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.
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
At about eight pm on a Saturday, our friend from up the hill, The Only Intellectual in the Village calls round. Do we want to go to the theatre? Tonight? At ten-thirty? Well, no, not really, kind thought though it is, I'd already planned an evening full of activities: a bit of telly, glass of wine or two, chocolate. It might even involve a pair of pyjamas if I can find the energy to trail upstairs to put them on.
"But yes! How nice! That would make a lovely change, wouldn't it?" I force a smile towards Mr. Price.
The big road to Dinan's blocked, says our friend later, and he takes a detour through a hundred villages, driving furiously with a remix of Noir Desir blasting out from the speakers next to me in the back.
I'm convinced I'm going to die- but I don't, and I survive to see the 13th Century Theatre des Jacobins in all its beauty. We aren't in the main theatre but in a less formal, relaxed venue with chairs and tables set before a small stage.
I've brought my sketchbook , in case of boredom, and I do a quick study of the audience before the act comes on and the lights go off. They're called Lui et Moi (Him and Me), a comedic musical duo who are (my translation):
"at the crossroads 0f reality and wonderland, between poetry and madness... first and foremost they are Two Fools, who, between songs, are mainly silent, interacting with glances and few words. Between black humour and flights into popular and romantic music, these clown-poet-singers question our society, our bad habits and give us hope and joy, in all humility"
They're really rather good, and I'd enjoy it even more if I understood more than a fifth of the cultural references and the plays on language.
I can remember feeling lost and stupid like this when listening to Georges Brassens in the Sixties. The audience bursts into laughter and I think 'Eh?" and by the time I've vaguely worked something out it's no longer amusing and I've missed half the next verse. Now and again, though, I do catch something and that makes it worthwhile.
Wow! Seven years studying the language at school to A-Level standard; two summers spent wasting around with French friends; seventeen years over here speaking fluently, but I go to see something like this and I'm floundering!
I'm in the dark with my drawing, too, but scribble on and I'm quite pleased with the funny results: detached heads, weird guitars and stripy socks, there's somehow a visual Essence of Performance which nicely matches my distorted, reduced-down understanding of the whole event.
The two make a pleasant whole and I don't really regret the pyjamas!