Tuesday 25 May 2010
It's a long holiday weekend in Brittany, for a religious feast-called 'Consumption', 'Reprobation' or somesuch.
We're invited for lunch on the Sunday chez some English friends and the twenty-minute journey to Evran takes us through several villages.
Usually, all to be seen on the way (if you're lucky!) is perhaps an old woman bent double, painfully making her way down the road with a bucket. "Why?" is Mr. Price's usual comment.
Today's different, it's hot and sunny, there's a car-boot sale in one village and a cycle race in another; the village cafes have put out bright umbrellas and tables and people are sitting at them!
Folk are out for a stroll, or gardening and there's an elderly man in a vest sweeping the path by his garden wall, watched by his wife.
"Why?!" says Mr. Price, predictably, "Why go outside on the hottest day since records began- probably- and, in this searing heat, sweep up clouds of dust into your face?!!"
We eat lunch outside, in the shade, with views across the fields to farms and barns.
In our own village, too, when we get back, there's a bit of activity. There was a wedding here yesterday, and, as is traditional, some of the guests have got together for a midday meal the next day.
Plus there's a delight of delights for the artist starved of new and refreshing subject matter on her doorstep! A breakaway faction of Bretons has set up a game of 'palets' just across the road
and in full view of the upstairs studio window!
Flowering hawthorn trees makes a beautiful backdrop to this charming evening pageant, played out on the lawn by the church. I find a page in my sketchbook that I've already prepared with a green wash and I work on top of this with a conté pencil, watercolour and gouache.
While the men get on with their game the women sit and talk and small children play.
By the time I'm finished, the palet players are leaving, taking with them their wooden boards and their metal discs.
Soon, I think, the hedgehog who likes to snuffle about on this quiet patch will come out to look for worms and insects and will discover his daisied lawn trampled underfoot. He will notice the traces of man: here a sweet-wrapper, there a discarded cigarette butt, and, I fear, the taint of pipi by the hedge.
Images: Caroline Johnson 'Palet Players Under Flowering Hawthorns, Brittany' and ' Across the field, Evran'. The 16th Century version of palets.