The Aardvark Blog
Like summer lightning one's ideas on warm summer days strike randomnly and even without warning. Here are a few thoughts that have occurred this morning.
1) How strange and special are borders and border people. Living here on the border of England and Wales one sometimes gets so used to the signs of border tensions that they no longer register. Today fortunately it is over such simple matters as free prescriptions, but in centuries past raiding parties would break the peace on both sides of the border. Why else are so many churches in this area castellated? Many years ago I was taken by an Egyptian policeman who had befriended me in an American muscle car that ran on Benzine, just over the border into Saudi Arabia. The crossing point was in an industrial zone, and I can still hear the sounds of the car's engine and the smells of sulphur from the plants. I have explored the Scottish border, stood in the abandoned customs posts at Menton on the French and Italian borders, been woken up by machine gun-toting border police on a night train.
I am not sure whether I can promise you such excitements in our current exhibition ' Crossing the Borders', but it does contain art of the highest lyricism and displays a genuine love and reverence for the particular qualities of this area. It is on for another week and I would urge you to see it, if you have been unable to do so thus far.
2) How becalmed and bleak my life would be without music. On holiday we stopped in at one of the Harmonia Mundi record stores ( tragically closing in a few months time), and purchased a large stack of CD's ( yes how old-fashioned) including no less than four by Eric Legnini - a marvellous French pianist who we heard at Brecon a few years ago. His more recent music moves away from classic jazz, and combines jazz textures with African sounds and modern electronic music. 'Vox' in particular is a wonderful record. Also a wonderful record is the new offering from Florence and the Machine 'How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful'. An uneven record with most of its glories at the beginning, and one which I am looking to playing more. This weekend is Brecon Jazz and we still have not booked to see anything. Am wondering whether there is still time to do so. Brecon is such a unique event that any year in which we don't go seems cursed.
3) The English Civil War Society are almost upon us. Long call this morning from Martin Hackett, battlefield historian extraordinaire and old friend. His enthusiasm for this year's event is palpable and I always feel that I can't possibly live up to it. So many extra elements to this year's reenactment and we are expecting the largest ever turn out of re-enactors. It is on both days next weekend, and the full details of the programme are on our website.
4) Having got back from France I have wondered again at what a wonderful city Quimper is. The annual Festival de Cornaille is one of the best festivals I have witnessed, and a true celebration of a remarkable culture. The Musee de Beaux Arts is also well worth visiting, and I was very moved by the rooms devoted to Max Jacob, that elusive writer and artist of France's glorious cultural flowering between the wars. That the Nazi's should see fit to drag such a quiet and peaceful man to a squalid death in a detention camp ( where one of his other siblings also perished), is unimaginable. His fate is made worse by the cruel irony that his friends had finally secured his freedom on the very day that he died. And to die for being a member of a religion you no longer profess ? Alongside the Jacob exhibit is a room devoted to Jean Moulin, who turns out also to have been a writer and artist of some accomplishment. Is it not enough to be France's greatest resistence hero ? France's cultural creativity in the first half of the last century is almost unimaginable. What society has ever equalled it ? Jacob was able to collaborate with some of the finest composers - including Satie - and to work alongside Picasso, Braque, Modigliani and Jean Cocteau. And to aid my post-holiday contemplation we have been finishing off the salads, Breton butter and wine that we brought back with us. Whatever the problems of France at the start of the third millennia, it still remains the country that fascinates me more than any other.
5) Finally if you do go to Brittany do not miss the Abbé of the Holy Cross at Quimperle ( a small town a few miles South of Quimper). Perhaps the most unusual church I have ever visited, with a stunning undercroft.
Published by Aardvark Books Ltd on
The Re-enactment is definitely on
Delayed Thank Yous, looking ahead to the rest of the summer
Death of Gene Wolfe; some random thoughts
Two sad pieces of news, and some good news!
More books, upcoming events