Don’t tell anyone, but I left the bubble: Strasbourg in pictures and poems

I went to Strasbourg for 3 days to visit my young friend Tom (https://tomfproctor.wordpress.com/) and practice my French. I don’t really have time to write a proper post, but here are numerous photos-with-commentary and a few poems for NaPoWriMo (national poetry writing month). It’s supposed to be a poem a day which means that so far, naturally, I’ve managed about seven, most of which are pretty short and hasty – here’s an extreme example from day 3:

I forgot to write a poem,
I forgot to make it rhyme,
so instead I’ve written nothing:
what a shocking waste of time.

There might be a second installment around the end of May – keep your eyes and ears peeled. 

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Strasbourg is obscenely good looking; I have a mild obsession with its rooves. Tom has somehow managed to be employed in the building on the left which is, believe it or not, a school. Below on the right is the cathedral, which prompted this poem…

In the forest of elephants’ legs,Pretty cathedral
turquoise-edged,
the yellow sun presides

over cloisters where history lies,
a rusting hive,
the centre gently jewelled,

and the light is alive in the cool
despite the gloom,
its brightness trapped in panes

in the uppermost reach of the cave,
brightly stained,
a row of pools of blue and red.

P1020655Given that this was a French-speaking trip to France undertaken by French students in order to practice our French and reintegrate into French culture, thereby hopefully passing our French degrees, we immediately left and went to Germany. This bridge is in the jardin des deux rives, where you can cross from one country to the other in a matter of minutes.

Seeing the sights

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On the way there Tom showed us the famous wastelands of Strasbourg, which are one of its finer features. (Not going to lie, there were moments when I thought we’d be lost in the wilderness until finals were long finished. This would not necessarily have been a bad thing.)P1020641

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The garden itself mostly consisted of a series of small hills apparently intended to represent the solar system (what else?), and an enclave labelled “an afternoon at the farm”, containing large figurines of a rabbit and a tortoise, as well as a few deck chairs. French logic will never cease to astound me.

P1020654There was also the standard colony of padlocks on the bridge, including such gems as “Belieber forever”. That day’s poem is accordingly this:

You locked your love above the RhineP1020709
so travellers from far and wide
could revel in the yawn of time
since first two strangers met –

unbroken metal, tritely carved
with pairs of names in clichéd hearts;
no way to know if now they’re halved,
now nothing but regret –

and even though we laughed at you
for choosing pink or neon blue,
for names so foreign, two by two,
they haven’t faded yet.

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Other things we saw include these very smug statues and this “Scottish cake”, as well as some weeping angels.

Don't blink.P1020701

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There was also this traditional French post box, and an offensively hideous statuette of a muscular horse.

       

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We went to another park where there were storks (and tortoises), which almost – but not entirely – justifies the brutal mutlation of the plane trees all through the town. Apparently the storks like to nest precariously on top of their stumpy branches (bottom left).

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P1020650.

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Most importantly, we ate. A lot. All the time. For purely cultural purposes of course; when in Alsace you can’t really justify not trying both French AND German specialities. Hence the delicious golden perfection you see on your left. The bretzel is simply the best of the bread products, and I say that as someone who lived in France for a year.

We also got a kebab too, because… Well, why wouldn’t you? Having banged on for slightly too long about the virtues of the humble doner, I was challenged by Megan to write my daily poem on that subject. Which I did.

Ode to a kebab
Oh kebab, you’re underrated,
You’ve been quite unduly slated;
Though you leave a girl elated,
It would seem you’re simply fated to be hated.

Slimy lamb with soggy chips,
How my hungry stomach flips
As your tendrils pass my lips;
In your light all other dishes are eclipsed.

Does it matter if you’re healthy?
There’s no reason to be stealthy;
You can join me in my selfie,
And I swear I won’t forsake you when I’m wealthy.

I can only think it’s snobbery
That makes people say you’re slobbery;
I’ll resort to fraud or robbery
If you promise me a trip to the kebobbery.

So give me this day my greasy meat,
A rubbery treat that’s hard to beat,
The doner’s the god of the street food elite;
Best get out of the chippy if you can’t stand the heat.

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So that’s strasbourg summed up; there a few more poems below for those who are interested (click “read more” if you can’t already see them). Who knows what other poetic oddities will emerge from the increasingly strange and frantic world of revision in weeks to come…

This one is because I’ve been putting off actually revising Rabelais so thought I’d justify it by at least writing something about him. If you think it’s crude, just trust me that the book is a whole lot more so. 

Rabelais
Rabelais, a dabbler
in matters Greek and Latin
got through several tons of satin
in the dressing of his giants:

Gargantua looked fabulous,
his codpiece vast and mighty;
when surrounded by the fighty
he was calm, and yet defiant.

His princely son, Pantagruel,
fared oceans for a bottle –
did it help him? Not a lottle;
we may never know the truth.

Their stories, though celestial,
are filled with filthy prattle:
nob jokes, wiping bums, and battles,
to divert the bawdy youth.

And this one is… I don’t even know. 

A demoiselle, graceful and charming,
Took a hobby most strange and alarming:
She would climb up a tree
And cry out: “Look at me!”
Then release all the wasps she’d been farming.

And here are a couple of more sedate ones, prompted by being in Oxford over the vac and actually having to look at the notes I made in second year. 

Home
The room smells of home:
not where I live, not home, precisely,
but –
home.

Easter chocolate, sun-ripened,
60s-window-filtered brightness,
streaming light with dust motes,
dancing in the yellow space,

mildew and spring, daffodils
and still, although we’re far from it,
the sea

– bladderwrack, kelp in silty water,
causeway fringed with mossy weeds,
thrift and foam –

This fresh decay is what you share,
daisies, concrete and condensation,
an island of scent –
a home.

Revision
Wishing the term away,
I highlight documents,
order my stationery,
mark a crucial passage.

Lecture notes and notebooks,
my life in a file,
a record of knowledge
that I’ll never use.

Highlighting old ideas,
crossing out scribbles
on over-inked sheets,
a rant or too much

emotion. Striking through
margins, where I’d marked
moments I was worse
than I care to review.

Three years of burying;
now I pick and choose,
thin out the seedlings
justify the page.

p.s. on the subject of pages, if anyone would care to teach me (after finals) how the hell you’re supposed to format pictures on wordpress, it would be much appreciated. I’ve been shouting at my computer a bit. And sorry if the layout comes out weird on everyone else’s screen…

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One thought on “Don’t tell anyone, but I left the bubble: Strasbourg in pictures and poems

  1. Pingback: Singers in Strasbourg | In Search of Lost (Reading) Time

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