Paris Focus: Art and French Lessons

When I saw this painting (well actually NOT the painting as that had been loaned elsewhere) but a copy of it in the Musée de l’Orangerie I was immediately taken back to 1968 when I was a young teenager in a Grammar School near Leeds.

There we had an amazing French teacher who earned himself the nickname of ‘Lurch’ as he was a big, tall chap with short cropped blonde hair and for some reason reminded us of Lurch, the butler,  in the Addams Family programme on TV at the time.

He was a wonderful teacher, making our French lessons fun and interesting, with great humour. One of his comments in my end of year report has stayed with me all my life: “Jude is an excellent conversationalist, just a pity it is not in French“. Saying that I loved languages and especially French, so much so I even went to work as an au pair in Geneva several years later. He unfortunately for us, left to teach in Chad at the end of this school year, leaving us to do our French O level with a rather disappointing replacement.

But back to the painting. One of the ways he taught us the language was by studying scenes or paintings and this was one of them. The teeny  dog, or was it a cat? The family in the cart – where were they going? Who were they? Is that a child or a pet monkey? Such a painting could stimulate many a conversation. In French. Of course 🙂

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Paris Focus: Walking the Right Bank Passages

Paris in springtime is what most people think about when the city of Paris pops up. I am sure it is utterly wonderful, strolling alongside the River Seine hand in hand with a loved one, perhaps a river tour on one of the cruise boats, sipping champagne in an old-fashioned intimate restaurant where the waiters wear those long black aprons and hover politely. But what to do when it rains? Paris in the rain can be cold and miserable. Yes, there are the numerous art galleries to visit, but if you have already been there and done that then perhaps a wander through the 19th century ‘Les Passages’ might do the trick.

Put on your walking shoes, hide the credit card and let’s go exploring!

Les Passages

I shall also add the original post to Jo’s Walks

Please leave any comments on the original post.

A Small World

This happened 40 years ago, but has always stuck in my memory.

I settled into my seat with a sigh of relief. My young son curled up on the seat beside me, peering out of the grimy window. My partner was sitting behind me, asleep already, with my two-year old daughter beside him. At last I could relax from the horrendous 4 day train journey we had just undertaken from Tunis to Casablanca. I was tired of being molested by Algerian men who thought nothing of putting their hands on my thighs or brushing against my breasts despite the fact that I was travelling with my partner and with two very small children. It made no difference to them. I was not a person with feelings, I was an object of desire.

Then from behind came a hand on my shoulder. My own hand formed a fist – I was in no mood for any more physical contact. Before I could turn around I heard someone exclaim my name. As I turned my head, a face I instantly recognised appeared before me – my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Merv from Bradford, England. I gasped, and stood up to hug him tightly. How could this even be possible? The last I had heard of him, he was in Melbourne, Australia. The last he had heard from me, I was in Johannesburg and married to an Englishman. That was two years ago. A lot had happened since.

As the bus from Casablanca to Tangiers began to shakily move off, we stood looking at each other with huge wide grins on our faces – what a serendipitous moment!

~wander.essence~  On Journey

Here be dragons

“Here be Dragons” means dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of a medieval practice of putting illustrations of dragons, sea monsters and other mythological creatures on uncharted areas of maps where potential dangers were thought to exist. You may well be thinking there’s nowhere quite like that left in England, but you could be mistaken…

It was the Easter holidays when I took my then teenage sons to North Yorkshire to spend some time with them bonding in the great outdoors. We stayed in Runswick Bay a few miles away from the delights of Whitby with its maritime heritage and tales of Captain Cook, Dracula and the 199 steps to the Abbey. We were in a teeny cottage clinging to the side of the steep cliff. It was barely big enough for the three of us and certainly had no room to swing the cat, which fortunately we’d left at home.

We were woken early by a squillion gulls that perched on our roof screeching annoyingly down the chimney: no alarm clock required. Our days were spent trudging over the moors on ancient Roman roads, watching steam trains or stepping over streams on lumps of rock, the boys trying, and succeeding, to keep their balance and not get a soaking. I admired the masses of dancing daffodils clustered under hedgerows and smiled with motherly concern as I watched newly born lambs wearing their wrinkly coats, gambolling in the fields on wobbly legs.

We discovered sea urchins and lumps of ancient coal on the beach and got soaked from the heavy sleeting showers before warming ourselves with mugs of real hot chocolate, along with heavily buttered toasted teacakes, in a steamy little café in Staithes. Returning to the cottage along the hazardous coastal path, the wind tangled our hair and blew us backwards.

We set out each day on an adventure as if we were the ‘Famous Five’ albeit with two members missing and no dog; armed with stacks of corned beef sandwiches, bottles of lemonade and cheese and onion crisps. Teenage boys have hollow legs and require feeding at all times. Pre ‘Sat Nav’ (GPS) made exploring the many narrow lanes an adventure in itself. Arriving at a junction or a fork where there were no signposts (removed in the war to confuse the enemy should they land and which have never been replaced) the boys would take it in turns to shout out directions to me – left, right – it didn’t really matter as we always found somewhere to park and explore.

One such wintry day on our way back from climbing up Roseberry Topping in the snow (which is where Cook glimpsed his first sight of the sea) we saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, this was a magnificent example, a 3D Technicoloured arch, the rainbow of all rainbows spreading over the blackened sky with both ends touching the earth. We decided in an instant to head for one end of the rainbow and zigged and zagged over the moors, sometimes even going under the bow itself in an attempt to reach the end. We didn’t of course, but the journey was exhilarating and eventually we reached our cosy cottage in fits of giggles to spend yet another evening pouring over the road map to try to guess where we’d been today and wonder whether there were any more dragons left to find tomorrow.

(originally posted in 2015)

On Journey

Trees of burnished copper and gold,
smoky purple canopies
and twiggy red limbs
Line the A30 heading east.
The “Welcome Home” copse on the hill,
stands guard on entry to Cornwall.
But I am going the other way
No time to stop for a photo today.
Flocks of Starlings rising like a speech bubble
From the farmers’ fields
Into the watered silk sky
before falling back down again.
And pretty roe deer feed by the side of the road.
Sheep. So many sheep. And even lambs in Devon.
Dartmoor rises like a humped backed whale
On my right.
Signs to the Pathfinder Village on my left.
Where one of the three speed cameras lies.
I slow, although I am not speeding.
The sight of the arched blue bridge
Over the motorway,
Means I can pick up more speed.
More cars mean more concentration
On the road.
Keep your distance
Stay two chevrons apart.
A phallic symbol rears up from behind the Mendip hills.
Closer by an ancient water tower squats.
Leaving Bristol behind I can relax
And admire the green valley with its low-lying mist,
or the River Avon full to the brim,
flood meadow not yet  flooded.
It won’t be long.
So many articulated lorries headed for Birmingham,
Manchester and the North.
I am glad to reach the Worcester turn off
Where the Malvern Hills look malevolent
as they crouch like a sleeping dragon
on the horizon.
The low slung sun dips in and out behind black clouds
And blinds me on the summits
as I try to avoid the potholes at the side of the road.
Welcome to Herefordshire
You Can.
Can what?
There is the Clee Hill, once a welcoming sight
As I headed home to lovely Ludlow.
Now, its peak shrouded in cloud as I pass it by,
still keeping watch over the medieval town.
Finally the Shropshire Hills.
The Longmynd, Caradoc, Ragleth Hill
loom in the background.
I have arrived.
5 hours later.

~wander.essence~ On Journey/Poetry