Friday, December 02, 2011

Eye, eye.

For some reason my profile picture — the black and white eye — disappeared from the sidebar. It might have something to do with Blogger and Flickr hating each other, I don't know. I had to retrieve it from my hard disk and re-upload it. That was when I realised that it dates back to January 2005, when I first started blogging.

[On a side note, what should we call what I do now? It certainly isn't blogging because that would entail some semblance of regularity. It's more of a start-stop dribble now. Bli-bli-bbling might be a more appropriate term then.]

 January 2005 was nearly seven years ago. My eyes are a bit more crinkly round the edges now. That tell-tale line around my iris has also disappeared. I now wear glasses most of the time because; well because I'm ancient and contact lenses just weren't up to the job any more. In another seven years my profile photo may well feature a zimmer.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


I am the sort of person who is overwhelmed by an irresistible craving for crisps if someone opens a packet  in a film; or for a drink if I catch sight of someone in a bar on tv.

That's why it was more or less inevitable that after watching Fat, Sick and Almost Dead the other evening — a film by and about an Australian who lives off blitzed fruit and vegetables for two months, turning his weight and health around dramatically — I would rush out an buy a juicer the very next day.

For the past twenty-four hours we have been enjoying surprisingly delicious juices made from unlikely fruit and veg combinations. I hope it doesn't end up abandoned in the garage beside the bread machine.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I've seen some good films recently #3

Michou d'Auber (2007) This is a sadder version of Neuilly Sa Mère with a young Muslim boy (same actor) being sent to live with a family in small town France (Gérard Depardieu is the foster father) during the Algerian War. Worth watching. 

No Strings Attached (2011) I think this is what is commonly known as a romp. And very rompy it is.

Genova (2008) A lovely film with some beautiful footage of Genoa (beautiful if you like peeling paint and crumbling stonework, that is, which I do). Just don't expect anything very much to happen. Colin Firth looks good.

Bolt (2008) The children had seen this at the cinema when it first came out and wanted to see it again. I made them watch it in English.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) A Woody Allen film set in England. Not his best.

Louise-Michel (2008) A very strange French film, but sometimes in a good way. I like Yolande Moreau the main actress and her offbeat social-realism.

From Prada to Nada (2011) Silly, silly, silly. 

Death at a Funeral (2007) One of those British comedies where a family gets together and hilarious chaos with pseudo-meaningful undertones ensues. 

La première étoile (2009) Comedy about a black family from a housing scheme going on its first skiing holiday. A bit better than it sounds.

That's What I Am (2011) Another strange film about not fitting in at high school. The red-headed boy is memorably gangly.

Billy Elliot (2000) I didn't see this when it first came out. I was underwhelmed both by the dancing and the underdeveloped storyline.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2011) I watched this with Z who has read all of the books. He tells me that the book was better. That's ma boy.

Mars Needs Moms (2011) This is a terrible film. They used some sort of experimental animation technique and it's rubbish.

Juno (2007) Great film. I loved everything about it, especially the quirkiness of Juno herself.

..... to be continued

Doors and Windows of Mallorca

We had a sneaky extra week of summer in Mallorca last week and very relaxing it was too.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Displacement activity

As always when I have a charette as the French say (an urgent piece of work to do before an impending deadline) I find myself irresistibly attracted to the idea of a blog post.

Things on my mind:

I went to vote in the presidential primaries today and was knocked back. The cheek of it! (Apparently us furriners had to register online in July)

I'm reading Franzen's Freedom at the moment. It's very long and I don't don't really care about what happens to any of the protagonists to be honest.

I bought an iPad a couple of weeks ago at the Apple Store in Bordeaux (very sleek, very intimidating). I'm in love with the iPad of course, but so is the rest of the family, so a multi-user interface would have been a useful feature.

I'm going to Saint-Etienne at the end of next week and I'll be in Lyon on Saturday night. On my own. (Anyone live in Lyon? or Lyons if you're British ... very British).

I loved the last series of The Big C, and Weeds wasn't bad either. I can't be bothered watching Grey's Anatomy any more, or Dexter. House is still good though.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

365, well sort of anyway.

I'm still plugging away at the 365 Photo-a-Day project. There are some missing from the latest batch below (May - mid-Sept), mainly because I can't be bothered to work out which days are missing and add them, and other days I just forgot. I started using Instagram for these photos on 1st May because it seemed more interesting and creative somehow — okay, in fact,  it was because every one else was doing it.  If you look carefully you should be able to see the children's goldfish Sammy and Danny (they're still alive), my bike, the London Review Bookshop, an memorial to American nurses in Bordeaux, Robert Louis Stevenson's house in Edinburgh, the walkway over the lake for Vinexpo, a few beaches,  a Nordic walking expedition (my new pseudo sport), e tutti quanti.
(Post updated with a more limited selection of photographs because the original attempt went completely wonky)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Le Marathon du Médoc

Last Saturday I got up at the crack of dawn and drove some friends to Pauillac to run in the Marathon du Médoc, also known as the world's longest marathon.

Now, if you're mad enough to slog your guts out running a marathon, there probably isn't anywhere better to do it than in the Médoc because this is a run with a twist or two.

The route takes the runners through the vineyards and courtyards of twenty-three chateaux where, naturally, the refreshments tables groan under hundreds, nay thousands, of glasses of excellent Médoc wine along with oysters, and cured ham, and ice cream and all sorts of other local gastronomic goodies.

And as if that wasn't enough, the whole thing is done in fancy dress. Almost everyone makes some sort of effort except for the odd party pooper in boring old lycra shorts and a running vest. This year the theme was animals so we cheered on cows, ladybirds, zebras, bunnies, pigs —and the odd man  defiantly dressed as a woman — as they hirpled, sprinted and staggered their way back to the quays in Pauillac. The ears were a bit droopy and the tails were sometimes a little less than bushy by the time they got to the finishing line.

My friends Steve and Jim had come all the way from Fife for this, with Alexia to cheer them on. We met others who'd come from even further afield including a mother and her son who had come from Philadelphia just for the weekend, some Swedes, loads of boozy Brits, and a surprising number of Japanese people. There were 8500 very sweaty participants in all.

Despite the very high temperatures, which had just about reached a sweltering 30°C by the end, the Scots didn't give in and take off their kilted cow outfits and, of course, felt duty bound to taste each and every wine. In fact, when they realised they were in danger of coming in under the five-hour mark, they sat down, enjoyed the view, and had a second glass at the last chateau.

Mad, mad, mad. And no I won't be doing it myself next year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


As usual we split the rest of the summer between the Dordogne and Scotland.

For the Scotland trip this year we spent a week on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. I lived on the island for five years when I was a child but I had never been back. I can't think why. Every spartan township; every seaweedy smell; every wheeling bird brought back happy memories of a carefree childhood.

Tiree is heaven on earth when it's sunny - endless white beaches, big skies, rock pools to explore, flat machair to walk across. And when the weather is bad — as it was on the last day of our holiday — it's really bad, excitingly bad, with howling gales and horizontal rain.  It's a wonderful, other-worldly sort of place. Here are some photos:

Evening sky Rainbow over Balemartin Balemartin beach P1120539 Postbox at Gott Bay

More here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bye-bye Summer

Well I suppose that must be summer nearly over. It's been a good one, apart from a couple of minor mishaps like LOSING MY FLIPPING PASSPORT just before a flight to London. I was heading off to a conference at Saint Mary and the bloody thing (GB passports are the colour of blood, have you noticed?) just disappeared into thin air — pouf! I ended up missing my flight, getting an emergency passport from the nice ladies at the consulate and buying a replacement Easyjet ticket. The conference was worth it though -two days of stimulating talk on the subject of the literary essay from some very clever people. Unfortunately I had to leave just before the end and missed the speaker I most wanted to see, Geoff Dyer. I love Geoff Dyer's writing and if you've never read any of his books, you really should.

The upside of losing my passport was that I then found myself stuck in Edinburgh for a week while E had her course of total immersion in English a.k.a. being spoilt rotten by Grandma. The stay in Edinburgh gave me a chance to do some work in the National Library and, even better, to catch up with old and new friends.

This was a stay I hadn't budgeted for so I stayed in the cheapest place possible - the student residence at Pollock Halls. If you're not too bothered about fancy sheets and chocolates on your pillow, you can't really do much better than Pollock Halls. For a start it's only £28 a night and that includes a massive breakfast - square sausage, black pudding, potato scones, the lot. And then ... well that's it really. You're near city centre and you're right next to Arthur's Seat but it's still a student residence with single beds, shared bathrooms, carpets that have probably been vomited on by countless generations of students, and the lonely studenty feeling of waiting for something better to happen.

That Edinburgh studenty feeling was conjured up again, later in the summer, by the novel One Day which you have no doubt read since I saw it in the hands of at least a dozen people I crossed over with during the summer. (Has anyone seen the film yet?) The passport debâcle turned out to be book-related too - almost as soon as we landed in Edinburgh, I found it in my luggage. I had apparently been using it as a bookmark in a tedious book I had reluctantly brought along to review. Gah.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The non-Sartorialist

Do you read The Sartorialist blog? I do. I like the quirky clothes although I suspect that the photographs of women are more about the uniformly spindly body shape than the clothes. I particularly like the vintage photos that readers send in mostly of their grandparents or parents kicking back on holiday.

It's a bit splotchy, and probably not up to Sartorialist standards, but this is a photograph of my grandfather Thomas Long. At the time this photograph was taken, probably in the mid 1930s, he was working as a builder's labourer in and around Hamilton in Scotland. He would later own his own building contractor's business. I love the nonchalant pose and the effortless elegance just for a day out at the seaside.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Campus grafitti

I'm not a great fan of urban grafitti generally — I find it mildly threatening — but I have to admit that there's something funky and fascinating about this ribbon of grafitti around the bottom of a shoebox building on the campus in Pessac.

Monday, May 30, 2011


When I discovered that there was going to be a TEDx event in Bordeaux, I thought hell, yeah, I'd like to be there so I duly signed up and bought my 40€ ticket.

However, I hadn't really thought about why I was interested in the event. Like everyone else I've watched a lot of TED presentations on the internet. I find the format snappy and the content (almost) unfailingly interesting. But I hadn't thought about what the added value of actually being there would be as opposed to viewing later on a screen.

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the lecture theatre at Bordeaux's Museum of Modern Art, the CAPC, but to be honest it turns out that there isn't actually a lot of added value in being there. The organisers probably realise this and attempt to compensate by promoting the hour-long break as an opportunity to "network" with speakers and other participants. I'm useless at networking and I didn't make any new friends during the break but I did take the photo above of people mingling on the roof terrace of the CAPC at one end of that very long work of art.

The speakers aren't announced before the event so it's something of a pig in a poke, you just have to trust the local organisers to come up with a varied selection of good communicators with something interesting to say in no more than 18 minutes. In Bordeaux there were several excellent talks - slick presentations, well delivered with a clear and meaningful message, there was one truly dreadful presentation and the rest were middling. We heard about copyright and creation, the internet in Africa, a new type of physiotherapy centred on the pelvis, Montessori and the child's need for independence, Dead drops, Opensource software, new tools for NGOs, as well as musings on the future of the internet.

There were also two musical sets. One by a group called Sun Seven and another by a double bassist. I heard a little embarrassed sniggering during the latter - perhaps unsurprisingly free impro contemporary double bass doesn't seem to be everyone's cup of tea. Fadhila Brahimi later got us all to stand up and sing together. More used to being on the giving-orders side of happy-clappiness, I tend to get a little panicky when press-ganged into any group activities and was more than relieved when it was time to sit back down again once the rather facile lesson that companies should make people work together more had been made explicit.

Other lessons that I gleaned from the afternoon:
  • Simply saying the work "geek" to a French audience guarantees laughter whatever the context. Fair enough.
  • Over-rehearsal often comes across as ham acting but under-rehearsal is cringily worse.
  • No amount of coaching can compete with innate showmanship.
  • The bare legs look is not a good look under spotlights, I must remember that.
The theme was "Ensemble" , and most speakers paid lip service to that idea in some way. After the intermission, a young man asked me if I would mind moving back a row so that he and his friends could have six seats all together — "puisque le thème, c'est ensemble" he added without the slightest hint of irony.

(I'll add a link to the presentations as soon as they become available.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Stroll in the Jardin Botanique

Not this weekend but a couple of weekends ago, and really just an excuse to play around with Picasa which mosaic-maestro Lucy pointed me to.
The Linnaeus bust in the bottom right-hand corner is the work of the talented Lucie Geffré - I think he's aging well. As indeed is the Jardin Botanique itself. A few years ago it was brand new: a flat, mineral wasteland in the then unpopular Bastide quartier. Now, it is a watery, green place busy with families picnicking on travel rugs, babies napping in prams under trees, and elderly people peering at unfamiliar plants.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Recent Reading

The Slap by Christos Tolkias 2011. Recounts, person by person, the repercussions in an extended Greek-Australian family of a father slapping someone else's unbearable child. Tails off into tedious psycho-drama in the second half. Would make a good film.
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson, 2010. I can't help feeling that Kate Atkison underuses her talent in this series of books. They all hinge of on the coalescence of unbelieveable coincidences, a device that I think undermines her fabulous sense of character and narrative. Still a great read though. Best line - "ladies who lurch".
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, 2006. I enjoyed this account of the mechanisms and effects of instant decisions and intuitions. I'm highly sceptical though about the theory that says that certain Americans are more impulsive because their forefathers hailed from the Scottish-English Borders where cattle rustling was rife and aggression the only means of survival. We are generally quite a peace loving nation, honest. Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to download "Outliers" and I'm in the process of finishing that.
A Widow's Story: A Memoir by J. C. Oates 2011. Blogged my reaction to this a few weeks ago.
The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch, 2011. A friend recommended this authobiographical narrative in terms that were more incandescent than glowing and I was blown away by the writing which was quite unlike anything I have ever read before. Despite some reservations about aspects of the story (especially the complete absence of any self-criticism ) and its delivery - I object to being collared by authors as a singular "you" who probably doesn't "get it", I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
Solar by Ian McEwan, 2011. Extremely funny - I frequently guffawed at McEwan's portrayal of this puffed-up middle-aged man. I especially liked the bit where he "only half ran back to his car" after an altercation with a burly builder because "he had his dignity".
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik, 2001. American journalist lives in Paris, writes articles about life there than realeases them all as a book. And it's a good one, if slightly dated now.
How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell, 2010. I loved this venture into literary popularization that cleverly intertwines a biography of Montaigne with readings of the essays. By half way through I was itching to read the essays themselves.
The Gravedigger's Daughter: A Novel by Joyce Carole Oates, 2008. A slightly tedious historical novel. I'm not quite sure what the point was.
Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing by Tim Parks, 2010. I blogged my rather self-indulgent reaction to this quite brilliant book a while ago.
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend, 1998. I had never read this and thought it was about time I filled this gap in my popular culture reference system. I read The Cappuccino Years too, but that's enough.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I've seen some good films recently #2

My Own Love Song (2010)
It's difficult to understand how a film starring Renée Zellweger and Forest Whitaker, with a decent storyline and some fantastic Louisiana landscapes ended up as such a messy dog's dinner, but it did. (Forest Whitaker plays a character reminiscent of Lennie in Of Mice and Men, or Benny in Crossroads, depending on your frame of reference).

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
I thought this would be the perfect film to keep both children happy since it combines sport for the boy and some chaste kissing for the girl. Neither of them liked it very much though. I thought it was all right.

Invictus (2009)
I'd seen this before and Z has watched it at least ten times. Still holding up.

The Last Song (2010)
My daughter E loved this Miley Cyrus film. She's eight and that's the age you'd have to be to get anything out of it I suspect.

Martian Child (2007)
We all really enjoyed this story of a child who thinks he's from Mars and the man (John Cusak) who adopts him.

Last Night (2010)
A film about sexual and emotional fidelity / infidelity. Keira Knightley and Guillaume Canet aren't too shabby in it. The real star for me though was the wooden flooring in the NY apartment.

Neuilly sa mère! (2009)
This is the kids' favourite film at the moment. It's the story of a boy who moves from a cité to live with his rich relatives in the priviliged Paris suburb of Neuilly. His cousin is a big fan of the French president and some of the Sarko jokes are really quite good. Recommended.

Made in Dagenham (2010)
Saw this one in the cinema. Like Mad Men, it's one of those productions in which we get to laugh at how unenlightened we were in the '60s. And like so many of these enjoyable British social comedies with a message, the message is so diluted that it doesn't come across with any force.

Inception (2010)
I bought the DVD for P for Christmas. We were both enormously disappointed with it - big budget nothingness.

Precious (2009)
Loved this film about being born to the most evil mother ever, being deprived of almost everything but turning out all right really. I liked Gabourey Sidibe in The Big C too.

I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
I liked this one too, but Ewan MacGregor's American accent isn't up to much, is it?

Le Mac (2010)
Pitiful French comedy starring the usually-better José Garcia.

A Single Man (2009)
Fabulous, aesthetically pleasing film. Colin Firth is excellent as usual.

De zeven van Daran, de strijd om Pareo Rots (2008)
Dutch film for kids. Apparently it's one in a projected series of seven. I won't be watching the others.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
I'd like to avoid the hackneyed term "epic tale" to describe this one but no other will do really. So, I enjoyed this epic tale of a group of friends who grow up together in New York. Not only had I never seen the film before, I had never even heard of it. Robert de Niro is great throughout.

Passengers (2008)
Strange film about the aftermath of a plane accident. Watchable.

The Merry Gentleman (2008)
Man invites village to his funeral but he isn't dead yet. I seem to remember that this was also the plotline of an episode of Little House on the Prairie.

Updated to correct some shocking typos.

Project 365: March/April

This lot includes an advert for horse manure, some bluebells, a Japanese restaurant, a Kindle, some paperbacks, at least two bedrooms, and a few bottles of wine.
I did forget one day in this batch and I had to make do with an extra photo from the day before. That's another project buggered then I suppose, but I shall plough on regardless.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

News from Stockholm

Last week, I had a drink with long-time blogger friend Ksam who was in Bordeaux on business. One of the things we talked about, on a balmy evening, was cultural differences in approaches to customer service. Basically, in most English-speaking countries the customer is always right whereas in France, the customer is very often a bothersome inconvenience.

The next day was a wonderful, hot sunny Saturday and I broke out a new pair of bright pink trousers that I'd bought in Zara about a month previously in preparation for the first days of summer. After the usual moment of mirror-mediated doubt (pink on those thighs, really?) and the grateful acceptance of totally-objective fashion advice from an eight-year-old ("t'es troooooop belle"), I noticed that one of the outside seams was completely wonky.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the receipt, but that's no problem with faulty goods is it? Off I set for Zara to exchange them for a pair without a seam hernia, anticipating apologies on their part and gracious acceptance on mine. Mistake! A manager who looked as if she hadn't eaten anything since 1998 stonewalled for a while, asked how she was to know I hadn't stolen the trousers; said they looked as if they had been worn; gave me a condescending lecture on how important it is to keep all receipts; grudgingly agreed to exchange them just this once as a gesture of goodwill; then flounced off with one last glare from her dead-fish eyes.

I can't stand the whining about France that fills many expat Twitter timelines, but I also think that when you've lived in another country for a long time, a sort of Stockholm syndrome sets in and you begin to accept the blatant failings of that country as quite acceptable, noble even. I'm going to have to get me some hostage assertiveness training.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Widow's Story - sort of

I've read my first book on the new Kindle: Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story. About half way through this memoir — the story of JCO losing her husband in 2008 — I got a little bored. I could understand the relief that she got out of writing about her grief, the minutiae of insomnia, thoughts of suicide, and her impatience with thoughtless condoleance gifts, but I couldn't quite see what I was supposed to gain from reading about it. Actually it wasn't half-way through, it was exactly 64% into the book, you can tell those things on a Kindle.

Taking a break from the book, I remembered having seen photographs of JCO and her husband in the New Yorker a while ago and Googled to find them. As I typed the query into the box, Google auto-complete came up with "Joyce Carol Oates remarriage". Surely not?

But yes, here I was reading about and sympathising with the detail of the writer's apparently insurmountable grief at the loss of her partner of forty-five years, when in fact she was engaged to another man just eleven months after husband's death, and remarried shortly after that. She had moved on long before the book came out yet invited me to wallow in her unhappiness a little longer.

It seems to me that there is something profoundly dishonest about that; a betrayal almost. I ploughed (okay, clicked) my way through the rest of the book in a decidedly more critical sprit. The photographs had shown an emaciated cross between Sissy Spacek and Tim Burton's Alice, a face it was more difficult to warm to than facelessness. I grew impatient with her toying with the non-starter idea of suicide, and entertained a growing suspicion that this book was no more than a working up of the notes this prolific author had taken in the immediate aftermath of her husband's death along with some name-dropping e-mail exchanges.

Finally, but perhaps this is an American thing, it seems to me that it's a terrible mistake not to attend one's own husband's cremation.

If this was a real paper book, I would have listed it on BookMooch by now. But what do you do with an e-book you don't want?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Decisions, decisions

Kids here go to high school (or collège) early — Z will only be ten when he leaves the safe, comfortable environment of the primary school he's been at since he was just out of nappies.

Almost all of his bosom buddies will be going to the collège in our quartier, a short walk from our street. It's a nice school with just 440 pupils, and a friendly atmosphere. Another advantage is that they have a "section européenne" that specialises in German. So Z could just do German for the first two years and start English later; not a bad idea for a boy who's already pretty good at English.

Basically, we'd be quite happy for him to continue his education at the school for our catchment area and of course he's very keen to stay with his pals, to perfect his mucking-about-in-the-playground skills. However, there is another possibility.

A ten-minute walk in the opposite direction from our house takes you to another, much bigger collège with 900 pupils. This one has a very special international programme just for bilingual children and families come from hundreds of kilometres away to get into it. There's a written and spoken English test to get into the class and the children that do get in are worked hard with extra classes in English language and literature. History is taught in English too. It's a small, tight-knit class and a very enthusiastic American teacher gives them lots of personal attention and encourages high achievement.

Is this the right environment for Z ? Could he take the extra pressure? Is he "academic" enough? Is his English good enough to pass the test (mea culpa, mea maxima culpa)? I think that if we can get him on our side on this, he might thrive. But then I think he'll also thrive in the regular collège.

This is a first-world, middle-class dilemma, I'm keenly aware of that. We're wonderfully lucky to live in a country that still believes in a public education system in which we have the luxury of choosing between two perfectly good options. But God, I hate making decisions, and I hate contemplating pushing our wee boy out of his (and our) comfort zone and into what might turn out to be a bit of a hot-house.

(PS. If you read French, Caroline had a really funny post the other day about the social politics of choosing a collège, even for those who don't have to deal with the language question)

Tips for giving a good lecture

3D! Why didn't I think of that? If only I'd seen this before those lectures in February.
(From A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor)

Monday, March 28, 2011

A day on the Bassin with Materfamilias

I haven't met many blogger friends - only two actually; Sarah and Stella. This weekend made three when Materfamilias and her husband came down to Bordeaux on a side trip from their vacation in Paris and we spent an evening and an afternoon together. It's nice to finally meet people when you have been reading them for years and you already feel (perhaps erroneously) that you know lots about them. You can skip a lot of the awkward niceties, and finally put a voice to the words. Of course, they were lovely, just as I knew they would be.
We spent Sunday afternoon on the Bassin d'Arcachon and I had fun showing off some of my favourite places. My glutei maximi are feeling rather delicate today since they dragged me to the top of the Dune to Pyla then stopped me tumbling all the way back down again. The children applied no such braking mechanisms. A good time was had by all.
(By the way that first photograph in the mosaic below may be a sandy colour but it certainly didn't taste like sand. It's my dessert from Saturday evening at La Table du Vieux Saint Pierre, une bonne adresse).

Come back soon les Familias!

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's my Birthday and I'll Cry if I Want To

Yes, it's my birthday today but this afternoon we're going to our friend Marie's funeral. She was only forty-five, a lovely person and a great mum to two super children. She died after a long and painful batte against cancer. So today I'm not going to complain about aging, I'm going to reflect on the fact that it is a privilege to grow older.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Project 365: Feb+

I'm still taking a photo every day. I have sometimes only remembered when I'm in bed and then I just took a photograph of whatever was on my bedside table. And I did forget completely one day, but luckily I'd accidentally taken a short video with my phone so I was able to use a still from that.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Fuerteventura: Bonsoir, have a good evening, gracias.

As you know, we like to head south during one of the shorter school holidays. It's never something that we plan a long time in advance, but last week's February holiday was an exceptionally last minute affair. Dismayed by the weather forecast for Bordeaux, I found cheap tickets to Fuerteventura online on Thursday, then booked accommodation on Friday, threw some shorts and t-shirts in a bag on Saturday and headed off on Sunday.

We opted for an all-inclusive hotel thing this time, mainly because villas on Fuerteventura turned out to be so much more expensive than on the neighbouring island Lanzarote, and much more difficult to come by. At least the children will be happy, we thought, with other kids to play with and a "mini club" and all of those other exciting things that go on in hotels that boring old parents are no good at providing. (I secretly hoped that they might even become chummy with some British children and brush up on their English at the same time)

This plan backfired a little because, of course, once they'd made (exclusively French) friends the children certainly didn't want to go off and explore any boring old museums or unspoiled fishing villages, or volcanic landscapes. So we negotiated ..... every single trip outside of the hotel compound.

Happy children notwithstanding, next time, it will definitely be a villa. Not least because although the food was delicious; the rooms spacious and impeccably clean; the tropical gardens lush and the staff irreproachably smiley: the muzak drove us up the wall and the multilingual commentaries from the entertainment team reminded P of nothing so much as the daftie in The Name of the Rose (although I don't think there was any Latin involved). Unsurprisingly when you use four different languages in one high-speed sentence it comes out as meaningless Eurobabble even if all of the words are correct.

However, a bit of winter sun, as the brochures say, never did anyone any harm and Fuerteventura is a superb island. I'd like to go back sometime to explore further afield. More photos here, if you think you can take it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

I've seen some good films recently

For various reasons — a new television, a new Freebox, fewer scruples — I've seen quite a few films recently. Some excellent and some beyond bad. I started keeping a list on IMDb, just in case I started to forget.

Never Let Me Go (2010)
I liked this film much more than the book. It was visually soothing: I especially liked the greys and the taupes of the children's hand-knitted cardigans and the peeling walls of their school.

The Stepfather (2009)
Dreadful, dreadful film. Everything I hate: murder, shallow characters, Patrick Swayze lookalikes.

D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
I watched this one with the children who asked if the colours in all films were dull like that back in the day when I was young. Well, yes I suppose they were.

Away We Go (2009)
Thoroughly enjoyed this story of a young couple expecting their first baby, and travelling from city to city to find the perfect place to settle down. The ending is rubbish but the rest is a great exploration of modern stereotypes we're all annoyed by, and I laughed a lot.

Get Low (2009)
This story of a reclusive old man who arranges his own funeral was good but it could have been much much better. Occasional whiffs of Little House on the Prairie.

Main Street (2010)
Colin Firth with a Texan accent. Hmmm. But Orlando Bloom wasn't too shabby.

Bright Star (2009)
I really liked this rather whimsical story Keats's last love affair. The costumes were lucious if a little too modern to be entirely believable.

Copie conforme (2010)
I've mentioned this one already. Juliette Binoche and an unknown (to me) English baritone act out a strange aftermath to their relationship (or maybe not) in gorgeous Tuscany. Definitely made me want to see more by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.

The King's Speech (2010)
I enjoyed this, but who didn't? I particularly liked the scenes in the speech-therpist's Harley Street basement with peeling paint, the patina of grubbiness, faded carpets.

Somewhere (2010)
The story of an actor and his relationship with his young daughter. Nothing really happens but it is all rather diverting.

The Social Network (2010)
Yes, not bad but I thought the beginning was much stronger than the end.

Welcome to the Rileys (2010)
I like James Gandolfini and I loved this story of a couple in late middle age coping with loss.

Fargo (1996)
Hard to believe that this film is already fifteeen years old. I don't think I enjoyed it quite as much the second time round, but it's still classic cinema.

Finding Forrester (2000)
A film with lots of good intentions. Sean Connery plays an aging, reclusive author befriended by a young black kid who wants to write. There are some good lines. Like "The first key to writing is... to write, not to think! "

I Love You, Man (2009)
Amusing film. Starring Chandler.

It's Complicated (2009)
Silly story about a divorced couple that gets back together again. Meryl Streep and Alex Baldwin 's talents are underused.

L'homme de chevet (2009)
I abhor the simpering Sophie Marceau, but Christophe Lambert plays an interesting character in this story of a disabled woman who needs someone to look after her.

Burn After Reading (2008)
I totally missed the point of this film. I mean what was it about exactly?

Quiz Show (1994)
I quite enjoyed this story of corrupt morals - what about you?

There's a function on the IMDb My Movies page where I can create a ballot and you can go and rate the films on my list. Go on, humour me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Project 365: January

I've managed to take a photograph every day in January. I know there's one day left but 31 is such an inconvenient number for making even-sided squares.
It hasn't been too difficult but I have occasionally forgotten until the very last minute hence the photographs of bedtime reading, and dirty dishes and tv screens. Other than that, there's a bit of everything, sausages and skulls, House (Dr.) and hearth, supermarkets and soup.
It's been fun, so I'm going to continue, and who knows perhaps there will be a little more sun in February.

(Individual photos are clickable. Isn't that clever?)


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 ...