A post in two halves
This post, like a football match, comes in two halves.
A week today, we leave the European Union for a period of transition out. As readers of this blog know, I think this is a foolish and sad decision, but I may be wrong. But even if Brexit is successful, there will doubtless be several problems and difficulties along the way; and the temptation for Remainers and Europhiles like me will be to say repeatedly, “What did we tell you?” and “What did you expect?”
Probably this temptation should be resisted.
Anyway, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that there should be commemorative coins or stamps: it’s a major event in our country’s history. The appalling suggestion that church bells should be rung “as on VE Day” (appalling because it would politicise churches; it would explicitly equate the EU with Nazi Germany; and it would implicitly make EU nationals into the “enemy”) was I hope just a wind-up.
I was contemplating using 31st Jan instead as a kind of celebration of all things European, as we leave. I have more control of my day than most people, and I sought advice on how to do this.
The first step was to do something that, as an inveterate list-maker and learner, I’ve meant to do for ages: learn the 28 countries in the EU, soon to be 27. I’ve done that.
I can pray for them.
I was taken aback by realising how little French, German etc literature I have in the house, even in translation. Tintin, Asterix and Dante is about it. I shall follow my former vicar’s excellent suggestion, and read a Tintin book. (One with a European setting, obviously; “The Calculus Affair” or “King Ottokar’s Sceptre”, perhaps.)
I can play some music: spoilt for choice classically with Beethoven, Bach, Dvorak, Mozart, Verdi… if not classical it might have to be Eurovision.
I shall need to find some foreign food to eat (and I’m handicapped in the drinks area by not liking alcohol.) German or Italian sausage? Lasagne or pizza? Sauerkraut or bortsch?
Art… I couldn’t find foreign literature (in English) in the local library, but the arts section had several books on famous artists, so I’ve been feasting my eyes on one or two of the past European masters.
The first was Pieter Brueghel (or Bruegel) the Elder (“Peasant Bruegel) and this is where the second part of the post starts.
Bruegel lived in the middle of Europe from 1525 to 1569, and died a few years after the infamous invasion of his homeland by the Spanish Duke of Alva. This was designed to put down Protestantism with extreme force. (It led to the division of the Low Countries into largely Catholic Belgium and the largely Protestant Netherlands.) Unlike many painters of his time, he didn’t paint portraits, but is renowned for his pictures of peasant life, sometimes with a Biblical theme, sometimes not.
Many of his pictures show medieval crowds, and are very useful to historians. For example, his “Census at Bethlehem” shows Mary and Joseph almost hard to identify in the busy scene of rather 16th-century looking people registering and doing lots of other things round about an inn. His “Massacre of the Innocents”, nominally about the actions of King Herod, shows the Duke of Alba’s symbol on the soldiers’ banner. (This painting was later altered by someone else, presumably for political reasons, so that the dead babies became items of food or other inanimate plunder.)
I found all this very interesting. I couldn’t before have told you much about Bruegel, but like most people I’ve seen some of the pictures over the course of my life.
It occurred to me a few days ago that they sank deeper into my subconscious than I realised at the time, and that when I came to write the Tales from Ragaris, I found his images there.
Of course, this may have been a bad move. Bruegel’s technology, building techniques and costumes are, or ought to be, about 300 years further on from the days of King Arrion or Queen Rommi.
Looking at the paintings again, Dorac’s jacket is in my mind more loose-fitting than one of Bruegel’s peasant’s, as he (Dorac) didn’t have buttons, and I think longer. Ragaris would have had many women like Gemara and Fillim in hose rather than gowns, and most of the hats would have been less complex.
But it may well be that Bruegel is the reason why people in Ragaris do tend to wear hats (outside Ricossa.)
I now think that if you want to picture Ragaris… you should look at Bruegel.
Below are links to two of his most famous: Hunters in the Snow, and The Peasant Wedding.
Love from the PPI Blogger