Saturday, 3 December 2016

Changing perceptions

On our computer the screensaver uses random photos from our numerous files of photographs. Today came up with an old one of Arnside, where we used to live. On the horizon of the Knott, the hill behind Arnside, there seemed to be a strange structure. I couldn’t think what is could be. It seemed tall with thin wavery arms, some sort of antenna perhaps. Then it dawned upon me. There was a damsel fly sitting on the screen at that point. A quick wave of my arms & it disappeared. It just goes to show how easy it is to be misled.

The picture that prompted these musings

Talking about perceptions, yesterday Philip Larkin, the poet was granted a space in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. It was questioned why this had not happened before. After all he died in 1985, quite a while ago. It was suggested it was because some of his personal letters had revealed him as a rather unpleasant man, with racist tendencies & a taste for pornography.

 When I was at Hull University many moons ago, in the 1970s, he was the Head Librarian there. At the beginning of my course, he came & gave us a talk on the use of the library. I had heard of him as a poet then, even read & admired some of his verse. However, he did strike me as an odd man, who I wanted nothing to do with.

However, I can’t help thinking for the purpose of a place in Poets’ Corner, surely the man should be judged on his poetry, not on him as a person. In centuries to come I suspect he might be remembered as a poet. It should be on his verse that he should be judged. Surely any work of art should be judged on its own basis rather than the character of the author of the work. The most unpleasant people can still produce great art. Indeed sometimes it is what drives them to produce that work, or the need to express themselves can taint their everyday lives. Either way the work remains great, even if the man less so.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Villages of France

After a visit to the dentist – the Fox’s check-up this time – we went along to the golf club. He needed to satisfy his urge to muck up his teeth again after that visit.

While we waited for our sandwiches to arrive, my eyes landed on a book entitled “Villages of France”. (The club often has coffee mornings to raise money for charities – this year it’s in aid of Dementia - & clearly some items were already arriving for the event.) As all my regular readers must have realised by now, we love France & like to visit most years.

We decided to have a look at the pictures, and it was essentially a photography book by a well-known British landscape photographer. We were curious as to whether we had visited any of the villages illustrated & to see if any of the pictures inspired us for our next French destination.

Sure enough the cover & inside the book was a place we stayed just outside of only a few years ago. Inside the book we found another familiar village we had visited further back.

After a while we were also struck by how similar the pictures were & rather drab. They certainly wouldn’t inspire us to visit. What was more there was no sign of life. Not a person or animal strolled the streets or sat in a doorway. There wasn't even a car or van around. Nothing to indicate life & a place lived in. On the whole we were happier with the pictures we had taken. With this is mind I thought I’d dig up some for this blog.

So first is Semur-en-Auxois in Burgundy, a place I would have called a town rather than a village.

Porte Sauvigny, Semur


Tour de l'Orle-d'Or, Semur
Pont Joly, Semur

Next is the other village, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in Lot. This village was absolutely teeming with tourists when we were there. It is impossible to think of it without them.

St-Cirq-Lapopie above the River Lot

Looking down on the mediaeval village of La Popie

The steep slope between the two up & down which the Fox  pushed me
It’s certainly not a book we will be buying. We have a suspicion it was probably a present for another Francophile who equally felt disappointed & hastily donated it to charity.

Monday, 28 November 2016


As I sorted my washing out yesterday, I half-listened to Radio 4. My attention was caught by “The Listening Project” when two people talked, one an undertaker, one a journalist, both now retired. The latter commented on the death of the obituary.

When he was a young journalist on a small provincial paper, one of his regular tasks was to collect the list of those who had died in the course of a week, talk to those who mourned the deceased & then write a brief obituary. People were keen to talk about their loved ones, somehow affirming the latter’s value. The journalist came to feel he was almost doing a social service in talking to these grieving people. In the course of it he learnt that most people had something of interest that they had done, though for some you had to dig deeper than others. None were boring.

I mention this because one of the things I used to value about our parish magazine was that the then vicar always wrote at least a paragraph about those in the parish who had died that month. I found it fascinating to read. It always showed an appreciation of the life no longer lived. This section of the magazine has now died a death with the change of priest & magazine editor.

These days the journalist reckons you get told not to disturb the privacy of the mourners. And yes, you can see in the case of the famous they maybe do get inundated with journalists at the door, on the phone, pestering. However, most ordinary people are pleased to talk about their loved ones. I sometimes think that’s what attending the wake after a funeral is about, as stories of the deceased are exchanged.

Proper obituaries are now only for the rich & famous. I’m sure you will find ones for Fidel Castro, Terry Wogan, Mohammed Ali etc. But surely lesser known people live just as interesting & valuable lives. It’s just that their lives did not have such a big impact & influence on the world nationally or internationally. But they did influence the lives of those who knew them, of that I’m certain, & often for the good.