Thursday, 29 September 2011

Berlin 1: By Train

The Puzzle set a few days ago showed the beatiful wooden interior of part of a Deutsche Bundesbahn (German Federal Railway) carriage.   A few days after returning from France, you see, we set off again for Berlin.

Our Eurostar through Belgium broke down and had to be pushed into Brussels an hour late - but at least we saw a lot of Belgian railways.
But this is all we saw of Brussels when we stopped to change:
The next train took us through wonderful postmodernist lines of Liege station:
But however wonderful Liege is, it can't hold a candle to the building you find right next to Cologne (Koln) station - where we changed again:
And jumped on the luxurious DB train to Berlin:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Blake, angels, etc

Last weekend I was at first sorely tempted by the idea of an event the Blake Society were holding on Peckham Rye.  It was a tree-planting ceremony, in memory of the story of the young William Blake seeing angels on the Rye - in "a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars."

But it clashed with something else we had planned, so I hemmed and hawed (is that right?) - and when I thought further about it, I realised:
As far as I know the story of Blake seeing the Angels comes only from the Gilchrist biography, written many years after Blake's death, which although excellent in its way does not, I think, have corroboration for this story from the Blake papers.
The location of the sighting (if there was one) is given as Peckham Rye (Dulwich Hill) which some have put closer to Warwick Gardens and not on the present-day Rye itself.  So this recognition of an event which we aren't sure happened was probably in the wrong place.
A Mexican artist appears to be involved. Now, I have no objection to Mexican artists in general of course, but I couldn't work out her relevance to this event.  So this mis-located celebration of an event for which we have no evidence that it ever happened, appeared somewhat unrelated to the original thing it celebrated.
So I didn't feel moved to go after all.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

On the Back of Redux Kind Hearts: Great Voice Overs

By coincidence, the day after I wittered about KH&C, the Guardian published a very good piece about Dennis Price's performance in the film, by Terence Davies.  He also claims it is one of the four great voice overs in cinema.  Full stop.

Read and enjoy...

Kind Hearts Redux

Now, about two and a half years ago I wrote about the strange experience I'd had when watching (rewatching) Kind Hearts and Coronets on the TV.  About an incredibly intense feeling of recognition.  I picked up on this in a few other posts.  And now Kind Hearts and Coronets has been rereleased, and you can see it at (a few) cinemas.

So I had to go and see what it was like on the big screen, to see if the same effect was there, and off we toddled to the BFI on the South Bank.  I hadn't been there since they'd remodelled it (after the demise of the Museum of the Moving Image) and I was quite impressed.  And we got there with enough time to nose around the restaurants and look in at the bookshop.  But I digress.

The experience wasn't the same as before - this was the first time I'd seen it on a large screen - every other time I'd seen the film, I realised rather belatedly, it had been on the telly.  So this was something of a new experience from the start.  So although I still remembered huge amounts of it, many details of word and image,  the feeling of intensity I'd had before was missing.

But it was still funny - and there were many great lines I seemed to be hearing for the first time. 

And I had forgotten how brilliant Dennis Price was as the murdering Louis Mazzini.  And that in addition to Alec Guiness's multiple disguises, Price also dresses up as the bicycling Bishop of Matabeleland (to kill The Parson).  Wonderfully entertaining, and that sequence of the film also includes:
"I always say my West window has all the exuberance of Chaucer without, happily, any of the concomitant crudities of his period". (Guinness)
But if I start quoting I could go on all night, so I'll stop there.

Oh, and I spotted Richard Wattis (by voice alone! his face isn't shown) in some of the House of Lords scenes...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Puzzle

Where would you find this luxury?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Poem of the Week

In a Station of the Metro
Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd ;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Paris 7: On the Rails

We went to Paris by Eurostar - which mean we went from the wonderful pristine splendour of the new St Pancras to dour and dull Paris du Nord.

But that may just be a fair reflection of the respective National psyches.  We think of rail travel to Europe as still something new and special - whereas for much of the mainland it is, well, just normal; so why make a big fuss? (*)

Once in Paris, of course, there is great pleasure to be had from the Metro and RER services.  They cover the city commendably efficiently, while at the same time remaining quirky and occasionally quite weird.

I particularly loved the old-world feel of the Gare d'Austerlitz, which we used when we went to the Jardin des Plantes.  But there are also real oddities further down river, near the Eiffel Tower:
Take this bridge - the lower level is a road, but the upper level (supported on pillars in the central reservation) is for metro trains. 

Like this:
This is the Pont de Bir-Hakeim (previously the Pont de Passy) - built for the 1900 World's Fair and featured in many films, including Inception, for those of you who like that kind of thing.

Just a little way further along the Seine is the Pont Rouelle,which arcs across the Seine carrying the RER C:
This is the viw back to the Tour from the bridge, taken one dark and lowering evening:; the Bir Hakeim is just visible.
And the Bir-Hakeim from the RER station at the Champs du Mars:
An underground railway station - under a major road - that looks out over a river. How cool is that? 

Of course, the other great wonder to us Brits, is that the RER has double-decker trains.  We can't imagine such a thing happening in the UK, with our tiny National loading gauge.

(*) This is a little overstated of course.  For years the boat train left for the continent from Victoria, via Dover.  But somehow, still, that was incredibly romantic and special by comparison with much (not all) cross-European travel.

Paris 6: Montmartre, Sacre Couer

So that evening we went to Pigalle (fleshpots, basically - think Soho) and caught the joyous little MontMartrobus (think P12) up the hill.  We missed the stop the first time around and ended up on the other side (Mairie du 18– Jules Joffrin). 

So we had to change busses, but luckily the tickets were still valid so we raced up the other way. This explains.

Anyway, whether you walk, bus or travel by funiculaire (or cycle - we saw some of those too), at the top of the butte is Sacre Couer:
- which is pretty fantastic (if incredibly touristy).

And this view:
The one thing that surprised us was that we couldn't see the Eiffel Tower from where we stood - the angle is probably all wrong.

Then we wandered down past artists, restaurants and twee shops. 

If the top is touristy, this was the same, many times over.  For a while we sat outside a little bistro (La Boheme), on Rue de Mont Cenis and watched street theatre - in the widest sense.   I like all this; the rest of the family perhaps less so. 

We wandered amongst the artists in the Place du Tertre (lots of easels; offering to paint/draw/caricature anyone that moves - for the right fee). 

Then we stopped for a meal in a terriffic pizza / French restaurant with a live piano player (who included some fun stuff in his repertoire and turned out to be English), on the corner of Rue Norvins and Rue Poulbot (La Petaudiere).

We finally descended precipitously to the nearest Metro, before heading back to Wagram...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Poem of the Week

The Hippopotomus
T.S. Eliot

Similiter et omnes revereantur Diaconos, ut mandatum Jesu Christi; et Episcopum, ut Jesum Christum, existentem filium Patris; Presbyteros autem, ut concilium Dei et conjunctionem Apostolorum. Sine his Ecclesia non vocatur; de quibus suadeo vos sic habeo.
S. Ignatii Ad Trallianos.

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.

The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo’s feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The ’potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo’s voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God.

The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way—
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the ’potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr’d virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Paris 5: Jardin, Concorde, Orangerie

The day after the Tower, we had another wander.  First to the Jardin des Plantes...
and then on to the Museum of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy ("Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée ").  Marvellous.  One of those old-fashioned, resolutely unmodernised exhibitions.  It does what is claims, by displaying all the skeletons it has of every possible creature.   
My only question was - why are they all facing the same direction?  It is like they are marching off together.  Weird and unsettling.

And the entrance to the Museum houses this equally peculiar and unnerving statue:
Overtones of The Time Machine?  Morlocks vs Eloi...

Anyway, getting out to the Jardin in the sun was something of a relief.  We also visited the Grande Galerie de l'Évolution (mamzing, and somewhat vertiginous), and had bread and cheese sitting in the park, before heading to the Place de la Concorde.
The main point of which was that - while half of the family sat outside in the Tuileries - I got a chance to have a wander in the Orangerie...
 I really adore the Waterlillies - but the camera just doesn't do justice to them.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


So Dr Who and Outnumbered are both back. Yay!