Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Port-la-Nouvelle, Ektachrome

Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Ektachrome Plus
which expired in 2005

Jean-Paul Sartre once famously observed that "l'enfer, c'est les autres", which is understandable given that all of his friends were French people. If he had grown up in Cornwall (for example) he might have had a more positive outlook on humanity. Instead of writing about the dislocation of consciousness that occurs when an individual first perceives himself to be observed, he might have started up an ice-cream shop. Or a charming Bed & Breakfast. See, when you're pottering around in the garden in your underwear you don't have a sense of self. You just are. But if you notice that your next-door-neighbour is spying on you, you suddenly become a man in his underwear pottering around in the garden. You are aware that there is a thing, yourself. Being watched. And you feel shame. But it's sexy at the same time.

That was one of Sartre's key themes, the idea that existence precedes essence. At first you're standing in the garden in your underwear, but why? Pourquoi? (shrugs shoulders) You only become a gardener when you start to push the lawnmower. And if you choose to ignore the lawnmower, and study the clouds instead, you're not a gardener, you're a meteorologist / dreamer. Your essence is defined by the choices you make, and by your interactions with the environment, rather than being imposed upon you by your creator. Fundamentally you're a doughy mass of dough that may one day be bread, if you choose to bake yourself for an hour. Until then you're just dough. You could even argue that the act of killing someone is not in fact murder, but instead a process whereby you define the essence of that person; you are enabling them to become, actualising their essence, whilst simultaneously refining your own.

But still, Port-la-Nouvelle. It's not famous at all - I spotted it on the train to Perpignan - but it's pleasant to look at, so I decided to have a walk around. It was deserted when I was there, and so Sartre might have enjoyed it, because it had no French people. It does however have a cement plant, so he might even have said "l'enfer, c'est à Port-la-Nouvelle".

That was a joke, see. L'enfer is the French word for inferno, from the Latin infernus. And a cement plant has a furnace in it. Lise is a singer and pianist who's bloody hard to Google because she's just called Lise. Just like "Tiger" Ninestein from Terrahawks she has an army of clones poised to take over if her main body is killed.

No, seriously, I would be good on the radio. The first person who can do a really loud, really fast mash-up of the theme tunes to Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons and UFO, I'd play that. Heck, I could play something by Lise. But it'd have to fit into the running order. 'cause DJs time the show, they work out how long the tracks are, and then they arrange them into a running order, and talk a bit in between - they have to read out the time, and announce things. "And now, at three o'clock, the news". I can do that. Here's a good example of a DJ at work. And it is work, it's a job, an honest job. Like working in a cement factory.

Yeah, fuck 'em. The way they go around just driving everywhere. But apart from being a bit bland, were they really so bad? They didn't explore different genres with the same gusto as Blondie, and unlike Devo they never had a weltanschauung... and they never had the same transatlantic appeal as The Police, or Duran Duran. Here in the UK people only remember them for "Drive", from Live Aid, but they weren't even The Cars at that point. They could have been any band. Cutting Crew, Foreigner. Billy Ocean. Okay, Billy Ocean wasn't a band. I'm surprised to find he was British - born in Trinidad, moved to Romford at an early age. Do you remember The Rock & Roll Years? With the ticker-tape? And the exploding planes? Where are my slippers, I must have my slippers...

Port-la-Nouvelle, eh? It's a port. An actual functioning port, that looks like Blade Runner at night, with blockhouses and domes that you'd probably get arrested for photographing. And apparently it has beaches, although lacking any kind of information about the place I didn't visit them. Turns out that the beaches are far away. Port-la-Nouvelle has a lighthouse that everybody who has been there has photographed, except for me, because I didn't know about it. And you can't photograph something you don't know about, can you? Unless you do it accidentally.

But the reason I went to Port-la-Nouvelle was because I spotted a long road, and some trees, which apparently led to a nature reserve. A brisk three-mile walk, to the Ile Saint-Lucie, which isn't an island and no-one called Lucie lives there, or if she does she hides during the daytime. According to Foursquare only four people have ever been there; I was the fifth.

après mois, la plage