Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A few of my favourite dings

10 things I like beginning with the letter d.

dictionaries. I like having a whole shelf of dictionaries beside me when I’m writing anything; looking things up from time to time; having my eye drift across the page and finding some other, more interesting word. My favourite is Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, which now I come to think of it is possibly slightly out of date now. I also like being able to flick between a dictionary window and a text window when I’m translating.

dall. I like making it and I like eating it. The version I make calls for brown lentils, tamarind and mustard seeds.

drizzle. It rarely drizzles here in South-West France where we either have torrential downpours or days of unrelenting medium-size, medium-force rain. I like the feel of Scottish feather-light raindrops on my face.

Durango. P and I went to Colorado a few years ago and Durango was one of those towns where everything was postcard perfect: a wide main street, lots of interesting shops and bars and restaurants, even an old-fashioned railway station and a steam train. The inhabitants of Durango are all young and sporty and promenade their children around town in little trailers behind mountain bikes.

doughnuts so I probably wouldn’t fit in in Durango. Dough, oil and sugar; what a healthy combination.

dinner parties. I like inviting people for dinner and I like being invited for dinner. I like the informal sort best, where people stand in the kitchen having an aperitif then move to the dinner table and the conversation goes on into the wee small hours.

drifting from page to page on the internet. In fact, I like this a little too much.

deer. I like catching sight of them at the edge of the woods in the gloaming and to see them look up warily when they feel someone watching them.

dandling babies on my knee — my own when they were small and compliant, and also other people’s. Especially babies with

... dimples.

Charlotte gave me the letter d. If you'd like to play, leave me a comment and I'll give you a letter.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Trumpet. Blowing. My own.

Look! I was shortlisted for Post of the Week last week.

Post of the Week

(Have a look, it's a great way to find well-written blogs you didn't know existed. And, if you nominate, a way to draw attention to posts you think are a pretty good read.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

All Kinds of Everything

People can sometimes be dismissive at the very mention of the word blog: "what for and how do you find the time?" And to be honest, when people ask me what this blog is about — as somebody did last week — I'm never quite sure how to answer. My life / this and that / things I'm interested in, all sound lame and inadequate.

I don't want to go all meta on you, but as often happens, elements of possible answers suggested themselves over the following days mostly in random things I'd been reading. I serve these snippets up to you fragmented and raw, with no synthesis or mashing together to create a more coherent answer than the title of the Dana song above.
If you are on of those who still think of weblogs as "online diaries" or, as Tony Blair's former chief policy adviser Matthew Taylor put it ...that they are merely packed with a "shrill discourse of demands" and "a perpetual state of self-righteous rage", then you have evidently been reading the wrong ones. (TLS)
Gunn has two young daughters... and she finds that she cannot contemplate shutting a study door on them. Instead, she wishes to situate herself at a desk on the landing where she can hear everything, "the clattering, the quiet, the doorbell, the calls for help, "Mum! Mummy!" And on her landing, she decides, she will "make a different kind of writing altogether... A genre that at this moment doesn't even exist." 44 Things is the result of this manifesto: 44 pieces, one for each year she's lived - snatched from her domestic life...all of which arise from the textures and priorities of her life at home, which, she says, "is a good life, an interesting life and deserves to be written about." (Scottish Review of Books)
Decca was a natural letter writer. Born at a time when it was usual to spend part of every day writing letters, into a family for whom letters were a crucial means of communication, she wrote constantly: to her many friends, ... to her husband and children, whenever she was apart from them; to strangers who wrote to her; and to her editor, Robert Gottlieb. Her letters, in which memories of the past and particularly her childhood returned again and again, are direct, full of energy and laughter. TLS
...all take writing seriously, and hence feel the need to highlight the significance of diaristic writing to ward off the charge of futility, navel-gazing and irrelevance diairists have long been the butt of. .... Writing thus becomes a way of taming the formlessness of experience, a formlessness which prefigures that of death. (V. Serfaty)

Friday, February 23, 2007

10 French Films

Jonathan at Connaissances has tagged me to list my top ten French films so here they are. I'm actually quite surprised by the way this has turned out. I'm quite partial to the intimiste, tortured vibe for which French cinema is famous, but it would appear that a good number of my favourite films are comedies, albeit dark comedies for the most part.

1. 37.2 Le Matin (1986) I love this film. I love the Betty character and her madness, the Zorg character and his patience, and the desperate urgency of their story. See the long version if you can.

2. Le Grand Bleu (1988) Jean-Marc Barr, stillness, depth and that haunting music. Who needs anything more from a film?

3. Harry Un Ami Qui Vous Veut du Bien. This is a fabulous film: hilariously funny at times but also horribly menacing. Harry is played by Sergei Lopez.

4. Beau temps Mais Orgageux en Fin de Journée. (1986) One of those films where nothing very much happens but you remember that nothing for a long time afterwards.

5. Western (1997) Another funny film with Sergei Lopez and his Spanish accent. It's a sort of road movie à la Bretonne.

6. Tatie Danielle (1990) Classic French comedy from Etienne Chatiliez about a nasty old besom who comes to live with her nephew's family.

7. La Vie est un Long Fleuve Tranquille (1988) Another very funny Etienne Chatiliez film contrasting a bourgeois French family, les Duquenois, and a council-house family, les Groseilles. Their babies have been swapped at birth

8. Le Retour de Martin Guerre (1982) I'm not a great Depardieu fan, but he's good as the floppy-haired returning soldier who usurps somebody else's identity. Or does he?

9. Le Boucher (1970) This one is a haunting thriller that takes place in the Dordogne and stars Stéphane Audran. (I loved her in Babette's Feast too but apparently that's a Danish film)

10. Un Homme Et Une Femme (1966) Da da da da da, da da da. Perhaps the classic French film?

Ten films really isn't enough, here are some more than nearly made it into my list:
Le Diner de Cons : funny but also poignant.
Indochine : just for the scenery.
Le Fabuleux Destin de Amélie Poulain : although it's now fashionable to say you didn't like it.
Le Bonheur est dans le pré : favourite line: "pourtant le confit n'est pas gras".
Les Ripoux : about two corrupt cops in Paris.
Trois Hommes et un couffin : much better than the American remake.
La Lune dans le Caniveau : .another one with a young Gérard Depardieu
Les Valseuses...and another.
Tchao Pantin : starring the late great Coluche.
L'Ete Meurtrier : for fans of long hot summers and the young Isabelle Adjani.
Léon :Jean Reno before he went all Sarko on us.
Diabolo menthe :Parisian childhood in the seventies.
Le Nom de la Rose : Sean Connery may not speak French, but it is partly a French production.
La Guerre du Feu : one of a kind.
Les Invasions Barbares : much more Canadian than French, but brilliant.
La Femme d'à Côté : I like Fanny Ardant and her deep voice.

We're home!

Back from a few days in the Pyrenees and home suddenly seems obscenely and wonderfully luxurious. Oh, the joys of central heating rather than dodgy electric radiators; an electrical system that doesn't cut out every time we plug in an extra appliance plunging an already gloomy house into complete darkness; a bathroom for four people not ten. My reunion with wifi and the Nespresso machine feels downright decadent.
Also, do you know easy it is to organise two children in the morning rather than six children and their skiing gear? And the best bit: after four days with a one-year-old — gorgeous as he was — my own children seem fantastically mature and reasonable.

Now if only we could have that view of the glossy white mountain tops when we open the shutters here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I am from daylight shining through summer evening curtains. I am from drizzle. I am from skiting down polished ice slides. I am from wellie boots and cagoules.

I am from “beamy ups” at the swing park. I am from Blue Peter and Crackerjack. I am from skipping and peevers. I am from knocking on the door to ask “Is she coming out to play?” I am from friends chumming each other down the road.

I am from words like ashet and foosty and girny. I am from Lassar’s paste on scabs. I am from walks in the hills and wind at the top. I am from gulls in the garden. I am from weekends of peat fires with Granny and Seanair in Argyll. I am from a fur coat and a Jaguar. I am from sweet-peas in a vase. I am from snowball fights under sodium streetlights.

I am from the path through our estate to school. I am from Harriers twice a week in Adidas spikes. I am from cross-country running. I am from the smell of cut grass and the compact mud beneath it. I am from Please Miss, Yes Miss. I am from open-plan classrooms and project work. I am from blazer, blue skirt, white blouse and school tie. I am from M&S white vests in winter, and most of summer too. I am from pageboy haircuts and skinny legs.

I am from ice-cream vans and 99 cones. I am from Tunnock’s caramel wafers and pots of tablet. I am from mince and tatties. I am from grated apples and I am from Love Hearts. I am from orange halves dipped in sugar. I am from roasted cheese. I am from school dinners.

I am from badminton in the church hall. I am from the public library. I am from Noël Streatfield books and the Famous Five and Spiggy Hole and Heidi. I am from faraway holidays on sandy beaches. I am from pictures of David Cassidy clipped from Jackie magazine. I am from radio Luxemburg under the pillow.

That’s where I’m from.

Where are you from?

Inspired by Belgian Waffle and a long chain of I am froms.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Red Round the House

Red Round the House
Red Round the House, originally uploaded by Lezzles.

I took these photos today for a 24-hour Flickr challenge. That is the the beginning and the end of my Valentine's day celebrations. Woo-hoo.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It seems that this week it's all right to blog about dieting so I feel justified in inflicting on you this account of how I lost three kilos, put them back on again, lost them again and put them back on again, all in the space of two weeks.

It all started when I saw this article on 10 common sense diet tips. Before I go any further, I should tell you that these tips were written by a man. That knowledge should have been enough to make me think twice about clicking on the link since it is a well-documented fact that all men have to do is stop taking salt on their chips and they lose 12 kilos instantly.

I perused the ten tips anyway. I didn't like seven of them so I ignored them. The ones I did like were 1. drink lots of water, 2. weigh yourself every single day, and especially 3. don't try to diet at the weekend.

1 and 2 were very effective, I lost weight. But guess what, number 3 is NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE, unless you want to be thin(ner) only on Thursdays and Fridays. It is especially ineffective if you make banoffee pie on Saturday.

Now, in a last ditch attempt to kick start my metabolism I have resorted to jogging (but only on Sundays). For the moment I feel very much like Gordon:
" feet feel at one with the shoe and I can bound forward like a gazelle.. which has recently eaten a hippo."

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Me : "Suddenly Rataxes jumped out from behind the bush, shoved the little elephants out of the way, and seized the Wully-Wully, who let out a piercing cry."

E (interrupting): Who's telling the story?

Me (confidently and in an effort not to be found intellectually wanting for a second time in one week): An omniscient narrator.

E (dubiously): mmm

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Give and thou shalt get rid of stuff

Last week the postman brought me a brown paper parcel full of Chinese cookery goodies — at least I think they’re goodies, I haven’t actually tried them yet. Anne had received a load of free samples and she was generous enough to give the extras away on her cookery blog.

In the same spirit, I’m decluttering my bookshelves this week and giving away the paperbacks in the list below. I’ve already blogged about the difficulty of getting rid of books that are surplus to requirements so this isn’t an act of generosity, it’s housework. If you’d like any of the books just leave a comment telling me which one(s), then drop me an e-mail at (but delete the haha) with your postal address and I’ll post them off to you (or I'll give them to you in person if you live close enough). Don't be shy, ask for several if you need lots of reading material. Don’t send anything in return but if you like, you could get rid of stuff give something away on your blog too. Hey, a giveaway meme!

We are the World, cue swaying.

The Books (They’re not all great works of literature — but some of them are, I just happen to have doubles)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


[Mum, you might like just to skip this one.]

Scratch, scratch. Scrape, scrape. Rustle, rustle. This time it is not a false alarm. We have mice.

They're somewhere under the floorboards in our bedroom and they are very noisy. It seems that while we've been watching episode after episode of Prison Break in the comfort of our haven of a bed, the furry critters have been working on their own escape plan UNDER OUR VERY FEET.

We've squeezed poison down all the little gaps between the planks and I even invited some neighbours around yesterday evening provided they came accompanied by their cat. I invested all my hope of every sleeping again in the hunting instinct of their pet.

Unfortunately our feline saviour was visibly shaking as he came into the house. We let him loose in the bedroom and he dived straight under the bed and stayed there for over an hour until we'd finished the apéritif and our neighbours slunk home with their cowardly, useless cat. Back to square one. Scratch, scrape rustle.

Deborah sent me a link to this post in the Guardian about the impossibility of ever ridding onself of mice. Someone in the comments mentions mice repellents which emit ultrasounds so I googled that and trawled through descriptions of thousands of electronic devices. I'm tempted, but friends tell me they're useless.

You know how when anything remotely alarming happens to you people insist on telling you about how much worse it could be / might get. "Ah you're having a baby? I know a woman who was in labour for seventeen straight days and ended up giving birth to a baby with three legs". "Going to the dentist, are you? My cousin got a bug from in a dentist's surgery. His entire jaw rotted off. I was at his funeral just last week." Today at work a colleague told me "Got mice have you? I have a friend who woke up in the middle of the night with a rat on his pillow and the rat bit his face." So please, only comments on infallible tips for total and complete mouse eradication ..........please. I may never sleep again.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Blabla Bullets

I've repainted all of the doors downstairs. Since we moved into this house eight years ago, they've been a deep and jarring red. Now they're a colour that I've known I wanted for months. I have described it to various people who know about these things as "mole-colour", "the colour of a weimeranar dog", and "pebble". Now that all of my doors are coated in it, I realise that it's really just the colour of mud (but very chic and understated mud, I think).

Yesterday we I shopped for the paint with the crowds at Castorama, E. asked, "Maman, qui a fait naître tous ces gens?" (Mummy, who brought all of these people into existence?). I mumbled something about the great mystery that is life.
(Update. On re-reading, I realise that this is not a very good translation. It makes E. sound like a 4-year-old Malcolm Muggeridge. But I still can't think of anything better.)

This week I've been working on an article for an academic journal and out of sheer, unbearable boredom I ran it through the tagcloud machine. Now I'm thinking about just submitting the cloud, it's much prettier and pithier than the article itself.
created at


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 ...