Saturday, 23 September 2017

Angoulême for cartoons

As I contemplate the results of this weekend's elections in NZ I feet the cartoon on the left sadly appropriate: "Worse than that, it's reality!" It's a cartoon painted on the side of  a building in Angoulême, France. Earlier this month I was in the cartoon capital of the world as a tourist escaping what seems to be the end of my dream to live in France which has been a bitter-sweet experience over seven years. Being down in this wine-growing area full of old history and also vibes from my French ancestors, along the Charente River,  I was reminded of why I love France, why I have persisted so long to stay here despite so much adversity. 

I was in touch with my soul but my head knew perfectly well that I would have to say goodbye to France and start the whole ghastly process of letting go my dream; what I'd worked hard to achieve here, throw out yet more 'things' and head into what is, at this time of writing, a big void. This time it's much harder going to the other end of the planet. I'm not going to a dream, or hope and certainly not a job yet. Three nights in this part of France would be all I would have to remind myself of how I feel about this country. So let's start with day one: Angoulême.
I was down in the SouthWest of France in a major wine-growing area which specialises in cognac, not far from Bordeaux, to stay with an ex-colleague of mine (Liz) from Waitakere City Council days at her cousin's holiday home in a neighbouring town. Angoulême is located in the Charente département and is famous for cartoons and vintage car races. It is also the centre of the paper-making and printing industry, with which it has been connected since the fourteenth century. With booze, cars, French food and cartoons it was going to be an interesting short stay.

The TGV train from Paris stops on its way to Bordeaux first at Poitiers and then Angoulême which was very convenient for us. The trip down was uneventful except for a lengthy stop at Poitiers where a couple of youths from our train were expelled under suspicion and later led away by the police. We wandered around Angouleme on a warm morning, along the old ramparts, past buildings decorated with cartoons and trompe l'oeil.   We stopped to take pictures outside the historic town hall with its medieval tower and later additions. 
There were a lot of municipal flower beds - this city seems to take a pride in good aesthetics. Everywhere we were reminded of the history of cartoons, comics and animated films. There's a museum to this in the town. Herge the famous cartoonist of Tintin fame is recognised here. He was a belgian cartoonist who fled to France during the second world war. It was The Adventures of Tintin and subsequent prjoects which gave Herge fame though he became increasingly irritated by the success of the creators of the Asterix books.

There's also a regional centre of fine arts in the city and each September one of the last remaining street races (Pau and Monaco are the other two) is held. You can see a view of the city and the Charente River from the ramparts in the photo. It was this river that my French ancestors travelled down on their way to New Zealand, leaving Rochefort in 1840.