Thursday, December 29, 2005

Seasonal Smorgesbord

(Spot the school-made tree decoration)

Tripping over : doctor’s sets (multiple), Darth Vader masks, Star Wars DVDs, castles, magnetix, fairy costumes, cars, binoculars, pick-up-sticks ……….

Eating : dates, chocolates, wonderful curry made from leftovers (actually better than the original dishes it was cobbled from), foie gras, mini Christmas cake, mince pies and other goodies sent by Mum. An entire side of smoked salmon is no more.

Drinking : Loupiac 1996, Château Maison Blanche (Médoc), Chiroulet, and the occasional G&T

Reading : Kevin MacNeil’s The Stornoway Way (a present from Mum) which is absolutely, definitely one of my best books of 2005. Steeped in Famous Grouse and Hebridean angst peppered with gaelic phrases and the odd unforgettable pun. About to begin The Child that Books Built by Francis Spufford.

Watching : trying to find a minute to watch the Martin Scorcese film No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (present from P.)

Being : very touchy-feely at an interactive exhibition called Très Toucher at the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Bordeaux this afternoon.

Getting ready for : New-Year celebrations with friends in the Périgord.

Hope you are all having a wonderfully indulgent time too.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Where else?

Where else do you get to listen to a dire radio station through tinny speakers for two and a half hours?

Where else do you get a chance to detail your holiday plans to a complete stranger?

Where else would you let someone lather dangerous chemicals onto your skin and then agree to inhale them for thirty minutes?

Where else would you take style advice from a nineteen-year-old Britney lookalike?

Where else would you be talked into parting with 11€ for a bottle of something that is, in all likelihood, no better than the version you could buy in the supermarket for 2€?

Where else does sheer boredom drive you to read every single page of the sort of magazine that you wouldn't normally even consider opening for fear of rotting you eyes?

Where else would you be willing to spend a couple of hours contemplating your increasingly imperfect reflection in unflattering light?

Where else would you allow someone to sit you in a shop window with a towel on your head?

At the hairdresser's of course. I had a great morning.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Kirikou est vaillant

Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
What was the first film you ever saw? For me it was "The Sound of Music", (then "Jungle Book" then "The King and I".) On Sunday we went to the cinema with Sarah, Guy and Kepler to see "Kirikou et les Betes Sauvages". I wonder if in x years time when Eloïse blogs (or vlogs?) about the first film she ever saw at the flicks, she'll think it was a good choice.
(The picture is Zachary's take on the storyline, and a pretty good summary it is.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

A clean house is a sign of a misspent life

Deborah, who still doesn't have a blog, sent me some photographs of her place for posting "to make everyone else feel better about the mess in their houses". Well, yes, it is messy but then in the words of a thousand fridge magnets, "Dull women have immaculate houses".

By coincidence, I've just watched the episode in Grey's Anatomy in which Cristina reveals her darkest secret: her apartment is a pit. She doesn't do laundry, just buys new underwear. She never does dishes, she never vacuums. She hoards magazines that she doesn't have time to read but will never throw out. She has nothing in her fridge but water and vodka, and the most important bit..... she doesn't care.

Deborah doesn't really care either, I don't think. She'd give those insufferable Life Laundry people short shrift. To quote another fridge magnet "If a messy house is a happy house, this one is delirious". And Deborah's is a happy house, especially in the summer sitting outside with a glass of Tariquet in one's hand admiring the plants in Deborah's decidedly unmessy terrace garden.

But, despite the clutter and dust in my own house, I do care a little bit — as does Burke, Cristina's boyfriend, he with the surgically sterile apartment — so can anyone tell me, how on earth does one restore the former pristine whiteness of grubby grey i-pod headphones?


Thursday, December 15, 2005


Unlike Neil, I haven’t been back to my old home town for a while, but I hear that although it’s got a new-look town centre, underneath it’s really just exactly the same as it was in 1975. So here, to steal Neil’s riff is what I would have been doing thirty years ago on a Saturday (all right, so for him adolescence was twenty-five years ago, but he’s still a child, obviously)

I’d meet up with my friends at the corner of the playing fields and we’d chum each other down into town to our Saturday jobs.

There, I’d spend the day filling shelves and serving flare-wearing customers in Gordon Drummond’s the chemist's. At this time of year that would be mostly puzzled-looking men buying Yardley’s perfume as presents for their wives.

I’d have had sausage roll, beans and chips at a cafe listening to Black Betty (Bam Ba Lan) on the juke box.

The afternoon was spent thinking about what I was going to wear that night (my favourite outfit at that time involved black satin trousers from that temple of high fashion, What Every Woman Wants). At closing time I’d have pocketed the £8 I’d earned for a day’s work .

I’d probably have spent the evening at a Scout Disco. It may have been spotty teenagers swaying to crap music in a wooden hut, but it was the highlight of our social calendar. For me, the evening involved studiously ignoring any boy I was vaguely interested in, surprisingly not a particularly successful boyfriend-baiting tactic.

Or maybe I’d have been watching Dallas at a friend’s house — I wasn’t allowed to watch it at home, proof of my parents’ decent taste, perhaps.

As they say, you can take the girl out of Penicuik but you can’t take Penicuik out of the girl.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Me, me, me meme

Welcome to the 2005 edition of getting to know your friends. What you are supposed to do is copy this entire blog entry and paste it onto a new blog entry that you’ll post. Change all the answers so they apply to you, and then publish! Leave a comment if you do this.The theory is that you will learn a lot of little (random) things about your friends, if you did not know them already.

What time did you get up this morning?

Diamonds or pearls?
Diamonds, but I'm not passionately interested in either

What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Broken Flowers

What is your favourite TV show?
At the moment, Grey's Anatomy. Last week, Six Feet Under. Probably be back into The Sopranos after Christmas (once I've given P. one of his box-shaped Christmas presents.)

What do you usually have for breakfast?
Coffee. More coffee. No milk.

Favourite cuisine?

What food do you dislike?
Milk. Offal.

What is your favourite CD at the moment?
I borrowed Les Têtes Raides from the médiathèque yesterday but haven't had time to listen yet.

Morning or night person?
I'm definitely a night person but at the moment I don't seem to be either.

Favourite sandwich?
Fried egg roll.

What characteristic do you despise?

Favourite item of clothing?
Red velvet jacket.

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be?

What colour is your bathroom?
A not very successful cornflower blue.

Favourite brand of clothing?

Where would you retire to?
Several places.

What was your most memorable birthday?
My mind has gone blank.

Favourite sport to watch?
I sometimes find myself mesmerised by curling on Eurosport. Otherwise, international rugby.

When is your birthday?
14th March

What is your shoe size?

None at the moment but as a child I had a cat called Piseag.

Any new and exciting news you’d like to share with us?
Absolutely zilch.

What did you want to be when you were little?
Anything but a teacher.

What is your favourite flower?
Sweet peas.

What date on the calendar are you looking forward to?
Can't see anything past Christmas and New Year.

One word to describe the person who you snaffled this from?
Shutter happy


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This is sooo wrong

Activist Mama
You're an agitator! Your kids have grown up on the
front lines of rallies and pickets, and chances
are that you boycott at least one company for
its bad business practices. Your kids are
learning what matters to you and how they can
change what matters to them.

What kind of a freaky mother are you?

I really don't know how this happened. I answered the questions as honestly as possible, but no I haven't been to a demo myself for years and the kids have yet to discover the joys of tramping throught the streets all the time wishing they could just nip off and have a quick look in the shops. And no I can't think of any companies I knowingly boycott, except perhaps Macdonalds and I don't boycott them, I ration them. I'll have to find another so that I fit my description more closely. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Tonight I'm simultaneously trying to
  • Make a pot au feu and apple crumble for some friends who are staying with us. I've just realised that I added the bone marrow at the beginning of of the cuisson instead of the end. Oops. Hope it's edible.
  • Decide if this is a good time to open that Chateau Brown 1995 which is burning a hole in the fridge (are we all too tired to appreciate it or would it waken us all up?)
  • Work out when the very last posting day for Scotland is if pressies are to get there in time for Christmas (Monday?)
  • Reserve a table at a special restaurant for tomorrow evening but La Cape, Le Vieux Bordeaux and Les Cinq Sens are all fully booked.
  • Decide whether I should take another paracetamol before I feel feverish again.
  • Answer several work-related e-mails that I missed this afternoon because I was Christmas shopping.
  • Collate a mega smoked salmon order from friends and colleagues to send off to my brother for reception before Christmas.
  • Decide whether or not to actually finish reading "The Devil Wears Prada". Is it worth it I ask myself.
  • Decide whether to get a bog standard Christmas tree or a more expensive Nordmann which is supposed to keep its needles longer.
  • Refrain from screaming at Z who has just broken one of my neklaces.
  • Not thinking about how much it has just cost to have our second, clapped out old Renault 19 fixed.
  • Resist blog reading.
  • Oh, yes and attend to my neglected blog

Saturday, December 03, 2005


And I haven't even started yet. Make your own totally useless warning label with the Warning Label Generator.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

A bulleted list at last

  • I've changed over to Firefox at last and so I can do bold and italics and colour now.... and quotes, and lists too. It's not faster than Safari but it's definitely better for blogging."But we could have told you that ages ago," I hear you cry. "Well, I wasn't listening," I cry back.
  • For your viewing pleasure. If you like Yann Arthus Bertrand's photos of the world seen from the sky, this site allows you to browse the photos and download them as wallpaper.

  • Things that made me laugh this week: SoWeirdProductions tells us that there are teachers and then there are educators.

  • If you love Scottish smoked salmon (or trout, or venison, or game) and you want to buy some online for the Festive season, this is the place to get it: Barony Country Foods. The fact that my wee brother runs the company has absolutely nothing to do with this shameless plug: it really is absolutely delicious.


Knit, knat, knate

Occasionally, I am overcome by a terrible temptation to conjugate regular verbs irregularly which is okay as long as it doesn't happen while I'm standing at a blackboard with forty students behind me copying down every (wrong) word as gospel truth. I just can't help feeling that the English language would be even richer if I could say things like "I knat you a jumper, do you like it?", or "He store at me as if I had two heads" or "the article was citten by five other authors". Of course children do it the other way round, they go through a phase where all verbs are conjugated regularly as in "I've bringed you a dead snail, Mummy" or "Tu veux t'assiser?" which E. still prefers to "Tu veux t'asseoir?" and I've come to quite like it too.

So, yesterday, when I reread the post just under this one, I paused for a second at the word "seeped" and wondered if perhaps the past tense shouldn't be "sept" as in "water sept in through the walls". The more I thought about it the better it sounded. Why, I wondered, is "seep" not an irregular verb?

Then, by one of those truly freaky coincidences that it is best not to dwell on (dwell, dwold, dwollen?), I stumbled on the answer. Like many people this week, I had just discovered the site, a veritable treasure trove of lectures and speeches in streaming video. So, late last night I settled down to watch Steven Pinker give a lecture about Words and Rules, and somewhere in the middle my ears pruck up as he explained that we say "keep, kept" but not "seep, sept" because, unlike keep, the verb seep was introduced into the English language after the "Great Vowel Shift" of the mid fifteenth century (before which a double e was pronounced in such a way as to require that -t sound at the end of the past tense.) If you find this sort of think fascinating, and you'd like to know more about Pinker's modified words-and-rules theory, I recommend listening to the whole lecture but if you don't have time to watch the whole thing, there's a short piece by Pinker on the same subject, here: The Irregular Verbs

*Isn't it strange how when one ultra-popular blog mentions a site, it is immediately taken up by lots of others and then everyone bookmarks it with furl or and it popularity grows exponentially. We really need a verb to describe this phenomenon. I suggest "to wildfire" as in "that site really wildfired this week". Whatever the word chosen, the chances are that it will be conjugated as a regular verb like all other recent neologisms eg. googled and spammed. Apparently, the last irregular past tense to be introduced into the (American) English language is "snuck", and that's a hundred years old.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Facades from the past

There's a nice feature in the online version of the French telephone directory that, for some towns and cities, throws up a picture of the front of the building you're looking for: PagesJaunes : Photos de Villes Here is the first building I lived in in Bordeaux:

We lived in a one-bedroom flat on the second floor with a view of the synagogue right across the road. This was the mid-eighties and everyone was pretty jumpy around synagogues, so on a Friday evening the whole street was blocked off and policemen strutted up and down in front of the building, machine guns at the ready. The inside of the building was nicer than the outside : we even had carpeted stairs. The flat itself was entirely decorated in brown — chocolate brown carpets and chocolate brown hessian on the walls but since we didn't have any furniture colour co-ordination was no problem. The girl next door was a prostitute. P. spent the first few months believing she was some sort of community social worker.

After about five years we moved here.

This time it was little two-bedroom house with a courtyard at the front and a garden at the back. I know it doesn't look like a house — you had to go in that green door and, walk through this building and straight out the back to our tiny house. It had a lovely feel about it, lots of different levels and a very private little garden but it must have been the dampest place in the whole of France. In winter, water seeped in through the blocked up chimney breast in the bedroom leaving huge damp patches that quickly turned black. After about a week, all of our clothes smelled of mildew. Looking back, I wonder how we managed to stick it out for seven years.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

...a thousand words

The entire planet seems to be blogging pictures of snow. Dooce has a nice one here We had mini flurry for three microseconds on Saturday morning and since no-one is interested in photos of unrelenting rain, I give you a ....... graph.
This is what happens if you ...... Oh, you know what I mean. ...

What gave you your biggest peak?

Category: web stats

Sweetness and Light

Okay, I think we've established that that recent post was a tad unsporting, so to erase the weasel-me from your memories, here is a summary from the fluffy-bunny me of the blogs I love to read — the ones for which my heart gives a little hop and skip when I see they've been updated. Maybe you can guess who they are without clicking.

This one because I get to vicariously plan a trip to Melbourne, drink raspberry vodka, experience the Swiss education system and because she lives with four men for goodness sake. This one because anyone who simmers her own pizza topping from heaven all day long and inspires hope that perhaps slightly older children are easier to deal with, has to be a good person. This one because I get to vicariously plan a wedding in France (not to mention a hag night), and also drink lashings of virtual champagne in the process. This one because it offers a nice fresh view of living in France, not my jaded and cynical one, and also because I can't sing and she can (and I wish she lived down here because then I could help her find that elusive job). This one because it unfailingly makes me chuckle out loud and reminds me of what it was like to have a tiny little baby without actually having to do the nappy thing and the rocking in my-tired-arms-all-night thing. This one because Scottish humour is the best. This one because I don't have a house in the country but I'd like one, and because taking a photo at the same time every day is such a fantastic concept. This one because I wish I could take photos this crisp. This one because sometimes I'd love to be in my early twenties again, footloose and a fancy free with a mega gift for writing and being funny. This one because it has soul. This one because it's good to witness someone emerge from depression doodling.

I could go on and on. I haven't mentioned the work-related ones: This one and this one , for instance, because these people really think about what they're doing in the classroom/ behind the scenes. This one because translating is not an easy job, and if I had to translate each of my posts into French, I'd never post anything.

Now, when I click my fingers, you will wake up and you will have completely forgotten that I am not all sweetness and light. Click.


Imagination Cubed

This is fun. You can draw pictures and invite friends to come and contribute to them. It might be useful in class for everyone to brainstorm simultaneously with words or doodles.

Imagination Cubed

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cutting Back

I spend far too much time reading blogs. I’m sure you all agree it’s a shameful, compulsive disorder. So I’m cutting down. I’m going on a draconian low blog diet. I’m going to have a balanced healthy blogroll featuring only contents that are good for me. So who’s getting the chop? Well anyone who hasn’t posted for over two months for a start (adios most of my EVO chums). There are, however, some more borderline decisions to be made:

UPDATE: I took the rest of this post off because it was mean-spirited and I ended up regretting it.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Six Feet Over

Bye bye Nate. Bye bye Claire. Bye bye Brenda. Bye bye David and Keith, Bye bye Ruth..... We've been practically living together for the past week and what a depressing, dysfunctional lot you are, although I loved you dearly. So now it's all over and I'm left wondering :

If I died and P. married someone else (Brenda) and then he suddenly died, would that other woman (Brenda) then become the sole legal guardian of my children?

Right, enough of that, let's move on (as my erstwhile TV friends would say), time to get back to a more reasonable schedule because watching TV series into the wee samll hours, several days in a row does not an on-the-ball teacher make.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005


At last, I have at my disposal the whole fifth series of “Six Feet Under”. Don’t ask me how I got it because I would have to kill you if I told you. Suffice to say, it took a loooooong time. It’s now half past nine in the evening and P’s still at work. I reckon that if I started watching right now I could watch the entire series and still be at the fac for my first class at 10H15 tomorrow morning.
But if I did that I would not be able to :

• Clear up the dinner dishes
• Empty the washing machine (I know, I know, what exciting and debauched evenings I have)
• Put the monsters back in bed after their numerous incursions back downstairs (so they'd have to watch too)
• Mark the forty homework assignments my students expect to get back tomorrow morning
• Read and correct the English in an extremely boring, I mean important article for a medical journal (the one I promised to have done for the beginning of this week)
• Sleep
• Be in a fit state teach anything or even be seen before tomorrow evening

Right, maybe, just one episode then, after the correcting of course, and the other stuff will just have to wait.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Weekend Googling

It sometimes feels as if my life could be summarised as a series of google searches. Here then, is my long weekend:

"zoo de la palmyre"
restaurant basque bordeaux
"fête d'anniversaire" enfant
chalet "pierre saint martin"

As you can see, we went to the zoo on Friday.
We didn't find the elusive Basque restaurant that P. had read about but couldn't remember in which magazine nor where the restaurant is nor what it's called. We ended up in a great Japanese place and had tepan yaki for the first time.
Started to panic at the idea of twelve four and five year-olds invading the house next week for Z's birthday party. How will we keep them happy and occupied for two-and-a-half hours and still prevent them from trashing the house?
Wondered if a weekend in the mountains sometime before Christmas might be nice.

What were your weekend google searches? (You'd be amazed at the number of people out there looking for the lyrics of "Hey Lolly Lolly" if my stats are to be believed.)


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

NaNoWriMo NoThankYou

Today I learned that Flaubert wrote an average of five words an hour, or about thirty words on a good day. I don't know if that's true but I read it in Alexander McCall Smith's novel, 44 Scotland Street which is published in daily instalments in The Scotsman. I receive it in rather less regular bundles through the post and clipped by my Mum because it doesn't appear in the free online version of the newspaper.

Prof. McCall Smith doesn't appear to suffer from this sluggish-writing malady himself as he's been churning out novels at a phenomenal rate for the past few years, at least apace with the aspiring novelists participating in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. Am I alone in thinking that producing a 175 page novel in one month is a stupid idea? No question of me attempting such logorrhoea in any case because I feel like Flaubert at the moment —definitely a three-word-an-hour girl, and stilted ones at that.

In the absence, then, of any proper writing here, you might like to have a look at How babies are made in Germany; a page I'm bookmarking for when my children ask the inevitable question............... "Mummy, what did Mme Bovary and Rodolphe do exactly?"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Unravelling Videotape

One of my headaches at work is organising a course in medical English for almost five hundred students. Every week, nine different teachers teach twelve different classes in twelve different classrooms on two different sites on three different days. For continuity reasons, everyone teaches the same content. The course is based on video and reading comprehension with medical themes, and the problems are essentially due to the video element. Until this year, we all used videotapes which meant having nine copies of the same excerpt made, making sure that everyone has the right tape on the right day, that the copy is of acceptable quality and then arranging to have videorecorders or remote control systems available in the constantly shuffled classrooms. This year, two of us have opted to use digital versions and plug our laptops into the videoprojectors with which almost all classrooms are now equipped (PowerBook I love you). But the problem remains for everyone else.

A possible solution would be to buy a truckload of video i-pods and little adaptors to plug them into the videoprojectors. They're small and eminently transportable. They could easily hold a year's worth of short video excerpts. And as a spin-off we'd immediately be the envy of our students.
What do you think? Has anyone bought one yet?


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005

What I did during my Toussaint Holiday. (500 words, for Monday)

This was, I think, our third holiday in Hendaye, an old fashioned sort of seaside resort in the very, very southwest of France, so southwest that you can't get any more southwest. It's a great place for a break, and this time we took my Mum.

First of all there's the beach, long and flat and sandy and safe. We had such brilliant weather this time that we even managed a swim. Okay, that "we" didn't actually my thermosensitive body, but P. and the children had a frolick in the waves. Imagine swimming in the Atlantic ocean in the last week of October. Is that an Indian summer or climate deregulation?

Then there's Spain. For 1€50 you can get a little ferry across the bay to Hondarribia (or Fontarrabie depending on which language you're speaking) and get all tapas-ed out in the many bars and restaurants around the port, stroll up through the old town to the Parador, and then back down to hop on the ferry back to France. San Sebastian, which has to be one of the most fabulous cities in Europe, is only 20km away, Bilbao and its Guggenheim not all that much further.

The more sophisticated resorts of Saint-Jean-de -Luz and Biarritz lie a few miles to the north and inland there are loads of picturesque Basque villages daubed with ox-blood paintwork. Ainhoa is a favourite. All of this set across the backdrop of the Pyrenées. I'm starting to sound like a badly translated tourist-office brochure so I''l stop there.

All in all then, a busy week filled with gastronomic delights (I love chipirons, Basque squid) and non-delights: I'm thinking paëlla made from what looked and tasted like week-old leftovers from the kitchen, yeuch.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

No show

Well first of all, I taught all morning then dashed to the station, then sat on a train to Marseille for six hours in one of those old fashioned carriages where three strangers sit facing three other strangers trying to avoid direct eye contact. I was in the middle seat and spent most of the journey balancing my PowerBook on my knees writing the end of my paper and preparing a FANTASTIC KICK-ASS powerpoint presentation.

I arrived in Marseille some time after eight and was held up for ages because of what the SNCF euphemistically calls "un accident de personne" and which actually means that there was a body on the track. I took advantage of this hitch to ingurgitate a dry tuna sandwich and listen to others complain about the inefficiency of the train service which, for once, seemed a little unfair. After a couple of hours, my train to Toulon was cancelled so I hopped onto the fist TGV going in that direction and sank into one of the plush armchairs of a first class carriage complete with electrical socket to recharge my beloved Powerbookbuddy.

From the station in Toulon, I dragged my bag through deserted streets to my hotel. By this time I was exhausted and perhaps it wasn't a very good idea to go out for "a quick drink" after that, but I did, and had a very nice time. The next morning, however, I didn't feel quite so great. Was it a tummy bug, was it some sort of punishment (for mixing my drinks, for eating a tuna sandwich, for being vaguely irritated a careless body was holding me up)? I will never know, I will never tell, but the result was that I missed the whole of the first day of the conference, including my own slot, and nobody got to see my FANTASTIC KICK-ASS powerpoint presentation.

All too soon it was time to get back onto that train and trundle back to Bordeaux. And then it was off to Hendaye in the Basque Country which was the answer to yesterday's question. More on that tomorrow perhaps.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Terrible blogger

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I went away for ages (10 days) and forgot to tell you I was going ,never mind organise for someone to come in and turn the heating on, open the curtains etc. Well, now that I'm back, maybe you can guess where I've been? (Experience shows that his sort of challenge is usually the kiss of death to all interaction and systematically results in zilch comments.)


Monday, October 17, 2005

An afternoon in the country

It's reinvigorating to get out of the city and be bombarded by the signs of changing seasons that seem to slink past us in town. The road from Bordeaux to Castillon-la-Bataille is absolutely beautiful at this time of year. The vines have turned a rich ochre and the air is laced with the smells of autumn — overripe grapes, mushrooms and earth. The sun shines on oblivious to the fact that summer is over; the landscape soaking up the unexpected warmth. We drive through quiet villages on our way to Montcaret and Sarah's house. For the first time I meet someone whose blog I have read and whose daily photos I have looked at and yes, I feel I know her and her family already. The children who know nothing of blogs, like children everywhere also seem to be on familiar terms and quickly get down to the important business of playing and giggling.
I think I need two lives really, one for the town and one for the country. One for dashing across town during Monday lunchtime rush-hour, coming down from the euphoria of a successful first class in one place just in time to start another in a different building with an altogether less receptive group of students and an all but empty stomach. And another life for making quince jelly in a country kitchen with the back door open to the smells of autumn.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Linguistic pitfall

Conversation on the way to school this morning

Me: You can tell it's autumn because of all the leaves on the ground.

Z: A qui je dois le dire? A la maîtresse? [Who should I say it to? My teacher?]

Me : What do you mean? You don't have to say it to anyone.

Z: Mais tu as dit... [Yes, but you said...]

Penny drops.

Me: It's just an expression. "You can tell" means "you can see"....


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


At last we're getting round to putting up bookshelves and hundreds of books that I'd forgotten I owned have been dug out of cardboard boxes. It's so satisfying to put all the books by one author together on a shelf, all the travel guides side by side, all the journals in chronological order, all the dictionaries within easy reach, all the trashy novels in a psychedelic cluster. While I was at it, I thought I might as well create an online library too using LibraryThing | Catalog your books online, and while I was at that I thought I might as well add a little dooda on the side (swivel your eyes to the right and look below the Flickr badge, if you please) offering you a random selection from my extensive library. I'm not quite sure why I'm creating the online catalogue. Perhaps if my house burned down it would make the insurance claim easier? Or if I couldn't remember whether or not I owned a certain book and couldn't be bothered to go upstairs and look on the shelves, I could just do a quick search on my PowerBook without moving from my armchair. I've only catalogued a dozen or so books so far, there's still time to turn back. And by the way, this has nothing whatsoever to do with my latest paperback purchase: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (how am I ever going to find time to read that one?).

UPDATE: Actually, after Sarah's comment I have thought of another use for this catalogue. I'm going to chuck out or perhaps even sell a lot of these tatty old books and use the catalogue as a virtual library of the ones I let get away: all of the retentive pleasure with none of the smell and dust.


Monday, October 10, 2005


I'm going to give a talk about this rather stern-looking person soon. Her name was Alison Cunningham and she was Robert Louis Stevenson's nanny. If her name is familiar perhaps you own(ed) a copy of "A Child's Garden of Verses" and wondered about the dedicatee:

My second Mother, my first Wife,
The angel of my infant life—

RLS was a sick child and Alison Cunningham, or Cummy as he called her, fired up his feverish imagination with blood-curdling stories about ghosts and Covenanters. Somehow, I don't think it's going to be a very funny talk. Here's the abstract:

"In 1863, Alison Cunningham accompanied the Stevenson family on an extended tour of the Continent. This was her first contact with life outside of Scotland and she was, for the most part, decidedly unimpressed. The diary she kept during this period was published in book form much later as « Cummy’s Diary»(1926). It has been described by some as « homely » (Skinner) and dismissed as « extremely boring » by others (Davies). This paper aims to reappraise the diary in the light of more recent work on travel writing, highlighting its documentation of the everyday and examining Alison Cunningham’s marginal position as an unmarried woman, a servant, a Scot and a healthy person surrounded by invalids."


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Singin' hey lolly, lolly

The title of this post will only mean anything to you if you are ancient enough to remember that Meri Wilson Classic "Telephone Man" and these fabulous lyrics:

I got it in the bedroom, and I got it in the hall
And I got it in the bathroom, and he hung it on the wall
I got it with a buzz, and I got it with a ring
And when he told me what my number was I got a ding-a-ling

All this to say that I got my wifi card yesterday and within five minutes I had internet in the kitchen, in the hall, in the bathroom, in the toilet, in the garden ........ You get the idea. I may be old enough to remember "Telephone Man" but hey, I'm so funky, I'm wireless. Woo mega Hoo.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Schoolteachers were on strike today along with most other French public sector workers. I didn't have any classes so I didn't have to decide whether or not to down tools. This meant, however, that when the postman rang the doorbell this morning and thrust an intriguing cardboard box into my hands, three pairs of curious eyes sized it up. Yes, the kids were spending the day at home. It turned out to be the Freebox I had ordered last week. Four eyes wandered away to get up to other mischief. Mine perused the instructions.

You try configuring a Freebox (I'm sorry, I have no idea what the equivalent is in English, someone please help me) while two unsupervised under-fives run wild finding new and exciting things to do in/to the house, whilst beating each other up at five-minute intervals.

Anyway, it works. My PowerBook now has an internet connection. My phonecalls within France are completely free and I have a load of free TV channels many in languages I do not recognise. The number of English-speaking channels has been multiplied by five or six depending on whether you count God TV or Bloomberg, but hey I also get BBC World (hoorah) and SKY News (shudder). Unfortunately we also seem to get a whole swathe of sports channels. I wonder if I could hide them somehow.

That was the good news. The bad news is that using the Freebox means that I can no longer use the modem connection on my other computer. The telephone doesn't actually work yet, apparently that takes up to 72 hours. And when it does we'll have two different lines which seems a bit confusing. Also, the images on the TV are what can only be described as staccato. Or jerky if you prefer. Oh yes, and I'm getting incoming mail but I can't send any. I have no idea why.

So, all in all, I think we can say that this constitutes another resounding success in our series of home improvement projects. Oh, and just wait until next week when I get the Wifi card.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Annular Solar Eclipse

Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
Sorry folks but this was the best I could do. I did try taking the photo through an old x-ray but the spark from the flash melted the cellulose in a rather frightening way.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation: I discovered this site ages ago and have just found it again in my Furl archive. (Why did I choose Furl and not Del-icio-us, by the way?)

"What happens when an English phrase is translated (by computer) back and forth between 5 different languages? "

Today I fed it what I take to be the take-home message from "Broken Flowers", the latest Jim Jarmusch film and it came up with this:

"The experience more, must come the future propping therefore very those that we are the gift that we have."

Can you guess what the original sentence was before it was mashed up through five sequential translations? (I can feel a classroom application coming on here...)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Let me tell you why I don’t like Wednesdays

A very long time ago, somebody thought that it would be a good idea to give all little French children a day off school on a Thursday. This, so that the week would be cut in two and the little "têtes blondes" wouldn’t become overtired. At some point, perhaps in the seventies, for some reason, Thursday off became Wednesday off. Then, gradually, as more and more parents started to spend weekends at home rather than at work and wanted to spend some of that leisure time with their children, Saturday also became a non-school day and "la semaine de quatre jours" was born. Theoretically, the children who don’t go to school an a Saturday morning have slightly shorter holidays than those who do and nobody seems to mind this. What nobody, ever ever calls into question, however, is the sacrosanct "jour des enfants" - a day originally intended to be spent chilling out at home in a post-second-world-war sort of way. Only it is no longert a relaxing day of rest at all, at least not in our house, and I don't think we're particulalry atypical. For us, it’s more of a running-around-like-chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off sort of day.

If you both work, you obviously have to find some sort of alternative childcare solution for a Wednesday, a complicated task if you don't have grandparents on the doorstep. This is how, a couple of weeks ago, I came to spend over three hours queuing to sign my four-year-old up for a kids’ club with a really good reputation and a very long waiting list. I got him in. He then sobbed inconsolably when I left him on the first two Wednesdays he had to spend there. His little sister, meanwhile goes to her old childminder’s since we felt starting nursery and doing something unfamiliar on a Wednesday all in the same month would be a bit much for a three-year-old to cope with. Neither of these arrangements is free, far from it.

“Aha” I hear you say, “but if you didn’t work, your children would be happy little bunnies playing contentedly at home all day on a Wednesday with you, their paragon stay-at-home mum devising on-tap creative activities and leading occasional cultural outings.” Perhaps. But I don’t think so. Some working mums I know do manage not to work on a Wednesday. From what I see, Wednesdays are the days that mums (why is it almost always the mums?) spend ferrying children from music lessons to judo, from fencing classes to soft play, from ballet to swimming. It’s also the day to which all medical appointments and the like are relegated and some of the hothoused kids are even treated to extra maths lessons.

Since Wednesday is a no-school day it is also birthday party day which is how I came to organise my schedule today so that I could rush back from work at lunchtime to pick Z up, drive him across town, drop him off at a birthday party, kill two hours while he worked on his sugar high, pick him up and drive him and his little friend back into town and arrive just in time to pick little sister up from the childminder’s.

This evening, we’re definitely not refreshed. Roll on Thursday.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Extraordinarily famous blogger

That's me. We were at a party last night (actually, we were at the prolongation of a birthday party our children had been to bacause that's the only sort of party we get invited to nowadays), a couple we know asked, "Hey, Lesley, est-ce que tu as un blog?" Turns out they'd arrived at this here humble blog via a search that threw up a photo I'd posted of oyster beds at Cap Ferret. I'll have to watch what I say in future.

And now for something completely different. Here, via Marco (again) is another political chart. You've got to pretend you're American to do this one. Perhaps unsursprisingly, my profile is very like Marco's and that of all the other people I've seen post this on their blogs. So, next time someone asks me about my politics, I'll tell them I'm somewhere near the bottom right-hand corner.

You are a

Social Liberal
(68% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(10% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Three Things

I. Make your own stamps. Another amusing thing to do with your flickr photos.This photograph is of a place called Hostens, south of Bordeaux.

Do it at Framer
Via SoWeirdProductions

II. And here's a quote P. pointed out to me yesterday:
"Selon Pierre Sansot, le pérégrination serait une forme de sagesse. Celle de l'effort, de la modestie et de la rencontre."
("According to Pierre Sansot, peregrination is a sort of wisdom — the wisdom of effort, modesty ad meetings.")

III And finally, here via Profgrrrl is the fifth sentence meme:
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to)
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions."

So here's mine: ".....they all have lives outside of the English classroom."

Must try to remember this. Wish I'd added "interesting" before lives.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005



1) your little boy had sobbed his heart out and clung to you like a koala would you have left him at the kids' club anyway?

2) your Powerbook had been dispatched on Saturday, wouldn't you expect to be cuddling up with it by now?

3) you were putting a drier in the garage, would you get the sort that pumps damp air out into the garage or one that costs more but condensates that moist air?

4) you had watched twelve episodes of Six Feet Under over three evenings, would you expect to be in a slightly morbid state of mind for the rest of the week?

5) overnight, your pink i-pod mini suddenly became yesterday's big thing, would you feel totally untrendy in every compartment of your life?

6) a bloggers' apéritif was being planned in the town where you live, would you be tempted to go along, even if you didn't know anyone?


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gender Genie

Does my voice sound husky to you? Do I talk like a man? Is my tone anything less than feminine? Have you ever been in any doubt as to my sex? No, no, no, I hear you cry. Well, not so the Gender Genie whose algorithms obviously have a major hormone problem. On the evidence of two recent blog posts which I fed into it in my usual womanly way, it concludes that there is a very high chance that I am male.

"Inspired by an article in The New York Times Magazine,
The Gender Genie
uses a simplified version of an algorithm developed by Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, to predict the gender of an author"

Try it for yourselves, then reassure me (because we girls need lots of reassurance).

Via: Allan Jenkins

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Spend, spend, spend

I'm on a spending high. This week several goodies have arrived in the post, namely:

Lost In Translation : watched last night and now back on sale on

Six Feet Under - The Fourth Season: Please, please go to sleep children so that we can watch at least two episodes tonight.

A couple of books on:National Identity Perhaps goodies isn't quite the right word for them (and to be absolutely honest I can't actually remember ordering the second one which came from a little bookseller in Springfield, USA) but they will be useful, I hope. And, wait for it....

Yesterday, I ordered a 12'' Powerbook from Apple, as well as a washing machine and a drier (unfortunately not from Apple). I'd like to linger lustfully over the words at the beginning of that sentence and just mumble the rest. Guess which I enjoyed putting in my basket most.
Don't you just love spending money online? No fighting through Saturday afternoon shoppers to see the display model. No unwelcome advice from incompetent sales staff. No queuing at the cash desk. No hard sell for the extended warranty. And you can do it late at night after a few glasses of wine, when values in Euros and Francs meld into one, and budget priorities seem trivial (I'm justifying the Powerbook here, not the washing machine by the way). And after all that's not real money they take, is it?
Is it?


Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
Borrowed three CDs from our excellent médiathèque his evening:

Al Stewart: Year of the Cat
Bob Dylan : Blonde on Blonde
Simon & Garfunkel : The Graduate

How did my musical taste get stuck quite so far in the distant past? What should I borrow next time to get me out of this time warp?


Monday, September 05, 2005

Low resolution

Making new year's resolutions in September may seem a little strange, as Sarah* points out but, believe me, when your life is organised according to the academic year, it really is the only time that anything is ever going to change. After October, we're caught up in a demented rush of teaching, class preparation, meetings, conferences etc. so there's no time for innovation or change. Anyway, here, for what it's worth, is my non-exhaustive list of things that need improvement:

I will not
write down what I did in class on scraps of paper which then disappear and only turn up as screwed up paper mâché at the bottom of my bag weeks later.
I will
buy a(nother) nice new exercise book and keep accurate records of class activities so that I don't have to keep asking students: "Are you sure we haven't already done this?", "As I may already have told you..." etc. ( I may have to think about a similar system for dinner party conversations)

I will not
spend ten minutes in the middle of each class scrabbling around at the bottom of aforementioned bag looking for a marker pen that works so that I can write a vital item of vocab on the board.
I will
lobby for the purchase of new interactive whiteboards for our department (and pigs will hit the stratosphere around about the same time they actually appear.

I will not
take the car to work a) because there is a perfectly good tram line that we are currently paying for, apparently singlehandedly, through our local taxes b) parking is now prohibitively expensive c) because it will do me good to walk a bit d) I now take the children to one place not two and it's on my way to work, so that excuse has been blown**.
I will
therefore be consistently late for any important rendez-vous such as the exam I was administering yesterday — it took me fifty minutes to get from one part of the universtiy to another by tram and bus, a journey that would have taken twelve or so minutes by car.

I will never, ever
consult my Bloglines account while at work, not even at lunchtime.
I will
only read online articles from scholarly journals, and preferably only articles with titles I don't understand (and will therefore spend all free time at home reading blogs without feeling guilty.)

How much more time do you have?............

* I've just discovered that I can't link to my own comments box so you'll have to look for what Sarah said, all on your own. Sorry
** Update on the playpiece dilemma. It turns out that mid-morning snacks are now forbidden in shools as part of France's fight against childhood obesity. It is considered far healthier for a three-year-old child to go for five hours with nothing to eat.


Friday, September 02, 2005

False Pretences

I spent yesterday evening wandering around Bergerac looking for a place to eat and wondering where all of the English people had come from. There were noisy families with kids on all of the café terraces, couples aimlessly pushing buggies around the old town, old biddies collapsed on stone benches, young couples looking at restaurant menus and beer bellies queuing for baguette sandwiches. Then it dawned on me: low cost flights from Stansted to Bergerac. Ryanair has a lot to answer for.

I wonder how many hits the last couple of sentences will lead to. I feel a little guilty about the Google search that seems to bring most people to this site. It is "w*ords per m*inute t*est". I've added the asterisks so as not to disappoint even more budding secretaries. I imagine their dismay when they end up on this drivelling blog site instead of the efficient gauge of dactylographical skills they were looking for. Needless to say, they don't hang around for long.

On the drivel front, it seems that the academic year has started. The children have just finished their FIRST week of nursery which has been a great success ie. we managed to get them there on time every day. No seriously, they both had a great time and no tears. I went into work for the FIRST time to prepare for my FIRST class on Monday morning (almost tears). I've done my FIRST interpreting job since the holiday, hence the unfettered visit to Bergerac. And I've made my FIRST list of resolutions for the new year. Bring it on, I'm ready.


Monday, August 29, 2005


Have you noticed that more and more blog sites recognise who you are and greet you with cosy messages in the side bar?
"Welcome Ashley Megral, You can help the marketing drive/ war effort / eliminate poverty, click here to donate."
The other day I clicked on a blog that not only knew my name but also told me how I could meet other singles in Pessac-sur-Dordogne.
Pessac-sur-Dordogne? I have no idea where that is, probably not very far from here because I'm quite near Pessac and I'm not too far from the Dordogne (river and département). I'm sure the village must exist.... Oh, okay then hold on and I'll google it. .............
Just as I thought. Village about 75km from here with a population of 475. ( I suspect that most single people in Pessac-sur-Dordogne are octogenarians and certainly nothing like the fictitious, nubile young things in the photographs I was invited to click on, but that's another issue.)
My question is: how did the blog get the idea that that is where I live? My computer is obviously sending out the wrong message, and the wrong longitude and latitude to boot. To check this, I went to someone else's sitemeter and looked for myself. Yup, the rest of the blogging world thinks I live in a village I had never heard of until yesterday. Can anyone tell me how to rectify this? Is this info set by my ISP or by me?
If you'd like to know whether or not your computer is disoriented too, click on the N° of visitors in my sidebar, then click on details and then click on the first in the list (that should be you).

"You can help Category:

Friday, August 26, 2005

The end is nigh.

Monkey boy
Monkey boy, originally uploaded by Lezzles.

This is our last weekend of relative freedom. The children go back to nursery school, or in E's case start nursery school, next week. I don't think I'm ready.

How on earth will we manage to get two comatose bodies up washed and dressed at 7H30 when they wake up naturally at 9H30? I can't find the indelible pen I need to write their names in their clothes. I haven't bought anything to give them for their mid-morning snack - what they call their goüter and what kids in Scotland call (used to call?) their playpiece.

My own Mum was pretty health conscious for her time and our playpiece was often a couple of digestive bisuits or a piece of bread spread with some Dairylea cheese, or maybe a shiny apple. My brother and I ate these wholesome offerings surreptitiously in a corner while our luckier classmates scoffed packets of crips and curly wurlies (remember them?) washed down with cremola foam. So now, for my own children, I try to go for the healthy, but not conspiciously healthy, snack - not an easy task.

In France, nursery school is called "La Maternelle", undoubtedly because getting little children there in a presentable state is so much work and worry for their mummies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Secret reading

Conversation at the park.

S: Did you do any reading over the summer?
Me: Yes, loads.
[My mind goes completely blank and I can't remember the titles or authors of any of the many books I've read over the past couple of months. All I can remember is the title of a book I vaguely remember reading last year]
Me: I read "Le Secret" by that author, you know...... it's the story of a Jewish boy growing up during the war, and there's a secret in his past.
[I realise that I can't remember a single thing about the plot or the characters in "Le Secret"].
Me: Maybe the author's name was Levy. Not Marc Levy but another Levy.
S: Maybe.
S. returns to reading the latest Le Clézio.

The book I was grasping for is actually entitled "Un Secret" and it was written by Philippe Grimbert. I thoroughly recommend it but I have no recollection of why, as unfortunately although was able to provide the title and author, it doesn't provide a synopsis that might similarly jog my memory.


Alter Ego

If ...when...I change the url of this blog I'm going to call myself Ashely Megral. Why? Because it's an anagram of my real name. If you'd like to create your own nom de plume, pop over to Jean Véronis' Technologies du Langage: Récré: Générez vos noms de plume. On second thoughts, maybe Hally Greesam is more me, or should that be less me? What about Sheryl Lagame then?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Another nifty thing to do with Flickr

magazine-image, originally uploaded by Lezzles.

Make your own Magazine Cover

PS. I lied about the "to do" list. I can do that because I am still on holiday.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Done, doing, to do.

My brain is still in holiday mode so you're not going to get anything more than a glorified list for this post (who am I kidding, my brain is always in holiday mode). Okay then, maybe two glorified lists.

Things I forgot to tell you I'd done on holiday:
1. Went to Gretna Green for the very first time - a bit like Las Vegas but with pipers and tartan and without the fun.
2. Happened upon the Gala Day in Gatehouse of Fleet and listened to a one-man band play some rocking Proclaimers, Status Quo etc. covers
3. Went to Edinburgh for the day ON MY OWN to consult a 19th Century manuscript for a paper I'm giving in October. Phoned the library the day before to make sure it would be open and they didn't need advance notice for the MS. No problem on either count said the wee man who answered. Arrived at the library around 12H30 the next day to discover that the librarian was just leaving: she only works mornings and yes, you do need to give advance notice to consult MSs. It felt just like being back in France.
4. Spent the rest of the day wandering around Edinburgh through Fringe acts handing out fliers (am I getting old or are they getting more puerile?), saw the Scottish Parliament for the first time and was impressed. Popped into the gift shop at Holyrood Palace and was nauseated by the array of oh-so-tasteful royal memorabilia with names like "The Clarence House Collection". Walked up the Royal Mile and past the High Church of St Giles
5. Watched the TV coverage of Robin Cook's funeral in St Giles two days later. Another good one gone.

Things I've done since we got back:
1. Been to Ikea twice. Once to buy a new "princess" bed for E. and once for the obligatory taking back and waiting in long queue to change the bit that was the wrong size.
2. Had a "family menu" in MacDonald’s. That's a Big Mac meal for Daddy, a salad and a diet coke for Mummy, and two Happy meals for the children. Have you ever felt demographically bog standard?
3. Shivered on the beach at Sanguinet: it turned out to be not such a beautiful day.
4. Caught up on a lot of blogs and left several comments. Why isn't there a blog tool for following comments one has left elsewhere?
5. Had friends round to dinner and made Thai chicken in coconut sauce.
6. Cut back drastically on alcohol consumption in a desperate bid to shake off the 4kg (yes 4kg) I put on over the holidays. Have also foregone all chocolate.
7. Took Z. to the ENT specialist who now recommends surgically inserting permanent grommets for his chronic glue ear. He's only four but has already had three minor ops for the same thing over the past 18 months. The only problem is that the permanent grommets have to be surgically removed in 2/3 years' time and that there is a 20% risk of the ear drum not healing spontaneously after this. What a dilemma. I kind of lost faith in the ENT man when, in the next breath, he recommended a 3-week stay in a health spa in the Pyrenees as also being very effective (this just after he had re-explained that it's basically an anatomical problem involving immature Eustachian tubes not working properly). Oh yes, and he's not only the specialist, he's the surgeon too and he picks up the cheque after each operation. Paradoxically, despite living in a country with reputedly the world's best public health care system but I think we're going to do what the cash-strapped NHS recommends — watchful waiting.
8. Watched the Magic Roundabout on DVD with the children. When I was wee, I lived on an island in the Inner Hebrides where we only got one TV channel (BBC1) and it was all snowy and in black and white. One of my favourite programmes then was the Magic Roundabout with Dougal, Zebedee, Dylan and all their little puppet friends whose threads you could clearly see even through the interference. Well even in those conditions, I can honestly say that the old version was a thousand times better than this new digital travesty. The characters all look as if they've had face lifts and the actual content beggars belief, with three characters coming back from the dead and skeletons with purple laser eyes being blasted to smithereens. Perfect nightmare material. (And the French names aren't nearly as nice as the English a names, Dougal is Pollux, Florence is Margot, Dylan is Floppy and Ermentrude is something I can't even remember and certainly a lot less apt than Ermentrude)
9. Went to the town hall with several official papers to sign the children up for the nursery school canteen and after-school "garderie". E. starts nursery on 30th August. Another milestone.

Tomorrow you get the to-do list.


Beginning of the end?

Oh no, I've just received my first spam comment (see last post). Help! Does anyone have any solutions?

On a brighter note, it's a beautiful day here and we're off to the beach.


Thursday, August 18, 2005


There's a lot of Great Willow Herb in the Scottish countryside. But there are some more delicate wild flowers too. What's this one called, I wonder?


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Dumfries and Galloway

Castle loch
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
10 things we did on holiday in Dumfries and Galloway

1. Fed the ducks (and geese and swans) on the lochs in and around Lochmaben
2. Visited Caerlaverock Castle — great for aspiring knights
3. Spent time with family
4. Went to Dumfries Agricultural Show
5. Saw the Monet Exhibition in Kirkudbright
6. Discoverd Wigtown, Scotland's book village
7. Ate (a lot, thanks to Mum)
8. Relaxed (a lot, thanks to Mum)
9. Filmed the children, took tons of photos. (See more at Scotland Aug 2005 - a photoset on Flickr)
10. Did a bit of shopping (got a nifty suede jacket)

So now it's home to "auld claes and porridge". While we were on holiday I read in the Scotsman that research show the beneficial effects of a holiday have worn off withing 24 hours of coming home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
Just back from Scotland. We had a wonderful time. Sunny Scottish weather (yes, yes) and lots of fresh air. More soon.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Photos not taken

Back from ten dozy days in the Dordogne. I forgot to take the recharger for the camera battery but here are some of the photos I might have shown you:

A ruby red bottle of Pécharmant on the table of a little restuarant in Périgueux.

Magret brochettes on the barbecue.

Masses of basil and some purslane in the vegetable garden at Périgord Evasion

A gaggle of butterflies on various buddleia bushes dotted around the garden at Pomerède.

Z wobbling as he learns to ride his red bike with no stabilizers.

My legs in a horizontal position as I lie reading on the famous swing (more on the books in a later post perhaps).

Green walnuts as far as the eye can see.

And various conviviality pictures of people raising glasses and chatting during dinner.

The children running around outside in the moonlight.

Meanwhile....... We returned to the house expecting to find all work finished so we were somewhat surprised to discover that the rewiring is still at the evisceration stage upstairs, we have no hot water and the windows seem to be in the right places but some of them are unsealed. Here we go again.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ecrire sa biographie quotidienne

The Kenneth White books arrive. I open one at random and read this:

C'est dimanche, le vingt et quelque chose octobre, et je suis en exil, et j'écris un livre. Il n'y a que cela à faire en exil. C'est, du moins, ma conclusion. Le rêve, l'amour, le monde spirituel ne m'inspirent pas, ni comme réalités ni comme possibilités. La seule façon de rester en vie est d'écrire sa biographie quotidienne. Au sens large, le plus large possible.
De détail en détail nous atteindrons — la fin.
(Kenneth White, "A la Lisière du monde" in Les Lettres Nouvelles, janvier - février 1965.)


Desultory Notes

Weather :— a little close but temperatures definitely bearable (25°C ish)

What I'm doing :— last day at work for several weeks —tying up loose ends.

Thinking about:— a good place for lunch with my man P. (Le Casse Museau perhaps?)

Still to do: — Go to bank to sign document I forgot to sign yesterday to get lolly to pay for new windows.

People in my house: — two electricians and a family of window fitters (Portugeuse).

What the children are doing :— Probably sleeping because they were up to high jinx until very late last night. It's their last full day at the childminder's house.

Last thing I listened to on my Ipod : Took the tram to work and listened to Ben Curtis's podcast "Notes From Spain". Very atmospheric. makes me wish I was going to Spain for the holidays.

Last thing I bought: A couple of books by Kenneth White on Ebay : they haven't arrived yet. Kenneth White is a Scottish poet who lives in Brittany. Wanted to show you photos but Safari crashes every time I try to upload them.

Other Ebay news : Last week sold an expensive toy that E has grown out of for......... 1€. Once I had paid the Paypal commission etc. I actually made a loss. Brother tells me he is trying to flog some Bank of Scotland £5 notes featuring Jack Nicklaus.

Last major disaster : Trestle table collapsed yesterday evening as we were having dinner. Dinner ended up on floor and red wine splashed across newly painted walls. Glasses broke, children screamed, telephone rang at exactly that moment.

Plans for tomorrow: Drive to P's parents' place in the Dordogne. Allow children to run wild. Lie down on swing for the rest of the week.


Saturday, July 16, 2005


Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
The men are coming on Monday to change every single window in the house. So bye bye old wooden windows that require much banging and pushing and grunting to get open, hello new smooth, double-glazing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Look! Tidy, well-filled shelves in the new kitchen. Now, if only I could organise my paperwork that easily.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Smart Alec(ette)

Just as I like to read English-speaking bloggers living abroad, I am attracted to books by English-speaking people living over here. Yes, I read « A Year in Provence » and thought it was patronisingly awful. I much preferred Tim Parks' books about Italy. A couple of summers ago I read two good ones about Tuscany (one with superb recipes none of which I actually tried needless to say). And an excellent one by an English woman living in Cérét. She never actually names the town but it’s quite easy to work out where it is and it’s also quite easy to work out who her temperamental French lover is because he’s a dentist and an artist. (Still don’t get it? You’re obviously not stalker sleuth material. You look up all the dentists in Cérét in the yellow pages, there are only a couple and then you Google their names and find out which one has had exhibitions of modern art. A pointless exercise, I know, but strangely satisfying.)
It’s so easy to be a smart alec when reading the “Year in “Somewhere (preferably little-known) in France” “ books because I’ve go a twenty odd year start on them. In fact, I suspect that’s why I read them; they make me feel clever. Here, then, are a few corrections for Celia Brayfield author of “Deep France: A Writer’s Year in the Béarn”.

• The word “trocante is not a mixture of truc and brocante but of troc and brocante (much more logical)
• Cousteau does not mean strong and burly, costaud does. Jacques Cousteau could not, therefore, be translated as “Jack Burly”
• The presenter of “La Grande Dictée” is not a professor. He’s Bernard Pivot, a t.v. personality

I could go on but it would be tedious. What strikes me is that these mistakes are due to sloppiness, they could have been corrected by ANY French person. But the year in France didn’t seem to include very many of those.

I’m also drawn to books by Scottish women. Imagine my joy then, when I came across a mistake about France in an otherwise excellent book by a Scotswoman; Jennie Erdal’s “Ghosting”. She describes the regular trips she made from Bordeaux airport to the “heart of the Dordogne” and how her heart would lift when she saw the gates bearing the names Château d’Yquem, Château Margaux.* Didn’t she have a map?
But now I feel churlish criticising these people who may not know France as well as I do but who do seem to have a real affection for the place, especially when others, like this creep, hate France and the French so much**.

* For the few of you who don’t live in the Bordeaux area, these châteaux are nowhere near the road to the Dordogne.
** Via - Stuart Mudie's weblog


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Unconscious Mutterings

This is a free association memey thing which "is supposed to help bring forth repressed thoughts and feelings". Give it a go yourself, the words change every week.

  1. Do-it-yourself:: hammers, nails, Ian Dury
  2. Pickpocket:: Walking through a flea market in Paris putting my hand in the pocket of my overcoat (which incidentally I'd bought in an Amsterdam flea market the year before) and finding that someone else's hand was already in there
  3. Ballet:: tutu
  4. Resumé:: American job applications
  5. Phenom:: Place in Thailand? beaches, danger,
  6. Love/Hate:: tattoes that burly men in England sometimes have on their fingers
  7. Unusual:: The way a friend described my taste in shoes
  8. Intense:: A person I know who always takes things very very seriously and gives thoughtful answers to my flippant questions. Slightly irritating
  9. Interruption:: coitus interruptus also known as "getting off at Haymarket" in Edinburgh
  10. Not enough:: Food.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Two Rules

Still thinking about the difficulties of bringing up children and although mu children don't need them quite yet, the following two absolute rules sound about right:

"Never have unprotected sex" [...] "And never, ever get into a car with a driver who's been drinking, including yourself"

Wise words. I read them in Anita Shreve's novel "Light on Snow" this weekend while rocking in a swing in the Dordogne.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I'm at it again. I have a paper to write up and I hate rereading stuff I wrote last year because I'm sick of it and because it's so prosaic. So I'm procrastinating, and for me procrastinating means surfing. So here are three things I came across today and that seem to me to be linked in some way in that they all say something up bringing up children. First there are these lyrics (their punctuation, not mine, by the way).

maybe it's scotland that i hate. i know i hate so many things about it. i hate the way punishment's at the heart of everything. i hate the way parents speak to their children. i hate the way everything always has to be someone's fault even though some things just happen.

some things just happen...

i hate the way people bring up their children to be exactly the same as they are just so they can justify the way they've lived their lives. i hate the way that we expect to fail. and then we fail. and then we get bitter because we've failed.

maybe it's scotland that i hate... *

The song’s by a group called Ballboy, by the way, and you can listen to it on their site ballboy online.* I like the song but I don’t quite get the bringing-up-children-to-be-like-us bit. How else are you going to bring up your children? All I can say is, see you in ten-fifteen years matey when you've got a couple of sprogs yourself, then we'll see who you're bringing them up to be like and how you're speaking to them. (Oh, and by the way nobody likes to be bunched in with everybody else and referred to by the generic "people") Oh, yes, and do unto your parents as you would have your children do unto you. mr. nice guy knows what i'm talking about:

"we all found ourselves sitting around the table talking about how the crazy is strong with our parents. and then, slowly, we looked over at the baby who, with a little sparkle in our eye, made it perfectly clear that in 30 years she would be having exactly the same conversation with her friends."

and what about this from Scott Adams @ Arkansas Tech:

"The day after 9/11, I tried to write a piece about how it was an attack against what we stand for as professional educators, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I think that David Weinberger has. Educators here were liberally and courageously guiding our children into %u201Ctheir%u201D future by creating and crafting engaging and potent learning experiences. %u2026While the fundamentalists want us to go back to a world under control."

USA = liberal and courageous. USA's enemies = control freaks. I don't think so.

So to summarise today's lessons — my parenting skills require honing. I have to avoid trying to bring the little monsters up to be like me, I have to remember that whatever I do it will be wrong in the long run and I must strive to attain benevolent educating skills à la USA. Maybe licking that paper into shape would have been more fun after all.

* I'm sorry I can't materialise the quote in any way with eg. a frame, or indentation or italics. Blogger is still decidedly mac-unfriendly
** I found the Ballboy site via Said the Gramophone"a daily sampler of really good songs", which I found via : Craintes chez les audioblogs


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I did two stupid things today.

1. I locked myself and the children out of the house in the early evening while temperatures were still in the 30s and had to ask a neighbour to wade through his overgrown garden, perform acrobatics on a stepladder and jump over into our garden and then walk into our house through the conveniently unlocked back door.

2. I then took the children to an air-conditioned shopping centre and after an hour or so noticed that it had gone ominously dark outside and that the wind was howling through the glass concourse. I hurried them back to the car, holding their hands firmly just in case they blew away, and drove thorough horizontal rain dodging overturned dustbins and water gushing from drains to the house where, of course, I had left the upstairs windows wide open.

The temperature has dropped dramatically so perhaps I'll get my brain back tomorrow.



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 ...