From 2009 until now, I have posted many series of wide-ranging photo essays. Â A total of 72 of these essays – surreal and otherwise, and consisting of just over 1,000 photographs – were devoted to Western Australia.Â Another 58 photo photo essays – surreal and non-surreal, and comprised of some 1,800 images – focused on America.Â
I reckon that for a while people have seen enough of my take on slivers of experiencing life in Western Australia and North America.Â As a complete change, let’s bravely have a bit of a gander at what it’s like to engage in what I’ve loosely termed as the Surreal English & French experience.
It is a surreal look in that every one of the 634 photographs in this series has been altered. This has been mainly accomplished by using Picasa but sometimes by also using Microsoft Paint as well to manipulate the images.Â Not a single image is as the eye would ordinarily see it.
We are taking each country in turn, beginning with England.Â And we kicked it all off by using shanks ponies and train to travel to London.Â It was a kind of reconnoiter, if you like … very much a case of tentatively dipping our big toe into the murky waters of the English experience.
Emboldened by surviving unscathed our first excursion from our home base at Sunningdale, we then journeyed by car along back roads and country lanes to see what the heck is within a couple of hours reach of home.Â We got to see lots of snug pubs with pints and pints of frothing cold beer … oops, I mean hot cocoa in hamlets and towns that soon floated by in a hot chocolate haze but I kind of remember Henley-on-something-or-other, Oxford University’s bicycle racks and Guildford in vain search of Charles Dickens.Â In the following expedition we ranged much farther, driving to Dover and catching a train to St Ives in Cornwall.Â Just because, really.Â We had no plan in mind other than to go look.
Once we’d returned to Sunningdale and recovered from that coastal ordeal, we headed off to Windsor Castle.Â It is not only Europe’s largest but is actually also the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.Â We put our feet up for a day or two and then caught the train to Waterloo Station to go exploring the Westminster area, including the knock-your-socks-off Abbey.Â A few days later we caught the train into London again to go see the bustling river Thames area.Â Some days after that, we once more caught the train to London, this time to trudge on blistered feet all about Trafalgar Square and then route march to Buckingham Palace.Â Liz and Phil didn’t invite us in for a cuppa.
Magnanimously, we chose to not live in bitter memories of royal slights in the past few days.Â Instead, we headed by car for France.Â Â As with all all of our expeditions, it necessitated beginning as soon as it was light enough to head off and then not putting our feet up until well after dark … the daylight hours here in England and in France during late-autumn and winter are quite short.Â And the light for good photography is fast fleeting and very brief.Â It can be said that at this time of year, England and Europe are a very dark experience.
Enough of this gibberish by me!Â It’s absolute rot, of course!Â We’ve got to get moving, now that we’ve refueled with French coffee and Arab petrol. Â Having crossed under the English Channel via the Chunnel, we’re headed for Boulogne, the largest fishing port in France. Â You might as well know that Boulogne-sur-Mer is a city in northern France, with a long history.Â The emperor Claudius used the town as his base for the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43.Â Some 1,800 years later, in 1805, Napoleon massed his Grande Armee in Boulogne to invade England.Â Â But the supremacy of Britain’s Royal Navy prevented any such actual invasion from occurring.Â And that was true again in WWII, when a mooted invasion by Hitler’s forces was manifestly impossible because the Royal Navy ruled the waves and the Royal Air Force ruled the skies.
Enough of my dreadful drivel.Â Mercifully, I’ll keep my inane commentary very short.Â However, I will scrupulously cite any references, meticulously following the petrified encyclicals in the Dead Sea Scrolls Style Manual that detail the turning-to-salt procedures for use on defrocked scholars.Â Should such encyclicals deviate markedly from the Roman Army’s standing orders for the supervision by the Ninth Legion of the style of gladiatorial poetry contests written to death in Gaul, such deviation will be noted.
Fair crack of the whip, mate!Â Don’t fence me out from the well disguised WWII gun emplacements on the very edge of the coast.Â I want to breathe the history of this place.
But Bob is determined to go look anyway, for focused route marching regardless of all obstacles is the way of sergeant-majors.Â While Hans makes short work of a frothing can of never you mind what, as is the way of genial English Oracles.
There, now clearly visible amid the coastal dunes lining sheer cliffs, are the WWII thick concrete works of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.Â Reminders of the war are still everywhere in France, much more so than in England.
A lone couple stand where once German troops swarmed.
Any invading WW II force would have to contend with these defended cliffs.
Just walking about this mountain goat landscape is exhausting.Â Even the sergeant-major needs time out for a breather.
This WWII German gun emplacement dominates everything below.Â It would make a tremendous outdoor spa, with these sweeping views.
The flat concrete top of a big gun bunker overlooks yet more concrete emplacements, with all of them dominating the English Channel below .
Oh, yes, enough of bunkers – do let there be light!
Hello, hello, hello!Â Â What have we here – something weird out of the French music scene, perhaps?Â
Nope, this is the Battery Todt Museum, here at Audinghen.Â And that monster gun on the train carriage – it really is absolutely enormous – targeted shipping in the English Channel.Â The gun weighs 218 tons, has a barrel 71 feet long and fires a 560 lb shell to a maximum range of 40 miles (64 km).Â So much for music.Â And let’s move on and away from guns.
(Source: this remarkably life-like painting by the artist Maximus Realtor to illustrate Germanic ingenuity,Â is incorporated in the Dead Sea Scrolls addendum: Huns galling threat to the Gauls – as published in the Ninth Legion’s urgent report to the Roman Army’s obtuse intelligence corp.Â The permission to use it here is gratefully acknowledged.)
Ah, standing on one leg to read public notices must be the French thing to do.
Ah, enlightened Boulogne releasing the tide so residents will have more beach on which to walk.Â Only the French would think of that!
Let there be art to colour the city!
Here we discover the gate into the old town citadel.Â Â Many others have tried to do soÂ but failed.
The colourful life inside beckons, enticing us to come and explore.
Eureka!Â Lining this ancient cobbled street are restaurant after restaurant.Â It’s nosebag time!
Antiques can’t compete when the smell of French cooking is wafting along the ancient cobbled street.
Well, antiques can’t compete when you’re hungry!Â Unless you’re shopping for bargains
that are just flying out of the door.
It is surprising what you can see when you peer closely into a window like this one.
But we’re going to let food colour our world.
Okay, let’s check out the menu and prices.Â Sustenance is required so that we won’t end up like that lady drooped over the billboard.
Yes, yes, Hans, this will do fine.Â We need the food and the girl needs the money.
No, let’s not check out the opposition across the road … there’s this weird dude in there whose been following us around with a camera.Â Probably a photo-essay critic.Â
Though mouths are closed, their hands are talking.
Having satisfied the inner persons, we head onwards to find lurking sights worth exploring.
From the citadel’s thick stone wall we have a sweeping view of … well, of cars choking the ancient street.Â What do you expect?
The English Oracle explains the meaning of c’est la vie to an awe struck sergeant-major.
(Source: photograph taken by undercover operative of the French Foreign Legion and used in a secret directive, published proudly in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to all legionnaires, under the heading: Do not listen to lying English Oracle pigs – they know nothing.Â C’est la vie!)
Ghostly shadow hands reaching to scale the wall.
The basilica of Notre-Dame soars upward over 100 metres.Â Of course, this should not be confused with the more famous one in Paris.Â There’s no hunchback bell ringer here.
The old town’s fort – a chateau without a keep – beckons.
Come inside, the sergeant-major urges, and the Oracle nods his endorsement.Â Such is a conspiracy best avoided.
The camera drags the anonymous photographer away by the scruff of the neck to take this shot before the light fails.
And here is everything about the basilica.Â Alas, a command of French is required.
Let’s pause and reflect a while on what we have seen on this first day in France – we have the basilica all to ourselves.
Time to hit the road again and get out of here.Â Paris is the next stop.
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square