Small Day Hot Town Blues- No Road Trip this Summer

“I got those small day hot town blues baby …”

Yep, temperatures are starting to soar again on this, another weekend for the great French summer getaway. All routes to the sea have been at gridlock all day, with police and the national road authorities describing driven conditions as “black” – meaning just don’t leave home today if you want to get anywhere soon.

Small town, hot day, I am reminded of all those songs about spending a long hot summer “kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town,” – My dreary small town favorites – that Tom Petty classic “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – slow summer in a hermetic tupperware kind of town. For urban boredom – the Jam song “That’s Entertainment.”

Your soul i screaming for adventure but your bank balance is telling you to stay home. No titles on these, just your judgement. “Small Day, Hot Town.” or “No Road Trip this Summer” – it is 35°c and all you want is shade or a week by the sea. You need release.

You need to get away “Autres destimations” – written on every mail box in France – that slot where you post letters to other places where you want to be. Those places that others send you postcards from, wishing that you were there, and you wish you were

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No road trip this summer. Your car ain’t fit for tripping.

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If you can’t afford a garage, you’ve just gotta keep the car in the garage.

No money to get away, you gotta look closer to home for your place in or out of the sun.

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Make mine a Doner

Just finished painting the bathroom, and I now finally have time for a “photographic” post. The theme is fast food. A report this week in the UK press that fast food outlets are gradually taking over main shopping streets in the UK. In some parts of the north of England, almost 45% of businesses  on some shopping streets are fast food restaurants. According to the report, fast food is also fat food – UK obesity rates are soaring – so, the report has inspired me to post a few fast food clichés – restaurants in France and the UK. I hope you enjoy them.

Kebabs with everything

Kebabs with everything – this is the Kebab House somewhere in north east London

Run Chicken! Run!

If it isn’t kebabs, the it’s chicken with everything or everything and chicken. Here welcome to the Chicken Run, somewhere behind Wentworth Street in East London. And here is more chicken by night.

Chicken by nite

Chicken Cottage

 

And if you an’t get fast food, try the all nite supermarket

All Nite Cost cutting

 

Tradition British fast food – Fish and Chips – used to be the Friday night working class treat – a bit of cod or haddock fried in batter and a huge portion of chips, soaked in salt and vinegar – Take away and eat at home – traditionally it was all wrapped in newspaper. Ok, fish is expensive nowadays and the humble Friday night staple is now a rare treat – for connaisseurs  and fish and chip nostalgics – a plate of Fish and chips and a couple of Fish and Chip shops or “chip pies” as we used to call them. These Chippies are on the Fulham road in London.

Great British food???????

Closed down

Light House near the Fulham Road

 

Fish and Chips (with a kebab on the side)

 

Another traditional form of historic UK fast food – the ice cream van. This one is taken near St Paul’s cathedral in London.

Ice Cream Van

The first McDonald’s restaurant opened in London in 1975. I remember my fist bite of a Big Mac, it was – a revelation – far better than the traditional British high street Hamburger chain “Wimpy” – Here are  few McDonald’s clichés from the outlet on the Strand in central London.

Traditional American food on the Strand

Here are a few punters

Love is sharing a burger

If you don’t fancy burgers, kebabs or fish and  chips; try the other great British staple – breakfast – a trend of theses recent years, cafés and even bus, serving an “all day breakfast.” Here is the Big Breakfast in Beckenham in south east London, where in December last year I had an excellent breakfast and a lovely cup of tea (a cuppa) all for under ten quid – I’d recommend this place to everybody.

Big Breakfast in Beckenham

And the original fast food outlet – this one is near Aldgate in London

Original fast food outlet

Okay, the Brits love their curry, and when in London, do like the locals and head off down Brick Lane for a good old Ruby Murray (Cockney rhyming slang for curry)

The Sheba

Of course, I wouldn’t recommend curry for breakfast, but this place down the back of Petticoat Lane market used to do a tandoori breakfast.

Tandoori breakfast???? No thanks.

And you though only the Brits had fast food. Here is kebab outlet in the small village of Mourmelon in eastern France – the only kebab in the village, it does a good trade from the massive army base nearby.

Kebab (à la française)

Yep, we’ve got Kebabs in France – Ten years ago you couldn’t get a Kebab in my corner of small town France – and now ???? I’ve got five kebab restaurants all within a ten minute walk from my house

Kebab in Bourges

Kebab at the end of my street

Kebab restaurants are like Irish pubs – there isn’t a single town or city in the world without its ersatz Irish pub – well there ain’t a town or village in France that doesn’t now have a kebab outlet.

And that was my fast food photo trip. I’ll leave with one final photo – Leyton High Street, where I once bought a very tasty kebab whilst waiting for a bus.

High Street Leyton

Forgotten Soldier

It’s one of those  airless,  hot summer Sundays. The world is on holiday, deepest France is in full summer slumber – a perfect time for a country drive, on uncluttered winding roads – across the fields and through the forests. On a photo safari down to the village of Souesmes, sight of a major battle in 1944 between local resistance fighters and the Wehrmacht heading north to reinforce German forces fighting in Normandy. This is the centre of France, where, in July and August 1944 over a quarter of a million German troops  heading north to south and west to east, were stopped in their tracks by the local Resistance. There are hundreds of small roadside monuments commemorating such events and occasionally village war memorials inscribed with the names of the dead from World war Two and World War One – in many villages nowadays the names of the dead from both wars are greater than the number of current inhabitants. Here are some photos of an “unknown soldier” on a village war memorial. His face shows the suffering and scars of war and his state of decay shows the indifference of modern France where once the link between the nation’s army and its citizens was a true historical and moral bond. here is the forgotten soldier.

Walking Paris in the Walker Evans spirit

It all started in the summer of 2003, with breakfast on a cross Channel ferry, plying that grey murky slim stretch of water between Dover and Calais. A full English breakfast with sausages, beans, french fries and … a whopping plateful of food that I was never going to finish – but before I bin it – just a quick photo. I had just acquired my first decent digital camera, so I tok a photo of my unfinished masterpiece (below) Hey, I’ve paid for this, I’m damn well gonna take a photo. And that was the day that I just started to take photos of “stuff”.

So for fifteen years or so, I’ve been taking photos of “crap”, or the kind of photos that others might qualify as “crap”, but recently seem to have become an art form. People have always asked me “why are you taking a photo of that?” as I point my camera towards a bin and photograph the anarchic accumulation of rubbish – I don’t see it as rubbish, this is a random, one off sculpture of 21st century living – and I am taking a photo of this because no one else will – and such has always been my photographic credo. Rubbish, people, places or just moments that no one else will bother to capture. I was doing this long before discovered the likes of  Martin Parr, Raymond Depardon, Diane Arbus, Al Wei Wei – These are my favorite photographers, though I won’t say that they influenced me, I just discovered them as I took more interest in photography, though I am in no way a photographer.

Thursday July 13th; Went up t Paris to see the David Hockney retrospective that’s jet transferred to the Pompidou Centre from the Tate Modern in London.

I’ve always liked Hockney’s very photographic and vibrant style – bright flours, easy subjects – I don’t ned to look for an inner meaning, the work just speaks for itself. After sauntering through Mr Hockney’s “relaxed” universe, I stumble into another exhibition on the work of an American photographer Walker Evans.

How can I describe this – it is revelation, confirmation – over 300 prints of … well the sort of stuff I take shop fronts, abandoned buildings, window displays – using the camera to encapsulate all those people, places, objects and moments that no one else ill take because – “why are you taking a photo of that????”

In a kind of Walker Evans spirit, I wanted to show you the results of a day’s “snapping” in Paris. Seeing Mr Evan’s work has finally enabled me to put a name on my style of photography – vernacular photography.

I don’t know why, I’ve always loved taking photos from cars or trains to capture those landscapes we cross to get somewhere else – those dead parts of France we endure to get to the beach, or those flat, endless agricultural lands the train crosses on the way to Paris. Here are a few clichés of my journey. Notice I tend to use quite a few filters to make places just a slight more bleaker than they actually are. When I had my old reflex camera, I tried mucking around with filters but just gave it up as a fiddly gimmick.

Waiting on a train

Waiting on a train II

Grey Sky Platform

Goods Wagons

I’m using an Olympus Stylus 1 as my main camera nowadays – lightweight and bristling with gimmicks – it’s a great little piece of gear, far better to the than the huge bulky old Nikon I used to have – you know, the massive Nikon with the 28 to 105 lens that everyone seems to have nowadays – for sure a great camera, but to heavy to carry round and deploy.

So, welcome to Paris

Here is Paris minus the Eiffel Tower and then two Eiffel Towers for the price of one – I’m playing round with an overlay feature on the camera.

This was the day that Donald Trump was in town and this was also the week that Paris welcomed the International Olympic Committee and “showcase” the city for ts 2024 Olympic bid. The lace has been cleaned up, and the homeless removed – on Monday 11th July there was a huge police operation to shut down and clear out camps of illegal immigrants along the Seine and in the north east of the city where the Olympic park is set to be built.

First off, one sleeping bag, all that remains of an illegal camp on the banks of the Seine.

Not far, just down river, the old Salvation Army barge, anchored on the same spot since 1909, now closed down and just a few yards from a huge barge converted into a luxury hotel

Not all illegal camps were cleared, occasional tents can be seen here and there, this one is in the shadow of a church in the city’s St Paul area – right in the heart of downtown Paris

Playing their part in the clean up, are the city’s roadsweepers. Not happy with the resolution on this photo, I took it with the camera app on my old Samsung mobile.

No trip to Paris is complete without photographing tourists or “Bloody Tourists” as local and traders curse, all the while taking their money or renting out their apartments to the tourist hordes on Air B’n’B – so rife is the Air B’n’B trade that the Paris city authorities are taking steps to regulate it. arms is beginning to suffer the fates of Air B’n’B twins like Venice, Barcelona and even Edinburgh – property promoters buying up empty flats purely for tourist rental, thus “gobbling up” the already limited stock of housing for the locals and ensuring that the downtown of many cities are now just tourist areas.

Bloody Tourists – we are, we have been and we will be one day. From the moment we leave home, everyone become’s someone else’s tourist. First there came the explorers, discovering new lands. Next came the settlers to exploit the lands, wiping out the locals and their traditions, and now here are the tourists who come to see those small vestige of what is left behind when something commonplace has become a rarity and thus “a tourist attraction” – I am just wondering if there are any Parisians living in the centre of Paris.

Ok, bloody tourists. Here we have some “orientals”, grouping together and then doing a Beatles-style crossing the the Rue de Rivoli.

Here are a few more without comment for your perusal

Thanks for reading the vernacular post

Bastille Day

First and foremost, a big warm wordpress THANKYOU to all those who viewed and liked my last photographic post on the Edgelands in France – I think in the US you might call this the Sundown ???? In a few days a post in the memory of Walker Evans who has a huge exhibition in Paris at the moment. In the meantime … Many thanks to you all.

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I was up in Paris yesterday – massive security for the Trump visit; Mr T is here to enhance Franco American relations and also celebrate the US intervention in WW1 – “Lafayette nous voila” as Pershing said when the first “Doughboys” landed on French soil, though for the duration of the rest of WW1, the French called the Americans “Sammies” to encapsulate Uncle Sam and mirror the popular term for British troops who were referred to as “Tommies”. I was Mr T on the TV this morning, he made approving nods at the French military parade. Outside of North Korea, China and Russia, France is the only country that still does military parades – it is certainly the only Western Democracy that still exercises this “art” – but I like the French armed forces marching down the Champs Elysées – it saves to remind French people that we still have an army and it reinforces that link born within the French revolution of an army protecting the people (I guess more about that in a lengthy and reflective and annoying post) – No matter it is Bastille day – for the Americans, this is our 4th July – so BBQs dancing and fireworks tonight all over France.

I am still wondering why Mr Trump is not staying in France tomorrow, because in the Catholic calendar of Saints, tomorrow is St Donald’s Day (might just have a roast duck for dinner with a bottle of St Saturnin (French readers will spot the joke) – I am still thinking of Mr Trumps approving looks as France displayed its military might in Paris – very approving but  not so reassuring for the world, though he did say that he might make an small effort on climate change.

No matter. loads to do and loads to eat and drink, so I will leave you with this image – the front page of Charlie Hebdo – the satirical French news magazine. Happy Bastille day to you all.

French Nationality and the Norman Yoke

It was the standard government bad news envelope – « Republique Française » stamped high up in the left hand corner and my name and address visible through the small cellophane window  – the kind of envelope that never brings any tidings of joy, just tax demands or parking fines. I’ll open it later.

The envelope got progressively buried under a pile of magazines, junk mail until I finally retrieved it and opened it and read the letter inside and shouted OMG, nice and loud so the Almighty himself might hear because I am French – I mean literally, I am French – It says it here in the letter – I have just been awarded French nationality, I have been French since July 1st, a whole week the envelope lay there and … that’s one whole week I’ve been French and I didn’t know.

I’m not sure now if I have dual nationality or two nationalities or I am French in France and British in the UK – I’m going to have two passports, at lets I will apply for a French passport and when I renew my Britsh passport I just won’t bother telling anyone that I have a French one.

I’m not sure either if this makes me Anglo-French or Franco-British. Am I now two different people at the same time, or just half and half ?

It all started roughly eighteen months ago – whilst Britain was in the throes of a rather accrimonious referendum campaign – to brexit or not Brexit ? That was the question. For many it was just a formilaty, a forgone conclusion. Of course Brits would vote to remain in the European Union – it would be madness to leave, but just in case the tide went against the prédictions of the pundits, I decided it would be wise to have some kind of insurance policy, so I applied for French nationality.

I’ve lived and worked in France for 26 years – I’m a fully paid up member of French society, but I’d always clung on to my British nationality, despite feeling more French than British over the years . I work as a civil servant – normally a status reserved for French nationals, but since the enactment of the 1992 Maastricht treaty, all EU citizens have been able to work in the French civil service – then on June 24th THUD – SHOCK – DISBELIEF – the Brits voted for Brexit and by doing so voted to rip all those treaties and agreements to which they had been signatories – those precise and precious papers that guaranteed my job security – faced with the prospect of being « stateless » – like many Brits living in France ; I applied for French nationality. Now I am French, I have a job and a future in the land I call home. Whatever the fate reserved for UK nationals living as ex-pats in the European Union, I at least won’t be sharing it. Yes, it was a question of survival, but after so long living here I guess the time had also come to take the plunge.

Yes, I am happy to have French nationality, but joy is tinged with anger agaisnt the 1.7 million or so Brits who tipped that balance in favour of Brexit. I can’t say there is a standard Brexit voter, they seem to be a hotch potch of elderly people, white working class and bunch of misguided nationalists believing that Brexit will make Britain GREAT again. I suose in the thirty or so years between the end of World War Two and the oil crisis of the early 70’s there was a notion of « greatness », though I would be more prone to call it a misconception born from the fact that Britain emerged victorious from World War Two and until the 1970’s enjoyed relative prosperity, as did France. Yet in their Empiric and Waterloo like mindset, the Brits always thought they could go it alone, until evrything came crashing down in the mid to late seventies.

I am mistrustful of all these Brexiteers who trade in terms of « Greatness » and « Freedom » and the idea that now the UK is leaving Europe, the nation will be free to determin its own destiny and make its own laws. Was living within the EU so bad ? But now that the UK is « free » and is all set to be « great » again, towards which historical model will the pro Brexiteers look ? How Churchillian, Cromwellian, or Victorian will the Brave New Britian be ?

I’ve rambled on a length about Brexit – misguided musings with the occasional pertinent pointer, but I have never spoken about the « Norman Yoke » – nothing to do with eggs from Normandy- Let’s take a trip back into the dim, distant, but still very relevant past – The English Civil war, or what some historians such as the late (great) Christopher Hill, referred tas The English Revolution. In its entirety, the war lasted from 1642 to 1651 – I know that Charles 1st was beheaded on January 1st 1649, but it took Cromwell’s parliamentarian « roundhead » forces another two years to « mop up » the last Royalists in England and Scotland. Charles 1st may have been no more, but his son – the future Charles II carried on the campaign against Cromwel’s forces with the help of the Scots – historians refer to this period as the Third Engish Civil War – has this anything to do with Brexit ? Of course – apart from the various political and religious causes of the English Civil War (or Revolution), there was also a considérable part of the Parliamentarian forces who were fight for Freedom for all Englishmen – There were factions in the anti-royalist forces who blievedthey were liberating England from The Norman Yoke – yoke being that large wooden « harness » hung around the neck of bulls or horses to pull a plough – these « true Englishmen » believed that there ad been no such thing as true English liberty since 1066, when William of Normandy won the battle of Hastings and the last true Saxon (English) king, Harold 1st was slain (hit by an arrow in the eye so legend goes) – from 1066 onwards Kings of England were no more than French usurpers and al those wars with France wewre no more han family feuds where good English blood was spillt to settle the diferenecs of accrimonious French cousins. The rise of the Puritans and their staunch anti catholicism is also the story of the rise of the first English nationalism – both go hand-in-hand. Though England had become a protestant country over a century before the start of the English Civil War, there was still mistrust of the Church and the monarchy for supposed catholic sympathies. Charles 1st had a French (and therefore catholic wife) – Queen Henrietta Maria – she had a Catholic Chapel built in her private résidence at Greenwich and Charles 1st was suspected of having convertde secretly to Catholicism. The Norman Yoke was all this, the idea that around 1642 all true Englishmen had been living under foreign political and religious domination for nearly 600 years – with the exécution of Charles 1st and the declaraion of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, all Englshmen were finally free – I think this is somewhere within the mindset of pro Brexiteers – Britain is free once more. This might all seem flippant or even futile as an argument, but somewhere we are still in the mid 17th century mindset, there are still Cromwellian dinosaurs out there.

The current conservative government is kept in power by a minority protestant party from Northern Ireland – The Democraitc Unionist party (DUP-) – founded in the early 1970’s by the late Reverened Ian Paisley, they were no more and no less a radical regional party set up in Northern Ireland to (as they saw it) protect Protestants and above all to protect and maintain the union between Ulster and Great Britain – hence Unionist – as opposed to Republicans who sought a United Ireland. The DUP (in my opinion) are a 400 year old throwback to Cromwell. They are the modern incarnation of « The Norman Yoke », and they are currently maintaining Theresa May in power. This is not good for Britain, and convinces me that any Brexit will be negotiated in a mindset of misguided nostalgia, a harking back to a time when … I keep thinking that our Brave new Britan will be like some kind of Beatrix Potter thème park – a rural idyll where the peasants are free to sit round drinking ale and … It’s a nightmare.

Parting thought – the UK conservative government are trying to negotiate (what I hope will be) a common sensé Brexit. They are maitained in power by a manipulative minority party (the DUP) with a credo that is a throwback to seventeenth century Britain. They were founded by a venemous Victorian vicar caled the révérend Ian Paisley, who one qualified the European Union as « a manifestation of the anti christ. » If the Queen does finally pop her clogs, then Brexit will happen under the reign of the future heir apparent – Charles III – sorry have we just gone back 400 years.

Hey I am happy to be French and living in a republic. I think what Britan needs now is Charles De Gaulle.