IMG_5082Late May is the ideal time to see red seas of poppies stretching across the French countryside. One of my earliest romanticized notions of France was Claude Monet’s painting, “Poppy Field in Argenteuil,” with a woman, hat on her head and parasol over her shoulder, wading through a poppy field with a child. He painted poppies in other places as well, including Giverny, where he had his lovely house and gardens. P1100166IMG_5078P1100176

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The field just above, viewed from afar.

It’s easy to play Monet around here. In fact, what’s hard is not driving off the road as I spy yet another spectacular red field. On the drive to the sports complex, there’s a big field on a plateau, and another below it are all red. As I continued my errands, I contemplated where I could pull off and how I could clamber over the drainage ditch and up the steep ledge to get to the view–which would have la Cité behind it! I made some stops in town, including for another field of poppies and la Cité, and then came back from a different direction. A hill that’s usually to my back was in front of me, and it was completely red. The flowers flowed down, like a floral Kilauea, across the road to the plateau I’d already seen. Amazing. But a very busy road, and no place to pull over and shoot photos. I certainly dismayed the drivers behind me as I slowed down to stare and gasp. (I will try to find a safe vantage point for shooting it!)

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La Cité from the other side, with other poppies. This field is on the plateau, and the red hill is to the left, but hidden from this vantage point.  I tried to climb around but couldn’t get to it.

P1100172P1100159P1070882A small traveling circus set up next to another poppy field. I’ve written about the circus before, but it was a different one. Shortly after this one arrived, I saw a large man at the top of a very, very high light pole. The poles have plugs for the Christmas decorations. While the municipal workers use a mechanical lift to get up there, circus folks just shimmy up like monkeys. Without a net.P1100168

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Same field as above and below.

no filterDuring the circus’s stay, I marveled at the ability of some people to make noise for no reason. Mid-morning, a trumpet blared, not in the way of somebody practicing, even badly. It was in the manner of a child who comes upon a trumpet and decides to try it out, with the full force of his lungs. For a couple of hours. No discernible tune or rhythm. Even a child would get bored with just making noise, but this trumpeter didn’t. Day after day after day.P1100154P1070880

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The power lines connect to a solar farm….

Along with the trumpet (which didn’t seem to be played during the shows–those had canned music), there was incessant hammering, clanking and banging throughout the day and night–normal when they put up and took down the tent, but the other times? Very mysterious. Also, neighing, braying, barking and whatever noise it is that camels make, because there were lots of them, munching on poppies, their humps slumped to the side, like melting ice cream cones just before they plop to the ground.no filterP1100193From time to time, I heard a lion roar, and I thought, “it isn’t even show time. All the kids are in school (except for the two zillion children of the circus performers, who ran around screaming from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., except for when they were riding scooters. I don’t mind kids screaming, actually. They have a reckless exuberance that I admire, although not so much at 6 a.m. nor at 11 p.m.). Why are they playing that stupid fake lion tape now?” I even heard it during the night. It wasn’t until they were leaving that I realized it wasn’t a tape, but a poor, pathetic lion, probably as bored as the trumpeter.P1100177P1100168The morning the circus packed up to leave, at 6:02 a.m., I heard a guy shouting, “Allez, allez, allez!” (Go, go, go!) Then: “Oh! Tenez! PURÉE!!!” (Oh! Hold on! Mush!) I don’t know what went wrong, but I was impressed by his clearly rigorous inculcation in G-rated language, the circus being for children, after all. Even under under duress, rather than say putain–whore–a common swear word, especially in the south of France, where it is used almost like a comma, this distressed/dismayed guy spat out the polite version, purée. Some others are mince (skinny) or mercredi (Wednesday) instead of merde, and punaise (a thumbtack, which in turn is named after a stinkbug) which also replaces putain. So if somebody says Wednesday or thumbtack to you in a sentence where those words make no sense, now you know: they’re mad, not crazy.

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All the photos are as is, no editing or filters or anything.

I thought about the circus again this morning, when I woke up to the sound of birds singing. SO. MANY. BIRDS. And no trumpets or lions.

30 thoughts on “Seeing Red

    1. I really don’t see how these little family circuses can make enough money to feed the animals. They have so many people, and so many animals, but the audiences are pretty small.

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  1. The photos are gasp worthy. I don’t like circuses….the poor animals. Their eyes look dead, maybe they are drugged….and clowns terrify me. I do sound pathetic….
    Ali

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      1. The rooftop of our national war museum is covered with grassland, including poppies. I wonder if they’re flowering here at the moment, or if there’s a difference in time based on climate. It would be an ideal post for November 11th.

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  2. I can never pass a field of poppies without thinking of the closing scene of ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’ and that in turn always makes me a little tearful. They are the most evocative of flowers and fields of them are quite stunning. The circus in Grenoble drove me to distraction three times a year …. they have rights over a large space just the other side of the river to my apartment and would be there, typically for 10 days at a time. The mess when they had gone was spectacular. But people love it and I am just a churlish old bag. And there is something quite amusing about sitting idly looking out of the window of the tram and seeing a camel peering at you! Mince! Is used very freely in my experience … I hadn’t really thought of it as a polite version of Merde, just another way of saying damn if you don’t want to say zut or flûte. Purée is exceptionally sweet in place of Putain which I tend to think of as the step to far in my own vocabulary! Keep taking those unfiltered pictures, they are so tantalizing!

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  3. I’m new to your blog and am loving reading about your life in France! Circus folk are different… I ran into some in Spain… They proudly said they were Gypsies, and the locals told me to hold on to my purse. Then there’s an area in South Texas where some of the carnival and circus people live offseason… Very strange life I would imagine. Poor camels… and the lions…. bored. Makes me sad. Brenda

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  4. They do bloom here in the first half of June, according to information I got from our War Museum. I’m planning on photographing them and setting them up in a blog for Remembrance Day in November. I did something similar last year- photographed a military cemetery in April and posted about it on Remembrance Day.

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