Showing posts with label François Skyvington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label François Skyvington. Show all posts

Saturday, September 8, 2012

François Skyvington's moped road movie #5

Episode #5 of the road movie was presented yesterday afternoon.

Still in the Cévennes, François met up with a friendly pipe-smoking shepherd.

The traditional grazing method involves seasonal operations known as transhumance. The shepherd walks his flocks up to highlands for the summer season, then back down to the plains for winter.

During the brief sequence, no less than three new lambs were born, with no problems.

François and the shepherd looked on, amused (there was no cause for alarm), as one of the ewes continued to follow the flock with the head of her half-born lamb sticking out behind her.

A few minute later on, the baby was sitting on the ground.

The shepherd collected the lambs by their front legs and carried them over to where the main flock was located.

Next, François met up with a man who organizes walking excursions in the company of Provençal donkeys.

The conversation moved inevitably to the story of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-1894], author of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. As a Scottish Presbyterian, Stevenson had been fascinated by tales of the Protestant insurgents in the Cévennes, back in the time of Louis XIV, who became known as Camisards. At that time (1879), Stevenson was troubled by his romantic attachment to a married woman, Fanny Osbourne, ten years his senior and the mother of three children, who had abandoned him temporarily. (A year later, she would later become his wife.)

What better way to meditate about religious history and romance than while walking across the Cévenol mountains in the company of a faithful donkey...

François then followed an itinerant butcher on an excursion to isolated villages and houses.

In this sparsely-populated corner of France, Didier's meat van has remained a vital service.

François then met up with a rural puppeteer.

Here we see the most famous puppet of all time: Polichinelle, from the Italian Commedia dell'arte.

The puppets' heads have been created by talented sculptors.

Then the puppeteer paints them and dresses them up.

In former times, puppeteers would operate at rural fairs, in order to attract customers to the merchants' stands.

François was thrilled to discover that he had his own puppet.

They all set off on the orange moped—François, his puppet and the puppeteer—to reach the place where the puppeteer's mobile theater was parked.

François and Polichinelle were the stars of the show...

At the end of the day, François stopped for a moment in the village of Ganges to pay homage to Charles Benoit, inventor of the moped. He left an orange scarf attached to the commemorative plaque.

Finally, the episode terminated with a short trip in a hot-air balloon: an 18th-century French invention of the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier.

The orange moped surely enjoyed the excursion into the skies of the Cévennes.

François certainly did.

Friday, September 7, 2012

François Skyvington's moped road movie #4

Episode #4 of the road movie was presented yesterday afternoon.

As usual, the program was particularly didactic... whether or not that was the intention of the producers. We learned, for example, that an old-fashioned man-powered meteorological observation station still exists in Provence.

Next, François met up with bees, kept in the wilderness on a Cévenol hillside in ancient tree-trunk hives.

You only have to lift a trunk to admire the fabulous activity of the bees.

The beekeeper explained the advantages of this ancient technique.

François (bitten by a bee in real time) appeared to be fascinated nevertheless by the beauty of Cévenol beekeeping.

Then he turned to goats. More precisely, to goat cheese.

Bisons, of course, were a different kettle of fish. This sequence was particularly didactic in the sense that an observer (like François himself) needed a little time to be reassured that these Provençal graziers of bisons must not be looked upon as nostalgic cowboys.

Their job consists of breeding and grazing bisons for meat.

From a distance, the setting evokes the Far West.

The animals are not necessarily dangerous, but they have to be respected.

François told his hosts that he had been impressed by his encounter with these beasts. After all, it's not an everyday affair, in France, to venture out onto the empty plains to take care of bisons.

The departure of François, in the setting sun, was of a lonesome cowboy style.

On the slopes of the Cévennes, he got off his faithful moped steed—like Lucky Luke on the other side of the Atlantic—and settled down to watch the last rays of the Sun.

It was too dark to see, but I imagined my son chewing nonchalantly upon a stalk of prairie grass, and looking back upon his experiences of the day.

A delightful episode, as usual.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

François Skyvington's moped road movie #3

Episode #3 of the road movie was presented yesterday afternoon.

The opening shots of this episode were amusing. François prepared us solemnly for images of the celebrated bridge painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

But no sooner had he reached the spot than a carload of Japanese tourists arrived on the scene. And it appeared that they were just as interested in François and his orange moped as in the Van Gogh bridge setting.

The theme of this Arlesian episode was art. François started off by visiting the studio/gallery of a fellow who transforms children's plastic toys into sculptures.

Surprise: in the midst of all this colorful plastic, the sculptor had been working on an orange moped.

In Arles, François seemed to be smiling ironically when he asked a local lady, attired in a folkoric costume, to tell him what it meant to be an Arlésienne.

Family members were aware that François might have asked his own maternal grandmother this same question. However Yannou and her mother never had the habit of getting dressed up as Arlésiennes and parading through the streets of their city on horseback.

François then found his way to a celebrated hotel: the Nord Pinus on the Place du Forum in the center of Arles, alongside a statue of the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral [1830-1914]. In my blog post of 7 September 2010 entitled Provençal excursion [display], I mentioned a dinner evening with Christine at an outdoors restaurant on this charming square.

François listened enthusiastically to the owner's tales about celebrity guests such as great artists, writers and bullfighters.

He stayed overnight in this famous hotel, then drove down to Port St Louis, at the eastern tip of Camargue, to visit an unusual place: a center for individuals who create artistic performances in the street.

Finally, he set out to meet up with a local photographer who has developed a technique of shooting from a mobile hoist, enabling him to produce wonderful photos of a flock of sheep on the plain of the Crau.

As usual, François succeeded in establishing friendly links with all the interesting individuals whom he encountered.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

François Skyvington's moped road movie #2

Episode #2 of François Skyvington's road movie was presented yesterday afternoon on the Arte channel.

The opening theme was the magnificent Roman aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard, about 20 km to the west of Avignon.

After chatting with a local fellow who sketches the structure regularly (in the manner of Paul Cézanne painting and repainting the Mont Sainte-Victoire), François took to the air as a passenger in an ultralight aircraft, enabling him to obtain an extraordinary view of the aqueduct. This sequence finished with a trivial but amusing stunt: François on his moped, on an airfield, racing against the aircraft as it took off.

An interesting didactic sequence took us to the nearby stone quarry that has been in operation ever since the Romans cut out the stones for their fantastic aqueduct. In the vicinity, a sculptor works the same beige stone. Then we met up with a beautiful stone guest-house (an ancient sheepfold) where François bedded down for the night... hopefully in the company of the members of the film crew. A big Labrador enabled the owner of the guest-house to dig up truffles, while his wife prepared an evening dinner of beef and olives cooked in wine.

The next day, François took to the waters of the Gard in a canoe. Then he visited a secluded ancient hermitage that is being restored... and we were informed of the techniques for building stone walls without mortar, so that rainwater escapes without deteriorating the walls.

All in all, this was a fine Provençal touristic documentary. But François has the knack of transforming his excursions, through his friendly personality and easy style of contacts, into a series of happy events. And his happiness (perfectly genuine) rubs off onto viewers.

Monday, September 3, 2012

François Skyvington's TV series

This evening at 18 h 30 on the Franco-German TV Arte channel, I watched with enthusiasm the start of the travelogue series starring François Skyvington.

Well, people who have phoned me all agree with me that it was wonderful TV. The on-screen presence of François was excellent, faultless. Above all, viewers really had an opportunity of learning something about the territory at the heart of this first episode: the Camargue region in Provence.

Christine has just told me on the phone that her 91-year-old Provençal mother Yanou—whose father came from Trinquetaille, near Arles, on the northern edge of the Camargue—was able to admire the TV debut of her great-grandson, in the company of her children Christine and Alain, from her friendly senior-citizens home near St Brieuc (Brittany). I see that event as a wonderful case of "une boucle qui se boucle", as they say in French (a loop being looped).

My personal conclusions are explicit. François is certainly a talented presenter, and he is surrounded by a great professional team. Bravo!