on the beach – January

January 14, 2016

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After seemingly interminable rain, hallelujah a bright day dawns – of course chilly and crisp and more than refreshing; but appetising nonetheless. The beach at Pett Level is hidden from the road by the sea wall so the view across the Military Canal to the rising land has no competition. Visually superb from a distance and also excellent at close quarters for those strolling through.

Over the sea wall, a different and equally pleasing landscape is laid out. The tide is coming in as the sun strikes short shadows and highlights the textures of the beach stones . . .

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. . . sandstones of varying size contrast with finer shingle and the smooth islands of dark peat. An ancient forest lies below the water and can be seen occasionally below Cliff End revealing timber with a soft spongy texture as against the also exposed rigidly hard wood used in the old sea defences  The rhythm of the tide has left an elegant and informal wandering edge as though Poseidon has run a finger along the coastline . . .

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Small waders leave their mark – turnstones and oyster catchers perhaps – searching for delicacies and holding their own among the herring gulls.

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Nothing has been ‘done’ to these pix . . . clouds arrive and the sky to the east wears a dark violet cloak now . . .

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. . . but remains clearer to the west with a freezing wind which meant power walking back to the sheltered lower level and a favourite view across the marsh inhabited by coots and curlews and the odd cormorant – and the sheep of course. Edward Thomas, my father’s favourite poet assisting here on a special day. January 14th 1910

to winchelsea

Out of us all

That make rhymes

Will you choose

Sometimes –

As the winds use

A crack in a wall

Or a drain,

Their joy or their pain

To whistle through –

Choose me,

You English words?

 

I know you:

You are light as dreams,

Tough as oak,

Precious as gold,

As poppies and corn,

Or an old cloak:

Sweet as our birds

To the ear,

As the burnet rose

In the heat

Of Midsummer:

Strange as the races

Of dead and unborn:

Strange and sweet

Equally,

And familiar,

To the eye,

As the dearest faces

That a man knows,

And as lost homes are:

But though older far

Than oldest yew, –

As our hills are, old, –

Worn new

Again and again:

Young as our streams

After rain:

And as dear

As the earth which you prove

That we love.

 

Make me content

With some sweetness

From Wales

Whose nightingales

Have no wings, –

From Wiltshire and Kent

And Herefordshire, –

And the villages there, –

From the names, and the things

No less.

Let me sometimes dance

With you,

Or climb

Or stand perchance

In ecstasy,

Fixed and free

In a rhyme,

As poets do.  Edward Thomas  Words

Saturday morning

December 21, 2015

cafe

Been quite lazy on the blog front but then it’s good to take time out and breath. These two sitting outside Patisseries Orientales in Boulevards des Allies looked relaxed about life too. Saturday morning in Uzès means MARKET and although having been here a few weeks now, it is my first visit. My trustworthy confidante advised that a trip to Friday’s market in San Quentin is more authentic and cheaper – she’s right as always – but under murky skies, the market stalls along the Boulevard and in Place aux Herbes glistened like jewels and it was sort of fun . . .

fleurs

mimosa

. . . fleurs turned into chou-fleur and magnificent frisées.

choux fleurs

Wandering back down Rue Grande Bourgade where solanum continues to flower, I was grateful to this gentleman as he completed the composition – if only there was some sun and therefore some shadows.

rue petite bourgade 2

rue petite bourgade

A vine over an entrance at 32 is most sculptural and well managed – reminds me of a Pekingese fringe. And yes, the tantalising mimosa came home. Just checked and 4 years ago I was here with important beings.

no 32

no 32 close up

mimosa copy

Le soleil est toujours riant,

Depuis qu’il part de l’orient

Pour venir éclairer le monde.

Jusqu’à ce que son char soit descendu dans l’onde

La vapeur des brouillards ne voile point les cieux ;

Tous les matins un vent officieux

En écarte toutes les nues :

Ainsi nos jours ne sont jamais couverts ;

Et, dans le plus fort des hivers,

Nos campagnes sont revêtues

De fleurs et d’arbres toujours verts.

 

Les ruisseaux respectent leurs rives,

Et leurs naïades fugitives

Sans sortir de leur lit natal,

Errent paisiblement et ne sont point captives

Sous une prison de cristal.

Tous nos oiseaux chantent à l’ordinaire,

Leurs gosiers n’étant point glacés ;

Et n’étant pas forcés

De se cacher ou de se taire,

Ils font l’amour en liberté.

L’hiver comme l’été.

 

Enfin, lorsque la nuit a déployé ses voiles,

La lune, au visage changeant,

Paraît sur un trône d’argent,

Et tient cercle avec les étoiles,

Le ciel est toujours clair tant que dure son cours,

Et nous avons des nuits plus belles que vos jours.  Racine

 

The Sun is always laughing,

since he moved from the East

to come light up the world.

Up to what his chariot is down in the wave

of mist steam sailing point heaven;

Every morning an unofficial wind makes all naked:

so our days are never covered.

And in the height of winter,

our campaigns are coated with

flowers and evergreen trees.

Streams meet their shores,

and their fugitive naiades

without leaving their natal bed,

wander peacefully and are point

captive in a prison of Crystal.

All our birds are singing in the ordinary,

their throats being point iced;

And not being forced to hide or shut,

they make love in freedom.

The winter and the summer.

 

Finally, when night has deployed its sails,

the Moon, in the changing face,

appears on a silver throne,

and holds circle with the stars,

the sky is always clear as long as takes its course,

and we have most beautiful nights that your days.

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Just a few fleeting glimpses of up above . . . ‘a glimpse is much harder to pin down’ Howard Hodgkin.

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And, down on the ground, from a few hours in Uzès. Basalt setts inlaid in the stone to give subtle definition – a pleasing aesthetic.

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Old and new – skills and  craftsmanship  – and atmosphere.

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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

at lunchtime

June 6, 2015

place de l'eglise

France still closes down at lunchtine 12-2pm. Quite civilised and to be respected. Very pleasant sitting in Place de l’Eglise in Fontvieille – a small town that appeals more and more . . .

rue de lion

. . . wandering around the old streets, intrinsic compositions can be seen, admired and recorded.

lion gargoyle

pelargoniums

olive and stone

echeveria

pot garden

A garden of pots – well tended plants, all thriving and with somewhere to sit and admire them . . .

chairs

. . . and a green roof, which some might say is just ‘les mauvaises herbes’.

green roof

platane murie

Mûrier platane foliage on neatly managed trees shading a small modern square – very inviting – and just close by, in contrast, spreading branches of an ancient plane tree form a ceiling by the quarried stone face of the old town wall.

small square

stone quarry

skate 1

In the château gardens, now the town park, all ages are catered for. The home of Alphonse Daudet, the writer, now a museum dedicated to him and his work  – most notably “Les Lettres de mon Moulin”. Water courses run through the parkland where holm oaks and pines cascade over lauristinius and broom providing a simple vegetation matrix

canal

view to windmill 1

windmill 1

Following one walking route (there are many others to Les Baux, to San Remy and to Eygalieres) around the top of the town, the landmarks are three windmills named after their owners – Tissot-Avon (2 owners), Ramet and Ribet also called St Pierre and also also called Daudet’s mill with sails completely restored.

windmill 2

windmill 3

windmill 3 whole

windmill 3

rather fell for it and the whole area of Les Alpilles.

windmill 3 detail

J’ai dans mon coeur un oiseau bleu,
Une charmante creature,
Si mignonne que sa ceinture
N’a pas l’epaisseur d’un cheveu.

Il lui faut du sang pour pature.
Bien longtemps, je me fis un jeu
De lui donner sa nourriture:
Les petits oiseaux mangent peu.

Mais, sans en rien laisser paraitre,
Dans mon coeur il a fait, le traitre,
Un trou large comme la main.

Et son bec fin comme une lame,
En continuant son chemin,
M’est entre jusqu’au fond de l’ame!….  Alphonse Daudet L’Oiseau Bleu

 

sorry to disturb

February 4, 2015

snowrabbit

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 . . .

parterr

bamboo

. . . fresh green bamboo foliage weighed down with the snow. Rows of vines and cherries transformed into a dense, textural and graphic statement. vines + cherries

grande allee

In the graveyard . . . what to say? Just quietly and slowly move and absorb. Sorry to disturb.

yew + graves

group

 

scale

angel

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

candlemas

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 . . .

plant trunk

. . . 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”.

statue

statue 2

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 . . .

pine

borie

. . . 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.

dry stone wall ruins

ruins1

ruins 2

ruins 3

. . . where nature has started the process of reoccupation.

ruins 4

path

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 . . .

path 2

dancing

dancing 1

. . . 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.

car

car 2

les fenetres rouges

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.

L'imergue river bed

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.

the old village

January 7, 2015

cupressus 1

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 . . .

wall.2 jpg

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.

threshing floor 3

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’.

view to chateau

town hall

Looking at close up details, the clock and bell tower on the town hall and then at even more smaller scale . . .

knocker

figurine stutuette

. . . 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 . . .

blocked up 1

blocked up 2

blocked up 3

 

chapel of white penitants

. . . 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.

church steps

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.

gargoyle

chateau 2

chateau 1

chateau

chateau detail

A line of Renaissance villas line the north facing rock face – a mix of superbe, mysterious and the fairytale. Glamorous and expensive.

renaissance villas

villa detail

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.

vegetation layers

cementary wall

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.

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