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?