Une Rue a Honfleur, painting by Andrew Reid Wildman

Honfleur enchants me,  yet here sadness caresses me with bony fingers. The first time I came here was the last time I went on holiday with both my parents. We stayed a week in a small hotel, with rooms overlooking the church, eating breakfasts of bread, jam and butter, and later dinners of fish and potatoes, seafood and pizza, sat outside, in the dark night under lights that shimmered on the water, air balmy and laced with salt and pollen. We took a tractor train tour up the hill to a church in a forest, and a boat under the Normandy Bridge, two elderly parents and their middle aged son. Lately I come only with my mother as my father is gone. We age and we go, and yet the little town stays the same, down to the phone box where my mother hid from a dog, down to the chip van, and the little supermarket where I buy a year’s supply of my favourite French bubble bath. When I hear the haunting music of Satie’s Gymnopedies it takes me here, to the time we visited the composer’s museum, a day of sunny happiness even though my gum was bleeding from an extracted wisdom tooth. I come every year now, a summer ritual, standing on the deck of a river ship, as the crew tie the ropes and bring down the stairs. I walk familiar streets, as though marking territory, envious of others for no particular reason, imagining that somehow they are happier than me, day dreaming of a French life that eludes me. The town reminds me of a childhood long ago, when I lived in a house similar to the one I painted here, a tall house with a slanting roof, in a foreign land. I visit supermarkets where the smell-sight stimulus is at its strongest, remembering through the scents of pungent cheese and cured ham. Shelves of buttery, spiced biscuits and jars of rich coffee, retro tins and bottles of delicious cloudy cider. I always walk back to that little church in the forest, passing houses deep in shadows, ferns and ivy slowly asserting nature’s mastey. As the hill reaches its summit the trees give way to a gloriously sunny plateau of grey stone walls, tall flowers and long, narrow country lanes lined with plane trees. I linger but soon it is time to return to the boat, via the dusty steep path. I photograph scenes I want to paint, intoxicated by the heat and light and scent. Another brief stay is over, another year past. Only painting remains to immortalise my little corner of France, this little town seeped in familial memories.

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10 comments on “Une Rue a Honfleur, painting by Andrew Reid Wildman

  1. That was lovely Andrew. I too have happy family memories of Honfleur – a small holiday home in nearby Conteville, gone now for many years, with regular visits to the delights of Honfleur and its enchanting quayside.
    Thank you for bringing back those memories.

  2. Honfleur invite à la découverte de ses ruelles pittoresques et de ses maisons étroites et couvertes d’ardoises. Épargnée par les épreuves du temps, Honfleur a su préserver les témoins de ce riche passé historique…! C’est un lieu vraiment à découvrir.

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