Huguenot memories

Huguenot bluebells

Yesterday I posted images to my Flickr photo stream of my recent trip in Dublin. All of them were taken with the camera in my mobile phone (a Sony Xperia X10 mini – an Android smartphone). Looking through them I thought about my time living in Dublin, and the photographs I took using my first digital camera.

Back then, I was using a Fuji FinePix 2.4 megapixel camera, which I referred to as Pixie. I could take images at several resolutions, but in those days (a mere 9 years ago) if you were posting photos on the web the image quality was not expected to be high, so I often opted for the smaller resolution (and memory cards were expensive). I loved that little camera and it did a lot to hook me on keeping a camera handy in a pocket or bag. It’s one of the reasons that as much as I lust after DSLR cameras I tend to stick with good-quality portable cameras. Once you need a case and extra gear for a camera you tend not to take it everywhere with you. Of course, they are brilliant for special occasions.

Now, the camera in my mobile phone is 5-megapixel, has a flash, and take decent shots in good conditions.

During one period of my Dublin residency I used to pass by the Huguenot Cemetery every day on my way to work. I’ve already mentioned my early fascination with graveyards. The Huguenot Cemetery is a small, private graveyard, fenced off and locked to the public, but easy to see through the iron railings. For a short time every Spring it’s carpeted in bluebells – one of my favourite flowers. I looked forward to it every year. It was my version of the Japanese tradition of hanami – cherry blossom viewing.

Last night I looked through some of my older, lower-resolution photographs from the Pixie days, and discovered a bunch that were worth uploading to Flickr despite their reduced quality.

One of them was the above image of the Huguenot Cemetery, which I took during bluebell season. Many years before the photograph I wrote a poem about the cemetery:

A Moment

Warm sunlight, with a deep-evening slant,
Slides into the Huguenot Cemetery,
Shining off the azure gleam
Of bluebells ringing evensong.

Grey tombstones, some listing, others straight,
Patiently guard their charges’ rest,
Undaunted by the many years
That creep beneath the undergrowth.

In a moment, between thoughts of food and work
I’m arrested by this place.
I pause on my journey, seduced
By peace offered with solemn grace.

Fiercely proud, staunch in their beliefs,
The Huguenots were exiles here
Rather than submit at home.
Now they lie neglected, except …

She walks there, soft among the graves,
Holly tangled in her hair,
Pollen moving in her wake,
Trailing fingers over forgotten names.

A bird sings, suddenly ecstatic,
She glances up, to approve, then …
Our gazes lock, she smiles,
And murmurs something half-understood.

Time stretches, elastic, false,
I’m transfixed, rooted by her look,
And the reverence in this place of life and death,
Twin strands in an endless, undulating dance.

The moment snaps – she disappears –
The crowds swirl past again.
An empty cemetery remains;
I stumble on, possessed.