Monday, 4 July 2011


   I was recently in Lion-sur-mer in Normandy. In Rue Joseph Pasquet I came across a house, 'Villa Louis', decorated with beautiful ceramic scallops.  

   The French call the 'scallop' 'Coquille Saint-Jacques' due to its association with St. James and the pilgrimage to his shrine in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Pilgrims carried the shell as a food and drink scoop.

   In this case the scallop seems purely decorative reflecting the house's proximity to the sea.  

   The tiles were made by Alexandre Bigot (1862-1927), a ceramicist active during the Art Nouveau period.  

This is the view from the balcony of Villa Louis - Bigot got his colours right.  

   I walked along stretches of this coast, idly stuffing razor-shells and scallop shells into my pockets, and lapsing into the kind of existential reverie that we all do when beach-combing. But these were no ordinary beaches. They previously had names like 'Omaha' and 'Utah', and it was here, only 67 years ago, that the biggest amphibious invasion in history* took place. These blue-green waters once ran red.

   *For obvious reasons the preparations for D-Day were conducted in the greatest possible secrecy. Officers involved in the planning were never sent anywhere where there was a danger of their being captured. These men went under the codename “Bigot” (a reversal of “To Gib” - an abbreviation of “To Gibraltar” – which had been stamped on the passports of those officers involved in the North African Invasion of 1942).