Sunday 30 June 2013

Lacanau to Vieux Boucau

Today we travel south for Vieux Boucau which like almost every other town/village/commune we've been to in this part of France is an official stop-over on the pilgrims' route to Compostela de Santiago.

The symbol for this pilgrimage is the sign of a shell and one sees it imprinted on lampposts, trees, road signs etc in any village which is on the official route.

The route

The destination

The symbol
David Lodge has written a brilliant novel about this pilgrimage:

Currently listening to:

Last night, at the camp site, as part of the entertainments programme, a French 'covers' band took to the stage. Utterly brilliant. they started off with some extremely accurate renditions of boring Eagles songs but after 90 minutes progressed to some really exciting renditions of Muse numbers.

The band were called Texas Radio. At one point this lone male dancer emerged from the crowd and danced dervish-like.

Last night's dinner:

Utterly superb rabbit parcels from a butcher in Carcans. I added some courgettes to the final dish.

Cost per head including £1.50 bottle of wine: £9.25

Definitely not still reading:

There is a facility at this campsite (as there is at many) whereby one can leave abandoned holiday books for other people to read.

The facility
I decided to jettison a manual on Tai Chi (utter pile of total crap) and my Loog Oldham memoir (disappointing). Not sure what other campers will make of these items.

The shelves therein

The literary culprits
Mass at Lacanau Ocean:

I appreciate that most other people don't give a toss, but the increasing absence of priests in France is slowly killing me.

Lacanau Ocean shares a priest (dying on his feet) with two other towns (Carcans and Hourtin). Last night the modernist church of Lacanau-Ocean had its turn.

The church at Lacanau-Ocean is rather like a supermarket building.

But quite jolly inside.

And, of course, Mass is Mass.

Saturday 29 June 2013

Buying HO Scale Models at a Brocante Vide Grenier

Visited the nearby town (village, really) of Carcans, this morning, specifically to attend the Brocante Vide Grenier which we had seen advertised in many places. A Brocante Vide Grenier is just a jumble sale or car-boot sale except no car boots are involved - just tables or even rugs on the ground.

I'd been looking forward to this event all week. No real expectation of picking up rolling stock or station buildings but hoped that some little HO scale model cars might be there among the dross.

Arrived just after the sale opened and walked round and ran the eye over every single table or rug. All over the place and mixed in with lampshades, kettles, jewellery etc  were lots of battered old toy cars of the wrong scale. Then I saw a table devoted to scale model cars, probably 150 altogether. And, among these was one single HO scale model which I picked up immediately.

A Simca Ariane by the French manufacturer Norev.
Unlike the batch of plastic cars I bought last week from the junk shop in Saintes, this car had clear plastic windows and a metal chassis. The  11 Saintes cars had cost me 20 euros.

Me: (Holding up the car) "Combien, monsieur?"
Monsieur: "5 euros."
Me: (Damn, that's definitely too much and I'm no good at haggling. It's definitely worth only 3 euros but if I say 3, he'll say 4, which is not much less than 5.) "Trois euros."
Monsieur: "4 euros."
Me: (Trying to play the sentimental card.) "Je suis un tourist d'Ecosse. En Ecosse, j'ai un (mimed an imaginary circuit with my hand) chemin de fer et ces voitures ..........."
Monsieur: "4 euros."
Me: (Pulling the petted lip stunt, even though it has never worked before.)
Monsieur: "3 euros."

Rather embarrassingly, I only had "2 Euro" coins so Monsieur had to go and get change!

Concert at Carcans:

Every summer in France we have been lucky enough (unlucky enough in my wife's case) to find a choral event to attend at some local church.

Last night we attended one such in Carcans - aforementioned nearby town.

The preparations were hilarious to watch as people argued over seats and one chap started a slow hand clap at ten past nine because the thing still hadn't started.

A lot of trouble had been taken by someone to stick a label on the back of almost every chair with the ticket holder's name - that just confused the issue.

The concert was basically the local choral society augmented by a young girl, in a very hi-tech wheel chair, playing recorder and a chap playing the harmonica solo in Gershwin's "Summertime".

The repertoire was a mix of the classical and Broadway - pretty good overall. A very French a la provincial evening.

Last night's dinner:

Quiche Lorraine and salad
Cost per head including apricot juice: £2.00

Still reading:

Still prefer reading actual books.

Friday 28 June 2013

Mystical? Moi?

The coffee shack re-opened today and was pretty busy. No pains aux raisins but the croissant was pretty good and the coffee exceptional and served for some reason in a wide cup like a bowl with a handle.

Took with me Arthur C Danto's book on Sartre.

Directed my attentions to Danto's dealing with the gap between language and the world. He refers to Roquentin (the main character in La Nausee) as having an "almost mystical encounter" when he apprehends the world stripped of its veneer of words. And further down the page (p17) says: "This was a philosophical and indeed a kind of mystical vision."

So, it would seem that I'm almost a kind of mystic.

Currently listening to:

Last night's dinner:

Began with an aperatif:

Veal escalopes, potatoes, onions and courgettes
Cost per head including drinks:£7.50

Still reading:

His chapter about his time at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow is full of some brilliant descriptions of Glasgow's cityscape.

Thursday 27 June 2013

So much to learn, so little time left to learn it.

Yesterday's little shack was completely shut up today so I had to go to the cafe/restaurant next door which had no pains aux raisins (just a mediocre croissant) and a less good cafe creme. However, I enjoyed reading a chapter (well quarter of a chapter, actually)  from Iris Murdoch's book on Sartre. The chapter title was "The Sickness of the Language".

That bike in the background has been my constant companion this week.

Murdoch, in this chapter, draws together all of the late19th and 20th Century cultural movements that have wrestled with this problematic connection between words and things - Sartre was not alone in being fascinated by this topic.

This made me realise how many areas of learning I have ignored in the past and now see the relevance of.

Whenever a key idea or artistic movement arises in my reading, I now add it to a list in my Blackberry for further investigation when I get back home and have access to the library once more.

So far, this is the list:

Form over content
Bad Faith
Symbolist Poets

This reminds me of an amusing piece of graffitti I saw scrawled on the walls in a Glasgow University toilet a few months ago.


1) Graffitti
2) Lists
3) Irony "

Currently listening to:

Hugh Laurie's Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 which was almost entirely a collection of Blues records and thus not entirely to my taste.

But a French man, passing our cabin at the time, stopped and blew a kiss with his fingers and said: "Monsieur, your music is perfect!"

I felt like telling him to come back this evening when my choice of music would almost certainly not receive the same accolade.

One of Hugh Laurie's records which did meet with my approval was Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927"

Randy Newman
Last night's dinner:

Everything purchased at the weekly street market.

A very pale Rose

Comparison with a more common darker Rose.

Lamb shank with prunes in onion and chickpea sauce

Served with potatoes
Cost per head including wine: £11.00

Still Reading:

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Contingency continues to baffle.

Visited a different cafe this morning. More of a shack on the street, actually. Very busy and smokey and French. But two British folk arrived and parked their Brompton folding cycles like so:

I wish these British folk would go back to their own country; they're not wanted here.

Anyway, I proceeded to read a chapter in my text book entitled: "Avatars of Contingency: Suares and Sartre." Surely here there'll be a definitive statement of the meaning of "contingency". But, unfortunately there wasn't: just the usual contrast with "necessity". For me, that is not the definitive contrast. "A posteriori" is usually contrasted with "necessity". But Sartre's use of "contingency" seems to have little to do with the concept of "a posteriori".

As far as I can see, "contingency" is used to refer to the fact that the world is simply there; ie it does not have a reason for being there. But why use the word "contingency" to refer to that fact? Aaaaaarrrghhh!

A pain aux raisins and a cafe creme helping me in my struggle with contingency
On the way back bought some unusual terrine from a stallholder at the market - something to do with the "tete".
Today's lunch
Currently listening to:
Jack Bruce's 1971 album "Harmony Row." This is a great album.
Last night's dinner:

The first unsuccessful meal of this holiday: chicken and chips at the camp cafe (not restaurant) presented in a disposable cardboard dish with plastic cutlery. Weighed heavily in my stomach during and afterwards. And, you had to order it at least 8 hours in advance.

Cost per head including Stella Artois: £7.25

Currently reading:

That Rupert Everett memoir - continues to amuse and shock and inform (the latter re what happens behind the scenes in the theatre.)

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Two meanings of Meaning

Cycled to my 'local' cafe for my 'usual' ie pain aux raisins and a large (grande) cafe creme.

Sat outside this time since it was a very warm morning.

Continued to read about the literary angle on La Nausee and came across yet another new idea - new to me that is. This is the contention that the primary role in defining a novel is played by the reader and not the author.

I'll have to think more about that.

As I cycled back pondering upon the import of Sartre's philosophy for me personally, it occured to me that there are two (possibly related) senses to the word "meaning" in such expressions as:  "life has lost all meaning".

The most commonly expressed sense, I suspect, is where a person can see no purpose in life, "What's the point of doing anything? of striving for anything? etc etc"

Luckily, I've never  suffered from that kind of "loss of meaning".

A less common experience is where everyday objects lose their meaning. Tables, clothes, trees, cars, the sky, the ground, buildings, laptops, door handles are all objects which present themselves to us under the cloak of socially constructed meanings. These meanings are constituted in the form of 'labels' or 'words'. But, when those labels or words fall away from the objects in our everyday life and we are just left with their lumpiness, their solidity, their roughness, their smoothness, their weight then we can also say that "life has lost all meaning."

I have frequently suffered from that kind of  "loss of meaning".

That is why Sartre's La Nausee has always been such an important book for me. Sartre uses the term 'nausea' to describe that experience of the physical world "losing its meaning." That's what the book is about.

Currently listening to:

From 1969, "On the Threshold of a Dream" by the Moody Blues. From the heyday of the British concept album. But, despite that baggage of pretentiousness, I always liked the songs on this album.

Last night's dinner:

Made in the cabin from items bought in local shops in Lacanau-Ocean.

Veal escalopes, potatoes, onion and courgette
I also purchased some cheese and pate from the same butcher who sliced me off two slices of veal by holding his bare hand against the face of the meat and then slicing behind that hand with a big cleaver.

Then, with no washing of the hand, straight over to the cheese and then the pate.

Cost per head including a 2 euro bottle of wine: £4.25

Currently reading:

Rupert Everett's "Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins". Not only is this book so funny that I've been almost crying with laughter but it is also supremely (and, I think, importantly) politically incorrect. That is political incorrectness of the most morally correct kind.

I'm only at chapter 6, but I think it is actually a superior book to his "Vanished Years" - on the one hand, there are brilliant descriptions of the Norfolk landscape, on the other hand he evokes brilliantly the confusion of growing up.

Monday 24 June 2013

Some La Nausee Issues

Yesterday, travelled down from Ile d'Oleron to Lacanau-Ocean via the Royan-Verdun crossing of the Gironde.

On board

On the way, the road ran alongside a railway line, very much still in use but with extremely rusty overhead wire stanchions.

Currently listening to:

An episode from last week of Radio 3's Late Junction - thanks to the excellent wi-fi connection at this campsite.

Host - Fiona Talkington
Last night's dinner:

Fried chicken, aubergine in tomato sauce and rice
Ingredients purchased on arrival at the camp supermarket and cooked in the cabin.

Cost per head including wine: £4.50

Currently Reading:

Gave up on the Andrew Loog Oldham book - one-dimensional.

So, as an experiment embarked upon the first volume of Rubert Everett's memoir, "Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins."

The most significant element of this is that I'm reading it on my wife's Kindle. Not a fully satisfactory reading experience; nevertheless, Chapter One is HILARIOUS.

La Nausee: two issues

1) This issue of 'Contingency' continues to irritate me. Sartrian scholars contrast contingency with necessity in that there is no necessity for the existence of an object in the real world eg a tree: a tree is simply there, it doesn't have to be there.

That's fine and I appreciate that fact. But, why use the word "contingency" to describe this state of affairs?

My confusion centres around the customary use of the word "contingency" in conjunction with the word "upon" as in 'the existence of this tree is contingent upon its receiving a supply of moisture to its roots.' From that perspective, a tree is not simply there.

2) Came across a new idea today, according to one of the scholars writing in "Sartre's Nausea", the hero of the novel is not the main character, Roquentin, but the condition which he suffers from: La Nausee.

It never occurred to me that a novel might be primarily about a condition or an object or a feeling rather than about a person.

This is reinforcing further my intention to enrol in a class on Literary Criticism this autumn.

Pondering these issues over my coffee and pain aux raisin in Lacanau-Ocean this morning.