Armistice Day Centenary 1918-2018

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Graph Review of: Don’t Forget to Love: an ep by Emily Lee

A Graph Review

of the ep:this happy spirit graph 70 to 80 ……..Don’t Forget To Love.  By Emily Lee

Merits more points than average of 75, should be avge 80,  only wish cd was more easily obtainable.

Also, recently released (1st Sept)  by Emily Lee another   cd:     Dance my Demons Away

Have to confess to one favourite vocal being ‘In the Balance’…..from Karmina Burana.  Sometimes a few assorted arias/ duets of Puccini, Verdi et al of mezzos and sopranos as my mood or playlist takes me.

Nothing better than to binge on Marianne Faithfull with ‘Before the Poison’ et al.  plus many assorted others thrown in from even further back from jazz and blues of Billie Holiday and what some would call ‘folk’ from another huge assortment of singers from Sandy Denny to Eva Cassidy.   Okay, huge gaps, known and unknown not ignored just not included……

I  have labelled a very few above as regulars but I do try to listen randomly, or deliberately to contemporary singers.  Yes, I have found lots to like in different ways and could drift on listing many well-established singers (Dixie Chicks, Storm Large) and assorted new (to me) like Jorja Smith who are going to be a permanent fixture on my favourite playlist.  Huge array of talent, all of them.

However, when I want to sit and listen to voice, words and music I currently fall back onto Jane Silberry’s  ‘Maria’ cd.  Within that the final, long, track is ‘Oh My My’ which just has to be listened to the final note.

There is any amount of superb singers, writers, musicians out there, old, contemporary or in the wings that deserve to be heard. I wish I had the time and memory to look more.

What’s this got to do with an Emily Lee review of ‘Dont Forget To Love’, an ep  cd released in 2015?    It’s because I have only just heard her sing and it was live on acoustic guitar (a Joan Baez song), and later listened to this ep.     emily lee cover 1Five of her own beautifully crafted and produced songs with style and variation that held together whilst showing her ability and vocal confidence. Emily and a guitar. ……. Not forgetting the intro. on first track, for me a pleasant surprise……

Tracks:    Mr Moonlight;   Special;   Don’t Forget To Love;   Ain’t Man Enough;   Blue.

 

As a contrary customer I might have put  ‘Ain’t Man Enough’ last.   But then I deserve a slap on the wrist for saying that because it wasn’t anything to do with me!!!!     It’s tough but if I had to choose one of the above it should be ‘Special’, because it is!   An ep of music and words to last a lifetime.

dont forget to love insideI have listened to the ep from first to last about six times in four days. More times than I have listened to numerous other cds over two or three months.   I don’t know who wrote the ‘about’ notes on her website; looks a bit tooo much (for me) but then it sounds like that personality over the various  tracks.  I do hope she is one of the many, many-talented singers, writers, musicians to make it in their careers.       With Emily, tread carefully, you won’t know what hits you when you listen.  You will be hooked!

Sept 1st, was  release date for her second ep, ‘Dance My Demon Away’ at a launch at the Lexington, London N1..    I was unable to go so missed out on the event of Emily Lee and a 10 piece band……. even worse……..is the problem that I can’t get the cd yet.   But will!

Meantime visit her on youtube for a taster: Emily Lee:  Sleep With A Stranger. Good song, good video!

Don’t Forget to Love‘:   A thoughtful, provoking, sensitive yet at times steely performance from an artist who will push on to even greater music.   This album will sit as my top-tip for some time……….unless the new one is as good, then it will be a fight!

Spring Day by Amy Lowell

Well,  it is almost summer so this may be a little late in the year.  You might also be able to complain that it is a poem not prose.    Okay, she was a poet and I find a lot of her stuff quite appealing (!) but she wrote a fair bit, as below, in a ‘prose-poem style’…… which I obviously like too.  For me she tells a good story, highly descriptive but in short bursts of journalistic style.    Good for the period she wrote in.  Reminds me of Hemmingway,  despite the theme!

She did write a similar piece an the day after a Zeppelin bombing raid on London in early WW1, when she was here on a visit.  She did visit London around the time but I dont know if she was in the actual vicinity……..I suspect not.

Spring Day      by Amy Lowell

Bath

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.  The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling.  I move a foot, and the planes of light in the water jar.  I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me.  The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day.  I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots.
The sky is blue and high.  A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.
Breakfast Table

In the fresh-washed sunlight, the breakfast table is decked and white.  It offers itself in flat surrender, tendering tastes, and smells, and colours, and metals, and grains, and the white cloth falls over its side, draped and wide. Wheels of white glitter in the silver coffee-pot, hot and spinning like catherine-wheels, they whirl, and twirl—and my eyes begin to smart, the little white, dazzling wheels prick them like darts.  Placid and peaceful, the rolls of bread spread themselves in the sun to bask.  A stack of butter-pats, pyramidal, shout orange through the white, scream, flutter, call:  “Yellow! Yellow! Yellow!”  Coffee steam rises in a stream, clouds the silver tea-service with mist, and twists up into the sunlight, revolved, involuted, suspiring higher and higher, fluting in a thin spiral up the high blue sky.  A crow flies by and croaks at the coffee steam.  The day is new and fair with good smells in the air.
Walk

Over the street the white clouds meet, and sheer away without touching.
On the sidewalks, boys are playing marbles.  Glass marbles, with amber and blue hearts, roll together and part with a sweet clashing noise.  The boys strike them with black and red striped agates.  The glass marbles spit crimson when they are hit, and slip into the gutters under rushing brown water.  I smell tulips and narcissus in the air, but there are no flowers anywhere, only white dust whipping up the street, and a girl with a gay Spring hat and blowing skirts.  The dust and the wind flirt at her ankles and her neat, high-heeled patent leather shoes.  Tap, tap, the little heels pat the pavement, and the wind rustles among the flowers on her hat.
A water-cart crawls slowly on the other side of the way.  It is green and gay with new paint, and rumbles contentedly, sprinkling clear water over the white dust.  Clear zigzagging water, which smells of tulips and narcissus.
The thickening branches make a pink grisaille against the blue sky.
Whoop! The clouds go dashing at each other and sheer away just in time.  Whoop! And a man’s hat careers down the street in front of the white dust, leaps into the branches of a tree, veers away and trundles ahead of the wind, jarring the sunlight into spokes of rose-colour and green.
A motor-car cuts a swathe through the bright air, sharp-beaked, irresistible, shouting to the wind to make way.  A glare of dust and sunshine tosses together behind it, and settles down.  The sky is quiet and high, and the morning is fair with fresh-washed air.

  Midday and Afternoon

Swirl of crowded streets.  Shock and recoil of traffic.  The stock-still brick façade of an old church, against which the waves of people lurch and withdraw.  Flare of sunshine down side-streets.   Eddies of light in the windows of chemists’ shops, with their blue, gold, purple jars, darting colours far into the crowd.  Loud bangs and tremors, murmurings out of high windows, whirring of machine belts, blurring of horses and motors.  A quick spin and shudder of brakes on an electric car, and the jar of a church-bell knocking against the metal blue of the sky.  I am a piece of the town, a bit of blown dust, thrust along with the crowd.  Proud to feel the pavement under me, reeling with feet.  Feet tripping, skipping, lagging, dragging, plodding doggedly, or springing up and advancing on firm elastic insteps.      A boy is selling papers, I smell them clean and new from the press.  They are fresh like the air, and pungent as tulips and narcissus.
The blue sky pales to lemon, and great tongues of gold blind the shop-windows, putting out their contents in a flood of flame.
Night and Sleep

The day takes her ease in slippered yellow.  Electric signs gleam out along the shop fronts, following each other. They grow, and grow, and blow into patterns of fire-flowers as the sky fades.    Trades scream in spots of light at the unruffled night.  Twinkle, jab, snap, that means a new play; and over the way: plop, drop, quiver, is the sidelong sliver of a watchmaker’s sign with its length on another street.  A gigantic mug of beer effervesces to the atmosphere over a tall building, but the sky is high and has her own stars, why should she heed ours?
I leave the city with speed.  Wheels whirl to take me back to my trees and my quietness. The breeze which blows with me is fresh-washed and clean, it has come but recently from the high sky.  There are no flowers in bloom yet, but the earth of my garden smells of tulips and narcissus.
My room is tranquil and friendly.  Out of the window I can see the distant city, a band of twinkling gems, little flower-heads with no stems.  I cannot see the beer-glass, nor the letters of the restaurants and shops I passed, now the signs blur and all together make the city, glowing on a night of fine weather, like a garden stirring and blowing for the Spring.
The night is fresh-washed and fair and there is a whiff of flowers in the air.
Wrap me close, sheets of lavender.  Pour your blue and purple dreams into my ears.  The breeze whispers at the shutters and mutters queer tales of old days, and cobbled streets, and youths leaping their horses down marble stairways.  Pale blue lavender, you are the colour of the sky when it is fresh-washed and fair . . . I smell the stars . . . they are like tulips and narcissus . . . I smell them in the air.

Published in:    Men Women and Ghosts (1916)

Bite-sized Writing

Some people will be pleased to know I have just re-started my next book.   I have been labouring under a cloud of lethargy but at long last I have a bit between my teeth and am chewing over the smaller details.  For once I have drafted out cues for each section (a process I have NEVER done before)……sorry for shouting!…….  and intend to vaguely follow them to the end.    However I do have to admit that the actual journey to hit my cue-marks may be affected by some daunting (ie can I really be bothered!……..look, no shouting…..) research.

Some characters follow on from ‘Certain Trace’, the book (novella) I finished yonks ago.   Maybe this one will be as short so I can nail them together as the opposite of a spin-off character-led series.

In theory it covers  in more detail some of the events of  Veronique, Charlie and one or two others that you will not know unless you read ‘A Certain Trace’.    Unlikely as it has not yet been published.   I did put out a little sneaker section called ‘Extraction’ in  ‘wordparc’ some time ago.  I feel sure this character (Michael Wise, Captain…….or Major, as he became during World War 1 at Cambrai) will also appear as I got quite fond of him.

Word to the wise, or unwise!…… DO NOT GET TOO FOND OF YOUR CHARACTERS…… when you kill them off, it hurts!    Okay, no more shouting.

Who knows where the best laid plan may actually lead you, the writer.   That is part of the glory of being a writer, for me, that is: not quite in control.   I know where I want to go but the journey can be meandering.    Fascinating.

And I will have to stick some fingers into the lives of the Burnthorpe townies and assorted others in between, so words may not always add up!

Well, the future for me is research into all those already well-dug furrows from 1900 right up to today.  Tomorrow, too, knowing the rate at which I work.  Plus some red-hot pad-tapping hours as I intend to put down an average of two thousand words a day, starting May 1st.    A bold plan but required if I want to finish this short epic and a third that is fermenting gently.    Once again its on a set of characters from  ‘A Certain Trace’…….. Hence my thoughts about nailing these novellas together; resulting not so much in a daisy-chain novel as a dog-eared-daisy-of-an-epic-novel……

Now, where’s that dictionary; and my glasses!    Better make a cup of coffee first.   And find a couple of biscuits……..

 

 

 

 

John Clare, notes for wildlife talk.

Birds, Bees and Beasts                                                 (first published on ‘poetryparc’)                                            

John Clare, born July  1793, died May 1864

There is much to be said about John Clare as a poet but he is probably best known as a highly observational poet and writer of Nature from his world of part-fenland, moorland,  wood and even recently enclosed farm-lands surrounding his home village of Helpston a few miles north-ish of Peterborough.  Even today ornithologists  recommend  new enthusiasts to read his writings for accurate descriptions of birds and their activities.

Perhaps the most known poems are from anthologies, such as:

Little Trotty Wagtail

Little trotty wagtail he went in the rain,
And tittering, tottering sideways he neer got straight again,
He stooped to get a worm, and looked up to get a fly,
And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.

Little trotty wagtail, he waddled in the mud,
And left his little footmarks, trample where he would.
He waddled in the water-pudge, and waggle went his tail,
And chirrupt up his wings to dry upon the garden rail.

Little trotty wagtail, you nimble all about,
And in the dimpling water-pudge you waddle in and out;
Your home is nigh at hand, and in the warm pig-stye,
So, little Master Wagtail, I’ll bid you a good-bye.

I should say here that Clare was not enthusiastic about punctuation and his spelling was variable plus his use of Northamptonshire dialect words to add to the mix.   So that’s my excuse!   I just read the best I can!

In 2016    (Dr). Jeff Ollerton spoke at a ‘Clare and Nature’ event (see his ‘biodiversity blog’.)   and pointed out the value of Clare’s natural history writing and poetry for its highly detailed observations.   In the next poem, written sometime in 1825, Clare describes five bees that were common.   Today, after nearly 200 years, naturalists have established from his descriptions that within Northamptonshire at least, four are still common and one, the red-shanked Carder bee is rare. I am not a naturalist, I recognise two sorts of bees from my garden, both common, it seems:    

The poem:

Wild Bees.

These children of the sun which summer brings

As pastoral minstrels in her Merry train

Pipe rustic ballads upon busy wings

And glad the cotters’ quiet toils again.

The white-nosed bee that bores its little hole

In mortared walls and pipes it’s symphonies,

And never absent cousin, black as coal,

That Indian-like bepaints its little thighs,

With white and red bedight for holiday,

Right earlily a-morn do pipe and play

And with their legs stroke slumber from their eyes.

And aye so fond they of their singing seem

That in their holes abed at close of day

They still keep piping in their honey Dreams,

And larger ones that thrum on ruder pipe

Round the sweet smelling closen and rich woods

Where tawny white and red flush clover buds

Shine bonnily and bean fields blossom ripe,

Shed dainty perfumes and give honey food

To these sweet poets of the summer fields;

Me much delighting as I stroll along

The narrow path that hay laid meadow yields,

Catching the windings of their wandering song,

The black and yellow bumble first on wing

To buzz among the sallow’s early flowers,

Hiding it’s nest in holes from fickle spring

Who stints his rambles with her frequent showers;

And one that may for wiser piper pass,

In livery dress half sables and half red,

Who laps a moss ball in the meadow grass

And hoards her stores when April showers have fled;

And russet commoner who knows the face

Of every blossom that the meadow brings,

Starting the traveller to a quicker pace

By threatening round his head in many rings:

These sweeten summer in their happy glee

By giving for her honey melody.

 

There aren’t so many poems about bees, maybe a few more about Hares.   This is Clare’s

Hares at Play

The birds are gone to bed the cows are still

And sheep lie panting on each old mole hill

And underneath the willows grey green bough

Like toil a resting  –  lies the fallow plough

The timid hares throw daylights fears away

On the lanes road to dust and dance and play

Then dabble in the grain by nought deterred

To lick the dewfall from the barleys beard

Then out they sturt again and round the hill

Like happy thoughts dance squat and loiter still

Till milking maidens in the early morn

Giggle their yokes and start them in the corn

Through well known beaten paths each nimbling hare

Sturts quick as fear  –  and seeks its heavy lair.

………………………………

Next we could look at his badgers or foxes:  Lets go for the fox, its less well-known

The Fox

The shepherd on his journey heard when nigh
His dog among the bushes barking high;
The ploughman ran and gave a hearty shout,
He found a weary fox and beat him out.
The ploughman laughed and would have ploughed him in
But the old shepherd took him for the skin.
He lay upon the furrow stretched for dead,
The old dog lay and licked the wounds that bled,
The ploughman beat him till his ribs would crack,
And then the shepherd slung him at his back;
And when he rested, to his dog’s surprise,
The old fox started from his dead disguise;
And while the dog lay panting in the sedge
He up and snapt and bolted through the hedge.

He scampered to the bushes far away;
The shepherd called the ploughman to the fray;
The ploughman wished he had a gun to shoot.
The old dog barked and followed the pursuit.
The shepherd threw his hook and tottered past;
The ploughman ran but none could go so fast;
The woodman threw his faggot from the way
And ceased to chop and wondered at the fray.
But when he saw the dog and heard the cry
He threw his hatchet–but the fox was bye.
The shepherd broke his hook and lost the skin;
He found a badger hole and bolted in.
They tried to dig, but, safe from danger’s way,
He lived to chase the hounds another day.

 ………….

But now the elusive Pine-marten:   Originally untitled, the editors title is

Marten

The martin cat long shaged of courage good

Of weazle shape a dweller in the wood

With badger hair long shagged and darting eyes

And lower then the common cat in size

Small head and running on the stoop

Snuffing the ground and hind parts shouldered up

He keeps one track and hides in lonely shade

Where print of human foot is scarcely made

Save when the woods are cut the beaten track

The woodmans dog will snuff cock tailed and black

Red legged and spotted over either eye

Snuffs barks and scrats the lice and passes bye

The great brown horned owl looks down below

And sees the shaggy martin come and go

The martin hurrys through the woodland gaps

And poachers shoot and make his skin for caps

When any woodman come and pass the place

He looks at dogs and scarcely mends his pace

And gipseys often and birdnesting boys

Look in the hole and hear a hissing noise

They climb the tree such noise they never heard

And think the great owl is a foreign bird

When the grey owl her young ones cloathed in down

Seizes the boldest boy and drives him down

They try agen and pelt to start the fray

The grey owl comes and drives them all away

And leaves the Martin twisting round his den

Left free from boys and dogs and noise and men

(Punctuation and spelling as from JC mss,  text from  ‘Clare, NOES’, published Oxford.  Ed’s: Robinson & Summerfield  )      If available still, a good collection to have.

It does look like wildlife was considered entertainment or a threat in Clare’s day too.

I reckon the owl mentioned is the one known as Eurasian eagle owl from Clare’s note of colour and nesting. Not the white, Arctic Owl.   Pine-Martins are extremely secretive animals and very scarce in most of England.  From this poem we again see Clare’s quality of observation including boys and hunters’ proclivities of the day.    Clare was not averse to egg-collecting in his youth, I doubt he was actively a poacher or into badger hunting and the like but was an observer of detail around him, including the activities of people.   His poem of a ‘Badger’ being cornered by dogs and men can be read as straightforward, vivid, descriptive fact but also as anti-hunting. Though he may not have been able to declare it openly. The poems of Fox and the Vixen have similar sympathies with the animals.

In  Clare’s poem the pine marten the owl is realistically described.   I looked for poems that described the owl rather than just promoting it as a mystical, magical or wise old bird.    Apparently, it is none of those things…..    There are very few that limit themselves to description only, maybe because they are nocturnal. Or I haven’t looked hard enough.

 Here is one observation from life by Jean Whitfield from the edge of Dartmoor:

 

Owl                             

 Composed by the roadside

he weighed a level branch down

knowing he was beautiful

the clear white sweep of him

 

tufted ears and round orange head

he blinked his eyes

rested iron claws easy

let us see enough of him

 

and finding undercurrents

lifted slowly, wafted wide wings

poised in the even air

figure skated on the breeze

 

allowed himself to fall

a small space gracefully

and rolled the lazy evening

forward and backward

over the hump in the road

 

he hung on those sunken eyes

swung over the field-hedge

Poured down from that low sky

– was gone.

 

Charles  Baudelaire offers a more, but not quite, typical poet’s view of the owl

The Owls                   

Under the overhanging yews,

The dark owls sit in solemn state,                                                                                                Like stranger gods; by twos and twos                                                                                        Their red eyes gleam.
They meditate.

Motionless thus they sit and dream                                                                                            Until that melancholy hour                                                                                                      When, with the sun’s last fading gleam,                                                                                        The nightly shades assume their power.

From their still attitude the wise                                                                                                    Will learn with terror to despise                                                                                                    All tumult, movement, and unrest;

For he who follows every shade,                                                                                              Carries the memory in his breast,                                                                                                    Of each unhappy journey made.

 

Ted Hughes’  writes  The Owl: .  A short poem with the briefest of image, much like sightings can be.     

The Owl

The path was purple in the dusk

I saw an owl perched,

on a branch

And when the owl stirred, a fine dust

fell from its wings.

I was

silent then.

And felt

the owl quaver.

And at dawn, waking,

the path was green in the

May light.

                  

And for any that drive up and down the A1: from j Johnson Smith:

The Owl of Beeston.

Ask a local and they will say it is always there                                                                             in the periphery, on the edge of vision.

Driving fast, you might spot it, silhouetted                                                                                    as black as the night it should be hiding in.

Slow drive, curving right under its beak                                                                                      You might spy a mouse crouching                                                                                                  As if to pounce                                                                                                                                    Or waiting, stoicly

DH Lawrence is recognised as a great fiction writer, set at A level, I believe, still well-known for his travel writing.  Even tried his arm at painting though with less success.   How about his poems?    He was quite prolific but his name as a poet has not stuck.  As happens with many writers who move into novels successfully.  In temperament many poems would fit with the politics of Vernon Scannell or Billy Bragg but he definitely had a sensitive side:

In anthologies you regularly find his poems    Especially ‘Snake’  and   ‘Kangaroo’

Lawrence wrote memorably on other beasts.    Such as  this one:

A Baby Asleep After Pain

As a drenched, drowned bee
Hangs numb and heavy from a bending flower,
So clings to me
My baby, her brown hair brushed with wet tears
And laid against my cheek;
Her soft white legs hanging heavily over my arm
Swinging heavily to my movements as I walk.
My sleeping baby hangs upon my life,
Like a burden she hangs on me.
She has always seemed so light,
But now she is wet with tears and numb with pain
Even her floating hair sinks heavily,
Reaching downwards;
As the wings of a drenched, drowned bee
Are a heaviness, and a weariness.

 

Yes, the mention of  the bee is what caught my attention!     Another Lawrence:

Bat –   (or  Man and Bat, in another anthology)

At evening, sitting on this terrace,
When the sun from the west, beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains of Carrara
Departs, and the world is taken by surprise …

When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing
Brown hills surrounding …

When under the arches of the Ponte Vecchio
A green light enters against stream, flush from the west,
Against the current of obscure Arno …

Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.

A circle swoop, and a quick parabola under the bridge arches
Where light pushes through;
A sudden turning upon itself of a thing in the air.
A dip to the water.

And you think:
‘The swallows are flying so late!’

Swallows?

Dark air-life looping
Yet missing the pure loop …
A twitch, a twitter, an elastic shudder in flight
And serrated wings against the sky,
Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the light,
And falling back.

Never swallows!
Bats!
The swallows are gone.

At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats
By the Ponte Vecchio …
Changing guard.

Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one’s scalp
As the bats swoop overhead!
Flying madly.

Pipistrello !
Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe.
Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive;

Wings like bits of umbrella.

Bats!

Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep;
And disgustingly upside down.

Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags
And grinning in their sleep.
Bats!

Not for me!

…………………………..

Now there’s a man who has been tested but is still able to find his sense of humour.

Dare I finish on this by Ivor Cutler?   from Fly Sandwich, Methuen)

Bison’s Face

A bison’s face is its whole

head –  a rueful head.  It is

not grateful for having been

saved from extinction.  ‘You

the exterminator, and you

the preserver – man – look

much alike to me.  An

uncultured mob.  And you,

Mister Poet, keep your

phoney empathy.  Spending

£25 on a season ticket to pop

In and feel sorry for me.  Be

a pal, next time bring your

rifle.  You tell all your chums

how pragmatic you are’

All these poems have more than one face to nature, nature and man; and offer discussion points as well as clear observation to where and what is ‘Nature Poetry.’ 

Forty Years Old, a celebration!

From a seed to this in forty years, give or take a month or two:

 

Maybe not the biggest cactus in the world but grown from seed, surviving heat, cold, lack of water (sometimes too much) and finally placed in a nice Christmas mug and by a sunny windowsill with a view, is something to trumpet about.

A fortieth year worth remembering.

Notre-Dame, a Brutalistic church: Royan

 

Built on the site of a Neo-Gothic church, now stands, shall we say; a brutallistic church of Norte-Dame, Royan, France

A brief holiday was highlighted by a visit to this church, rebuilt from 1950-53 on the site of a neo-Gothic church that was destroyed towards the end of WW2 as was all its surrounding town. Flattened by two bombing raids as a strategic site of a last stronghold, this old town on the banks of the Gironde was rebuilt after the war and retains a distinctly well designed appeal from its promenading marina and beach area with its open space for a temporary arena for musical or other entertainments. Its restaurants and hotels along the front, short cut-throughs to assorted shopping streets and an easy stroll to its highest point where  we have the ‘new’ church, built almost sixty eight years ago.

From  across the wide river-mouth you can see what appears to be, a large, dark church with a spire sitting high on a hill and the town buildings settled all around.    Once in the town you can spy its tower from many points in gaps between buildings.

When you glimpse it, as a visitor, it’s appearance might cause some curiosity.  The town small is enough for the tower to guide you to the open paved space around the church. Larger than you might expect.

 

Describing it is not easy.  Simply: It’s concrete.  Slabs of raw concrete, striated with sides heaving upwards. Elements of curved corners but outweighed by a tower that looks too solid to grow that tall.  A couple of small elemental, external balconies higher and higher that could be niches in a cliff-face.

 

A building that is instantly iconic.  A dark slab of a silo.  A construction that fits into the brutalist style.  It certainly responds defiantly to the destruction of the church and town. It shouts out that buildings and communities can be rebuilt in strength.    Time may forge differing opinions but this church now also stands as a significant challenge to time.

At the base of the tower, from a distance,  there seems to be a door.  Arrow shaped and guartered with iron but as you approach you realise it is the glitter of lead around stained glass, almost as grey as the concrete walls.   

 

Slightly to the side of this main building is attached a low heavy lintel-like roof extending out and joining to a short walkway.  At the connection of this lowering roof, almost like an entrance to a cave, the opening beckons you into the darkness like no other church has.

 

Unfortunately these photographs have decreased the contrast of the darkess within the space of this huge building and the light sparkling through the stain-glass.   It is a truly dramatic, emotive, effect to stand within and feel this vast and magnificent construction.

Once inside, the dimly lit church retains its heavy power as you walk under more low (relatively) ceiling , before you are  realise you stand in a vast space of a church. The low ceiling is in fact a balcony walkway around one side of the building, a similar on the other side.  And ones above matching those outside. Light reflecting through angled stained-glass windows along the wall are all in limited colours and simple design; fascinating in themselves as some of the glass has been angled and protrudes like modern art work. As they are.  You can follow the balcony right towards the altar but I suggest you move towards the far door which in this case was open.  ( the main entrance) From here you can look back into the church and the beauty of the distant window behind the altar glowing in its limited palette.  And feel the still darkness of the huge, no, awesome, wide and high building.  No longer oppressive.  Then walk forward down the aisle, or round the sides and stand before the altar.

 

 

The altar, a plain slab placed on a simple double-curved plinth.  Effectively, theatrically spotlit  on the curves, enough to highlight them and lead your eyes upwards and behind to that arrow shaped design you first saw from the outside.  A graduating, rising, spark of colours that burst triumphantly skywards as dramatic counterbalance to the cavernous space and darkness.

My words really don’t do justice to this building.  I doubt it can compare to the huge design and minutiae of the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona but… you knew there was a but:    for me it just might compare in grandeur for its sheer simplicity.

This is a building that defies catastrophe, lives as an iconic design and inside offers a world of stark, aesthetic solace and peace.

When in the Bordeaux region, visit this church in  Royan.

 

 

visited August 2017