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 . . .


. . . 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 . . .


. . . 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 . . .



. . .  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.





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.




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


In 48:Eight – the gallery of The School Creative Centre, a symposium titled This Migration – the role of migration in the arts, our lives, societies and our future histories. The sculpted heads of first and second generation Londoners formed a silent last tier. Their individual stories could be heard through the headphones.




A slide below that was used to explain the processing of personal information and how this can be translated into data – used by the border services as well as by those more creative. Francis Alys ‘ The Loop’, Yinka Shonibare ‘The British Library’, Xavier Ribas ‘The Fence’ + Anna Maria Maioino ‘Black Hole’ were used in a discussion on how certain artists deal with issues around migration.


Not all the heads are inanimate and the colour of bone – some are the guests . . .




. . . not in focus but that’s purposeful. Digital images of the Lost Land of Ubar. The tracking of a migration route – digital cartography. How beautiful is the earth. I found the whole experience of the session visual as well as informative and consequently thought provoking.



Open Studios here on 19+20 September. The text comes from Geography 111 – an anthology of poems by Elizabeth Bishop.



Q. What is Geography?

A. A description of the Earth’s surface.

Q. What is the Earth?

A. The planet or body on which we live.

Q. What is the shape of the Earth?

A. Round, like a ball.

Q. Of what is the Earth composed?

A. Land and Water.



Q. What is a Map?

A. A picture of the whole, or a part, of the Earth’s Surface.

Q. What are the directions on a Map?

A. Toward the top, North; toward the bottom, South; to the right, East; to the left, West.

Q. In what direction from the centre of the picture is the Island?

A. North.

In what direction is the Volcano? The Cape?

The Bay? The Lake? The Strait? The Mountains?

The Isthmus?

What is in the East? In the West? In the South? In the North? In the Northwest? In the Southeast?


“First Lessons in Geography,”

Monteith’s Geographical Series,, A S Barnes + Co., 1884

dimanche après-midi

December 29, 2013

maison carre

Eyes up within the portico of the Maison Carrée  in Nimes – the stepped entrance, fluted columns and the compact nature of the portico – encourage the upward gesture. At this festive time however, action and noise compete to steer the glance across to the ice rink installed as a gay, colourful and interactive lower platform between the old and the new –  in an architectural sense. The new is the Carrée d’Art de Foster which becomes a fitting background to the leisure requirements of the Nimoise today .. . . . .


carre d'art

. . wandering around to the Boulevard Victor Hugo, late afternoon sun arrives on the  facade and the light pushes the foreground elements – branches and street decorations  – into strong definition.

boulevard victor hugo

quai de la fontaine

Turning left to wander along the Quai de la Fontaine on the way to the Jardins, the beauty of the plane trees  arching discreetly to their opposite partner frames the sedate but apposite water feature .. .

jardins de la fontaine

. .  the usual activities are happening on the ground. And the usual effects are happening on the vertical elements . . .

jardins de la fontaine 2

jardins de la fontaine 3

jardins de la fontaine 4

. . . in the park, families engage in their own festive enjoyment and the permanent inhabitants oversee all.

jardins de la fontaine 5

jardins de la fontaine 6

jardins de la fontaine 7

The Jardins de la Fontaine were the first public gardens constructed in France,  50 years after Versailles built by the King for himself. The town is justly proud of this great garden and it is well used by all generations. As so often the case in France, the scale remains superb – the pattern and the form still have an integrity – with proportions that many designers nowadays can only dream about.

jardins de la fontaine 8

jardins de la fontaine 9

Wandering back by the Arènes, starlings provide the performance skywards. A murmuration  – exquisite formations    – float with exact organisation forwards and backwards across the sky gathering before coming home to roost . . . .

murmuration 1

murmuration 2

murmuration 3

. .  at the junction of Rue de l’Ecluse (home/roost) and Avenue Carnot stands a palm. Phillippe Starck has created an installation  – Abribus –  inspired by an ancient Roman symbol which is found on both the coin and on the shield of the city, and features the two symbols of the city, the crocodile and palm tree. The marble design is a small line of solid cubes that reach the tree and are the tail and neck, and a large bucket, supported by its four vertices showing the animal’s body. As the light falls and decorative lighting comes to the fore. A strange and succesful installation  that typifies ‘ the seen and the unseen’. That typifies The Little Prince.


abribus 2

“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery  The Little Prince 

playgrounds for all

July 18, 2012

Beautiful hot days in Aix-en-Provence. Those of us that have small people to care about search for the shadiest play areas. Towns folk and visitors also walk on the shady side of the street! In the gardens of Pavillon Vendôme, we were almost the first group to arrive late afternoon. But the play area quickly filled up. Les mûrier platane – a fruitless form of mulberry with a tabulate habit – ensure shade here . . . .

. . . the park, once  the garden of the pavillon, is in the quartier faubourg des Cordeliers. Wondrous carving around the entrance.

Plane trees and cypress form simple but, correct and beautiful, structure.

Aix is in full festival mode . . . street theatre and fringe musical events happen seemingly spontaneously . . .

The Clock Tower joined to the Hôtel de Ville was once the symbol of local power in the city. A former belfry, the astronomical clock was added in the mid-seventeenth century. Four wooden statues symbolising the seasons appear in turn and it gives a playful feel to the square. Opposite sits the bibliotheque with carving on the portico just so similar to the Pavillon entrance. The same craftsmen?

Overlooking the town from Les Lauves,  shady areas in the garden around Cézanne’s atelier. A play ground of sorts – maybe too flippant a conjecture!

The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can say that
every day is to-day and they say that every day is as they say.
In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met because
he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant settled to stay.
When I said settled to stay I meant settled to stay Saturday. In this
way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if in as a mouth if in as a
mouth where, if in as a mouth where and there. Believe they have
water too. Believe they have that water too and blue when you see
blue, is all blue precious too, is all that that is precious too is all
that and they meant to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did
nearly in this way. Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did.
And was I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was
surprised and in that patient, are you patient when you find bees.
Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does honey. Honey
and prayer. Honey and there. There where the grass can grow nearly
four times yearly.   Gertrude Stein Cézanne

parks are for people

June 25, 2012

In Béziers, clouds of scent waft off the Tilia argentea group standing  sentinel by the entrance to the park – Plateau des Poètes  – that runs on from the main axis, Allées Paul-Rique, through the smart part of town.  It’s thought that  the landscape designer Frederic Law Olmstead honed the phrase ‘Parks are for People’ but research doesn’t provide concrete proof. Anyway, it’s a good phase and Olmstead’s Central Park  works today just as well as when first designed and constructed years ago. Spending some time in this open green space in ‘edgy’ (as G describes it) Béziers, I was taken with the clear usefulness of the park shown by locals of all ages,  enjoying all aspects.  Aspects or elements that have become known expectations. So, there are garden rooms , which family groups can inhabit, in privacy . . .

. .  and monuments and memorials – both contemporary in style and the more traditional – showing quite different forms of craftsmanship and decoration, or the lack of it . . .

. . .   at the rear of monuments – the hidden side – all ages seem to feel more relaxed and willing to intermingle – the fronts being imposing deter human informality. Spacious lawn areas, if shaded sufficiently,  are confidently inhabited by large ethnic family groups  . . .

. .  football goes on around the plinths and busts of the poets. Plinths make a good goal post . . .

. . information is a necessity and horticultural expertise is expected as shown by the pruned juniper in the Japanese manner . . .  and newly planted bedding around some fairly ugly cactus.

Water is an expected element in a large public park as both good for reflections and to reflect upon  . . .

. . and to amaze in the magnificence of construction and impact.

An informal but also formal rill – good for toy boats perhaps – seems forgotten under the Cedar of Lebanon.

Scuptural forms always figure in public space. Atlas, being manly, and being a Titan, is a necessary component in the Fountaine de Ttitan designed by Injalert . .

. .    simple jostling around tusselling with others is all part of enjoying the freedom within the larger scale open space of an urban park. It’s also the place where others can be watched!  We watch others to learn after all . . .

. . . and what fun to roll down grassy slopes without a care in the world.

‘A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book. Haste makes waste, no less in life than in housekeeping. Keep the time, observe the hours of the universe, not of the cars’.  Henry David Thoreau

le cirque nouveau

May 24, 2012

There was a walk I started recently which I couldn’t conclude – frustrating and unsatisfying although around a beautiful landscape nevertheless. Yesterday I went back and hurrah!! found the correct path to the summit and the view of Lac Salagou. The last stretch was mountain goat territory but nonetheless fine, as the goal turned out to be quite breathtaking. It’s a recent man-made lake and reservoir excavated from the basalt rock formation – the strong burnt sienna tones seen in the image below on another day. 

The descent is circuitous but strangely evocative of a journey of discovery.  . . .  glimpses through vegetated vistas . . . the odd fellow traveller (one with a mountain bike on his shoulder!!)  why!! must have read the wrong guide book . . .

 . . passing down by The Orgues , fluted and awe inspiring although these formations not as dramatic as those seen here . . .

 . . it’s a strange feeling being encircled by majesty and the natural environment – humbling. Ah, Little Prince, what wise words were written for you to speak! 

“Good evening,” said the little prince courteously.

“Good evening,” said the snake.

“What planet is this on which I have come down?” asked the little prince.

“This is the Earth; this is Africa,” the snake answered.

“Ah! Then there are no people on the Earth?”

“This is the desert. There are no people in the desert. The Earth is large,” said the snake.

The little prince sat down on a stone, and raised his eyes toward the sky.

“I wonder,” he said, “whether the stars are set alight in heaven so that one day each one of us may find his own again . . . Look at my planet. It is right there above us. But how far away it is!”

“It is beautiful,” the snake said. “What has brought you here?”

“I have been having some trouble with a flower,” said the little prince.

“Ah!” said the snake.

And they were both silent.

“Where are the men?” the little prince at last took up the conversation again. “It is a little lonely in the desert . . .”

“It is also lonely among men,” the snake said.

The little prince gazed at him for a long time.

“You are a funny animal,” he said at last. “You are no thicker than a finger . . .”

“But I am more powerful than the finger of a king,” said the snake.

The little prince smiled.

“You are not very powerful. You haven’t even any feet. You cannot even travel . . .”

“I can carry you farther than any ship could take you,” said the snake.

He twined himself around the little prince’s ankle, like a golden bracelet.

“Whomever I touch, I send back to the earth from whence he came,” the snake spoke again. “But you are innocent and true, and you come from a star . . .”

The little prince made no reply.

“You move me to pity–you are so weak on this Earth made of granite,” the snake said. “I can help you, some day, if you grow too homesick for your own planet. I can–”

“Oh! I understand you very well,” said the little prince. “But why do you always speak in riddles?”

“I solve them all,” said the snake.  And they were both silent. Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince

le hameau

May 19, 2012

In this hamlet, a few buildings have a sense of decrepitude and look like a set from a Zeffirelli  production. Some are for sale and some look quite tantalising with masonry –  schist or granite rubble – laid in a higgledy piggledy manner. 

Tactile constructions that have seen many years and many comings and goings. A more recent construction with a simple rendered finish has a decorative layer of planting – delicious scent from philadelphus  – and a combination that makes the kerria  just about palatable (not a great favourite with me).

Parthenocissus only works on its own – vigorous and strong  – glossy green all summer and then a red sheet in autumn  . . . .

 . .  and another simple effect, something more delicate but, also tough – echeveria –  tumbling through the railings on a south facing aspect . . .

 . .  plants defined as architectural work well on this corner within the hamlet.

And out in the vineyards, loose but well crafted layers and courses of schist retain the terraces and edges and boundaries. The vines are looking exactly as they should at this time of year – all very promising!!

The light drops at about 9.30 in the  evening and the swallows inhabit these narrow streets – swooping and calling – they have the stage to themselves  . . .  . .

In all its raucous impudence
Life writhes, cavorts in pallid light,
With little cause or consequence;
And when, with darkling skies, the night

Casts over all its sensuous balm,
Quells hunger’s pangs and, in like wise,
Quells shame beneath its pall of calm,
“Aha, at last!” the Poet sighs.

“My mind, my bones, yearn, clamoring
For sweet repose unburdening.
Heart full of dire, funeral thought,

I will lie out; your folds will cling
About me: veils of shadow wrought,
O darkness, cool and comforting!”  Charles Baudelaire  The End of the Day

And down by the stream, life gets very active, but no servants, thank goodness with this new government – :

‘The frogs are busy in the ditches, and the moon slid to her setting. Some happy servant had gone out to commune with the night and to beat upon a drum’  Rudyard Kipling  Kim

Le Temps retrouvé

May 10, 2012

In Aix- en -Provence, the view from the flat in Rue Mérindol, shows a sleepy quiet lost in time square.  Only at lunch time is it transformed into a bustly but organised outside eaterie. The fountain is a central feature here. The Romans developed the system of thermal waters issuing from springs into a cures and treatment centre. Fountains and water basins reflect this sense of history in a decorative form throughout the town.

In Place Albertas, an elegant tazza fountain, quite discrete . . . .

. . . and a portico that conveys grandeur and charm too.

Nearby, a more modest frame but equally gorgeous in subtlety and tone.

In Cours Mirabeau, a series of water basins cool the air in this busy thoroughfare . . . . the mossy surface adds to the effect and the sense of the ‘old’.

The street culminates with the impressive La Rotonde . . . . difficult to access as it is the centre of a large roundabout but  just opposite, is something contemporary and ‘people scale’.

And why not use a handy fountain to cool some bottles of rosé . . . .

. . .  up out of town in Célony, there’s nothing to disturb thoughts while wandering around  the old almond trees. Thoughts of taking the experiences of life and transforming them in our own way.

He could say no more because he was overcome with tears. Night had fallen. I had dropped my tools. I couldn’t have cared less about my hammer, my bolt, thirst or death. There was one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms and rocked him gently. I said to him: “ The flower you love is in no danger. I shall draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I shall draw you a fence to put around your flower. I will . . . ”

I did not know what to say to him. I felt very awkward. I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him. The land of tears is so mysterious. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince

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!

Lazy morning in Prades

January 10, 2012

The branches and shoots of the plane trees and the Église-St-Pierre

Tuesday is market day so buy a few baskets and then retreat to the Café I’Europe, with le beau monde, and wait for the accordion player to start his repertoire  . . .

. .  lean back and close the eyes.

and think about a couple of quotes from Balzac:

A grocer is attracted to his business by a magnetic force as great as the repulsion which renders it odious to artists.

A flow of words is a sure sign of duplicity.
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