Monteverdi in the 13th

photo 2

We walked to the Eglise Sainte-Rosalie near Place d’Italie for a late afternoon vocal performance of the music of Monteverdi.  The church itself was a disappointment. It did not offer much to look at nor to remark upon. It was just a church with good acoustics. As usual in these frigid concert settings we all sat with our hats on and our coats buttoned up while we listened.  Even before the music began we were joined as a group by the chill in the church. As the second part of the performance was to begin the conductor raised his hand.  The ensemble took breaths and stood up tall to start singing O Beatae Viae.  At the exact moment of the raised hand the church bells began to strike six.  The conductor’s hand stopped. The singers paused.  Slowly the singers and then the conductor and then the audience all smiled.  We all smiled and we waited. When the bells stopped ringing the concert proceeded.


Source: Monteverdi in the 13th

Battling La Poste

photoThe post office on rue Saintonge continues to be a nightmare.  There are other post offices within walking distance but we have had the habit of using this post office.  It is a habit we consistently consider changing. We like the bread from the boulangerie directly across the street from the post office which makes any trip there a useful double destination. The machines in this post office have been in place for a few years.  In the last year the rest of anything else has been removed.  There are three machines for weighing letters and parcels and for purchasing stamps. There is a huge empty space where there used to be counters and people and displays of envelopes and boxes to buy.  Now there is just space.  It is all very white. There is a person in one window which was cut into a wall. There is not even a counter on the outer edge of the window. It is just a rectangle cut out of the wall with a saw. The machines for posting letters are unable to take coins or bills. They only function with a credit card. Other post offices have machines which will work with bills or coins.  At this post office money is not an option. Yesterday a woman at the next machine from me started to scream.  She screamed that she did not have a card.  She had cash and she wanted to pay with cash. She screamed at the machine and then she screamed at me.  She screamed at me because I was the only one there except for the man in the window space. The man ignored her completely. She screamed into the big empty room.  She screamed about the price of rents in Paris.  She questioned loudly how much  it costs to keep this big empty room empty in the middle of a city with such high rents?  She said a family could easily live in the space, but she was not able to post a letter in it.



Source: Battling La Poste


LUP, Hair cover chosen

Ross Hair sent me the cover of his book due from Liverpool University Press later this year. Of course I love it, not least for the picture of the model coracle I made in 1975 in darkest Camberwell, South London, not knowing what was going on, but heading towards the gallery and bookshelves in Camberwell New Road. I thought I’d use space here to try and come to terms with Ross’s title, as I understand it. It may be wide of the mark, but it goes like this. Avant-folk may be more of a music term which Ross has re-positioned to deal with the community of contemporary poetry he encompasses.But what I think he has done with his book is to try and rescue some currents in poetry and small press publishing and give it firm rooting in its reinterpretation of tradition. There are the examples, completely isolated tangents, that I keep throwing about in conversation : Ian Finlay’s ‘Dancers Inherit the Party’ where the verse-forms break down in an attempt to find new syntax, but seem perhaps suggestively folkloric in their subjects. And the paintings of Malevich before Suprematism, of generic peasant figures working in the fields gathering corn and farming, before the rigorous abstraction that followed.  Ross is perhaps is trying to renew the bases of a quasi-modernism for the period he espouses, and deal with aspects of its community and collectivity. This may be a very arcane entry to the more usual observational nature of these notes, but it’s also what comes in a day’s march between a couple of Portes on the extreme west side of Paris. SC

Source: Avant-Folk

Another Boulette

Boulette d'Avesnes

Once again, one of my favourite cheeses, the Boulette d’Avensne, made in the small town near Belgian border. It now comes packed in its own plastic condom, and sculptural jewel-case base, which is probably as well, given its strength. Its golden paprika surface seems an exotic addition for something from so far north. Locals call it le suppositoire du diable, the Devil’s Suppository, and you can see why! SC

Source: Another Boulette

Haddock Box

photo 3

When I walk in Tipperary I always come home with something.  Sometimes it is a horse chestnut, or an apple or some blackberries. It might be a handful of wild garlic. It might be a fallen branch with lichen attached.  I might bring a fern or a flower, news of an escaped heifer or a report on the depth of the mud in Joe’s lower field.  I might come home with a dog.  I often return with a dog and these days it is usually Oscar.  We walk and talk. He has a drink of water and a sniff around on arrival and then he heads off home.

Walking in the city is not the same.  I have never collected a dog on a city walk. A large amount of urban movement seems to be about buying things.  It is interesting to move through the city without buying things.  If I lived here all the time I would probably start to make things out of cardboard. There is an endless supply of great cardboard out on the sidewalks.  Big strong pieces of cardboard and boxes of all shapes and many tubes.  There is so much choice and as long as it is not raining it is all in fine and useable condition.

I do not return home with the plentiful cardboard but I do return with wooden boxes.  So far I have collected two small shallow cheese boxes and a fine cigar box with a hinged lid.  The biggest thing is the Haddock Box. I did not need this box but the screened image of a slab of smoked haddock on the side was too good to pass up. The big H on the Haddock is clunky but commanding.  Of course, the box smelled of its former contents. I soaked it in the bathtub for a day. It is now dry and odour-free.  I am using it to hold drawings. There are only a few in the bottom so in order to fill it up I need to get drawing.


The apartment whose tenants moved out last week had people visiting last night. A very dim light was visible in the back, maybe in a hallway, and probably the only lightbulb in the place. Of course there are no curtains. The curtains went with the former residents. Two people were in there for an hour or more moving around and exploring the empty apartment by flashlight. I guess they were making plans for their new home.

Source: Haddock Box

Oatcakes at the door


The doorbell rang this morning. The young man at the door was the same young man who had come from the post office last week.  He had rung the first time and asked me to sign for a package for Simon.  When I called out to Simon in English, the postman quickly changed from French to English.  I complimented him on his English and he said that he speaks French, English, Italian, German and Arabic.  He said happily “We are Arabs. We are everywhere.”  His smile was beautiful and huge, but toothless. Four or five teeth in a row were missing across the top of his mouth.  The absence of teeth did not seem to affect the clarity of his speech.

This morning he greeted me in English and asked me to sign for another package.  Today’s box contained a birthday gift of oatcakes from Scotland.  They were carefully packed in a bed of shredded newspaper so that they would not break on the journey. They arrived in a nearly perfect state.  They are the best oatcakes I have ever eaten.  I think they must be the best oatcakes in all of Scotland. There are two packets of the regular ones (high bake) and two packages with cracked black pepper. I am so fond of the regular ones that I wonder if they need to ever add anything like black pepper. Even while I was thinking this about the black pepper ones, I decided they might be lovely with a soft goat’s cheese.


Source: Oatcakes at the door

Tzara’s House



What have they done to the house of Tristan Tzara in Avenue Junot, just behind Sacre Coeur, built for him in 1926 by Adolf Loos? It looks like a cream doughnut in its over-cleaning and the application of too-white paint. Not only that, the new residents have all the wrong kind of stuff, and have put wicker fencing round the top. A homeless person sleeps in the canopy of the doorway and there is a no-parking sign screwed to the front door. What is happening to Paris with stuff like this? When I first saw the Tzara House ages ago, I thought it was just the move from Charles Rennie Mackintosh that brought building into the new century. SC


Source: Tzara’s House

Pure Utrillo



On the route back from the Porte de St.Ouen, number 23 on the circuit, we called in to see a recreation of the apartment and studio of Suzanne Valadon in Montmartre. One-time lover of Erik Satie, there were several men in her life, not least of all Maurice Utrillo, and I knew there would be paintings of his alongside. I wanted to see if there was an archetype in his work, a striving for something other than local scenes, a principal that might have carried him through. I’m afraid there was none, not even as much as I hoped when I pictured the empty shop on the corner of the New Line, opposite Rose’s pub in Newcastle, County Tipperary. I had told myself, and hoped, it was pure Utrillo, and he would have aspired to such a condition, but I was not able to investigate a run of his work. Yet faced with the real thing, I was sadly let down. My fantasy had extended itself further to the point of carving that tree stump in front into the form of a sitting dog and opening the old shop as a cafe-restaurant called Wild Rover, for about all six covers you could get in there. With the demise of pure aesthetic on the part of the painter comes the demise of my extending fantasy. SC

Source: Pure Utrillo

Finders Keepers


I was waiting to cross the street on the northeast corner of the Pont Louis-Philippe. There was a soft drizzle which no one seemed to mind because it was better than the lashing sleet which had been falling minutes earlier. A well-dressed woman pulled a packet of cigarettes out of her bag and popped one into her mouth.  While she was doing this one another cigarette fell out of the pack and landed on the ground. She bent to pick it up.  I could see that it was only a little bit wet on the very end.  She did not put it back into the pack.  Instead, she placed it between the stones of the wall of the bridge, just above the level of the pavement. She waited a second to see that it was safe and that it would not roll off.  Then she lit her own cigarette.  The light changed and we all crossed the street.


Source: Finders Keepers

Porte-Walk No.22


Just to remind ourselves of one of the inventions of this Hibernation : to walk from the identified 39 Portes on the outskirts of Paris back into the very middle and our eyrie in the Marais. Sometimes this very purpose gets sublimated into another issue, some major observation made in the course of the walk. The Porte de Champerret walk was just such an occasion, which became Erica’s entry of Brian is in the Kitchen.It was number 22 of our walks, and we went with our seamstress friend Susan Brett from La Corderie round the corner. She was feeling tired of Paris, and we though what could be better for her than a saunter through the drizzly funneling streets of the north of the city. Although we slowed up last year. and have been hesitant to begin this year, we have them in our sights. There was an aside to the project of maybe editing out of all these entries, a walking book for the city – yet another!, maybe entitled Walking The Portes. But there are enough walking books around,  in their generalised and touristic  reduction, and these Notes have an integrity of their own, in their distractedness. Which is the point. SC

Source: Porte-Walk No.22