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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: France

Tuesday April 23 2019

In the part of France where GodDaughter2’s family live and with whom I recently stayed, there are two ways to make a car journey.  You can take what looks like the long route, along two or even three sides of a motorway rectangle, only travelling on little roads when you have to, to get to and from the motorway.  Or, you can attempt to travel more directly, along little roads, by the scenic route.  The scenic route looks quicker on the map, at first glance.  But the motorways are quicker because they always go straight where they’re going.  They don’t wiggle back and forth up and down mountains, or get stuck in little villages.

I was taken on various car journeys during my stay, of both kinds.  The trips involving airports were on motorways, as were others.  But there were also various journeys along those scenic routes.

Here are a few of the many, many photos I took while on such expeditions: 

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The thing is, France is (see above) big.

On one of these expeditions we drove for about four hours, hither and thither, up and down, through kilometre upon kilometre of gorgeous scenery, encountering about three other oncoming vehicles per hour. We crossed over numerous bridges as we switched from going down or up one side of a valley to going up or down the other side of the same valley, often able to see past nearby trees to distant mountains, but often not, passing through and sometimes stopping in towns or villages with orange tiled roofs.

Countryside in England of this desirability, in weather like this, would be swarming with motorists, all making it impossible for each other to have a good time.  In the south of France, where this sort of weather is only average (too cold and windy) and where they have endless supplies of such scenery, we had the entire route pretty much to ourselves.

Also, in England, if you were to drive for half a day at the slowish but steady speed we were able to drive scenically in France, you’d take a visible bite into the map of England.  In France, such a trip doesn’t register, nationally speaking.  You’ve gone from this little place here, to this next little place right next to the first place, here, two millimetres away.  As an exercise in crossing France, forget it.  You have made no progress at all.

It’s not just places like America, Africa and India that are big.  Compared to England, France is big too.

Friday April 19 2019

I like how digital photography has replaced killing, as a way to collect wildlife.  In particular (as I learned when preparing a talk I gave about digital photography five years ago), I like how butterfly collectors now collect butterfly photos instead of dead butterflies.

However, although I regularly wander about photoing photos, I have myself never photoed a butterfly.

Until last week, in France, on the same day as and about an hour after I photoed that Death in France photo, I photoed this butterfly:

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I know.  Not very impressive.  And is that another butterfly, a dead one, upside down on the floor there?  I rather think it may be.

However, a second later, this happened:

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Is that two butterflies shagging?  Do butterflies even do that?  Butterfly necrophilia perhaps?

I have no idea what brand of butterfly this particular butterfly is, but it is rather fine, I think.

A week ago now, I photoed this photo in the graveyard of a little village up in the mountains of southern France called Taulis (already mentioned here).  Today being Good Friday, I thought I’d do a little nod towards Christianity by showing a few crucified Christs, France being very full of these rather gruesome sorts of sculpture.  Everywhere you go in France, or so it seems to me, you see these, and not just in graveyards:

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Even more striking, however, in that photo, are the dead body storage units in the background.  Do we have those in England?  Not that I recall seeing.

They remind me of the dead body storage units that you see in TV police dramas.  Every so often there’s a scene where a grieving relative is asked to identify a cadaver, and a drawer is opened, and closed.  We see grief enacted.

Are police dramas on the telly replacing graveyards and crucified Christs as the main means that we now use to contemplate death?

As I get nearer to death, I think about it more and more.  What will it be like?  Will I know I’m dead?  Will I still be “alive” when I am incinerated?  Will there by bright lights in the distance?  Will it hurt?  Will I be reunited with the enemies of my schooldays?  Will I still be able to write about it here, but in a way that is unpublished?  What, historically speaking, will I miss by a whisker?  Or by decades and centuries?

Maybe France is not so full of crucified Christs.  Maybe it’s just that when I now see them, I notice them.

Wednesday April 17 2019

Yes, telling you about how I’ve been in France.

So. where was I?  In France?  Well, to give you an idea, here are some of the excellent places I visited:

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Whenever I am in foreign parts, I always photo signs, adverts, and the like.  Every place has its own style for doing such things, so signage photos can be very evocative, when you look back at them.  Also, they tell you where you were, and hence what all the other photos taken at the same time were of.

Click on the above photo-fragments to get some context.  If you are curious about any of these places, well, you now have the words you need to go searching.  Words are already links, in the sense that you don’t need me to turn them into links.

I especially like how, when you leave a French town or village, you get a sign with the name crossed through with a red line (2.3).

I also photo war memorials, keeping a particular eye open for repeated surnames.  In Lagrasse (3.1), Baillat, Fontvieille and Jougla are surnames that each get two mentions.

I also like to photo the stuff in tourist shops, especially the postcards (1.1 and 3.2).  That way, you get what tourists generally consider to be the best views, and are alerted to interesting local things which you otherwise might miss even learning about.  Although, in St Cyprien, I got a bit of aggro from a couple shopkeepers who objected to me photoing their produce instead of buying it.

Tuesday April 16 2019

There you were, waiting for a good time to con your way past the front door of my block of flats by saying you’re the postman, to climb my stairs, to bash in my front door and to plunder my classical CD collection.  All that was stopping you was the fear of me bashing your skull to bits with my cricket bat, which I keep handy for just this sort of eventuality.

So anyway, there you were reading all about how my life for the last week has been complicated.  But, I clean forgot to tell you that the reason for all this complication was that I was off in the south of France.  Silly old me.  I’m getting old, I guess.

Here’s how the south of France was looking:

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Those are the Pyrenees at the back there.  In the foreground, lots of little wine trees.

The weather looks slightly better in that than it really was, what with it having been so very windy.  Especially on the final day of my stay, up on this thing.

Monday April 08 2019

These are technically terrible photos, but I had a lot of fun photoing them, and I get a lot of pleasure when I stumble upon such photos-from-airplanes in the photo-archives.  What are these exactly?:

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Well, I cranked up Google Maps, and also maps like the one here, and set to work.  That photos have exact timings attached to them is very helpful when you are trying to work out what photos from airplanes are of.

And yes, those are the four big-name Channel Islands, TopLeft: Jersey, TopRight: Guernsey, BottomLeft: Alderney, BottomRight: Sark.

I reckon that Alderney, from that angle, looks a bit like a hippo.

But for me, the most intriguing puzzle was this:

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What is that?  Turns out, it’s the island of Herm.  Herm’s sales pitch: There’s no place like Herm.  Herm, island of triangular stamps.

Never heard of it, until now.  Photo and learn.  Blog and learn.

Friday April 05 2019

On June 13th 2008 I was wandering about in Quimper, photoing photos.  Mostly the photos were of such things as Quimper Cathedral with its twin spires, photoers photoing Quimper Cathedral with its twin spires, that kind of thing.

But in among all those, and with no accompanying explanation (like a context photo with less zoom (memo to self: always photo a context photo if it might help)), this:

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KanaBeach seems to be some sort of Brittany based clothing brand ("Kanabeach est une entreprise de vêtements bretonne"), which a few years later seems to have crashed and burned, after which catastrophe it may or may not have made a recovery.  (A recovery attempt which involved a giraffe, for some reason.)

But, I have no idea who Jean-Francois Kanabeach is.  And I am similarly baffled by the Nuclear Rabbits From Outta Space.  Google’s basic reaction to that was, first off, to ask if I meant “Nuclear Rabbits From Outer Space”.

A rabbit was, so it says here, launched into space in 1959.  And the Chinese did some stuff on the Moon in 2013, with something called the Jade Rabbit (aka Yutu).  But Nuclear Rabbits, from Outta Space?  Quesque c’est? Usually the Internet has something to say in answer to questions like this.  But in this matter, rien.

Saturday March 23 2019

I am ill.  Not very ill.  Just: ill.  A symptom of which is not eating solid food.  So here, to compensate me for not eating food, is a photo of some food which I ate in France in 2008:

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I like squares and rectangles.  Always have.  So, I especially like the idea of eating something that is usually round but which has been made square.

Monday March 18 2019

Further evidence (see below) that vapour trail light is my favourite sort of light:

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That photo was photoed by me in June 2008.  In Quimper I think, but if not in Quimper, then somewhere close.

I had been browsing through the directory in which all my photos from that expedition are stored, and I was struck by how well the best of them came out, despite the fact that the camera I was using was quite antique compared to my current camera.  I had always supposed that there had been a big jump in photo quality for me when I got my Lumix ZX150, which was a few years after that.  Since that Lumix ZX150, I have had a Lumix ZX200, and now use a Lumix ZX330.  All of those Lumixes (Lumes?) being much of a muchness.  And I think that’s right, there was quite a jump.  Nevertheless, earlier cameras of mine, when the light was really good, did just as well.  Where they suffered, by comparison, was when the light was merely quite good.

Vapour trails are a feature of the Brittany sky.  Basically, you’re talking about half of all the airplanes from Europe to America, and half of all the airplanes from America to Europe.  So, in Brittany, if the weather is vapour trail weather, there will be vapour trails.  A lot of vapour trails.

France also has excellent street clutter, with lots of wires.  The wires go well with the vapour trails, I think.

Monday February 04 2019

6k: (I know someone who will like this picture …) Who can he mean?

He’s talking about this picture:

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I like it.  And like I say, the Age of the Smartphone will be with us for quite a while yet.

I can remember when places like the Louvre used to forbid photoing.  But they can hardly complain if students … take notes.

Sunday February 03 2019

Last Sunday, I was again photoing photoers, among other favourite photoer spots, on Westminster Bridge:

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All four photos were chosen for their artistic effect rather than to make any point, but despite that, the point makes itself.  All smartphones.  I especially like the one with the Eiffel Tower on it.

The world is starting to speculate that the Age of the Smartphone may, like the Age of the Personal Computer before it, be drawing to a close.  But what this means is merely that the age of selling millions upon millions of new smartphones may be ending.  Smartphones will still go on being used, because people like them and have got used to them, and see no cause to jack them in for an only slightly better but hideously expensive replacement.  Similarly, I periodically upgrade the personal computer that I am typing this on, with new appendages which are now priced like the generic commodities that they are, but I have no plans to stop using this contraption.

Monday December 31 2018

At the end of April and the beginning of May of 2018, I visited the city of Quimper, almost certainly for the last time.  The friends I have stayed there with several times are now living in the south of France, and their Quimper home is now someone else’s.  So, farewell Quimper.

On May 4th, on my last full day in Quimper, my hostess drove me to see the superb lighthouse at Penmarc’h, which is on the south west tip of Brittany.  And no, I don’t know how “Penmarc’h” is pronounced, and nor do I know what is really the correct name for this mighty edifice.  It seems to have many names.  But, it is a lighthouse, and it is in the town of Penmarc’h, so Penmarc’h Lightbouse it is.

Although she needed to get back in quite a hurry to prepare supper, she let me take the time to climb up the Lighthouse and savour the views of the town of Penmarc’h and of the Brittany coast.  Which were spectacular, as was the weather that day:

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The lighthouse I went up is the furthest from the sea of three structures, which would appear to have been doing, in succession, a similar job.  As time went by, they got smaller, nearer to the sea, and more dependent upon electronic technology.  Photo 3.1 shows the two smaller ones, as seen from the big one.

That same morning, I also checked out a huge and totally marvellous second hand shop in Quimper, and an equally huge and totally marvellous cheese factory, which was really more like a cheese refinery.

So, a really good day.  One of my favourites of 2018.  Except that the day after that day, in Paris, was probably even better.

Thursday November 01 2018

I recall speculating here (by quoting Bill Bryson) that a reason why Modernism is so monochromatic is that there was a time about a hundred years ago when the two hardest colours to get right in painted form, and hence the two most modern colours, were: black; and: white.

Early, monochrome photography was also a big reason for architectural modernity not to care about colour.  The most modern buildings were the ones that looked like black and white photos.

This has been a long time changing, but changing it finally is.  There was Renzo Piano, and his brightly coloured buildings near Centre Point in London.  And now here comes this, by Jean Nouvel:

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It’s the right hand of the two towers that I’m concerned with here, not with the other tower, or not with the crane or the bridge, bonuses though the latter two undoubtedly are.

Jean Nouvel has tricked his tower out in red, white and blue.  It’s in Marseille, and is called La Marseillaise.

My immediate reaction is: a bit of a mess.  Looks like he did this with three cans of spray paint, and in about twenty seconds.  But, if I got to see it in the flesh, with all the complexities of the detailing, I might well like it a lot.

But my opinion about the beauty or lack of it of this building is beside my point, which is that colour is finally creeping into fashion, as part of architectural modernity.

It has taken a long time, because architectural fashion always does take a long time.  This is because architects, unlike more regular artists, peak very late, a bit like classical conductors and for the same reason.  Which is that architects (like conductors), in order to peak, have to be very powerful, by which I mean, liked and supported and paid for by lots of other powerful people.  Powerful people tend to be old.

And sure enough, when I looked up the architect of this tricoloured tower, Jean Nouvel, I learned that his is now 73, having been born in 1945.  In other words, he is now entering the architectural promised land, that land being where he can design buildings exactly as he pleases, and the clients build them and reckon themselves lucky to have got him.

I could now add other coloured modernism photos, and make further points about why this trend is now happening, and happening so powerfully.  But the trick with blogging is to keep it brief, and if a subject matters to you, to come back to it again and again, while linking back to earlier pieces make the same big point.

So, expect plenty more here about coloured architectural modernity.

Wednesday October 24 2018

Here’s the original, i.e. the Hartley version:

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And here’s another way of looking at the same thing, i.e. cropped into a square:

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I have long believed that the Le Corbusier version of the Modern Movement in Architecture has its origins in the South of France and the north of Africa for a very good reason, which is that the light there is such that it looks good there.  Anything looks good there, but concrete looks especially good..

And when the light is like that in London, it looks good in London too.

The photo taken three days ago.

Thursday October 11 2018

A regular way I find good photos to stick up here is that I go looking for good photos, of one sort, and find good photos, of another sort.  So it was this evening:

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That’s a guy I photoed in Parliament Square in July of 2013, in the spot people use to photo Big Ben.  He is using two cameras.  One is a regular Canon SLR.  But the other …?  It’s a Rolleiflex, but have no idea which exact sort of Rolleiflex.

Apparently Rolleiflexes are TLR cameras.  TLR equals twin lens reflex.  So now I know all about Rolleiflexes.

The guy has French words on his shirt.  Are Rolleiflexes particularly liked in France?  Or is that just some idiot brand sold everywhere?