Sunday, May 4, 2008

From the French boonies

A friend of a friend was also going from Paris to La Perrière, the village were close by the American painter Richard Harper and Australian artist Karen Papacek live.
His name was Dominique working in the IT-business but having ambitions to be a short story writer.
Driving a small Renault Twingo car and hating the highways.
He took the roads from Paris to La Perrière called the “Route Nationales”.
The roads that used to be the principal connections in France.
Very interesting way to travel because it is much slower than the highway with its maximum speed of 130 kilometres per hour.
And it leads right through the centre of villages and small towns connecting the traveller visually with the real France.

The first night in La Perrière was a party right away.
In a house several kilometres from Mr. Harper’s farm.
Ten people getting together and all of them bringing home made cooking and bottles of wine and whiskey.

Tradition in France is to start with an aperitif.
This can be a whiskey or kirsch or a glass of cool white wine.
Served with these drinks are toasts with a spread of fish or slices of sausages.

At one point the whole party moved to the big round table and the food was served.
Very diverse food as many people had brought dishes.
Karen Papacek had been so attentive to cook a vegetarian tofu dish.
This food was accompanied by very good Bordeaux wine.

After the main course salad was put on the table.
And after the salad a plate with all kinds of cheeses.

The final was two homemade chocolate cakes.

Time for coffee and tea and to this a “digestive” was drunk.
For example “Eau de Vie” and “Mirabelle”: alcoholic drinks of 45 % served in small glasses.

The permanent pilgrim of course was not getting involved in all this drinking.
He simply had some glasses of the excellent red wine only.
Most of the others though had a go at it and the remarkable thing was that nobody got drunk.
Of course the moods became much more expressive and joyful than usual but this added to the good times we were having.
Filled with interesting and often hilarious conversations.
Everybody knew very well to control the drinking part of the dinner and no abuse took place.

One of the most interesting persons at the dinner was Australian tablemate Dan Papacek.
The brother of Karen Papacek.
Dan was on a European tour for his business.
He is an entomologist: someone who studies insects.
In the town of Mundubbera in Australia he has an international business called “Bugs for Bugs”, involved in integrated pest management.
Basically he sells wasps.
This is for situations in agriculture where for example certain insects damage the harvest by eating most of it.
This is where Dan Papacek comes in.
He sends from Australia boxes containing his wasps to anywhere in the world and the plagued farmer only needs to liberate them in his fields.
The wasps lay eggs.
The wasp eggs produce larva’s that eat the eggs and larva’s of the bad boys and girls insects.

The good thing of this method of pest control is that no pesticides need to be used.
It is an environmental friendly way of handling agricultural situations that got out of hand.
Hence, we say, bravo Dan.

The Saturday brought beautiful weather to Normandy, France.
Sunshine and warmth.
With lunches in the garden in front of the romantic farm.

This kind of weather is taken for granted in Mexico but highly appreciated in this part of the world because it is exceptional and like a precious gift.

In Richard Harper’s atelier a Gibson guitar was discovered.
A Les Paul model.
It was hooked up to an amplifier and for the first time the strings of this famous guitar were touched.
But all those strings are rather confusing and where to put the fingers at the right time to hear “Purple Haze”?
Fortunately it was remembered how protagonist is a virtuoso on the camera and not everybody can be Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page.

Morning was with friends Aline and Olivier Le Grand who have a “manoir” not far from the ranch of Richard Harper.
A “manoir” is a fortified farm from the 15th century and the Le Grands have restored theirs to perfection.
Olivier is a banker, art-collector and treasurer of the Giacometti Foundation.
They are wonderful people and surround themselves with artists and all kinds of art.
Olivier had an interesting point to make.
He said that people who bought art were very environmentally friendly.
Either a person buys for example a Porsche or a work of art.
A Porsche is nice but it is a product of consumerism, pollutes and eventually is dumped.
A work of art is to enjoy forever and ever while it doesn’t pollute nor needs gasoline.

Meanwhile the American painter Richard Harper has reached a new stage in his work.
He used to make photorealistic nudes.
But now he paints clouds in the sky.

If he has the time because living on a farm requires a lot of work.
The grass has to be cut.
The hedges trimmed.
The compost pit serviced.
There seems to be no end to keep the place liveable.
Nature expanding and men restricting and guiding it.
A harmony like the flowers of the apple tree.


To learn more about the work of the American painter Richard Harper, click on:

To learn more about “Bugs for Bugs” and integrated pest management, click on:


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