by Ken Jones

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge ?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information ?

T.S.Eliot - The Rock

The open door of the shabby little Hotel de la Gare. The municipal street washer has just clattered over the cobbles, freshening the air before the sun gets up. On their way to work, the locals drop in for a petit noir or a shot of something stronger. Hands are briefly shaken all round. Even the solitary touriste anglais, dunking his croissant in his bowl of coffee. No one says much. A new and unrepeatable day is on its way.

Morning brightness
coffee's bitter edge

Listlessly I flip the bible paper pages of the Guide Bleue. Things to see and do. Something significant might be missed. You never know.

Among the natives of the town were Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), who conceived the idea of plant classification; and A J Balard (1802-1876) who discovered bromine in 1826. The cathedral dates mainly from the 13C (transepts). Some good 14C glass is preserved, together with murals of 1347 in some chapels. The 14C cloister contains some sculptural fragments.

Enough ! Enough ! I thrust guide book and street plan firmly back into my travelling bag and close the zip. Now a mere flâneur, I stroll round the town gallery again; always the same favourites. Chewing their cud, in their heavy gilt frame, Albert Cuyp's sunlit cows. After the coach tours have departed, I sneak into the cathedral.

In the cage of stone and glass
the long echo
of a dropped camera

Come the evening, off to a favourite brasserie for a biere blonde and badinage with the barmaid. En route there is a certain ancient door, this time unlocked.

Chapel of the Black Penitants
a lonely Christ
hangs in his silence

In the dim light I find a stone seat and sit with him in the cold..
Next day to the one town on the railway that gets scarcely a mention in the guide. As soon as I get off a gritty metallic tang catches my throat. And there's no tourist office. Only the huge, ugly church of an industrial Christianity. The interior shelters a dozen or more migrant families.

Beneath the stony gaze of saints
on a mosaic floor

Outside, among pollarded plane-trees, a travelling fair is in full swing.

A merry-go-round
of painted horses
up-and-down we go


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