Wednesday, June 24, 2009

roads in the South of France

Beziers after the wind storm, originally uploaded by Paul Grand.

When I first arrived in France back in 2000, I asked a French friend about speeding on the toll roads, if they were monitored for speeding?
He said; "No, ze French would never stand for zis", going on to quote; "liberty, fraternity and equality."
Just a year or so later, after the most horrific death toll in the whole of Europe, the cameras arrived. So much for my French friends belief in 'Liberty, fraternity etc..

The French around here, near the border with Spain, often blame the tourists or Spanish truck drivers arriving on French roads already drunk.
But if this were the case, why do I see so many French cars on their backs, smashed into trees, driven into fields etc, every Saturday morning?
They do seem to go just a little bit crazy on a Friday night..

The national mobile police often set up speed traps at the edges of Vineyards, hiding their motorbikes behind vines etc.
Friendly passing motorists despise this practice, and will often flash a warning to oncoming cars of a speed trap ahead.
The correct etiquette is to acknowledge thanks by giving a quick wave, but never let the cops see you flash, as it's illegal.

Recently, cops have started surveillance in cities, following the UK model on a tiny scale by just using the odd camera for a short while.
The other day, after countless night time arson attacks on big council Wheeler bins, the police put cameras on a square, thinking they might capture some hoodies,
but were surprised to find another strange crime.
A mother with a pram and couple of kids were seen near cars, the cops thought they had dropped something, but no, it turned out they were tampering with the parked vehicles.
The police gave chase and found instead of a baby snuggled under fluffy blankets, a several gallon container filled with freshly siphoned petrol...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

irony and poppies

poppies, originally uploaded by Paul Grand.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that if you are brought up surrounded by irony you'll probably see it everywhere.
On the other hand, if you've had an irony free upbringing, the opposite will generally apply.

Once as a favor, I did a set of wedding photographs, for an American painter friend and her partner, an English novelist.
I happened to capture a glum faced girl in several shots at their reception in the large poppy filled garden.
The same girl managed to maneuver herself in front of several other groups of similarly, glum faced relatives.
On seeing the photos the cynical, newly published groom accused me of being ironic!
He'd made a classic gaff in mistaking coincidence as a form of irony.

The Bride, thankfully saw no such hidden meaning,
however, and perhaps ironically, the marriage failed and she flew back to the states shortly after the honeymoon period was over.

Personally I find it quite a difficult task to read irony into a shot of a field of poppies, however for many, poppies symbolise all kinds of strange things.
From chocolate box pastoral Monet paintings to "..Flanders fields the poppies blow.."

Most wont see any irony in that famous patriotic poem. However I think the general consensus, after much Googling,
is that if you read it and then re-read it with say a more... 'cynical eye'
You just might have an ironic epiphany and conclude the poem is in fact trying to say the opposite it at first purports.

Getting back to this image, poppies I gather generally grow best in disturbed soil.
Thus the fields of WW1 were ideal sites for seeds to be released after many years entombed underground, seizing their chance of freedom and quickly flowering amongst all that mud and carnage, these opportunistic weeds thrived.

I understand the location of one of Monet's beloved poppy field paintings, painted many years before poppies became sad ironic symbols is now a factory strewn urban wasteland. Few will know that Monet's first wife as pictured tragically died shortly afterward's from supposed cancer. The money he made from those paintings barely covered the cost of medicine for her..

Lets hope with the demolition of those old factories, one day the seeds from those very poppies he painted will be released to grow once more.
Ironically Monet painted these idyllic scenes as a form of direct protest to the onward advance of the modern industrial world.

As for this field, it is sited next door to a large building site. And this field was an old vineyard just one year ago..thus the grubbed up vine roots disturbed the soil.
On one side a new housing estate is being built and the other, stands huge gray prison watch tower overlooking an unfinished high security prison..

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