Friday, 12 July 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 18:51
Having some lunch, out of the way, by the river. A bit of quiet, an opportunity to read. A woman with a pomeranian strolls along, dog yapping. They stop behind the bench, another dog walker stops with her chihuahua. The two dogs yap wildly whilst their owners talk. The little dog is on an extendable lead. I'm trying to read. A cyclist smashes into the back of the bench, just avoiding going into the river. He has hurt his leg, the bike is badly bent. He had got tangled up in the extended lead. Everyone is shocked. The dogs are quiet. The dog owners know they are to blame
Hot afternoon on a small mountain road, no traffic. Stream running close by. A very beautiful stream. Cool clear water. The road has just been resurfaced, warnings about Grit. Car goes by. I go round the corner and can see that the car has hit a tree, and gone into the stream. The driver has climbed out. The car is badly damaged, Driver OK but upset. Police car, and then tow truck arrive almost immediately.
Lovely evening. Two cyclists, helmets and cycling gear, flying down through the town. Getting dark but you could see them coming from a long way off. They shoot through the arch then realised there are steps downward on the other side. Bikes and cyclists come apart. They sprawl either side of my table. One of the bikes was bent but the cyclists seemed OK, hobbling a bit, damaged pride.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 06:57
The farmer Johannes owns a dairy herd. Twenty cows, each cow has a bell with a different acoustic. Listening out for the bells tell him where each of them are. Johannes says his biggest problem is tourists nicking the bells. Three went last week.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
Tuesday, 9 July 2013
Pale blue butterflies everywhere, the colour of unfired porcelain and as delicate. Four anthills, complex piles of pine needles. A small black butterfly with two neat red circles on its wings. Lovely thing, only it wouldn't leave my left knee alone. Fly off, then come back, same knee. After twenty minutes I swotted it. Must have been the steak I ate last night.
Monday, 8 July 2013
Sunday, 7 July 2013
Saturday, 6 July 2013
Fourty black and white storks spread out across a field of cabbages. Bosch factory in the distance. On the lake a crested grebe carries on regardless in amongst an all male group of swimmers playing Beach Boys hits. Loud. They are wearing plastic Hawaiian garlands. Drink absinthe chasers, then beer.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 22:29
Between wayside markers, every fifty metres or so there are painted diamonds showing the route. Particularly in dense woodland you become a bit dithery if you can't spot the next one. Your heart rises up when you do.
These routes are maintained by the local rambling group. A good job they do. This diamond was on a pine tree on the ridge between mountains. Very high up, steep drop either side. The diamond and the black outline are in gloss paint. From their regularity I'd say they were stencilled. All this and a light grey undercoat. Three pots of paint, three wet paintbrushes. Must take the whole day.
Friday, 5 July 2013
The downside to this boom was the dire poverty experienced by the majority of those working in the industry, either in engineering workshops or as outsourced homeworkers. Unions and craft alliances developed to seek better working conditions and sensible wages. A situation similar to those experienced in the sweatshops of Bangladesh, Vietnam, China etc today. Company towns with workers paid twice a year (St George's and St Martin's Days). High interest credit to cover the interim.
St Imier became a centre for radical political thought. The watchmakers of the Jura with their anarchist common sense perspective challenged the dominance of Marx and Engels theoretical form of communism. The Jura Federation even had its own International conference to rival the communist International. The tourist office didn't have any information on this, but around St Imier itself there are information boards explaining the varied political tangles of the period. There was a memorial conference last year at Espace Noire, the anarchist social centre in the town.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 14:18
Thursday, 4 July 2013
This morning a gang rushed over to check me out, I had to make a quick swerve under an electric fence. Not pleasant. You're supposed to shout, but you can hardly hear anything over the racket of their bells. Advice sought.
Similarly with farm dogs. Nasty beasts.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:04
Measured not in distance, but in time, as on the motorway or telling your mates. Steep mountain walks, how can the going up time be the same as going down? Different age groups, capabilities, lost in thought, butterfly obsessive, lovers in conversation? Dawdler moi, the times must have been worked out by the local speed hill walking team. There goes one now. Set in Helvetica it must be true.
Before I left someone said that BBC radio is obsessed by death. I hadn't noticed. Listening to snippets of radio4 in the past weeks, I can only agree.
Micheal Irwin escorting people to Switzerland (euphamism), Nile Rogers 'not outrunning death' and Rhydian Brook's no one talks about death. What is there to say that everyone doesnt already know? Instinctively.
Wednesday, 3 July 2013
I wish Graeme could have seen this building. He was so proud of the boat they made on top of the QEH. He would have made a good architect. It might have satisfied his urges.
Monday, 1 July 2013
A bit mindblowing is the thought that the cow bells have been ringing constantly since the first time I came here forty years ago. So many cows, so much grass, cud, milk, cheese, cheese products.
All that time, all that goodness, and they haven't been able to come up with one decent tune.
Horses have bells too.
Sunday, 30 June 2013
Friday, 28 June 2013
Thursday, 27 June 2013
Towns in France are ripping themselves apart in their hurry to regenerate, part of this is the reintroduction of trams. If anything is going to kill me it will be a tram. The Silent Killer. Crossing the rails I feel vulnerable, lost. I never know which way to look, A mistake and that's it, the quick way to Zurich.
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Monday, 24 June 2013
When the Seine disappeared so too did the Grand Randonnee Two. GR2. The footpath from Le Havre along the Seine almost to Dijon. I have transferred my affections to the Canal de Bourgogne, the River Saone, and from today, the Rhone to Rhine link canal. Walking along canals, though simpler is mentally longer. Relative charms, 1km on a river feels like two on a canal.
The mountains I have been predicting have not materialised. Poor geography studies. Wonderfully flat. Rain storms become visible as cross hatching on the horizon an hour away. Giving time for avoidance, I managed to scrounge a lift on a barge just as a heavy downpour began. Got me past a restricted zone, no towpath due to a chemical factory.
Saturday, 22 June 2013
Friday, 21 June 2013
That peaches can be flat and courgettes round.
Overhead power cables go CRICK and then again CRICK when you are enjoying the silence.
Overhead power cables go CRICK and then again CRICK when you are enjoying the silence.
Horses itch lying down. They roll around on the ground. (of course).
That growing corn is a very precise process. (of course). Farm workers measure the fields out and place markers for planting accuracy and harvesting efficiency.
That constant whirr, the grating whirr of forestry workers, sawmills, humble carvers is the collective sound of council employees and local residents strimming back nature.
That blackbird is spoken in all the places I have been to.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:48
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Going in the opposite direction to Louis Philippe was Frederich Engels. At the height of the February revolution Engels lost his grip and went for a long walk to Burgundy. It was here that he discovered Chateau Margaux 1848, the classic Bordeaux.
Four white butterflies around a striking blue flower (not budlea). A billowing priest on a 12speed drop handlebar bicycle. Bonjour. Made me jump.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 13:46
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Awoke wolf whistling to the view over the forest. Must be happy. This area is the source of many rivers, inc. the Seine and the St Seine, which adds to the confusion. It also the source of much bottled water, accounting for the rigorous security fencing and large scale tankers rattling down country lanes. If anywhere in France should be kept moist, this is the spot.
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Monday, 17 June 2013
Sunday, 16 June 2013
Saturday, 15 June 2013
Friday, 14 June 2013
Thursday, 13 June 2013
A newly dedicated pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela from North Western Europe. Via Paris, along the Seine, river Yonne and Sens. Not exactly direct but got the thumbs up and broad smiles from the cafe owner and a group of pilgrims returning to Holland from Santiago in their vintage Jaguars.
When I tell people of my journey, they nod wisely about the GR2, the long distance east to west path. Switzerland, Suisse yes, yes, no problem. But why are you going to Dijon? Followed by a mime of a lump and more wise noddings.
There are several interlocking graphs of compromise in this pilgrimage thing. The direct route. Noise, fumes, endless lorries versus country roads, river banks and lanes is one. Cost and personal autonomy: hotel Ibis vs small village gites is another. Internet connection, wifi available, another? And possibly style? Solitary walker; sprightly, shorts, chunky boots, mini rucksack, weather shielded map ready to go on one end of the scale and this group of five course bon vivants on the other.
Chaucer (plus Powell&Pressburger and Pasolini) were so accurate in their descriptions. Timeless. A cockerel crowing in the next field says it is time to leave.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 10:26
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
The man with a van who took me out of the cement works and put me back on track told me that he had walked to Paris, took him three days.
Woman kicking a dryer in the laudrette, I offered kicking advice, she asked if I was English. Pause. The dryer started to spin. We laughed. She'd been made redundant. She was going to New York State to walk. To think, she said.
Alain, in the place I stayed last night, told me Schuberts song cycle Winterreise worked for him. It goes round and comes back to itself, he said.
Sunday, 9 June 2013
By default I have stayed in several Hotel Ibis. They serve my needs perfectly. Similar set up in most locations. Simple rooms, comfy bed, working shower, free wifi, standard breakfast with pleasant staff who seem to be multilingual. Best is that Ibis Budgets are less expensive than most chambre d'hote and gites. Usually on the outskirts of town, they appear like an oasis on the horizon, just as I'm heading for despair. There seems no limit to Ibis expansion into France.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 18:08
Friday, 7 June 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 12:19
Thursday, 6 June 2013
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Concluded that pied wagtails, actually not just pied, all wagtails are what makes me happy. Their size, they way they jump about, the way they fly, that they are so determined, work in groups and yet seem so independent. They are the cat of the bird world.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:49
Previously the places I have got lost in have been ornamental gardens and gravel pits. Until I spent a whole morning wandering around the well charted Bois de Boulogne. My frustration eventually relieved by dramatic, and noisy, police intervention against a long row of family 4x4 vehicles tamely parked on a cute leafy lane. The road was blocked by police cars, flashing lights, sirens etc. In seconds all the parked cars were ticketed then roughly bounced then lifted onto tow away trucks. Whole families, joggers, people eating ice creams emerged from the wooded glades screaming, crying, shouting, some clinging to their cars. One man climbing onto the back of a towtruck trying to uncouple his car. I was warned not to take photographs. It was a nasty business, done with military precision. No lives were lost but prisoners were taken. I had discovered the back streets of Roland Garros, a major tennis tournament was in play,
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 10:18
Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 11:29
Monday, 3 June 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 21:06
The McDonalds are getting closer together, the yapping dogs smaller and it's more difficult to find a quiet spot to have lunch without bothersome pigeons. The Seine is overfull. It flows over the ornamental bushes and the quaint paths that line the river. The queue in the boulangerie this morning was full of it. What will happen? No rain but the river is definitely rising.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 13:50
Sunday, 2 June 2013
Your emotions are on the outside. Walking longer distances than usual exhausts you energies. Decisions get made on gut feeling. I left one town and walked seven miles to the next because it was cloudy, the place looked gloomy. The right decision. All the time you are on the look out for clues. The sight of a suburban tower block in the distance lifted me. The ugly bridge over the Seine at Rouen made me gushingly happy. The first sight of Paris...
I've become aware of my body, too aware, particularly my feet. Slight pains or aches could mean the end of the journey. These niggle as you walk. My mind thought I had a blood clot in my ankle, it was a bit of plastic from a price tag in my sock. A real nuisance. My sun tan lotion is waterproof, it makes me sweat in an odd way.
When I have sorted out the end of my day, take off my rucksac, I want to go for a walk. It is difficult to stop. I have been having to deliberately time out, to go nowhere. To sit down, take pressure off my feet. To listen?
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:36
"A walk is a series of questions"
Thank you Jane.
Each day someone in a car has drawn up next to me to ask directions. Personally, the last person I would flag down is a man in sunglasses lugging an embarrassingly large rucsac. Obviously not local. Any conversation only lasts till they realise I am British and sweating heavily.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 09:56
Saturday, 1 June 2013
I have never walked so far.
Brighton: Newhaven: Dieppe: Totes: Rouen: Poses: Les Andelys: Vernon: Mantes la Jolie.
I seem to have been following two contradictory routes. One taken by ex-king Louis Philippe and his family as they fled Paris for Surrey during the 1848 revolution. His name and image keep cropping up. I passed directions to a museum/ stately home dedicated to the Orleans legitimacy over the French crown. One night I stayed in an olde inn that had his picture on the wall. Freaky or kitsch?
In the opposite direction, I seem to have been following the off-road berghaus route of the Canadian army as it moved en masse into Europe in 1944. Every ultra long suburban avenue in Normandy is named after them, which must be confusing for the postal service. Not much mention of the US or British, perhaps they landed elsewhere or maybe some of the Canadians spoke French and get a better press as a result?.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 21:51
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Thank you Angus.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Monday, 27 May 2013
tourists fresh off the bus. Walking, talking and snapping merrily away at gee. what an amazing building. I think Marcel would have appreciated the humour of the city councils gesture, placing his subterranean monument at the back end of the cathedral made famous by Claude Monets' impressions.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 22:31