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Posted on July 28th, 2014

Last year I bought a new camera, with the intention of taking better photos for this blog. A friend observed: “Now you can take expensive bad photos”. But I persevere and gain much pleasure from my recent hobby. It took me a year to understand basic camera controls and their effect. There is still so much to learn, nevertheless I am pleased with some of the results. I love French black and white masters from pre-war days such as Doisneau and Ronis, so I have concentrated on black and white for now. A few of my images that I find pleasing are: HERE. I hope you like them. Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Integrity for sale

Posted on July 27th, 2014

As in most Western democracies, politicians and the media in France can be bought. Recent exposures of corrupt behaviour by former President Sarkozy and Centre-Right UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope illustrate the point. Powerful lobby groups work behind the scenes to distort the democratic process, manipulate truth and impose their agenda. And so it is with one of the most influential forces in France, the Zionist lobby. Two weeks ago Palestine supporters were involved in violent demonstrations in Paris against Israeli attacks on Gaza. French media, politicians and Jewish leaders quickly closed ranks to condemn the violence. Videos appeared on YouTube, six protesters were arrested and the Minister for the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, announced a ban on pro-Palestine demonstrations, despite the blatantly one-sided nature of…

Tour de France

Posted on July 21st, 2014

Another year, another Tour de France. Stage 15 ran from Tallard near Gap, down through the Luberon Valley and on to Nimes. The route passed Gordes, Coustellet and Robion, so we went to watch. Two breakaway riders, New Zealand’s Jack Bauer and Switzerland’s Martin Elmiger were already more than six minutes ahead when they came to Coustellet. The pair stayed ahead for 222 km but in an exceptionally well-timed chase the group caught and beat them across the line with only seconds to spare. The riders are preceded by a caravane of sponsor vehicles distributing samples and freebies. In the case of major sponsor Vittel, spectators are sprayed with water. British riders were expected to do well, but stars Christopher Froome and Mark Cavendish both…

Fête de la transhumance

Posted on July 18th, 2014

Each year on Pentecost Monday the town of St Remy-de-Provence hosts the Fête de la Transhumance, celebrating the ancient tradition of moving sheep to higher mountain pastures for the summer. The journey took ten days on foot, but the sheep are now transported by truck. Regular readers might recall an earlier post on the transhumance, which can be found HERE. The Fête at St Remy includes a brocante fair (flea market) and a procession of shepherds in traditional dress with sheepdogs and 300 sheep through the streets of the town.  

Criminal art

Posted on July 16th, 2014

Lisbon is a seductively beautiful city. High on the list of attractive features are the Calçada Portuguesa mosaics covering city squares and pavements. Few visitors realise that the mosaics were first created by criminal prisoners in 1842, when inmates at Castelo de São Jorge prison in Lisbon were ordered by Commander Eusebius Furtado to cover the prison courtyard with a pattern of stone paving blocks. The result was considered so attractive that visitors came from as far as Paris to view the zig-zag mosaic. It was recorded in one of the world’s earliest photographs by Louis Daguerre in 1842. Seven years later Furtado was commissioned to lay mosaics in Rossio Square where he designed an illusionary wave pattern called Mar Largo, or Wide Sea, which was so…

Cabrières en fête

Posted on July 15th, 2014

Every year on 14th July villages and towns across France celebrate Bastille Day. Cabrières d’Avignon hosts a candlelight walk around the village followed by a remarkably good fireworks display. There is a funfair with three different dodgem rides, food stalls, competitions and a traditional band.

A neglected city

Posted on July 14th, 2014

The majestic city of Lisbon is suffering serious neglect.  Grand buildings lie derelict and dilapidated, covered in ugly graffiti. Some require demolition while others are headed that way, yet the city seems to have no effective strategy for regeneration. Estimates suggest 12,000 buildings are in poor condition or ruins, about one in five. The problem is most severe in the city centre, where rehabilitation could cost 8 billion euros, well beyond reach of Portugal’s shaky economy. The cause can be traced back to century-old controls on rents and evictions. Down the years rentals stayed so low that owners lacked the income necessary for maintenance. Today some tenants are paying as little as five euros a month for a four bedroom apartment. Worse, owners have…

Trams of Lisbon

Posted on July 13th, 2014

  The ancient trams of Lisbon are a wonderful sight as they traverse the city, running on 900mm narrow gauge tracks, squeezing through narrow streets leaving no room for pedestrians and where passengers can lean out to touch adjacent buildings. Tramcars first entered service on 17 November 1873, drawn by horses and imported from the United States. Originally the rails were above the roadway, causing numerous accidents to pedestrians, so they were replaced with grooved rails called carris, which remain today. Electric trams were introduced on 30 August 1901 and all were converted within a year. The very first tramcars were called americanos, but today they are known as Eléctricos, derived from the portuguese Carro e létrico (carriage with electricity). The tram network continued to…

A dangerous game

Posted on July 12th, 2014

A typically gentle Provencal scene – elderly men playing pétanque in the square; a scene repeated on most days in nearly all the villages around here. Idyllic indeed, but the sport has a darker side. Death threats have been reported at the World Pétanque Championships taking place in Marseille this week, which attracts 10,000 competitors from 20 countries. A three-man team from Marchiennes, near Lille in northern France, had taken a decisive 11-6 lead in the first-to-thirteen elimination. Their more fancied opponents from Vitrolles and Marignane outside Marseille picked up the small wooden target cochonnet, threatened to rip the heads off the Marchiennais, – “If any of you come back you’re dead” -then went to the referee to register a “win” for the southerners. When…

Spring flowers

Posted on July 11th, 2014

The wild flowers of Provence are wonderful in spring and early summer. I have uploaded some photos HERE. I have not had time to identify each one, but if you want to know the name of a specific flower please contact me and I’ll try to respond.