And then the surface of the wall, encrusted with stonecrop. Marvellous.
Despite the open window in the room of long absence, the odor of the rose is still linked with the breath that was there. Once again we are without previous experience, newcomers, in love. The rose! The field of its ways would dispel even the effrontery of death. No grating stands in the way. Desire is alive, an ache in our vaporous foreheads.
One who walks the earth in its rains has nothing to fear from the thorn in places either finished or unfriendly. But if he stops to commune with himself, woe! Pierced to the quick, he suddenly flies to ashes, an archer reclaimed by beauty. René Char.