Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy new year

I take this opportunity of conveying my best wishes for 2008 to readers of the Antipodes blog. Over the last few weeks, I've been more absent-minded than usual (primarily because of a relatively banal health problem that suddenly hit me), and I somehow or other forgot completely that my friends Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier had invited me to spend the evening at their place. So, last night, I was curled up in front of my fireplace trying to digest the rather indigestible words of Nicolas Sarkozy's new-year greetings to his compatriots, when the phone rang. It was Serge informing me that they were waiting for my arrival. Now, while it's embarrassing to turn up late in such circumstances, it was suddenly fun to jump into my automobile, abandon the solitude of Gamone and find myself (a few kilometers up the road) in the warm atmosphere of my friends' home. After expressing my muddled apologies for forgetting about their invitation, I listened to a delightful anecdote from Tineke, which I shall summarize briefly. Several years ago, I built a small website [display] for Tineke. Well, recently, a Dutch scientist and his wife discovered this website, and they immediately dropped in on Tineke at Choranche in order to acquire one of her sculptures. This proves that the website is effective from a professional viewpoint, as it were, which is reassuring. But the anecdote doesn't stop there. The scientist is a computer specialist, aficionado (like me) of Apple products, and he's also a talented photographer. What's more, he has a sense of humor, for he left a gift for me with Tineke and Serge: a copy of his latest book, entitled Windows for Beginners.

Contrary to what might be imagined, this delightful little book has nothing to do with Microsoft's operating system. It's an anthology of excellent images of real-world windows in many corners of the planet.

Recently, in this blog, I proposed a small selection of Tineke's photos concerning the demolition of the rock overhanging the road at Choranche [display]. Last night, I had an opportunity of seeing the entire set of photos, presented in an elegant large-screen montage. In the context of this presentation of massive aspects of our mineral world of the Vercors (dark humid cliffs, jagged fragments of rocks, icy slopes and frozen valleys), I was impressed, above all, by the faces of the various human actors in charge of this demolition project: the serious regard of the elected represented of the region (whose troubled expressions reflected the recent horror of finding the occupants of an automobile crushed by a huge boulder that had slid down the slopes of Choranche), and the strangely nonchalant attitudes of the young helmeted climbers, attired in colorful garments and encumbered with ropes and chains, who were often obliged to scramble over the cliff face in the light of projectors, in the middle of the freezing night, adjusting steel rods and holes for dynamite in the fragile rocks.

Tineke's photos reveal the regard of an artist. She's not only a sculptor, but a painter too. Like her, I was fascinated, a fortnight ago, by the presence of heavy frost at Choranche, enclosing every element of vegetation on the slopes and in the valley of the Bourne. Well, Tineke ventured out into the cold with her camera and produced an amazing series of images of this exceptional frost. She also produced a remarkable series on a simple but wonderful theme: brilliantly-hued roosters and hens wandering around contentedly in a local farmyard. Here at Gamone, I've often had fowls (including peacocks and ducks), and I've always considered them as immensely beautiful creatures, whose mere presence can have a strangely soothing effect upon human observers... like fish in an aquarium, which dentists used to install in their waiting rooms, in the hope of attenuating the stress of patients.

When I was about to leave for home around 1.30 this morning, I found my Citroën covered in ice. Serge suggested that I wait a minute while he prepared an antidote: a plastic watering-can full of boiling water, which removed the ice instantly. This morning, the cold has conquered my automobile once again [I don't yet have anything that might be described as a garage], and the traces of the boiling-water method have given rise to beautiful crystalline forms on the windshield and bonnet. I said to myself: If Tineke were to see my old Citroën in this striking visual state, she would surely either take a photo of it, produce a painting of the subject, or maybe even create some kind of gigantic Martian-like metal and stone structure, on our slopes of Choranche, entitled William's automobile. You never know what surprises you might get from authentic artists. Like an unexpected phone call, at the start of a wintry evening, which drags you out of your silence and solitude and into a universe of warm light, splendid colors and strange forms.

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