Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas : New Job, New Year, New Hope

The J-A Tree.

Well two months have slipped away and as the year comes to a close, I'm reflecting on the good, the bad and the more grey.

In October I got a job. Huzzah! And so The 9-5 Lifestyle begins and my itchy feet are tucked up in sensible work shoes. After this terrible/wonderful year it all seemed to work out okay, in the cosmic way that things seem to. Touch wood.

I worked so hard to boost my French, but in France I felt too far away from my family during a crisis period that it wasn't sustainable. Luckily (read: Thanks to a gazillion job applications) I managed to find a French-speaking role in Yorkshire. I share responsibility for our French client and can look forward to business trips to Paris. What are the chances of that, I wonder.

This year's theme: Funky Reindeer

And so my strange year of wandering comes to a close with that often-dreamt-of Family Christmas.

I'm thankful that all four of us are safe, healthy and home. 

I'm thankful for job security, a salary and annual leave. 

I'm thankful for the snow this weekend. 

I'm thankful for our shared opinion that the Weirdest Trees are the Bestest Trees. 

I'm thankful that, despite my atheism and my disdain of capitalism, my hypocrisy and childish optimism allows my to enjoy the festive period without qualms or guilt. 

I'm thankful for giving gifts that were well-received and getting presents from people who clearly understand me. 

I'm thankful for family who are friends, and friends who are family.

The Best People

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Year Ago...

A year ago today, I arrived in India.

 It was the brightest, liveliest, noisiest. A holiday of all things – cities, history, culture, mountains, hiking, cycling, beaches, swimming, boats, museums, art galleries, slums. It is full of contradictions and a place where you'll never feel like you've seen everything.

A selection of my favourite photos to mark the moment.

Jodhpur, view from Mehrangarh Fort

Ranakpur, Jain Temple

Kumbhalgarh Fort


The Taj Mahal at dusk

Mumbai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Bombay sunset

Goan beach

Madurai, Meenakshi Amman Temple

Trivandrum Ashram

Why is this place so mesmorising? Everyone recognises it but it will still blow your mind.

Can't wait until I go again...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Jack et la Mécanique du Cœur

One of the best things I saw whilst living in France was the fabulous animated film Jack et la Méchanique du Cœur, generally translated as The Boy with the Cuckcoo-Clock Heart. It is totally bizarre and magical and one of the most creative things I've seen. France makes some really corking animated films, in my opinion, so whenever I'm there I watch any that are showing.

I went into the cinema without knowing a thing. Only after I absolutely loved it did I do my research. It's based on the concept album/illustrated novel by Dionysos and their front man, Mathias Malzieu. If you want some French music in your life, that is a great one to start with.

Jack is born on the coldest day in Edinburgh and his little heart is frozen. A problem that can only be fixed, in this topsy-turvy world, with a cuckcoo-clock replacement. Poor little Jack must follow three simple rules:

Premièrement ne touche pas à tes aiguilles

Deuxièment ta colère tu devras maitriser

Et surtout ne jamais oublier quoi qu'il arrive, ne jamais se laisser tomber amoureux

Jack must not touch the cuckcoo-clock's hands. He must control his anger. And, quelle surprise, he must never ever fall in love. Alas, the teenage boy falls for a bespectacled singer, Miss Acacia, and so he starts on his quest across Europe to Andalucia.

 Why I do love this film? Well, it's so imaginative. A flying train, a two-headed mermaid, a cinematic icon, a xylophone-spine, amazing Burtinesque animation and a cracking soundtrack. However, one of the main things that I loved was that it was in French, Spanish and English. Because of that and with all of its crazy wordplay, I find it hard to imagine them ever creating a successful dubbing or subtitling. I really hope that I'm wrong and they do manage.

It's actually a favourite topic of mine and I wrote an essay at university about the untranslatablilty of one of my favourite films (Le Mepris). I've watched it with the subtitles and it's fine but I still think you lose something in the translation. I think we can be honest that Dr Seuss in another language, although still fabulous, won't be Dr Seuss. The Cat in the Hat is translated as Le Chat chapeauté. It makes perfect sense and they've got the repetition of the at/at cha/cha sounds but in a different order that doesn't seem to please the ear in the same way. And don't get me started on the Italian Il gatto col cappello. See! Amazing language, it's worth learning another just to get their poetry and literature because some things are so easily lost in translation.

Two English lyrics from the Jack et la Mécanique du Cœur album:

My motherfucking heart does, clic-cloc-ding-dong

She smells/smiles (?) like when you eat a rotten cheese

The strange and wonderful lyrics this band creates are so bizarre outside the French context. Would they keep that in an English language version? Or would they have to 'translate' that too? Young French people love knowing English, it's an impressive thing. And all the more so if you know the swear words. All the teens will be singing along and feeling kick-ass. But over here.... maybe not.

So everybody watch this film and listen to the album! Whatever language you can find it in, you don't need to understand the words to wonder at the animation.

Andalucia, Anda, Andaaaaaaaaaaaa

Friday, 19 September 2014

A British Summer

Perhaps it's time to move on. The previous post of my final night in Paris now feels like a distant memory. I've been in the UK for 3 months+ now and my constant nattering in French is becoming less acceptable. I always try to control myself by a little reminder of a favourite quotation from The Jane Austen Book Club whenever I start to say "Put the milk in the frigo":

Allegra: If only she'd stop speaking French
Jocelyn: Or at least go to France, where it would be less noticeable

 So I'm now back in Yorkshire following my summer internship in London. Living in the South was filled with celebrations: birthdays, small victories, big decisions and a reunited family.


And many many many many weekend roadtrips.

For example, this one! Arundel Castle
Magical warm evenings...

Like this one! Brockham village fair
A final trip to the seaside. We picked Bexhill-on-Sea by pointing at the map. Great descision in the end.

And after all the adventures and misadventures, we rented a big van for our old man to drive us back up the M1 to our lovely abode.

It's almost three weeks that we've been back now. I was greeted on the first evening with the spectacular sky from my attic window.

Whatever is next? There is another internship opportunity in London, more job applications. Fingers crossed for those already sent out into the world. But either way, the long and lovely summer that graced us this year was certainly appreciated.

But I do love autumn....

Bring it on!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Midnight in Paris: Time Travel Not Included

Across the Seine, all of the lights
I've been back in the UK for two months now, and when I look back over my time in Paris, one moment really sticks out: my final evening. Knowing I was leaving, and having made the most of my day in Montmartre, I invited some of my favourite Parisians out for a celebratory evening. We began, late-afternoon, on Île-de-la-cité drinking something sparkley.

Île-de-la-cité is one of the two little islands in the middle of the Seine. It's home to Notre Dame de Paris and is the centre of the capital*. There is a fantastic book, The Seven Ages of Paris, that explains the history of Paris in a really great way. Thanks to this modest knowledge, when I'm there I  imagine I'm where it all started. Before Revolutions, Sieges, World Wars, Piaf, Artists and the Palme d'Or. This island really is the heart of Paris and has a magical quality, but then I'm a Paris Romantic.

So we drank above the flowing river and under the bizarrely-placed willow tree before heading off to eat in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Obviously lovely company, lovely food, lovely wine all created a perfect final night but really, it was the ending that made it so special.

Do you remember when I took a bike ride around Paris? I was desperate to cycle but afraid to go at it alone. Well I finally rented a Vélib'. The remaining three of us giddily set off searching for our rentals. In a perfect twist of fate/destiny/timing we pedaled off to la Tour Eiffel, arriving just in time for the midnight sparkles. Clichéd? Maybe. But beautiful and memorable, which is enough for me.

Christmas Trees and Giant Broccoli taking over Paris one monument at a time
 *Disney fans, can we just take a moment to remember The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Esmarelda's map necklace. Did it really take them so long to figure out that it was Paris? The thread was blue for goodness' sake. Poor effort.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Behind the Sacré Cœur: finding Montmartre

What will I find hidden?
I visited Paris on a school trip when I was 12 and remember everyone wearing bérets, having our caricatures sketched in the Place du Tertre and forcing down tiny coffees on the steps under La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. We felt fabulous and French and I loved it. But Montmartre divides the population. It's not what it used to be, they say. The magic is still there, hidden away, say others. So on my final day in Paris, I grabbed my camera and wandered around without a map trying to stay away from the hilltop until the final moment.

If there aren't many people, you've found the right place. The old village where 19th century artists all flocked, selling their paintings for rent and meals, joined into Paris as it expanded. Stepping away from Boulevard du Clichy, you soon find the village taking over from the peep-shows.

Shops, vineyard and the Sacré cœur - but not how I remember it.
It was a lovely place to wander around with surprises popping out all over the place. A vineyard, sculptures, murals. A great spot for this flâneuse.

Le Passe-Muraille (The Man Who Walked through Walls) was sculpted by the actor Jean Marais apparently which is just mind-blowing to me - why isn't this more well-known? This statue commemorates the intriguing story by Marcel Aymé written in 1943 about a man who can - would you have guessed it - walk through walls.

Love from all over the world
I finally found myself arriving at the back of the SC and was surrounded once again by Paris's tourist population. I'm not one to shirk the mainstream and I believe usually things are popular for a reason. It can't be denied it's pretty magical atop that hill and the view over the rooftops of Paris is one of my favourites. I never could quite detach myself from my tourist persona in Paris - the fact is that it still remains totally magical and other worldly in my eyes. So never quite a Parisian, but I tried to become more than a tourist and it ended up being quite a nice space to occupy.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Crazy crafts and time flying

I'm back in the UK for my internship now and suddenly, with a 9-6 job and a commute, I find myself falling behind with my little Paris scrapbook. But I'm determined to keep going and don't want to lose all my lovely photos so will persevere to get the memories up here.

Flashback to a lunchtime break in the Jardin du Luxembourg with the lovely Melissa before our Versailles lecture. We nattered by the pond for a couple of hours where a very crafty man had displayed his handmade ship by the water. Matchsticks, lego, Hello Kitty, soft toys and rigging. He was very proud of his creation and encouraged me to snap away.

Very awesome. You might spot in the first picture, there are the little flags he encouraged people to design and stick on the mast. Passer-bys kept stopping to admire and the fact that you could add a little something made it all the better for kids, but also for the more grown-up kids, like ourselves. Good job, Monsieur!