Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A Sojourn in Paris

I'm sitting in my study with the windows all open and a gentle breeze wafting in.  They're digging up the road outside and chucking about concrete mixed with plaster in the building site behind.  I'm on day 7 of my first cold in two years.  I feel disgusting.  Everything still hurts.  I did manage to go to Arabic yesterday, but that meant that getting out of bed this morning was problematic.  Bluey of course had the cure, but life really does have to start moving.......  It makes me realise just how healthy it is living in this neck of the woods.  Just three days in Paris, with what seemed like the entire population all coughing without covering any orifices, was my downfall.

I was thinking to myself, I must blog.  My brain gave one of those snorts which translates as "Yeah, sure riiiiiiight,"  Then I remembered the sitting-cafe-times in Paris resting the ()*&*( knee, and pulled out my notebook.  So now you are going to be treated to what I actually wrote in Paris.........  Oh, and I should mention.  There is a long sentence warning in this blog.  I don't care how much my more sensitive friends twitch, it was in Paris in little cafes.  I can make my sentences as long as I like.

Saturday January 17 2015 (How does it get to be 2015?  How?)

So Paris is a much lovelier place after a good nights sleep, lushly gorgeous pastries for breakfast - the panne raisin was simply the best I've ever tasted - some sunshine, and slightly less traffic.  It is not a very happy place place when you have just flown overnight with not nearly enough sleep, had your wallet stolen on the way to town from the airport [David's, not mine],  and been too cold and tired to properly cope with Parisian traffic after two hours giving a statement to the police.  Oh, having a new wool coat helps to!

It has not lived up to its reputation of being filled with rude and obnoxious people.  Apart from the scumbag pickpocket, everyone has been lovely.  Every time I had to tackle stairs with my suitcase some stranger would materialise and carry it for me.  No-one seems particularly put out that we don't speak French.  A cheery bonjour followed by complete puzzlement seems to work fine.

 It is cold, but not too cold.  There was rain, but soft gentle rain.  There were frequent police sirens, but they more resembled counterpoint rather than cacophony and sometime could almost be taken for the the call to prayer [so maybe that has more to do with living in the Middle East than anything else].  The view from the windows of the tiny apartment is not of the gardens, but a large dirty building whose windows reveal enormous skeletons of creature long dead..........

The view from our apartment, I never did catch any of them moving
The Seine is dirty, fast flowing and really quite malevolent.  At times the currents vie with each other, creating  waves resembling the wake of seamonsters.  I wonder how many little yappy dogs wearing knitted pink coats have been devoured in her depths?

Cluny was smaller than I expected and I kept being reminded of The Cloisters in New York City.  It is a lovely place, with squeaky floors and multi-generational walls.  The tapestries [the Lady and the Unicorn series of course in case you were wondering] were a revelation.  No pictures that I have ever  seen prepared me for their sheer size and astonishing beauty.  I had never dreamed that the way the threads were manipulated would give a thread dimensional texture, which brings them to life in front of you in a way the photographs are not able.  The jewels on the gowns seemed to sparkle and standout from the background.  The brocade patterns were executed, it seems, at a slightly different tension so they are smoother and denser.  The animals are so lively, especially the rabbits and dogs.  
The flowers are meticulously gorgeous.

There was a goat.  Yes, just the one.

Bunnies and puppies

And there were foxes!!

I hope this captures at least some of the changes of texture.  If not, you'll just have to go and look at them.
I found it impossible to look away from them [David's Dribblings has a photo of me standing next to one of the tapestries, it will give you some scale].  

There are many other tapestries in Cluny, all of very different quality and none as spectacular as the ladies with their unicorns.  There is one that comes to mind which  seems cartoon-like or childish in its simplicity.  It is not badly made, but the faces of the knights and ladies have a blocky simplicity and naivety not seen in the other works.  

There's something Disneylike about them.

Someone's not happy 

I'm pretty sure these are the romantic leads......

I wonder what its story is?  Was it made by someone from the family?  Was its design created by a beloved child and then worked by professionals?  The expressions on the faces capture teenage eye-rolling and ogling particularly well.

The visit turned into a madonna and child festival.  Often my visits to museums end up with a bit of a theme.  Today I was drawn to the faces of the Madonna.  So many of them have gentle, fragile beauty, while others have a quiet strength.  I wonder at the women whose faces inspired the artists who created these portraits in wood, stone, alabaster, gold and enamel.

So sweet

My favourite family group

The most despairing Pieta Madonna I have every seen.  My heart breaks for her.