03 février 2015

Deux roues, deux langues: Drew MILLAR: 11 février

Our next talk, on 11 February, is a personal account of a motorbike journey made by Cercle member, Drew Millar.

It was a journey that took him from here to France and on to Morocco.  Drew explains that the trip that had been intended to last a couple of weeks took considerably longer.....

Here's how he puts it himself:

At 8 o’clock on the 20th September 2008 I got onto a very scruffy and clumsily overloaded Yamaha xt600e trail bike and my wife said ‘be serious now – where are you going and how long will you be?’
My perfectly honest reply was ‘I don’t where I’m going but I’ll be at least a fortnight.’

Ruth next saw me nearly two months later, I was a lot slimmer, I spoke confident (if ungrammatical) French and my motorbike had sand from the Sahara in every nook and cranny’

It sounds a fascinating story, in which as well as presenting pictures from along the route, Drew be sharing anecdotes in relation to the French language. 

A bientôt ! Bonne route !

09 janvier 2015

Paris sera toujours Paris

Our annual bal musette to celebrate La fête des rois started in sad and sombre mood.
This was January 7, the day that the offices of #CharlieHebdo in Paris were attacked resulting in several deaths.
Some at our gathering had not heard the news until their arrival, and we're anxious then to hear updates and share thoughts.  What to say? What to do?

The answers to both these questions came from France's own musical tradition of the chanson. A recent purchase and played several times over the previous days was an album recommended by a French friend - Paris by Zaz. Her songs are upbeat interpretations of some of France's best-loved standards.  One composed in 1939 and performed then at a much slower pace by Maurice Chevalier spoke of Parisian resilience at another dark time in the life of the City of Light. It was Paris sera toujours Paris.

One verse seemed entirely appropriate for the occasion and was shared with those present. It goes:

Paris sera toujours Paris ! 
 La plus belle ville du monde
 Malgré l'obscurité profonde
 Son éclat ne peut être assombri
 Paris sera toujours Paris 
 Plus on réduit son éclairage 
 Plus on voit briller son courage
Sa bonne humeur et son esprit
 Paris sera toujours Paris.

Then our large gathering, like so many others in France at present, went quiet for a minute's silence.

Paris sera toujours Paris.

16 décembre 2014

Matisse - a cut above the rest

The weather wasn't kind to the large group of art lovers who filled the Dark Horse Coffee House on Wednesday 10 December to be escorted by Aine MacParland through the colourful world of Henri Matisse.
Aine's enthusiasm for her subject was readily apparent as she flicked her way through her iPad presentation.  She began at Le Cateau-Cambresis in Northern France where Henri-Emile-Benoit Matisse was born on New Year's Eve, 1869. Aine explained that although his father was a grain merchant, the family background was one of weaving and the young Henri grew up surrounded by a variety of colurful fabrics.
He had graduated as a lawyer and had been destined for a careeer in that profession until he suffered a bout of appendicitis.  It was while recovering from this that his mother provided him with some art materials and he discovered what he called a kind of paradise, throwing hiimself into that new world as a beast plunges into something it loves.
Referring to several works, Aine took us on a style journey - stopping for a while to consider and explain how Matisse came to be associated with the movement of the Fauves, the wild beasts.
We were introduced to some key people in Matisse's life among them his wife Noellie from whom he would later separate and Russian art collector, Sergei Shchukin who considered the artist's work to be above the rest.
Aine went on to explain that Matisse received much unfavourable criticism of his work and that along with his wont of buying works of other artists and his own materials often meant that his young family found it difficult to make ends meet.
We learned that, in 1917, Matisse moved to Cimiez outside Nice on the French Riviera, Aine all the while pointing out the qualities of his art, bringing us through a series of paintings to 1939 and the aforementioned separation from Noellie. Shortly afterwards a further period of illness meant the artist had a colostomy with mobility only possible with the use of a wheelchair.
Matisse overcame the confinements of this situation through "painting with scissors", creating his famous gouaches découpés - cut outs - many of which Aine noted had been recently displayed in the Tate and were currently showing in the MoMA in New York.
Caring for Matisse in what would be the later stages of his life was his nurse, Monique Bourgeois. We learned that Monique in addition to being Matisse's nurse was also his student, sometimes model and artist who would later become a Dominican nun.  It was their association, that would provide Matisse with what he considered his masterwork - the decoration of La Chapelle de Vence on the hillside above Nice, completed in 1951.
The artist died in 1954 and was buried in the cemetery of Cimiez where four year's later his wife, Noellie would be enterred alongside him.

Finally, Aine took questions from the audience and as an artist herself confirmed that she would provide us with a iPad painting that we could present on our site as a record of a most memorable and colourful evening on the modern master Matisse.