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.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 in England andÂ 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.
Having crossed under the English Channel via the Chunnel, we drove to historic Boulogne, the largest fishing port in France, if not the whole of Europe. 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 this gibberish by me!Â It's absolute rot, of course!Â Suffice to say that we explored the restaurants and the ancient part of Boulogne and had an interesting time looking around.Â Then it was a long drive to Paris and an early night at our hotel.Â Yet bright and early the following morning we were up and at 'em ... using the underground railway to deposit us near enough to walk to the Eiffel Tower.Â After Bob and the English Oracle returned from riding the tower's elevator the almost 1,000 feet to the top to stare into thick fog, we walked to the nearby river Seine and went cruising on a ferry.Â Of course, we just had to disembark to go and visit the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, on the banks of the Seine.
It was a tiring but exciting day. As was the next one when we tracked down the Academie Nationale De Musique - known as The Opera.Â There we saw two brass bands of buskers going head to head on the steps of the Academie.Â It was a blast!Â But easily the highlight so far was our next adventure into the milling throng that is Paris.Â We spent many hours in the museum to eclipse all museums - in the world renowned Musee du Louvre ... known simply as, The Louvre.Â Despite the time we spent at the museum, we only saw a little of the vast collections gathered there.Â One day we really must return.Â Â As we must, with the mother of all palaces, the Chateau de Versailles, which we visited on our way out of Paris.
But enough of my dreadful drivel.Â Today we've left Paris behind us in a cloud of dust, driving at a cracking pace towards Normandy.Â The picturesque town of Honfleur is our initial destination - to see for ourselves why it is a holiday resort loved by both the English and the French.
I'll keep my pathetic commentary very short.Â Nevertheless, 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.Â C'est la vie!
We've detoured somewhat, going here and there as the fancy took us, but as dusk descends we pass the Etaples Military Cemetery, approximately 15 minutes drive from the town of Le Touquet, where we'll spend the night.Â The cemetery contains 10,769 British Commonwealth burials from WWI and an additional 119 burials from WWII.Â It also contains 658 German burials.
Here the well travelled English Oracle negotiates our stay, using horribly broken French and the waving of arms to communicate with the lovely young co-owner of the Hotel Jules who - how you say? - speaks English as well as Hans speaks French.Â Because the dog kennels were full, we got rooms.
Up at the crack of dawn to explore the area around our quaint hotel, Sergeant-Major Bob is entranced by these stone houses which are as ornate as the ginger bread cottages on Martha's Vineyard but are on a much larger scale.
A dawn reconnaissance patrol reveals a chocolatier who needs to explain herself as to why she is offering such temptations so early in the morning.Â The anonymous photographer unselfishly volunteers to bravely go inside and check things out.
From within the chocolate bunker, the photographer captures the English Oracle pointing out to the Sergeant-Major the temptations that would not be allowed to cross the Channel - stiff upper lips do not allow for drooling nor chocolate smudged faces.
A French town, a French green ... a vista so very provincial France.Â But there is no time to dwell savoring the sight of this site ... today we have many French miles to cover, which are called kilometres.
(Source: fraudulent recruitment poster in the Dead Sea Scrolls truncated Spartacus special edition of The Roman Army Needs You Playing Golf in Places Like This.)
On the spur of the moment we park the car in the town of Etaples to check out the markets we saw flashing by.Â By co-incidence, this old house has an interesting history, judging by the four plaques on the upper level.
Yep, good old Napoleon Bones Apart came by here.Â He probably bought socks at the market.
(Source: the French Foreign Legion's Unabridged Histories, proclaiming: Waterloo was a damned English lie - Napoleon Rules the Waves.)
Ah, not a happy camper.Â Napoleon probably also gave this stall a big miss.
(Source: the French Foreign Legion's Unabridged Histories, proclaiming: Napoleon did not buy his earrings here.)
Her cup runneth over with ten euros as the English Oracle buys genuine French socks made in China.Â Â It doesn't get more multicultural than that!Â Unless the American Leprechaun also buys socks.Â The cup would be a tsunami if the anonymous Australian photographer then also bought socks.Â And it's all due to Napoleon.
(Source: the French Foreign Legion's Unabridged Histories, proclaiming: It's all a damned lie!Â We'll bring this before the United Nations Security Council - Napoleon wears no socks.)
Yes, little girl, I'm sure Napoleon will buy that little green bag with a mystery inside it.
Oh, my goodness me!Â We round a corner to see this enormous bridge rearing up ahead.Â Is this the ending of days?
Srewth!Â We no sooner somehow survive the roller coaster bridge we're now charging down to be confronted by this monster looming ahead.Â
Sweet Baby Jesus, if we get over it alive, I'll go to church every Sunday.
We were spared on the bridge of no return and arrived safely here in Honfleur - a locality that has drawn not only tourists but also famous impressionists such as Claude Monet and EugÃ¨ne Boudin.Â Let's go see why.
(Source: the French Foreign Legion's Unabridged Histories, declaring: No damned Turners and Constables Here, Thanks Very Much!Â Vive la France!)
Look very closely!
That's right, this is not a building at all but a huge canvas painting of one.Â Why?Â Because it's France, that's why!
(Source: Vive la France daubed on a World War II wall in the old French Quarter of France.)
This is soooo very French!
Now all we photographers and lovers of photography are going to enjoy reflections.
Even in black and white it is worth reflecting upon.
If you like pretty clouds, why look up when you can look down?
But it's nosebag time.Â And look at all those empty tables fighting to have us.
The blackboard possibly says, Have a happy day Monsieur English Oracle andÂ Â Mademoiselle Sergeant-Major. Bon appetit!Â
(Source: Photograph by kind permission of the USA Travel Advisory Service alarm, Don't drink their bloody wine - as featured in The Dead Sea Scrolls; Appendix F: Surgeon General's dire warning within the CIA's encyclical, Don't Trust the French.)
Perfect reflections bedazzle us as we eat, roadside.
Why sit inside chewing the cud when there are medieval views like this?
And jammed right between two restaurants is this clothes boutique that is also a funky gallery selling sculptures.Â What an absolutely French idea!
As we stroll along we can not help noticing that this very scene could have been photographed or painted long, long ago.Â No wonder those in the know come here with cameras and paint brushes.
(Source: the drunken sailors' companion in The Dead Sea Scrolls; Addendum 14 - Press gangÂ affirmations within the 19th Legion's Secret Meditations on Escaping Britannica: Affirmation 101 stating, We are sailing with our digital cameras and digital paint brushes.)
Add a dash of colour and look at the difference - now suddenly we have modern, provincial France.
Yes, Sergeant-Major, I'll stop blabbing into the camera and come over there.
Hans really does fit in here.Â It's so easy to imagine that he was born to be the town mayor.Â Or the publican of that old hotel.Â Or both.
But remove the English Oracle from the scene and what have we got?Â A couple of French teenagers just hanging out, lost in their own world ... and ignoring the seagull landing near them and those below.Â Yes, this is France.
What on earth?Â Oh, I see.Â Picking veggies from the street's roundabout garden bed must be what they do in France.
Ah, they're just figurines.Â Perhaps depicting that a woman's work is never done unless she's blabbing on a cell phone.
But here art mimics life - three statues and three humans oblivious of each other.
Such is casual life here in the enchanting town of Honfleur.
As we head back to our parked car we stumble upon this strange sight.Â Apparently this is a cave that belongs to A. Vins.Â Well,why not, this is France, after all.
(Source: Photography by courtesy of the Don't drink the damned French wine travelogue in The Dead Sea Scrolls; Appendix F - Quartermaster's Instructions within the Roman Army's 19th Legion's Elucidation on R. & R. Leave in Gaul.)
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square