Before we go any further I want to say, according to google translate, this means ‘Properties in Normandy’ before anyone accuses me of being a…
I have been so impressed by all the stone built houses around La Hague au Cotentin. The wild coast as it’s known, or in French ‘La côte sauvage’ which sounds so much more dangereux, or is it dangeruese? All this gendering is so complicated and that’s enough of all that bilingual poppycock to be honest.
The Cock is the unofficial national animal of France and so often is the weather vane that perches high aloft the towers of the chateaus large and small. Its usage started out in Roman times as the Latin word for the rooster was Gallus and the French people at that time were mainly the Gauls so the play on words began but often only to ridicule them. Its use rose to prominence however in the middle ages and was a sacred bird among Continental Celts.
Manoir de Tourp is a 16th century estate and farm that has recently been renovated and turned into a photographic art gallery. This beautiful stone property has been totally refurbished with new modern additions that allow the old fallen parts to return to use without spoiling the charm of the original place with vast open glass additions.
What struck me immediately was the sign outside declaring the presence of our old friends, the goblins. All around this part of France there are legends of goblins and elves and their shadowy influences.
Here though the Goblins have been infantilised and sanitised to be the little creatures who serve up teas and light bites. Though I don’t trust their little teeth as I woke the other morning to find they had been at an apple on my table.
Weird how their magical saliva seems to have stopped the apple from turning properly brown!!
There was a delightful chapel next to a miniature bakery that created all the breaded goods for the estate. It was built into the outside wall far from the main manor house to lessen the risk of a fire. Its oven backed on to the chapel so that in the winter months attending Matins would at least be inside a warm building at that ungodly hour.
This bakery also served the local villages. Bread would have been part of the wages paid to the peasant farmers who worked on the estate. To the right of the main entrance gateway was a cute pigsty with two openings in the wall for throwing all the feed in for the animals. This was a high status reminder that the Lords and Ladies enjoyed a diet that contained meat unlike the poor who ate vegetable pottage.
Most intriguing was the enormous dove cote though. This huge circular building was a sign of status back in the day. The more birds you had the wealthier you were. They were prized not just for their flesh and eggs but also for their crap. Guano is top star fertiliser for growing vegetables and one can only imagine the amount of bird shit that was created in here with all the thousands of pigeon holes all around the stone cote.
Eggs were an important commodity too for all the baking needed to feed the estate and the wealthy at their banquets. I pity the person whose job was to enter the cote with a ladder and wade through the shit to raid the place for those eggs.
The high windows would allow the birds to fly in but would stop foxes and other predators from gaining access. Seeing this immediately makes one understand why precious letters are stored in pigeonholes. They too were often a sign of status. The poor couldn’t write so didn’t receive letters. This cote has now been turned into a study-room.
Heading out further to visit the big City of the Sea I was shown a new vast manmade hill created from the dredging of the world’s largest artificial harbour, Cherbourg. The high hill was hidden by trees as nobody really likes to talk about it as they are very proud of their spectacular natural landscapes.
They also don’t like to talk about the giant Nuclear fuel cleaning facility here either which is understandable. It’s a vast facility that employs 3000 people and cleans half of the entire world’s light water reactor spent nuclear fuel. It’s not something they like to think about but the revenue it pays to two tiny villages who own the land t’s on, makes them two of France’s richest local councils. I would tut about this but it turns out that during the 1960s the British dumped a load of nuclear waste in the middle of the English Channel and then just left it there! That 100 years war never quite ends. So I’m not going to get on any high horse about nuclear energy or weapons.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
The magnificent film ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ hit the screens in 1964. Written and directed by Jacques Remy it starred Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castlenuovo.
The film has the most superb musical score by Michel Legrand and like an opera with recitative, it is sung throughout. This splendid jazz swing score is mind-blowing. I just adore the way the singing feels so natural within the big band and orchestral moments.
Starting in 1957, Deneuve’s character, Geneviève, is a 16 year old girl who lives in a struggling umbrella shop that still exists today but sadly no longer sells umbrellas, it was after all struggling in 1957.
She falls in love with a mechanic, Guy and then ‘falls’ pregnant the night before he departs for the Algerian war. I won’t spoil the rest of the film as if you get the chance, you should watch it. The famous love song will break your heart and has been recorded by many artists throughout the years.
This love song later turned up in the Chinese Animal sign reading for pigs as a sentiment that the earth was waiting to sing to each of us lifting the song out of the sadness that pervades it eventually in the film.
Napoleon and Marengo
Emperor Napoleon III commissioned a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte, sat high upon his horse, Marengo and it made me titter not a little. Not just because Marengo was in truth a tiny horse but this over-sized bronze had the largest testicles I’ve ever seen, hanging down at the back.
The horse was a total star-trooper though that survived many battles and war wounds and eventually retired to England to be used as a stud but failed to deliver any offspring. I’m not surprised the poor thing probably suffered with PTSD and the last thing on your mind then is getting jiggy with some English fillies.
The 5 metre tall statue was unveiled on the 8th of August 1885 to impress Empress (Queen) Victoria of Great Britain (these battles with titles and statue sizes is so comical). The French Emperor then got sniffy with the UK diplomats after the inauguration of the port so by the day of the unveiling, Empress Victoria had sailed home and Emperor Napoleon III refused to honour the sculptor. The statue suffered over 42 bullet holes during World War II . Victoria’s statue in my hometown of St. Leonards is the original of a statue that was recast all around the world and it is tiny. This life-sized tribute allowed her to dodge all but one bullet still visible in her knee today. Size can be a hindrance during shootouts.
Napoleon points not towards Britain, who defeated him at Waterloo but towards the vast naval port of Cherbourg. More diplomatic rumourmongering. Either way he seems to be a tad limp-wristed. The comedy of international politics is just so ridiculous. We have the term ‘Napoleon Complex’ for little men who need to feel powerful but this was English propaganda too. Napoleon was not tiny like Queen Victoria but then he also wasn’t fifteen foot tall. The mockery of politics continues to this day with all the paradoxes concerning the rules around Covid 19 and is honoured in this backstreet not far from Place de Napoleon.
Pick a Cosmic Egg
Yes people. This week’s theme is Pick a Cosmic Egg. What beautiful gift has the cosmos got in store for you? As usual this video will be posted on Sunday.
Wassail people and thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.