Inter Celtique Festival, Lorient, Brittany 2016.


Everywhere you look, tartan is present.  The air is filled with the wailing sound of bagpipes.  This year it is the year for Australia, which might appear somewhat surprising, but when you look at anglo-Celtic ancestry  of  Australia, you find quite a large percentage of Irish, Scottish, Cornish, and Welsh. I was able to take in a Saturday afternoon, of this event that spans over ten days.  It is a festival that attracts not only musicians with a desire to play their Celtic tunes, but visitors from around the world, who have Celtic hankerings.  The festival has taken place since 1970 but still retains a vibrant freshness and excitement about it. This is my second taste of this event.  With my first experience I was able to take in some of night life, including Celtic dances in a huge gymnasium.  My more recent visit was more daytime. The festival comes alive in the afternoon…maybe many sleep long into the morning, needing a certain amount of recharging following the night before.  Of course it is a festival where people are selling their wares, for example Scottish whisky or jewelry.  It is best to come to Lorient, by train, rather than be stuck in traffic or searching for a place to park.

The festival is lucky to have happened at all, following what happened in Nice.  Extra emphasis has been added to security; Soldiers brandishing rifles walk about, heavily armed police are also in evidence. Thankfully there is no terrorist attack to tarnish this unique festival full of joy and music.

Celtic culture is strong and vibrant.  The music gets to you and lifts you up. There was a touching moment I witnessed. A youth  was playing bagpipes, playing “Amazing Grace” . Spontaneously a group of elderly  bagpipers joined him and accompanied him. It was a touching moment, naturally people were drawn to give the young musician  money for his rousing efforts.

If you have pangs for Celtic culture, this is well worth checking out.

Some facts about the Celts…

Nobody can be sure of their origins but some place them in central Europe, around the Alps.  A nice misconception is that they fought naked, apparently this is an exaggeration on the part of the Romans. They weren’t as savage as the Romans made out.  Their woman even had some modern day rights they could have power, own land, and even divorce in Celtic society, which was unheard of in the classical world. They were great travelers as well as notorious fighters and were famed for being headhunters, deeming if they lopped off their enemies heads, they were taking the greatest prizes.  They would brag about their gruesome trophies, like a person in modern times might brag about their Ferrari or Chateau in the South of France.  They were far from being barbarians and had their own calendar and were money makers.

Living in Brittany I am having to come to terms with strange place names, derived from the Celtic language. The language of the ancient Celts survives to this very day in the modern Celtic speakers of several areas, including Brittany, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.


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The increasingly mad world of Johnny Depp


Ten years ago if you asked any hip person who they’d like to be maybe they would reply Johnny Depp.  Good looking, witty, talented. He had it all.

Johnny Depp, was somebody I once really admired.  He seemed to be selective in the films he chose to be in,  often  playing oddballs and outsiders.  He seemed to really stamp a strong identity on each role he played.  Films I really like include Edward Scissorhands,  Benny and Joon, What’s eating Gilbert Grape? He was a natural in Tim Burton films.  Of course he was graced with good looks and a natural abundance of talent. He had the ability to play different roles  including comedy parts.   You would imagine a man such as he, would have the world at his feet…no?

Like so many stars before him, his life in recent times seems to be on a constant downward spiral.  Damning articles have sprung up like noxious fungus.  What’s more youthful Johnny has overnight transposed into bloated Johnny. In previous times  Marlon Brando was once  noted for his great looks and physique and then  piled  on the pounds,  undeterred by what is expected of an iconic Hollywood superstar.  Is Johnny letting himself go in a similar fashion?  Is he pressing the self-destruct button.

He seems to be racking up ex-wives.  His latest break up  hasn’t exactly painted him in a very good light. It seems Johnny’s life  has been fueled by  drugs and alcohol, leading too alleged violence to his much younger wife (Amber Heard).  These domestic  violence abuse allegations, tarnish a diminishing reputation, his stock going down dramatically.  Damning words from Amber include  “There was one severe incident in December 2015 when I truly feared for my life,” she wrote in the court filing in which she also said she “endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse” during the entirety of their relationship. It seems in terms of personal relationships, Johnny is volatile and moody to the extreme.

Johnny has fought back through his lawyers‘Given the brevity of this marriage and the most recent and tragic loss of his mother, Johnny will not respond to any of the salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies about his personal life.’

We could say that Amber Heard, given her background, was not the ideal person for Johnny Depp to marry.  Amber herself allegedly has been involved in domestic violence towards a women, who was heavily involved with Tasya Van Ree.  Aember and Tasya considered themselves married at a time when it was not possible legally.  Amber’s special relationship with Tasya Van Ree is cited as a reason Johnny dscended into fits of anger and violence.  In Johnny’s previous wife Vanessa Paradis’ eyes, Amber Heard is considereda homewrecking careerwhore who ruined her children’s lives and destroyed her relationship with Johnny Depp

You also have to wonder why Amber got so heavily involved with Johnny and went as far as to marry him, given some of her quotes concerning their relationship  During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me.”

What a mess film stars mange to get themselves entangled in. Is there any redemption for Johnny Depp? Unless he takes his drinking and drug abuse to newer heights, it’s sure he will be offered new parts in big films.  Despite all the strong allegations made against Woody Allen, he is still very much revered as a film maker. Fervent fans of Johnny Depp will continue to support him.

It would be a pity if Johnny Depp gains more of a reputation for being an alcoholic, than the great actor many know him to be;



X is for xenophobia

Serpent and Apple

Each week’s news  is marked with a new set of horrible stories about people killing complete strangers merely because of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, or skin color.  In recent times ISIS, or whatever these lunatic perpetrators of evil  have killed anyone that does not follow their religion.  Take for example their persecution of Yazidi women and massacres of at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians.

History is filled with xenophobia the  Jewish holocaust led to approximately 6 million European Jews being mass murdered in concentration camps and forced labour during the Second World War.

Can you imagine that at one time there were “human zoos” a popular attraction in the West in the 19th and 20th centuries. These ‘public exhibits’ of human beings (caged, sometimes with exotic animals) introduced the West to the ‘barbarians’ of the East. Particularly popular exhibits were those of Africans, tribal pygmies, and the Philippines. Men, women and children would be kidnapped, caged, then exhibited in front of European audiences. Visitors to these “zoos” would make fun of the exhibits and poke them with sticks, throw food at them, treating them like animals and for an extra fee were allowed to subject the captives to some degrading acts. Human zoos existed in places like Paris, London, Barcelona, and Antwerp. Sarah Baartman died after years spent in European “freak shows”. She had very pronounced buttocks, due to a build-up of fat, which made a cause for European fascination.  Wealthy customers could pay for private demonstrations in their homes, with their guests allowed to touch her.

She is seen by many as the epitome of colonial exploitation and racism, of the ridicule and commodification of black people.


Xenophobia seems ingrained not only in humans, but also in the animal kingdom.

According to a  biological anthropologist from Harvard, male chimpanzees brutally beat and kill chimps from other groups, indeed male groups vigorously patrol the boundaries of their territories searching for isolated males from neighboring groups.  Ants equally are liable to such behavior , conducting warfare with one another.

Apparently Males are much more likely to be perpetrators of racial discrimination, but equally likely to be the victims of such discrimination. Xenophobia is something that is spread universally.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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V is for Vita Sacville West

Serpent and Apple
Serpent and Apple — Image by © 68/GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Ocean/Corbis

If I could make use of a time machine, one person I wouldn’t mind acquainting myself with would be Vita Sackville West.  It is obvious that there was much more to her than being an acclaimed poet and noted gardener.  She appears to be a woman whose character resonates and sparkles, the Latin translation of her name is “life”. She was a woman who really “lived” her life. She loved to travel,  she seems to be a born adventurer and her adventures included affairs outside of her marriage, well documented in a controversial book called “Portrait of a Marriage” .

Her life seems to be scandalized in tabloids even in the present day,  check out this Daily Mail headline

Stately home seductress who makes Downton’s wildest plots look tame: Vita Sackville-West was known to have affairs with men AND women but she is reveals she was more voracious than anyone thought

The beginning of the article states Tall, dark and magnetically attractive, Vita Sackville-West had the dubious knack of inflaming passions wherever she went.

Marriages crumbled in her wake. Grown men and women threatened suicide. One lover even produced a pistol and threatened to blow her own brains out.

Yet, on the face of it, Vita led a life of serene Edwardian upper-class respectability. Feted as a poet and novelist — her most successful book was The Edwardians — she was a baron’s daughter who had married a diplomat and borne two sons.

All this despite the fact that she died in 1962,  a year after I was born.  People love to delve into the more “lurid” aspects of her life. I have vague memories of her husband Harold, a brief encounter in the garden at Sissinghurst. She was married to my Great Uncle. My Mother spent a lot of time during the war and has many fond memories of Vita and to this day loves to relates stories about her and was dubbed Vita’s favorite niece.

Here is a woman who had elements of her life being fashioned into a story called “Orlando” written by one of her paramours Virginia Wolf.  The great love of Vita’s life, despite spending a troubled childhood there was Knole, a house with six hundred years of history, but a house she was not allowed to inherit, on account of being a woman.

Here is a woman whose relationship with Violet Trefusis, was dramatized by the BBC, Vita being played by the imposing figure of Janet  McTeer.

Vita seems to represent a woman who was ahead of her times, married to a man who was homosexual  and yet despite each partner involving themselves with other people, they still managed to sustain their marriage as well as bring up two sons, Ben and Nigel.  It is hard to imagine they planned such an open marriage from the onset, but this is how it panned out.  They must have had inklings about  their sexual orientation before they were married,  things were different in their era.

One thing is for certain Vita seems to have all the hallmarks of an eccentric, wearing her trademark jodhpurs,  trying to pass herself off as a man,  while on a amorous sojourn with Violet.  She might have left a trail of pain in her wake, with her risky affairs,  but she seems a spirited woman.

I have met people while living  in France who are avid admirers of both Vita and the Bloomsbury set.  Her legacy seems strong and enduring as ever…

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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N is for nudity!

Serpent and Apple


One strong memory of my time at Art school was life drawing classes. There was the atmosphere, a fraught, tense stifling atmosphere, filled with deep concentration, you felt as if you were in a library or in a sacred church. The student’s eyes were fixed on the model, nobody spoke much, if at all,  there were unwritten rules of how somebody should behave in this environment. Students would be religiously measuring proportions of the life model with their pencils. The tradition of using a model in drawing classes goes back hundreds of years.

What of the life model’s perspective? It’s undeniable  we live in a society where nudity is a big deal and does have a stigma.  The first time a model poses in front of a bunch of strangers, it must be very daunting…when it reaches the critical point when the Art teacher says “ok can you take your robe off”. This all sounds totally ridiculous, we all undress every night, it is totally natural…

Imagine in this day and age in the western world  a “fat” competition! Men from the Bodi tribe pride themselves in being fat and  consequently they drink a mixture of blood and goat’s milk to fatten up quickly and win the “fat contest” in their village. The winner is not awarded a prize but is afforded a heroes status for the rest of their lives.

One group of people who liked to flaunt their naked bodies were the hippies, in the 1960s. The West Coast America chose nudity to make  a political statement. Nudity in public became a form of protest, challenging social norms and supposedly conservative, constraining ideas of‘decency’. It was also liberating.

Have you ever had a dream whereby you find yourself the only naked person in a public place filled with clothed people? Apparently it is quite common dream. Dreaming that you are completely or partially naked is very common. Nudity symbolizes a variety of things depending on your real life situation. Becoming shocked at the realization that you are naked in public, apparently reflects your vulnerability or feelings of shamefulness. You may be hiding something and are afraid that others can see right through you.

I come from the UK,  a country known for its prudishness, the origin of this down to the the Puritans, or Queen Victoria by comparison across the channel, continental Europe has a more relaxed attitude towards nudity, I remember a place outside Vienna where everyone (apart from us Brits) was stark naked and thought nothing of this. Even Catholic Spain is less offended by breasts on the beach than Britain. You couldn’t enter a sauna in Austria or Germany wearing clothes. This bodily shame can be traced back to Christianity’s formation of the doctrine of original sin. Nudity, and nude photos, is the ultimate test of self-acceptance. Do you love yourself enough that you can go all the way?

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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J is for judgement Day


Judgement day could be fast upon us,  how long before we hear that North Korea has sent a nuclear missile in the direction of South Korea, or America,  followed by an all-out nuclear war? This being the case who would you like to face up to judgement?

Surely George W Bush and Tony Blair should finally be judged for duping their countries into a entering a war or a false pretense.  Both are out of politics now,  George W has been in self-imposed exile, spending his time painting watercolors, opening his presidential library, and undergoing minor heart surgery. But apart from rare glimpses of the man he has stayed well under the radar. Blair seems to making himself richer and richer, with a huge property portfolio, as well as other investments, making the former “socialist” leader worth a staggering 60 million. These are never going to be dragged in front of the Hague for war crimes. Both men’s names have been tarnished, but the establishment tends to close ranks, the chances of them called in to answer their crimes threadbare.

In fact if you look at justice across the world,  it obvious the so called high and mighty get away with murder.  Circulating at this moment is this scandal about Panama. What is incredible is a whole range of world leaders are implicated or at least possibly implicated. There’s Putin, China’s top communist elites, more than 100 politicians and public figures, Syrian president Bashar al Assad, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko are among the world leaders past and present accused of using tax havens to hide money. The Spanish Royal Family are amongst those implicated (surely not the British Royal family ?????).  Credibility is diminishing across the globe, as the shady side of many world leaders comes to light.

What about certain Religious leaders how will they fare in Judgement Day?

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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E is for Egon Sheiller and Edvard Munch.

E finished and completed

Egon Sheiller and Edvard Munch, were not only great painters, their lives were fraught with difficulties, which no doubt had a strong baring on their powerful work.

Egon Sheiller, the Austrian painter  had a life tainted by  controversy, and caused uproar and outrage with his raw, universalized approach to the nude and his leaning towards highly erotic paintings, at a time when people were far more puritanical. He dropped out of Art College due to the fact he did not appreciate his tutors rigid approach. If you scrutinize his work it is evident he had a strident fascination and appetite for the female form.  Egon even landed himself in prison, accused of seducing a minor – the runaway daughter of a naval officer who had been seen, along with a number of other children, lingering outside his studio. Although the main charge proved unfounded and was subsequently dropped, Schiele was forced to spend 24 days in jail for exhibiting erotic material where minors were present. I guess even in modern times he would be seen a controversial figure.


His time in prison brought about  twelve paintings, in which he expressed his trauma and angst of being locked up.  Concerning his erotic work he wrote in his diary, “I do not deny that I have made drawings and watercolors of an erotic nature. But they are always works of art. Are there no artists who have done erotic pictures?”Egon obviously packed a lot into his short life, dying aged 28 having contacted Spanish flu, his pregnant wife dying three day previously. A life filled with tragedy but an artist who painted great images and had a very distinctive style.

Edvard Munch also had an uneasy life, his mother died because she was infected with tuberculosis. Following this, his sister Sophie died with the same disease. Another sister of his was suffered from mental illness in the age of 15 years old. In the age of 30, his brother died because of Pneumonia. It is no surprise that his work began to revolve around sickness and death.  Munch was  in a constant battle to control his drinking problem and mental illness. Munch died on 23 January 1944 in Nazi-occupied Norway. Of course he is famous for his painting called “The Scream”.  It expresses something which we all need to do from time to time letting out all our anguish.

The Scream

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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