Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Fri 10 Oct 2014 17:08
From Langres to Chaumont took just over 9 hours, to do 22nm (40km), 19 manual locks and 3 automatic locks.
Langres, where I stayed yesterday because of the forecast heavy rain (it rained all right, all day) is an interesting and attractive hill top town, capital of a Gallic tribe that allied with the Romans and therefore prospered, and seems to have prospered ever since.
The 12C cathedral doesn't look that old from the outside, but inside its Romanesque arches reminded me a little of Durham. As I entered I found myself in a rehearsal for a concert of Handel. A string octet with harpsichord were playground something heavenly, but I did not recognise the piece. They were so good it was tempting to stay another day to attend the concert. Someone invited me to attend the complete final rehearsal last night, but to get there I would have had to walk the four or five kilometres up the hill again, and back, in the dark, and they don't have pavements (sidewalks) and my bike has no lights even if I had been prepared to push it uphill all that way, which I wasn't, even for heavenly music.
The other interest I found in Langres was, it was the birthplace of Denis Diderot, who initiated and co wrote the Encyclopédie, an idea he lifted from Chambers. He was a true enlightenment person, indeed it appears the French for the enlightenment is the Siècle des Lumières. Lights rather than enlightenment. People rather than an abstraction.
Diderot was interesting partly because he was not only disowned by his father (for his atheism I think) and his works banned by the pre-revolutionary state (because they were likely to lead to revolution), but also because successive, post revolutionary governments have refused him a place in the Pantheon in Paris, where everyone who was anyone is remembered and honoured.
He was a true free thinker, the danger of which still frightens established regimes.
I warmed to him. As I went round the Musée de Lumière. It is housed in a gorgeous building, and makes as much as it can out of little material. The other Museum in Langres is truly excellent, housed in a fine modern building, and dedicated to the idea that archeology is a discipline in development. In two hours I had not done a quarter of it. I never seem to tire of presentations of Bronze Age, and Roman civilisations.
I returned to the boat, via Intermarchė, soaked to the skin, and with no hope stall of drying anything. Why is it so difficult to buy a small electric heater in autumn?
Having had lunch in the town (when the Museums were closed, and the shops) I did not eat again, but went to bed about 8pm and read my way to the end of Harvest by Jim Crace. It is a compelling read, but I have no idea what is is about. In the previous few days I read Paul Auster's Report from the Interior, an account of his personal, mental development from his earliest memories until his first year of grad school. Again compelling, though if didn't think it justified the blurb claim that he is a great prose stylist, and I am a big fan, but I felt let down, cheated almost. I thought he was going to explain or show the development of his aesthetic. And some things were shown, such as his sense of alienation as he realised he was Jewish, and what that meant to other people, and his atheism. But other things were glimpsed, such as his interest in phenomenology, but not developed. And then two films that he clearly felt had had a major influence on him were described in minute detail (so much so that I wondered whether he had had to pay royalties to the authors of the film scripts) The War of the Worlds, and The Incredible Shrinking Man. I could see the points, and I a not sure I needed so much detail to see them, but I could not relate them to his later work. Perhaps there are other volumes of introspection I have to read.
During the evening a Dutch couple in a camper van invited me for a glass of wine. Their camper was warm (very welcome). It was their home. They had sold everything to buy it. He was a retired vet. I did not find out what she had done. They were on their way to Portugal for the winter. They had a tax address in Holland, and otherwise, this was it. I could not imagine being quite so rootless, or if I can I would not want it. Like the couple we met in Carloforte who lived on the 72 foot boat they had had built. It was as if they were completely rejecting community. It reminded me of how much I value the community in Wivenhoe, and how important that is, to come home to, as it were, and ultimately to spend one's last non travelling days in. Being part of Wivenhoe is essential to my being. And to Faith's, I believe. After all she has been part of it for about 33 years.