Friday, August 22, 2008

St Laurent fête

Well, touchwood, everything seems to be ticking along as it should here. We've reached the quite pleasant point of convalescence, where recovery seems to be assured, the worst discomfort is passed, the next lot should be some way off, some things are beginning to be enjoyed again, but weakness and exceptional circumstances mean you don't have to try to do anything onerous. I'm quite happy to participate in this general atmosphere of relaxed contingency...

Perhaps now, it's time for a change of subject, and some pictures.

I did say I was going to post about the fête I went to at St Laurent, an outlying village of our local commune. Though there is not much there, it is more a true village than our hamlet: it has a centre with a chapel, though no pub, school or shops. There used to be a bar, and I think there is a lady who will do 'restauration' on request in her home - one of my neighbours once told me enthusiastically that she was preparing a 'tête de veau' for a group of the elders of 'le club' who were convening there.

The chapel is old, simple, whitewashed, light, its structure visible, which appeals to the protestant with a small 'p' in me, the protestant-to-the-core which I think perhaps many English people are, whether or not they are observantly religious or believing. (I typed British there at first, to be correct, and not offend Scottish readers, or any Welsh ones I may have, but then changed it, I think perhaps I am talking about the middle-class English...). Then it is embellished with the kind of polychrome, glittery imagery and counter-reformation decorative bits which appeal less; try as I might, they so often seem tawdry.

Although the term 'fête champêtre' is often used by the organisers of British garden parties and such like to give their events some kind of extra charm and cachet, the reality of these events here often seems to me a little, dare I say, dull. The competitive busybody busy-ness, the colour and engagement, the charitable commerciality and general plethora of outgoing activity you get at an English village fête, the raffles and tombolas and coconut shies, the produce and homemade jam, etc etc, are absent. But I've come to see these events have their own charm, and I quite like it that people here seem to be happy with less overall stimulus and action. Anyway, you can't say people here don't know how to enjoy themselves, when there's the Ploeuc-sur-Lie potato festival, as advertised by the banner, to look forward to.

So, what was going on at St Laurent?

Well, there were some tractors.

And there was a man making crêpes. (There was a buvette, a bar tent, but they didn't seem to have any cider to go with the crêpes, rather an oversight).

There was a wood-carver, who was carrying on the proud tradition of tawdry, polychrome graven images with this larger than human-size replica of the Statue of Liberty,

and there was what has become a regular feature of the St Laurent fête, the rope-making machine. This stretches the length of the field, and several strands of twine are strung along it,

a person winds a handle, and as the strands twist together, the platform he is standing on moves along in its runners, with him on it. I think this 'having a ride' aspect of the activity is what draws people to participate in it. Who needs the Corkscrew at Alton Towers when you can have a go on the rope-making machine at St Laurent?

it twists and twists again, like it did last summer, and the one before that, until it's made this pretty, strong length of rope,

and by the end of the day, they must have many fine coils of it.

There were some characterful dogs for Molly to bark at;

the border collie was a ball addict, who kept stealing the kickabout football the local children were entertaining themselves with and running off with it. He was finally fobbed off with a tennis ball, which he dropped at the feet of anyone who looked like they might be good for a throw.

Finally, the stars of the show this year, the special event, and why I turned out again, were the horses.

They came with a group of Breton horse enthusiasts from Guingamp, who hire them out for special occasions. When I arrived, they were having their hair done.

The end results were very smart.

Then they gave rides in a caleche around the village, and on their very large backs too, to some quite small people.

If you can;t reach the stirrups, put your feet in the leathers. I remember that.

One of the most delightful groups was the elderly chap with his three horses, probably a mare, foal and yearling. He seemed to have a very loving, communicative relationship with them.

When the camera caught his eye,

he gently pushed the people he was talking to out of the way, parted and prettified the mare's forelock, and posed happily.

'She likes me, doesn't she?' he said of his horse, beaming.
He obviously loved having his picture taken. I don't often take scenes with unknown people in them, and feel a little uneasy with it. I figured the horse troop expected and liked to be photographed, but many of those I took with other people around the horses, especially the children, I didn't keep. Partly because I think people in a photograph get in the way and spoil things rather, and partly because I'm aware of privacy issues. And horrible as it is, taking pictures of children without consent has become particularly uncomfortable. The face, or much at all, of the little girl above, trying on the hard hat, is not visible, so that seemd OK, and I loved this vignette of the small boy by his father's feet, absorbed in his game with the woodcarver's sawdust.

A moment later, though, he looked up, and I snapped again. It was a simply beautiful picture; his eyes were blue-green and his regard candid, limpid, direct. But it was a look that said, you are invading my privacy, and he did not return my smile. It hurt me a little to do it but I deleted the picture altogether, I had no right to it, I felt, though the one above, with his face turned away, seems acceptable, I don't know if it is.

The odd thing is, similar pictures of children looking warily into the camera in exotic locations and costumes can be seen all over the web, in books, in National Geographic and other magazines, and their difference, the anthropological interest, seems to legitimise it. Perhaps their parents sign release forms, but the essence of a good capture shot is of course a dynamic of surprise, spontaneity. I know cleverer analyses than this have been made over and over about the relationship between camera and subject.

Perhaps I'll stick with plants and animals.


julie said...

I'm with you (somewhat) on the issue of taking pictures of people. I love taking candid shots of people caught up in the moment, and those are usually my preferred choices for drawing/ painting portraits. But privacy issues, especially with children, are so touchy; you never know when someone's going to get upset. The one I have up today doesn't reveal enough, in my mind, to identify anyone in the picture. Otherwise, even though I like the action, it wouldn't have been posted. I don't know if I could bring myself to delete it, though, unless I was specifically asked to or the person looked peeved.

Rosie said...

so glad Tom is on the mend... Perhaps he would like some fresh eggs to help consolidate everything...
I know what you mean about photos of people without permission, but the horse owner was happy to star wasnt he!

Zhoen said...


Unknown said...

Good news! I love the modestly lowered eyelashes in the last photo. Interesting point about consent when you photograph people.

apprentice said...

Yes so glad Tom is starting to heal, what on ordeal its been for you both in different ways.

The fete looks wonderful, even the dogs and horses look real characters.

Oh for some sun here! The farmers are in despair as crops turn to mush in the fields.

Roderick Robinson said...

Tractors and a rope-twisting machine - such catholicity. The last French fête I attended also had model aeroplanes in flight, a nice vocabulary tester.

As to l'épaule luxé incident in previous post, I had insurance and fully expected to pay. It was the size of the bill that shrivelled my newly found well-being.

Anonymous said...

Good, good, good re. the health picture, Lucy.

And what a wonderful account of the fair. Now I know who's got all the blue skies!

Lucy said...

Thanks people.

Julie - that was a lovely shot on yours, and the kids looked as though they were quite happy to show off!

Rosie - I might just take you up on those eggs; they are permitted food and egg snadwiches are proving very popular!

Zhoen - thanks for stopping.

Joe - thanks, they are such gentle, well-conducted beasts!

Apprentice - we've had pretty awful weather here too; they've left and left the wheat in our field, I think they were harvesting it in the dead of night last night to beat the rain today. It was quite a fun event really, though I didn't need to stay very long...

BB - the model aeroplanes sound very adventurous! I think skiing injuries tend to be expensive, hence the debate about the CPAM paying... hope it's better now anyway! Actually the staff were very sweet about practising their English on Tom, though I did notice his French actually got better even in the few days he was there, with having to do it on his own, and general mutual co-operation.

Dick - thanks. As I say, very little sunshine really, they were quite lucky that day. Though I've not been very sorry with the hassles we've had that we weren't struggling with a canicule to boot!

Bee said...

Well, you're very good with plants and animals . . . but your description of the boy's gaze did make me long to see that picture! (It isn't easy to capture a child without that awful "mugging" for the camera.) I do admire your ethical stance, though. Nothing's sacred on the Internet, and that should give us all pause from time to time.

I would trade a crepe stand for the tombola any time!

I'm glad that your Tom is feeling better.

Dave King said...

A really professional post, that. Very impressive. However, on this occasion not the reason for my visit:
Jim has presented me with the Kick-Ass Blogger Award. I now am asked to pass on the honour, so to speak, and would like to make you one of the recipients - if you have no objections, that is.

HLiza said...

People..especially kids..are my favourite object too..but yes the privacy part matters to me. Love seeing the happenings in town with you!

HLiza said...

Sorry I only knew about Tom when I read posts below. Glad all is getting better..and he's in good hands.

Jan said...

Talking of Tom being in good hands...
Your image of the hand ( from unusual angle) was absolutely superb

Pam said...

Glad Tom is feeling better. Great photos - it was so nice visiting your local event without bothering to move...

meggie said...

I enjoyed your visit to the fete.
Love the horses.

Anonymous said...

I love the effect of the accumulated horse shots, particularly the cropped ones. (The man with the three horses has that rare attitude I love in a camera subject.)

Sheila said...

This is just delightful! Reminds me of growing up in Arkansas.

So glad for good news.