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.



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 ...