Valentine’s Day and Brexit

Blowsy

 

All things pink and red
Cupid’s arrows are zinging around with extra vigor because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. To help you get into the mood—just in case you’ve missed all the advertising in shops and in every possible variety of media—I bring you a selection of my photographs, paying special attention to pink this year.

The photograph above was made in a gîte where I was staying with a friend. These gorgeous roses, freshly cut from the owners’ garden, stood in a vase in our living room.

 

Pink Angels
There was a big plant with a cloud of these tiny flowers, looking so delicate, fresh and sweet.

 

Photo Set
Somewhere in Tuscany is a street artist named Exit/Enter. He leaves these sweet and gentle works of art for us to discover as we walk through cities and towns, signing his pieces with •K. I don’t know how he chose that, but it doesn’t matter because his art makes my heart sing.

 

Photo Set
Two exquisite roses, one in Paris and the other in the South of France. Expressions of both purity and passion, beauty and romance, enduring love.

 

Photo Set
Left, one of my typographic photos, “Two people fell in love…” was made with a wall tile I spotted in Provence. Right, a macro view of a giant puffball of a weed, looking pretty in pale pink.

 

Café Roses
The view from our table, looking across the room in this cozy café located in the heart of Paris.

 


 

E2R
Seeing red in the United Kingdom, here on a mailbox (pillar box in the U.K.) with the royal cypher of Queen Elizabeth II.

 

Brexit Day
I’d planned a trip to meet my sister-in-law in London, business for her, fun for both of us, with the bonus of connecting with friends who live there part-time. We’d planned the trip months earlier, and as the date approached, we realized that we would be there for Brexit Day, Friday, 31 January. The U.K. would officially leave the European Union at the stroke of 11:00 pm.

 

Photo Set
The newspapers had much to say on 31 January, most of them happy about leaving the E.U. The newspaper on the left was not so pleased, and shared their own point of view. The cover illustration is their variation on the 50p souvenir Brexit coin that was being issued; the real coin reads, “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.”

 

While Kathy had meetings, I passed most of the afternoon of 31 January getting around town on foot and by cab, on a photographic scavenger hunt for a project you’ll see in these pages some time in the near future. At one point, I announced success in finding the last remaining piece to the puzzle, and the taxi driver asked if he could take me back to my hotel.

“Parliament Square, please.” He gave me a long look in the rear view mirror, nodded, and put the car into gear. Off we went through the streets of London.

 

Photo Set
Parliament Square is a small park that’s set between Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court, the houses of Parliament, and other government buildings. The scene of many a demonstration, on 31 January it played host to the pro-Brexiteers celebrating their victory.

 

Parliament Square is, not surprisingly, located near the home of the U.K. Parliament, Westminster Hall, and the square is populated with a nice selection of statues of various folks who have had an impact on British history, including Winston Churchill. It is often the site of protests and demonstrations, and on this particular day, all eyes were turned toward the square to see how the victorious pro-Brexit crowd would show their pleasure about parting ways with the European Union. I wanted to check it out.

I got there at about 2:30. It wasn’t yet very crowded, but people were arriving in a steady stream, many of them draped in Union Jacks. The entire perimeter was lined with police and journalists; countless cameras rested on tripods. And a bit disconcerting, there were several helicopters buzzing around above our heads.

 

Photo Set
Left: This man found a lot of ways to wear the Union Jack, including his shoes. People were waiting in line to have their picture taken with him. Right: My initial thought about this fellow was that he was dressed as a combination of Boris Johnson and Winston Churchill, and that he was there in favor of Brexit. But in talking with my friend Sue, I’m now wondering if he was actually a Remainer. First, the hair is the only bit that hints of Boris, and it may just be his own. Second, the flags in the poster are flying at half-mast. And finally, Sue said she thought she’d seen that alteration of Churchill’s famous quotation used by the Remainers. At any rate, a colorful character, and he’s standing in front of Churchill’s statue. The original quote—“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”—refers to the Royal Air Force efforts against the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, a turning point in the war.

 

Fan of Boris
I chatted briefly with this nice woman after she let me photograph her with her Union Jacks and Boris doll.

 

I wandered about, spoke with a few people, photographed a few others, and then left. It wasn’t really all that exciting, but I could feel the energy building, and decided it was a fine time to leave.

 

Hamilton

Later that evening, the four of us went to see Hamilton, the play by Lin-Manuel Miranda that is about the life of Alexander Hamilton. I was fully absorbed by the play, the music, the costumes, the set … it really is a magnificent bit of theater. At the same time, I was also noticing my own growing awareness of the bizarre combination of circumstances on this particular night.

Picture this: a group of three Americans and one Australian are sitting in a theater in London, surrounded by a sold-out audience that is largely British. We are here to see a play about one of the leaders of the American Revolution. There is enthusiastic applause after each song, and at the end of the play, an energetic standing ovation. By itself, that is enough for a sense of the surreal, but a half-hour later, at 11:00, comes the stroke of Brexit, and that turns this evening into the very definition of the word surreal.

The last part of this story is a little bittersweet. Like many U.K. citizens who live in this town, a local friend had received a letter from the mayor. It talked about the changes that would come with Brexit, and explained how to find helpful information. She was especially touched by the handwritten message at the end of the letter: “Avec tous mes regrets.”

 

Mayor Letter
“With all my regrets”

 


 

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