Hello Catalunya

Yesterday I posted my goodbye to Berlin – helping son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons (2 and 3) pack up and prepare to move to Sant Cugat del Vallès, a suburb of Barcelona.

TD jnr and I ended up having to drive the family car, with disgruntled cats, the 1800 km via

Greta

Greta

autobahn (roadworks everywhere), autoroute and autopista. So not much scenery to admire – endless, mind-numbing motorway embankments. It took two days.

Having an academic background in medieval hagiography, I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of the Catalan saint after whom the town they were moving to was named. Cugat is the Catalan for St Cucuphas.

He was a missionary of African origin, martyred in the fourth century under the persecution of Diocletian. He suffered some of the more unpleasant tortures before his dispatch, involving iron nails, scorpions, vinegar and pepper.

Monastery of Sant Cugat

Monastery of Sant Cugat

As his remains were said to have been buried at the site of his death in what became Sant Cugat, it seemed natural for the Benedictines who founded the monastery there in the ninth century to dedicate the house to this saint.  My picture shows the handsomely restored building in the town centre.

After a few days of unpacking and exploring the new neighbourhood, and discovering the local mosquitos particularly like the taste of Mrs TD, we all drove into the city and had a tapas lunch near the Ramblas – no sign of the recent awful attack – and took the boys to the Ciutadella park where there’s a fountain which famous local architect Antoni Gaudí helped design.

 

Ciutadella park

That’s me in the shadows by the hind leg of the mammoth in Ciutadella park

Arc de Triomf

The Arc de Triomf, near Ciutadella, designed for the 1888 World Fair by Vilaseca i Casanovas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day Mrs TD and I, enjoying some adult time away from toddlers, visited the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s still unfinished cathedral. When we were here last summer we didn’t go inside; this time we did, and it was breathtaking. Here are some images to finish with.

Sagrada Familia

This figure in the Sagrada Familia looks sinister for a cathedral

Sagrada Familia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Carvings outside

Sagrada Familia

Goodbye to Berlin

Goodbye to Berlin

Yesterday’s post on Elizabeth Taylor was the first in a few weeks. I thought I’d explain why.

My stepson, his wife and two nervous cats and two small boys were moving from Berlin (Prenzlauerberg district, in the former East sector) after many years there, working in the music business. They were going to Sant Cugat, 20km north of Barcelona.

Mrs TD and I flew over to help. I took a load of photos, quite sad to think we’d probably not go back to Prenzlauerberg. We’ll certainly revisit Berlin centre, though.

Carl Legien estate

Carl Legien estate, designed by Bruno Taut, on which is found the lovely Café Eckstern

Here’s a selection of those pictures, my valediction to an interesting area of the city, full of psychogeophraphical surprises – there are statues, carved details, murals, Bauhaus design – all round this area. Like the area around the café mentioned below: workers’ accommodation designed by Bruno Taut (associated with the Deutscher Werkbund, which included Walter Gropius) in the early 30s.

Just look up or around: there’s always something worth lingering over.  As I did in a post way back, my Berlin dérive...

Here’s the hof being used to store boxes before loading on the truck, with Berliners’ ubiquitous bikes parked next to them:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s the removal truck:

 

 

 

 

 

pumping station

An old pumping station

 

pumping station

The pumping station looked indifferent from the distance, but there were delightful architectural details, iike this Berlin bear over a doorway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corner figure

Another little artistic detail over a corner

Girl statue

This charming statue is just outside the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we had several coffees, muesli, croissants, bagels and cakes from our favourite café round the corner: Café Eckstern – which I wrote about affectionately earlier this year 
Cafe Eckstern

Police hippy van

Typical Berlin scene: hipsters have pimped this former police van and made it into something wildly different: the word ‘Polizei’ may not be visible in this picture, but it’s there, dimly surviving just below the windscreen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough pictures for one post. Next time, Sant Cugat, after a LONG road trip with those traumatised cats.

Aside: calenture

I was glancing through my copy of George Eliot’s Adam Bede, that early novel of hers (1859) full of earnest Methodists and wronged maidens (did Hardy get the idea of Tess’s infanticide from this?), and noticed this odd word:

Book 1, ch. 7: The Dairy

The dairy was certainly worth looking at: it was a scene to sicken for with a sort of calenture in hot and dusty streets–such coolness, such purity, such fresh fragrance of new-pressed cheese, of firm butter, of wooden vessels perpetually bathed in pure water…

 

Adam Bede

Picture of Adam Bede in his carpenter’s workshop, from an early American edition. By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the OED online (as ever, thank you, Cornwall Library Service for this free resource; I’ve omitted most of the citations):

Etymology: < French calenture, < Spanish calentura fever, <  calentar to be hot, < Latin calēnt-em hot, burning.

  1. A disease incident to sailors within the tropics, characterized by delirium in which the patient, it is said, fancies the sea to be green fields, and desires to leap into it.The word was also used in the Spanish general sense of ‘fever’, and sometimes in that of ‘sunstroke’.

1593    T. Nashe Christs Teares f. 45   Then (as the possessed with the Calentura,) thou shalt offer to leape.

1719    D. Defoe Life Robinson Crusoe 19   In this Voyage..I was continually sick, being thrown into a violent Calenture by the excessive Heat.

1721    Swift Bubble vii   So, by a calenture misled, The mariner with rapture sees, On the smooth ocean’s azure bed, Enamell’d fields and verdant trees.

 

  1. fig. and transf. Fever; burning passion, ardour, zeal, heat, glow.

1596    T. Nashe Haue with you to Saffron-Walden sig. F3v   Er hee bee come to the..raging Calentura of his wretchednes.

a1631    J. Donne Poems (1650) 158   Knowledge kindles Calentures in some.

1841    H. Smith Moneyed Man III. ix. 238   The mirage of a moral calenture, which conjures up unexisting objects.

So it would seem to be this second, figurative meaning that Eliot intends. Given the simmering passions among the main characters in this scene, the erotic connotations are surely intended.

That sailors would suffer the delusion that the ocean was green fields or prairies and they wanted to jump overboard to escape the confines of their ship reminds me of a similar feel to the early parts of Moby-Dick.

Calenture: useful word to have in your repertoire.

This will probably be my final post for a couple of weeks; I’m going on travels with family.

 

 

Drunk as a sturdy thrush

Grandchildren just left after their annual stay with me and Mrs TD, so there’s been little time to read or post. As I get my breath back, I thought I’d add just this little Aside note.

Song_Thrush_(Turdus_philomelos)_singing_in_tree

Song Thrush (Turdus Philomelos). By Taco Meeuwsen from Hellevoetsluis, The Netherlands – THRUSH TUNE, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I read somewhere that the ancient Romans used to employ the expression ‘drunk as a thrush’ [‘turdus’ in Latin], perhaps because they had seen these birds staggering around in vineyards after gorging on rotting, fermenting grapes. (Wasps, I believe, behave similarly with apples).

In Old French this morphed into estourdi, ‘stunned, dazed, reckless, violent’ (modern French étourdi feather-brained, thoughtless). OED online (thank you, Cornwall Library Service for this free resource) adds:

Some scholars think that it is <  ex- (see ex- prefix) + turdus thrush (for the sense compare the French proverbial phrase soûl comme une grive , ‘drunk as a thrush’); some regard it as a contraction of *extorpidīre (Latin torpidus torpid adj. and n.) or of *exturbidīre (Latin turbidus turbid adj.). All these conjectures are open to grave objection.

It’s thought in some quarters that when the Normans invaded England in 1066 they were referred to with this expression, which gave rise to the current sense, as defined in OED below. I could find no textual evidence to support this link, apart from a much later translation from the Latin verses, supposedly of Archbishop Thomas of York (d. 1100), in praise of William I, the Conqueror, which contains the line ‘he who the sturdy Normans ruled…’. It would seem by Tudor times to have become a collocation when referring to the Normans.

As you’ll see, the first citation in OED is from late 13C, and makes no reference to the Norman Conquest:

II. 2.

  1. Impetuously brave, fierce in combat.

1297    R. Gloucester’s Chron. (Rolls) 7936   Þe heyemen of engelond..mid gret ost wende uorþ & mid stourdi [v.r. stourde] mode.

3.

  1. Recklessly violent, furious, ruthless, cruel.

 

It also has this meaning:

A brain-disease in sheep and cattle, which makes them run round and round; the turnsick.

The Latin name of the Song Thrush, as in the picture above, derives from the Greek legend of Philomela, in which, according to Ovid’s version in Metamorphosis, she’s raped by Tereus, and escaped by turning into a nightingale. This was much translated and adapted by later English poets, alluded to by Eliot (‘so rudely forced’, she ‘filled all the desert with inviolable voice/And still she cried, and still the world pursued’), her plaintive song ‘”jug jug” to dirty ears’). As always his allusion indirectly echoes lines from previous works, from the Tudor poet Gascoigne through Coleridge, Keats and others.

 

Walter Benjamin, flâneurs, the historical shudder, lorettes and Paul Gavarni

Flânerie again: I turned again today to the opening section of Benjamin’s Convolute M in The Arcades Project, ‘The Flâneur’, a concept which has featured several times here on the blog (dérives in Paris and elsewhere, for example). That’s it in my picture below.

From p. 416 of The Arcades Project

From p. 416 of The Arcades Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a helpful introduction to the notion of the flâneur as Benjamin sees it. He’s scornful of that usage which is found too often nowadays, too: the ‘idler’ or ‘tourist’, wandering ‘capriciously’ as Henry James put it, through the urban streets. His is a more charged sense, a key term in his kaleidoscopic presentation of the significance of the city of Paris and its inhabitants in the 19C.

Notre Dame de Lorette, Paris

Bizet and Monet were baptised in this church: 1840 and 1841 respectively. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

I was unfamiliar with the church of ND de Lorette, mentioned there. After a bit of digging online, this is what I came up with:

It’s a church (building started in 1823) on the edge of the 9th arrondissement of Paris, near Pigalle and just south of Montmartre. That is, the red light district. Ah ha.

So I looked up ‘lorette‘ in the OED online (that superb free resource, thanks to Cornwall Library Service):

 A courtesan of a class which at one time had its headquarters in the vicinity of the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette in Paris.

Google took me to this website: France in the Age of Les Misérables. Here I found the following quotations:

“The middle ground between street prostitute and grand dame of commercial sex, the courtesan, lorette became an umbrella term for the kept women set up discreetly in a private apartment by a businessman, professional, or wealthy student… Always elegantly dressed, the lorette peeps out coyly from a theatre box, engages in double entendre with male admirers at a masked ball, displays herself while enjoying the view from her apartment window… the lorette slid imperceptibly across the boundaries of acceptability and social stigma.”

The lorette was bound in many ways by the codes of polite society and yet, was not embraced as a part of that same society. “On the boulevards, she was virtually indistinguishable in costume and appearance from the more fashionable among her lover’s female relations. And in a sense, for men she was quintessentially public property – to be discussed, admired, acquired… In other words there was a radical mismatch between the social and moral codes marking out the lorette within ‘respectable’ society and the way she gained public representation in the spectacle of the metropolis.” (The lorette was essentially a decoration for her lovers, something to be admired and used as needed, but not something for everyday inclusion into society.)

(Nicholas Green, The Spectacle of Nature: Landscape and bourgeois culture in 19th century France by Nicholas Green, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1990.

She would be, in Benjamin’s view, a perfect example of the exploitation of the urban poor. Here’s what he says at p. 446:

“We know,” says Marx, “that the value of each commodity is determined by the quantity of labor materialized in its use value, by the working-time socially necessary for its production.”

This would apply as much for the journalist as the courtesan or lorette.

Also mentioned in that opening section in my picture at the start is [Paul] Gavarni. This was the nom de plume of Sulpice Chevalier, a Parisian artist-illustrator (1804-66), noted for his magazine images of characters and scenes of Parisian life. He also illustrated the first collected edition in 1850 of Balzac’s works. So Benjamin’s words resonate at many levels.

Here’s Gavarni’s drawing of a dandy – another central figure in Benjamin, close relation to the flâneur:

[Attribution: By Pline – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

In April last year I wrote more on The Arcades Project

This section of the book begins with a number of epigraphs, including this by Mallarmé:

‘A landscape haunts, intense as opium’

Below is my picture of the title page, which gives bibliographical details.

Arcades Project title page

 

 

 

Asides: Bristol Templars

Mrs TD and I went to Bristol on Saturday to help family celebrate our granddaughter’s ninth birthday. She likes unicorns and Littlest Petshop.

Bristol Temple churchWe discovered across the road from our city centre hotel a lovely green space called Temple Gardens – I wondered why it had that name. At the far end was a ruined church – bare ruined choirs. Walls and ends more or less intact, in what looks like Perpendicular style, but roof gone.

According to the plaque outside, this church was built in the 15C on the site of a round church built by the Knights Templar in the 12C, taken over by the Knights Hospitaller in the early 14C. So that accounts for the name of the gardens – and existing church ruin.

Ruins of circular churchWhen I peered through the locked iron gate that barred entry to the building, I could see the stone foundations of the pillars that would originally have supported the original circular nave, right in the centre of the later medieval one.

The Luftwaffe had destroyed the church during the Bristol blitz of 1940 (which also took out much of the city centre, now replaced by 1960s brutalism and subsequent temples to consumerism). When the rubble of the church was being cleared these ancient circular foundations were revealed – a happy outcome for what seemed a disaster. Wikipedia has a different story, saying it was excavated in 1960.

Temple gardens

View from outside the church towards the hotel. Shame about the litter bin

The later church has at its west end a leaning tower, apparently built out of true perpendicular from the outset – probably because of subsidence in the clay on which it was built.

The gardens are serene and lovely, right in the bustling city centre.

I’d been an undergraduate in Bristol many years ago, and never knew this place existed. I said as much to Mrs TD; two ladies nearby turned to me, and one of them said she’d lived in Bristol 20 years and didn’t know it was here!

Temple gardensMaybe more on this trip next time.

Temple church

19C archway and the west tower, seen from the main road outside the gardens. Garbled mix of more modern architecture jostles garishly beside it, incongruously mundane

Plymouth Pilgrim 2

Tamar bridge

View from my train as it crosses the Tamar bridge into Devon

On July 14, 2016 I wrote this post about my visit to Plymouth in memory of my oldest friend, Mike Flay, who’d died earlier that year. As I wrote then, we used to meet there often, usually ending up at the same couple of watering holes as we talked endlessly about books, football, family.

Yesterday I repeated the pilgrimage. So in a departure from my usual bookish posts, here’s a photographic record of my day there. A commemorative dérive…

I always relish the word ‘wharf’, which derives either from OE hwearf: bank, shore, or from Old Dutch. Typical of the English language, it can be spelt ‘wharfs’ or ‘wharves’ in the plural. Like hoofs. But not rooves.

Barbican

Barbican wharves and marina

We didn’t often wander to this old part of town, but I thought I’d approach our usual lunchtime haunt from the Barbican.

My first stop was the old bookshop by the marina. Over three floors are spread thousands of second-hand books. The fiction section seemed to follow a loose sort of plan – orange Penguins, green ones, hardbacks – but there was little discernible use of alphabetical order.


Bookshop

I resisted the temptation to buy anything.

The Scots proprietor told me he had far more stock in his warehouse.

 

 

Barbican sculpture

This strange creature stands on the Barbican marina

Barbican

Barbican marina

Cannon

This 19C cannon probably saw action in a warship in the Crimean campaign

This is one of two cannon that loom over the bay from the hilltop by the Hoe. Plymouth is still very much a maritime town.

 

 

Plymouth sound

Plymouth sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lido

Art deco Tinside Lido, recently restored. That’s sea water in it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jail ale

This is the terrace of the Waterfront bar where Mike and I usually had lunch. He always had a burger.

It was warm enough yesterday to sit outside. Pigeons and gulls tried to persuade diners to part with some food.

That’s not St Austell brewery Tribute in the glass: it’s a Dartmoor brew called, appropriately, Jail Ale. Not bad at all.

 

Right on cue, as last year, the Brittany Ferries ship Armorique steamed by, just a few metres from the terrace.

Ferry

Armorique ferry passing the Waterfront bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I headed back towards the town centre I passed this game of bowls in progress. Not exactly Francis Drake…

Bowls

Bowls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragonfly

Dragonfly sculpture in a rather murky pond by the town centre

Colonial hotel

Colonial hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made one final stop, before taking the train back to Cornwall, in the place Mike always called the Colonial Hotel – not its real name. It’s a bleak sort of place, but strangely conducive to conversation, we always found – perhaps because there’s nothing much else to engage the attention.

Rather a sad trip home, but the day was good.

 

The wolf and the lamb: a fable for our times

I was going to post about Elizabeth Taylor’s novel Angel, which I recently finished reading, but was diverted by an entry in an old notebook of mine about this fable of the wolf and the lamb. It resonates even more today, given recent events in the world.

Three fables of Aesop in the Bayeux tapestry By Joseph Jacobs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Three fables of Aesop in the Bayeux tapestry By Joseph Jacobs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The wolf and the lamb is the last one

The beast fables of Aesop (620-c 560 BCE), themselves often derived from more ancient oriental sources such as the Buddhist Dipi Jatakas, were adapted by the Roman poet Phaedrus (15 BCE-50). The text that follows is from a prose translation by H.T. Riley, published in London, 1887, available at Project Gutenberg; I’ve made minor adjustments in line with the original Latin text.

THE WOLF AND THE LAMB.

Driven by thirst, a Wolf and a Lamb had come to the same stream; the Wolf stood above, and the Lamb at a distance below. Then, the villain (thief or brigand, lit.), prompted by hunger (or ‘wicked throat’), trumped up a pretext for a quarrel. “Why,” said he, “have you made the water muddy for me while I am drinking?” The wool-bearer, trembling, answered: “Please, Wolf, how can I do what you complain of? The water is flowing downwards from you to where I am drinking.” The other, disconcerted by the force of truth, exclaimed: “Six months ago, you slandered me.” “Indeed,” answered the Lamb, “I was not born then.” “By Hercules,” said the Wolf, “then ’twas your father slandered me;” and so, snatching him up, he tore him to pieces, killing him unjustly.

This Fable is applicable to those men who, under false pretences, oppress the innocent.

More pertinent is the alternative version by Christopher Smart (1722-71), which ends :

Abash’d by facts, says he, “I know

’Tis now exact six months ago

You strove my honest fame to blot”—

“Six months ago, sir, I was not.”

“Then ’twas th’ old ram thy sire,” he cried,

And so he tore him, till he died.

To those this fable I address

Who are determined to oppress,

And trump up any false pretence,

But they will injure innocence

By Jean-Baptiste Oudry - artsy.net, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48311782

By Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1686-1755 – artsy.net, Public Domain

The fable was adapted many times subsequently; La Fontaine (published 1668-94) of course, but also by the Scots makar, Robert Henryson (fl. 1460-1500). Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about his version (adapted slightly):

It’s about widespread social breakdown. The Lamb appeals to natural law, to Scripture, and to statutory law, and is answered by the Wolf with perversions of all these. Then Henryson in his own person comments that there are three kinds of contemporary wolves who oppress the poor: dishonest lawyers; real estate tycoons intent on extending their estates; and landowners who exploit their tenants.

To this could be added, in our day, the power-crazed in all walks of life, including politics.

I shall be going on holiday soon, so may not post much for a while; meantime I hope to post the Angel piece before I go.

Podcast with magpies: another Aside

It’s just over four years since I started this blog. Back then I had no particular vision of what Tredynas Days was to be: I wanted it to be a place where I could express something of my experience, especially in a literary sense.

Among my earliest posts were some random notes from that excellent website, Public Domain Review. I also reviewed the trilogy of Javier Marías novels I was reading at the time: Your Face Tomorrow. (I’m currently reading Thus Bad Begins, bought when it was published last year, but I’ve only just got round to reading it. Hope to post about it soon.)

And I posted a piece of flash fiction. There are just six such pieces in this category if you check the list on my homepage. The last one was back in June 2014.

As my work for this academic year is slowing down and I have a bit more time, I thought I’d post another. Mrs TD says it’s a bit dark, but maybe I was feeling that way back when I wrote it (it’s from a notebook dating from 2011). Here it is.

Magpie

Pica Hudsonia. By Louis Agassiz Fuertes (artist), Olive Thorne Miller (author, pseudonym for Harriet Mann) (The Second Book of Birds) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Podcast

Seven magpies arrange themselves like baubles in the ash tree in my garden. They cackle with an air of conspiracy, as if they’ve planned something nefarious, and have shown up to watch it pan out.

The rain sweeps along the river valley.

It is only three o’clock but already it is getting dark – rather, the pale light dims.

I am listening to her podcast. Her digital voice lives on. When she was ill I looked after her as efficiently as I could, and she asked me every day not to forget her. You’ll listen to my voice, she said, won’t you? To the podcasts I’ve recorded?

I assured her. And I do listen, every day. Until the magpies arrive and watch me.

Berlin redux: Käthe Kollwitz

While in Berlin over the last week, visiting stepson and his family, we (Frau TD and I) took the grandchildren (19 months and nearly 3) to the park in Kollwitzplatz, in the Pankow district. Seriously cool Berliners stood around a drink stall in the street market, sipping white wine and looking achingly hip.

K KollwitzIn the park I took these pictures of a statue by Gustav Seitz,1958; bronze casting of it placed in the park in1960 (he also sculpted the brothers Mann and Bertolt Brecht). It’s of the artist after whom the square is named: Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945).

A fervent pacifist and, later, communist (hence this statue’s presence in former East Berlin), she lost a son in WWI, and was threatened with deportation by the Gestapo during WWII. But by then her worldwide acclaim was such that they left her alone.

Woman with dead child etching 1903 By The original uploader was VeraHutchinson at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46021223

Woman with dead child: etching 1903. The original uploader was VeraHutchinson at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46021223

She worked as a painter, printmaker (including etchings, lithography and woodcuts) and sculptor. Her most famous works depict the sufferings of the working class inflicted by poverty, hunger and war.

One such cycle is The Weavers, a sequence of lithographs and etchings made in the 1890s, inspired by the play of that name by Gerhart Hauptmann. This was a dramatization of the oppression and subsequent (failed) revolt of Silesian weavers in 1844.

The Peasant War cycle was completed 1902-08. It was inspired by a peasant revolt of the early 1520s in southern Germany, and also perhaps by another work by Hauptmann.

KollwitzI thought at first, before spotting the name of the subject of the statue on the plinth, that it was of a monk: Kollwitz has the severe serenity of the cloister, and the fierce gaze of a hawk.

Interesting to see all the yummy mummies and bearded partners with their wine glasses in the street and park, watching over their privileged offspring. Would have to be plastic beakers in the UK. A little touch of civilisation in a world going increasingly crazy.