Thursday, January 31, 2008

Le Slim

The students have all adopted "le slim" - those skinny, skinny, skinny jeans that we used to call drainpipes (didn't we, or was that just in Penicuik?). This video made me laugh because I have, I admit, sometimes wondered how the young 'uns actually manage to bend their legs in them. I also quite like it because it was shot in Bordeaux (or Bx, pour les intimes) and I recognise most of the places - the tram station I often wait at, the jardin public, a street a bit like mine.... Oh, and if you stick around until almost the end , you get a little tecktonik dancing. It's all the rage, dontcha know.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Week's Worth of Twittering

I didn't really see the point of Twitter until recently - now I see that it's all about spontaneous haivering. When I feel the urge to blurt something out or ask a silly question, I hit Twitter. Better out than in, as they say.

I'm also thinking that this Kwout button I've just added to Firefox could be really useful for instant content creation: prepare for multiple screenshots.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Road revenge

When another driver does something really dangerous and ill-mannered on the road, like cutting in millimetres in front of you or overtaking on a pedestrain crossing, do you spend the next half hour dreaming up methods of delivering comeuppance? I do.

My own preferred method would involve no road rage but simply getting out at the next red traffic light, calmly tapping on the window of the car and telling the culprit that I am the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter gifted will infallible predictive powers and that I am very sorry to have to inform him that I have just seen him die a horrible death. It's petty, I know, and needless to say I would never do it but just imagining the scene is catharsis enough.

Fictional characters are more foolhardy and I suspect that novelists sublimate their own revenge fantasies through their characters. Remember the Ann Tyler character who got her own back on a hapless old man who had committed some highway misdemeanour by later speeding past him and pointing wildly at his tyre just to cause him the inconvenience of stopping and investigating? The ploy backfired though, I can't remember exactly how, and the character ended up having to run the man home to his family.

A character in a short story by William Boyd that I read yesterday delivered the following line to a man who had stolen his newspaper, "Next time you have a piece of bad luck, think of me. Because I will be thinking of you." I quite liked that.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Return again, fair Lesley, Return to Caledonie!

As a punishment at school I was once ordered by my English teacher, Mr Broadfoot, to learn a Burns poem of my choice by heart. Being a bit of a smarty pants, I learned this one:
O saw ye bonnie Lesley,
As she gaed o'er the border?
She's gane like Alexander,
To spread her conquests farther.

To see her is to love her,
And love but her for ever;
For Nature made her what she is,
And never made anither!

Thou art a queen, fair Lesley,
Thy subjects, we before thee;
Thou art divine, fair Lesley,
The hearts o' men adore thee.

The deil he could na scaith thee,
Or aught that wad belang thee;
He'd look into thy bonnie face,
And say - "I canna wrang thee!"

The powers aboon will tent thee,
Misfortune sha'na steer thee;
Thou'rt like themsel sae lovely,
That ill they'll ne'er let near thee.

Return again, fair Lesley,
Return to Caledonie!
That we may brag we hae a lass
There's nane again sae bonnie.

I can still recite it, and indeed I frequently do — at the drop of a hat even. Just ask me.

However, the Burns poem that has been most on my mind recently is the one about the crowlin ferlie. I think of that ugly, creepin, blastit wonner every time I have to massage more of that infernal lotion into E's head .

Happy Burns Night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Every night at bedtime E asks for a story and four songs. Tonight the story is Charlie and Lola's Whoops! But it Wasn't Me for the five millionth time. Half-way into the book, I discover that I have developed a very useful new ability — I can read aloud convincingly without the words actually passing the barrier of registration in my brain - this frees up lots of cognitive capacity for important thinking. While the words coming out of my mouth might be, "I have this little sister Lola, she is drone, bla, bla, drone", the words inside my head fly to much higher planes: "Are there any chocolates left in the box? Maybe I could have just one when I go back downstairs. Did I wash Z's rugby strip for tomorrow or is it lying in a mouldering, muddy heap somewhere? Must go and check. There might even be more than one chocolate left."

The songs are a bit tricker because my reading skills are much more developed than my singing skills. E has eclectic taste in bedtime music. Tonight the requests are for :
1) The Lights of Lochindaal (because it mentions her middle name, Iona)
2) Brochan Lom (Gaelic mouth music)
3) Away in a Manger (a favourite, even in mid-summer)
4) Two Little Boys (I worry that perhaps this old Rolf Harris song glorifies war, especially after googling for that link and discovering that it is (was?) Margaret Thatcher's favourite song. If E ever joins the "ranks so blue" it will be my fault)

There were no chocolates left. And that's a good thing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Time Machine

I'm averaging about one short post here per week (usually with a glaring spelling mistake in the middle - innumerbale?!) which is pretty pathetic by any standards. So, I'm thinking that maybe stream of consciousness is the solution - free-fall mental drivel, if you like.

Today I got a spanking new iMac at work and all of a sudden the 15'' screen on my PowerBook seemed woefully cramped, but at the same time a bit chunky since I 've been consuming me some MacBook Air porn on that nice big iMac screen. Leaving the power cable for the Powerbook on my desk was undoubtedly an acte manqué - perhaps the first stage in a long goodbye. Tonight, then, finds me sans PowerBook on the same old blue bubble iMac I loved so much when I started this blog. He's almost seven-years-old now, and has been used quasi-exclusively to interact with friendly (but nevertheless weird-looking) little Adiboud'chou and his big brother Adibou of the pointy ears, by two wide-eyed children with sticky little fingers. Having caressed more pliant keyboards for two years, pressing these tacky old black keys is just such an enormous effort for my feeble fingers.
He's slow, and he doesn't know me any more - he doesn't remember my passwords or my bookmarks, he has the 2005 version of all my indispensible applications ...... but he'll do for emergency access to Scrabulous this evening, and maybe the odd twitter.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Intimidating Art

I can't think where the twelve days since we got back from Scotland have gone. But gone they have.

Apart from going back to work, playing Scrabulous, and forking out vast wads of cash to have the car repaired in a dodgy garage in a back street of one of Bordeaux's less desirable suburbs, I've been catching up with blogs mostly. I can't remember which tortuous path took me there, but I found myself of Jeannette Winterson's blog and was seized? shaken? gripped? by a tiny image of Courbet's L'Origine du Monde. It is one of those paintings that I thought I knew but had never actually set eyes on. I was a complete Origine-du-Monde virgin, and seeing it for the first time unexpectedly and with no preparation was really quite unsettling. By strange coincidence (for they are always strange, never banal n'est-ce-pas?) that very evening I was reading Julian Barnes' Something to Declare and happened upon a whole section on Courbet. I can only echo his appreciation of lush delicacy of the painting and the intimidating nature of the result, as well as its potency even after years of twentieth-century porn and erotica.

The Barnes book is also good, at least the first third is. The rest of the book turned out to be about the author of Madame Bovary and by the time I got to the end I found myself agreeing with the dyspeptic Kingsley Amis and his anti-endorsement reproduced on the back cover:
"I wish he'd shut up about Flaubert".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year and all that

I come from a country where the passing from one year to another is acknowledged with no more than a cheery, throwaway "Happy New Year" on seeing friends and family. It came as something of a shock to discover that in France people feel their new year's wishes are only sincere if they grip me by the shoulders or clench my hand in theirs, stare deep into my panicky eyes and launch into a long and detailed list of the innumerbale positive things — financial, medical, personal, professional, psychological, mechanical etc. etc. — that they wish for me in the coming year. It's all deeply embarrassing, especially my feeble two-word reciprocation: bonne année.
Anyway, consider yourselves gripped by the shoulders. Have a very happy 2008.


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 ...