Monday 28 August 2023

Three Things

 1. Until I saw one of his pictures on Facebook today, I hadn't realised that Emile Zola (not one of my favourite authors) was an accomplished photographer. Above and below are two of his Paris street scenes, both looking very like Caillebotte paintings, but of course gloomier. Zola seems to have preferred taking his photographs in the rain, which must have posed some technical challenges in those days.  

2. Something cheering. This morning on Radio 3 I heard this simple but rather lovely (and topical) folk song, beautifully performed by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, which I pass on to brighten this cold and dismal (here in Lichfield) Bank Holiday morning. Or I would, but YouTube is reluctant to yield it, so here's the link...

3. It's John Betjeman's birthday (born 1906). As I've recently become a Friend of Lichfield Cathedral, this poem seemed strangely apposite, though Betj does seem not to entirely approve of the activities of  'The Friends of the Cathedral' – 

At the end of our Cathedral
    Where people buy and sell
It says “Friends of the Cathedral”,
    And I’m sure they wish it well.

Perhaps they gave the bookstall
    Of modernistic oak,
And the chairs for the assistants
    And the ashtrays for a smoke.

Is it they who range the marigolds
    In pots of art design
About “The Children’s Corner”,
    That very sacred shrine?

And do they hang the notices
    Off old crusader’s toes?
And paint the cheeks of effigies
    That curious shade of rose?

Those things that look like wireless sets
    Suspended from each column,
Which bellow out the Litany
    Parsonically solemn—

Are these a present from the Friends?
    And if they are, how nice
That aided by their echo
    One can hear the service twice.

The hundred little bits of script
    Each framed in passe-partout
And nailed below the monuments,
    A clerical “Who’s Who”—

Are they as well the work of Friends?
    And do they also choose
The chantry chapel curtains
    In dainty tea-shop blues?

The Friends of the Cathedral—
    Are they friendly with the Dean?
And if they do things on their own
    What does their friendship mean?
'Ashtrays for a smoke'! How times change, even in the cathedral. I like 'And do they hang the notices Off old crusaders' toes? And paint the cheeks of effigies That curious shade of rose?' The answer is surely no, at least to the latter.

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