Thursday, 27 September 2007

A starry, starry night.


There’s something about the light in the South of France which intrigues me. Things which look dull and ordinary back in the UK take on a different character, brighter and more alive. A view through an open gateway suddenly reminds you of a famous picture – you may not be sure which one, but you know you’ve seen it before somewhere. The sight of the waiter bringing lunch, weaving through crowded tables, tray held high, makes you do a double take and wonder why this scene feels so familiar. A badly maintained front door, instead of looking scruffy and in need of attention, suddenly makes you want to paint it. And I don’t mean with two coats of Dulux, either. Everywhere you look, something is begging to be immortalized on canvas, and it's very likely that someone already has.

So although we’re not very au fait (get that, I can speak French now) with art history, I suppose the phrase “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” could apply to husband and me. We both enjoy a bit of culture so along with the other essential holiday activities of relaxing, swimming, reading, eating and drinking we usually like to visit the odd art gallery or two, visit a historically significant site or just tour the area, sometimes stopping where the fancy takes us rather than making a proper plan. There's something wonderful about being able to call in at Renoir's house (he wasn't in, by the way), visit a world class modern art foundation or look out to sea from the same studio window that Picasso gazed through, all within a few minutes' drive, and still be back to catch the last of the afternoon sun by the pool.

So, after a tense start to the holiday (see previous post) I began to relax deeply, and was surprised to find myself awake at 3 a.m. one night, restless and fretful. Too much coffee after dinner, with a killer Cointreau on the rocks, was no doubt the problem. I lay in bed for a while, trying to get back to sleep, thinking about all the things we'd seen that day, mulling it all over. But it was no good, now I was wide awake with no sign of sleep coming my way. Getting out of a strange bed in an unfamiliar room in the dark, I tentatively felt my way to the bathroom to get a glass of water and, feeling a bit too hot, carefully opened the shutters to let in a bit of air. And what a surprise I got. Framed by the tiny bathroom window was the most wonderful night sky I have ever seen, the stars twinkling like a handful of blazing diamonds scattered over a cloak of inky blue velvet. I stood for a very long time just gazing upwards, totally in awe, thinking of one of my all-time favourite paintings by Van Gogh. It was absolutely stunning.

Like I say, everywhere you look, there's a masterpiece waiting to be painted.

I filled my glass and raised it to drink.

Here's to you Vincent.

32 comments:

merry weather said...

So it's true about the light then? Wow - I remember that from a film about Van Gogh, I think. And how fab that you woke up and caught the original starry starry night. That's excellent - even though you may have had a bit of indigestion at the time :)

And thinking about how scruffy looks good abroad in full light and rubbish here in grey gloom. It's weird isn't it? From memory parts of Italy would look like slums here end yet may conceal wealthy inhabitants.
You never can tell.

It sounds like a super holiday!

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Merry, you are quite right about the indigestion, and screaming heartburn. But I deserved it really. It's so true about the way stuff looks romantically "shabby chic" near the Med, but just plain shabby here.

That light even ironed out my wrinkles, wished I could bottle it!

dgibbs said...

Sounds like it was absolutely wonderful! Your great descriptive writing made me feel like I was there for a moment.

Norman said...

You look at avan Gogh and think, "Nah, it can't be like that." Then you go there and find that it is. That is the wonder od this thing called art.
Dunno about art but I know what I like applies to everyone. As an artist with a so-called trained eye, I find some stuff leaves me cold whilst others move me to tears. Art is not an elitist thing, or it shouldn't be.
Go on, get some pencils and paper; get some paints and have a go!

Swearing Mother said...

Hi dgibbs, your comment has really pleased me, thankyou so much. My "view from a bathroom window" was so moving I just wanted to share it.

Norman - I know exactly what you mean - some art totally fascinates me and other stuff doesn't. I may well take your advice re having a go at painting, it's years since I've done any and it wasn't much good then. But what the heck?

belle said...

Lovely lovely post, SM! I've just booked a holiday for the captain and I with the vile offspring for next summer in France. I'm hoping that I'll see many stars like this all of which I'll accompany with a raucous rendition of Don McLean's 'Vincent' - my family will be so pleased!

btw swing over to my blog to collect your award :o)

Swearing Mother said...

Hiya Belle, thankyou so much for the award, I am honoured. Will be over ASAP to collect.

Glad to hear you are going to France, what a lovely country it is. Just remember to get anything you need to cook or eat for lunch before 1.00 p.m., or you will starve. I'm thinking of doing a post re French lunch hours (and hours, and hours). Ha!

The Rotten Correspondent said...

That description was the next best thing to being on vacation myself.

How lovely it sounds.

Miles Away In France said...

Hi I just found your blog and I enjoyed this post, I will visit again soon.
Racheal x

Swearing Mother said...

Hi RC: Have just been over to your blog and by the sounds of it, I should have taken you on holiday with me! Thanks for your lovely comments, I appreciate them very much.

Bonjour, Miles Away In France: How nice of you to drop by,glad you like this post. Hope to read you again sometime. Loved your blog by the way.

Best wishes.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

you have an award at my place...

Swearing Mother said...

Woohoo RC: Will be over with indecent haste to grab it and run.

Thanks so much!!

Cailleach said...

Now this is very good - and I was in stitches at your last post, SM! I see you like travelling too, not!

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Cailleach, how nice to meet you! Have just been over to have a look at your blog and, it is SO interesting!


Looking forward to reading more of you in the future.

laurie said...

ah, lovely!

i don't remember stars in paris. except those in my own eyes. heh heh heh. ok, hokey. but it was so beautiful.

i'm glad things took a turn for the better. (i kind of panic before trips, too. especially those that involve flying. i'm not afraid of crashing--i'm afraid of missing my flight!)

belle said...

So many award SM, so little time! Many congrats! Just to keep up the pressure I've tagged you - see my blog for details ;o)

Tina said...

Now, SM, that's just poetic! What a beautiful description! Congrats to you, your writing just gets better, and I've been a fan from the start

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Belle, ta for the tag, will be giving it a heavy coat of thought in the next few days.

Thanks Tina for your lovely comment, much appreciated, as always.

knifepainter said...

As Norman says, art is about what you like.

Lovely post, the holiday sounds lovely.

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Knifepainter: It was indeed lovely. Wish I could paint.

You are SO lucky!

Best wishes.

Mid-lifer said...

Hi swearing mother, just visited your blog via Tina's and it seems we've both been tagged by Belle (not done anything yet).

Your post reminds me of two things 1) endless trips to art galleries with sister and mother both well versed in art crit and me thinking um..like that, don't like that etc. 2) wonderful skies I enjoyed while abroad - Indonesia and Middle East FULL of stars against a very velvety sky...ahhhh thanks for taking me back there.

Kaycie said...

Gorgeous writing. Starry, Starry Night has been one of my favorites since childhood. I have an old print of it in my bedroom that I bought to cheer up my dorm room in college. The frame has changed over the years, but I take it wherever we go.

knifepainter said...

I'm more than happy that I paint.............but it 'aint always easy or relaxing !!

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Mid-Lifer, thanks for calling. I too have done nothing as yet re my tagging but it's my first day back at work so there's only so much thinking I can do in one go.

Glad you enjoyed my post.

Kaycie, that painting has always appealed to me, and it's very special to so many people. Bless him.

Hi Knifepainter, I guess you just make it look easy!

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow, I love your description of the stars,
"the stars twinkling like a handful of blazing diamonds scattered over a cloak of inky blue velvet".

And I love that painting.
It's just otherworldly and beautiful isn't it?

Dick Madeley said...

I used to enjoy out holidays a certain little town in the South of France until I was told I was no longer welcome after I said something about their mayor and his sister. But I know what you mean about the light. I'd often lie in a field and gaze up at the sky. Granted, it was mainly because I was inebriated but it was honest inebriation and I did think the stars looked particularly nice. I tend to think it’s because France doesn't have England's swathes of moronic homeowners and their 9000W security lights that come on at the passing of every snail.

But as I said: happy days.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Wonderful post, swearing mother. I saw something similar in Wyoming in August. Because there weren't 100,000 houses lit up at once, the sky was a beautiful midnight blue and I could even for once make out the constellations (not that I really know them -- I'm more of a belly-button gazer than a stargazer).

advocate said...

I thoroughly enjoyed and understood your wonderful description of the night sky over Nice. Three years ago, I stayed in a cottage near the medieval village of Monflanquin in the Lot et Garonne Region. The night sky was something to behold. No streetlights to spoil the fantastic display. Out of this world.

Mean Mom said...

My husband offered to take me to France, several years ago, but I turned him down. I had only ever passsed through France, on my way to other places, and it just seemed unbelievably busy! So this is what I missed out on. That will teach me!

Glad you had a good time.

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Jo, yes I know what you mean. Some pictures just get to you don't they?

Richard: How lovely to see you're getting out more! Inebriated on holiday? Whatever next?

Hi Wakeup: Wyoming sounds great, big skies etc. Lovely to read you by the way, thanks for visiting.

Hello Advocate, thanks for calling. The village we stayed in near Nice was very similar by the sounds of it. Really lovely.

Hiya Mean Mom: France is such a beautiful country, you can choose from exciting and busy, tranquil, cultural, beach-life etc., etc., whatever you fancy. And you know what they say about a bit of what you fancy...... will definitely do you good. If you get the chance again, a holiday in France can be just magic.

Thanks everyone for calling.

Big Chip Dale said...

I've never been to France but we get the same stars here in Wales. They are quite a sight.

Swearing Mother said...

Hiya Big Chip Dale! Those skies over Wales are truly star spangled, rather like your goodself!

Thanks for visiting.