Monday, 5 January 2015

Holiday III Great Yarmouth

A bitterly cold day, as I remember it, with occasional heavy showers.  A day in which is was never quite warm or dry; or so I remember it.  We started the day with a walk to the beach to watch the seals - it was calving season and there were plenty of white pups about.  After breakfast we drove south through sprawling seaside development to..well, firstly the scanty remains of the Roman fort at Caister on Sea, and then to the later fortifications at Caister Castle, the home of Sir John Falstoff (one time owner of Blickling, and model for Falstaff in 'Henry V')


And then Great Yarmouth, a bustling port and seaside resort, with a down-at-heal air.  Architecturally there is a lot to see - the heart of the town is, or was Medieval, and there are Georgian merchants houses lining the quayside.  There is an enormous Market Place, and an incredible , severest Neo-Classical honorific column erected to commemorate Nelson.  But like the majority of Britain's larger towns the 20th & 21st centuries have been unkind. Yarmouth was bombed in the last War, and then underwent a series of, perhaps, well meant redevelopments that have scarred the ancient core of the town.  It must have been very beautiful at one time, alas a lot of the historic properties, particularly the mighty houses on South Quay were in semi derelict condition.  The one bright spot was the former St George's church which had been derelict for some time and has now found a new lease of life as a theatre.  One of the reasons I wanted to visit was to pay a return visit to the ancient parish church, St Nicholas, but more of that in my next post. 
Being a seaside town we had walk along the prom, eat fish and chips (very good) and buy rock.  We really had to.  Really. There was good early Victorian architecture in places too along the prom, in what is in effect a separate town.


White Horse Plain


Houses on Church Plain

The Fisherman's Almshouses (1702) on Church Plain


The Tolhouse


St George, St George's Plain

That evening we watched 'Les Biches' a film by Claude Chabrol, starring his wife Stephane Audran.  The reason for watching this for me was Audran; I have been quietly fascinated by her for years.  I first remember seeing her in Granda TV's superlative adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited' where she played Lord Marchmain's mistress 'Cara'.  I next saw her in 'Babette's Feast'.  Audran possessed a remarkable and striking beauty, and an almost other-worldly acting style.  Her performance in this film did not disappoint either; written by her husband and Paul Gegauf it is the story of a strange, disturbing relationship between Frederique (Audran), the younger enigmatic Why (Jacqueline Sassard) and the architect Paul Thomas played by Jean-Louis Trintignant.  The film itself had this slightly distanced feel hard to capture in words.  Initially set in Paris, where the stylish, dominant  Frederique picks up Why on the Pont des Arts, things begin to go awry when Frederique brings the younger, seemingly ingenue, woman south with her to her villa in Provence where they encounter Paul and a sort of three way relationship develops.  The denouement, a 'sort of denouement' really as it throws up all sorts of questions, occurs back in Paris.

Les Biches 1968

Producer                Andres Genoves
Director                  Claude Chabrol
Cinematographer  Jean Rabier

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