Café de Flore

This café is one of the oldest coffee bars in Paris, a place where I — alas — only peeped into.  The clientele are highly esteemed in the history of the Left Bank of the Seine.  My focus is on three of them:  Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus.

Over these tables in the smoke of cigarettes and a pipe, these three people urged Western thinking into new directions, giving philosophy a new hat :  Sartre with existentialism ; De Beauvoir with feminism and Camus with absurdism.

Sartre and de Beauvoir

In the Second World War Sartre and de Beauvoir were on the fringes of the French Resistance, while Camus wrote regularly for Combat, the underground newspaper of the Resistance.  In these years De Beauvoir made her notes towards The Second Sex; Camus’ literary work The Outsider and the philosophical treatise Sisyphus would earn him the Nobel prize.  It has been said by some that Sartre’s Being and Nothingness may be the most influential of its kind in our time.

In Café de Flore the test flights were done.  Coffee was cheap, but pipe tobacco, Sartre discovered, was expensive.  Thus, before the discussions, he would crawl on hands and knees under the tables picking up abandoned cigarette butts for the left-over tobacco.   Then, through the curtain of smoke, he could plough up  the history of ideas.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2018



Wikipedia : Café de Flore, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus



my drawing








Is he a journalist ?  Is he an anthropologist ?  Is he a diplomat?  It’s difficult to pin down this quicksilver personality.

Antoine de Maximy has made television programmes all over the world.  He is particularly interested in the ordinary, often unglamorous people.  He rides on a sort of motorbike with a sidecar and talks to a gadget that films him as he goes through street or landscape.

The list of countries he has visited is bewildering — Chile, Holland, Namibia, Croasia, to mention but four from the dozens.  Most of the time, on the street, he gets on well with the locals, though there are some exceptions, an aspect which lifts out the cinema vérité of his work.

The signature moment in these programmes is his question:  May I sleep at your house tonight?   Mostly, people say yes, be it an apartment in New York or a grass hut in the bushes of Malawi.  In the morning when he leaves you get the feeling that solid friendships have been cemented.

There must be money for a programme like this and I suspect that he has a camera team eventhough he appears to be solitary.

It is the daring, the relentless curiosity, the patience and the engaging ability to make people from remote cultures laugh with you that make this programme memorable.

He is an intriguing personality, quirky and offhand.  His interest in and yes, love for, all people shine through.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2018



France TV




For Claudie – what we enjoy together

Shadow over France

It is with some difficulty and ambivalence that I take on a subject like this one.  Tourne la page, the French may say.  Get over it.  But it is more than curiosity.  We need to remember, if not memorialise, so we can lessen what is still happening in the world in various forms as we speak.  It deals with the Occupation of France during the Second World War, the collaboration with the Germans and the subsequent retribution.

The statistics are somber.  France is known to have collaborated with the Germans more than any other country, with the exception of Hungary.  76,000 Jews were deported and of that number 2,500 survived the death camps.  In June of 1944, even before the Germans were finally expelled from French soil in August of that year, 120,000 people were being named as collaborators to be punished.

The departure of the Germans ushers in a dark period in French history, comparative perhaps to the Great Terror of the French Revolution in the 1790s.

There were two periods in the restitution.  One was called “the wild period” in which summary executions, by individuals and groups, in private and publically, were carried out.  Women, suspected or known to be have been intimate with German soldiers, were publically humiliated.

General de Gaulle put an end to this and the process was handled by courts.  Between 1944 and 1951, a total of 6,762 people were sentenced to death by the official courts.  Of this number 791 were actually executed.  The two leaders of the Vichy government, Pétain and Laval, were tried.  Pétain was pardoned by De Gaulle and received a life sentence.  But Laval was executed by firing squad in 1945.

Ian Ousby, historian of the Occupation, says that one of the greatest tragedies of the Occupation was the division of the French, with collaborators carrying out atrocities.  In this regard, the French Resistance were not idle, either.

In Antibes, less than three weeks after the liberation of the town on 24th August, 1944, in the so-called “wild period”, ten suspected collaborators were summarily executed at Fort Carré.  Some say we should understand this event in its historical context.  Others feel it to be the great shame in the modern history of this town.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2018


The Vintage News on the internet

Ian Ousby: Occupation  The Ordeal of France (Pimlico. 1999) 


My drawings

See as well

Archives, French Resistance 1943 – 1944, 28/05/2017



The last shots ceased. The enemy disappeared across the border. We found the collaborators, shaved their heads before jeering crowds.  I took the worst of them to that forest and shot them.  Now, I ask the mirror, What am I doing this side of the border?  I am the enemy.


Flash saga publ by Rockcloud Publishers



A visit to Chapelle Ste Thérèse, Antibes

As a teenager I saw modern stained glass windows for the first time in the Burgers Park Reformed Church in Pretoria.  It struck me that this art work in a Protestant tradition almost entirely without art was a turning-point.  It was the beginning of my interest in artes sacrés.

Chapelle Ste Thérèse

Chapelle interior

The Chapelle Ste Thérèse, about 20 minutes’ walk from where I live, was probably built in the last thirty years.  The simple architecture is engaging — artificial stone cladding and the interior with Romanesque arches.  But it was the stained glass windows and the paintings of the Stations of the Cross that will remain with me.

An ascension scene

St George and the dragon

Mother and Child

The Good Shepherd

Two paintings of the Stations of the Cross

Station of the Cross – Veronica

Station of the Cross – Deposition

This Deposition is different from the tradition of showing the right arm as the first to leave the cross.  Here it is the left arm. arrowing downwards.   The figure of Mary (?) makes me think of an angel.

Altar niche mural

It is believed that when Thérèse was a child she was miraculously saved from death by Mary.  This painting expresses this.

The art in this Chapelle acquires a further depth when one knows the history of Thérèse.  She was born in Normandy.  In her mere 24 years she attained a summit of spirituality that has had some regarding her as the greatest saint of the modern era.  The Basilica de Lisieux in northern France, that celebrates her life, draws the second largest number of pilgrims after Lourdes in France.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2018



Wikipedia St Thérèse


My photographs

See also

Modern Stained Glass 8.4.2018






It has been interesting for me to see, in the French media, a pop icon from my youth.  In the early sixties I remember Françoise Hardy at the periphery of pop culture which was dominated by British and American  singers.  She was French;  she was different.

There was nothing flamboyant, flashy or frenetic about her.  She didn’t scream;  she didn’t snarl.

Born in Paris in 1944, she grew up in the tradition of the French chanson, a term more specific than it seems.  In this tradition there were always memorable melodies and thoughtful lyrics.  She did well with songs like Tous les garçons et les filles and, my own favourite, Le Temps de l’amour.

Then there was her image.  She, like Brigitte Bardot, was part of the breakaway from the images of women in the first half of the 20th-century.  Like Bardot, her features are broad, her lips full and the large eyes compelling.  Bardot, in my opinion, exuded a neediness;  Hardy is entirely sufficient unto herself.  Handsome rather than cute and pretty, she acquired magnetic mystery.  The held sensuality reaches a summit in the video Voila (1967), currently available on You-tube.

Today Françoise Hardy, in her mid-seventies, still commands enormous popularity.  Multi-talented, she has sung in several languages, acted in films and been a sought-after model.  In her current interviews, she speaks quietly and with warm sincerity.  She dresses simply and with striking elegance.   I find her inspiring.  In a small way, she is monumental.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2018



Wikipedia Françoise Hardy








Chapelle de St Jean-Baptiste, Antibes 

The first in a series of two

What is it that we look for in old and even ancient buildings?  I grew up in Stilfontein, a mining township in South Africa, where every building was built after I was born.

Christianity became the official faith in 380 a.d. in the Roman Empire.  A mere 150 years later the first stones and pebbles were gathered and packed as a foundation for this baptisterie in the then-Antipolis, making it one of the oldest Christian buildings in Provence and even in Europe.  This happened in the Dark Ages, the era of Merovingian kings in Gaul.

Chapelle de St Jean-Baptiste

In the next centuries the chapel was extended, brick by brick.  It was done under the supervision of the Abbey of Lerins, the monastery on the islands in view of the modern Cannes, themselves amongst the earliest cloisters in Europe.  I was there in early February this year, about one thousand five hundred years after the stones were gathered and packed as the foundation.  

I took pictures while, 300 metres away, cars, buses and motorbikes shot past on the double-barrel highway.  What I was looking at was the ancient basilica form of the Byzantine churches, especially, it seemed, the tower.

St Jean, the tower

The Chapel is rain-stained, not more than 20 metres in length, with a parking area, its trees from other centuries.

An ancient tree

But I couldn’t get near to the building as the grounds, surrounded by steel fencing, were locked and barred.    What was in it me that wanted to touch the walls of this ancient place?  Probably the thought that many thousands of lives through centuries, people with feelings and thoughts, ambitions and disappointments, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, old ones, the young, all of these people had found meaning here for their short, humble lives.

I had heard that this Chapel under the protection of  families in Antibes has a fête on the 24th of June each year, the summer solstice and traditionally the birthdate of John the Baptist.  Perhaps then I would touch the walls and see the interior.

To touch the walls

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

24th June, 2018



Wikipédia:  Chapelle de St Jean, Antibes

Félicien Carli : Antibes, petite histoire de l’Architecture.  Éditions du Cardo 2017.

Pierre Tosan :  Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan- Les-Pins.  HEPTA. Antibes, 1998.



My photographs   






Chapelle de St Jean-Baptiste, Antibes

Second in a series of two

Comes the 24th June, I don my hiking boots and stride kilometres along the through-way to the Chapel I saw in February.  Again, the place is locked and barred, with a notice on the gate that the annual fête will be tonight.  But there is a single car parked next to the Chapel.  When the owner emerges from the Chapel, an elderly lady, I introduce myself and explain my interest .  She says she is Anna and she undertakes to show me the interior of the Chapel.

St Jean,  aspect from road.  See excavation to the right.

The first thing I see is an excavation next to the wall of the Chapel.  She is embarrassed, but I take a closer look — I see stones and pebbles packed as a foundation.  I am looking at the beginnings of this place in the fifth century a.d.

Pepples and stones in the foundation

Madame Anna unlocks and we enter.   The interior, seating about fifty, was something that I had built up in my mind since February.  I am somewhat disappointed.  The interior is a simple baroque.  Maybe I had expected something Byzantine.   I had not, of course, taken into account the span of history, the coming and going of interior styles.

St Jean – the interior

Since the late Middle Ages, this Chapel has been under the protection of a group of families in Antibes.  Madame Anna shows me the niches in the Chapel that serve to keep the ashes of the ancestors.  In some cases, from an era when they did not cremate, there are coffins, she tells me, kept from sight by modern marble plaques.  Each niche is headed by the words De Profundis.  There will be no photographs here, please, she enjoins me.

The funerial niches are behind this wall with two gothic windows

And these ancestors are her ancestors.  One of the marble plaques has no engraved names or dates.  Here, she says proudly, my husband and I will be buried.  I discover that her family name is Guide, a name that was formerly Guidi, an Italian name, also given to a castle in Tuscany.  This, I imagine, is blue blood territory.

The Guide family plaque

The altar piece is a striking painting – an image of John the Baptist anointing Christ’s forehead with water.  Undramatic and heartfelt.

Two other works I find moving.

A vulnerable John the Baptist

A childlike Notre Dame

My disappointment fades.  Consider only how long this place has been here, I tell myself.  Think what it meant.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

24th  June, 2018


My photographs

With thanks to Madame Anna Guide


Chapelle de St Jean-Baptiste





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