This is Ferdinand Cheval or Le Facteur Cheval, postman of the rural French village of Hauterives from 1867-1896. He tripped over an interesting looking stone one day during his 32km route (on foot) which lead, in a classicly surrealist leap of imagination, to him spending the following 33 years modelling, night after night, a ‘monument of obstinacy’, known as Le Palais Ideal.

hard working geezer

The French made it a national monument in 1969 (most likely wouldn’t have got planning permission in the UK). It has no interior rooms, just corridors and winding staircases with poetry and epigrams tatooing its parts not already beblobbed by concrete animals and darleks. Anyone who’s anyone in the surrealist world names old posty as an inspriation (Barrack Ohbummer’s autobiography will surely reveal..).

the work of one man

God . Country . Work

It struck a chord with us somehow; his ‘temple to nature’ so lauded in the world of ‘Art Brut’, or ugly art. Stranger than the thing itself was the contrast it drew between our times. The surrealists’ aim 90 years ago was to ‘reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life’. Today the collective spews its unconscious into the cybersphere in an ever shortening now, exponentially proliferating eyes/I’s somehow compressing the present moment, regurgitating memes faster than any mind could keep up with.

What qualifies as a genuinely surreal moment these days? Aren’t the cartoon-like proportions of modern ‘reality’ with its macabre, excruciating extremes, more baffling to rational life than any art? Hasn’t art itself broken its boundaries, become more and more practical; our device to make sense of reality since real life has swallowed the surreal?
Gadzooks.. mental curlywurly!
Time to consider my next monument…

tally ho..

France, September: wide horizons through a windscreen, rushing lanes of plane trees just beginning their autumn costume change, a hint of a chill nibbles the shaded air. Markets sprawl through ancient city streets disgorging the local product, the astonishing bounty of the soil.

Muscat grapes at 2.90E on the kilo, organic figs 4.90 a kilo or wild off the trees (to a Brit, that’s known as gauling).

I have to confess that my culinary muse got entirely swept away in a wanton french affair. I couldn’t bring myself to whizz or sprout anything in favour of lunches of fresh figs with raw goats cheese, heirloom tomato and sourdough bruschettas, the occasional mono-meal of a straight kilo of grapes. Important new work went towards my ongoing croissant-of-a-lifetime project.. The closest I got to restraint was kidding myself that crème fraiche is a probiotic.

Je ne regret rien.

fig urchins

still life

peaches and cream pancakes with fresh basil, baby and red umbrella

The summer of the slug is now behind us. Mushrooms are popping in the fields. The clocks tick calmly towards the solstice. Fingers crossed, if the fates are with us we’ll have our own kitchen again within weeks.. finally, we’ve found a home. I almost don’t dare to say it..

Happy apple-picking, leaf kicking, smoky bonfire afternoons.