Thursday, June 29, 2006

Plants Finally Repotted

Just call me Claire (the one from Six Feet Under). You can hockneyize your own photos here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Let's talk about you for a change

  1. On average, 25 of you come here every day.
  2. You usually stay for just over a minute.
  3. 26% of you are from the UK, 26% from France and 25% from the USA (and 4% are from Switzerland: you know who you are!)
  4. Only 1.03% of you use Polish as a default language surprise surprise (65% of you speak English, 26% speak French)
  5. The majority of you are using Windows XP, 24% use Mac OSX
  6. Your browser of choice is Internet Explorer 6 (44%)
  7. 11 of you subscribe to this blog via Bloglines
  8. A selection of the search terms that have brought you here over the past couple of days:
  • I was born too late to a world that doesn't care" (Dozens of you are looking for that. How on earth did I come to be number one for that particular google search?)
  • Cummy (needless to say you didn't stay long)
  • panaris infection
  • how to use the word nevertheless
  • écrire sa biographie
  • richard armour money poem (who is Richard Armour?)
  • sopranos quotes empire state building history postage stamp (eat your hearts out because I'm first for that too)
  • prunus blossom
(Stats are from sitemeter, idea nicked from teacher dude.)

For the man who has everything...

....... except any pride. It's called a daddle and no, P won't be receiving one for his birthday next month. Unless, of course, they bring out a line in black latex.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Another Weekend

Ordered 200 Nespresso capsules on the internet, hope they arrive soon, tremble, shake, quiver. Went to Decathlon/Kiabi/C&A looking for the compulsory black ensemble for Z to wear to his end-of-year concert on Tuesday — concluded that no such thing exists. Ate for the first time ever in one of those restaurants with the lop-sided roofs, La Courte Paille. Not a pleasant experience unless you like salad dressing from a plastic bottle and fake straw as a decorative item. Made a decent tiramisu with whisky instead of marsala. Also made six pots of raspberry jam. Discovered that a Chinese shop around the corner that used to do a great line in plastic tat now has food; made mental note to go back and buy mushroom soy sauce, oyster sauce, fresh ginger, fortune cookies, 50kg of rice, and a rice steamer. Went to a double fortieth birthday party: we all clubbed together to buy the quadragenarians a day of gastronomy and pampering here. Drank Château Bechevelle. Devoured the last half of a French novel (a relatively rare occurence): Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda. Spent fruitless minutes racking my brains for amusing things to write here. Hunted in vain for the camera battery recharger. Bought a lot of mostly purple plants (lavender, basil, fuschia, geraniums, petunias, tallpinkwillowyflowerythings). Didn’t plant them. Read the whole of Little Miss Birthday for the xth time and then got E. to sleep with a heart-rending rendition of Flower of Scotland. Slept through England-Ecuador and awoke to find that I had been denied that hoped-for schadenfreude. Was told that the skin on my neck looks "really, really old Mummy."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New sunglasses


New sunglasses
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.

Too cool to blog. Also thinking about this sentence in waiterrant.net's post today:

A look of consternation struggles to emerge on her taut Botoxed face

Monday, June 19, 2006

Weekend Mosaic

The weekend involved
  • an exhibition of the children's "work" at nursery school
  • ten wains running up and down the stairs squealing, blowing bubbles in the garden and scattering toys and crisps throughout the house, all in celebration of E's fourth birthday
  • a village fête in the Dordogne.
Exhausting.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Too much chaff

I learned a new word in French this week: panaris. In fact, when I looked it up in the dictionary I learned a new word in English too : whitlow. This vicious circle is my punishment for insisting that my students always use a unilingual dictionary first. From their point of view, a unilingual dictionary is often just a big book that provides an incomprehensible definition of a word they didn’t understand in the first place; a bit like getting a great Swahili translation of an obscure Serbo-Croat saying.
Apparently, for those of you who didn't know this already, a panaris/whitlow is a finger or toe infection which is exactly what Z. has at the moment, for the second time in two months. Last time, I followed my Mum’s instructions for making a poultice. The recipe involved milk and bread and soap and baking powder and peeing on toads in the garden at midnight and it worked (okay I made the last bit up)( the bit about it involving urine and amphibians, not the bit about it working). But that was in the winter. The daytime temperature here hasn’t dropped below 32°C for ten days. I can’t send the poor boy to nursery in open sandals with a dog’s breakfast inexpertly wound around his big toe and rapidly turning rancid.
So I googled « toe infection » and was immediately reminded that the internet is next to useless if you just need a bit of practical advice. One of the first hits took me to a site that tells me that infected toes are a spiritual sign of a lack of groundedness:
it may very well be an indication that you are ignoring your lower body and not rooting yourself well enough into the nurturing earth source that is available to us.
Google urgently needs to add a "complete-and-utter-bollocks" filter.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Is this the real life?

This self-indulgent riff was inspired by a passage in "The Accidental" by Ali Smith which I highly recommend if you like the sort of novel where nothing much happens but the writing is interesting and experimental.

Me a name I call myself. I was born in the age of walnut whips and curly wurlies, on Friday it was Crackerjack. I lived in the jungle with my mummy until she was shot by vilanous hunters and dragged off in a net. The hills were alive with the sound of music. In the beginning my grandfather took me in and I slept on a straw mattress in a sweet-smelling hayloft living off nothing but wooden bowls brimful of goats’ milk. I went to a bald king’s palace and danced with complex hand movements and whistled a happy tune. I was the king of the swingers, the jungle VIP and when I wiggled my nose, spells were cast. Penelope Pitstop was my heroine although Christopher Columbus was a very brave man, he sailed across the ocean in an old tin can and the waves got higher and higher and over.
We had midnight feasts with tumblers of ginger beer and tinned pears in the dormitory at boarding school but sometimes the French mistress caught us. I promised I would do my duty to the Queen and help other people at all times. We all lived together in the streets of London where a dirty old man taught us to pick pockets but Nancy saved me. Never before had a boy wanted more, but it was lipsmackin' thirstquenchin' acetastin' motivatin' goodbuzzin' cooltalkin' highwalkin' fastlivin' evergivin' coolfizzin'. We had a dog called Shep. And they called it puppy love, oh I guess they’ll never know…
I lived in New York, I watched the ducks in the park with my sister Phoebe and visited an old school teacher in his apartment. Then, I lived in a house with a crotcheted blanket on the sofa, with my older sister younger brother and two funny but grossly overweight parents — we ate a lot of pizza. My name was Darlene. I was really from Australia and I wore tight black satin trousers with high heels and a pony tail. I went on holiday to Butlins (twice) with a redcoat called David Essex before he became a rock star. Much, much later I moved to a suburb with softer lighting and my parents turned into healthy professionals and I kept a voiceover diary of my so-called life. I spent a lot of time kissing a boy called Jordan Catalano. Is this the real life. Is this just fantasy. Caught in a landslide. No escape from reality. Open your eyes. Look up to the skies and see.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Language Barriers

I mostly speak English to my children. Acquaintances who comment on this sometimes seem to think I am aiming at some future linguistic advantage for them when they enter the corporate world or some top-secret research organisation. I suspect that they don't make the same sort of assumptions about parents who speak Arabic or Portuguese to their children. Obviously however, I speak English to them not to give them a head-start on other children when they learn languages at school but quite simply so that they can communicate meaningfully with me and the rest of their family. [People with teenage children are probably rolling on the ground laughing now at the very idea of meaningful communication with the monosyllabic troglodytes that have replaced their chatty children. Mine will, of course, be different.]

I speak English to them because it comes naturally about 60% of the time. The rest of the time, French comes more spontanaeously either because we’re talking about something they don’t have the vocabulary for in English, or we’re with French speakers and it feels rude to exclude them. And some of the time I hash up both languages in a single sentence which I know you’re absolutely not supposed to do, but I’ve given up worrying about that because that’s the way my brain works now — intermittently.

Perhaps that background partly explains my horror and disbelief at the French government’s latest pronouncements on legalising illegal immigrants and their children some of whom have been going to French schools for years. To avoid deportation the children have to meet three conditions: they must have been born in France, they must have had all of their schooling in France and they MUST NOT be able to speak the language of their native country. It would be hard to think of a more effective way of promoting inter-generational incomprehension, of hastening the disappearance of certain minority languages, and of maintaining the idea that linguistic and cultural diversity is divisive rather than enriching. What hope for language teaching in France with that sort of ethos? What hope for the respect of other ppeople and cultures?

Bah, words fail me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"I was born too late to a world that doesn't care"

Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in a little stone house with a deep purple clematis growing around the front door? (This is where we stayed over the weekend — the last of the three-day weekends, sigh)

I can't stop humming Sandi Thom's "I wish I was a punk rocker (with flowers in my hair)"

What exactly does schadenfreude mean? I came across the word in an article in Vogue this weekend. How could I drop it into conversation?

Had my first ever Skype conversation this evening with my old friend Roddy in Ireland. I know, I know it’s so 2005, but it’s new to me and I like it. (It's lezzlesg by the way)

Must remember never to try to cram music, play park, physiotherapist and doctor’s appointments in between nursery and dinner ever, ever again. It can only end in screaming.

Deborah sent me a newspaper cutting today. Sentence I most closely identified with:
Apparently, by the time most babies are weaned they are sucking at least as much Chardonnay out of the local mammary glands as they are milk, as Mummy desperately attempts to re-irrigate the desiccated husk of her post-natal life.

Update on the wifi débâcle: Orange have reimbursed half of the 120€ which is better than a kick in the teeth, I suppose.

Things I ate over the weekend: ragoût d'asperges, framboisier, delicious soupe de fèves, macarons from the market in Sarlat, purée de carottes made from the sweetest carrots ever, leftover foie gras.....

Gifts I was given over the weekend: a Nespresso coffee machine. It's great.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Nevertheless

Reading the Muriel Spark obituaries I came across a passage from her autobiography Curriculum Vitae which struck me at the time I read it but which I had since forgotten. Writing about her formative years in Edinburgh she remembers:
My whole education, in and out of school, seemed to pivot around the word "nevertheless". My teachers used it a great deal. All grades of society constructed sentences bridged by "nevertheless"...I can see the lips of tough elderly women in musquash coats taking tea at McVitie's, enunciating the word of final justification...I find that much of my literary composition is based on the nevertheless idea.

And this in turn reminded me of a passage I thought I'd read years ago in a book by Alastair Reid, Whereabouts: Notes on being a Foreigner. In my memory it was long reflection on the word "nevertheless", but looking at the book again, all I can find is this:
Nevertheless (a favourite Scottish qualification), places embody a consensus of attitudes;...

It's the Caledonian antisyzygy, the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, the fur coat and nae knickers image summed up in one word.
So, go on, what's the best one-word qualification of your national character?