On the window, etched against winter grey
light, a single lacewing lingers still,
a mark of calligraphic symmetry. Until
death or spring comes to it, we let it stay.
An exercise in curves, it makes its way
quite imperceptibly across the glass. Is the chill
outside the thing it really wants? Do we kill
or save by sheltering its frailty night and day?
Further enquiry, however, makes it clear
this chrysopid green fairy with its netted wings,
if harboured, might yet ride out frost and see
the time when, lion-like, its children will appear
to be a bane to aphids and to other noxious things.
So while it shares the kitchen's warmth, we'll let it be.
(*Petrarchan, straight up. The poetic muse having apparently gone off to powder her nose, time to slog out something that at least adheres to a proper form. No kind reassurances, please, I am not fishing. The lacewing is still there so no cleaning the windows till spring now. What a shame.)
Clin d'oeil, bienniale de la photogrpahie, Salle de Robien, St Brieuc.
I visited this fairly large photographic exhibition the Friday before last. Friday afternoon, as it turned out, was the time for school parties. The group of seven year olds lined up in crocodile at the door, and observed the ritual of shhh, fingers to lips, stand still and go in quietly and in good order. Once inside the very large hangar space, with its shiny floors and display screens just a bit below seven-year old head height, their orderly conduct lasted perhaps five minutes. Far more interesting, when you're seven, to discover the possibilities of space, texture, humour and the ambiguities of the seen and unseen by racing around, ducking in and out of the partitions, sliding on the floor and playing peek-a-boo with your mates on the other side of the screens, than to crane your neck looking up at the work of Daniel Challe, Roland Laboye, René Maltête and the members of local photo clubs, the point of which escapes you - though a picture which explored texture, colour, repeat pattern and reflection, and possibly the nature of mass consumption in a secular world, of rows of foil-wrapped Father Christmases in a supermarket did raise momentary interest of a 'miam-miam! ' kind, and one rather more sophisticated mademoiselle was getting something out of striking affected poses in front of an composition in black and white of a dog running past a children's playground and exclaiming in tones heavy with irony 'Oh that is very interesting, a dog, in a park!'
Their teachers' and helpers' Friday afternoon patience ran out just as quickly; and the French equivalent of 'George, don't do that, no, it isn't funny, it's very silly' was heard more and more. One small boy, engaged in sliding across the floor, stopped mid-skid on finding a small plate set into the floor in front of him, perhaps giving access to some kind of ducting. It was worn brass, about six inches square, polished to satin either by people's feet or perhaps by assiduous municipal workers, but with a darkened patina in it recessed parts, it had lettering round the outside, big, chunky brass screws holding it on place, and a heavy hinged handle that folded down flush to the floor.
The child was momentarily transfixed, he peered at it, running his fingers round and over its shapes and surfaces, suddenly serious. But his teacher pulled him up. 'Kilian, stop that. You look at the photographs, and nothing else!'.
It really was a very interesting brass plate though, and I wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't. If I'd had the camera with me, I might even have photographed it.
I got my new passport today. Nothing remarkable about that in itself, of course, except there's always something rather exciting, I think, about a new passport, even when you travel as little as I do. I suppose it's the sense of ten years of possibility. I was quite disgruntled at the cost of it, and also at the rather peremptory, exacting conditions and yet further expense with which the matter of obtaining a UK passport while living outside the UK is hedged about, but there you go, that's what you get for being a feckless air-headed ship-jumping expat, serves you right, with your cheap wine and houses and nuclear-fuelled electricity, put that in your Ryanair cabin bag and smoke it...
However, I must say I am charmed to bits with my new document for its unexpected beauty. It was all crisp and shiny of course,
but the inside is verging on exquisite - no, naturally I don't mean my horrible bio-metric mugshot, although in fact that is marginally more agreeable than the original, as the new way of transferring it to the passport seems to flatten and lighten out some of the shadows, creases and extra-chins of my half-antique face. In fact the photo is reproduced twice, the one more visible here is a kind of shadowy, crackle-glazed second copy.
But the main photo has an intriguing shimmery prismatic compass rose embedded in it, and a small flock of elegant birds just coming into view at one edge, and the whole double page background shows a view-from-the-stratosphere map of Britain, overflown by a fulmar and a Sandwich (?) tern. The frontispiece (the bit with 'Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State...blah blah') shows a row of Cotswold Cottages, and oak leaves with an accurate looking rendition of some kind of a blue butterfly, and every page thereafter shows a delicate image of some example of British scenery, with an inset image of a relevant specimen of flora or fauna or an artefact, the whole overlaid with stylised weather map symbols and isobars.
There's a village green and a formal park with fountains and a sundial, there's a fishing village with boats and derricks and nets and a coil of rope, there are coastal scenes and mountain and moorland with a lovely snowy owl, a river and a lake with their fish, a canal with a bridge and a narrowboat and a lock gate, and one of my favourites is probably this one, page 7,
which shows a reedbed, with a Suffolk type windmill and an inset of a meticulously etched dragonfly. (Apologies that the photo isn't clearer, it is a very pale image, that's a table mat holding down the corner. I didn't quite like to scan it, and I've touched out the passport number in the other photo, as perhaps showing all one's passport information publicly on-line might be asking for trouble.)
Really, an unexpected pleasure. I won't make any quips about being proud to be British, though.