Sunday, 4 July 2010

Working On The Railway

Merdrignac is a pretty town on the inland road heading towards western Brittany. The highway runs by Loudeac, Rostrenen, the Daoulas Gorges and the Black Mountains- which aren't exactly vertiginous, but more like high moorland.
After a drive of two or three hours from here, you would reach Finistere of the shipping forecasts and the grimly beautiful Crozon Peninsula with its giddying cliffs and the furious sea thrashing on the reefs.
However, despite its charms, Merdrignac has nothing so spectacular to recommend it to the guide books. Even the trains have gone, but where the railway ran has been made into part of a 'voie verte'- an 18km hiking/cycle track .
Along the way, several old railway passenger shelters are being renovated, and we were asked to paint some reminders of the past inside the one at Merdrignac.
This is what Mr. Price has been doing for
the last week or so and on a searingly hot day I go along to have a look at his work.
He's painted a fifties-style stationmaster and he's added some clutter- a box of lettuces, a shopping bag, an umbrella, torn cinema posters of the era. There's a newspaper on the bench, too, and I see he's shown the article where some poor unfortunate was guillotined the previous morning.. featured later in 'Qui Detective No 552'!
While the artist applies some anti-graffiti varnish I go for a wander. The old station building's used as a council depot now and the yard's full of signs, compressors and other machines- a world that, thankfully, I know little about.
I'm somehow excited when I find a bit of the old railway track glinting through the surface of the 'voie verte', a souvenir of a gentler time when a journey was ruled by a train timetable.
There's a convenient bench further on where I sit and draw what must have been a railway workers' house.
Nearby is the town's swimming pool and, as I work, this provides a backdrop of childrens' cries- "Elise, Elise!!" " Venez les filles!!". It's a class of schoolchildren and the shouting stops only when someone misbehaves, the teacher blows his whistle and tells them off. There's a deathly silence, and even I feel guilty!
Back at the abris voyageur the varnishing's finished- how smelly it is, like nail varnish remover! "Amyl acetate", my Dad once told me, in the days when we could talk, when he wasn't so deaf.
Let's hope the naughty teenagers who hang out in this shelter, drinking beer, kicking the walls and spraying their tags will leave off out of respect for the artist's handiwork!