Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Captured 'Sprinklersaurus'...

I snapped the image below in early September 09, chasing up north out of Chateaudun in the Eure-et-Loire towards Chartres, and for a number of reasons, it remains one of my personal favourite shots. We were following part of my ancestral trail that has been traced directly back to one of my 'great greats etc' who was born into a Huguenot family in Chateaudun in 1550, and going under the nom de famille of 'Gaucheron'. Several  generations later and with the mass persecution of the Huguenots, aided and abetted by the brutal Dragonnades of 1681 - and my French half were forced to flee from the Normandy coast forever landing in Spitalfields, East London in the grand old year of - Sixteen Hundred & Eighty Three. Jeeeze, what a bummer.

So ... beam back to the future by 326 years and you've got 'little old Franco, Gaelic, Saxon modern me', hurtling out of Chateaudun all over again, along an endless, rod straight empty road flanked by vast ocean like swathes of greeny gold tinged maize, rippling and swaying majestically under a virtually cloudless sky, radiating the most intense, deeply translucid French blue hue - before almost abrubtly, the panorama pitched from its calmly oscillating seas of uncut grain to become an arid, motionless desert scape of post harvest stubble ...and thence suddenly and quite startlingly, appeared this magnificent, linear leviathan.

I was completely entranced by its august, structurally stark lineage, its visual locomotion, the sheer size and scale of it all, as well as the almost overwhelming sense of contrast it presented to the eye against its surrounding agrarian terrain as it trailed off into the dusky haze of the horizon and perhaps onwards further still towards Bavaria, east of the Rhine. A vast, mechanical, mobile crop sprinkler system portraying a stately yet obliquely surreal presence all of its own - almost alien in its ancestry, like a mammoth, tamed beast - a surviving metal relic from some ancient, unrecorded pre ice age society. A ‘Sprinklersaurus’ enjoying a warm afternoons doze. Its skeletal pipework once frozen for several millennium, now long since thawed and revived to dispense its virtual rain to order at the simple twist of a tap.

Just now and again on your travels, you'll fleetingly catch sight of a subject in a setting which is quite overwhelmingly visually striking at that specific moment of lighting and time, becoming impulsively compelled to capture it for prosperity come what may, right there, right now.This powerfully intuitive impulse rides in tandem with the knowing that if you don't make the effort to pause and record it right there and then, you will become haunted by the knowledge that you forever lost the opportunity to preserve a uniquely visual reference of something spectacularly arresting - even if only to you and you alone when your eyes flutter closed a little later that same night.

I've never cared to scrutinise it too deeply. I don't actually need to know the root of the reasons why. I just take comfort in knowing that from time to time if I keep my eyes wide open, and with a camera close at hand, I'll occasionally be rewarded without prior sign or clear warning, just as I was here with this memorably striking vista, during the late afternoon on this deserted rod straight road, pressing north for the sea and home, out of ancient Chateaudun. 

I would definitely journey back here in the future to try and have another pop at it - perhaps by dawn's early light next time. If it's still in that part of France of course - or the Germans haven’t cottoned onto why the Rhine water levels have been dropping so dramatically since 1945 - and rammed a nasty big old Bratwurst up the other end of its pipe. In fact, if I’d been alone that day and without need to catch ferry boats back to Limey, I would have parked my derriere on the crest of a nearby rise next to the enchantingly beautiful cream painted windmill sitting sentry over its pastoral domain, set up my camera and tripod, broken out a chunk of smelly fromage and a fresh baguette, opened up a nice big bottle of local vin rouge, and settled down under a twilight sky to scoff and drink the lot to the sounds of nightjars and chirping cicadas, before passing out blissfully under a vista of stars and distant galaxies to dream deeply of Alexandre Dumas inspired adventures of dash and derring do until dawns early chorus emerged to stir me from my slumbers. No doubt what so ever.

Once underway again, I spent the next hour or so in a quiet, calmly contemplative state, reflecting on the feelings of distant spiritual connection with my ancestors I’d experienced while ambling around the Sprinklersaurus. Generations of my own blood and kin who had lived and worked in precisely the same neighbourhood over three hundred and many more years earlier, and may well have journeyed the very same trail northward themselves. Who knows? Certainly something warm and all knowing wafted through me while I was stood out in those fields there for a while that’s for sure, and I felt curiously the richer, along with more than a faint sense of belonging there for it. Whispers of "If you build it... they will come". Oh me oh my. Imagine that. 

One day I shall return, probably solo next time around, with a tasty stash of freshly baked bread, some suitably pongy Port Salut, a good bottle of essential vin yummy for personal fortification in my knap sack... and a trusty, rugged, all night coat to keep me warm while I ponder the maxim of 'laissez-faire' in this majestically green and golden province of my ancestral and bucolic sixteenth century French heritage.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

"Happy Blog Day to Me, Happy Blog Day to Meeee!!"

"Happy Blog Day, Happy Blog Day....Happy First Blog Day tooooo Meeeeeee!!"


The time over here in the UK is now precisely 11.50pm
on Thursday the 18th August - 2011.

The clock is ticking down to tomorrow quite relentlessly as I write these very words, and so due to a myriad of unforeseen events and circumstances that have come my way during the course of today, I have been unable to finish the blog post I have been promising and was sincerely intended, to be

Therefore, over the next few hours of running back and forth between my PC here, and my hot and steamy kitchen ce soir, this will become a live online, developing postette, of which I will attempt (or be prevented from) to add a few bits and bobs, as and when I can between cheffing in 'le kitchenette' and tapping on my keyboard here.

And as to when I'm going to finally get around to ever finishing the posts I keep yarring on about, well..."Frankly my dear, I have absolutely no idea.."

"I'd also like to say a big heartfelt 'Thank You!' to all of you out there, who have taken the trouble to read my posts and leave  such a variety of thoughtful comments on so many occasions along the way. Your attention and remarks are of great value to me and will continue to be enjoyed and highly appreciated - Truly. Phil."

Just wanted to ensure this particular date was marked by a post entry for the occasion to begin with, come what bloody may... oooh, it's now 11.58pm...


back in 5...ish...........................

David Gilmour & David Bowie - Comfortably Numb

Out,  bluddy standing...

Kate Bush - Moments Of Pleasure

Friday - 19th August, 1600 hours: "Okay, I've given in. Abandoned all my schemes, ideas and intentions of celebrating my blogs very first anniversary with a biopic tale of gin & tonic. I thus respectfully withdraw from the field of bloggle with all the dignity I can muster, and will hence return to fight my cause on 'yet another' bluddy day. Fair thee well for now then, for thou will return, I swear to blog...."

Bluddy chaos here...bluddy chaos....

Monday, 15 August 2011

"Nasty Mr Hitler" - By Bish Bosh Bashy - Esq.

Image courtesy of Maureen Crosbie & her young pupil:
Well Hi, and I sincerely hope you’re all having a thoroughly good summers Sunday afternoon in Europe, no matter how grey or fluffy the clouds may be, and to the rest of you out there in the wider bloggasphere across this colourful, spinning globe of ours, whether you’re still sweet dreaming in the kingdom of nod, constructing your first coffee of the day with barely one sleepy eye open, or even tucking yourself into beddy-byes at the birth of yet another Monday morning…well I hope it either turns out to be – or already has been – a peaceful and civilised Sunday, for all of you blogger lot too.

Twelve days since I last posted, and of Christmas? (NOoooo!)…well my true loves just text’d to me “Hi Dad!! Don’t forget it’s both our birthdays this week!!! His first, mine four days after…Kay!!! Loves ya. Jo. Xxx!!    And how could I possibly forget? Though I have to own up to getting their respective birth dates the wrong way round just about every August time. Just a mere man see.

Grabs nearest calculator. That means then that – tap tap tap tap tap…  he’s gonna be 28, and she…..tap tap tap tap tap & tap – is gonna be 24. Ooooh. No more ‘Action Man Dolls’ and ‘Cuddly Fluffy Teddy Bears’ for them then. These days it’s more like, a bottle of Jim Beam and a decent bottle of chilled Spanish Albariño please Farver if you don't mind, and thank you please very much.

Grow’d up kids now. Independent pioneers and navigators across the oceans, mountains and sometimes fly infested jungles of life. My job, my missions, my responsibilities for their happy and balanced upbringings, now all but accomplished, and I don’t mind saying that I have much to be proud and thankful for, for them both. Unlike many of the all too invisible parent hosts, out there somewhere in the last weeks riot regions right now, some of who’s more verminous offspring managed to crawl out of their sewers on mass during the past seven days, and wreak so much total devastation and horrifying misery on the lives and businesses of so many good and decent, hardworking citizens and tax payers, across some of our major cities. Shame on you.

Speaking still of ‘Rats’ – now then, for something completely different. Something a little lighter, and a bit of a hop, skip and a jump, back to the bleak and dusty days of the early 1940’s in a war torn London, scarred by the bombings of the Blitz. A period in our island kingdoms history, when communities united together for a common cause and purpose. A time when the good and decent citizens and children of London, and the countless numbers of men and women in uniform, fought and all too often died in a desperate five year fight for survival against the threat of the spread of evil Nazi Fascism to our very own shores.

A time when respect was shown to your elders and wider authority at large, without question or dispute. A time when the real values, priorities and aspirations shared by all parents, regardless of class or privilege, were simply to survive this living nightmare, together god willing, one exhaustive day at a time, day after day after each bloody day, until the threat of total Nazi occupation was finally obliterated, and this bashed and bruised Great British nation of ours, could collectively start reforming and rebuilding as a free and still democratic society, for the safe and long term benefit of its children, once again.

And so to part two of this post here:

About a month ago, by way of a blog hopping journey that started out at ‘Fly in the Webs – Costa Rica Calling’ blog, thence bounced its way over to ‘Jane & Lance Hattatts – HATTATT’ blog in Budapest, Hungary, whereupon I then boinged off through one of their blogger sidebar links to ‘Elizabeth Rose Stantons – Penspaper Studio’ blog in Seattle, Washington State, which is host to some of her amazing illustrations and artwork, and from where thence I promptly tripped bum over wine glass and fell right through one of her own gateway links…all the way down into the dark and dubious sub kingdom of ‘Under the Juniper Tree’s’ blog, who are in god only knows where in the US of A, hosting a busy and creative new blog, dedicated to promoting and showcasing the scribbling’s of children’s spooky literature, horridly horrid themed limericks and an impressive selection of scarily creative artwork. The best ones of which are then collated together and published every month, into a beautifully presented 'E- Story Book' magazine issue.  Phew! 

Children’s literature as a media genre in general, is completely uncharted territory for me. Other than many warmly happy and story book foundational childhood memories of my wonderful late father reading me tales from Winnie the Pooh or Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series, while tucked up under my blankets at bed times, in what now seems like a world and a galaxy, far, far, away... I have never found cause to delve into the shadows of the particular brand of darkly neurotic literature and similar art style, that are the cult panderings of ‘Under the Juniper Tree’s’ web presence now.

So after I’d pulled myself to my feet, dusted off all the cobwebs and brushed a few thistles and grubs from my hair…I plucked a flaming torch off the wall and started to sniff around in all their old cupboards and chests.

Bowled over by the visual finesse of the site and all its wonderfully original and creative content, I espied the promo and outline for a short story competition, centred around a wartime image of two young kids, gazing at a blackboard sign with the word ‘Rats’ chalked onto it, stating – “In under 500 words, write us a piece inspired by this photo, etc etc..”    (N/B - Meaning...the black & white photo image, with the two kiddies in, further on down below)

Image courtesy of Maureen Crosbie & her young pupil:
Well as I’ve never entered a writing competition before, I thought “What the hell. Why not bloke. In for a shilling, in for a pound, let’s give it a jolly old go then, why don’t you.” – and so I bookmarked all the details and tip toed off to beddy-byes.

At around a quarter to stupid o’clock in the morning, when I could still hear the distant sounds of larks snoring from the black ink of night through yonder window…I suddenly sat up in bed, wide awake with the notion of an idea for my first ever assault on the Booker Prize 'dream on baby' awards, flapping around my woolly nightcap like a demented bat.

Five minutes, a rattle and a rumble on the old porcelain throne, and a near miss with a black cat on the stairs later, I was sat back at my PC desk over here, earnestly tapping away as fast as my little fingies would prod, with this simple little, slightly dark tale of a dialogue between the two young children you see in the competition’s teaser image as shown below. Or at least in the way that the right side of my mind had interpreted it anyway. Hmmm.

And so here it is, for good or for bad, including all the curiously miss spelt words here and there, which by the way, are there by my chosen design, cos I wanted it as much as anything else, to ‘look’ like the way a young child might spell it (perhaps), as opposed to how Mummy might have corrected it to be later, had she been around. Not saying that it works for everyone else though mind. Tis just me tis all.

Please feel free to critique it if you wish. And I do mean ‘critique’, not compliment. I’m a huge admirer of objective frankness, subjective observation and constructive criticism in general. My ego and vanity was well and truly buried a long time ago, while simply trying to survive every day in a small but hectically busy business for many years, and as with nearly all forms of written narrative as well as visual art and photo imagery…other people’s perspective and perceptions are... ‘everything’.  

And anyway, this is, a very short and simple, micro-tome after all! Coming in at an official 498 words to boot. Room for improvement ‘there’ straight away then!

Re: "Blast from the Past - Rats Edition" – Submission  to ‘Under the Juniper Tree’

Title: Nasty Mr Hitler: By ‘Mr Bish Bosh Bashy’. 

“What’s those…Ruh, Aaa Tuh, Suh…. Ruhaaatuhsuh… Rattsuh…Ratss, taste like then Fiona?”

“I don’t know Timmy‘, but ‘Mummee’ always says our cook lady swears by them. Say’s they’re really, really yummee and crunchy, like proper chewy food, not like licky icey lolly’s.”

“Swearrrs? Veeeeeeee! What…do you mean like strawberry flavour yummee, or chocolate flavour yummee Fiona?”

“Noooo, silly Timmy. I mean like…like… cats flavour yummee!”

“Cattts flavour yummee!!? – I didn’t know people ate cats. Are you being serious Fiona?”

“Yessss, you silly billy Timmy. Course I’m being serious with you. You know what cat tastes like!?”

“No Fiona, honest, I don’t know what cats taste like. Do you really, actually mean like…pussy cats, Fiona?”

“Ha ha ha Timmy!! You’re so funny. No, silly, they’re not like real pussycats, cos these cats are dead cats. Don’t you know what dead cats taste like then Timmy?”

“No Fiona, I really don’t know what…dead cats taste like. They sound like they must taste…like, really horrible!”

“No, not really Timmy, they’re not that horrid honest. They’re sort of more like rabbits flavour Timmy. Though we haven’t had rabbit in a stew for dinner since I was very, very small.”

“Rabbit flavour!!! You’ve eaten rabbits too then Fiona? Gosh!”

“Well yes Timmy. But, it was a very long time ago when I was very tiny. What sort of food do you eat then Timmy?”

“Well, in our house, we have… mash, spam & peas on Saturday – roast spuds with beef and gravy and cabbage on Sundays – Meat stew and bread crusts on Monday - Jam sandwiches and chocolate milk on Tuesday – Vegetables soup on Wednesday – Beef dripping on bread on Thursday! That’s one of my favourites!! – And fish and chips on Friday! Yay! That’s my most favourite of all!!” 

“Golly Moses Timmy…that all sounds so incredibly yummee. I wish we could eat food like you do!”

“Crikey Fiona. I always thought you were from one of those really posh type families too. What sort of house do you live in then? It sounds really horrid and scary?”

“Oh, we don’t live in a real house anymore Timmy, it got bombed to bits by one of those nasty German bomber planes one night. So after Daddee didn’t wake up anymore, Mummee took us off down to live in the underground tube station at Knightsbridge, near where we used to live, but then Mummee moved us all out again later, to Parsons Green Underground Station, cos it’s right by the river Thames, and that means there’s always lots and lots of …Rrrrraatttssa Timmy!!! - HA HA HA HA Ha !”

“Ohh. Okay. I think I know what you mean Fiona. Shall I get us both a rat to chew, with my pocket money then, cos I don’t think they’ve got any more licky icy lolly’s left today?”

“Ooooh yes please Timmy, thank you. That would be really lovely cos I’m feeling really hungry now. Thank you Timmy, you’re really nice. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!”

Der End.

"Yo, Rud baby! pass me one of yer Aunty Kippling's cakes, cos there's a new quiller kid in town, and he's splashing around in your ink well!"

And here are a couple of pics of my own two wonderful 'raison d'etres', both a couple of Leos, the young Lions themselves ... Andrew & Joanna.

(The piccy on the right is of Andrew & Joanna at Christmas, in some 'grown up'
 kiddy suits we gave them for a bit of fun.)

P.S.  My little micro tome came in at, three thousand four hundred and fifty seventh – out of three thousand four hundred and fifty eight entries, in the end. The one that came last was Albanian spam.

P.P.S  Smile! It could have been worse then eh. My thanks & commiserations to Mr Spammer from Albania by the way, and don't give up yet sir, cos I at least, need you - to keep me off the bottom line! (?)

P.P.P.S.  Started typing out this post just after noon yesterday (ie - Sunday), believing I’d have it  all wrapped up and tickety boo by just after lunch at the latest. Wrong. Interruptionitis hijacked and burgled the day, yet again. Sighhh.

P.P.P.P.S.  As for the promise of the ‘G&T’ post, as made to many of you sometime earlier…well I guess this clearly convicts me as a serial future blogger post liar. Sorry. Suffice to bullshit again for a moment then – I really do know where I’m going to go with it now. That’s honest bullshit too. The best kind. My blog becomes a ‘one year old’n’ on the 18th August (that’s this coming Thursday by the way), so I’ll try to get it out of the fridge in time for then. Kay?!!

P.P.P.P.P.S   You can go now.     Cos I already have….

Well nearly ...P.P.P.P.P.P.S. - Don't forget to amble back here this Thursday coming, for my blogs first birthday and a glass of G&T. Ssshhh...


Cin Cin...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

From Dawn to Dusk At Calshot Spit & A Whole New Blogger Icon For Me

Ever wanted to see the back of yourself? I mean…everybody else has, at some time or another. Some have probably even made a few unseen and rudely colourful gestures behind your back, when you’ve trodden on their sweeties in the past. Chances are, one of the few people you can really truly trust to watch your own back for you, when the chips are down and dirty is…you. Trouble is, you’re the only one who has to content yourself with doing it in the figurative and not the physical. There’s a paradox lurking in their somewhere, I just heard it scuttle behind my back.

Here’s me and my shadow playing around just after dawn together then, outside the castle walls. We would have got up close and personal for you (kinky eh) but there’s a big moat full of seawater keeping a safe & some thirty feet of distance between us, just out of sight here. Otherwise there might have been quite a riot. Imagine – ‘Man being questioned by police today after dawn raid, for chasing his shadow around castle walls in suspicious circumstances. His shadow has now been reported as officially missing, presumed drowned’

I wish. Now that would be a story worth selling to News International. ‘World Exclusive: Serial shadow stalker suspected of drowning his own shadow. Police looking for witnesses.’

Moving on then – In truth, this is not exactly headline material. It’s simply me capturing me from behind, just after sunrise one morning a while back, whilst waiting for a bunch of clouds to smooch into place just behind me to the east and thus into the early morning sunlight. I am stood on top of the old, outer moat ramparts that encircle the Napoleonic gun tower, which is rather euphemistically called ‘Calshot Castle’ – sitting sentry on the southwest most corner, of the shipping channels, that signal the gateway between ‘The Solent’ and ‘Southampton Water,’ in central Hampshire’s busy sailing coastline.

I got quite caught up for a few minutes adopting various silly poses with my new game here and my shadow reaching out with a posy of wild flowers, plucked straight from the castle walls. Clearly my shadow was trying to appeal to my feminine side for a moment there, cos I've got to admit, I was quite touched. Hmmm (?)  (!)

Needless to say I banged them all (the images) into Photoshop and started messing about with different interpretations’, one of which I’ve turned into a ‘Thank You’ card (that's the one with me holding out the posy of flowers – blokes!) and then more recently, the abstract coloured versions I’ve now adopted for use as my new blogger header flag and blog icon. So there it is. Now you know. Bish Bosh Bashy rides off into the sunset again then, to boldly go where no normal mortal shadow has ever gone before.

In the ‘blue dawn’ set of three images above, the one on the left shows the early morning, high speed, jet boat, catamaran ferry making its first run of the day across to Cowes on the Isle of Wight with Calshot Castle on the right of picture. The middle image is a local lobster boat on his way to the best place to drop his cages for the day, and the right hand pic shows the RNLI watch station with the imposing NCI Observatory watch tower looming up behind. Behind the rising sun, just out of sight is Portsmouth, home to the Royal Navy, and a couple of months further on still, by camel, is….Mecca itself.       Inshallah.

The greeny toned image above is the shot I was waiting to eventually capture, while I'd become otherwise boyishly distracted, being a complete and utter muppet for a few minutes here, skylarking around with my shadow. Just as I was beginning to get bored again, the cloud formation I'd been patiently waiting for, kindly cruised into play to make the whole scene look a bit more interesting and moody for a few seconds, and so I whistled up my pet gull ‘Gary’ there to swoop down into view, right on cue, as you do do doo, and thus managed to snap this particular picture.

The liner coming into view is the ‘Aurora’ returning from another Caribbean Cruise…in the Carbbean. No really, I’m not making all this up. It really is a Caribbean cruise liner that cruises around the Caribbean quite a lot. I correctly and diligently read all my junk mail. Always. Amazing what I've learned.

Personally, I‘ve never been the slightest bit attracted to taking a cruise on a great big metal and plastic floating hotel like this. The notion just doesn’t float my boat, what-so-ever. Packed in with all those mobs of 'cruisers' in their assortments of evening party frocks and war painted faces, to keep all the evil spirits away. Me?...well I’d be leaping over the side at the first sign of a port, and take my chance with all the nice sharkey warky's, as I made my bid for freedom.

Facing east towards Mecca again at low tide last Sunday morning around 6.00am, looking past the huge public slipway in the foreground to the RNLI station with its jetty, the NCI watch tower just behind and a bit of Calshot Castle itself on the right there.

In a couple of hours time, this slipway becomes full of jet ski trailers, speed boats, day boats, multiple canoe trailers  race dingy's, fast cat sailors, man boys, excited kids and mad dogs, all trying to hurl their floating kit into the water as fast as poss before hurtling off round to the right behind the RNLI station, heading south out into the Solent and beyond to Cowes and the Isle of Wight for a spot of lunch. The weekenders as they are called, who camp out in all forms of tent, truck and camper vans at the other end of the Spit grassland nearby. 

Even though I live just inland up the road from here, I always know they're up to their mischief by the constant cacophony of ships horns trumpeting their warnings and later, their wrath, as the constant flotillas of dense and often well lubricated day sailors weave and meander their hopelessly oblivious ways, back and forth, right under the bowsprits of the ocean going leviathans that have been steaming  the major shipping lanes here for the last hundred years and beyond.

No matter how many times I come here, I’m always drawn to the amazing contrasts of the light and shadows, given off by the iron jetty. It’s a living structure, like a chameleon, its plethora of surface textures, constantly altering and re-morphing as the sunlight follows its intrepid arc, and the perpetually undulating waves, send their shimmers of light motion, sparkling and twinkling at random, as they slosh and sluice there way through all the seaweed and barnacle coated sections of this charismatic old iron structure.

These four remaining jetty images have all been taken at dusk. The image immediately below was captured last Saturday evening around 9.00pm. As you look up through the right hand side of this image, you are in fact gazing towards Southampton Docks about five mile north in the distance. When my twenty something son & daughter set off to go to the Isle of Wight music festival each summer, this is the jetty they depart from in a friends inflatable rib. 

It's by far and above the coolest way to arrive at the huge, festival grounds, which themselves are a good few miles up the river Medina on the edge of Newport, in the center of the Island. There is a corresponding jetty at the festival park itself, which allows small craft to drop off local festival goers and thus tramp directly into the camping areas, while the rest of the masses have to laboriously trapes their way across to the Island, via all the main car ferries to Cowes and Ryde, before bussing their equally laborious ways inland to Newport, thence having to hike it with all their kit, for a good couple of miles to the festivals main entrances. Not a lot of fun when your'e carrying all your camping dross, and a five days supply of essential life enhancing beer and alcohol, I can tell you (!!!)

It always becomes a very special moment for me once I've helped offload them both and all their rucksack kit into the rib, along with their immediate friends, as I cast them off with a big wave of the hand, cupping my hands to my mouth and yelling after them.. "Drink plenty of water! Keep putting the suncream on! Try and eat something solid every day! Send me a text when you land in Newport!! Have fun!!! as their rib pilot guns the engines to leave a broiling, foaming squirrels tail of heaving white water in his wake, and I'm left staring impotently after my two special raison d'etres grinning mightily back at me, each with a mocking hand cupped up to an ear mouthing a perfectly translatable "Whattt? I can't hear you anymore Daaaddd..." - their fast inflatable sea taxi becoming quickly smaller and quieter as it romps, judders and dances its eager way across the mornings gentle swells, fading softly from clear sight, into post dawns hazy glare.

The buggers!!   

My special moment - which always lasts until I've watched them through my binoculars enter Cowes harbour a couple of miles due south of here - is a mixture of pride and warm envy for them and their oncoming music festival adventure, a powerful rush of personal reflection and past images of all the mischief and adventures I've enjoyed myself from this very jetty since I was a mere mid teens boy, and an enormous sense of gratitude that we've all been so bloody privileged to live so close to this place at all. We lucky few.

Sochi-Russia-A-man-dives - courtesy Daily Telegraph.
I came across this incredible photo image the other day on the Telegraph's website. Boy would I have been a happy bunny to have nailed this one. It entirely captures the essence of exactly what we used to do as boys off Calshot jetty here during hot and balmy southern evenings in times gone past. A good picture paints a thousand words, and non better than this momentous shot. Salut to you then Mr Ruskie photographer, whoever and wherever you are!

Here you go then, a bit of aerial perspective. This is a great shot of the whole of Calshot Spit as it juts out from the south east corner of the New Forest along Hampshire's central southern shoreline. Figure 'A' denotes precisely where I was stood at dawn when I took my shadow shots above and the green toned image just after sunrise. You can clearly see the water filled circular moat that rings the Castle itself. 

Figure 'B' merely points to the jetty which features in the various images above. The huge big hangar, was originally constructed to house the massive Sunderland Flying boats which were based here before and after WW2. Nowadays, the hangar is host to a truly outstanding indoor and outdoor activity centre owned by Hampshire County Council, and housing a dry ski run, world class climbing faces, national indoor banked cycledrome circuit, shooting galleries, archery course and a great, long integral pub at the back, with an outdoor terrace looking directly out across the Solent towards Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

The long dark blob of a building up on the right of picture near the beginning of The Spit, is the dormitory block that I used to stay in as a boy, and became the de facto international battledrome to this planets most epic of all pillow fight wars, which we would stage every single night without fail, ranging up and down along both floors of the building until no boy was left standing. Thee, most, indescribable fun...ever! I can still hear the ghosts of us all, every time I drive past this place, howling and cackling ourselves to total exhaustion, and all the dull whumps and thuds as we pelted and belted each other, every which way, all the way to Mars. The stuff of boyhood legend.

These two smaller maps are just something I did off Google Earth to give those of you who live in a more distant corner of the Bloggasphere, a bit of perspective as to where Calshot actually is in the greater scheme of the UK's coastline and such things.

I've just finished putting together my first YouTube slideshow video of a selection of images taken of the area, mostly captured along the coastline between Hythe on Southampton Water and Beaulieu River, further on round to the west, where it flows quietly into The Solent. Here then is the direct link to the YouTube page itself:

That's it then, for now. Joo know? ... this is not the originally intended post I spent all day Saturday trying to write, and after a couple of thousand words I just exasperatedly, tossed it back into my PC's drafts dungeon and went on out to Calshot here to get some necessary fresh air. That makes about fourteen assorted blog posts sitting in my 'future blog post' folder that have yet to see the light of day, for one reason or another. I'm absolutely hopeless aren't I. Absolutely hopeless.

The Fireworks Display at Cowes on the Island a couple of miles away due south of Calshot, which signifies the end of the annual International Sailing Regatta. This years display will take place next Friday...the 13th! Kaboom time then. Not a particularly good image I'm afraid. I only had a baby lens with me, and I couldn't see my camera on the beach in front of me. Duhh! time round, I'm going to finish my 'G&T' postette. Guaranteed and promise!

Talking of which...I've just noticed, I've run out.


Thursday, 14 July 2011

‘Les Vainqueurs de la Bastille?’ - Just blame Britain & the birth of the U.S. of A.

Just 222 years ago today on the 14th July 1789 at around 1.03pm – a little under 1000 angry, desperate & hungry citizens of pre 'Gay Paris' gathered outside the walls of the formidable multi towered Bastille prison with its tall and imposing five foot thick walls, and thus in the bloody events that were to unfold there in a matter of just a few short hours time, these Vainqueurs de la Bastille’, led mostly by one Amaria Cahila were to become permanently etched into French folklore as a direct result of their brave, sacrificial and impassioned actions during the now famous ‘Storming of the Bastille’ episode.

This watershed event in French 18th century history signaled the beginning of the end of the ruling Monarchy of King Louise XVI and his celebrated but infamous wife Marie Antoinette, the igniting of the French Revolution and later the fearsome 'la Terreur'…and thence within a short space of time, heralded the very birth of the modern French Republic and their national motto:

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité " - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Brotherhood)
Today is therefore 'La Fête Nationale' (The National Celebration) - 'Bastille Day'

In the summer of 1789 Monarchist France was economically on its knees, and ordinary French men and women were by then, impoverished, weary and starving. Much of this had been fuelled by France’s recent money haemorrhaging intervention in the American War of Independence and a similarly colossal amount of expenditure wasted on Louis XVI unrealised plans to bring about a mass military invasion of Britain. Add to this now fast melting pot, a regressive taxation system coupled with a hopelessly outdated set of protocols and governing rules, under the control of the woefully indifferent aristocracy and noble classes of the second estate, and you have a country sized powder keg of a crisis just waiting for a spark to explode it all to Hades.

To cut a much longer historical story short here - come the morning of 14th July that year, a growing mob of buoyed up third estate common citizens and a military contingent of French Guards, sympathetic to the peoples cause, had already elected to meet a call to arms and a very real and impending threat of massacre from the defiant Kings army camped just over the River Seine, which itself was largely made up of dispassionate German and Swiss mercenaries who had no care or affections for the peoples plight.

Images courtesy - Flickr
   Led by Amaria Cahila, the Vainqueurs de la Bastille stormed into the Hôtel des Invalides to gather up some 29 - 32,000 muskets, but unfortunately missing the critical powder and shot to render them of any use. The next stage in the day’s proceedings was to march on the Bastille prison itself, as it was known that a sizable store of gunpowder, shot and other weaponry were encased within the cellars below. In fact, there were some 13,600 kilograms of gun powder alone being kept under close guard in the bowels of the prison fortress and yet only about 550 kilograms of prisoners - all seven of them in fact, one of whom was so loopy froggy loo that he truly believed he was Julias Caesar.

Imagine their collective surprise and bewilderment then as the victorious Vainqueurs later stumbled across this crazy long haired old man ranting out the Bards imortal lines, having just been freed from his cell - 

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!" 

One of the elements I love about this particular video is the way the performer briefly pops back into frame right at the very give the salute. Marvelous stuff.

"Aux armes, citoyens, To arms, citizens, Formez vos bataillons, Form your battalions, Marchons, marchons ! Let's march, let's march! Qu'un sang impur That a tainted blood Abreuve nos sillons ! Water our furrows!"

The crowd gathered outside the Bastille walls around mid-morning, calling for the surrender of the prison, the removal of the canon guns and the release of the arms and gunpowder to the Vainqueurs. The Governor of the prison – the arrogant Bernard-René de Launay – said “Non!” but agreed to parlez with a couple of the peoples representatives inside the Bastille itself. At about 1.13pm the Vainqueurs patience had reached expiry point and thus with no sign of emergence from their compatriots within the walls, they presumed they’d been royally duped…and so kicked off, properly and noisily by scaling the outer perimeter walls. 

The subsequent fighting and heavy losses to the peoples army continued, until at around 3.09pm the attackers were reinforced by mutinous ‘Gardes Françaises’ and other deserters from among the regular troops, along with two field cannon. The substantial force of Royal Army troops encamped on the nearby Champs de Mars did not intervene as had been expected from the previous day. 

With the possibility of a massacre now all too apparent,  Governor de Launay ordered a cease fire at approx 5.05pm. A letter offering his terms was handed out to the besiegers through a gap in the inner gate. His demands were refused and so de Launay capitulated, as he realised his troops could not hold out for much longer. On opening the gates to the inner courtyard, the Vainqueurs de la Bastille swept in to liberate the fortress at around 5:31pm that same afternoon. Game set and match. Grab the keys to the castle. Job done.

Images courtesy - Flickr
Ninety-eight attackers and one defender had died during the actual fighting. De Launay was immediately seized and dragged towards the Hôtel de Ville in a storm of spitting abuse and harsh language. Outside the Hôtel a discussion as to his fate began. The badly beaten de Launay shouted "Enough! Let me die!" and then quite inexplicably kicked a respected pastry cook named 'Dulait' smack in his jolly old chestnuts.

 Oh dear merde Bernard! Not a good moment to have a bad knee jerk reaction like that one, mon soon to be ex ami. What on 'Bastille Day' were you thinking?!! He was a pastry chef for goodness sake. Duhhh. I would have definitely come up with a better plan than that one bloke! Jeeeze. Bernard-Rene de Launay was then stabbed repeatedly by Dulait's Mother, eight sisters and fourteen cousins, till he finally stopped complaining and lay down on the cobblestone street to take better stock of his predicament. While mulling it over and trying vainly to contrive a better way out, his head was carefully sawn off, kicked rudely around the alleys like a football for a while, before being skewered onto a pike and triumphantly paraded through the streets of the now newly, liberated, Paris. Bernie had clearly shot his last and final bolt then, and is rumoured to have eventually passed away quietly, sometime later that evening.

And so as the flies and dust settled around the Bastille that sultry afternoon, the newly liberated proletariat of France's third estate, together with their numerous representatives from the middle class bourgeoisie, reconstituted themselves as the National Assembly and began a long and eventually even bloodier five year journey away from 100 years of Monarchic French rule and costly feudalism. The foundations of the ‘Republique Francaise’ had been set in stone, a brand new French Constitution would be written, and an awful lot of heads would roll off the guillotines blade, including even those of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette themselves during 1793, before the arrival of yet another keen and highly ambitious dictator nicknamed ‘The little corporal’…during 1799.  

Note: The above video is the whole 30 minute firework display of the Paris 'Bastille Day'
celebrations, as they played out on 14th July 2011.  Spectacular stuff and well worth a view,
as well as a listen, to the lively orchestral soundtrack that accompanies this freshly baked
from 'La Boulangerie' video. Don't forget to click on the 'Full Screen' video button.

Funny that, although in truth it’s not in the least bit funny at all –but what is it about all these young ‘corporals’ that end up bringing Europe to its knees for generations. About 130 years later, didn’t Herr Hindenburg refer to Hitler as "der bohmische Freiter,"… the Bohemian Corporal?

'La Colonne de Juillet' -  'The July Column'  
The commercial memento potential and publicity
 value of the Bastille was quickly seized upon by the entrepreneur Pierre-François Palloy who didn't waste any time at all in establishing a claim to the site, by organising a labour force of some 500 men on the 15th July 1789 – the very next day. Now that’s what I call keen. He then managed to procure a demolition license from the Permanent Committee at the Hotel de Ville, along with a sizable fund of Francs to enable him to secure complete control of the now famous site, as well as hire another 500 or so labourers to speed up the daunting task of dismantling the Bastille altogether.

During the four months that followed, 'Boy Palloy' profited well from the steady and sizable hordes of visitors who flocked in increasing numbers to see the building, having turned the whole area into a paying attraction show, with a vast array of souvenirs on sale as well as the selling of pieces of Bastille rubble, each with an official certificate of authenticity. This guy was clearly one very shrewd chestnut. Imagine if they’d had EBay back then. The site would have crashed with the weight of about 10,000 tonnes of rubble being auctioned off during the following couple of weeks.

The area where the Bastille prison used to stand is now a square called La Place De La Bastille, at the center of which stands the Bastille monument - 'La Colonne de Juillet'

Thinks?   You know…that’s not a bad idea. I mean does anyone actually know of anyone who claims to still have a pile of Bastille rubble locked away in their safety vaults?

Thought not.

Let’s try another one then – Anyone know precisely what a pile of aged and seasoned Bastille rubble actually looks like now?

Take that as a big ‘no’ then too.


Now I know that they used a lot of the Bastille stone to help construct the Pont de la Concorde, just over the Seine River, but I bet there’s not that many French Hawkeyes that could tell you precisely where they actually used it anymore.

So…what’s to stop someone – like me – sneaking down the local quarry at night for the next few months and bish bosh bashing up a few big lorry loads of….

”And I’m afraid that’s all we have time for tonight folks, so it’s ‘Goodnight from Him’…and a big ‘Bon Nuit from me’

"Ta Tahh !!"

Images courtesy - Flickr

P.S. - As an interesting historical footnote to this story:

France is America's oldest ally. It was only through French military intervention, led by the Marquis de Lafayette and Count de Rochambeau, that General George Washington's troops were able to eventually defeat the British. The key to the one time Bastille now resides in George Washington's residence of Mount Vernon.

It was sent to him by Lafayette in 1790…as a peace offering.


"Go on then Mme Fly, I double dan dare you...lash out a few modern references to that then? !!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Tips