Monday, May 29, 2006

Time Wasting


I've been saving these totally useless signs for a while; so long in fact that I've forgotten where I made them. Except for the first one which came from here.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

La Fête des Mères

Back from a four-day weekend in the Landes. All in all it was a pretty mediocre break. The weather was disappointingly cool, the "villa" would have been better described as a hut, and two out of four family members were all drugged-up with antibiotics.

This morning though, as I sat outside on the terrace with a bowl of steaming coffee, I was joined by a pair of hoopoes working across the sandy patch in front of me. They looked oddly overdressed, a little Egyptian perhaps. The mother did all of the hard work, digging up grubs with her long spiky beak and then passing them on to an incompetent youngster, throwing up fountains of sand in the process.

Now it's back to our own town garden and the same young blackbird we left flailing around at grass-level on Thursday. Still not very good at getting off the ground, still a constant source of worry for his musical mother and still a sitting target for the neighbourhood cats.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Always read the eeny weeny tiny print

  • Arrive at conference centre to do an interpreting job
  • Plug Powerbook in
  • Oh joy, there's wifi!
  • Drat, it's an Orange network and you have to pay for it
  • 10€ for two hours, that's a bit steep
  • Work for an hour or so
  • Think it would be nice to check my e-mail
  • Work a bit more
  • Hands start shaking
  • Decide to cough up and buy the pass on line
  • Wait a minute! They send the password to your e-mail account
  • I can't get into my email until I'm connected
  • But look! There's another option for people with Orange mobiles
  • I've got an Orange mobile
  • It must be free for Orange customers
  • Try to log on. It doesn't work because I have a pay-as-you-go card
  • Brilliant idea. Ask colleague which network he uses
  • Orange! Would you mind, bla bla bla... Of course not...
  • He dials #125# and gets a password
  • I log in to the network with his password
  • Easy peasy
  • (I may have clicked something about accepting their "condition générales de vente")
  • (nobody actually reads those, do they?)
  • I stay connected for the entire afternoon
  • The following day I do exactly the same thing
  • The next day my colleague contacts me to tell me that Orange has charged him 121€
  • It turns out they were charging by the minute
  • Oooops
  • Today I gave him the cheque

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Come in and sit down

I should have done this name change ages ago. It was a bit silly to choose my real name as an address all those months ago. So, now you must all erase my real name from your memories. From now on I will go by the catchy name of : "The-blogger-who-was-formerly-and -naively-called-a-real-life-name".
Perhaps it would have been a good idea if it had been a proper professional blog but self-deprecation doesn't usually buy you workplace kudos.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Sarah had a great post a while ago about going bright red and stammering when she got to meet an author she admires. I had to leave a comment saying that I have experienced exactly the same awe and mention having a book signed by Richard Holmes and saying not a single word. The silly thing is that, for once, I actually had a good number of reasonably intelligent questions I could have asked him. I was in Edinburgh to do some research on travellers after Robert Louis Stevenson in the Cevennes amongst whom Richard Holmes stands out as most perceptive. But the front of a long queue in a tent at a book festival just didn't feel like the right place to start a conversation.

Actually I've just looked at the book he signed for me, Dr Johnson & Mr Savage, and it says "to Lesley", so I must have managed to stammer out my name at least.

And now that I think of it, my experiences of meeting authors have all been rather underwhelming. At the Salon du Livre in Bordeaux a few years ago, during a deserted lunchtime, I strolled past Alain Robbe-Grillet, gazing vacantly over a pile of books and obviously available for conversation. But I walked on by pushing Z. in his pushchair, because despite several years of study I couldn't think of a single intelligent phrase on the subject of the nouveau roman.

There have been others: Michelle Roberts, Janice Galloway, Kenneth White, Bernard MacLaverty. ... I cannot report on a single witty remark, or even a coherent comment, issued from my lips in their presence.

My mum, on the other hand, was recently in a restuarant and found herself at a table next to a double Pulitzer prize-winner. She tells me they had a very enjoyable conversation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Random gobbets

  • I'm vaguely thinking about getting a breadmaker (mostly because I keep seeing recipes that require one on a fellow Bordelaise's blog). Does anyone have any recommendations?
  • Memory from a couple of months ago that still makes me giggle. I step out of the shower and E. exclaims "Mummy, je vois tes narines!"( "Mummy, I can see your nostrils!)
  • Favourite snippet from Moondust by Andrew Smith: "[He] radiates a weird, goofy anger and always sounds like he's trying to juice a lemon with his sphincter muscles. " (p.201)
  • Quote from The Sopranos a couple of weeks ago: "If the Empire State Building represented the history of the Earth, then man's presence would only be a postage stamps at the very top." Quote from Z's dinosaur book at bedtime tonight: "If the history of the Earth was reduced to 100 years, humans would only be present for three minutes."
  • I have to go from Bordeaux to Nantes for a conference on Friday. I have to be there before 1pm but the earliest I can get there by train is 3H15 pm. Why is that? Look at the map, Nantes is just up the road.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Wee sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie

P. hurries the children out the front door for the five-minute walk to school. They’re running late. The door closes and I breathe a sigh of relief, half-heartedly clear up a few breakfast crumbs and put the Dora DVD back into its box. [I lied to my children yesterday evening — I told them that the new Dora DVD from Grandma only has an English soundtrack. In fact, they could watch it in Greek or Portuguese or, more importantly for them, two different versions of French if they (i.e. I) liked). The lie is for their own linguistic good.]

I saunter upstairs and into the bathroom. While I’m brushing my teeth, I hear an insistent rustling noise coming from ... I’m not quite sure where. It gets louder and louder. I open the windows and listen, is it coming from the garden ? No, it’s definitely inside the house. The rustling continues and there seems to be some discreet bumping too. I tiptoe towards our bedroom and the noise gets louder: it’s definitely coming from in there and it’s definitely rodents. I peek in the door from a safe distance but see no signs of movement, no long tails poking out from under the bed.

I’m now terrified. Oh what a panic's in my breastie. I dash downstairs. How am I going to get my things out of a bedroom obviously under siege by several large families of mice or maybe even r……, no, no, no, no, no.

P. is taking ages. He strolls in with a baguette and the Sud Ouest newspaper under his arm. « I think you should take a look upstairs, there seems to be a strange noise coming from our bedroom » I say casually, inwardly shrieking « Help, help, help, we need the pest control people, immediately »

P. goes upstairs, sees nothing in the bedroom, opens the door that leads up to the attic and finds a helpless little house martin* lying exhausted at the bottom of the stairs.

He takes off like a jet fighter when P. opens the window and holds him out in the fresh May air.

* or maybe it was a swallow, or a swift.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The sun rises bright in France

The sun rises bright in France
and so sets he
But he has tint the blink he had
In my ain countree

So drink with me a glass of wine
And sing with me some Scottish rhyme
That I may think of Auld Lang Syne
And my ain countree

The bud comes back to summer
And the blossom tae the bee
But I'll win back never
To my ain countree

The land of sweet Bordeaux
Is pleasant for tae see
But ne'er sae sweet as the land I left
And my ain countree

That's a song by Alan Cunningham (1784-1842) that I, the exiled Scot in Bordeaux, might be tempted to sing, were I the homesick type ...and could I sing. It was written to commemorate the flight to France of hundreds of Jacobites in the seventeenth century, and expresses a poignant and, some might say, characteristically Scottish attitude to exile. There's an enjoyable wistfulness about exile that we Scots are often tempted to overplay, a trait Billy Connolly exploits in an old sketch about Glasgow pubs full of maudlin folk singers wailing on about how far they are fae hame. Excuse me while I have a wail.


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 ...