Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends were spent like this. Those were the blogging times.
France has been on lockdown for two and a half days now.  I am used to working from home regularly and, so far, I haven't felt the confinement to be a particular hardship. It is a gloriously sunny spring day and I would like to be able to get outside and walk and I probably will, I just have to fill in an official form and swear that I am outside for physical exercise (not to secretly meet up with a bunch of friends to party).
I got my sewing machine down from the attic on day #1 and have been doing a little sewing (face masks!) since then. Teaching continues online although my classes were finishing up soon in any case. I am also trying to get a head start on a couple of conference papers but am finding it a little hard to concentrate in all honesty.
The highlight of today was a delivery of fruit and vegetables and a little meat from a place we buy from regularly. The delivery guy left the crate in front of the door. I shouted down from the upstairs window that I would be down to get it and that was that. Lifted it in, washed my hands thoroughly and then wondered about how long the virus can live on the skin of an apple or a leaf of spinach.
It is all very surreal and yet very normal at the same time.  I am acutely aware that if one of us was to become ill, that would be a very different matter.
Stay well everyone. If there is anyone. I never come her anymore and just looking at the comments of some of these ancient blog posts has reminded me of so many of the people I have lost touch with since then. Where are they now, what are they doing? Others have since become firm friends in real life (you know who you are).
Tomorrow morning I have online yoga with some of my colleagues. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 03, 2019



As part of a massive public health survey I go for a cognitive text. This involves a lot of counting backwards in multiples of seven. I can’t help feeling that having to do that quick translation in my head from 76 to sixty-ten-six and 97 to four-twenties-ten-seven in French puts me at something of a disadvantage. The words I am given to remember are slightly unusual but not too outlandish: accordéon, oseille, buffet, bronze, cravate, couturier, palmier, peluche, framboise, aviron, mouette, maquereau, begonia, flamenco. When I am asked to give as many words as possible beginning with P, my brain runs amok and comes up with some truly unusual words. Disappointingly, he psychologist is impassive rather than impressed.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Les glycines


Making hummous: the satisfactory blubbing sound of the putty-coloured mixture that is just the right texture, not too sloppy, not too dry.

One of the things I like most about our bedroom is the reflection of tree branches on the back wall. The shadow leaves sway and dance on the yellow surface.

I envy people who have canopies of wisteria in their gardens – the soft old-lady violet colour is just beginning to appear around town now, and then in a flash it will fade and wilt before the second, weaker blossoming.

It’s Sunday lunchtime, I cycle down a street with multiple bars where men throng outside in muted joy. They shout-speak to each other in Spanish and Portuguese.

At the market in Saint-Michel an old man on a bench in conversation with a similar old man. They are both wearing all-over grey. The first man holds a vertical forefinger in front of his lips and the conversation seems to take a confidential turn. The finger looks as if it has seen service on building sites.

That moment at airport arrivals  when you catch sight of a face that you know by heart but have not seen in several months. In a split second you drink in those beloved features and register the slight changes that have come about.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Haughty cat

2 things I noticed on a day I didn't leave the house.

A synthetic jumper I bought in Primark in Edinburgh and that kept me warm in the National Library reading room looks rust-coloured in artificial light but a rather alarming Irn-bru orange in natural light.

A white cat slinks through the garden looking for birds to kill.  When I send it on its way with a loud hiss, it manages to look haughty even as it panic-scrambles up the wall.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Poppies flowering by the railway track

Fragile green leaves on pollarded trees, still small and pale.

The Chartreuse cemetery is full of mini buildings that families have erected over the tombs of their loved ones. Some of them look as if the stone has been cleaned recently. 

A young woman with an open smile serves me a glass of Montagne Saint-Émilion. She tells me it’s a good supple one to start with.

A handsome boy high on drugs wearing two different sneakers pesters a woman on the tram. He moves on to another woman and ruffles her son’s hair repeatedly. I wish she hadn’t let him do that.

Poppies flowering by the railway track, red dots in an urban mess of cables and graffiti.

Wobbly slabs underfoot as I walk across empty spaces between towering glass and concrete.


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...