A Knight’s Tale (87: Villeneuvette)

During a French holiday in September and October 1981. We shared a house in Cabrieres, Languedoc with Jessica’s friend, Sue Sproston. The house belonged to a colleague of Sue’s who was in the process of renovating it, but hadn’t been too bothered about fixing potential leaks in the roof. Trust us to experience the worst thunderstorm locals could remember.

Jessica and Sam 9.81

Here, Jessica and Sam see me off on a trip for the obligatory croissants from the boulangerie.

Garden 9.81

I found the local gardens fascinating. Some were carefully tended;

Truck in garden 10.81

others seemed to be spaces to park trucks

Trike and crocuses 10.81

or trikes.

Jessica, Sam and Sue Sproston 10.81

Here Sue joins Jessica and Sam in investigating the local lake.

Grapes and fountain 10.81

It was clearly the time of the vendanges, or the grape harvest.

St Guilhem 10.81

We drove around the area and visited a number of villages, like the beautifully kept St Guilhem,

Sam at Villeneuvette fountain 10.81

and the almost abandoned Villeneuvette, where Sam sloshed in the fountain, not as elaborate as the one in the grapes picture.

Wikipedia has this to say about Colbert’s social and economic experiment:

‘Villeneuvette is a commune in the Hérault department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.

It lies close to the town of Clermont l’Hérault.

Villeneuvette is a small village made up of a group of buildings initially erected in the 17th century to create a royal clothmaking factory and provide accommodation for its workers. Apart from a hotel and restaurant, the buildings are now restricted to residential use, many for holiday purposes.

Creation of Villeneuvette was promoted in 1677 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert the noted finance minister of King Louis XIV. It was one of his many initiatives to develop France’s industrial base. Power for the factory was hydraulic with water supplied via different water courses from existing basins. The factory was privately owned and produced cloth for the king including uniforms for his armies. The factory was in existence until 1955.

Since 1995 the village has been classified as a “Zone de Protection du Patrimoine et du Paysage” recognising the originality and importance of its heritage.

The original inscription above the gateway was “MANUFACTURE ROYALE” but was later rather crudely changed by the Republic to “HONNEUR AU TRAVAIL” – Honour in work.’

When we stumbled across the commune most dwellings were unoccupied, except for a few people who, to us, appeared to be squatters. We were able to amble around and marvel at the higgledy-piggledy nature of the accommodation, often with one family’s upper rooms above those of the residents below.

Clermont-de-Lodeve001

In 1982, J.K.J. Thomson published ‘Clermont-de-Lodève 1633-1789’. Since it contains an erudite history of Villeneuvette, I had to buy it. It was, in fact, far too academic for my taste, but I did struggle through it. Interestingly, the book jacket shows the changed inscription mentioned above.

I was, perhaps fifteen years later, rather pleased I had, when one of my consutation clients told me that a couple of her friends had bought one of the residences which were now being sold on the open market. I was able to describe what we had seen, and to hand over the book. I didn’t expect to see it again, but, it was eventually returned to me by the  wife, who happened to be  a committee member of another agency client. Even then, before we were all overtaken by the Web, it was a small world.

Rough Sleeping

This afternoon I scanned a few more recently rediscovered colour slides from August 2008. These are from a visit to Kew Gardens.

Beside the lake huge gunnera grow; upon it plays a splendid fountain.

The Titan Arum, or Amorphophallus Titanum, otherwise, on account of its putrid pong, known as the corpse plant, a native of Sumatra, is grown in the tropical hothouse. My second image bears a loose resemblance to the unfortunate hooded Elephant Man of Victorian England.

Later, I received a text inviting me to book an appointment for a Covid vaccine at our own surgery in Milford on Sea. This has to be done on line. If I don’t do it I will receive a phone call next week. Having already been offered and booked one in Christchurch I tried to telephone to discuss this. It was, of course, not possible. It looks as if I will take the bird in the hand.

With two more chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ read, I scanned two more of Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations.

First we have ‘It became necessary to lead Mr F’s Aunt from the room’, which offers three different, accurate portraits.

‘Past homeless people lying coiled up in nooks’ depicts a social ill which to some lesser extent is still with us, as demonstrated by this East End Review article of April 15th 2015:

‘The homeless person sleeping rough might be a common image in London today, but in the 19th century there were hundreds spilling onto the streets every night.

Short but powerful, the new exhibition Homes of the Homeless: Seeking Shelter in Victorian London at the Geffrye Museum seeks to illuminate the daily struggle of the bitterly poor in the city 200 years ago. What this exhibition highlights most candidly is the juxtaposition between the Victorian ideal of the home and the reality of destitution in this period.

Some took to sleeping in London’s parks, while others tumbled into shelters and workhouses, where conditions varied massively. Queueing for accommodation was something frequently seen on the streets come dark, even in central locations like Covent Garden, and protests broke out as hundreds camped out in Trafalgar Square.

The Pinch of Poverty by Thomas Benjamin Kennington 1891. Credit: The Foundling Museum
The Pinch of Poverty by Thomas Benjamin Kennington 1891. Credit: The Foundling Museum

Touching in so many different ways, the exhibition features paintings, photographs, testimonials and engravings all depicting homelessness in its various guises. The destitute family was a common image, with children evoking particular sympathy, and billboards and newspapers both carried adverts imploring people to give whatever they could to support the city’s more unfortunate souls. The government did, by today’s standards, much to stem the flow of homelessness in the capital, but as the century progressed, the problem became more difficult to contain.

Homes of the Homeless charts this challenge, touching on the different approaches to homelessness – from casual wards where ‘inmates’ could exchange hard labour for a place to sleep, to model lodging houses that were designed to more closely imitate a real home – as well as real people’s reactions to their dire circumstances, collected from investigative journalism and charity reports.

Thoroughly researched and straightforwardly presented, this exhibition is accessible to anyone interested in the history of London. With glaring relevance today, it presents a significant slice of history that should not be overlooked, and an important lesson in charity and compassion. Homes of the Homeless is a succinct, enlightening exhibition in one of London’s most charming museums.’

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome chicken and vegetable stewp with crusty bread, with which I drank more of the Macon.

A Matter Of Scale

THE SINGLE PHOTOGRAPHS CAN BE ENLARGED WITH A CLICK OR TWO. CLICKING ON OTHERS IN A GROUP WILL ACCESS THEIR GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE BY SCROLLING DOWN AND CHECKING BOX AT BOTTOM RIGHT

In ‘What’s In The Folds?’ I featured an introduction to Solent Grange. We returned to the site this morning to develop the theme in better light.

Cyclists

The cyclists ahead of us on the lane from Keyhaven give an indication of the narrowness of the Solent Way where the development is situated;

Van and pillars

the small van in this picture has just passed the totally over the top entrance,

which, although beautifully crafted with skilled brickwork and well moulded statuary, is far too large for its position.

Further scale is provided by this couple walking their dogs. We chatted for a while. Their view of the pretentiousness of these structures was similar to mine. The woman had had a knee replacement a year ago and was very well now. The further sets of pillars to the right are those that on the day of our last visit bore a pair of white lions equal in stature to the sculptures on either side of the entrance which, according to the developers, is to be gated.

https://www.royalelife.com/milford-view describes ‘Solent Grange by Royale [a]s a fabulously-located luxury bungalow development for the over 45’s.

Later this afternoon we took to the forest. On such a hot day, ponies, like these just outside Brockenhurst, cluster for shelter beneath trees. Foals tend to lie sprawled panting on the grass. It was Jackie who noticed that in this group it was the grey, happy to cast a shadow, that didn’t mind the sun.

In a garden across a green some distance from the road at East Boldre can be seen a rather spectacular verdigris coated sculptured fountain devoid of water. Given the surrounding space the proportions do not offend. It is, perhaps, all a matter of scale.

My choice of Tesco prepared meals this evening was beef lasagna. Jackie, who also provided good helpings of fresh salad, chose ham and mushroom tagliatelle

 

 

 

 

 

Losing Control

12th July 2014 Westminster BridgeCrowd on South BankI began the day by posting yesterday’s entry. This afternoon Jackie drove me to New Milton where I boarded the train to Waterloo for a trip to Shampers, Simon Pearson’s wine bar in Kingly Street, where Michael was holding his second 50th birthday celebration. To walk my normal route to Green Park, turn right along Piccadilly, cross this thoroughfare into Air St, turn left up Regent St, and right then left into Kingly St, on a Saturday afternoon in midsummer, is definitely not to be recommended unless you are intent on recording the experience. But I was. So I did. The walk along South Bank and up the steps onto and then across Westminster Bridge was like taking on the combined international rugby forwards of the Six Nations and those of the Southern Hemisphere.Motor boatCruise ship A packed speedboat sped under the bridge while cruise ships unloaded one herd of passengers and took on board another.Selfies Tourists were wielding every kind of device capable of taking photographs, a good number of them being selfies, two of the subjects of which claimed to be Absolutely Fabulous, and the other Knight Style.Crossing Closed sign No-one appeared to see the huge notices closing the crossings at Whitehall and Palace St instructing people to use the underpasses. But perhaps that was just for runners in the 10k run that featured in the small print.Crowds in St James's ParkLovers St James’s Park was a little easier, but still packed with people lovingly basking in the sunshine.Meadow and fountainHeron

Motionless herons kept an eye out for prey from the lake.Crowd in Regent Street

Sculpture and observerToy planesTable tennisPiccadilly and Regent St were almost as crowded as Westminster Bridge.

In Aire St a group were perched on the pavement sketching the view of Regent St through an arch. Having arrived at the venue 90 minutes early, I walked around the corner and sat for a while in Golden Square where two low-flying aircraft had come to grief; spectators communed with the sculpture; and table tennis was in progress.

The assembled company at Shampers were Michael, Heidi, Alice, Emily and her boyfriend Sam; Louisa and Errol; Mat and Tess; Eddie and his wife Rebecca; and two other friends whose names I can’t recall, but whose faces I know well.

Eddie is Michael’s lifelong friend who often stayed with us in Soho in the 1970s, as, of course, did Matthew and Becky. It was natural with that grouping to recount Soho stories. One I haven’t featured before is the tale of the mechanical digger. One afternoon I was horrified to peer out of our first floor window and see one of these clanking its steady way across the yard, its grabber reaching out like something from ‘War of the Worlds’. The cab was empty. Michael and Matthew were vainly attempting to bring it to a halt. I am not sure who reached up and turned it off. Perhaps it was me. This evening Mat revealed that this parked municipal vehicle had been started with the birthday boy’s front door key. Then things began to teeter out of control.

This narrative prompted Eddie, who had also stayed in many other places with us, to confess about the ride-on mower in Wootton Rivers. He had apparently gone for a ride on this sometime in that same decade, had approached the church, lost control, and crunched the stone wall. Eddie’s recollection is that the wall was undamaged, but that the mower was rather crumpled. It still worked, however, so the miscreant parked it in the garage and hoped that Jessica’s father would not notice.

Eddie’s optimism was not entirely misplaced, as was demonstrated by Matthew’s next story. The owner of the mower, you see, was not exactly in complete command of his vehicle. One day our son was playing in the garden with a group of Pearson cousins. Suddenly panic, and cries of ‘Clear the lawn, everything off the lawn’, set in. Small and medium sized children rushed to and fro, hither and thither, grabbing toys, balls, you name it. ‘And Louisa’, someone yelled, and scooped up the crawling infant. It was then that Matthew saw the mower hove into view. ‘The beach ball’, someone shouted.

Too late. The mower steamed over and flattened the large round beach ball. It is believed that the driver remained unaware of the tragedy.

These, and many other stories were enlivened by various excellent wines chosen by Eddie, the professional. I was particularly taken with the chilled Brouilly.

The food was superb, My starter was squid, followed by grilled sardines, chips, and salad, some of which Louisa snaffled. I had to desert the party before the cheese and dessert.Piccadilly Circus

I walked back to Piccadilly Circus and took the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo, and thence to New Milton and from there home by a Galleon taxi.

Sitting opposite me on the train from Waterloo were a young Chinese woman attempting to sleep, and an older Englishwoman attempting to talk. I returned the conversation for a while then indicated my desire to return to my book. Soon peace reigned as my companions slept. They departed at Southampton Central, but very soon afterwards I had to abandon the book, as the train filled up to capacity, and a drunken, acknowledgedly ‘chatty’ young man full of Jameson’s sought to entertain us all. Giving up, I closed ‘December’ by Elizabeth H. Winthrop.

The taxi firm is to be recommended. They operate from a shed outside New Milton station.