Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tempus fugit

Well I must apologise for not putting my finger on the keyboard to provide an update for such a long time. Anyway time to rectify that now. I had a summer where the French expression 'metro, boulot, dodo' applied to me but perhaps without the metro as I wasn't anywhere near one. I spent most of the summer in Ellesmere Port and didn't have a lot of time for much more than 16 hour days working, punctuated with a little sleep and travelling back home. It's always possible to stay in touch these days thanks to the mobile phone. Back in the days before these devices, I am sure many a young person caused their parents continual worry by being out of touch with them...but did they really ? I don't recall ever feeling the need to 'phone home' and if I did it would require a considerable effort to dig out the required pre-decimal coin, find a red telephone box and of course remember to press Button B. It's great that information is available at our fingertips 24 hours a day but I think we are perhaps in danger of collapsing under the weight of a surfeit of words and opinions. I am of course guilty of adding to this with this little contribution to the bloggosphere.

I had a couple of trips away to one place I had never been before - Helsinki, Finland and to another place I have been quite a few times - Paris, France. It's difficult to feel the 'soul' of a place in short visits but I had a friend from the time I lived in Belgium who said that the best way to find anything out at all is to walk around on foot which is exactly what I normally do and which I did on my recent visits. I was struck by the clear air and silence in Helsinki and the ciountryside around the city in Espoo and Vantaa. The Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA) is one of the largest museums I have ever been in but there is a large amount of free space and so one doesn't feel crowded out by exhibits. I spent a lot of the time there in the exhibition by Chinese artist Yang Fudong and in particular his film Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest - a modern interpretation of an old Chinese story. The parts of the film on display in the exhibit show seven 20-year old intellectuals leave the city for the countryside where they spend the days working on the land with manual labour and the evenings resting and talking and bonding as a group. The group move to an island where they want to spend time isolated and undisturbed. This feeling of isolation permeates through to the audience and I found myself being overwhelmed by the same feelings.

In Paris, in recent visits I have always tried to discover a new arrondissement or somewhere I haven't been before. In recent visits I have taken walks through the famous Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise which have featured in many French films and contain the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and many less famous names. An oasis of calm and contemplation in the city. On this trip, the main reason was to visit Paris Photo 2011 - for me the highlights were seeing an exhibition of original photographs from the NASA archive of space expeditions in the 1960s, a project interpreting the 1954 book by Dutch photographer Ed Van der Elsken 'Love on the Left Bank', meeting Iranian photographers showing their work and seeing the magnificent glass roof of the Grand Palais, built in 1897 and recently restored. I also found some time to visit the Impressionist Collections of Monet and others in the Musée Marmottan

One of my most enjoyable walks has been in the streets surrounding the Musée Rodin and of course in the museum itself. It is not a large collection but provides more inspiration than many collections three times the size.

Anyway, one can't escape or live in a vacuum forever and it is good to return to busy life in the city refreshed with batteries recharged. Any of us who have the fortunate opportunity to travel must do what we can to fight the enemies of being able to do things like this - poverty, disease, illness - we are in control of a lot in our lives but the last three really ask us to bond together as a society and help others who perhaps do not have the freedom or the luxury.

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