Time to Fly; Plus Couleur et Plus Pluie; Rattling Up the Numbers.

I’m writing this up under oppressive heat and humidity, with not a breath of wind as we wait for much needed rain.S1040011 (2)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.S1040014 (2)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.S1040039 (2)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.S1040027 (2) 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.S1040080 (2) 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.S1040079 (2)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.Van Gough Starry Night over the Rhone 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:

Le Chevalier aux Fleurs 1894. Georges Rochegrosse 1859 1938 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.SDIM8363 (2) A trip on the Seine, a climb up the Arc de Triomphe and a full moon rising, just above the Champs Elysee:2014-07-12 21.06.05 (2)A couple of days before it was closed, and the jets roared overhead to initiate the annual Bastille day parade:S1040082 (2)Finally, a trip to the very colourful, and iconic Pompidou centre:S1040081 (2) 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.

“Nature morte avec Arums et miroir” (“Still life with Arums and mirror” – Arum lilies were, along with nudes, one of her favoured subjects).lempika arum liliies and mirror
“Fille avec des gants” (“Girl with gloves” -1929):

La jeune fille avec les gantes en vert
“Portrait d un homme”, Unfinished (1928).lempika unkown man portrait
The wonders of the modern age means that you can see, and indeed order, a copy of any of her 250 or so works by clicking here, should you wish. But perhaps of more interest is her biography, which you can read here, where you will see that like Van Gough, she remained largely unappreciated, apart from temporary success during the brief art deco period. This fall from favour, and the loss of its associated decadent lifestyle in ’20’s Paris meant changes to her painting style, country of residence and apparently a personality which became increasingly grumpy, (my sympathies are entirely with her on this latter point).
Then, about 10 years after her death, a turn of the fashion wheel in the art world meant her paintings finally began to attract attention and rise in value dramatically.
And what’s the going rate? Well looking at Christie’s past history of sales (click here) of her work, you’ve got to have a few million dollars floating around to contemplate buying one. So if you really fancy something of this genre, maybe the reproduction route is best.
Or… create your own.
Like music, there’s much to be said for the art of the common man.
The French authorities must think so too, since as we waited in the fairly modern departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle terminal 2D, we passed not one, but two bright red, upright pianos placed for travellers’ use. red piano paris aOne of them was placed in wonderful juxtaposition to 2 permanently occupied PS3 gaming terminals.
Natural reticence and a sympathy for fellow travellers prevented me from having a tinkle in front of such a huge potential audience, but I’m pleased to report that fellow fliers weren’t so inhibited, and snatches of Chopin nocturnes and simpler melodies from a range of players of varied ages, and races, broke the tedium of our stay.
This binge of artistic images had me fiddling on our return to create something to reflect our trip and its themes of colour and rain. Anyone able to work out what the starting point is for the pictures below would really impress me.2014-07-13 22.09.31 (34)SDIM8357 (2)SDIM8357 (3)
Driving back through the wind and rain from Bristol airport as night drew in, we passed Brecon. The hills rose and the wildlife started to appear – fox, springing frogs, moths too numerous to even think of counting.
And finally we dodged a hedgehog.
We were nearly home.
Before and after our trip, on dry days, I’ve been collecting Yellow rattle, Rhinathus minor, seed to spread around our meadows, to add both colour and aid establishment of other meadow flowering plants. On a warm summer evening there’s a simple delight in stooping to gather the seed capsules off the stems in a single upward stripping action.SDIM8382 (2) Starting with a just a handful of seeds about 4 years ago, I reckoned I could harvest quite a bit from the clumps of plants scattered around the high hay meadow this year. SDIM8383 (2)But after winnowing the seeds out with a couple of inherited old sieves, I wondered just how much I’d actually collected?S1040061 (2) Weighing it was easy, but how many seeds does that amount to?
The smallest weight we have is 5 grams, so I thought it would be pretty quick to count out this number of seeds.S1040073 (2)
A couple of cups of tea later, and the calculations were finished. About half a million seeds.S1040077 (2)S1040078 (2)
Worth doing? Well apart from the sensual delight of strolling through the meadow, there were the sights of skipping butterflies.SDIM8392 (2)
One of which somehow followed me inside.S1040070 (2)
And even the odd disturbed Large yellow underwing moth, Noctua pronuba, which after taking flight, gave its identity away in a blurry flash of colour.SDIM8299 (2)SDIM8300 (2)
Apparently one Kg of Yellow rattle seed will cost well over £100, so there is an economic advantage in the patient approach when dealing with such a prolific species.
And I hope that by hand selecting the earliest seed capsules, I might eventually select for a population that flowers earlier in the year, which will give us big advantages when deciding whether we can chance taking an early hay crop off the meadows. For those locked into environmental land stewardship schemes, there is often a date of July 1st as being the first possible option for cutting hay. This year, having to wait until then would have missed early weather chances, which often are limited, in West Wales. All the above yellow rattle was harvested before July 1st. Other flowers set seed later, so the plan is to use marginal, or central, strips of uncut meadow to allow these plants to flower and set seed, as well as providing plenty of suitable grass species for the common grassland butterflies to use, for egg laying.SDIM8362 (2)SDIM8369 (2)SDIM8374 (2)

12 thoughts on “Time to Fly; Plus Couleur et Plus Pluie; Rattling Up the Numbers.

  1. I have always liked the Musee D’Orsay and never fail to be surprised by what I see. Having said that, last time there was a huge queue, I think it took about an hour to get in!

    When I was at Cambridge, I knew a Fiona who was at Homerton. It was about the time of American Pie – surely cant be the same Fiona can it?

    • Hello Philip.
      Interestingly Fiona bought 6 day paris Museum passes on line for the first time this year, and this handily by passes queues at several of the big museums, though we had a glitch with our base misplacing them for the first day. But well worth doing if you work out how many days of use you’re likely to give them.
      F was at Homerton mid seventies, and says that its far too long ago to remember all the names of friends from those times… I was at Sidney late seventies/eighties.

      • Thanks for the tip about the museum tickets.
        Doesn’t sound like we overlapped in Cambridge but interestingly, I was also at Sidney.

      • Well Philip, that is quite a coincidence. Obviously I read Vet Med. at Sidney (75-81), and wonder what your subject was?
        Sadly its such a slog from here to East Anglia, we rarely make it back to Cambridge, though my brother Mark is Senior tutor at Pembroke (English), and we occasionally manage Vet School reunions at Madingley Road. But like most places in the UK, away from the central college bit, Cambridge has developed hugely over the last few decades, hasn’t it?

      • I was a Natural Scientist specialising in Chemistry and I stayed on to do a PhD, also in Chemistry. Living down here in Devon, it’s also a long journey so I rarely go back. As you say, the place has changed; I used to enjoy walking through the colleges and finding “secret” places but you cant do that now.

  2. What a sensory change from your garden in Wales to Paris! Your Magic Terrace Garden looks as if it is just waiting for a modern day Monet to immortalise it. Your photographs are superb, as usual. Amelia

    • Hello A,
      Thanks for the comment.
      Indeed an annual sensory and cultural shock /delight for the system. I don’t know how far Paris is from you, but I reckon seeing the Pantheon installation by JR, who seems to be rated alongside Banksy, is maybe worth a trip if combined with something else, before it’s taken down, Quite unlike anything we’ve seen before and although his images show it well, its such a huge installation that walking round/over it adds to the impact.
      I forgot to give Fiona credit for some of the Paris photos which she took on her phone…so will say thank you to her here!

  3. Julian, your picture of the swallow chicks on the line, with their Mum in flight above them is exceptional. Well worthy of an entry in Countryfile’s Calendar photograpy competition! You say you were lucky. I beg to differ. As Gary Player once said; “The more I practise, the luckier I get!”.

    • Hello Kevin,
      Very kind of you to say so, but it lacks the real clarity of a pro…..but not bad for a Camcorder shot. It really was fortunate in the sense that the shutter/exposure button delay on the Camcorder is so slow, that it seemed to perfectly match my reaction times to hearing the chicks respond to the still out of sight adult, pressing the shutter, and the pic. gets taken as the adult is in frame. But for sure GP has a valid point- we’re still waiting for rain, but none forecast for a few days so have cut more hay…

  4. Pingback: Back home | a french garden

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