Friday, July 18, 2014

A new home for the agapanthus...


Agapanthus seem to grow in abundance around certain parts of Cornwall, although I don't remember this being the case when I was young. Either way, these plants just make me feel great, with their beautiful colours of jewel-like blue and vivid green blades, and stalks determined to reach impressive heights, regardless of any adverse conditions. I brought back a few in my suitcase on leaving - no mean feat and a few stalks did have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Whilst the keys were officially handed over to me yesterday, the new flat only felt mine once the agapanthus had been installed on the balcony of the new home. A promising sign of good things to come was the fact that I came across two different florists in my new street, both selling agapanthus which I promptly bought. These French plants are, of course, complete with majestic flowered heads, unlike their Cornish equivalents which I had been obliged to decapitate.
Now the balcony feels like home, I just need to tackle the rest of the flat, which could well take some time... By the time all my plants are in flower again, I hope life in this new home will have started to flourish too.

Cornish agapanthus - with St Michael's Mount in the background.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sculpted hands...


As actual teaching lessons came to an end some time ago now, I thought these early summer weeks would be calm and contemplative, however that hasn't entirely been the case...


There have been the preparations for the next academic year and then those for our move to a new flat, so all in all it's been busy as books and boxes are accumulating, along with a backlog of blog posts.


I don't have time to write those for the moment, but as I was looking at past photos I came across these; all of sculpted hands.


Rodin's studies of hands usually come to mind, with their expressive gestures that convey so much, however I think these sculptures from earlier centuries are so beautiful in their own manner.


The poise of hands seems so peaceful, with details of fold of skin, or veins that reveal life, even if the sculptures themselves are all part of tombs and as such are intended to symbolize the departure from this life of the deceased.


Most of these come from the basilica of Saint Denis, near Paris, but some also come from Canterbury cathedral.


Saint Denis was to serve as royal necropolis and so is the symbolic resting place of many of the kings and queens of France.


Whilst the whole appears in full pomp and splendour...


Or may appear a little too over-dramatic...


The hands seem to reveal humanity...


Although these are often positioned in prayer, there are very slight variations.


Some more obvious than others, of course...


Especially as the more classic hands give rise to the tapering, elongated forms...


And on that, I will have to leave in order to continue my various repair-work tasks around the flat... literally keeping my hands very busy!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Deer in the distance...


Today I came across this herd of, what appeared to be, Fallow deer. Wary of humans, they kept their distance and so the resulting photo is slightly blurred, making the whole scene seem a little unreal. This is Champagne country, after all, and so I wasn't expecting to see these graceful creatures on land surrounded by vineyards. Although this region has avid hunters, their usual quarry are the wild boar.

Hunt in the Forest - Pauolo Uccello - 1460s
Any association I'd care to make between deer and hunting would be of that with Medieval times, forms of leaping deer pursued by noble hounds seen in illuminated manuscripts and bestiaries and later in the paintings early Renaissance.

Diane d'Anet - Jean Goujon
Or the numerous versions of Diana the Huntress... The one above is my favourite.


Well, that got me thinking about the pursuit scenes that often run on the Medieval column capitals, usually to rather comic effect.


Even if they were intended to be edifying or at least cautionary. It soon becomes difficult to know who, or what is doing the hunting or marauding.


Finally, this week I came across an old song from the 70s that is an electric folk version of music thought to date back to the late Medieval period. The vocals of Steeleye Span have the same effect on me now as they did then, in childhood. however discovering the actual lyrics to Gaudete (Latin) was the most striking part of this. Needless to say, the words I'd invented as a child to sing along to the track on our scratchy K-Tel compilation album were wide of the mark, to say the least!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Festival of Joan of Arc - Fête Johanniques - Reims 2014



Over the last weekend of May, the Fêtes Johanniques took place, as they do each year, not just in Reims, the Cité des Sacres, but also in Orléans and Rouen.


In Reims, the successful coronation of Charles VII in 1429, instigated by the Maid of Orléan - Joan of Arc, is commemorated by the annual festival which culminates in the procession of the king and his spiritual counselor.


Around the historic town centre street artists play music, dance and entertain the crowds with displays of acrobacy and theatrical performances.


Of course this festivity is largely centred around the cathedral and the old squares and for the space of a weekend their atmosphere is completely changed, yet in a manner that seems most fitting.


The oldest buildings of the town seem to come alive as crusaders, nobility, peasants, musicians, Middle Age freaks and performers all rub shoulders in the street processions...


Simply looking regal and very Medieval...


Loitering on street corners, chatting together.


 Declaring sentiments...


Or just being plain weird...


Mesmerising when you catch them full-on...


When they're performing...

 

Or at rest...


Just as they slip out of view...


Shrouded figures wandering off into the distance...


Drifting away, down the streets...


Gowns flowing...


Heading towards the Palais du Tau...


Or static, obscured by clothing and mystery...


Or lost in thought...


Whilst others are simply there - radiant!


Meanwhile, whatever the activity, the music seemed to resound everywhere...


Performed by the young and old(er!) alike...


The rumble and clatter of chariots and carts advancing on the cobbles could be heard as people went about their business...


Or took part in more silent processions, which went from the bucolic...


...To the demonic, with these nightmarish gargoyle figures...


...That seemed to wilt and wither a little under the glaring sun...


Others worked in earnest...


Watching over the campsite with a beady eye and evil-looking cod-piece!...


Casting out menacing looks...


With undefinable expressions...


In turn scary, or wary...


However, as far as I'm concerned, the scarier the better!


And although I've seen these looming forms several times before, the magic hasn't faded...


And they always have a weird effect on everyone else who comes across them...


However, for me the stars of the show will always be the animals... They are just effortlessly beautiful.


They were a little more modest this year, no yaks, camels or wolves or even the habitual green monkey that usually performs, most appropriately, on Place Royale.


 Nevertheless, that seemed to bring out the skill, intelligence and simple gentilesse of the animals that were present.


This one seemed to defy anyone to make any assumptions of him as a mere sheep...


Other animals were just waiting to serve...



Be they feathered or furry...


And finally we were led to the high point of the festival, the symbolic appearance of Joan of Arc and Charles VII and their blessing at the cathedral... Roll on next year!