People in France have been employing the hashtag je suis en terrasse (I'm on terrace), along with images of cafe tables etc. as an act of defiance and to show that they're back on the streets, sitting outside bars and restaurants and watching the world go by, albeit a grieving, wounded world. I thought I'd show my solidarity by putting together a few Gallic items from around the house (although only a masochist would actually try sitting outside in the current weather conditions in Wales.)
I also wanted to express my discomfiture with the repeated admonitions I've seen on social media that the terrorist attacks in Paris have attracted more than their fair share of attention and that comparable atrocities in other parts of the world are ignored or disregarded in comparison.
It's a fact that we respond emotionally to what we most closely identify with and events that happens closest to 'home' affect us most deeply. Not simply home in terms of geography but in other forms of connectedness; places we've lived, visited or have friends. Places that exist vividly in the imagination though films, songs and popular stereotypes. It's not that I/we are not aware intellectually of the toll taken by terrorism in other parts of the world (as shown on this map, European countries come very far down the list), nor that I/we don't deplore and abhor the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, markets and so on etc. elsewhere, but if they don't posses such personal resonance they don't, and can't, evoke such a strong emotional response. It's not humanly possible to encompass all the grief and tragedy in the world: what we know best hurts most.
It's almost 10 years since I was last in Paris. I have a couple of friends who live there; one I've heard from, one not (but since he's a journalist he's probably en terrasse working on the story). My father spoke and read French fluently and as a child growing up I often saw him with French books or newspapers. My half-brother fought in Normandy and returned many times after the war to get to know France properly. Earlier this year I cleared a load of dusty French paperbacks out of his flat (no one wanted them). It was there he bought me the pottery cat, when I was just a baby.
At the top of this pile of those familiar, tattered, soft-cover editions is a little book called Cent Meilleurs Poemes with my mother's name in it and the date 1926. There's a cigarette burn on the cover. She was 17 and would sit smoking in her North London bedroom imagining of a life of art, intellect and romance on the cafe terraces of Paris , while below her fractured family screamed and argued.
These are just some of the reasons I've been preoccupied with recent events, and finding it hard to engage with blipping over the past few days. That, and the fact that there's really very little scope for photography in this murky season way out west.