Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dieppe Autumn 2011

I have written a lot about Dieppe in this blog. I write once more because of the changes there since we last visited this delightful French port more than a year ago.
It is, as usual, our favourite “abroad” place for a few days of complete change, gastronomic delights (mainly fish) and a source for acquiring good wine at a reasonable price. The saving on our car-full of wine pays for our break. Could one ask for more?
I have pretty well squeezed everything I wanted from a few drawings on postcards made at the International Kite Festival there in 2008. These will appear, in bright pastel form, in A4 and A1 size, in due course. The only kite flying during our visit this time was in the shape of an octopus. It was of no interest to me as kites like it, and many other exotic ones, had already reached my canvasses.
My kites are compositions of shape and colour, set in simple landscape. I doubt if any would actually fly. But pictorial representation is not what I am about in art.
I had never noticed before, and certainly not remarked upon, that the ground floors of at least two large shops in Dieppe undulated. To shop there entailed walking gently up and down hill. Floors are usually flat.
Shops change in Dieppe with some regularity. Those that do are mostly clothes shops. Department stores, food and vegetable shops stay the same - as does the smaller twice-weekly market and the large one on Saturdays. A shop where we once bought wine equipment and Pro-Ven-Di soap (soap on a chromium stick, bolted to the wall above a basin) was closed. But we had already managed (in England) to buy that soap, from France, through the Internet.
We discovered this time that it is best to shop early at the large out-of-town supermarket. There are then assistants available to help, and empty wine boxes to use. “Early”, in Dieppe, is before 10 o’clock, when shops open. Around 9.30 appeared to be an ideal time to visit the supermarket, when shelves were being re-stocked and those empty wine boxes available. We need the boxes to make the best use of space when filling the back of our car – to the brim.
A film was being made at the yachting harbour quay. Just whether one of the car ferries was involved we did not discover. But it left the inner port, wandered around off-shore, and came back to moor all night and brightly lit where vessels generally offload sand and gravel for the building industry.
Margreet estimated that the cost of food and goods had risen by 30% in just over a year. But we know where we can still eat lunch splendidly and cheaply, with unlimited red wine and cider. We sit with workmen (no women there), which does give us a direct link with France and the French. I can usually make myself understood, but Margreet, with her command of languages, has to translate the replies to me.
For the first time we were short changed (£5) after eating at the popular Tout Va Bien brasserie, where the harbour stops and the main street starts. The brasserie was under new management. Margreet soon sorted that matter out. The waiter knew exactly what he had done.
A most horrible bronze sculpture, forming part of a roundabout outside the brasserie has been dispensed with. But it had been replaced by another that was almost as offensive.
Dog mess, always a hazard in Dieppe in the past, has been considerably reduced – thank havens. One can now look forward and upward when walking – well, most of the time.
But for me the greatest and most welcome change in Dieppe has been one of convenience. It is that having virtually abolished the pissoire in France, Dieppe, most sensibly, has re-installed them – two, one in the main square and market place, and another near to where fresh fish is sold from stalls by the yachting harbour. Hooray for good sense – and less pollution.
The car ferry is underused out of season, and makes the less than four hour crossing more pleasant. And queuing through the system does give one a chance to talk with strangers. One man supplied organic vegetables to major supermarkets, which is a multi million pound operation. And a motorcycle enthusiast’s BMW fell over in the Austrian Alps, which cost the manufacturer a great deal of money in lodgings, replacement and repair, as it was still under warranty.
He was about to take one of his old bikes on a rally of vintage machinery in northern Spain. We once travelled back by ship from there with the same group of enthusiasts. So we asked if he would give our regards to someone who helped us out with a starting problem. This man could hardly be missed as he rode a bike with his wife in the sidecar. But what was more unique was the fact that he had adapted the bike so that he could manage to ride it one-handed – having lost an arm in an accident.
By talking to people you can make an otherwise boring trip quite good fun.