Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Céret”

26 Atlantic Crossings

Canigou

When ‘The Unseen’ (shown below), a painting by Canadian artist Barb Hogenauer, pinged into my in-box last May I felt a sharp pang of homesickness for the dramatic landscape of Céret in southern France, my home for seven years, where the view from my window was of The Canigou (above), sacred mountain of the Catalans.

‘The Unseen’ was my artwork – produced by Barb for 26 Atlantic Crossingsa collaboration between 26 Canadian visual artists and 26 writers based in the UK. You can read my poetic response to ‘The Unseen’, below.
my artwork the unseen

The Unseen

The squall hits at dusk, blackening the sky

Like a three-day bruise,

Shrouding the mountain in sulphurous mists

Red sandstone runoff bloodies the sea,

And icy flames of phosphorescence –

Blooming phytoplankton and disturbed crustacea –

Flicker on the ship’s churning wake

Old World émigrés cross themselves,

Filling with foreboding for their journey’s end,

But Canada holds no Ellis Island-like inquisition:

This is home.

Of course, everyone’s response to art is different: I’d be interested to know what Barb’s painting evokes for you. The painting was recently sold, along with a framed copy of my poem, so is now gracing the home of some second generation Canadians, for whom the combination of my words and Barb’s painting had particular resonance, and evoked profound emotions.

If you’re curious to learn how such a geographically challenging collaboration came about, you might want to read this blog post by project originator, Faye Sharpe. Of course, if you had, by chance, been in Prince Edward County, Canada when the project went live, you may even have visited the 26 Atlantic Crossings exhibition, which featured all 26 artworks alongside their matching sestudes (poems of exactly 62 words – a playful inversion of 26, the writing group’s name, inspired by the number of letters in the alphabet).

26 Atlantic Crossings is the latest in a series of fascinating projects I’ve been lucky to be involved with, organised by writers’ group 26: these range from 26 Treasures, a collaboration with National Museums in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (which resulted in a beautiful hard-backed book), to 26 Characters, a project celebrating favourite fictional characters from childhood, at the Oxford Story Museum. You can see more about these projects on my website.

If you’d like to know more about the project, why not download the lovely little 26 Atlantic Crossings e-book free, HERE? (You’ll find ‘The Unseen’ on pages 36/37.) On the same page you’ll find a link to a gorgeous paper version of 26 Characters, for sale at just £5…

Chickens, chambres d’hôtes and UFOs


pauloMy Brazilian friend Paulo & his boyfriend Didier had been talking for years about leaving Tooting and spending a year or two in Didier’s home region of Burgundy, but once I’d moved to Céret in the Pyrenees-Orientale they decided that the sunny south of France was rather more appealing.

Paulo’s practical skills and artist’s eye were vital in refurbishing the dilapidated townhouse they bought in Quillan and transforming it into a quirky and welcoming chambres d’hôtes. (Thinking about running a B&B? Paulo’s advice is only do it if you like ironing…)

Nidelice (‘delightful nest’) is popular with cyclists, walkers and white water rafters, and with Dan Brown-readers and conspiracy theorists drawn by Rennes-le-Château, for its claimed links to the Knights Templar, and also by the Cathar castles of the Languedoc; the last bastions of the Cathar ‘heretics’, whose fascinating religion saw men and women as equals, had people rise to become ‘Perfects’ by forgoing meat and sex, and deemed the Catholic Church to be the ‘Church of Satan’. Read more…

bullshit, horse-shit, testosterone & pee

Bull running in Céret

Céretferia

Céret is famous for three things: its Musée d’Art Moderne1; its cherries; and its feria.

Running over Bastille weekend, the Céret feria, which finished yesterday, is a 3-day festival of bullshit, horse-shit, testosterone and pee. It is famous for its bull-running and bullfights, and for being an orgy of drunkenness that attracts thousands of revellers to the town (both the bullfights and the drunks leading to a fair share of controversy). 

The feria temporarily transforms Céret from a picturesque, tranquil, civilised ville to a loutish, shouty party-vile, where the rosé is warm, the beer is cheap and the streets run with rivers of pee. Like bulls spotting the crimson swirl of a torreador’s cape, the pissed, pumped-up rugby players thronging Céret’s streets snort, bellow and paw the ground at the sight of red-lipped girls wearing shorts, crop tops and red & yellow USAP socks.  Read more…

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