Two, three or four men in a boat

The sun was just rising and it was the busiest beach I ever saw. I was about an hour’s drive south of Hoi An in Vietnam on an excursion with the photographer Etienne Bossot.

The activity was all about fishermen and their catch. Their boats were lying on the roadstead and the men used basket-shaped tiny boats to bring their catch ashore, where deals were swiftly made with the numerous buyers around. What seemed chaotic was in fact very well structured, rehearsed on thousands and thousands of similar mornings.

Slightly overwhelmed by all impressions and by the speed at which everything happened, I left my shoes somewhere in the middle of it all and tried to follow the action, or parts of it rather, in the water, on the shore, pointing the camera the camera to where the most interesting things seemed to happen.

It wasn’t easy. I never took so many bad photos in such a short period of time ever before, in spite of Etienne’s excellent advice and tips. I seemed always to be just a little too late, or too close, or too far away, or looking in the wrong direction.

And sometimes I forgot for a second that this was a photography excursion and just stood there in awe, admiring all these people who didn’t let themselves be disturbed in the slightest by someone running around with a camera. They had work to do and just got on with it.

“Would you like to stay a little longer or should we go for some breakfast?”, Etienne asked. Stay longer, obviously! In the end we had to move on of course, to breakfast, to visit the market and to stroll through the fishing village but hang on, I need my shoes!

I was relieved to see that they were still exactly where I had left them.

Mirror mirror on the ground

Every year on 15 August my village Mirabel-aux-Baronnies turns into a big flea market cum party – it is the day of the Fête du village!

The greatest concentration of people is always around the wine-tasting stands, where all the nearby cooperatives and many independent wine producers have their wines on offer. You only have to pick up your tasting glass before embarking on your tasting adventure.

All over the village people set up small stands to sell toys no longer in use, clothes no longer in use, trinkets no longer in use, furniture no longer in use, chipped plates, worn-out shoes and well-read books. In the main street artists from the area showcase their handicraft and art work.

I remembered from previous years that some interesting items could be found in front of the church, and this was the case this year as well. There was for instance a whole collection of mirrors, which I went back to photograph a couple of times in the changing light.

If you needed a clarinet, a saxophone, a violin or a cello you might find something to your liking.

No village feast is complete without a band!

Among all the thousands of things for sale my eyes fell on a small table which could be mine for 5 euros. Hmmm. Needed some reflection. When I came back a little later the price had gone down.

Silly me still couldn’t make up my mind whether or not to make this investment so I went home. Then I suddenly realised how much I wanted to have that precise table so I hurried back.

It was gone.

Don’t irritate the lion!

Many of the lovely villages in my corner of Provence have pretty and evocative place names: Villedieu (God’s town), Faucon (Falcon) and my own village, Mirabel-aux-Baronnies (Beautiful view) are just a few examples.

But Villedieu stands out in a special way, namely by having its own motto, and it isn’t just any motto: Noli irritare leonem, which translates as ‘Don’t irritate the lion’. Not bad for a village with 506 inhabitants. You can see it here, engraved underneath the fighting lion.

But by all means, don’t let this fierce motto deter you from visiting Villedieu, you surely won’t irritate the lion!

I warmly recommend having a drink in the shade of the plane trees on the village square where you can contemplate what life might have been like here in medieval times. What made the inhabitants of this now so peaceful place liken themselves to an irritable lion and who was the enemy?