France

Bienvenue à Lassay-les-Châteaux

My mother lives in a small town in Northern France called Lassay-les-Châteaux. For a few years she's had a holiday caravan in a park nearby, and at Christmas she bought a house in the town. The English version of wikipedia has practically nothing to say about Lassay-les-Châteaux other than showing photos of two of the three local castles- one in the town centre, the other two just outside. (The town's name also sounds like it means "leave the castles" in French). The French entry doesn't tell you much more, except that a lot of people were guillotined there in the Revolution, the local mayor doesn't belong to a political party (after a long line of right-wingers), and that Victor Hugo visited once. It's just not a place where things happen. If you want the quiet life, you can find it in Lassay.... Read More...

Mont St Michel

I went to Mont St Michel last week for the first time in years. It's a medieval abbey on an island on the border between Normandy and Brittany, about an hour's drive from my mum's house in France. We went there a few times when I was a kid, and the last time I was there was in the late 90s on a school trip. It has dramatically changed since then. There was something a bit seedy and cynical about the place in the 90s despite the spectacular town itself. Buses and cars drove over the causeway to the island, and parked in a decrepit carpark on the shore, which had a tendency to flood. As you made your way up through the snaking medieval street to the abbey at the top of the peak, there were endless shops selling cheap replica hunting knives, saucy postcards and boxes of firecrackers. It must have been a nightmare for teachers supervising school groups. ... Read More...

En train de flâner. Aucun train-train.

Here's some more photos from Paris (again taken with a Pentax ME super and expired Poundland film with a strange red cast), from my general wandering around. Wandering is one of my favourite things to do. In French it's flâner, and someone who wanders around a city, observing things and casually exploring is a flâneur or a flâneuse, much celebrated in literature. I did a lot of that on my recent trip, both because I was on such a tight budget, and also because I was on my own, so I was free to spend my time as I liked. I'm in the middle of writing a new zine about the trip. Hopefully I'll have it finished by the Sheffield Zine Fest next weekend.... Read More...

Canal St-Martin

Here's some more pictures of Paris, this time of the Canal Sainte-Martin, once again taken with an old Pentax ME Super from the 70s. The film was expired and from Poundland, and went through the x-ray machine at the airport, which resulted in it having a red cast. I colour corrected it out where I could, but the pictures don't quite reflect the aqua green water as I saw it. I also took some b&w pictures of the same area, which I've developed but not yet scanned.... Read More...

Graveyard/ghost town double exposures

While I was in Paris I visited the famous Père Lachaise cemetery, and took a lot of photos both monochrome and colour, which I will post later. One roll, however, turned out to be half-used already and I ended up with double exposures. It turned out I'd already taken photos of a place called Domfront in Normandy with it. Domfront is a bit of a ghost town, which made me laugh to get double exposures of a literal graveyard over a figurative one.... Read More...

Professor Knatschke

My university library had a massive stack of printing industry annuals from the 1890s through to the 20s. I always enjoyed looking through them because the illustrations and articles they chose to showcase new printing technologies were often really odd, and were good to photocopy for collages and zines. Next to them on the shelf was a strange little book called Professor Knatschke. It's a comedy book written and illustrated in 1912 by Alsatian satirist Jean-Jacques Waltz, aka Hansi, about a clueless German professor and his daughter's trip to Paris, mocking both the French and the Germans (but mostly the Germans) in a more innocent pre-WW1 pre-Nazi era. I always really liked the illustrations (and Elsa K's obsession with making gifts embroidered with "inspiring" mottoes) , and now it's available free online as a copyright-free ebook.... Read More...

Lassay les Châteaux

Last month I went to visit my mum in France. She lives just outside a small town called Lassay les Châteaux. It does indeed have several ruined castles. It's on the Pays de la Loire / Normandy border, and most of the houses in town are old stone cottages. She considered buying one, but it was too damp. When people are thinking of France being cosmopolitan and chic, they are not thinking of rural Normandy. It's a lot like Derbyshire, but without the mountains. The local cuisine is heavy on tripe, bacon and sour cream, served with teacups full of cider (there are two rival triperies in another nearby town). While I was there, I mostly ate my own weight in brioche and sour cream, and sat in the sun reading a book about the post-war political history of Europe. I took quite a lot of photos on film, so I'll wait until I have those developed before writing more.... Read More...

Versailles in the summer of 2005

I've been sorting through my things, and found some old negatives. I've already scanned the one from Italy in the late 90s, and here's some more. (There's a lot more to come). In 2005 I went camping with my mum in Yvelines, just outside Paris. You can get into the city in about 15 mins on the RER, so it's a good combination of camping and sightseeing. Versailles is just down the road too. I took a lot of photos there, but I can't find the others right now. These are taken with an Olympus XA2 and some cheap expired Kodak slide film, cross-processed.... Read More...