I’m writing this up under oppressive heat and humidity, with not a breath of wind as we wait for much needed rain.On June 27th I finally got round to taking some photos of this year’s swallow brood. Unusually, one of the pairs had built their nest under the eaves on the wall plate, rather than high up in the barn’s rafters, and had chosen a slot 4 rafters removed from the more frequent exploiters of this snug location – a pair of Pied wagtails. So there’d been plenty of little spats between the adults on the occasions that they’d returned to base with food, simultaneously. One such episode made me think I could take some pictures of the swallow chicks – the wagtails weren’t really visible.After setting up the camcorder, I snapped away, and after reviewing the images that evening had a few pleasing shots, given the distance and poor light under the shadow of the slates. Well worth going out for some more I thought, since it was now clear that there were 6 chicks which had lined up along the narrow wall plate from the lumpy mud nest.By the following morning though, as I drew back the Velux blind, it was clear that the moment had passed. The 6 chicks were now lined up on the catenary wire behind the house, and the visits from the parents were less frequent. It was indeed time to fly, and the chicks would never again be as easy to photograph as they had been the previous day. But I did manage a lovely shot where a parent, with insect stuffed beak, ended up in the frame more by chance than skill. And it was indeed then time for us to fly, for our annual nip over the channel. By extremely good fortune we’d booked to fly this year, after several trips annual trips using Eurostar, and so avoided the chaos caused by a cable fault in the tunnel on the morning of our departure. For a week, our bodies had to adjust to a different rhythm and stimulation.
Multilingual hordes. Extravagance. Unfamiliar noises. Hard surfaces underfoot. Wonderful patisseries, and wonderful faces. And for us the novelty of TV in the week which allowed us to watch the extraordinary game of football when Germany beat Brazil in the world cup semi-final 7-1. But we weren’t quite as fortunate with the weather, which was the worst we’ve ever experienced, with rain on most days, and sometimes deluges which wouldn’t have looked out of place back home.Though even under such extremes some wonderful splashes of colour and a great smile? Since we wanted a more relaxing holiday with less walking than usual, this was no bad thing, and Fiona had already planned a number of must do visits, which we’d never managed before, as well as a few regular favourites, since our days of visits to Paris, visiting our failed time share “residence”, are now numbered. Highlights this trip were visits to the Pantheon which is now entering a phase of major restoration owing to visible subsidence caused by the weight of the enormous cuppola dome. We questioned the odd choice of imagery for the protective cover over the dome as we walked up to the entrance, but once inside were wowed by the specially commissioned artwork by JR.
He has become a globally renowned street artist, right up there with Banksy, (though his fame hadn’t reached this backwoodsman before), and graduated early on in his graffiti career from using spray paints, after finding an abandoned camera on the metro. Based on 4000 monochrome photos taken around France in March this year with a mobile photo booth, it’s worth visiting the artist’s website to get a feel for the drama of his work – sadly no longer available! A suitably magnificent effect for such an awe inspiring building, and we were indeed fortunate to catch it since the exhibit only opened in June, and will remain until October 2014.
The Musee D’orsay is a always a favourite destination, and we always limit ourselves to a small area to avoid physical and sensory burn out. And so it is that I shall share two favourite images from our visit which I’d not seen before. Firstly, Van Gough’s ‘Starry night over the Rhone’, painted towards the end of his life. Not probably the actual painting which inspired Don McClean to write ‘Vincent’, which is more likely to be the ‘Starry Night’ painting housed at MOMA in New York. But good enough for me, since DM’s American Pie album holds very fond memories of the very first year spent getting to know Fiona in Cambridge, at Homerton College. There’s a nice montage of Van Gough’s paintings as an accompaniment to the song which you can watch by clicking below:
Of even greater visual impact, was the enormous colourful work by Georges Rochegrosse ‘Le chevalier aux fleurs’. Inspired by Wagner’s opera Parsifal, who was later destined to find the Holy Grail, it represents the moment when the chaste Parsifal explores a magician’s castle’s enchanted garden, but remains strangely unaffected by the calls and allure of the resident flower maidens. Click here for more. A (fortunately?) much more restrained scene in our very own magic terrace garden right now. A trip on the Seine, a climb up the Arc de Triomphe and a full moon rising, just above the Champs Elysee:A couple of days before it was closed, and the jets roared overhead to initiate the annual Bastille day parade:Finally, a trip to the very colourful, and iconic Pompidou centre: A beautiful and amazingly light space internally, (whatever your views on the external design), with much modern art displayed. I’m afraid I could not be moved by the spatters of Jackson Pollock, or the simple colour blocks of a Rothko. But always being a fan of art deco, I did enjoy the half a dozen paintings by Tamara de Lempika, especially.