Sunday 30 November 2008

Do you know how Christmas trees are grown?

It might be a bit early, but my wife and I did the Christmas tree today. Tomorrow might have been more appropriate technically, as it is the beginning of Advent, but today is the weekend and we had time to spend on it, so it was more practical. Some people are so obsessive that they put it on early November, so we are not so bad anyway. Sadly, we bought by mistake the one with the slim line and not the large one (mea culpa, I am the one who picked it up), but it is our first Christmas tree so I won't complain too much. She blogged about it herself. Anyway, it is nice to have a Christmas tree, even an artificial one, it puts us in a festive mood. I can't wait to smell the real Christmas tree in my parent's house though. I put some pictures here of the tree. You can see at the top right the very first Christmas decoration I bought for here, when I started my job in 2007. For some reason, I am particularly fond of it.

Now, people may wonder where I got the title of this post. It is not from me, and I understand that it is ironic to have it as a title about an artificial Christmas tree. Still, it has a good ring to it, so I decided to put it here. It is actually the title of a song in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The song is a bit silly, but really enjoyable. In the movie, its silliness actually works to make the scene works beautifully. Because it is set mostly during Christmas time, On Her majesty's Secret Service is one of my favourite seasonal movies. I found the song on youtube (with rather poor and irrelevant images, sadly) and I put it here to kick start Christmas season:

Dernier jour de novembre

Nous sommes le dernier jour de novembre déjà. Ce qui veut dire que demain c'est l'Avent. Comme à chaque mois ou presque, je place ici une image de Detective Tales sur le blogue, un numéro de novembre bien sûr. C'est une petite tradition qui ne semble intéresser que moi, mais ça changera des images de Noël qui risquent de saturer ce blogue pour un mois.

Saturday 29 November 2008

That darn wedding cake

I don't like fruit cakes anymore. I used to, there were some nice Christmas cakes that my dad used to make that tasted quite good, and some other he used to buy from some charity organisation that was absolutely lovely (and which I used to have for breakfast sometimes), but not since I got married. If you don't know it already, English people traditionally have fruit cakes for wedding cakes. For me, fruit cakes (this sort of fruit cakes anyway, not the raisin cake I bake sometimes) were one of those many Christmas desserts, not something to have all year round. My wife doesn't like them, she never did, not even the aforementioned raisin cake that is from her grandmother's recipe. And it seemed a bit heavy and not sugary enough for my taste. That said, I am a traditionalist at heart, so again my better advice, I decided with my wife to be to go with the traditional British wedding cake, bought at Marks & Spencer at a reasonable price. The wedding was a great success, we had a wonderful wedding reception at a beautiful venue, where they served us great food, I never had such a decadent chocolate marquise in my whole life (I still miss), I sang New york, New York in front of an actual audience (well, more people than a couple of drunken friends) and everything went really beautifully. Except for that darn cake, which almost nobody ate and probably nobody enjoyed. Many did not like fruit cakes, others were allergic to nuts so didn't have any (with all the marzipan covering it, this thing can be pure poison), some were simply too full to eat it after the very filling meal (and the lovely marquise) and in the end, I got stuck with the wedding cake almost intact, after struggling with my wife to cut through it for the pictures. (For my Facebook friends, I think there are some pics of me immortalising that moment. It was like cutting through thick wood). I ate the first layer almost every morning for breakfast in the first month of the wedding, then I kept the other two in the freezer. We still have them, so I started eating it again for breakfast not so long ago. I try, I really do, I hate to waste food, especially one that has that sort of symbolical significance. But I really get almost sick when I take a bite of that dry cake covered with sickeningly thick marzipan. Horrid. I posted two pictures of it here, when it was whole and nice to look at (at least it was somehow useful) and how the middle layer looks a year later. Oh, and I put a picture of the marquise, just to have a memory of it on this blog (it was that good) and to taunt my readership.


"En verrai ge jamais la fin
De voz oeuvres, Melancolie?
Quant au soir de vous me deslie
Vous me ratachez au matin"
Rondeaux, Charles d'Orléans

Je n'admire pas Charles d'Orléans autant que François Villon, mais j'aime quand même beaucoup son oeuvre. Les poètes du Moyen Âge savaient exprimer mieux qu'aucun de leurs successeurs la mélancolie. Je ne suis pas tout à fait mélancolique, mais dans cette période avant les Fêtes, quand la neige n'apparaît pas, qu'il ne fait pas tout à fait assez froid pour me tenir alerte et que novembre ressemble toujours trop à novembre, je m'ennuie un peu. Cela dit, ma femme et moi allons faire du magasinage pour les Fêtes cet après-midi et il y a déjà des lumières de Noël, alors je crois que je vais me guérir de ce sentiment lancinant, qui, puisqu'il ne m'inspire pas autant que les poètes que j'admire, m'est un peu inutile.

Friday 28 November 2008

Le petit ours gris

Je vous offre aujourd'hui une autre chanson de Félix Leclerc, pas sa plus connue puisque je préfère faire découvrir ses oeuvres plus obscures. Elle est parfaite pour les journées grises, bien que les matins secs et glacés se font rares par ici.

Discover Felix Leclerc!

Thursday 27 November 2008

A crow on the roof

This morning, I took a picture of this crow up on the roof. I couldn't get a closer shot, sadly. I barely had time to take the picture before it flew away. As a kid, I didn't like crows, I thought they were quite noisy. We had lots of them any time of year. Now I really like them, partially because we had so many of them in the neighbourhood when I was a child. They are intelligent and beautiful creatures and even their croak has a certain charm. They used to have a bad reputation in ancient times, probably because they were stealing harvest, were scavengers and had that sinister shiny black colour. Even not so long ago, a crow on the roof of a house like this would have meant that one of its inhabitant was going to die soon. I like crows, but I prefer ravens, which are much bigger and much scarier. Life is not very exciting around here, things might happen next week but right now things are not happening, so I end up taking pictures of birds.

Il a neigé au Québec...

...mais pas ici. Je regarde les prévisions météo de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique et je suis envieux. Ici, j'attends la neige, mais je crois qu'elle ne viendra pas. Il fait sombre de plus en plus tôt, à quatre heures les lumières commencent à baisser, mais il ne neige pas. Je ne suis pas impatient, mais ça mettrait un peu de couleur au paysage. Enfin, il reste un peu moins d'un mois avant Noël. Patience, patience...

Wednesday 26 November 2008

I'm dreaming of home

"I hear the mountain birds
The sound of rivers singing
A song I've often heard
It flows through me now
So clear and so loud
I stand where I am
And forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home

It's carried in the air
The breeze of early morning
I see the land so fair
My heart opens wide
There's sadness inside
I stand where I am
And forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home

This is no foreign sky
I see no foreign light
But far away am I
From some peaceful land
I'm longing to stand
A hand in my hand
...forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home"

Let's start by a bit of triviality before I get down to serious business. Tonight I will teach for the first time in a bit more than a year. It is on behalf of a language school, for one student. I feel a bit rusty, but I think I will be all right. I should be happy, but it's not exactly the kind of teaching I wanted to do, I thought when I started working in Liverpool that language schools were below my skills and that I would finally be a real, full-time lteacher. How the mighty have fallen (not that I ever was that mighty to begin with, but still).

Since inspiration hasn't quite arrived yet, since I am feeling homesick, with Christmas coming and everything, and since I forgot to put it on Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday, I have decided to put here I'm dreaming of home, which I discovered in the movie Merry Christmas/Joyeux Noël (a nice movie, by the way). And I just found out that Natalie Dessay sings in the movie version of the song, so that's another reason to like it. This song illustrates perfectly the longing of the expatriate like myself.

Tuesday 25 November 2008


C'est la Sainte-Catherine aujourd'hui. Essayez de manger de la tire,des restes que vous avez gardés de l'Halloween. Ou alors, lisez ce conte, dont j'ai déjà parlé ici et qui est un petit bijou d'atmosphère. Je l'ai lu en quatrième année et je m'en rappelle encore, c'est dire. Si vous trouvez la tire trop collante, c'est une excellente façon de souligner la fête que de le lire. C'est d'ailleurs tout ce que je vais faire pour souligner ce 25 novembre.

Monday 24 November 2008

Saint Catherine's Day tomorrow

Well, I am a bit early for this, but I thought I would remind my Anglophone readership that it is St-Catherine's Day tomorrow. I will write a post about it in French tomorrow with the usual nostalgia, children souvenirs nobody wants to hear about but my brothers and I, so I won't bother you too much with childhood memories. That said, Saint Catherine's Day is a fascinating little holiday that is sadly forgotten these days. It is one month before Christmas and for Quebeckers it used to be the last big day until Christmas. It didn't start the Advent, but it was still a way to pass time until then. It was, in effect, our Thanksgiving. It was also the day of unmarried women and spinsters, as Saint Catherine is the holy patron of virgins. As a child, I didn't know much about the saint, but I knew that "coiffer Sainte Catherine" meant, for unmarried women of 25, becoming "vieille fille", i.e. a spinster. As a child, 25 seemed very old to me, and I wouldn't understand why any man in his right mind would want to marry a woman so ancient anyway, so the tradition made sense. Obviously, I didn't know I was going to marry at 30 a woman aged 26 going on 27. In France, they had Saint-Catherine's hats or wigs to celebrate the event. In Québec, we used to make tire, which is taffy,"like Marguerite Bourgeoys" now a saint herself), who introduced taffy in America and evangelised natives by bribing them with the candy (the way we were told her story, that's how I understood it). So that's what I loved about Saint-Catherine's Day: the taffies, which we used to cool on snow, when there was some. Funny that a day so austere was also for us another day of sugar indulgence. But the holiday served also as a warning for the girls who were too eager to get a husband. We were told the cautionary tale of Colette, a maid approaching 25 who did not want to become a spinster, and who tried too hard to get married before Saint Catherine's Day. If you can understand French, you can read her story here. It's a beautiful conte québécois the way I love them: simple, dark, with no happy ending.

I didn't know how to commemorate the day, and then I found recently at total random this song by the McGarrigle sisters, which is called Complainte pour Sainte-Catherine. Granted, it is more about the rue Sainte-Catherine in Montreal, not the day or the saint herself, but the "pour" in the title means that the song is addressed to the saint, so I took it as a sign. Anyway, I don't know if it is the thick Quebec anglophone accent, the use of joual, the way the lyrics picture perfectly a cold winter day in Montreal, but I found the song irresistible.

Orange sanguine

Il fait froid, mais il n'y a toujours pas de neige. Que ce pays est gris ces jours-ci. Il a plu abondamment hier, de cette pluie froide qui pénètre tout. Aujourd'hui il fait soleil (pour le moment), mais on gèle même à l'intérieur. J'ai passé tout l'avant-midi à envoyer une traduction parce qu'hotmail avait des problèmes. Alors voilà, j'ai un peu hâte aux Fêtes. J'ai quand même de bonnes raisons de garder le moral. Le métier de traducteur, bien que terriblement irrégulier parce que contractuel, paie extrêmement bien quand on considère le temps passé à travailler. Et ça me tient occupé, mais pas trop, alors j'ai le temps de chercher du vrai travail (et tant mieux, parce que c'est également d'un ennui mortel). Je consomme aussi assez régulièrement de la comfort food. Comme nous allons au Québec pour les Fêtes, il serait absurde de commander ce qui me manque du pays, mais j'ai trouvé un substitut pour le jus de canneberges qui complétait mon jus d'orange à Montréal. Je prends donc du jus d'orange sanguine Tropicana. Ca n'a pas le goût acide si distinctif de la canneberge, je doute également que ça ait ses valeurs nutritives, mais ça donne de la couleur au déjeuner et ça change de la fadeur du jus d'orange. Je sais que c'est d'une trivialité frisant le manque d'inspiration, mais j'ai décidé de prendre en photo le verre de Sanguinello en question en photo et de la publier ici, histoire de mettre un peu de couleur au blogue (couleur qui, de par sa rougeur, rappelle Noël qui s'en vient). Cela dit, je suis conscient que je vous fais lire un billet qui, après avoir divagué sur pleins de trucs et sauté du coq à l'âne, porte surtout sur un verre de jus d'orange.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Une citation...

Dernier billet de la journée, très court. J'ai déjà entendu cette réplique alors que j'étais plongeur dans un restaurant de fine cuisine:

"-Tu sais, l'alcool est un poison qui tue lentement.
-Tant mieux je ne suis pas pressé."

À se tordre à terre.

An anniversary to remember

Today is the day I met my wife, six years ago. It was a Saturday evening, I was eating a mince pie in the residence's kitchen and she showed up because she was looking for a friend (my neighbour, a Greek girl from Cyprus I will always feel guilty not to thank in public in my wedding speech). I might blog more about that evening one day, something that hopefully will be an outstanding post. For now, suffice to say that since that day, I try to have a mince pie on the 23rd. I am not the biggest mince pies fan, in fact I quickly get bored of them, but it is one of those little traditions I have and I am quite fond of it. It is important to commemorate such events, and it makes the end of November more exciting, or at least exciting for something else than Christmas lights and decorations they already put everywhere. This is a personal, little celebration of mine that needs nothing but a mince pie.

Saturday 22 November 2008

À propos du grenier

Je ne pensais pas bloguer encore une fois ce soir, mais j'ai trouvé un article sur cyberpresse qui m'amène à revisiter un de mes billets préférés. J'y avais parlé de mon amour des mansardes comme lieu de résidence Ir, il semblerait que je ne sois pas le seul à apprécier les vertus du grenier. Le style est plus journalistique, l'approche est plus pratique qu'évocatrice, mais la lecture de l'article n'en est pas moins intéressante.


Holly's blog entry reminded me that today is the day of Kennedy's assassination (and I have a good excuse for forgetting, as you will see tomorrow). For people of my age, itt was the 9/11 of our parents's generation. A lot of people of my age have known the story through Oliver Stone's movie, which I never liked. I much prefer the James Ellroy version of the murder, that he related in American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand. Just as fictitious as Oliver Stone's paranoid fantasy, but to my taste much more believable.

On a side note, you can find here a fascinating website about Kennedy and his murder, which I visit from time to time around the 22nd of November.

Is this a nest?

I wonder... I saw it in one of the front yard's tree yesterday, and while there is no sign of a bird around there and the branch doesn't strike me as the ideal place to build a nest, as it is exposed to the weather and potential predators, it sure looks like a nest. Maybe it is just a bunch of twigs that got there by the wind, but I think it is more likely an empty nest. So sadly, I will not see birds any time soon in it, but the nest in itself still looks quite nice. Interesting how the natural world can be so aesthetic, even it its smallest incarnations, like this nest or a spider web.

Réflexions décousues d'un samedi matin

Sommes-nous enfin en hiver? La température baisse lentement mais sûrement. Ils disent que c'est très froid à la télé et je dois admettre que, même si c'est encore doux comparé à ce qu'on peut avoir au Québec, le froid pince de manière étonnante lorsqu'on sort. On annonce de la neige certains endroits. Et d'ici là (si jamais elle vient à tomber ici) il y a le vent qui souffle. J'apprécie la baisse de température, donc, parce qu'enfin il y a unv rai changement saisonnier.

Étrange, j'ai ces temps-ci envie de manger de la grosse pizza cheap et abondante qu'on retrouve dans les pizzerias au Québec. Je me rappelle à quel point on aimait Pizza Royale quand mes frères et moi étaient jeunes. Le restaurant avait beaucoup de succès vers la fin des années 80 à Chicoutimi, je me demande encore pourquoi, parce que ce n'était qu'une pizzeria quelconque. Mais c'était notre pizza préférée. Maintenant, Pizza Royale est retombé dans l'obscurité. Les pizzerias se sont multipliées et nos goûts ont évolué aussi. Cela dit, parfois j'aime retourner aux joies gastronomiques simples ou, dans ce cas ci, simplistes. Où sont les neiges d'antan, et ainsi de suite.

Friday 21 November 2008

The wind in the windows

It is quite windy today, you can sometimes hear the wind shaking the windows slightly. I love the kind of day we are having right now: it is sunny, cold and windy. I remember when I was working in Liverpool, a few days after I got back from the Christmas holidays, we had a few days/weeks where the weather was terrible, with lots of rain and lots of wind. I had my head down marking grammar exams and the windows of my office were shaking as if the end of the world was on its way. It felt great. So was sleeping in my bedroom in the old Victorian house I was living in. When the weather outside is unfriendly, you appreciate more the comfort of your home.

I can feel the wind more in this attic flat. Whatever the weather is, we are in much closer proximity with it. It is something else I love about attic rooms: it makes you more in touch with the outside word, in direct contact with nature's temper. I don't know if it is because we are higher up, or because of the angles of an attic, but attics have that property. Or maybe I just have a wild imagination.

Thursday 20 November 2008

Londres aller-retour

On dirait que je n'échappe pas à cette ville. Je suis donc allé à Londres brièvement aujourd'hui, pour m'inscrire à une autre agence de placement, celle-ci spécialisée dans le domaine de l'éducation, alors je crois que j'ai plus de chances de progresser avec eux et de trouver du travail qui au moins m'intéresse. Cela dit, je suis resté à Londres le moins longtemps possible. Par paresse, j'avais décidé de m'y rendre le plus tard possible. Par manque d'enthousiasme, je l'ai quittée tout de suite après mon rendez-vous. J'aurais pu faire un peu de magasinage du temps des Fêtes une fois rendu, mais l'esprit n'y était pas. Je trouve la ville toujours aussi barbante et la réconciliation espérée est encore loin.

Au retour des Fêtes, j'essaie de me réconcilier avec la ville, promis. Pas avant, parce que je crois l'avoir assez vue pour le moment. Mais en janvier (ou en février?) je vais essayer d'y aller une fin de semaine avec ma femme et on visitera les musées. D'ici là, je l'évite comme la peste.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Looking for inspiration, hoping for snow

Since November, I feel like I have no worthy topic to blog about. Well, I do, but I feel either uninspired to blog about them, or I am waiting for a more appropriate moment. There is just something about this month I guess. Not that it is in my case completely uneventful: my wife's birthday is in November and there are some unknown yet interesting holidays, which I am going to talk about in due time, or already did. But on the whole, November is stuck between Halloween and Christmas, so it is a month of waiting time and expectations. Autumn is no more in full force, but it's not quite winter yet. I don't like the monotonous, in between nature of November. If only there was snow...

Ah! There's another thing: I miss the snow. Snow makes everything look more serene and warm (ironically enough). I have been longing for the snows of yesteryear since we got snow here as early as October. They had snow in Québec a few days before, so I was hoping for some real drops In November, then I remembered that I was living in England. You might think that I am digressing, talking about snow in a blog that started being about inspiration, but you see, this is actually structured (okay, not necessarily well structured, but the connection makes sense). If you understand a bit of French, you will know that I mentioned in some of my previous posts the great poet François Villon. Villon made one of his most famous poems (which I often quote from) longing for snow and for past glories. He was inspired by this absence. It told me that one does not have to have an exciting life to create. Creation can also come from monotony, from longing. I am no François Villon, but I am looking up to my favourite poet by longing for a time that will come and that I have seen before, hoping for it as I have known it in my childhood in Northern Québec and I have been giving an foretaste of it this year. Through melancholy, I hope to get a stroke of genius, or at least some kind of interesting writing. Not an epiphany, as I got all of them in teenage, but something good. I don't know which one will come first, the snow or inspiration, but I am expecting them. In the meantime, I'll put some pictures here that my dad took in Chicoutimi in...April 2008. It looked like December, as you can see.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Le fossoyeur

C'est un mardi gris (même s'il fait soleil, novembre est désespérément gris quand il ne neige pas) et je suis un peu désoeuvré, tellement que je ne sais pas trop sur quoi bloguer. Alors autant mettre un peu de Brassens, pour tenir mon modeste lectorat occupé.

Monday 17 November 2008

Ca commence à ressembler à l'hiver...

...enfin, l'hiver anglais, ce qui veut dire un automne plus froid que l'automne normal, sans les couleurs. Il ne neige pas encore, mais la température a baissé un peu. Selon les prévisions météo (pour ce qu'elles valent), elle doit continuer à baisser. S'il pouvait neiger, je serais le plus heureux des hommes.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Sugar fix

Since I haven't written a food entry for a while and since it's November and therefore utterly uneventful, I might as well do it now, with pictures if you please. My mother-in-law often says that I have a sweet tooth, which I never completely agreed with. I am not too keen on sugary snacks between meals and I always prefer to eat something savoury before something sweet. That said, I sometimes get sugar craving. I usually try to satisfy it with some sort of chocolate dessert or other. My favourite is the chocolate mousse, which is for me the quintessential dessert: simple, rich, delicious and utterly satisfying. This is what I had yesterday, a little cup of chocolate mousse from Waitrose. Tonight I had again a sugar craving (must be the gray weather), but I fixed with a trifle from Waitrose. It is not as satisfying, trifles in England seem to be of the lighter kind (this is at least the feeling I had eating the Waitrose one). I had my first experience of trifle in the Binerie Mont-Royal, a "restaurant" (more a snack bar really) of traditional Québec cuisine, very famous in Montreal. (Just a little note, if you go to Montreal, have at least one meal at the Binerie, it is simple, honest food, quite cheap and the staff is so friendly you'll feel like you are family, which you probably are in their eyes. The owner always called me "jeune homme" when I was going there.) A trifle is called bagatelle in Québec and is made of leftovers from other desserts. The one from the Binerie was primitive in its look, filling, a pure declaration of war on waistline, nothing like the somewhat aseptised, fancy version that Waitrose's trifle. I think it is the kind of dessert one really needs: uncompromisingly sugary. Anyway, that's the kind of sugar fix I usually need.

Attendre l'hiver en citant Villon

"Sur le Noël, morte saison
Que les loups se vivent de vent..."

Lais II, François Villon

"Tant crie l'on Noël qu'il vient."
Ballade des proverbes, François Villon

Je ne veux pas faire pédant, mais je tenais à citer François Villon pour commencer ce bref billet. Il fait un brin trop doux aujourd'hui. Les temps hivernaux sont peut-être plus difficiles et associés au froid et à la privation, mais je les trouve plus comfortables. Alors voilà, j'attends les manifestations de l'hiver et les joies qui viennent avec, ce qui va changer de la grisaille quotidienne. À force de l'espérer, je crois que l'hiver, comme Noël, va bien finir par venir. J'ai confiance en la sagesse de François Villon.

Feuilles mortes

La semaine dernière, quelqu'un a ramassé en tas les feuilles mortes qui jonchaient le terrain, lesquelles me plaisaient beaucoup. Franchement, ça me désole un peu. On a eu un tas de feuilles mortes (comme sur la photo de droite) pendant un certain temps, un amas humide et un peu dégoûtant. Maintenant, le terrain est propre et aseptisé. Si seulement il y avait de la neige, ça lui redonnerait du cachet. Enfin, il me reste La Chanson de Prévert, que je préfère à l'originale (même si je ne suis pas le plus grand admirateur de Serge Gainsbourg). L'automne prêtant à la mélancolie, il n'est pas étonnant que les feuilles mortes aient inspiré les poètes.

Friday 14 November 2008

You Know My Name

I thought I'd put another Bond song here. As you know, I love Casino Royale. I was not the biggest fan of Chris Cornell's You Know My Name when it got released, but I grew to love it. You can find the original videoclip here. That said, I find the song particularly efficient in the movie itself. The title sequence of Casino Royale is brilliant as the animation is an narrative in itself. Here it is for you to enjoy:

Thursday 13 November 2008

Pleasure and comfort

The temperature is grey these days, I mean really worthy of November, I get bored easily after a day looking for jobs and just looking at the window puts you off going out. So I try to enjoy myself as much as I can. Not much is needed to be happy, really, if you think about it and have a bit of good will. It is achieved by mixing pleasure and comfort, both things that can be easily found. When the weather is miserable, like today, I just need and a good book (here on this picture Little Wilson and Big God, although I am not reading it at the moment) and to wrap myself in the blanket I bought at Marks&Spencer in Liverpool, which is not only one of the most comfortable blankets I ever had, but also has a sentimental value to me. As I doubt you can see it very well on the picture at your left, I think you can find it here (but as far as I remember I had to pay more for it). The content of the book matters (there is nothing more frustrating than reading a bad novel and feeling forced to go through it because you started it), but the circumstances of reading are almost as important. Some people enjoy reading in a café, I prefer to be at home and feel warm, dry and hear the weather roaring from outside.

A documentary on my obsession

Here is the preview of another documentary I want to see I don't know where I can find it though. I might have to take a trip there. The link on their website/blog here, but it doesn't seem to exist anymore, to my great sadness.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

On n'a plus besoin de curés...

...quand on a Mario Dumont. Je ne suis pas le plus grand admirateur du cours d'Éthique et culture religieuse, mais il a tout de même plus de mérites que le grotesque cours de credo catholique qui nous servait de cours de "religion" (ou de catéchèse au primaire). Je l'ai déjà dit dans d'autres circonstances: Dieu n'a jamais été élu député, il n'a jamais voté non plus. Qu'on apprenne aux Québécois l'influence culturelle du catholicisme sur notre peuple, mais qu'on se méfie de ses dogmes comme de la peste. Ce qui m'agace chez Dumont, ce n,est pas qu'il crie au loup, c'est qu'il soit aussi passéiste et réactionnaire qu'un cardinal catholique. Il est encore jeune, mais il est déjà vieux. Et sa démagogie est absolument immature. Je lui dédie donc cette chanson de Jacques Brel.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

La guerre est-elle jolie?

"Ah! Dieu que la guerre est jolie
Avec ses chants ses longs loisirs."
Calligrammes, Guillaume Apollinaire

C'est le Jour du Souvenir, ironie du sort j'avais oublié de le souligner. Enfin, j'en ai déjà parlé ici, en anglais. Je ne sais pas trop comment souligner l'évènement de manière originale, alors je m'interroge sur les vers d'Apollinaire. La guerre peut-elle être jolie, même quand elle est particulièrement sanglante comme c'était le cas de la Grande Guerre? J'ai quelques amis dans l'armée et le métier des armes doit bien leur plaire. Mon beau-père m'a déjà dit que le seul métier que son père avait vraiment aimé était celui de soldat lors de la Deuxième guerre mondiale. Outre l'implication morale de prendre les armes contre un ennemi, y a-t-il un plaisir esthétique à trouver dans le métier de soldat? La violence, la tristesse, la souffrance, la tragédie, voire l'horreur, peuvent avoir une certaine beauté, de même que la camaraderie entre frères d'armes. Ce qui me fait penser qu'Apollinaire avait sans doute raison.

Cinderella drowning in the sea

This blog entry is inspired by this one and it is a sort of follow-up. As you all know (you, my very small number of readers), I am a big fan of James Bond. My wife has to put up with it a lot, but it makes it easier for her to buy me presents for my birthday and Christmas. One of Ian Fleming's best novels, and one of the least appreciated of the Bond films adapted from his work, is On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I have never been a big fan of George Lazenby who took over from Sean Connery, but he did have some qualities and in spite of all his flaws and the movie's short comings, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is still a very good Bond movie. I particularly love the first scene. Lazenby's Bond is introduced beautifully, and so is the leading lady, played by the great Diana Rigg. She has the role of Teresa di Vicenzo, who will become the one and only Tracy Bond before being gunned down by Blofeld. I hope I haven't spoiled everything for you here, but the ending of the movie is one of the many reasons that makes this scene works. There is also the fact that it is an echo of the introduction or Honey Ryder in Dr. No, except Tracy does the opposite movement: instead of rising from the sea, she goes in it, in a botched suicide attempt. Bond saves her life, but unknowingly he sets in motion a chain effect that will result in her death later on, leaving him heartbroken. Tragic irony: she will die only after she will have learned to appreciate life and abandon all thoughts of suicide. I think Fleming wanted to link both Bond girls introduction, as in the novel he gave Tracy the physical appearance of Ursula Andress (who is mentioned in the novel). But both Bond girls are very different. Honey Ryder is a survivor who had a rough life, Tracy lived in luxury but is self-destructive. While Honey Ryder was for Bond a flicking romance after he had gone through the dangers of Crab Key, Tracy will be a significant relationship to him. After Bond saves Tracy, he is assaulted by two men, whose involvment in the story is never made clear (are they Draco's men? Were they following Bond under Blofeld's orders?). In the novel, they are sent by Marc-Ange Draco to protect his daughter and bring Bond to him. Anyway, fight ensues, one of the most violent and exciting fight of the series and Tracy runs and then drives away, leaving her shoes behind her. Bond mutters "This never happened to the other fellow", which is a nod to Connery and a breaking the fourth wall moment I never cared about much. The important thing is that he picks up her shoes, like the prince would have done with Cinderella's. Like in the Cinderella story, it will ultimately lead to a wedding. Unlike the Cinderella story, wedding will quickly be followed by her death. Then there are the opening credits, with flashbacks of Bond's past missions, linking Lazenby's Bond to Connery's. I therefore give the pre-title opening sequence of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the opening credits. I hope you appreciate them.

Monday 10 November 2008

Everybody is Irish...

Because I am bored with a translation job that is nevertheless going smoothly (I don't complaint too much because it means I am working), because I am still enthusiastic about what happened this 4th of November (you know what I'm refering to), because I absolutely love Ireland, Irish music and because as it says in the title, everybody is Irish (at least of heart), I have decide to put here that song:

I got aware of it yesterday, but Correspondent blogged about it, I hope he does not mind if I follow his example. It's not the greatest piece of Irish music ever, but it's still a catchy song.

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

Je me le demande. Nous avons eu une chute de neige timide mais précoce à la fin d'octobre, à Chicoutimi ils ont été plus chanceux encore, mais il fait trop doux ces jours-ci pour qu'il neige. Alors je sais qu'il est encore tôt en novembre, je sais que l'année dernière nous avons été gâtés au Québec, je sais qu'il neige peu en Angleterre de toute façon, mais malgré tout je me pose la question de François Villon, immortalisée par Georges Brassens dans une chanson. Parce que je trouve novembre désespérément gris sans neige, parce qu'il pleut trop ici, parce que l'hiver s'il finit souvent trop tard ne commence jamais assez tôt une fois novembre arrivé. La Ballade des dames du temps jadis ne parle pas de neige, mais c'est le vers qui en fait mention qui est le plus connu. Je mets la chanson ici, es espérant que ça sera suffisant pour me faire patienter d'ici à ce que la neige tombe.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Paper Poppy

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae

It is Remembrance Sunday today. I have never been very aware of it. That is, until I started dating my wife. Now, on her initiative, I buy a paper poppy which is sold everywhere in England. Before that, all I knew about the poppy flower and John McCrae's poem was the dreadful History by the Minute episode that was so ridiculously solemn and laughably patriotic, to the point of being obscene (like most of the episodes of this propaganda program). Now I have friends in the army, so I am more sensitive/sensible to the work and sacrifice of the people in the army. I now like the simplicity of the poppy, like a drop of blood on a grey November day, beautiful in its mourning sadness.

Tarte à la farlouche

Bon, on n'y échappe pas, il semblerait que l'Avent commence en novembre. C'est encore un peu tôt pout célébrer Noël, mais les commerces s'y préparent partout. L'une des sucreries traditionnelles des Anglais à l'approche de Noël est la mince pie, autrement dit la tarte à la farlouche, comme on l'appelle au Québec. Ou plus précisément tartelette, car elles sont très petites. Je n'ai jamais été un grand amateur de tarte à la farlouche, mais je peux apprécier et puisque je suis toujours partant pour une expérience gastronomique interculturelle, j'ai pris l'habitude d'acheter des mince pies en novembre. J'ai rencontré ma femme pour la première fois fin novembre 2002, alors que je mangeais une mince pie dans la cuisine de ma résidence. Depuis ce temps, je souligne l'occasion en mangeant une tarte à la farlouche à la même date. Je ne suis toujours pas un grand amateur de tartes à la farlouche, mais elle a maintenant pour moi une signification romantique particulière. Cela dit, la mince pie anglaise est associée à un bon nombre de petites traditions, donc mon petit rituel se fait l'écho du folklore anglais. Et je suis très attaché au folklore et aux traditions.

Saturday 8 November 2008

London crowds

It is Saturday morning, after an evening in London that was quite enjoyable, minus London itself. I never thought I would have issues with the fact that a big city is crowded, but it seems that every time I go to London I feel like there are too many people for the space London gives. Anyway, I enjoyed the dinner and the musical, my wife did too, the journey home was fine and we got back here tired but happy. But I am not sure I made peace with London yesterday. There are things to do there, there are things to see, you can enjoy yourself there, but I don't feel right in the city itself. Being where you want to be is fine, going there is tiredsome, stressful and always involves bumping into people, being bumped into, stepping on somebody's shoes and being blinded by the heavy crowd. And don't think I am more into countryside, as I quickly find it boring if I spend too much time there. I don't really like quiet places for too long and I am definitely more of a city guy. I guess there is something too aggressive about London. I didn't use to feel this way about it, I actually used to love its frantic beat, but now I think that one city can be alive without being on a permanent cocaine bad trip. Maybe I am just getting old.

On another topic, we are going to see friends today for another celebration for her birthday (it's like a birthday festival), so that means: 1)tidying/cleaning in panic frenzy before they arrive. 2)buying a cake. 3)making dinner for four (the bit I love most).

Thursday 6 November 2008

London tomorrow...

It is my wife's birthday tomorrow, so we will go to London see The Sound of Music. Which means I am going to be in London again, a city I don't particularly like anymore. It will be the occasion for me to reconciliate myself with the city that gave us, well, her hummm... Jack the Ripper? No seriously, seeing Paris last September, a city loathed by many Frenchmen made me think that I can see London, another big city plagued by tourists and locals alike, in a new light. Anyway, I hope I will have the time to blog about something interesting tomorrow before we go.


Bon, je me tape un billet trivial pour commencer la journée, après les émotions des derniers et la Guy Fawkes Night presque totalement ignorée, ce n'est pas mal d'aborder des sujets plus légers. Le billet est trivial, donc, mais la photo qui l'accompagne, bien que banale en elle-même, va mettre un peu de couleur au blogue. Cela dit, j'ai photographié des fruits plus souvent qu'à mon tour depuis que j'ai commencé de blogue. Ca et des bières. Nous sommes en novembre et qui dit novembre dit début de la saison des clémentines. La pomme est le fruit de l'automne, la clémentine est le fruit de la période qui précède Noël. En général, je préfère le goût des agrumes transformées (la marmelade, les jus) et la clémentine est peut-être le seul fruit de cette famille que je mange tel quel. C'est peut-être un peu parce que l'on peut facilement enlever la pelure à la main, mais je n'aime ni les mandarines, ni le satsumas, ni les autres cousines de la clémentine. Je crois que c'est aussi parce que c'est un fruit que j'associe à la saison. Ma femme peut en manger à l'année longue, moi pas: je commence toujours à consommer les clémentines en novembre, pas avant. Ca me donne un apport en vitamines C, essentiel quand l'hiver approche et qu'un rhume peut nous frapper à tout moment et c'est délicieux. Alors voilà, j'en ai acheté hier chez Marks & Spencers. Délicieuses, mais j'aurais pu acheter une boîte pleine, au moins le double de la quantité de clémentines pour la moitié du prix, dans n'importe quelle fruiterie du Plateau Mont-Royal.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Remember, remember, the 5th of November...

Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

It is Guy Fawkes Night tonight. Not exactly my favourite time of the year in England, as it has some Anti-Catholic roots (ironic form an unbeliever, I know, but I still think a pope is a lesser evil than a monarch), but it's nice to see some fireworks.

I'm speechless...

...but very, very, very happy. I was hoping for it, but was not daring to expect it.

Tuesday 4 November 2008


Because it is that day, because we are all in hopes and fears, because things can get better or they can get worse and because I am speechless about how important this day is, I will let the poetry of Leonard Cohen do the talking. He is more eloquent than I can ever be, especially when the stakes are so high.

The song version here.

Monday 3 November 2008

Septembre, octobre, novembre et décembre

Voyez-vous où je veux en venir? Les mois qui finissent en "bre" sont les mois où les huîtres sont à leur meilleur, c'est du moins ce que mon père m'a appris dans mon enfance, quand il m'a fait découvrir les huîtres. Pour beaucoup, l'huître est un aliment dégueulasse et visqueux, mais je ne sais pas pourquoi, je trouve le fuit de mer absolument irrésistible. Cher, mais délicieux. Et je viens de me rendre compte que je n'ai pas mangé d'huître depuis à peu près trois ans. Je présume qu'en Angleterre, le prix des huîtres doit être prohibitif, mais je vais peut-être voir si je ne peux pas m'en négocier une ou deux la prochaine fois que je vais dans une poissonnerie (ou que je me retrouve au comptoir des poissons d'Asda, de Waitrose, etc.). Ou alors j'en mangerai de retour au Québec. L'ennui, c'est que ma très végétarienne femme risque de trouver ça cruel. Cela dit, c'est plus difficile d'avoir de la sympathie pour une huître que pour un canard.

The times when I enjoy coffee

Yesterday afternoon, we went to Costa, one of my wife's favourite cafés here. She had a sort of chocolate biscuit flavoured cappuccino that was too big for her, so she asked me to help her with it. I usually don't like coffee, it simply doesn't agree with me, but this one, I have to admit, was quite good. It took me a while to figure out that coffee was not really my thing (my cup of tea?). I used to drink it to wake me up when I had classes early in the morning, but it never did any good to me. It kept me awake, but still terribly tired and unfocused, my mouth dry, my stomach hurting, my heart pumping in my chest as if I was about to get a heart attack and my head stuck with a splitting headache. I also happen to hate coffee breath. As you know, my drink de choix is beer. I have had one drink too many in the past, like all young adults I had my flirt with alcoholism, so I experienced drunkenness and very painful hangovers, but even the agony a hangover can give is not half as unpleasant to me as a that pain coffee gives, that pain which does not hurt enough (and I am paraphrasing Sartre's Huis clos here, so this post is getting more profound than expected). At least, with hangovers, you have the flicking memory of a wild and (at least partially) pleasant night. Coffee is a drug that gives me no pleasure, so while it means the risks of addiction are minimal, it makes its consumption pointless.

Now I drink coffee sporadically, usually to be polite. That said, there are the very odd times when I can enjoy it. Yesterday was an example, because the coffee was fill of cream and sugar and tasted more like chocolate than coffee. It is usually how I end up enjoying it: as long as it doesn't taste too much like coffee. I also had some nice lattes in the past, like that time when I had a gigantic piece of cake and a big bowl of café au lait in the Brûlerie Saint-Denis that was then on the Avenue Mont-Royal. You see, I appreciate coffee so rarely that I can still remember the occasions when I do. Cafés are a big thing in Montréal, we have the big chains but also many local ones that are supposed to produce quality stuff. It makes me very proud and I spent lots of time there just for the atmosphere, I even forced myself to drink their poison, to my great subsequent pain. I will probably still go there in December, because my wife loves them and I still love the atmosphere, but I will stick to tea and their sandwiches (which are often delicious).

Sunday 2 November 2008

Une fête chasse l'autre

Ma femme et moi sommes allés à John Lewis cet après-midi. Nous aimons bien ce magasin (j'imagine que tous les jeunes couples mariés en Angleterre aiment John Lewis), mais nous n'y étions pas allés depuis des mois (la dernière fois c'était quand nous avons acheté l'ordinateur où je tape ces lignes, en janvier ou février). Ce qui m'a frappé (mais ne m'a pas étonné), c'est l'omniprésence des articles de Noël, alors que l'Halloween vient à peine de terminer et qu'on n'est qu'au début de novembre. Une fête chasse l'autre, mais c'est quand même un peu tôt à mon goût. L'ennui, c'est qu'un n'a pas de vraie fête à célébrer entre l'Halloween et Noël. Les Américains ont l'Action de Grâce, mais pas nous. Dans mon enfance, il y avait la Sainte-Catherine, fêtée le 25 novembre en l'honneur de la patronne des jeunes filles, dont j'ai déjà un peu parlé ici (et dont je vais sans doute encore parler d'ici la fin de novembre), une journée où à l'école toujours confessionnelle et donc désespérément catholique l'on mangeait de la tire "comme Marguerite Bourgeoys" qui nous l'avait fait découvrir, brave femme qu'elle était. La tire, que j'aimais bien au printemps quand elle est faite à l'érable, est moins bonne avec de la mélasse, mais enfant on aime tout ce qui est sucré. Ce n'était pas une grande fête, mais une bonne fête de transition avant l'hiver et ça nous faisait patienter avant Noël. Comme quoi le catholicisme n'est pas toujours mauvais: il nous tient occupé pendant l'année.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Quantum of Solace

My wife and I went to see Quantum of Solace this afternoon. It was good, but not nearly as good as Casino Royale. I guess we ran out of Fleming material, so it's more difficult to get something as intelligent as the previous movie. That said, Daniel Craig is excellent as usual and the casting is flawless. Mathieu Amalric is absolutely disgusting as Dominic Greene, he is a great villain. But I think I will need to watch this movie again to fully appreciate it, especially since the action scenes were way too frantic.

La Toussaint

C'est aujourd'hui la Toussaint, la fête qui s'est fait voler sa célébrité par la Samhain celtique, qui a changé de nom en Halloween par la même occasion. La Toussaint est une fête à l'image du mois de novembre; elle est grise et austère, contrairement à l'Halloween qui est sombre, mais jamais sobre. Fêter tous les Saints du Paradis est au contraire périssant de piété. Je préfère, et de loin, les excès de table et les frissons de plaisir au spectacle d'une danse macabre. Enfin, les esprits sont retournés dans l'Autre Monde, l'automne entre dans son dernier mois et déjà dans les vitrines des magasins une autre fête se prépare.

J'ai pris cette photo hier matin. Pour moi, l'Halloween est le dernier vrai jour de l'automne, parce que l'automne prend tout son sens le 31 octobre. Le 1er novembre, c'est déjà un peu l'hiver.