October 1-7, 2022
SATURDAY 1 A message arrived from our friend Sue applauding our choice of birthday card. It was an inspired finding by my wife because the image is such an accurate depiction of Sue.
📌 The most scenic of our train rides so far has been the onward journey from Toulouse through the Corbières and Fitou wine regions to Narbonne and from Narbonne to Figueres on the Barcelona train.
📌 First night in Figueres was so relaxing I nodded off early.
📌 In the evening our friend Liane told me how much she likes to try food in tins, but did not believe me when I told her that a complete Christmas dinner is available in a tin. She was horrified by what she saw next…
SUNDAY 2 I learned in the Ed McBain book Cop Hater, that burglary in the US (as defined by Penal Law, Section 402) carries a minimum prison sentence of 10 years. Of course, this could be fiction, but even in the land of make-believe, 10 years in the slammer for burglary is symbolic of a society powerfully determined to protect personal property.
📌 I like to think of my stitchwork tote bags as street art. They are made to be used, not to sit around waiting to be looked at. I visualise them full of courgettes and potatoes stretched and knobbled by their contents. This is as close to street art as I can get, so I was glad to learn I am not the only one travelling this lonely road.
MONDAY 3 Tancat is the Catalan word for “closed”. Thankfully that doesn’t prohibit the sale of wine to go with the cassoulet and the glorious night skies.
📌 So sad to learn that Eamonn has died suddenly at 74. Still have great memories of long chats about photography and drinks with him and Bailey in the Sekforde Arms.
TUESDAY 4 In Figueres the surreal and the ultra conventional seem to fit together perfectly, which is a cultural achievement all by itself. And this unusual chemistry even seeps into the corners of everyday life. Out on the street you can find a 40-metre Salvador Dalí table spoon plonked on a grass verge next to the humble Spanish rambla. Indoors our friend was presented with a Liverpool FC birthday cake even though he supports West Ham United.
📌 The Art Class topic was “Gravitation”. I spent several hours debating with myself the difference between “gravitation” and “gravity” and concluded there wasn’t much, but used my research as the starting point for an image depicting gravitational waves.
📌 At Graham’s birthday lunch…
📌 The Fig-Leaf stitchwork is starting to look frighteningly like a Christmas tree.
WEDNESDAY 5 Rafael Behr says Liz Truss is the Conservative Party’s equivalent of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, a freak leader who isn’t really up to the job.
📌 Last day in Cataluña included a pool party at Sally & Nigel’s place in Pau followed by a feisty game of poker back in Figueres. Then began the desperate attempt to cram the suitcases and the prospect of our onward journey to Lyon tomorrow.
THURSDAY 6 The train journey from Figueres to Lyon takes in some spectacular scenery, a joy after the calamity of losing my glasses somewhere on Figueres railway station.
📌 A £25 win on the Premium Bonds was welcome news from back in the UK, plus a few bizarre headlines from the newspapers on the fortunes of our struggling prime minister in the wake of her party conference speech, which failed to impress anyone.
📌 It turned out that my glasses were not lost somewhere at Figueres railway station, they had dropped off the string holding them around my neck and slipped between two seats. The accident happened as I foolishly attempted to load an overweight suitcase onto the overhead luggage rack. While I exited the train at Lyon my wife and our two friends, Liz and Bill, searched and found the missing spectacles and the prospect of three days without them disappeared instantly. Phew!
📌 At Lyon’s Museum of Printing and Typography we learned that as fast as printing methods and technologies advanced throughout the centuries so did great leaps forward in paper technology. As bigger and bigger print runs came about to satisfy the appetites of the reading masses, tougher paper stocks were developed, culminating in the indestructible polymer “paper” varieties we see today used to make bank notes.
FRIDAY 7 All the headlines say the meeting in Prague between Liz Truss and Emmanuel Macron was the start of a beautiful friendship. I seriously doubt that, but it looks good for her, with everyone except the lunatic fringes of the Conservative Party, with whom she will face a lot of grief once she’s back in London. The Guardian’s analysis of Macron’s European Political Group (EPG) meeting was cautious in its praise and expresses the hope that the EPG does not try to become “an anteroom for the EU”. But I think that’s exactly what the EU needs if it is not to disintegrate under the weight of its own dysfunction.
📌 At the Musée des Beaux-Arts I somehow got distracted from the excellent Egypt exhibition and became fascinated by faces of all kinds, though not many of the multitudes of tortured biblical visages my wife dislikes with such intensity.
📌 At lunch in the Old Town we discovered Lyon has an especially tasty local beer.
📌 My obsession with faces continued at the puppet museum and at the museum of the cinema, a nerd’s paradise that brings together miniature film sets, scene details and original artefacts film creatives use to make movies. Plastic heads of Thelma & Louise were a high point.
📌 In news from elsewhere I was very happy to learn that Liverpool is to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine and bemused to be told by BBC World News that Vladimir Putin was given a tractor for his 70th birthday.