January 13th, 2012


My life in 2011- part four: September

Email interview I did with Nicola Chapman around this time. Full disclosure: I hinted beforehand what I did and didn't wish to be asked about, though I do generally support journalistic freedom.


I took rather a lot of short holidays this year, exceeding my 20 days' allowance slightly I think. This time I went to Shropshire for another weekend at my mum's. We attended the opening of our friend Beulah's exhibition in Shrewbury. She has never been either a professional artist or art collector, but has been an enthusiastic amateur at both, and this was a mixture of her art, that of her family, and other art works she has bought or been given. One print had been a gift from my brother. It was really nice, and- knowing her personally- very touching. Saturday was spent walking, picking fruit (apples, damsons and sloes) and other assorted jobs. On Sunday we got a special bus to see some old miners' cottages in the Stiperstones, then later to a country pub. An idyllic country weekend.

At the end of the month I went to Lyon, which has to take the crown as highlight of my year.

Our friend lilbitterbug is living there for a while, so given that it's nearer than America, me and Alice made a point of going to stay with her while she was there. She and her handsome partner were temporally staying in a fine big clean flat (up a LOT of stairs) in the middle of Old Lyon, so that's where we spent most of our time, and it was very beautiful. I don't know how many years or decades it would have taken to make me think of going to Lyon if Lex hadn't gone there but I'm so glad I went.

We went to the Roman Ampitheatre, the park which is also a free zoo, the famous puppet theatre Thèatre Guignol, an amazing food hall. We ate out quite a bit in the gastronomical capital of France, and we saw a gig by my pal Bridget Hayden who happened to be in town, in a cool kinda underground venue. Afterwards we went to a nearby bar and befriended a guy who was trying to chat me up, which doesn't happen very often.

We went to the big art gallery there, which had a pretty great exhibiton of mostly disturbing modern art from somebody's private collection, hung interspersed with old masters from the permanent collection by the likes of Gericault. Lots of French artists unfamiliar to me elsewhere in the collection. Loads by Louis Janmot (self-portrait, below), the city's local hero, whose somewhat sentimental style is unfashionable now but he sure had his moments, especially when he let his weird streak show through.

The museum of printing was excellent, both for the permanent collection and the display of virtuoso Chinese calligraphy.

We sat in a couple of other bars, including one run by a guy from Birmingham (UK). There was the obligatory (for me) comic shop stop where I got Calvo's incredible “La bête est morte”, a history of World war II done in an elaborate full colour funny-animal style (I say funny animal, it was done in all seriousness) drawn while it was happening. The first of the two original volumes was drawn secretly in Nazi-controlled France and published almost immediately after the liberation.

We spent a lot of time looking at the record and book stalls by the river, and I got five or six books to add to my bulging shelf of French language books. (Mostly books by the great French authors, though I also got an academic treatise on the Astérix comics).  

Pretty and interesting and French as Lyon was, the trip would have been less than three quarters as good without my dear friends and all the time we shared together, and great conversations. 

Lulu et nous

Backstage at the Thèatre Guignol. The play was pretty grisly and violent for children's entertainment, but they seemed to love it, and especially they love the hero Guignol.

We also did a lot of window-shopping

the French café life.

which cheese to choose?

Fantastic Bridget Hayden and lots of old LP sleeves
full Lyon album here: http://s64.photobucket.com/albums/h162/iancockburn/Lyon/
his trip combine dso many of my favourite things: travelling with like-minded people, France and the French way of life, wonderful food, great art and music, and dear friendship.