18 degrees forecast so a quick trip to Grau du Roi – takes about 1 1/2 hours from Uzès but with the tensions – blockages and difficulties finding petrol at the moment – all in the lap of the gods. Turned out very well with lunch by the canal.

The village, based around fishing cottages, gained administrative buildings and was recognised as a section of Aigues-Mortes in 1867, becoming a separate commune in 1879. The village of fishers and farmers turned to tourism at the end of the 19th century, with the extension of the Nîmes Aigues-Mortes railway line in 1909:[5] bathers arrived en masse, and on the 26 April 1924 the French President of the Republic decreed that Le Grau-du-Roi was a “station climatique et balnéaire” (beach resort town). The rail line enabled local producers to market their white grapes and fish nationally.

World War II affected the village profoundly. Axis troops were stationed in the village, and the local council dissolved. By 1942, many of the inhabitants had fled: the coast was on the front line and bristled with tank traps and minefields. The village was controlled by blockhouses, and the canal was shut off. Wood from houses was used to build defences. Le Grau-du-Roi was liberated in August 1944, and the coast started to rebuild, with a focus on tourism. The effort was coordinated by the plan Racine. Architect Jean Balladur was put in charge, and he designed structures capable of supporting a large number of tourists, while also supporting the local way of life and environment. Part of the plan included the new marina at Port Camargue.[2] This was launched in 1968 and finished in 1985 – info from Wikipedia.

The sandy L’Espiguette beach sits south-west of Aigues- Mortes ( dead – water) and the étangs, shallow and saline, and surrounding marshes of the Camargue inhabited by flamingoes, white horses and bulls.

Patterns of the effect of wind and water but no plastic to be seen. As a regional parkland it is very well maintained. one of those extra special days. The poem is about a different coast but I like it.

To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before—
The miniature gaiety of seasides.
Everything crowds under the low horizon:
Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps,
The small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse
Up the warm yellow sand, and further off
A white steamer stuck in the afternoon—
Still going on, all of it, still going on!
To lie, eat, sleep in hearing of the surf
(Ears to transistors, that sound tame enough
Under the sky), or gently up and down
Lead the uncertain children, frilled in white
And grasping at enormous air, or wheel
The rigid old along for them to feel
A final summer, plainly still occurs
As half an annual pleasure, half a rite,
As when, happy at being on my own,
I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers,
Or, farther back, my parents, listeners
To the same seaside quack, first became known.
Strange to it now, I watch the cloudless scene:
The same clear water over smoothed pebbles,
The distant bathers’ weak protesting trebles
Down at its edge, and then the cheap cigars,
The chocolate-papers, tea-leaves, and, between
The rocks, the rusting soup-tins, till the first
Few families start the trek back to the cars.
The white steamer has gone. Like breathed-on glass
The sunlight has turned milky. If the worst
Of flawless weather is our falling short,
It may be that through habit these do best,
Coming to the water clumsily undressed
Yearly; teaching their children by a sort
Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.
Philip Larkin To the Sea

groyne-1

No wind, a little sun and some cloud and low tide so the beach is revealed offering a large expanse for strolling, digging for lug worms, bird watching and play in the pools – the gulls and oystercatchers are busy too.

groyne-2

close-up-3

distance-dungeness-wind-turbines

This landscape in the foreground and the distance is etched in man-made lines but, close to, the organic forms of nature can be discovered. Crambe maritima throwing up pink bulbous shoots already . . .

crambe-shoots

sand-pattern

. . . sand particles, clays and rocks with smooth rounded surfaces make small individual landscapes within the larger landscape and always changing amongst the constant of the lines of groynes – some hundreds of years old and some highly decorated by the tides.

clay-rounds

clays-and-marls

decorated-groyne

landscape-1

Signs of peat extraction  – methodically cut in parallel lines – and the dark, almost black, slippery ground surface of the petrified forest that stretches elegantly into the sea, show again how man interrupts nature. Nature’s lines are altogether more beautiful.

landscape-2

petrified-forest-timber

gulls

Turning to the west from the path along the sea defense, reveals a different vision of quietude – the brow of the ridge running from Winchelsea along Wickham Rock Lane with Icklesham beyond.

And the poem, it describes me or as I feel within my self.

pett-level

There is particular music

Hunted for, dug up

Near airy, planet-spaces,

Or on the cold, sure lip

 

Of a cliff that will not take

The climb of a white break

But only permit a foam

Rising. So I make

 

A music out of places

Unsurrendered to,

Watched on careful nights,

Not circumscribed, no view

 

Caught in the camera-mind

To be developed later.

Words are music to find

In the places the colder, the better.

 

But I have needed South

And its unambiguous sun,

Its haze and fire on the breath.

Since childhood I’ve been one

 

Never at ease at home

Relishing loneliness

Creating out of shame

Measured happiness. Elizabeth Jennings Particular Music

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on the beach – January

January 14, 2016

1

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 . . .

2

3

. . . 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 . . .

3.5

4

5

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

6

7

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

8

9

. . . 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

fire

October 19, 2014

1 Last night was our bonfire night in Hastings. The Sussex towns take their turn with separate commemorations during the wind up to the grand finale in Lewes on November 5th. The bonfire societies travel to each venue filling the streets with light, noise and pagan atmosphere. Effigies were burnt in Lewes in 16C highlighting the burning of 17 protestant martyrs alongside Pius IX’s decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy in England . . . 3 4 5 6 . . . great theatricality – I hope the images convey the drama. Health and safety go out of the window, thank goodness. As the drums roll, flaming torches are cast on the pavement, sparks catch alight and mothers, dressed up, with double buggies, dressed up, marching in the procession seemingly oblivious. 7 8 11 13 The lighting of the bonfire complete – families throng the beach – and the fireworks start. An excellent show this year and one from another.

14 15 16 17 19 Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.  Robert Frost  Fire and Ice

view point

September 7, 2014

1st

Wandering down the front to see a few Open Studios during the Coastal Currents Festival of events, exhibitions – sounds, sights + surprises – meeting passers-by, standing chatting and taking the opportunity to try to capture the limpid quality of the air.

electra studios

In the Electro Studios compositions of architecture, form and light. The work displayed is thought provoking but my intention is to convey the prospect and refuge character of the engagement . . .

electra

dog 1

. . . another visitor.

dog 2

To Seaside Road where the old bathing pool was sited. Cyclists and walkers use the path to access the beach huts at Bulverhythe and onwards to Bexhill.

electra 1

seaside road

seaside road 2

Up East Ascent, a vision of perfect peppers and a rather pleasing door.

peppers

peppers close up

east ascent

eamon

And from the Garage, Eamon is seen directing more painting of yet more pieces of modest furniture in tones of duck egg blue. All to sell. And he does quite easily.

sea

Back at the beach, silhouettes flicker and drift.

 

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because –

because – I don’t know how to say it: a day is long

and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

 

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because

then the little drops of anguish will all run together,

the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift

into me, choking my lost heart.

 

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

 

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far

I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?  Pablo Neruda  Don’t Go Far Off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bramble

Arching mounds of bramble, flowering spectacularly now, on the shingle beach landscape of Romney Marsh. Dipsacus too, form a different prickly statement – more upright but equally statuesque, around the lagoons of fresh and salt water. In July, echium erupts through the herb layer and Epilobium hirsutum shows off the small clear pink florescence on lanky stems in damp situations (at the water’s edge) but also seems at home in dry and inhospitable ground. Denge Marsh, a part of the whole,  lies well sheltered behind the storm beaches of Dungeness Point and, houses man made and quite sculptural statements, sound mirrors, (click to find out more) not so visible from a distance . . .

dipsacus

sound cups 1

 

swans

sound cups group

A strange discovery on writing this post as 12 months ago to the day, I posted on Dungeness. No swimming on that day – weather looks a little hazy. But under clear skies on this visit, architectural forms stand out clearly. The coastguard look-out, covered in scaffolding, can be rented . . .

coastguard look out

. . . and round the point a ‘bouillabaisse’ where gulls feed off the fish attracted by the outlet from Dungeness B – a motley collection of concrete forms without any architectural merit – totally brutal.

edf2

edf1

edf3

cable

Winching cables make half hidden serpentine patterns by the east facing shoreline. Derelict boats and sheds are gently cast adrift over across  the shingle . . .

composition

composition 2

deserted boat

deserted boat 2

. . . one vessel is anchored beside the black frame of Prospect Cottage. The seeded crambe makes a good composition . . .

jarman last

prospect 3

. . . gorse is just green now and the cotton lavender a mass of yellow buttons.

prospect 5

prospect 4

prospect 2

prospect 6

Bye bye for this July 4th. Across the pond, a poem in celebration.

prospect

It’s the fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.
And I’m grilling, I’ve got my apron,
I’ve got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I’ve got a hat shaped
like the state of Pennsylvania.
I ask my father what’s his pleasure
and he says, “Hot dog, medium rare,”
and then, “Hamburger, sure,
what’s the big difference,”
as if he’s really asking.
I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins
are fluttering away like lost messages.
“You’re running around,” my mother says,
“like a chicken with its head loose.”
“Ma,” I say, “you mean cut off,
loose and cut off   being as far apart
as, say, son and daughter.”
She gives me a quizzical look as though
I’ve been caught in some impropriety.
“I love you and your sister just the same,” she says,
“Sure,” my grandmother pipes in,
“you’re both our children, so why worry?”
That’s not the point I begin telling them,
and I’m comparing words to fish now,
like the ones in the sea at Port Said,
or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,
unrepentantly elusive, wild.
“Sonia,” my father says to my mother,
“what the hell is he talking about?”
“He’s on a ball,” my mother says.
“That’s roll!” I say, throwing up my hands,
“as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll….”
“And what about roll out the barrels?” my mother asks,
and my father claps his hands, “Why sure,” he says,
“let’s have some fun,” and launches
into a polka, twirling my mother
around and around like the happiest top,
and my uncle is shaking his head, saying
“You could grow nuts listening to us,”
and I’m thinking of pistachios in the Sinai
burgeoning without end,
pecans in the South, the jumbled
flavour of them suddenly in my mouth,
wordless, confusing,
crowding out everything else. Gregory Djanikian  Immigrant Picnic

day trip to Margate

February 23, 2014

1

The day starts  – for the young – with pasta salad, crisps, Red Bull and bars of chocolate and it’s only 9.30am. Good for them. We rattle along, just, through Rye, Ashford, Folkestone and Dover, Deal, Sandwich and then Ramsgate, Broadstairs skirting the edge of the Isle of Thanet – looking at flooded land through one side and then the sea, sometimes, on the other –  until we arrive at Margate.

2

3

station clock

Margate station was designed by Maxwell Fry – a name from the past – with spacious platforms and booking hall under high curved ceiling and a clock that looks decidedly older. Straight down the hill sits the town with the new Turner Contemporary seemingly looking out to sea – except it doesn’t – just appears to.

first view

beach huts

Droit House built 1812 marks the start of the pier or harbour arm. It has a formal presence next to an asymmetrical new build. You would have paid your harbour dues there years ago but now it’s the information point. Georgian architecture spans the promenade with later decorative additions added for the delight of holiday makers over the 150 year stretch before the advent of cheap flights and bucket holidays. Many buildings have a knapped flint façade and are petite in structure. Quite a few have the curved Dutch gable style to the roofline like the original town hall. The old town is compact with rather charming connecting squares and retains a sense of its history with new shops and facilities (lots of eateries) providing a fresh and energetic atmosphere. The Shell Grotto deserves a visit even if shells are not your bag. Winding underground passages – (about 3 metres below street level) – richly patterned with this very tactile surface cause much wonderment.

architecture

town hall

shell grotto

shell grotto 4

shell grotto 2

A terraced amphitheatre connects The Parade to the big sandy beach. The scale is good and it should be a useful facility . . .

closer view

over amphitheatre

harbour's arm 2

. .  on a day like today it could be Tangier.

beach + sea

munoz 1

Inside the new gallery, Conversation Piece by Muñoz, welcomes the visitor immediately. Whimsical and enigmatic, the bronze figures, slightly smaller than human scale, appear to roll and pivot, in the space, talking or gesturing to each other oblivious to the rest of us. A sort of topsy turvy feel.

munoz 5

turner

Turner has been partnered with Frankenthaler for this temporary exhibition – 100 years and a few thousand miles apart but speaking the same language in terms of how the natural surroundings are expressed and shared in oil and water-colour.

frankenthaler 2

frankanthaler1

Images from the web, I’m afraid, as no photos of the hung work allowed. Frankenthaler: ‘Overture’ (T), ‘Covent Garden Study for Final Maquette (L) + Hotel Cro-Magnon (R).

making painting

covent garden study      final maquette fro Third Movement

1st floor

1st floor 2

And the works of Turner – so very beautiful – so beyond boundaries, more abstract and filled with light.  A lesson in distance, quiet atmosphere and composition. ‘Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Collecting Bait’ (L), ‘The Evening Star’ (R) + ‘The Falls of the Clyde’ (B). Tables held books and research information. I couldn’t have asked for a better subject to assist in front of the quote.

calais sands      evening star

falls of the clyde

research

A potential Turner sky whipped in and then whipped out again. Great day.

turner sky

last pm

The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, —
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, —
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.  Theodore Roethke  The Far Field

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