Thursday, July 19, 2012

Show Some Emotion...

From the 70's...
Last night I discovered that someone special had died in the morning. It was expected, so wasn't a dreadful surprise, but the jolt of finality was a shock nevertheless. A chapter of life really has ended, but at the same time this passage brought back memories of a very distant time. For me, back came the episodes of childhood spent with relatives, during our much-awaited annual summer holidays with them. We spent days on the beach and in the countryside around our house in the 70's. This gradually petered out as both our families seemed to branch out and off towards others interests and obligations and finally those shared family holidays fizzled out completely. The memories of our gatherings remain, however, and the music that seemed to accompany these too. 

I remember my aunt singing along to this whole Joan Armatrading album (Show Some Emotion)  that my parents had then and to hear it again now sends me back to those days, and right now back to her too. At that time she must have been much younger than my cousins and I are today, which seems strange to think.
 She really was a unique person who lit up life around her.

I 'borrowed' your photo - P - hope you don't mind...xx

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oh England, My Lionheart...

Foxgloves in the rain - Kensington Gardens
 They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but when I'm in England I don't particularly want to come back to France. This is mainly because I just can't face the music. The music in question accompanies the deadly dance of all aspects of divorce proceedings and is far from harmonious. These final steps in this particular pas de deux  are purely over money - filthy lucre indeed. I would love to purify myself after today's session; lose myself on a long walk in a big park, or along a coastline, but failing that I'll settle for a bath and a piece of music that always seems to have been in the background over the last seven years. Kate Bush's Oh England has such a beautifully calming effect...

 I sometimes think that I must have broken quite a sizeable mirror at some stage to account for those years, but at least this is now real life and not a collection of illusions, and there have been many, many bright moments too. Nevertheless, during brief periods I do still wish that I could be little again and fly off to escape the ugliness, in Peter Pan style. Today, for example!

Peter Pan in the rain - Kensington Gardens - London
 Oh England, my Lionheart,
I'm in your garden, fading fast in your arms.
The soldiers soften, the war is over.
The air raid shelters are blooming clover.
Flapping umbrellas fill the lanes--
My London Bridge in rain again.

Oh England, my Lionheart!
Peter Pan steals the kids in Kensington Park.
You read me Shakespeare on the rolling Thames--
That old river poet that never, ever ends.
Our thumping hearts hold the ravens in,
And keep the tower from tumbling.
Oh England, my Lionheart,
Oh England, my Lionheart,
Oh England, my Lionheart,
I don't want to go.

Oh England, my Lionheart!
Dropped from my black Spitfire to my funeral barge.
Give me one kiss in apple-blossom.
Give me one wish, and I'd be wassailing
In the orchard, my English rose,
Or with my shepherd, who'll bring me home.

Oh England, my Lionheart,
Oh England, my Lionheart,
Oh England, my Lionheart,
I don't want to go.
Oh England, my Lionheart,
Oh England, my Lionheart,
Oh England, my Lionheart,
I don't want to go.
Towards  Penzance (Cornwall) - This rainy morning walk seems like a dream now..

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Festival of Joan of Arc in Reims - Les Fêtes Johanniques de Reims...

Jeanne d'Arc - Place des Pyramides - Paris - E. Frémiet - 1889
The annual Festival of Joan of Arc - les Fêtes Johanniques - takes place in Reims in mid-June, in order to commemorate the triumphant arrival in the city of the 'Virgin of Orléans' and Charles VII in 1429 and the latter's subsequent coronation as rightful King of France...
This scene looks like something from a Brueghel painting...

Place Royale - Reims (with a magpie!)

For the space of a weekend, Reims, the bourgeois heart of the Champagne-producing region is taken over by a Medieval encampment.

A bawdy Middle-Age crowd invades the streets with their animations, stands and shows.

 The key moment of the event is however, the final procession of Joan and her King from the Basilique Saint Remi to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. 
The Medieval jam stand with the testing/tasting pots...
A spice girl...
This is traditionally followed by an incredible motley crew of royalty, ruffians, beasts and beggars, exotic animals and animation of all kinds. 
A hearty welcome from a Knight Templar...
A noble camel

 The city centre is freed of modern traffic, but the pavements and streets are suddenly occupied by stranger forms of transport and pedestrians...
A gaggle of geese and a troup of tourists behind...

This year promised to be even more spectacular as it commemorated the 600th year of the birth of Joan of Arc, and, as always, similar celebrations took place in Orléans and Rouen.

Place Royale
No Morris Dancers, but there was a Maypole that seemed to leave the younger dancers baffled!
The timing of the festivities posed a small problem this year, however, as not only was the Sunday ceremonial procession threatened by the looming rain clouds, but we also had another regal procession to watch; Queen Elizabeth's River Pageant.... 
Some of the many street musicians...

 Although my loyalty was tested, the choice was made quickly! Sorry Joan…

We ended up watching the washed-out London celebrations on television, instead of those taking place here. In terms of weather, the Grand Cortège des Sacres didn’t seem to fare any better as it poured with rain and seems to have done little else since. 
Place Royale - Reims
Now when I look at the photos of the Fête de Jeanne d’Arc the sunny weather of that Saturday afternoon seems to be a very dim and distant memory. 
A Medieval Spike Milligan...
 The relaxing summer days I had been hoping for didn’t materialize either so today being the 17th July, the date of Charles’ VII coronation, I hope to finish this post once and for all, with or without the sun! 
One of the poor greygrounds there to show how their treatment probably still hasn't improved since the Middle Ages..
Last year the town commemorated the 800 years of Reims cathedral and over the months we have seen beautiful evening Sight and Sound displays – Rêve de Couleurs –as lights illuminate and play over the façade of this famous Gothic edifice in the same vivid colours as the stained glass windows themselves.
 For centuries the cathedral played the same role in the Sacre, the coronation of French kings and queens, as Westminster Abbey in England. 
View of the cathedral from the Palais du Tau - Reims
The huge spiritual and sovereign importance of the cathedral and the adjoining Palais du Tau was recognized in the grandeur of the edifices and also the regalia with which the monarchs were presented during the ceremonial rituals of the consecration. The anointing, or unction, of the monarch in Reims, refers back to the baptism of King Clovis in the city in 496-499. From the year 816 the ceremony of Le Sacre took place principally in Reims and it was the Holy Ampulla, containing the balm to be mixed with ‘chrism’ and allegedly transported by the dove of the Holy Spirit, that conferred the divine right to power on the French monarchy. 
Tea break on Place Royale...
The numerous maraudings, meanderings, twisted intrigues and open hostilities between France and England that had started with the William the Conqueror’s victory in 1066 continued to grow in frequency and force to give rise to the Hundred Years’ War. These hostilities were further complicated by the civil wars between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians that ravaged the French realm from 1407-1435. The Burgundian factions sought alliance and protected their interests with the English, whilst the Armagnacs sided with the French. England, ever-avid to see an English king reign over France, exploited the animosity between the two factions to their own profit. 
Probably not much chance of the blacksmith getting into that coat of armour...
The end of the Anglo-French war was the backcloth to the Dauphin’s rightful accession to the French throne in the first part of the 15th century when Joan of Arc finally led Charles VII to Reims. However, this passage was far from smooth… The crushing defeat of the French at the Battle of Azincourt (1415) by Henry V had led to the marriage between this English king and Catherine of Valois, the daughter of the French King, Charles VI. In addition, the Treaty of Troyes (1420) recognized Henry V as regent of France and decreed that his successors would occupy the French throne. Charles V disinherited his own son, the Dauphin Charles VII, to the succession. 
 When Henry V died before Charles VI in 1422, Henry VI of England was acknowledged future king of France by the English and the Burgundians. He was to be crowned in Paris 1431, aged just 10. On his father’s death in 1422, the Dauphin, Charles VII, wished to claim this title for himself but being unable to overthrow the English, he left Paris for an area near the Loire Valley and was disparagingly referred to as the ‘King of Bourges’ (the small town he inhabited). The sudden arrival of the young peasant girl from North-East France, Joan of Arc, would put an end to this stalemate.
Equestrian show - Place du Forum
 In 1429, Joan freed the besieged city of Orléans from the clutches of the English forces and declared that she had a divine mission to take the Dauphin from Chinon, to Reims for his consecration. “Tu es vray héritier du trône de France”. Herself guided by angels’ voices, Joan succeeded in leading Charles Le Victorieux to the ville des Sacres, where he received the keys to the city, and Dauphin was duly crowned king on the 17th of July of that year. 
Joan was later captured by the Burgundians near Compiègne and was sold to the English so that they could do as they wished with this ‘heretic’. Her fate was sealed and she died at the stake in Rouen in 1431, aged only 19, yet was to become a folk heroine and a Catholic saint, and the Fête Jeanne d’Arc reflects the continued interest in this cult figure of French history.
Making chain mail...
Over the centuries the symbolic image of Joan of Arc has given rise to numerous works of art and most French towns have large statues, sculptures and paintings in her honour. One the works that I have seen, I prefer that of the Place des Pyramides, near the Louvre, in Paris. 
Herding up the straying locals...
Commissioned by the government on France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, the statue reigns over the traffic today, but initially commemorated Joan’s brave attempt to take Paris. I always think of this work as typically Parisian but in fact other versions of Frémiet’s statue can be seen in Nancy (France), Philadelphia, Portland and Melbourne – the latter being the less resplendent simply because it isn’t golden!
Of course, Reims has its own statue of Joan of Arc, situated just in front of the cathedral, but whilst she brandishes her sword bravely, her face does not seem to reflect the same bravura and determination as Frémiet’s Jeanne. Not only that, but her sword has fallen victim to acts of vandalism on several occasions, this year included…
Jeanne d'Arc - Parvis de la Cathédrale - Reims (sword still intact, but not for long..)
Well the sun has finally come out, and I hope it will do so next year when I fully intend to see the Grand Cortège des Sacres on the Sunday, camera in hand, surrounded by all kinds of Medieval and modern-day magic.
Display of hunting birds - Place du Forum - Reims
 It’s not everyday that you can see vultures, eagles and owls flying around the square in front of your local baker’s shop! Or be overtaken by a procession of camels and yaks on your way home after a busy day of festivities!

The yaks lead the way home...
 And no one could possibly forget the haughty expression of those camels!
A snooty beast 'parked' behind the cathedral - I just love that regal sneer!