Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Of joy and boats, and the joy of boats.

The Molé menfolk were in very sparkling form when I came to give Maxime his English lesson on Saturday, their good humour was infectious. 

Maxime himself had the air of a boy in love.  If this is the case, the object is a lucky girl, but it may be simply that being young, comely, full of grace and hope and energy and the joys of spring, having turned 18 and been given dispensation to turn your trusting parents out of the house for the night for the occasion, voting for the first time a week later, then driving three hours into deepest Normandy to find a course in town planning for those with a philosophical bent which was epiphanically revealed as exactly what he wanted to do, is enough.  At the last minute I had slipped into my bag a comprehension text of an Economist review of a  book by Darrin McMahon called 'Happiness: a History', which I'd put together for adult students a while back, and which I thought would probably be too difficult for him, and he devoured it with enthusiasm, unhesitatingly translating 'happiness' as 'joie' rather than 'bonheur'.  I felt the better for seeing him, and two hours in his company was a tonic.

His dad was almost as twinkly.  'I'm off to St Brieuc, to Le Légué'  he said 'Maxime, feed yourself.  La Pauline is on the quayside!'  And off he went.

This is more innocent than it sounds. La Pauline is a renowned local beauty, to be sure, but a wooden fishing smack, from the turn of the 20th century.  The original sank with her crew in the 1930s, but this is a cherished replica of her, maintained and sailed and chartered by a voluntary association, which Jean-Jacques has belonged to for a year or two now.  Usually she operates out of Val Andre, up the coast, but was having a spring clean at St Brieuc.  I've never seen her actually sailing, but you can see her on many a postcard and tourist image of the Brittany coast, as she's very photogenic, and there's a page of information about her, with a photo of her in full sail, here. She'd be there, he told me, until Monday, when I asked if I could take photos, though it was just the hull, no sails or anything...

We didn't make it that day when they were working on her, we took a Sunday saunter on the following. I soon recognised the boat on the other side of the river, though I was surprised how neat and upright she looked out of water.




We worked our way round.  I became aware that Le Légué at that moment, a fine breezy Sunday in early spring, with people emerging and milling and boats out of water being scrubbed and scraped and repaired and repainted, with its novelty and variety of shapes and angles and textures and colours, cobalt and sky and mimosa yellows and rusty reds, was exactly where I wanted to be.  Nature and its greenery are all well and good, but the itchiness of spring demands always something other than what is there around one.

I took more pictures than I can really put in one post, so I'll put them up in bursts over a few days.  For starters, though, some views of the lovely Pauline, and thanks to Jean-Jacques for the spur.

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9 comments:

Barrett Bonden said...

La Pauline sous voiles tout dessus avec son hunier. I had to look up the last word and am now kicking myself - I should have known. And perhaps if my brother had retained his mooring at the port near La Baule and we'd continued our explorations of the Bay of Biscay I would by now. Not that Takista, now sold alas, had a topsail but you ease into the vocabulary for the sheer pleasure of using the words, in English or in French. La Pauline belonging to another, non-fibreglass era is proof that there is no such thing as an ugly yacht and that once the sails are set and filled with wind from an appropriate quarter they confirm Ratty's ecstatic utterance that there is nothing - absolutely nothing - like messing about in boats. Or simply being associated with them.

How purposeful she looks under full sail and how right it is that she carries a woman's name (though the addition of the definite article raises a moment of apostolic queasiness). You done the old/new girl proud, Lucy, and I envy you her propinquity. I also envy you a pupil who can extrapolate bonheur all the way up to joie. Gosh, you've left me in a shockingly sentimental mood.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah, I can hear the gulls and feel the rope in my hands. Her natural brown masts indicate an earlier age. I'd gladly serve a stalwart captain of such a vessel. Your photo angles somehow make me feel as though I am moving around the quay with you, Lucy.

Zhoen said...

Old wooden ships are so organic and alive, in every detail.

Nimble said...

If I had a boat to get to, I'd be in a hurry too! What a heart lifting image that boat makes.

Bee said...

Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

I've never really believed this, but these pictures are really persuasive.

herhimnbryn said...

Such beautiful clear and bright images Lucy. Thankyou for taking me with you.

Dick said...

How my Dad would have loved these pictures. He was a huge fan of Brittany and loved nothing more than being under sail on a working boat.

Plutarch said...

Apart from making me drool over the photographs of La Pauline, her gear and tackle and trim, you have made me think about the difference between bonheur and joie. It was an excuse to repair to Le Petit Robert. Bonheur has a primary meaning of luck while joie penetrates deeper into the soul. It is, I suppose the same in other languages. Schiller's ode to happiness wouldn't have worked and would have left Beethoven cold. Maxime may have been inluenced by the season and infected with the grace and youth which you convey so well, when he introduced joie rather than bonheur. But I have a feeling that the book in question was concerned with bonheur rather than with joie.

Lucy said...

Thanks, friends.

Although she is a replica, la Pauline is already more than twenty years old, which is not much younger than the original was when she sank, so I think some of the patina, as well as being the result of authentic materials in her construction and maintenance, is that of real usage and life.

I think the subject of the book, which sounds good, though I haven't read it, rather deals with how, at one time, happiness was seen as the product of good luck, so the French 'heureux', hence 'bonheur', and the vestige of it in our use of the adverb 'happily' as synonymous with 'fortunately', but has now come to be seen as a state of something closer to perpetual joy, which is of course impossible. Interestingly, though the French use 'content' a lot, which isn't quite the same as it is in English but perhaps carries something of its mildness and quiet, there doesn't seem to be an abstract noun, like our 'contentment' deriving from it. I'll check that out though.