Tuesday, December 29, 2009


When I was small I used to play with a music box at my granny’s house. It was a little Swiss Chalet which played ‘Limelight’. I didn’t know what ‘Limelight’ was but I liked the name and the tune. I must have driven her mad, listening to the music over and over again. My granny died when I was 15 and I presumed that the music box was given to my cousin who was 4 at the time. A few years ago I went to see a film about Charlie Chaplin and was delighted that the theme tune running throughout the film was ‘Limelight’. I knew that he finally settled in Switzerland and presumed that was why the music box was in the form of a chalet.

At the end of the summer I was preparing a postcard of a Swiss Chalet for sale and it reminded me of that little music box so I emailed to my cousin who didn’t remember the music box at all. My aunt put a note in my birthday card a few weeks later explaining that when my step-granny’s first husband died she went to Switzerland for a holiday and bought the little chalet back as a present for my granny (they were next door neighbours). When she married my grandfather we presume that the music box went back to her.

Last night Limelight was on TV. A lovely film made in the 1950s with Charlie Chaplin and a very young Claire Bloom.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas!

Hope that your festivities go well, however you choose to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On to the next burst !

Christian, my eldest son who lives in England, has just been on the phone. For the last few years he’s been working for Abbey National and doing very nicely thank you. I don’t understand really what he does as banking has changed a lot in the last 25 years since I left Barclays. Recently he went for a new job with them. As you know, they are changing names and all that kind of stuff. They needed someone to be in charge of IT for the change over to make sure everything runs smoothly. The job is for a year and will be based at Milton Keynes. Well Christian found out today he’s got the job. They will even pay his hotel if he needs it. I don’t really understand what his job will be but it is very good news indeed. He’s really, really pleased to have got it and so am I. I wonder what will happen next?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If I don’t tell someone I’ll burst.

Dom phoned a few minutes ago, she’s been talking with her main professor (I don’t know what you would call him in English). If her project continues as it is and if she gets the right results, he’d like her to accompany him to Chicago next summer to present her work at a conference. She’s only a 4th year student! She tells me she worries about not being good enough and there are so many things she doesn’t know. They wouldn’t want her to go off to the states if they didn’t think she was good enough.

As you can imagine I’m bursting with pride, I’ve already put in an order for my copy of the Chicago Sun Times.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The downside of my job

(You might prefer not to read this post)
On the whole I love deltiology, discovering new (old) places history, art and tradition. Occasionally I’m shocked by what I see. Usually scenes from the first world war. Today I picked up a postcard dated 1908 of a handsome young man from Ethiopia, a Gallas. I was expecting to see the name of his country on the card. No, he was a resident of the Jardin d'acclimatation in Paris. Today more or less a Children’s amusement park, in the past a zoo. I discovered that humans were exhibited there from the late 1800s. Up until 1930 (this is not mentioned on the English Wikipedia page by the way) visitors could throw coins into a pool in their enclosure so that they would dive into the water to retrieve the money.

As with most older photographs, fine details are very much in focus, especially his eyes.

The park does not have a happy history, all of the animals were used to feed Parisians during the siege of 1870…..

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Or OuLiPo if you want to be pedantic. Was a gathering of French speaking writers founded in 1960. Radio 4 had a program about them last week. The idea is that you impose constraints on your writing which provides inspiration for new ideas. That’s what I understand anyway. I rather like the idea of a lipogram, that is to say, trying to write a paragraph, essay, poem or even a book omitting the use of a letter. How about ‘e’? Looks like a good excuse to pick the synonym finder up from the floor and start rooting for new words…

I’ll try to dash off a chain of words without using ‘e’s. Not bad so far, but now I’m short of inspiration, I want aid in this almighty task… My synonym book is so commodious for this work. How long, I ask my mind can I carry on, until I go mad…..aaaaghhhhh.

Now it’s your turn (I did it again [and again])

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Do you remember?


Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of the tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn't got a penny,
And who weren't paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the Din?
And the Hip! Hop! Hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of a clapper to the spin
Out and in ---
And the Ting, Tong, Tang, of the Guitar.
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar:
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the Halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far Waterfall like Doom.

Hilaire Belloc

When I was in my early teens we had our Deputy Headmistress for English for the school year. She was a very strict woman and we were determined to dislike her, as with anyone in authority at the age we were.

Every lesson during the week was different and she had a very up to date way of teaching considering her age (probably in her late fifties). I remember that we worked on punctuation at our own speed using algorithms. The we had one lesson in the library where we were just expected to read whatever we liked. One of the books we read as a class was ‘A Kid for Two Farthings’ by Wolf Mankowitz (I’ve just discovered that he adapted the novel and there was a film made in 1955). We actually acted out the fight scene in class. Having taught myself, I know how quickly a class can get out of hand. We were noisy – it was a noisy scene, but she never lost control of us.

Every year the school held some sort of event in order to show us off to our parents. That year she chose us to recite Hilaire Belloc’s poem, 'Tarantella'. She explained to us that she had been taking part in choral speaking (I’m not sure if that is the name for it really), which she wanted to try with us and that she would divide us into groups depending on our voices; light, dark or medium. I think that I might have been a ‘light’. The boy with the deepest voice was to open the poem by reciting the first two lines alone.

The night of the recital I had to move around the stage quite a bit. I played ‘cello in the school orchestra, I was in the choir (extracts from Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and I had to recite one of my own poems about Conkers, which I wasn’t too happy about as I didn’t really want to go down in history as The Girl Who Wrote a Poem About Conkers. Then I joined my class for the big poem. I suppose it was a success. I only really remember how much I enjoyed the poem.

If you’re old enough and from the US you might remember two English School ma’ams being interviewed on your local radio station. It was our Headmistress and her companion, who set off to explore the Wild West one summer in the late 60s….

Friday, November 6, 2009

Do women have a soul?

I was looking up something in a French reference book last week. Quid is a sort of who’s who, encyclopaedia, years news, lists of everything, book. We have the 1992 issue; 2000 pages to get lost in. I was surprised to find that there was a section entitled ‘women’.

This included the debate about souls and whether women were to be considered a human being at all. This is a very ancient debate, by the way, and was used to illustrate some point or other. A lot of statistics, including how many women are beaten and the social background of the men beating them up. Then there were statistics on prostitution giving lots of details on the social background, race, and religion of the men paying for services. How long do women spend on housework? Not a very positive bunch of figures at all. It would have been more interesting to see how many women have received the Nobel peace prize for instance (In the quid yes, but not in the women’s part), the women holding important posts in politics, education etc. I haven’t looked at a more recent Quid. I do hope they’ve managed to find women’s souls in the last 17 years.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buffy Sainte-Marie

This is one of the songs I want for my funeral. To save you waiting, I’m letting you listen to it now. The Indian calling in the back ground gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. Listen until the very end. Afterwards go and read about her on Wikipedia. I was shocked at the censorship she suffered in the past. She’s still a prominent social activist today.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Raymond Bergevin - Still looking

I was checking my visitor statistics the other morning as usual, when I saw that I’d had a visitor from France looking at my post on Raymond Bergevin. ‘Gosh’, I thought, ‘fame at last’. When I told Rob about it he laughed – it was him. At first he didn’t realise that it was my blog, he only knows about the other two. It didn’t even click when he saw that I was writing about someone called Rob. In fact he though that the post was very well written and was pleased when he finally realised it was me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We shall await your immediate response

Amongst all of the emails about the enormous amounts of money I’ve inherited and won (my sex life seems to have been put on hold by the spammers for the moment). This one caught my eye. How long do you wait for an immediate response?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Why did I dream about that?

I was running down a corridor with someone, Dom or my little sister, I’m not sure. We were being chased by someone I knew would kill us when he caught us. As he was going along he was hitting everyone who came in his path over the head with some sort of heavy bar; pieces of skull were falling to the ground. When he caught up with us I just hoped that I would be killed straight off, but that was unlikely. The first blow I didn’t feel at all - then the alarm woke me up. I was quite upset by the dream at first until I began to piece together where it came from:

Yesterday evening I watched The Da Vinci Code, that explains some of the violence. I was disappointed with the film, good job Tom Hanks was in it. I also had two accidents (One and two) on my mind. Where did the pieces of skull come from?

When we first came to France I was given a book of short stories to read by one of Rob’s pupils; Letters From My Windmill by Alphonse Daudet. My French wasn’t good enough to read it back then. Dom bought a copy of the same book this summer so I decided it was time to read mine. It is a delightful collection of stories about the south of France. I recommend it. One of the stories starts off with the author having received a letter from one of his readers asking for a cheerful story for a change. Instead he tells the story of the man with the golden brain who eventually falls in love with a woman and removes all of the gold in pieces to buy her everything that she wants. A sad and strange story indeed… So that’s where the pieces of skull came from.

If you want to know why the good people of Avignon dance on the bridge and not in the streets read this book.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sarah Bernhardt hops by again

See here

We recently acquired some new vintage postcards from an auction. One of the albums came from a chateau. In fact there were two chateaux, the parents chateau and the chateau of the grandparents. There was a Granny so we must assume she was an English Lady.

Ninette wrote to her uncle that she had two letters in her possession from Sarah Barnhardt. Unfortunately the letters had been written to the Comtesse de Najac who was a close friend of Sarah Bernhardt. As Ninette was staying with friends who knew the Comtesse they were going to take her to see her, so she would be asking for a signed photograph of Sarah.

I’ve also fallen in love with an Elephant

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In search of Raymond Bergevin

Raymond Bergevin was the man who made postcards of La Rochelle and other local places of interest. He seems to have had his peak between the wars. For a few of years I’ve been meaning to check out the address where he operated from, a busy shopping street in town by the market. A couple of weeks ago Rob and I had a few jobs to do in town so we put “look up 66 Rue des Merciers” onto our list. Not an easy task as many of the buildings in the street are not clearly numbered. We started at the wrong end of the road so the excitement mounted as we neared our goal.

Number 66 is a narrow terraced building and today houses a cheap handbag shop (yes, in la Rochelle!). We stood across the road and scrutinised the building looking for clues. We were disappointed at first. Only the wooden beam over the door and window of the shop was of any interest. Looking up above the first floor windows I could just about make out some old faded lettering. So faint that if you didn’t know what it said you couldn’t guess: R Bergevin. It was like finding buried treasure.

If you want to see what we saw, start from the market, it’s a couple of buildings down on your left. Best viewed from across the road

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I was reading about Angels last week. People who have seen them and been helped by them. Were they Angels or were they ordinary people who were in the right place at the right time? Are Angels living amongst us disguised as human beings.?

I’m the kind of person who is quite happy to see David Copperfield flying around on stage. I know that it is an illusion but I enjoy it just the same. I don’t need ‘explanations’ So I enjoyed reading and thought it was good that there is always hope in the most incredible situations.

What if we are all Angels ourselves? Think about it, we are given the opportunity to help someone most days. Holding a door open for someone who’s loaded with shopping. Being someone’s friend. Our smile might just help someone in the depths of despair hang on a little longer and get past their unhappiness. It’s not too difficult, is it?

The writing of this post has been in my head for a couple of days. This morning I was checking out my stats and saw that there was a link to Anji Patchwork from Lori’s blog. A bit strange as I haven’t popped by there for a while. What I found was a post which fits perfectly. Read it and see what you think.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Cakewalk

When I was five years old I went directly to my mum’s friend’s house as usual on a Friday afternoon after school. I was very excited, we’d listened to some new music at school. The Cakewalk. Imagine cakes walking! Mum’s friend Chris was married to a musician and he sat me on his lap at the piano and played if for me straight off.

I couldn't believe my luck this evening. Claude Debussy playing the Cakewalk himself

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The summer of ‘76

That’s 33 years ago now. It was very hot and I was reading Lord of the Rings and weighed 8st 7lbs (an important detail in those days).

One weekend in July I got on the coach after work and went to stay with my friend, Sheila, in London. Both of our boyfriends were working abroad at the time so we decided to get together for a weekend. Sheila and her friends lived in a squat. To my surprise it looked like an ordinary house – except that “Clark Kent lives here” was written on the front door. There was an outside loo (pull the chain and run) it was a very hot summer a row of certain plants were growing tall against one of the garden walls.

We visited pubs and drank pints so we didn’t need to queue up at the bar so often. I remember walking down the Portobello road. As a country bumpkin, I couldn’t get enough of the many different types of people out for the afternoon. We stopped and bought hunks of bread; over laden with cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and toasted –a kind of pizza – for lunch. Everyone was so nice and friendly. I wonder if it’s like that now.

A weekend doesn’t last for long, but I’ve always remembered that one.

Where are you now?

Monday, July 20, 2009

You can count on Shakespeare

I enjoyed this quote today from Daily Literary Quote:

“Beauty is all very well at first sight; but whoever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?”

Friday, July 3, 2009

Leonard Norman Cohen

I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen, a lot recently. I’d always been a fan of 'Suzanne' but thanks to Deezer, I’ve discovered a lot more of his music. I love the way he uses words and of course, the way he plays the guitar. I hope that his life hasn’t been as sad as some of his songs are. Checking on Wikipedia I see that he is Canadian which explains the French lyrics and words in some of his songs.

Some of the songs made me remember the poems of Edgar Allan Poe. I once wrote a poem about Edgar Allan Poe arriving in heaven only to meet all of the dead ladies he mourned in his poems – not much of a heaven in fact. I can’t find it anywhere, so you won’t be able to read it.

Anyway I really like this version of 'Lover, Lover, Lover', sorry there is no 'action'. I love the guitar and the beginning and the rhythm. I did find the older versions but they are too fast for my liking. Perhaps as we get older we learn to take our time and savour things?

Friday, June 19, 2009


I’ve had several dreams recently, three that I remember and two which were in a tiny way prophetic. The first was about a not at all logical tandem. I don’t think that I was riding it. When we took Olivier to his friends the following morning, we passed the velodrome and above the entrance is a penny farthing!

The second dream struck me as odd a few hours after I got up. We were at the sea. I was with children – I think that they were mine. We were running along the beach towards the sea but the sea was chasing us; I could feel the spray on my back as I ran. I knew that we had to hurry but we weren’t frightened. I’ve visited this beach several times in my dreams and the sea is always very unpredictable.

We were in a car and Rob had a rat on his shoulder. He was driving and the rat jumped from his shoulder and I felt it run over my foot. I couldn’t see it because I was carrying a big box and it was in the way. Then the rat started to nibble one of my toes; it really hurt and I could feel the blood. Fortunately I woke up as the alarm went off.

Later I went to visit a few blogs and guess what I found

For quite a long time I kept the plans I drew of of a house we moved into in my dreams.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lemon Meringue Pie

This one is dedicated to Nicky, who loves cakes of all kinds and needs cheering up at the moment…

My daughter is on a single woman mission to convert the entire population of France to the idea of carrot cake.

Last summer Dom and her friend held a birthday party for the younger brother of one of their group. In exchange he did a series of cartoons for them. This is one of his sketches of Dom presenting her famous carrot cake. ( I really can’t think why her eyes are green and twirly)

One of Rob’s colleagues, who was Dom’s colleague and is now Olivier’s colleague too, has already been converted and she put carrot cake as her favourite cake in the subject box of the email she sent me. I thought you’d like to join in. Here’s the email, Please let me know which cake you choose:

“No cheating.
If all of the eight puddings listed below were sitting in front of you, which would you choose (sorry, you can only pick one!)? Trust me...this is very accurate. Pick your dessert, and then look to see what psychiatrists think about you.
REMEMBER - No Cheating. Make your choice before you check the meaning.
After taking this dessert personality test, send this e-mail on to others, but when you do, be sure to put your choice of dessert in the subject box above.
Here are your choices:

1. Angel Food Cake
2. Brownies
3. Lemon Meringue Pie
4. Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Icing
5. Strawberry Shortcake
6. Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Icing
7. Ice Cream
8. Carrot Cake

No, you can't change your mind once you scroll down, so think carefully about what your choice will be.
OK - Now that you've made your choice, this is what the researchers say about you...

1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm and fuzzyitems. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at the end of the day. Others perceive you as being childlike and immature at times.

2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, and are a champion of underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up you whip out your sabre. You are always the oddball with a unique sense of humour and direction. You tend to be very loyal.

3.. LEMON MERINGUE -- Smooth, sexy, & articulate with your hands, you are an excellent care-giver and a good teacher. But don't try to walk and chew gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, you set your own style because you do your own thing. You shine when it comes to helping others and have many friends.

4. VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Fun-loving, sassy, humorous, not very grounded in life; very indecisive and lacking motivation. Everyone enjoys being around you, but you are a practical joker. Others should be cautious in making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.

5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care about other people, can be counted on in a tight situation and expect the same in return. Intuitively keen. You can be very emotional at times but a true person in every way. You like to do things for yourself and help others learn about themselves.

6. CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Sexy; always ready to give and receive. Very creative, adventurous, ambitious, and passionate. You can appear to have a cold exterior but are warm on the inside. Not afraid to take chances. Will not settle for anything average in life. Love to laugh.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sport, whether it's cricket, football, rugby, or tennis. If you could, you would like to participate, but you enjoy watching sport. You don't like to give up the remote control. You tend to be self-centred and high maintenance.

8. CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun-loving person, who likes to laugh. You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are a very warm hearted person and a little quirky at times. You have many loyal friends. You were meant to lead and teach others. A wonderful role model.”

Friday, May 29, 2009

Question for passing Canadians

Just over 20 years ago I watched a Canadian production of a book, serialised for television. The story was about a young woman who had moved to a remote village in the forest as a school teacher. She fell in love ( There was a very erotic dream sequence with him rising naked from the water!! ) with a young man of the region and they married. Times were hard and children kept being born so the husband wanted to move to the city to find better paying work. She didn’t want to go. I remember she took her son to school and the teacher said that she’d put him with younger children because children from the country are slower. She knew that her son was exceptionally intelligent, she was a teacher after all. There was a lot of unhappiness. Then for some reason they were back in the forest. The husband was drinking heavily and there was snow everywhere so she set off to get help as she was about to give birth. She gave birth to a baby girl alone in the snow. The baby was called Blanche.

I seem to remember that Blanche died and she became depressed. I can’t remember the end of the story or any of the character’s names besides Blanche. I do remember that certain scenes were in the French dialect of the region, which I adored, though there were subtitles too. The French authorities didn’t like this idea much and the later episodes were dubbed into ‘proper’ French. Any ideas as to which book I’m thinking about. Does anyone remember the TV dramatisation? I’d love to find the book and read it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I’d always hoped for Colette

Rob gets annoyed with me sometimes as I become involved in reading the backs of our postcards. In order to keep up with the higher and higher costs of eBay we have to present as many postcards as we can for auction – a lot of work. This postcard was easy to read and I recognised the signature at once; Pierre Loti, a French writer who lived very close to where I live now. I checked and double checked. I can’t prove that he was on that particular cruise ship but he did return from that direction at that time. The signature and the writing are his.

“For Mademoiselle Manuelle Chiappa, In memory of our crossing in the Ionie. – Sept 1913”

The young lady he dedicated the postcard to seems to have had a few admirers – I know because I’ve been reading the backs of her postcards….

One day I will find one written by Colette I am sure.

Added 12.08.12 - here is more

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I don’t normally do politics, but…

We were granted French nationality on the 24th September 1990. since then we’ve made an effort to vote at every election and France, being France, there have been a few. In 2002 the extreme right-wing candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen almost became President. Everyone expected everyone else to vote and you can always expect the followers of the extreme candidates to turn out and vote, which they did.

At the time I was teaching problem teenagers. Most of their families came from northern Africa and quite a few from Portugal. I’ll always remember that Monday morning at about 10.15, we had just entered the classroom when one of my pupils asked “Will we have to return to our home countries Madame?”. He had fear in his voice and the class quietened down more quickly that usual to hear what I had to say. They knew that I was an immigrant too and that Monsieur Le Pen was non too fond of the English. I assured them that there was another round to the elections in two weeks and that most people would never allow such a thing to happen.

Later I went into the head of department’s office to hear one of my colleagues repeating what Rob had been saying without pause since the results were known the evening before; Everyone had been too confident and not taken the election seriously. Both threatened not to vote in the second round. Everyone took to the streets in the two weeks that followed to protest. One of the moments when I was proud to have French nationality. Our choice was between the devil and the deep blue sea. Monsieur Chirac wasn’t too popular at the time either, but he was a better choice.

The European elections are coming up very quickly, some might not think that they are important. I can give you plenty of links of sites covering the horrors of two world wars. I’ve read postcards sent from the hell of the trenches. Europe is important, especially as the world is in such a mess at the moment. Whatever you believe in it doesn’t matter – just VOTE!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Room 12 Blues Foundation

I probably haven’t mentioned before that I only ever phone my mother up in the mornings. The reason why I do this is because later in the day her speech would be too slurred and she probably wouldn’t remember who I am. When I was very small I remember someone inviting her to drink a glass of sherry at Christmas. It took a lot of persuasion and she accepted half of a very small glass and sipped it as if it were poison. Lots of things happened it the 35 years that followed….

I’ve been blogging for 6 years this month. When I first started blogging Christian became ill and it was through my blogging friends I understood what was going on and felt that I wasn’t alone. This morning I received an e mail from Stacey (on the left). Stacey and Bill live in Cleveland Ohio. They too went through the lot with their youngest son, a young man who is a brilliant guitarist and I wish I knew where there was a link so that you could hear him play.

The email said; “Saturday, the IRS letter designating the Room 12 Blues Foundation a 501 (c)(3) charity came in the mail” I didn’t understand what it meant at first either, so I looked at the site… So if you are interested and live in Cleveland you now know who to contact!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just call me stupid

If you could see my forehead today you’d see that it had the word ‘Idiot’ written on it. Yesterday I was very, very stupid. The day started with breakfast on the port. This is pleasant enough but involves eating croissant and baguette. Both are the worst things to eat for someone diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Later, I bought some bread from the supermarket as this is a holiday weekend here too. I chose old fashioned baguettes as the flour is different and slightly better for you. We had a sandwich for lunch which I don’t usually have these days, though I did have a plateful of salad with it. Olivier worked his first full day at the towers so Rob suggested McDonalds as a treat for him. Again I had salad but the burger bun is white bread, then I couldn’t resist a mcFlurry with crumble topping…

My blood sugar reading wasn’t as high as I expected it to be after such a sinful day but I woke up in the night feeling dreadful and I had indigestion . Today I feel… hung over!

Recently we were shown the documentary Super Size Me on French TV where the brave Morgan Spurlock submitted himself to fast food and no exercise for a month. He damaged his health more than anyone would have imagined. He was very healthy and fit at the start, I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t have been so fit..

Recently I’ve lost a bit of weight, just be being sensible and cutting down on quantity. I’ve also been feeling very well and having good blood sugar readings, despite a little treat from time to time. I’m so disappointed with myself for sliding so far backwards

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thanks Bo!

I’m a great fan of Deezer. I can listen to whatever music I want at anytime without breaking any laws. I love remembering names from the past and typing them in to see what comes up. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Bobbie Gentry. Do you remember her? Pretty, slim with lots of black eye makeup and long back-combed hair. She takes me back to the late 60s, early 70s, her show was on TV every week, I watched religiously with my mum and sisters.

At school, our geography teacher couldn’t understand why, for the first time ever, the entire class could spell Mississippi. My best friend and I who were the eldest in our families dreamt of Bobbie as an ideal older sister. Where did Bobbie go? That is a mystery equal to that of the object thrown from the Tallahatchie Bridge…

If you read the Wikapedia entry for Bobbie Gentry, take a moment to move to the discussion page.

I’ve chosen a video of her singing Fancy. A reminder of how the role of women has changed in the last 40 years.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Jo has decided to make her blog Brilliantgirlgenius by invitation only. I you were a regular reader and would like to have access to her blog email her at revolutioninmyhead(at)gmail(dot)com or me at the address on the right hand side just under my picture and I’ll forward your email to her. If you are shy you can always check out some of your sister’s blogs in my list.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A disappointing book

The most disappointing book I ever read was The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. I remember watching a BBC dramatisation of the story as a child and being terrified of Daniel Quilp.

If I were Nell, I’d have dumped my grandfather in the nearest poor house. He was pathetic and lets face it he gambled away his own granddaughter’s virtue. The best character by far in the book was the villain Quilp. Having said that, the pages of the book which cover the part of their journey through the industrial Midlands is a must. Hell on earth. An interesting documentation which I’ve heard quoted by historians at least twice.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A couple of quotes

I’m a great fan of the Daily Literary Quote which I have on the first page of my iGoogle. Everyday there are wonderful, quotable quotes from writers of all nationalities. A little while ago there was a quote from Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a Russian poet:

“Translation is like a woman, if she is beautiful, she is not faithful; if she is faithful, she is not beautiful.”

Having struggled with translations myself, I know how painfully true that can be. A few days later another quote, this time by the French poet Paul Verlaine:

“Baiser ! Rose trémière au jardin des caresses. - To kiss ! Hollyhock in the garden of caresses”

See what I mean? A rose trémière sounds so much more romantic than a hollyhock!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Safe sex

This little rant has been niggling under the surface for a long time; every time sex education is mentioned in the UK someone stands up and says that it will encourage teenagers to have sex. It’s not rocket science, but teenagers are naturally interested in sex. It’s to do with the continuation of the species - it’s natural.

Every summer, over here in France, there is a campaign to remind everyone to take their condoms with them on holiday. You can buy them for a euro, indeed packs with 2 or three for a euro, we have machines in the streets, you can buy them at the supermarket and the chemists have them on prominent display. When a certain-young-man-who-shall-remain-nameless was in his early teens, he and his friends spent the summer playing water bombs with condoms bought from the chemist. “They hold a lot of water, you know mum, much better than balloons!” Non of them worried about going in to buy them which means that when they do need one for the pupose for which they were made, they won’t have any hang-ups.

Recently the above mentioned young man attended a university information day. He came back with lots of leaflets including a little book which he showed to me (provided by the student’s branch of our health insurance company). This booklet talked about sex and the different aspects of it. (Some practises of which I’d never even heard of.) The main point running through the whole book was, to practise safe sex, respect for others, relationships and hygiene. (Have you noticed we talk to each other about these things?)

My point is that if you hide it away, kids will educate each other in the worse possible ways and the results are children who aren’t really wanted or loved. I’ve taught young people who’ve grown up knowing they were ‘mistakes’ or ‘accidents’ – not a good start to their lives.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I’ll never be a woman - ugh!

My son said to me as I helped him on with his tights

Let me explain. Today is the ‘Percent’(père cent). One hundred days before the start of the baccalaureate exams. The tradition is that the lycéens in their final year dress up and roam the streets asking for money. They used to throw eggs and flour but that has died out mainly, I hope. One town has banned the practise. Everywhere the hundred days is marked in some special way. You may ask what they do with all the money they collect. They go out and have a good time. Tomorrow serious revision starts – some hopes.

Olivier has gone out dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. (The same costume Dom had for her Percent – I have a sneaking suspicion that he hasn’t asked if he can borrow it yet). He went out and bought a lovely blonde wig with plaits and has borrowed a pair of tights to complete the outfit. I just checked, he forgot his lipstick.

Anyway there we were at 6.30 this morning struggling to put on a pair of tights; he hates them. Rob and I took him to his destination. A certain set of traffic lights. Very popular, some groups camp out all night to bag the busiest lights. There were already some young people out and we gave a few coins to two groups. The costumes are always very well done, in the past I’ve seen chickens, cows, Where’s Wally, ladybirds, clowns and so on. Operating scrubs are very popular. They are all very polite, if you haven’t got any change to give they thank you nicely and wish you good day.

He received his voting card today ‘sniff’.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A friend in need

One of Olivier’s friends is very shy and stutters quite a lot. He has been bullied by his older sister for most of his life. This week he and Olivier discovered that she had created a Facebook account in his name and was chatting to people using it, goodness knows what she was saying on his behalf. The friend was quite upset about this, so when she went out leaving her computer on Olivier changed her password. He came home to eat and dashed back to his friends in order to be there when she came home as he knew that his friend wouldn’t be able to cope with her temper. (Parents had gone away for a few days)

She went berserk and started to insult Olivier. He just walked out on her so she chased him down the road and eventually calmed down enough to ask nicely for her password. Olivier was highly amused at her insult which really showed her true character. ‘All you ever think about is helping your friends’

That’s my boy!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

BlogExplosion: Time for action

A letter has been composed for everyone to send out to the company that owns Blogexplosion on 20th February, you can copy the letter from here.

Or you might prefer to go here for more instructions and access to a rich text format of the letter. I think anyone outside the US would probably like to send their letters a little earlier. The addresses are supplied. Just pick who you would like to address your letter to.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t compose your own letter if you want to. Please be polite. A lot of effort has gone into this project by people who care about the blogging community. If you belong to BlogExplosion, please help.

And yes, you will be seeing this post on all of my blogs

Thanks to thewatchlist, MJTaylor Spicybugz, bokonon, kelson, SelinaKimsey, sightlydrunk, bluegrassBloggo, McSpazz, lando411 and others I have surely missed for keeping the forums looking like forums. A special thanks to thewatchlist and MJTaylor who have put in all of the work for the letter.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is very hard to define; everyone is okay with it – until someone says something that perhaps doesn’t quite fit. It’s important to be able to say what we want, worship how we want, have access to the information we want, go where we choose, live our lives in the way we want. If we agree with free speech have we got the right to prevent someone from saying things we know to be wrong?

I remember there was a book with the lines, that I can’t quote exactly and I can’t find online, so if you know them please put me straight:

“This is a free country, you can't stop me. This is a free country, I can try.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Things Russian

A bit of a Russian post today. At the moment I’m rereading ‘We the Living’ by Ayn (rhymes with mine) Rand. I recommend it. I haven’t read ‘The Fountainhead’ yet.

This is a postcard illustrating part of the poem ‘The Demon’ by a Russian poet, Michael Lermontov. I was struck by the movement of the painting by
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel. The unused postcard is Russian, from the Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow dated 1965. How did it get to France? Someone had collected several cards of paintings by Vrubel and one or two other artists. The Vrubel cards were the only ones translated into Western European languages. I found the part of the poem the painting represents quite easily:

“Two figures - then a shot - ahead
What was it? Rising in his stirrups
Cramming his high hat on his brow
The gallant lover, at the gallop,
Plunged like a hawk upon his foe!
No word he spoke, his whip cracked once
And once blazed forth his Turkish gun....
Another shot. Wild cries. The Prince
Goes thundering on. The groans behind
Long echoes in the valley find....
Not long the fight. Of timorous mind,
The Georgians turn and run!”

Here is the complete poem if you’ve got a few minutes to spare (You'll have to scroll down a bit).

There is still a packet of Russian soup in the cupboard – perhaps not…

Friday, January 30, 2009

John Updike

John Updike died from cancer this week. He’s someone I always meant to read more of. I remember him being the castaway on Desert Island Discs where he mentioned wondering where his love beads (remember them?) had gone to. I identified with that remark. If you look him up in Google images you’ll see lots of photos of him smiling

I’ve read several of his short stories and I have a copy of Couples which I’ve read four times. I also know someone else who has read Couples several times. I was interested to observe how my attitude to the main character Piet Hanema changed over the years. When I was young, he was exciting and could do no wrong. The last time I read the book a year ago, he’d become a cheat and an egoist, his wife, Angela was much better off without him - the rat! The background to all of this is the assassination of JFK. The book captures that moment when the world held its breath.

He was at the Hay-on-Wye festival in 2004

More from others.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Ten years ago, just before new Year we had the storm of the century. We were watching a video of Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (The film where Ingrid Bergman has the memorable line “Liverwurst”). We were just getting to the denouement when the electricity went off 3 times. After the third time we gave up watching and closed the shutters and searched around for candles, batteries and a radio. The power was off for 18 hours we were very lucky.

We went to bed at around 10 in the evening and slept soundly, we had no idea what was happening outside.

The next morning all was calm – in fact it was a beautiful day so we set off to explore.

The entrance(or exit) to the village was cut off by fallen trees

What was left of the parc

Then we tried to get down to the beach, we had to walk across the field.

Not far from out house. The fencing you see is about chest height. No bicycles on that day!

What was left of the carpark at the old bar

We just got the tip of the storms this weekend. Not too much damage. Rob took the photos.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A storm in coffee cup

In French schools it is against the law to have a machine which distributes drinks or food to the pupils. This is because the government is worried about children becoming obese. There are drinks distributors of some sort in most staff rooms (thank goodness). The government aren’t worried about teachers becoming obese, it seems. Olivier got caught with some friends in the staff room at lycée buying cups of coffee. I get the impression that this often happens and as long as the pupils are few and quiet, it’s tolerated. Olivier and his band happen to have been seen by a less tolerant teacher and have been reported. Unfortunately Olivier is like Rob, if he doesn’t see why something is wrong he’ll argue. I hate this attitude. I was brought up to do as I am told without argument. Olivier now has an hours detention ‘work of general interest’ (a bit hard to translate). I expect he’ll be picking up litter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Audrey Hepburn's beauty tips

I’ve always been an admirer of Audrey Hepburn. Especially since working on her biography with students from an EFL text book. Her father abandoned the family when she was quite small, so her life wasn’t always easy. As well as speaking 5 languages, she always made an effort to learn a few words in the language of the children she was visiting as ambassador for UNICEF. This evening I discovered a poem that she wrote when asked for her beauty tips:

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others. "

Apparently the poem was read out at her funeral. She was buried in Switzerland near to her home there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sarah Bernhardt's leg*

We were looking at the newspaper in a café a week or so back and discovered that Sarah Bernhardt’s leg had been found. Apparently the leg, which was amputated in 1915 had disappeared in 2000. It was found again in Bordeaux just before Christmas. I wrote about Sarah Bernhardt a year or so ago having spent an agreeable afternoon looking at a poster which featured her image. The poster fetched nearly £2000 because Sarah had ordered all copies to be destroyed because she had not given permission for her image to be used.

Click on the image to get a better view

*Sarah Bernhardt’s Leg is also the title of a volume of poetry.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A question or two

What do you do when you’ve finished reading a book? Do you give it away, throw it, sell it or keep it to read again at a future date? I hoard mine and some I’ve reread several times. I also own a few (but not many) books I haven’t read yet. I don’t like lending books because they might not come back.

Have you ever read a book at different times of your life just to see how your point of view shifts? An interesting exercise, try it.

Which was the most disappointing book you ever read?