Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fame!

Thanks to my brother's fishy brush with royalty, I'm a tenuous connection nominee chez Moobs.
I'm such a sucker for hand-me-down glory.

Birthday weekend

Forgive me blog for I have neglected you but I’ve been busy celebrating my Mum’s birthday-with-a-zero-in-it. She arrived last week with my brother et al when the temperatures were just hitting 30°C. They left on Sunday in torrential rain and chilly winds. Weekend highlights included: a couple of nights in La Grange aux Amis; a memorable meal in Domme at a restaurant called Cabanoix et Chataîgnes (if you go you must try the foie gras and cocoa); multiple glasses of champagne; lavender kir; and a visit to Sarlat market on Saturday morning where we loaded up with cherries and chanterelle mushrooms, roast chicken and dried magret stuffed with foie gras. Now it's my own foie that is gras.

One of the things my brother and I reminisced about was a series we used to watch on TV after school. It was called Yao and told the black-and-white story of a little boy in Africa. It had strange haunting music, but google as I might, I can't find the music or a video excerpt although I have discovered that it was actually a French series and took place in the Côte d'Ivoire. Has anyone else ever seen Yao ?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My son the comedian

Him: I've got a sore head [obvious ploy to get out of having his hair washed].

Me: Never mind. I'll just chop your head off.

Him: T'es folle. I'd have a sore neck then.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The pictures on our walls

The pictures on our walls



These are the pictures that we have on our downstairs walls.

a) One of them is the original Alison Auldjo painting that I mentioned in a previous post. I bought it with money my Mum gave me for a big birthday.

b) One of them was given to me by a friend from Glasgow. He bought it in a shop in the posh Prince's Square shopping centre.

c) One of them is a very cheap print from a shop called Alinéa, France's answer to Ikea

d) One of them is an engraving bought in an antiques shop in the Dordogne a couple of summers ago.

e) One is a Picasso print given to me by a friend who stayed with us for a few days a couple of weeks after Z was born.

f) And one of them was a present from my parents when they came over to France to see me defend my thesis and get my PhD.

So which is which? Answers in the comments. Let's call them:
1 2 3
4 5 6

Wild Knowledge


A couple of months ago, as if by magic, a switch was tripped in Z's brain circuitry and he could read. Suddenly, the laborious sessions of sounding out every letter then every syllable; of thinking about what sound every vowel combination might represent were over and whole sentences flowed effortlessly from his eyes to his mouth.

Two months on, it is still a source of wonder that a little brain should be able to do so much in such a short time. All text has become fodder for the reading machine he has in his head: cereal packets at breakfast, books in bed, shop signs in the street, his papa's outsize copy of l'Equipe.

My vicarious sense of accomplishment is nevertheless tinged with a little regret. It is one more milestone passed, one more thing he can do for himself, one more step away from me and the dependent days of cuddly babyhood. Clearly, I can no longer protect him from what Francis Spufford calls "the intensity of a solitary encounter with wild knowledge".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shock of Recognition

I've been busily bookmooching over the past couple of weeks — sending paperbacks off and receiving them too. One of those I mooched is by Carol Shields and called The Box Garden. The novel came out in 1977 and in many ways contemporary references seems almost as exotic as those found in Jane Austen with mentions of permapress dresses, vistadomes, consumerism, communes, back-combing and the Women's Movement (with capital letters).
I'm only half-way through the book, but here's a snippet that provided a jolt of recognition:
G. tends to forget exact references. Information seeps beneath her pores, for she is an intelligent woman, but it is always disjointed, disassociated; she's never never been the same since she underwent shock therapy.
In a couple of days I'll be referring to that book with the green cover, you know, the one by the Canadian author called Caroline thingy that takes place in the eighties or was it the seventies? And I don't even have the excuse of shock therapy....yet.


Give away your books at BookMooch.com

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Still Missing

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann missing in Portugal. Have you seen her?
Please contact: +351 289 884 500, + 351 282 405 400, +351 218 641 000

Madeleine McCann desapareceu em Portugal. Tem informações sobre o seu paradeiro?
Por favor contacte: 289 884 500, 282 405 400, 218 641 000, 112

Click on the photo above if you'd like to stick this missing poster on your own blog. It's important not to forget.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday Night Meme

Deborah suggested I do this meme which she first saw at Marrickvillia. It's a bit different and after a day of trudging around Bordeaux International Fair it is about as much as I can cope with.

1. PICK OUT A SCAR YOU HAVE, AND EXPLAIN HOW YOU GOT IT
I have several small scars on my tummy from a laparoscopic cholecystectomy I had in 1999. After several nights of pain and sleeplessness, I came to the conclusion that I had gall stones. There were some clues: my Mum had had her gall bladder out, my Dad had had his out and my grandfather had had his out. The first radiologist still managed to miss the 2.5cm gall stone on the x-ray, and concluded that I was suffering from dyspepsia. House he was not. My operation was scheduled for 10th November and I went into hospital the night before. They woke me up at about six, put me in a gown and splattered orange antiseptic liquid all over my tummy. I lay rigid in bed until the doctors came round about 6 hours later and told me that they'd had a long procedure in the O.R. and just couldn't fit me in. Could I come back, not the next day which was a public holiday, but in two days time?

2. WHAT IS ON THE WALLS IN YOUR ROOM?
An abstract painting by a Scottish artist called Alison Auldjo. And some prints.

3. WHAT DOES YOUR PHONE LOOK LIKE?...like a phone

4. WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO?
My taste in music is eclectic. (Eclectic is the new skinny, don't you know?) At the moment I'm still listening to that damned Mika over and over again. But the musical highlight of my week is whatever Julien does on La Nouvelle Star. He's a genius.

5. WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT DESKTOP PICTURE?
A dandelion.

6. WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW?
I would quite like an article I have to finish next week to write itself.

7. DO YOU BELIEVE IN GAY MARRIAGE?
Absolutely

8. WHAT TIME WERE YOU BORN?
In the middle of the night, I think.

9. ARE YOUR PARENTS STILL TOGETHER?
My dad died in 1994. Otherwise, I'm sure they would be.

10. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
The noisy fan on my Powerbook.

11. DO YOU GET SCARED OF THE DARK?
I don't particularly like being outside at night in the country in the dark.

12. THE LAST PERSON TO MAKE YOU CRY?
I have tears in my eyes every time I read the news about Madeleine McCann. And now I want to score out my silly answer to question 6 and replace it with the wish that she is returned to her parents very, very soon.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COLOGNE / PERFUME?
At the moment Kenzo's Flower. I also like Guerlain's Champs Elysées.

14. WHAT KIND OF HAIR/EYE COLOUR DO YOU LIKE ON THE OPPOSITE SEX?
I really couldn't care less.

15. DO YOU LIKE PAIN KILLERS?
Yes. I also frequently think how fortunate I am to have had my children in the age of epidurals. Overdosing on House MD is making me want to try Vicodin in large quantities. Call me impressionable.

16. ARE YOU TOO SHY TO ASK SOMEONE OUT?
Come back and ask me that question in my next life, because it's just not topical any more!

17. FAVE PIZZA TOPPING?
I like all pizzas except those that include smoked salmon and/or pineapples which I like fine, just not on pizzas..

18. IF YOU COULD EAT ANYTHING RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I'm not really too hungry at the moment because I went out for lunch today and had a delicious foie frais pané with orange powder and asparagus, a fish trio in broccoli sauce and some strawberry melba.

19. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU MADE MAD?
A person at work. An extremely satisfying experience.

20. IS ANYONE IN LOVE WITH YOU?
I certainly hope so. (P. is nodding his head)

Now it's your turn. Go on, you know you want to.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Miserable

The polls had been predicting this for months but that didn't make the inevitable morning-after feeling any easier to shake off. Parents at the school gate were subdued.
Bonjour. Ca va?
Bof.
Colleagues at work were depressed. Two of my friends are married to Algerians: they are frankly uneasy. I seem to be destined to forever live among people who vote against the mainstream. I lived for years in a Scotland that voted Labour but was subjected to Thatcher. Now I live in a Ségolene-voting South-West France that faces five years of "le petit excité". There were plenty of people in the streets of Bordeaux last night, but they definitely weren't celebrating — they were lamenting. If you don't know anything about Nicholas Sarkozy, think Bush and Berlusconi rolled into one massive ego. Think megalomania. Think increased social inequality. Think friends in big business. Think tax breaks for the rich and diminishing public health care. Think repression. Think America's new lapdog.

I'm off to do what it takes to have my say in five-years' time.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I've been thinking

... or maybe just letting thoughts lap over my consciousness like intermittent waves. I've been thinking about all the things I have to get done this week - reports to write, exam papers to mark, an interpreting job to prepare. I've been thinking about how quickly E. is slipping out of infanthood - when did 4 year-olds start going to slumber parties? And about how taking just one child out in the evening changes the dynamics of the event and makes it much more leisurely and yes, pleasurable. I've been thinking about the city I live in and how much it has changed since I arrived here all those years ago when people paddling in a miroir d'eau on the quais would have been unthinkable. I'm thinking about the summer - Scotland or the Dordogne first? I've been wondering about BookMooch etiquette — isn't it a bit cheeky of someone who'll only send books to "their own country" to ask me to send one to theirs? I've been thinking (and talking) non-stop about the presidential elections here in France: not Sarko, please please please not Sarko. And about the delectable Hugh Laurie and his stubble - is it reasonable to stay up late into the night to watch all those episodes of House MD in a row? Finally, today, I've been thinking about the very yellowness of gorse bushes under a dark sky in that scrubland that leads into the dunes. And through all of this, that pop song insinuating its gnawing way into my mental background - irritatingly familiar and omnipresent but what was it, where had I heard it? I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky. It turned out to be Mika's Grace Kelly, first planted in my brain by this man, and I've been listening to it outside my head ever since. Now I need some more thoughts to muffle it.