concerto for the elements

February 15, 2014

gull 1

After yesterday’s big weather, slightly calmer this Saturday. Down at Rock- a- Nore (very delicious oyster, thank you, Sonny), the gulls are oblivious to the traffic problems of closed off car parks due to pot holes in the tarmac and the layers of pebbles washed over the interface of beach promenade as they  sway overhead enjoying the rhythm of the bands of the westerlies – all elemental. Us humans just trudge around talking about it all.

gull 2

Cones of strong sun landed on the fore shore within this episodic concerto . . .

sun

rock a nore

cliffs

. . the old pier stands its ground for one last storm before the renovations change its appearance and perhaps its use. How many storms has it witnessed? I find it more beautiful at each sighting and try to absorb the vision so that it’s not forgotten.

Back in St Leonards, the sky to the west grew thrillingly ominous making me rush in to listen to Martha Argerich (most marvellous and Argentinian to boot – the queen of pianists) playing Prokofiev. Oh, can I get to Aix and the Festival de Pacques to hear her live. No, sold out – stupid me as I saw the poster advertising it way back at the start of January. Imbécile. . . .

pier

st l's

last

Now this big westerly’s
blown itself out,
let’s drive to the storm beach.

A few brave souls
will be there already,
eyeing the driftwood,

the heaps of frayed
blue polyprop rope,
cut loose, thrown back at us—

What a species—
still working the same
curved bay, all of us

hoping for the marvellous,
all hankering for a changed life.  Kathleen Jamie  The Beach

a Christmas present to myself

December 26, 2013

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Walking in a landscape with trees is one of my most favourite things. A suggestion that we might get out from family Xmas indoors stuff was grabbed at. We needed to go to a landscape that would be user friendly for the youngest member of the family and his special Xmas present, so we came to the Barrage de Bimont which along with the smaller Barrage Zola holds most of the water for the town of Aix. The main path weaves its way easily through the rocky surroundings. Blustery wind and threatening clouds moved around us – along with other families, runners and singletons . . . .

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. . . .  this is a pine and holm oak landscape with a few cedars sprinkling the edge of the pathway network making up the tall structure – cistus and lentiscus the prevalent second storey. Careful management of the twiggy planting gives the ground plane a presence, filters the wind and also provides beautiful visual effects – the trunks of the holm oaks carefully cleaned to show the character of the plant.

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Heavy rain on the gentle slopes had left ‘fun’ elements . . . and he only needed a push on the odd occasion – such energy, resilience and joie de vivre.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better outing – like a pig in muck.

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Back in town, festive activities are of course totally human based – some want to exercise for leisure and some need to entertain for a few coins; some require churches to reflect and worship in. I simply put myself back within the barrage landscape. Won’t forget it and lots of love, T, C + H..

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In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
 from generation to generation.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

pines

To the west of Aix-en-Provence, is a site that forms part of ‘Sur les Pas de Cézanne‘, if you are a tourist but is also a splendid place if you are a resident. I was very taken with this well built welcoming  wall but someone else, quite small, charged off to see what happened beyond the far gate. The gate was quite lovely and well designed – everything was looking very promising until we hit the visitor’s centre . . .

wall 1

wall

gates

entrance

. . . peering into the entrance through bars, we discovered that unfortunately we’d missed the only slot of the day for a guided tour. This happens at  9.45am but only on certain days. So I am grateful to Louisa Jones + photographer Clive Nichols for these scans below taken  from Mediterranean Landscape Design – a wonderful book – of the scheme. Philippe Daliau (ALEP Agency) has created fine and sensitive interventions within the exposed stone providing a walk over differing surfaces with differing treatments – timber, metal -where views are encapsulated and framed by angled mass of the rock – some hewn and some natural.

quarry 1

quarry 2

Wandering through just part of the 7 hectare site that provided stone for the building of Aix (up to the end of 18C), we came across individual stone landscapes. In a certain way, it’s like a lost world but then in another, it’s seems well used. Rock climbing at a novice scale, mountain bikes carefully controlled, joggers, picque niques and large family get togethers and 4 legs all jostling together in a merry fashion.

rock face

Scrub oak, arbutus, pistacia lentiscus and pine form the major structural planting with some cistus, rosemary, euphorbia and rambling lonicera in the sunny patches  . . .

pines 2

upwards

mont ste victoire

. . framed views of Mont Sainte – Victoire and the barrage Zola taken while we lounged around on a rocky outcrop – an indulgent pastime for a Saturday morning and why not?

mont ste victoire + barrage

And moving on we find a built structure, not a cabanon that Cézanne might have used during his time drawing and painting here . . .

structure

. .  but a building that encouraged interaction and it had with a great view. Can’t take my eyes off the landscape.

view south

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.  G Stein  Cézanne

trees in late autumn in town

November 22, 2012

Couldn’t quite trace the strong gardenia scent that wafted down the streets in Aix until I spotted this Eriobotrya – loquat – and then, of course, identified them everywhere – scent is a dream – and the strong leathery leaves cradle the flowers rather beautifully. The platanus are looking fantastic  – even more fantastic than when in full leaf  . . . .

. . . also, visually strong, is the soft but powerful marmalade colour of the Morus platanus . . .

. . caught this combination of autumnal tones of birch and hornbeam with the green whisks of bamboo – all as a boundary planting between building and street.

Pines stand out even more at this time of year – a close up of the needles housing a Virginia creeper and as part of a grouping with deciduous trees and as a single grouping.

Stunning main stems. Such grace.

Pine and cedar look good together contrasting in texture whereas cypress have the form that demands attention. Soaring!

Fruits hang like grapes from the glossy privet, Ligustrum lucidum, and provide a voluptuous effect . . . .

. . .  but nothing so comforting on the stark stems of the pollarded Albizia trees – great sculptural aesthetic instead.

Many leaves blowing around and birthday boy tries his best to help with tidying up . . .

. . . and watches those who are expert.

That’s all.

The raging colour of this cold Friday
Eats up our patience like a fire,
Consumes our willingness to endure,
Here the crumpled maple, a gold fabric,
The beech by beams empurpled, the holy sycamore,
Berries red-hot, the rose’s core–
The sun emboldens to burn in porphyry and amber.

Pick up the remnants of our resignation

Where we left them, and bring our loving passion,
Before the mist from the dark sea at our feet
Where mushrooms cling like limpets in the grass,
Quenching our fierceness, leaves us in a worse case.  Ann Ridler Autumn Day

a change in landscape

September 1, 2012

After many trips to Aix to see special people and enjoy the town,  it was welcome to view and be involved in the surrounding landscape at close quarters. Previously on the trips from Languedoc to this part of Provence,  I’ve  just had the tantalising glimpse of Mte Saint-Victoire whilst whizzing down the last part of  La Provençale – elegant name for a motorway. The muggy afternoon prompted the short trip to Le Tholonet, below the mountain which figures in Cézanne’s work. The white limestone of the summit contrasts with the red clay on the lower level.

       

Le Tholonet sits within the area of Réserve Naturelle. Rangers block off certain parts of the twiggy wooded areas at this time of the year as forest fires can ignite without warning. Fastigiate cypress punctuate against the rounded forms of the pines  – the look of Provence – vineyards and fields of wildflowers also form part of the landscape.

L’Arc et La Cause are the two rivers which wend their way through the Haute Vallée de l’Arc. Streams cascade down and bubble over the rock formations on their way to feed into the rivers creating a cool atmosphere. Also a wet and slippery playground . . . .

. . .  hardly a soul here. Plenty of space for all on a week day afternoon.

Holm and turkey oaks form the scrubby layer under the pines. Gorse, broom and rosemary figure too but at this time of year it’s predominately a green landscape with just the herb layer of grasses and thyme browning off.

Back in Languedoc, the agricultural feel dominates. There is heavy tall woodland here too – all holm oak – denser and rougher than in Provence. Some olive groves contribute to the look of the landscape but to a lesser degree. The olive has given way to the vine. The vehicles – tractors and white vans –  are more noticeable in the vineyards now denoting final tweaking in the last few weeks before the vendange.

Clematis flammula and oaty grasses greet me again on the verges of the tracks around the village. Love it.

I’m amazed the earth hereabouts

lets me breathe its atmosphere,

that the voices I hear

permit me to listen.

When a word soars: such a flight

through these distances,

you’d need the voce of a nightingale

to take its measure.  Jo Shapcott  Born Off

H. and I get into the heart of the town ( Aix en Provence) at about 8am. It’s just a 7 minute walk from the University district. We both enjoy this early morning visit. H. likes to participate in, and monitor, all the deliveries, rubbish collections, painting over of graffiti, washing of the streets, painting of white lines, setting up the market stalls, all to his satisfaction. ( a mayor in the making and hugely better looking than B. Johnson!).  And I enjoy understanding the public spaces – free of crowds – and the architecture, which becomes more difficult as the day moves into full gear. We both enjoy the freshness of the morning. 

We discuss the pros and cons of vehicles – the blue bike got a thumbs up from him.  The church spire looked beautiful  – good enough for me! 

The east end of Cours Mirabeau at the  junction with Rue de l’Opéra and Rue d’Italie, a  vehicle for him and, water feature and landscape space for me! 

A group of posulants heading off somewhere and the odd car and of course, driver,  hanging around waiting . . . . .

 . . .  the law courts just opening doors (what a frontage!)  . . . . off down Rue Joseph Cabbesol, echeverias hanging, with style, from a balcony . . .

 . . . We’re almost the first visitors to Parc Jourdan . . .

 . . . although those with dogs beat us to it. Short post and purposefully long poem from Maya Angelou. Hurrah and bazonka H.!

We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it. Maya Angelou

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

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