Alcazar Seville-Watermark

A reflection is never substantially there, but an image created on the surface of a material unwilling to give up the secret of its depth. It invites … reflection – a re-bending of thought … about the impossibility of an undisturbed external world that lies outside its border, and the possibility of what lies invisibly beneath it. It lets us see from the other side of the mirror.

Water reflections are the most urgent, fragile and melancholy of all. Easily disturbed by the wind, frozen white by the winter, or evaporated by the sun, they give us only a moment to see and look and watch and think before they, like us, disappear. Continue reading


The Jewels of St Peter of Montmartre

The Church of St Peter of Montmartre (L’Eglise Saint-Pierre de Montmartre) dates back to the ninth century. Its most longstanding building, a Benedictine Abbey built under the order of Louis VI between 1133 and 1147, was destroyed in the French revolution and rebuilt in the 19th century.

St Peter of MontmarteThe delight of its glass is the dappled light that shine onto the walls of the apse. A stone bench flattens the light from the window opposite and creates the impression of a figure of jewelled light seated against the wall, an apparition that blithely appears and fades with the position and intensity of the sun.

When I look at this image, I see the ghost of Michelle, who I created 20 years ago one afternoon while writing a one-movement symphony for a graduation portfolio. It is one five vignettes on an idea taken from a poem by Whitman, Sometimes with one I love.


The glass 

Michelle watched the drop of wine fall back into the glass. Glass had mesmerised her from the time she started entering churches. Now as it made a ripple in the red pool she began to gently cry.

Michael put the tear on his finger. He knew that when she saw the stains from the outside she could see no way for light to enter. From the inside she could see no way of escape.

The same idea about living came to him when he shaved in the bathroom.

Travelling with Ernest: it is easy to be happy in Paris

Ernest Hemingway tagged Paris as A Moveable Feast in 1950 more than 20 years after he had left. Its meaning is often misunderstood as the number of good restaurants and markets people can discover if they are adventurous.

For Hemingway it was not the person who is moveable, but Paris itself:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,” he wrote to a friend “then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

The following post was written in Paris a year ago. It half brings this blog up to date with my previous writing on Travelling with Ernest; but mostly it is here because Paris and the friends who are there stay with me.


Luxembourg GardensIt is easy to be happy in Paris and if you go to the Luxembourg Gardens on a clear afternoon in early Autumn the sun will be shining into the lower branches of the almost leaf-fallen trees and people will be facing their chairs to feel its warmth.

Every sound will be distant: the barely audible traffic from the Boulevard St-Michel, the emptying rustle of leaves on the trees, the crunch of fine gravel under walking feet, the slow metal scrape of heavy chairs when old women drag them over dirt into the light, and young people laughing anywhere.

Around the centre, the last crimson geraniums of summer will be blooming in large pots on a stone white balustrade that rings a sunken garden.

Continue reading

Orwell and Hemingway: Paris and Hunger

George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway had little in common except hunger in Paris and their accounts even of this are very different. Orwell wrote of desperate and urgent starvation in Down and Out in Paris and London. In A Moveable Feast Hemingway leaves you thinking he just gave up dining for a while to write stories.


Paris, Tour Eiffel

The two writers shared a few circumstances in Paris. They both moved there around the same age: Hemingway was 23 and Orwell 25. They lived in the same part of the Latin Quarter, Hemingway in the rue du Cardinal Lemoine and Orwell in the rue du Pot de Fer, and they both worked as journalists and wrote fiction. That is the extent of their intersection.

They lived in Paris consecutively. Hemingway left in March 1928 after six years, having enjoyed the company of the expatriate American literati and achieved success with The Sun Also Rises. He also left with a different wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, the daughter of a wealthy Arkansas family. Orwell arrived about six months later in the Spring and stayed less than two years before he returned to England destitute. Continue reading