Reims and beyond
Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Fri 24 Oct 2014 17:21
I had a horse, and his name was Blue. (All y'all sing, "And I betcha five dollars he's a good horse too.") I rode Blue every weekend for several years at a certain point in my life. Typically we would go out for three or four hours, a longish hack, always a circular route, frequently one we had not done before. Blue had an inbuilt gps, which told him, with unerring certainty, exactly at what point in the ride we had started to return to the stables. Up to that point. He found it hard to put one hoof in front of another. He protested I had put on weight. He was sure he was getting too old for this sort of thing. What, trot? Must we? But when we reached that magic point at which, whatever circuitous path was to come, the distance to home was lessening, he became a different horse. Trot? Let's canter. Or gallop? Come along. I am up for this, you know. Never felt fitter.
Well something about Beowulf today reminded me of Blue. Maybe she can smell the Colne, since coming through that tunnel last night. Maybe she can sense it really is going to be downhill all the way from here. (If so I hope she is right. Those ascending locks yesterday were a muddy bore.) having set off this morning out of the first lock, I put the throttle in its usual position and found we were doing 4.7 knots instead of the usual 4.2.
I was really looking forward to Reims. The Musée des Beaux Arts is said to have a good collection of paintings by Corot. No one can touch him for painting grey trees with silver grey leaves, against a grey sky, reflected in a grey river. Seemed just the thing to cheer me up. And I love his delicate draughtsmanship of trees and river banks.
I would sell my soul to be able to paint like that. Someone heard me say that. The first lock entering Reims was not working. My phone took ages to make a connection. The phone number given in the Guide was the wrong number. Eventually they said " a man comes". A woman came, thank goodness, very efficient. There had been work on the lock this morning and they had not switched the automatic system back on. She told m the Art Gallery was not far.
I made it to the port, two locks later. Tied up. Locked up, unlocked, put on 'respectable jeans', locked up, strode into town, sought directions to the Musée, found it, had a quick but unnecessarily expensive lunch nearby, went in, and - the Corot, and the David, and several early renaissance masterpieces, had been put in storage so they could mount an exhibition of art in the period of the First World War.
I am speechless. I consoled myself with a book about Corot. In French of course. I hope it is well illustrated.
Visited the Cathedral. It must have been devastatingly lovely, but it was devastated in the First World War. Set fire to, repeatedly shelled, it's roof and all its medieval glass destroyed. Many fine medieval carvings destroyed. What a sad tale. In Britain we think of blitz bombing as a thing of the Second World War, but Reims suffered it in the first. Now I understand why de Gaulle and Adenauer chose Reims to cement the friendship between France and Gernany that has kept us at peace for nearly seventy years. And I came away with a renewed zeal for the European Union.
Back to the boat and realised I was in the noisiest part of the centre of Reims. So set off to find peace and quiet, and here I am.