Sunday, November 02, 2008

Map-Reading, Doodles, and Environmentalists

Wednesday was the day I started actively searching for those murals marked on my tourist map. It was also the day I felt much better than the previous day, despite my whingy post in the morning, and not having more than five hours' sleep the previous night.

And here is the first one from the map, just down the hill from my hotel, back towards the station. Click on the photo for the full set.

29: "Lucky Luke, Les Dalton et Joly Jumper" (2 photos)

I had gone on a bit of a jaunt in the morning, first, though to find more in Le Vieil Angoulême. And I found quite a lot. One of the murals I found was particularly interesting to me, because it seemed to embody all of the types of graffiti - going from beautiful and interesting art at the far left hand end, taking in a range of styles, only to be added to and quite frankly ruined at the other end.

There was (what I presume to be) one particularly moronic reference to September 11, with the letters USA, and an arrow pointing to a stenciled aeroplane. I don't know whether some sort of erudite statement was supposed to be made by that, but it came across as amusement at the tragic death of hundreds of innocent people.

There seems to be a lot of stenciled graffiti in the town as well, which is usually militaristic in nature, and revolutionary in spirit (the aforementioned aeroplane, marching soldiers, depictions of explosions, etc). The trouble I have with this is that it's too easy. It takes little thought to do, even though it looks much better than someone's scribbled name, and because so little thought has gone into it, the "artist" forgets to get their message across.

There are more photos in the set, but here's a couple of pictures so you get the idea:

24: Interesting Art Deteriorating Into Mindless Graffiti (8 photos)

24: Interesting Art Deteriorating Into Mindless Graffiti (8 photos)

I generally spent the rest of the day doing similar things to other days, I had a crepe, and I ate in another pizzeria for dinner, which felt much more homely and was more enjoyable than the brightly lit and all-so-efficient seeming La Siciliana (which is a lovely restaurant in itself, to be fair).

This other place was called La Scoopitone, which makes it sound a little like an ice cream parlour run by somebody called Anthony, but its pizzas are outstanding. Or at least the one I ate was.

I spent the evening in La Souris Verte again, this time drinking tea (I decided on no alcohol until the end of the autumn term), and writing and doodling. I started Camera Boy, which I'm very very pleased with so far, and then quite literally skipped back to my hotel (being silly in public without fear of anyone you know seeing you, is rather good therapy).

I also doodled a few bad French puns:

Le Sketchbook: Loup

Le Sketchbook: Vin

Le Sketchbook: La Peche

PS I think I got my dates completely confuse in my sketchbook while I was away. I think those were actually on 29th.

John Francis

The next morning, I watched BBC World and, more specifically, Hard Talk, in which a chap called John Francis was interviewed. I only really watched it because I couldn't be bothered scooting around the town any more and wanted to go home.

It's probably quite an odd thing to blog about on a travel blog, but please bear with me.

I'd never heard of the guy before, but he's really really interesting. Seeing the environmental damage caused by an oil spillage, he gave up motorised transport as a young man. Then, on his 27th birthday (which is my age, incidentally), realising how much he went on and on, he decided not to speak for a whole day, as a present to his community.

Realising he hadn't been listening, he found he learnt a lot by shutting up, and so didn't speak for another day.

And another day.

In fact, he didn't speak for 17 years.

All that time he spent learning about the environment, and even did a PhD. When he started speaking again, the UN invited him to become a goodwill ambassador, and now he's a respected environmentalist.

He was such a fascinating character, but one thing he said right at the end really resonated with me. Rather than focus on the things we need to do and try to impose solutions in the way that many environmentalists do:

"The way we help the environment is to help each other, to be good to each other."

And I think he's got it spot on. The tragic end result of climate change is not that a few people in the home counties had their homes built on a flood plain, nor that we have to find an alternative to the internal combustion engine.

It's that the people who are affected the most are the same people who are always affected the most. It's the very poorest people in the world, who will suffer more frequent extreme weather events, and who will not be adequately prepared to cope with them.

If we think about each other's wellbeing, and are kind to each other, then that implies that we must by default look after the environment in which they live.

Bill and Ted were onto something.

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