mercredi 16 avril 2008

The wild expanse

The countryside in Bretagne is vast and green and sparkles with the reflections of the hundreds of lakes that intersperse the rolling farm land. The weather is wild. It maybe Spring and 18 in Marsailles, but here, an hour from the coast, there is a wind that gusts up to thirty miles an hour or so and Saturday is marked by fierce down pours that give way, in a flash, to bright sunshine. It is, or was, an intensely Catholic region. We speed along the road from Angers to our destination. Every kilometre or so there is a bright yellow and red bollard by the side of the route commemorating the path that the Allies took in 1944. More difficult to spot, though, are the religious crosses. Some are basic affairs, others slightly grander and there are many with a full blown Jesus in his unlikely pose. One of them, an ornate detailed thing, looks hopelessly anachronistic and incongruous next to the shining faux modernity of a 'U' Supermarket. Our host is almost apologetic about these sudden religious prompts. "No one goes to church anymore, though. Not even my elderly patients."

We join the main route and there to our right is a chain of wind turbines. Seven emmense towers with their huge propeller blades gently turning in the stiff breeze. "They generate enough electricity for 20000 people, though there was a lot of protest when they were put up.", our splendid host informs us. They are called 'éoliennes', in French ". . .after the French for the God of the wind." We stop and listen to their faint hum of the spinning crosses. "After they were put up, people came from all over to see them."

We are familiar with modernism's insistence that the religious 'tide' has receded yet here in the Spring countryside, it feels momentarily that it has only transmuted into something else. But the next day, the clouds that previously had scuttled across the sky in a mighty rush lie frozen as if painted on the blue background and the crosses are still. A political metaphor.