After the first covid lockdown finished in the UK, and with further lockdowns looming, I decided to get over to France with my bike and a tent, while I could. I took a ferry to Dunkirk and cycled the north, then west coasts until I got to Bordeaux, where it all locked down again as autumn approached.

Along the way, I made sketches and, in Bordeaux, purchased a small watercolour box and paper. Here are some of my drawings and paintings.

Only able to be outside for one hour and within 1km of where I live, I’m lucky enough to have a fabulous park nearby, complete with lake and martins-pêcheurs (kingfishers)
South of Brest, I camped a couple of days in the back garden of a friend, in a tiny hamlet called Le Forèt. There was a wasp nest in the wall of the house and angry wasps came and went all day. Later, I joined a sculpting group in Bordeaux and made a sculpture of a une guêpe (a wasp) from clay, though it didn’t survive well, when I had to abandon it for several weeks during another covid lockdown.

During my travels around the coastline, apart from the hills, I was horrified by the history, which I read up about as I passed or went through so many towns destroyed during the 2nd World War. The British and Americans have nothing to be proud of, with the first use of Napalm in Royan, killing almost all the French inhabitants during an attack they thought was against the Germans. Irrespective, I question the use of napalm, so devastating that the Americans then decided to deploy it in Vietnam.

On a lighter note, French countryside is magnificent and varied. This picture, made quickly in watercolour, is just an impression of the light and undulations around Marciac, a small town not far from Lourdes, that is famous for its jazz festivals – unfortunately cancelled last year and this, due to the bug.

This is a tardigrade, well an adult and baby. These creatures are really small, about 0.1mm fully grown and, as a species, are at least 500,000 years old. They are almost indestrucible, are found inside active volcanoes, deep in the Antarctic ice and dried out in hot deserts – only to revive months later, when the rains come. Here they are captured in clay and glaze.

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