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Month: February, 2014

INDONESIA – THE LANGUAGE

Beijing, 26 February 2014

As we drove and walked around during our week in central Java, my wife and I couldn’t help noticing the many loanwords from European languages (presumably mostly Dutch, with more modern loanwords coming from English) liberally sprinkled among the Indonesian words on signs and billboards. I cite a few here: klinik (clinic, or maybe hospital), notaris (lawyer), parkir (parking), bisinis (business),  apotek (drug store, pharmacy, chemist)

apotek

asesori (accessories – seen in a shoe shop, for a shelf devoted to shoe polish and the like), oli (oil), bensin (gasoline), gratis (free), buka (book), and – what has to be my favourite – elpiji (LPG)

elpiji

Indonesians certainly don’t seem to have a problem with borrowing words from a different language when they need them to describe things or ideas.  A little research showed me that each wave of foreigners who have passed through the region for trade or conquest – or both – has dropped words into the language.

Here are a couple of examples from Portuguese, who formed the wave immediately before the Dutch: gereja (church – from igreja)

gereja

and sepatu (shoes – from sapato). I can understand Indonesians borrowing the Portuguese word for “church” since they had none before the Portuguese arrived, but I’m surprised they borrowed the word for shoes. Did they not wear shoes before the Portuguese appeared over the horizon? Perhaps not, the climate certainly doesn’t require them.

Before the Portuguese came the Arabs. For a country which is 87% Muslim, I suppose it’s not surprising that a number of the Arab loanwords have to do with religion, for instance jumat (Friday – from al-jumʿa)

jumat

or kitab (book, primarily religious book – from kitāb), but there is also salam (from the universal Arabic greeting, salām).

As for the Chinese, who arrived a little before the Arabs, they have mostly left loanwords which are about very Chinese things, like noodles. Interestingly, rather than from Mandarin, many of the loanwords came from Hokkien, a dialect from southern Fujian, which reflects the Fujianese’s enterprising spirit. Many of the Chinese found throughout South-East Asia originally came from Fujian. So we have mie (noodles – from ), lunpia (spring roll – from lūn-piá)

lunpia

teko (teapot – from teh-ko). But we also have, surprisingly, the widely used slang terms gua and lu (I/ me and you – from goa and lu/li). I say surprisingly because normally these are words which come from the mother language and are not borrowed.

And finally in the distant past, there were intense relations with India, with the main royal families being either Hindu or Buddhist. This brought many Sanskrit words into Indonesian: raja (king), pura (city/temple/place), mantra (words/ poet/spiritual prayers), but also kaca (glass, mirror), istri (wife/woman) and bahasa (language), as in Bahasa Indonesian.

bahasa

(if I understood the article accompanying this photo correctly, these students are demonstrating against the fact that some classes at their University are not in Bahasa Indonesian; intolerance of the foreign or genuine problem?)

I suppose this seemingly painless adoption of words from other languages has to do with the fact that Indonesian, whose roots are a variant of Malay from Sumatra or Malacca, originally developed as a lingua franca spoken by the traders who roved throughout the Indonesian archipelago. The need for a lingua franca becomes obvious when you think that the archipelago was a thick tapestry of languages. As it is,  some 700 languages are spoken today in the archipelago; probably more were spoken in the past when communities were more isolated. All of the peoples whose languages loaned words to Indonesian originally arrived in the archipelago for trade, so they were communicating with Indonesians who were already open to the idea of using foreign words – as long as it made trade easier, why not?

Java Map

Personally, I’m very sympathetic to the idea of a language being open to any word that comes along and is useful in helping communication, and I cheer the Indonesian on in their liberal word borrowing (we’ll skip over the fact that many of the words entered in periods of colonialism from the colonialists’ language – was their language also “colonized”?). My paternal language, English, is currently busily lending all sorts of words to every other language in the world, but originally it was the other way around. The English were quite happy to borrow foreign words – often mangling them in the process, but that’s OK. Why, English even borrowed from Indonesian/Malay. I list here the ones where I went “really? from Indonesian? how about that!”: cockatoo (from kakatua), gecko (actually from the Javanese tokek), orangutan (this one I knew), bamboo (from bambu), paddy (from padi), rattan (from rotan), sago (from sagu), sarong (from sarung), gong (from gong), junk (from jong), Mata Hari (from matahari = sun), amok, as in “running amok”, from amuk, and finally, last but definitely not least, ketchup (from kecap, which is actually a soy sauce, not a tomato sauce; somewhere along the line tomato must have been added to, and eventually substituted for, the soy).

On the other hand, I am quite irritated by the French, holders of my maternal language, and their silly desire to stop the language being contaminated by foreign words. These old fogies, members of the prestigious (or elitist?) Académie Française (and among whom I recognize an ex-French President whose electoral defenestration I was proud to be present at)

Academie-francaise

sit in this rather nice palace on the banks of the River Seine in Paris

Academie_Francaise-building

and pronounce linguistic fatwa (an Arabic word which I rather like to use) against English (and presumably other foreign) words which have crept into the French language.  If they feel it necessary, they will coin a new French word as a substitute. Thus, they came up with “courriel” to replace “email”. Ridiculous! Let the people decide the words they want to use! Chuck the old fogies into the Seine! (the origin, by the way, of the word fogy is unknown; its first known use is in 1780 … just thought my readers might want to know).

______________

Apotek: http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/43053404.jpg [in http://www.panoramio.com/photo/43053404%5D

Elpiji: http://images.solopos.com/2013/05/elpiji-Ika-Yuniati.jpg [in http://www.solopos.com/2013/05/16/elpiji-3-kg-langka-kelangkaan-diduga-akibat-pengguna-tabung-12-kg-pindah-ke-3-kg-406756%5D

Gereja: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/9b/35/96/black-portuguese-church.jpg [in http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294229-d379308-Reviews-Black_Portuguese_Church_Gereja_Sion-Jakarta_Java.html%5D

Jumat: http://31.media.tumblr.com/0def87ff6cecf5bdaba08df01555f5d1/tumblr_mwnijh0zzn1qb44klo1_500.jpg [in http://wawicaksono.tumblr.com/%5D

Lumpia: http://id.openrice.com/UserPhoto/photo/0/A2/001ZMRD204116C98F1ABB7l.jpg [in http://id.openrice.com/other/restaurant/lumpia-panas-semarang/104261/%5D

Bahasa: http://www.seasite.niu.edu/indonesian/bahasa_indonesia1.jpg [in http://www.seasite.niu.edu/indonesian/new_page_5.htm%5D

Java map: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/Java-Map.jpg [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demak_Sultanate%5D

Académie Française members: http://cdn-lejdd.ladmedia.fr/var/lejdd/storage/images/media/images/culture/academie-francaise/5255893-1-fre-FR/Academie-francaise_pics_809.jpg [in http://www.lejdd.fr/Societe/Images/portfolio/A-suivre-cette-semaine3/Jeudi%5D

Académie Française building: http://i.images.cdn.fotopedia.com/flickr-870543298-image/Paris_and_Vicinity/The_City_of_Paris/6th/Institut_de_France/Academie_Francaise.jpg [in http://www.fotopedia.com/wiki/6th_arrondissement_of_Paris#!/items/flickr-870543298%5D

INDONESIA – THE TEMPLES: SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR

Beijing, 26 February 2014

A major reason why we came to this part of Indonesia was to visit Borobudur, Prambanan, and other smaller Buddhist and Hindu temples scattered around the Kedu plain, north of Yogyakarta. Well, Mt. Kelud’s eruption put paid to that plan! With equal indifference the volcano covered all temples, Buddhist and Hindu alike, with a layer of ash. Result: all the sites were closed to visitors while clean-up crews moved in to wash off the ash.

What to do, what to do? Well, hope springs eternal, as they say. We kept telling each other that surely they would reopen the temples quickly, within a few days maximum! I mean, all those disappointed tourists milling around! All their money not being spent on entry tickets and ancillaries! So on the first day, we walked down to Borobudur to check out the situation. Not brilliant.  It would be a long time before the temple itself would be reopened, we were informed, although the grounds might be re-opened in a few days. The locals helpfully guided us to a spot on a side road from which one could see the temple quite well. They were right, with the foreground of tender green rice shoots being particularly appealing.
Borobodur across rice paddies 002
We then decided to go to a hotel abutting the temple grounds to have a late lunch, and discovered to our astonishment an excellent view of the temple from the back of the hotel.
Borobodur from Manohara 002
So, sitting on some steps I read out to my wife a description of all the things we were missing: the 2,760 bas-reliefs, “exquisite, considered to be the most elegant and graceful in the ancient Buddhist world”, as well as the 461 Buddha statues circling the middle and upper levels of the temple. Rather masochistic reading, I grant you, but I wasn’t having me carry that heavy guidebook all the way to Indonesia for nothing. And anyway, we kept telling each other, we might get closer still when they opened the park later in the week.

The next day, a local guide took us up to Dieng Plateau, which was a very pleasant drive up to 2,100m. After visiting a smoking solfatara (the plateau is an ancient volcanic caldera complex) and a volcanic lake, we visited a series of small Hindu temples, “the oldest known standing stone structures in Java”, so the guidebook informed us. Here, Mt. Kelud’s ash had not reached, so we could visit them no problem.

Dieng plateau temples 000
Dieng plateau temples 002

This was the closest we ever got to bas-reliefs

Dieng plateau temples 006

Intriguing. Each temple was rather small, with very dark interiors. It wasn’t clear to us why anyone would expend all that effort and stone for such a small inner space. We had to be missing something, and the heavy guidebook did not enlighten us.

The next day, hope as I say springing eternal, we again walked down to Borobdur, to check if the park was open (yes) and if we could get any closer to the temple (no). Giving up on Borobudur, we went to visit Yogyakarta for the day (where we had the delicious fried chicken I have previously mentioned).

We now put our faith in our local guide, who said that he might, just might, get us into Prambanan. He also said we should have no problem visiting the smaller temples in the surroundings; the guards there were more relaxed. So, with hope springing etc., we set out the next day to visit Prambanan and a series of smaller temples. Alas, our guide was too optimistic. At Prambanan, we could go into the grounds but couldn’t get close at all to the main temples, so we decided to forget it. And as for the other temples, the universal answer was no, we couldn’t enter, the boss might come and it wasn’t worth their while risking it (after hearing this for the fourth time, we started asking ourselves who was this boss who seemed omni-present and ever so fierce?). We contented ourselves with looking at the temples from the fences, except in the case of Prambanan where we sneaked through an open unguarded gate around the back and were rewarded with a great view of the temple ensemble.

So here are the photos we took:

Mendut
Mendut temple 003
Plaosan
Plaosan temple 004
Sewuu
Sewuu temple 001
Prambanan
Prambanan temple 002
Ijo

Ijo temple 001

high, high, on a hill
Ijo temple-view of surroundings
Sari
Sari temple 001
being cleaned by crazy cleaners – no safety harness, no ropes, nothing!

Sari temple 005

Kalasan
Kalasan temple 001
being cleaned by even crazier cleaners

Kalasan temple 009

and finally Sambisari
Sambisari temple 002
an odd temple, this one, seemingly sunken 5m below ground level but actually completely buried long ago during a volcanic eruption. This must have been a Pompeii-like event.

Actually, you know, this wasn’t such a bad way of seeing the temples, just an overview as it were. The drives between the temple alone were worth it – it’s really a lovely part of the world. And seeing all these temples with no other tourists around was definitely a plus. My only regret was not being able to see the bas-reliefs from closer up. But I take the Buddhist precept to heart that desire is the ultimate source of all unhappiness, and I will not let myself desire to see the bas-reliefs. Anyway, I’m sure their pictures are all on the internet …

______________________

All pictures ours, except:

Dieng plateau temples overview: http://allindonesiatravel.com/images/arjuna-temples-dieng-plateau-java-indonesia.jpg [in http://allindonesiatravel.com/dieng-plateau-central-java/%5D

INDONESIA – CHICKEN

Beijing, 25 February 2014

Within five minutes of moving into our hotel cabin, we had our first visitor: a chicken.
chicken becassine 003
Naively, I thought the chicken was a friendly thing and wanted company. I decided to call her Bécassine. For those readers who may not know her, Bécassine is the heroine of an old French comic strip. She is what Parisians of the early 1900s would have considered the typically foolish girl from the remote French provinces.
Becassine-2
The name fits my chicken well; it’s gross racial typing, of course, but I’ve always thought that chickens are rather foolish birds.

In any event, I was soon disabused of the comforting thought that Bécassine was searching out my company. The way she set her beady eye on anything I was putting in my mouth made me realize that she was just there for the food scraps. I suspect that previous guests staying at the cabin had spoiled Bécassine by feeding her yummy things like bread crumbs. She rushed at the mandarin pips I threw to her but spat them out immediately, fixing me reprovingly with that beady eye of hers.

Apart from these character issues, Bécassine was really a very handsome chicken. One thing I particularly admired about her were her long, graceful legs. Really quite model-like, I felt. And her plumage, though modest compared to some other chickens we saw in the surrounding villages

kampong chicken 001

chickens on walk 003
(this one reminds me of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady)
audrey hepburn
her plumage, as I say, was sleek and smooth. A very far cry indeed from the battery chickens which we have been reduced to breeding in the richer countries
battery chicken
so that we can have dirt-cheap eggs and dirt-cheap chicken meat and eventually all look like this.
obese couple
In fact, Bécassine is a free-range chicken, what they call here a kampong, or village, chicken. And indeed every village we walked through had dozens of kampong chickens, many of the hens with a brood of chicks in tow, ranging through the village and into the fields beyond. With their long legs and rich plumage, they really were very handsome. I do believe that they are not very distant genetically from their wild progenitor, the Red Junglefowl, whose range extends from northern India through South-East Asia and into southern China.
red junglefowl-1
Indeed, the domestication of the chicken took place somewhere around here about 5,000 years ago.

Being free range, Bécassine will no doubt be very good to eat. We didn’t eat her, but in Yogyakarta we had lunch at a restaurant which served typical Indonesian food. One of these was Ayam Goreng Kremes, a fried kampong chicken with fried, flaked salam leaves.

ayam goreng kremes

Fingurr-lickin’ good, as the Colonel would say!

Sorry, Bécassine, it’s been good to know you, but you have to follow your destiny. Someone, some day, will have the great pleasure of eating you.

________________________

Becassine hen: our picture

Becassine: http://madameshackelford.wikispaces.com/file/view/blppxije.jpg/35302825/blppxije.jpg [in http://madameshackelford.wikispaces.com/Bécassine%5D

kampong chickens: our pictures

Audrey Hepburn: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/12/05/article-0-0F1123D000000578-117_634x792.jpg [in http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2070449/Marilyn-Monroe-Kate-Middleton-The-unforgettable-dresses-time.html%5D

Battery chicken: http://lifewiththeexbatts.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/audrey-1.jpg [in http://lifewiththeexbatts.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/hello-world/%5D

Obese people: http://www.themobilityresource.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/morbidly_obese_091026_main.jpg [in http://www.themobilityresource.com/disabesity-should-morbidly-obese-people-be-considered-disabled/%5D

Red junglefowl: http://www.discoverlife.org/IM/I_TS/0006/320/Gallus_gallus,_red_jungle_fowl,I_TS604.jpg [in http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?search=Gallus+gallus%5D

Ayam Goreng Kremes: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-76_gBdFsH_8/UCS8hAh77bI/AAAAAAAAAHA/eZYM1EQnGh0/s1600/resep-ayam-kremes.jpg [in http://foodiefod.blogspot.com/2012/08/tips-membuat-ayam-goreng-kremes.html%5D

INDONESIA – CALLS TO PRAYER

Beijing, 24 February 2014

I left us in the last post sitting on the hotel terrace sipping our welcoming drink. We were sitting there again as night drew in. And as night drew in, we began to hear a strange medley of sounds rising from the surrounding villages. It was the calls to evening prayer. The loudspeakers of every village mosque blared out the call – and there seemed to be a lot of mosques in the area …
local mosques 002

local mosques 001

I said it was a strange medley; actually, it was a disagreeable cacophony. Each muezzin started at a slightly different moment, and each chanted a different tune. The result grated on the ears. It was rather like the noise coming from an orchestra when the players are warming up and tuning their instruments before they start. A million miles from a magical moment which my wife and I once shared in Istanbul, in Sultan Ahmet square in front of the Blue Mosque. We were sitting down having a rest when the mosque’s muezzin suddenly started up. He chanted a line or two and paused. And behind us, faintly, we heard the muezzin of Süleymaniye Mosque respond with his couple of lines. To which the muezzin of the Blue Mosque in turn responded. And so they duetted back and forth for fully five minutes while we sat there holding our breath.

Back on the hotel terrace, my wife and I listened until the chanting died away, and then we turned in. After our adventures in getting here, we were glad to go to bed early. We slept like logs – until dawn, when we were awakened by the dawn call to prayer. As I have done so many times in darkened hotel rooms, from Morocco in the far west of the Muslim lands, to Java now in the far east, and at many points in between, I lay there letting the song flow over me:

God is great, God is great.
I bear witness that there is no god but God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
Hasten to prayer.
Hasten to success.
Prayer is better than sleep.
God is great, God is great.
There is no god but God.

And as I always do before drifting back to sleep, I thought to myself what a pity it was that there is no God out there to receive their, or anyone else’s, prayers.

INDONESIA – VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS

Beijing, 23 February 2014

Our trip to Indonesia to celebrate my wife’s birthday started with a bang – literally. Two days before we were leaving, Mt. Kelud erupted

Mount Kelud eruption-1

Mount Kelud eruption-2

covering a good portion of Central Java with a fine layer of ash.

ash covering village

My wife and I were stunned. This was where we were meant to be going! Our plan was to visit the Buddhist temple Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage site
borobudur temple
and other old temples dotting the landscape north of Yogyakarta. From the moment we heard about the eruption to the minute our flight took off from Beijing for Jakarta, we anxiously scanned the net for the latest news. Our immediate concern was the onward flight to Yogyakarta. We read that the airport there, along with two other airports in the region, had been closed because of the ash-fall.
yogyakarta airport-1
But surely, we said to each other, the airport will be open by the time we arrive in Jakarta. Surely it will.

It was not. In fact, ground staff at Jakarta told us that it would be a couple of days before they could clear the ash enough for it to reopen. The only way to get to Yogyakarta was by rail (7 hours) or by road (15 hours). We were marooned …

Luckily, though, one of the ground staff mentioned that Semarang’s airport had been re-opened. It had also suffered from ash-fall, but they had managed to clean it up quite quickly. We had only the haziest notion of where Semarang was but if the ground staff thought it was a good alternative that was good enough for us. We got the ticket changed to a flight to Semarang which left very early the next morning. Since the thought of spending the night at Jakarta airport didn’t appeal, we also put ourselves down on the waiting list for a flight leaving that evening for Semarang. We were warned that there was very, very little chance, but in the end we got on the flight and there were still free seats behind us. The local guide who was meant to pick us up at Yogyakarta recommended a hotel in Semarang, and we agreed with him that he would come to get us there the next day.

So, by the afternoon, but 24 hours late, we were sitting on the terrace of our hotel, on chairs and at a table which had been vigorously scrubbed to get rid of the insidious volcanic ash, sipping a ginger-lemon grass welcoming drink, and looking over at Borobodur temple faintly picked out on the horizon, framed by trees whose leaves were all still thickly covered in ash.
Borobodur from hotel terrace-1
The hazards of travel … although this is the first time for us that a volcano has got in the way.

Surely Yogyakarta airport will be open again by the time we leave. Surely it will.

-oOo-

PS: It was. I am posting this from the comfort of my dining room table in Beijing, where we got in this morning.

___________________

Mount Kelud eruption-1: http://en.es-static.us/upl/2014/02/volcano-Kelud-Indonesia-2-13-2014-Asthadi-Setyawan-1.jpg [in http://earthsky.org/earth/kelud-volcano-in-indonesia-is-erupting-thousands-evacuating%5D

Mount Kelud eruption-2: http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article9128319.ece/ALTERNATES/w620/MountKelud.jpg [in http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/mount-kelud-eruption-why-is-indonesia-the-hottest-spot-on-the-ring-of-fire-9128148.html%5D

Ash covering village: http://cdn.rt.com/files/news/22/6a/20/00/vulkano.si.jpg [in http://rt.com/news/kelud-volcano-erupts-indonesia-962/%5D

Yogyakarta airport: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2014/02/14/20185022_h27297760-d0ed011f5a27f5721c964017a41959be91678c94-s6-c30.jpg [in http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/276836240/massive-volcanic-eruption-in-indonesia-blankets-region-in-ash%5D

Borobudur temple: http://townsofusa.com/travels/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/borobudur-0222.jpg [in http://townsofusa.com/travels/2013/07/borobudur-temple-in-indonesia/%5D

Borobudur temple from the hotel terrace: our picture

SNOWY MOUNTAINS

Beijing, 8 February 2014

It was snowing when we got up yesterday, the first snowfall of the season – in fact, the first time there has been any precipitation, rain or snow, in the last four months in Beijing. The city was still quiet after the Chinese New Year, so it was with pleasure that I crunched my way to work through the deserted streets and along my piece of canal, with the small, grainy snowflakes floating down around me.
canal-before
And dimly through the flakes and mist, I perceived a man on the other bank of the canal slowly going through the balletic moves of tai-chi. Magic …

It kept snowing fitfully all day and into the evening, becoming greyer and foggier by the hour. So I just hurried home after work, looking forward to a welcoming wife, a cheerfully lit apartment, a glass of wine, and a plate of pasta. We closed out the world and enjoyed two French detective thrillers before retiring to bed.

This morning, the clouds had been chased away along with the fog, and the sun shone down brightly. How different the world looked! There is nothing like a coating of snow under a bright sun and a clear blue sky to make even the most squalid cityscape look inviting. On our way to morning coffee and lunch, I took a couple of photos of the canal to record the event.
canal-after 004
OK, let’s not get carried away here. Quite soon, all that fresh snow will turn into muddy slush, making a misery for us pedestrians as we pick our way round large puddles, warily avoid being splashed by passing cars, and stay ever alert for a hidden piece of ice under our feet . And even when the snow is still fresh, the view simply cannot beat a snowscape in the mountains. My wife is a good and enthusiastic skier, and when the children were young she liked to take them skiing in the Alps. I, on the other hand, dislike skiing, so it was always with a certain grouchiness that I accompanied them on these skiing expeditions. The traffic jams to get there! The crowds at the shop to hire the gear! The astronomic cost of the ski passes! The kilometric lines to get on the ski lifts! All those peacocks parading their latest ski gear! The morons who skied far too fast down the crowded slopes! The icy wind turning my face into a piece of numb codfish! But even grouchy old me could not avoid a smile when suddenly confronted at the turning of a path with vistas of virgin white snow softly pillowing rocky hill and dale and gathering protectively around the pine trees, while the mountains glittered behind against a backdrop of a deep blue sky.

The only artist I know who has ever captured the beauty of mountains in the winter is the Austrian painter Alfons Walde. Walde was from Kitzbühel in the Tyrol, so he knew the Alps well.  From the mid 1920s onwards, he painted a series of pictures of the Tyrolian Alps during winter. I show here a selection, starting with the first of his paintings I ever came across, in the form of a poster advertising a show of his works in Vienna. I still have that poster somewhere.

alfons walde-Der Aufstieg der Schifahrer-1931

“The Ascent of the Skiers”, 1931

Alfons Walde-Steinbergkogel-1926

“Steinbergkogel”, 1926

alfons walde-Almen im Schnee-1926

“Meadows under Snow”, 1926

Walde also liked to paint the inhabitants of the Tyrolian villages. They still wore their traditional costumes back then. There’s still a faint echo of this in Austria’s traditional jackets for men and the dirndls the women wear.

Alfons Walde-Auracher Kircherl-1927-30

“Auracher Church”, 1927-30

Alfons Walde-begegnung

“Meeting”, about 1924

I will be frank. I wouldn’t mind owning one of Walde’s paintings.  But I’m not a millionaire. The best I’ve managed is a print by another Austrian artist

general photos 008

But hope springs eternal. You never know, I may find a Walde in my attic one day.

______________________

pix in Beijing: mine

“Ascent of the Skiers”: Alfons Walde- Der Aufstieg der Schifahrer-1931: http://shop.alfonswalde.com/WebRoot/Store/Shops/es268867/50B4/8486/F7AD/8B37/3A2E/50ED/8962/9095/Aufstieg_der_Schifahrer_1080.jpg [in http://shop.alfonswalde.com/epages/es268867.sf/de_DE/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es268867/Products/PLW35%5D

“Steinbergkogel”:  http://shop.alfonswalde.com/WebRoot/Store/Shops/es268867/50B4/CA47/6775/F975/A744/50ED/8962/CB5B/PLWT36-Steinbergkogel_1080.jpg [in http://shop.alfonswalde.com/epages/es268867.sf/de_DE/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es268867/Products/PLW36%5D

“Meadows under Snow”: Alfons Walde- Almen im Schnee: https://myartmap.com/sites/default/files/walde_2.png [in https://myartmap.com/user/5189/shop%5D

“Aucherl Church”: Alfons Walder-Auracher Kircherl-1927-30: http://www.austrianfineart.at/images/largeorig/Walde-Auracher%20Kircherl-Kat.%202001.jpg [in http://www.austrianfineart.at/detailtest.php?cid=297&lang=%5D

“Meeting”: Alfons Walde-begegnung: http://alfonswalde.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/begegnung_1080_WZ.jpg [in http://alfonswalde.com/cms/?cat=16%5D

pic of the barn in the snow: mine

THE BASQUE BERET

Beijing, 2 February 2014

It’s quiet at the moment in Beijing. The Chinese New Year has just passed and the city is still deserted, with the locals staying at home and the migrants off in their home towns or villages. So when we went out for our usual Sunday afternoon coffee to The Place, a mall whose main claim to fame is that it hosts a ginormous TV screen, it was singularly empty. We decided to eschew our usual coffee houses such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee, both of which grace The Place, and took our coffee instead at a branch of (the South Korean-based) Paris Baguette.

paris baguette 003

As the name suggests, this chain of stores offers a vaguely French eating experience, the most obvious of which being the sale of baguettes – they’re not bad, although the Vietnamese, after their bout of colonization by the French, bake better ones. The stores also sell French pastries: croissants, of course, madeleines, and various others (they also sell a lot of pastries which my French grandmother would never have recognized as French in any way). And, as I discovered today, the staff wear berets basques
paris baguette 001
At least, I think that is what they are meant to be wearing. They are certainly modeled on the beret basque, although they look more like the floppy hats that popular and upwardly mobile painters sported in the 19th Century.

As everyone knows, the beret basque is as French as … well, the baguette
basque beret-2
or the gauloise cigarette and glass of red wine …
beret basque et gauloises
… or onions and garlic. I remember when I was young coming across the last gasps of an old tradition: Frenchmen bicycling around the UK selling onions. Lord knows why this tradition started, but as every Englishman knows the French eat a lot of onions – and garlic – so maybe the English thought that French onions purchased from a Frenchman were better than onions grown in the UK. So legions of canny Frenchmen set out every summer to bicycle door-to-British door and sell French onions. And of course branding rules required them to wear a beret basque.
basque beret-onion sellers
The funny thing is, only once in my life do I ever remember seeing a Frenchman actually wear a beret basque, and that was the driver of a car who, just north of Dunkerque, ran smack into the right-hand side of the deux-chevaux which my English friend was driving.

Since, as everyone knows, the deux-chevaux is as French as the beret basque, the baguette, and the gauloise

Citroen 2CV

the driver presumably thought that my friend knew the typically French road rule of “priorité à droite”, priority to the right: a car coming from the right always has priority unless otherwise specified. Unfortunately, my friend knew the much more sensible English road rule that a car on a big road has priority over a car on a little one, and since our road was a least three times as wide as his road, she thought … The resulting clash of cultures left a very big dent in her car door.

In any event, the only place I ever really saw the beret basque being worn regularly was in northern Italy, and that was only in the early years of my going there, some 30-plus years ago. Quite quickly, the younger generation abandoned the beret, as well as any other head coverage, presumably for one or more of the reasons which I listed in an earlier post. But I am very fond of a couple of photos lying around our apartment in Milan.  In one, my father-in-law is wearing his basco (as it is called in Italy) and smiling into the camera. In another, we see him sporting the beret and holding my wife, just a small girl at the time, by the hand. Whenever we come across them, my wife smiles and begins to reminisce. They were on holidays, it was the mid-sixties, times were good then in Italy, there was optimism in the air. The Good Old Days …

What about the region which gave its name to the beret? Do they wear it? Alas, as these photos suggest, it’s only the older folk who wear it any more:

basques with berets-2

basques with berets-3

basques with berets-1

basques with berets-5

basques with berets-4

Hmm, we still have my father-in-law’s beret, in some corner of a cupboard. Maybe when I’m nearing the end of my road, I’ll start wearing it.

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Paris Baguette, inside and out: my pics

Basque beret and baguette: http://www.labellemeche.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/b%C3%A9ret.jpg [in http://www.labellemeche.com/blog/page/3/%5D

Basque beret, gauloises and red wine: http://wshiell.net/vintage_ads2/original/gauloises.png [in http://wshiell.net/vintage_ads2/original/gauloises.html%5D

Basque beret-onion sellers: http://blog.privateislandparty.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Onion-Johnnies.jpg [in http://blog.privateislandparty.com/beret-origins-of-style/%5D

Citroën 2CV: http://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/imagecache/file/fit/730×700/media/5716157/Citroen%202CV%20%281%29.jpg [in http://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/reviews/citroen/2cv/%5D

Basques with berets-1: http://www.dkimages.com/discover/Projects/AT876/previews/446914.JPG [in http://www.dkimages.com/discover/Home/Geography/Europe/France/Southwest-France/Pyrenees/Towns-and-Villages/St-Jean-de-Luz/Basque-Men/Basque-Men-1.html%5D

Basques with berets-2: http://www.blog.giuseppelupo.eu/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/d1_louis_the_basque.jpg [in http://www.blog.giuseppelupo.eu/?cat=159%5D

Basques with berets-3: http://www.cephas.com/ImageThumbs/1205630/3/1205630_Men_in_traditional_Basque_dress_Seissan_Gers___France.jpg [in http://theobamadiary.com/2012/03/15/so-whos-tuning-in-tonight/%5D

Basques with berets-4: http://www.concierge.com/images/destinations/destinationguide/europe/spain/bilbao/bilbao_013p.jpg [in http://www.concierge.com/travelguide/bilbao/photos/photoview/61474?sort=-createDate%5D

Basques with berets-5: http://nimgs3.s3.amazonaws.com/others/original700/2008-8-4-3-45-25-35af8c3c35d345aea2744a44c6cf7937-35af8c3c35d345aea2744a44c6cf7937-2.jpg [in http://newshopper.sulekha.com/an-old-man-wearing-the-typical-basque-beret-passes-a-poster-reading-in-basque-inaki-de-juana-welcome-after-21-years-ago-in-pr_photo_246070.htm%5D