Sunday 31 October 2010


Today is Halloween, so Happy Halloween everyone. You can see above the Jack O'Lantern I carved yesterday. One eye is bigger than the other, but I think I still did a good job. I tried to make him look malevolent and devilish. I will have an entertaining day and evening, hopefully, with lots of spooky fun. So what to do when you are a grownup (and therefore lacks the vivid imagination you once had as a child) and want to celebrate Hallwoeen? The flat is barely decorated, but that's okay, the Jack O'Lantern and Grizelda are enough.

I will spend lots of time reading ghost stories (one day I might even write one) watching horror movies. Early in the evening, I will take a walk with my wife and see the children trick or treating. And for my readers who might want to have suggestion for atmospheric music for this Samhain, you can find some on this blog: here when you are feasting, here if you are into psychedelic stuff, here if you like horror movies scores, here if you want something more suitable for children and all around here if you like classical music, Christian imagery of Hell and temptation and sometimes pretty chilling music.

Friday 29 October 2010

The Halloween Game

This is a picture of a card my niece gave us recently. It fits the topic of this post. Yes, I blogged about it before and actually at the very same date. But Halloween is coming very soon and I cannot help but feel that when you are an adult, is slips through your fingers and you cannot appreciate it as much. Like many holidays I love, Halloween is deeply rooted in childhood memories.

So anyway, back when I was a child, Halloween was not merely one night of trick or treat, it was also a long make belief game my brothers and I were playing. We had long, elaborate make belief games, this one was very developed. We called it the "Halloween game". We started playing in August, when school was about to start, so we would forget about it. I was the good guy, a sort of Zorro turned vampire/ghost hunter PJ the evil devil general of the Armies of Hell, aptly named Draco, Devadar I cannot remember who he played, I think he was a good guy. The story was simple, even simplistic: Draco was gathering monsters, witches, ghosts and what have you to take over the Earth or something of the sort on Halloween night. Every year he was failing, but just. Strangely, mankind was unsuspecting of the yearly Armageddon. And of course, the story was set in England. When we were going trick or treating, the neighbourhood was our battlefield. The decorations were real evil creatures, the Jack O'Lanterns were inhabited by evil spirits and so on. At bedtime, the story was over until next year. When I hear my niece telling us what she is planning to do on Halloween, I envy her.

Citrouille et nostalgie culinaire

Je songe sérieusement à creuser ma citrouille ce soir et en faire un Jack O'Lantern. J'aime l'odeur de la citrouille et elle réveille et moi certains souvenirs d'enfance. Alors que j'étais en deuxième année, on avait fait de la confiture à la citrouille dans la classe. Enfin, on avait coupé des citrouilles, qu'on avait préalablement baptisées (Fleurette, Georgette ou des noms stupides choisis par les filles) et dont on avait écrit les c.v (?). Ca avait été une séance dramatique, couper la citrouille en cubes: il y avait eu des coupures aussi. C'était l'époque où on pouvait utiliser des couteaux à l'école pour des raisons non religieuses. Des couteaux, du sang qui coule, c'était vraiment l'Halloween.

C'est je crois la première fois que j'ai consommé de la citrouille et que j'ai vu que ça servait à autre chose qu'à creuser des Jack O'Lantern. Je me rappelle encore du goût. la citrouille a quelque chose de fade en soi, mais pas désagréable. Je me rappelle avoir mangé de la confiture de citrouille par la suite, de temps à autre, mais pas à l'automne. C'est un fruit profondément automnal pourtant, comme la pomme. Maintenant, quand j'en consomme, c'est surtout en soupe. Ma coloc à Liverpool avait fait un potage à la citrouille particulièrement délicieux qu'on avait mangé tout le mois de novembre. C'était, avec le gin and tonic, une de ses spécialités. En général, j'aime bien maintenant ce qu'on fait avec la citrouille et la confiture qu'on fait avec ne m'impressionne pas vraiment en soi, mais je songe encore avec nostalgie à la fabrication de cette confiture. La confiture, de citrouille ou non, est aussi une nourriture très automnale, après tout.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

A great unknown line from my niece

My wife told me this anecdote about our niece, she heard it from her mother (I mean my mother-in-law, not our niece's mum). The family was planning to go to a lecture together (with a child?). Obviously, our niece did not like it at all. She said to her parents: "Why would I want to go and see a lecture? I don't want to listen to a one way conversation!"

Fair criticism, I have to admit. I say this and I gave lectures in my past. But they often are one way conversations.

Une pensée sur le mot "fjord"

Quand j'étais jeune, on nous rabattait les oreilles avec le fjord du Saguenay quand on nous parlait de la région. Fjord est un mot d'origine scandinave et je me suis toujours demandé pourquoi on avait décidé de l'appeler d'un nom scandinave. Pourquoi pas français, amérindien, irlandais ou écossais à la rigueur? Cela dit, la manière dont on prononce "fjord" ("fior") a quelque chose de très rérional. C'est un mot étranger qui aurait pu être inventé par nous.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Waiting for my lines

I promised that I would blog about my return to acting. So far notthing has really happened. Eager to know if I had to prepare something before the first class, I emailled the head of the school. I hope I didn't create a fuss, but it appears that there is no preparatory work required. It is a different approach than the one I am used to. I only had one proper acting course, but we had to find a monologue to read before the first class. And of course, when I played on stage, there was already a text which I had to prepare. I am not used to this, but I find it quite interesting that I will be taken "raw", so to speak. I will have to wait for my lines. Maybe they will never come, maybe we will have to act on no particular text. Who knows?

Oh, and I remembered that I have one more play in English here: Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. I kind of hope I can use some of the plays I have here for the course.

Grand-papa Pan Pan

Un peu parce que l'Halloween arrive, j'ai cette chanson de Félix Leclerc en tête. Grand-papa Pan Pan est une de ses grandes chansons inconnues. C'est à la fois une histoire terrifiante qui tire ses racines dans le folklore québécois et une critique brillante d'un certain obscurantisme. Bien sûr, quand j'étais enfant et que j'écoutais ça avant de m'endormir, je ne voyais pas ce que ça voulait dire, pour moi c'était juste une histoire chantée, pleine d'atmosphère. Je n'espérais pas la trouver sur youtube. Je ne crois pas que celui qui l'a mise là soit francophone et il fait beaucoup de fautes, mais on ne boudera pas son plaisir:

Sunday 24 October 2010

My niece and I

Two weeks ago, when we went to visit my brother-in-law and his side of my wife's clan, something happened to me that made the visit worth it by itself. And I am not talking about the cat on the roof. You see, my niece used to dislike me before I became her uncle, which is a shame as we have a lot in common: we both love Halloween, old legends, mythology, scary stories, etc. We have the same tastes and a similar sweet tooth. She learned to appreciate me over the years, more and more as the wedding was approaching. And now she finally accepted me. I had another a proof of this during that weekend. Maybe it was a bit because we spoilt her rotten by giving her a years worth of presents and she now associates me with the generous uncle. But anyway, she invited her friend over on Sunday, and when she saw me in the morning, my niece said "This is my uncle."

I don't know why, it moved me. This single event was worth the trip.

Question existentielle (23)

Une nouvelle question existentielle qui m'est venue il y a quelques minutes à voir la noirceur ici:

-Pourquoi est-ce que j'ai l'impression que le soir tombe plus vite le dimanche?

Saturday 23 October 2010

Musing on superstitions

These pictures were taken in the Keswick Museum, one of the nicest town museum I have ever been to. There were a "section" (well, two window displays really) about Cumbria's superstitions. I took picture of them, you can enlarge them if you want to read, I hope the light did not get in the way too much. I like my times in museum to be educational but also atmospheric and this museum had plenty of both. Since Halloween is coming soon, I thought it would be the right time to blog about it.

As a child, I had a wild imagination and at some point, I was fairly superstitious: I believed in ghosts, in the Loch Ness Monster, in devils, what have you. And even if and when I did not believe in something supernatural, I was fascinated by old wives tales and ancient irrational beliefs. I knew they were not true, but I was doing as if. As I said in French here, while I did not like the taste of mushrooms, I still kept an interest in them because of their association with supernatural and witchcraft. Especially when they were in a fairy ring, which was called "rond de sorcières" in French, "witch circle". I loved when I could find one on the ground and they were the basis of many of our make-belief games. I wish I had known then about the superstitions surrounding the rowan tree, as we were playing next to one very often. I developed an interest in this one only in recent year, but was happy it was mentioned in the museum display.

So I grew up to become a rational man (or trying to be one anyway), a skeptic and an atheist. I do not believe in the supernatural to the slighest, yet I still have an interest in them. Like haunted houses, superstitions transform the domestic and the familiar into something much more fascinating than it really is and makes people's life more exciting. There is a bit of Don Quixote in all human beings and sometimes imagination takes over our perception of reality.

Voir le loup

J'ai déjà blogué sur Le poil de la bête ici. Billet un peu embêtant, parce que je parle d'un film que je n'ai pas vu. C'est l'ennui d'être un expatrié: quand il y a quelque chose au Québec qui m'intéresse, je dois le vivre de loin, à travers internet. S'il y a un film qui fait parler, je dois attendre à mon prochain voyage pour le voir... si j'ai le temps de le voir. Pour les séries télévisées, c'est encore pire.

Enfin bref, j'ai lu cette critique dans Cyberpresse et celle-ci dans Le Devoir.Fait étonnant: celle du Devoir est plus mitigée alors que celle de Cyberpresse descend le film en beauté. Je me serais attendu au contraire. Cela dit, les deux critiques semblent confirmer certaines craintes que j'avais il y a un mois. J'imagine qu'il me faudra le voir pour en juger par moi-même.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Actor in search of a text

I am eagerly waiting for some news from the acting school I will attend. All I know is that it starts in November, where it is and at what time. I have no idea on what the teacher is expecting of us in the first lesson. I used to take lessons in Montreal, where I had to prepare a little monologue, nothing classic, something simple. It might not be the way my new acting teacher will kick start the course, but I might have to find something, some text in a play. And I have only two plays in English here: Shininc City and The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi. If I can choose one play to pick up a text from, I think it will be from either one of those, because I love them, because they are contemporary and because I would not miss an opportunity to work on texts I love and to look at them in a different light, and from an insider's perspective, so to speak. And there are these lines from The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi which I always found brilliant and I would love to play them for an audience, even if it was a small one. But I wonder if my readers have any suggestions.

Nature froide

Il faisait un froid de canard aujourd'hui, un temps d'octobre typique. Même s'il faisait chaud il n'y a pas si longtemps, on gelait aujourd'hui on gelait. Cela dit, il faisait soleil. Les couleurs étaient splendides, il va sans dire. Comme je l'ai déjà dit à quelques reprises, la nature n'est jamais aussi belle que lorsqu'elle meurt en automne. Le froid intensifie cette impression.

Et cette photo a été prise à Bath. Ce n'est pas aussi beau ici, mais toutes les excuses sont bonnes pour publier mes photos de Bath.

Monday 18 October 2010

Got the pumpkin

I forgot to mention this before: I bought the pumpkin last Friday. It was surprisingly a big one (in this country they are rather small), so it will make an impressive and hopefully sinister Jack O'Lantern for Halloween. I am quite happy with my choice, but it is taking a good bit of space in the kitchen. But its presence us that Halloween is coming soon.

Parlons encore des huîtres

Je sais que les huîtres m'obsèdent un peu parfois, mais c'est encore la saison et je n'en ai toujours pas mangé. Déplorable. Un article de Cyberpresse me l'a rappelé. Quand je mange des huîtres, je ne m'amuse pas avec: je les mange simple, avec du sel et du citron. Je me rappelle avoir mangé une fois des huîtres fumées en boîte (j'ai détesté) et une fois des pâtés aux huîtres (pas mal). Sinon, c'est la même chose: je les mange crûes avec sel et citron, et je les fais descendre avec plusieurs rasades de bières. Je suis un mangeur d'huîtres barbare et primitif.

Sunday 17 October 2010

A cynical yet cheerful song

I found this clip on youtube, from Avenue Q, a musical I have been very curious about but never saw. I found "It sucks to be me" hilarious. What the guy sings at the beginning looks strangely similar to the situation I was in not so long ago: losing an unrewarding job at an age when you think you should have accomplished something with your life. I am a bit stressed at the moment for a number of reasons, but this song puts things into perspective: I am better off now, however exhausting or stressful my life is, than a few months ago.

Une question pour les admirateurs du Frère André

Je commence à en avoir soupé du manque d'esprit critique qui semble avoir pris une bonne partie du Québec quand on parle de la canonisation du Frère André. Seule Nathalie Petrowski semble avoir gardé un semblant de lucidité, c'est dire. Je peux comprendre qu'une population dévote, ignorante et superstitieuse ait cru aux miracles, mais j'aurais espéré qu'on ait montré un peu plus de scepticisme envers eux de nos jours, surtout s'ils sont aussi équivoques que la guérison de maux d'estomac. Enfin, les miracles du Frère André ont la cote au Québec, semble-t-il. Même André Pratte les regardait avec bienveillance il n'y a pas si longtemps. Alors je pose une question à tous ceux qui sont fiers d'avoir un saint québécois maintenant:

Pourquoi ne vide-t-on pas les urgences pour planter les malades à L'Oratoire Saint Joseph?

D'autant plus que l'oratoire est au moins aussi laid que la plupart de nos hôpitaux...

Saturday 16 October 2010


I have been thinking about this post for ages and ages, the time of the year is a good excuse to write about it. The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde and Frankenstein were the first classic horror stories I read, but shortly after I read Dracula and it became my favourite horror book. There are many reasons for this. Dracula is a pure, unambiguously evil badguy, unlike the monster who is a tragic figure and Mr. Hyde who is the evil alter ego of a faillible but otherwise good man. Yes, whatever some pretentious movie says, Dracula is all evil, cruel, murderous, amoral, predatorial. There is a good deal of gore and violence, but dosed with suspense and quieter moments. There is also the scope of the story: Dracula has ambitions of conquest, he wants to take over the British Empire, he is not merely a threat to a few teenagers or too curious academics. And there is the subtext, the (intentional?) Catholic mysticism (I envy Bruno Starrs as he pretty much defended in this article what I had found out years before), the middle class that is struggling against ancient powers, there is also all the Freudian things you can find in it. Even as a teenager ignorant of literary criticism, I could feel the book's evocative power and its rich subtext. And of course, there were genuine moments of terror in the novel.

I read the novel at least four times, three in French (including once for a literature course) and one in English. It shows how fascinated I got with the book. I still have dreams about it, they are scary but pleasantly so, too much anyway to be classified as nightmares.It might not be great literature and my tastes have evolved since I read it, but as as horror novels go, Dracula is still my favourite.

I took this picture last year at Madame Tussaud's. I have reluctantly put it on this post. Count Dracula was not Vlad Tepes (Elizabeth Miller demonstrated it) and his appearance in the novel is much more frightening than any historical model he was only loosely based on to begin with, or indeed any of his subsequent incarnations, even Max Shreck and Christopher Lee. But I thought I needed some kind of picture to illustrate the topic.

Insomnie maudite

Jeudi dernier, j'ai vécu le pire cas d'insomnie depuis un bout de temps. C'est à peine si j'ai pu fermer l'oeil de la nuit. Je ne sais pas pourquoi ça m'arrive, parce que ça ne m'arrivait plus très souvent, mais ce fut particulièrement désagréable. Heureusement, j'ai pu dormir sur mes deux oreilles hier. Sauf que la journée de vendredi a été longue, longue, longue. Vendredi est déjà long par définition, mais ça l'a rendu cent fois pire.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Little time, no energy

Maybe it is because I am much busier at the job I have than I have been at the last three years or so, maybe it is because Autumn makes me want to prepare for hibernation, but I find myself exhausted all evenings and I lack interest in everything: I have difficulties following a TV program, even when I love it, I don't read much, if at all (I do most of my reading during commuting) and I don't find any energy or time to blog. I have good ideas, but I need to write short posts during week days. I simply have too little time and no energy at all. I wonder these days how I am going to cope with acting. I used to give evening classes, but then I had either no day job or one that did not keep me too busy. I really hope I will have the energy to perform.

Une odeur de neige et de fumée

Un collègue m'a dit aujourd'hui que ça sentait la neige dehors. Je trouvais cela étrange, parce qu'il faisait froid, mais pas tant que ça. Pas assez pour qu'il neige en tout cas. Lorsque je suis sorti, je me suis rendu compte qu'en effet, il y avait comme une odeur de neige, avec mêlé avec cela une odeur de fumée, comme s'il y avait du bois que l'on brûlait pas très loin. Il n'a pas neigé, je rassure mon lectorat, mais on sent que l'automne est ici entré en force.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

A history of horror

I don't have enough time in a week. I am watching at the moment the first episode of A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss, a BBC documentary series with well, you guessed it Mark Gatiss. People who want to watch it and who live in England can go on iPlayer. I get sometimes very cynical about British TV, but their documentaries are often flawless. I haven't watch much of it, but it already made me rediscover old favourites and hopefully will make me discover forgotten classics.In any case, it is a great watch before Halloween.

Faust et nostalgie

Je vais mettre ici encore du Faust de Gounod et j'en profite pour encore faire une page de nostalgie de ce billet. J'ai trouvé récemment sur Youtube un aria de Faust chanté par Jean-François Lapointe. C'est un baryton assez connu qui a même son nom sur Wikipedia. Un baryton québécois assez connu, ça n'a rien d'extraordinaire, mais celui-ci m'a déjà enseigné la théorie musicale et le solfège alors que j'étais enfant. J'étais déjà un passionné d'opéra à l'époque et quand j'ai appris qu'il était baryton je suis devenu un fan, peut-être son premier. A`l'époque, il était encore un chanteur obscur, même pas une célébrité locale. Ca ne rajeunit personne, je sais.Je l'ai revu plusieurs fois à l'opérette du Carnaval de Chicoutimi et à des concerts de Noël. Il a toujours été très chaleureux avec moi, mais je doute maintenant qu'il se souvienne de son premier fan. Vous trouverez ici une entrevue de lui d'il y a quelques années (anecdote: je crois connaître la journaliste également)

Fait étrange, ma voix est devenue celle d'un baryton. J'ai aussi déjà chanté l'aria que je mets sur le blogue aujourd'hui.

Monday 11 October 2010

A cat on the roof

We went this weekend to see my brother-in-law, his wife and niece. We always have a pleasant time there. My niece didn't always like me, but now she accepted me as family (I get quite moved when she talks about me as her uncle). And they have a cat, a feline with a fiery ochre fur, lean and elegant like those hunters are.

We spent the night there, not in an attic room but still above ground floor, in a guest bedroom. The window was right by a narrow roof. We were woken up in the morning by some plaintiff meowing. I knew it was the family cat, my wife thought at first it was our niece being upset. I opened the door, thinking that the cat wanted to get in, but he was not at the door. We soon discovered that he was standing on the roof, right by the window, meowing endlessly, asking to let him in. We did, struggling with the window and blinds. The cat got in and decided to curl up on my pillow and have a nap there, looking at me with aristocratic irony. He seemed to say: "I know you find me adorable, sucker".

Cats are superior creatures, I said it before and I stand by it. This one in particular has an amazing intelligence. He did not know we were spending the night there, yet when he came back from a night of hunting, he goes straight by our bedroom to let him in, then he takes control of the place and we are even grateful that he does. I think he is actually the master of the house. He would probably be master of this house if he was our cat.

Je souligne...

C'était la fête de mon frère hier. Je lui ai souhaité bonne fête au téléphone (enfin, sur son répondeur), ne vous inquiétez pas. À cause de sa date de naissance, située dans une période de l'année idéale, j'ai toujours beaucoup aimé son anniversaire, parfois plus que le mien. Ah oui, et c'est un peu dommage de le souligner en retard, parce qu'hier c'était le 10 du dix 2010.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Wisdom from Saint Anthony

I got this quote from an email of the Anthony Burgess Foundation, obviously from my favourite author:

"The world has so much solace to offer: love, food, music, the immense variety of race and language, literature, the pleasure of artistic creation".

Like many of the things he said, I feel that this line apply to my life (past and present) perfectly. I am not really an artist though, although I do enjoy the artistic creation of others and I can sometimes be artistic as an amateur. In any case, I take comfort in all those things, they make me forget that I am an expatriate, that the weather is bad, that the week is monotonous.

Citons Hubert Aquin

J'ai en tête cet incipit d'Hubert Aquin, tiré du classique Prochain Épisode:

"Cuba coule en flammes au milieu du lac Léman pendant que je descends au fond des choses."

J'ai lu le livre à l'université, mais je n'en ai qu'un vague souvenir (j'en suis d'ailleurs tout honteux). Le lac Léman est également là où Mary Shelley a eu l'idée de Frankenstein. J'ai donc toujours associé les deux oeuvres, ce qui est étrange, ou peut-être pas. Il me faudra les relire...

Friday 8 October 2010

Great unknown line number 13

This is another great unknown line which I have the pride to have invented at the job today. A colleague is going to go soon on maternity leave, so we had to sign a goodbye card and give some money for a group gift. The colleague who had organsied things, passing the card around, asked:

"Can you all sign it and give some money?"

My answer:

"Why? Does she want to sell her baby already?"

It made people laugh. A lot.

Un autre moment de nostalgie culinaire

Il y a des moments où je m'ennuie de nourriture très précise venant du Québec (ou non). Ces temps-ci, je ne sais pas trop pourquoi, mais je m'ennuie des brioches de la Boulangerie Chicoutimi-Nord. Je me suis goinfré avec elles durant toute mon enfance, surtout celles pleines de glaçage crémeux dessus, lesquelles étaient mes préférées. C'était une pure décadence de sucre (ce l'est encore). Je me rappelle encore quand on allait les chercher, étrangement je me rappelle surtout qu'on allait les chercher à cette époque de l'année. Alors je vais faire de la publicité gratuite à mes lecteurs québécois: si vous allez faire un tour au Saguenay, passez par là.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Autumnwatch tonight!

It was the first episode of Autumnwatch tonight! I just finished watching it, wide eyed and fascinated like a five years old. We were served tonight: we had badgers, a family of otters, foxes, bats, peregrim falcons and of course rutting stags. All animals I love. This show makes me want to walk to the nearest woods and observe wildlife. Actually, the back garden would probably be enough for this, if one if perceptive enough. In ours we have the bats, after all. We live so close to such a rich wildlife and we barely perceive it. I am glad Autumnwatch made me discover it.

Aura-t-on un été indien?

Quand je suis sorti aujourd'hui, il faisait passablement froid, assez pour que je fasse de la boucane en soufflant. Le temps s'est adouci durant la journée, il va faire chaud demain et on annonce du temps très chaud en fin de semaine, au dessus de 20 samedi. Alors il se peut que l'on ait un été des indiens. C'est du moins ce que la BBC annonce. J'aime bien les été indiens en autant qu'ils n'arrivent pas trop tard à l'automne, alors celui-ci arriverait à point nommé.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Scary reading suggestions

Since Halloween is coming soon, I thought I would give some reading suggestions to my readers. I did the same thing same time last year. I may not be particularly inventive year after year, but this blog is called Vraie Fiction after all and should be sometimes about fiction. This year, instead of giving a list of books, I will give short story titles (and hopefully I can find them all online). So here it is:

-The Judge's House, by Bram Stoker. Not merely because the story was written by the author of Dracula, but because it is a really good spook in its own right. And it has some elements that Stoker will later develop in his most famous novel. (Talking about Dracula, I will blog about it soon. I have wanted to do so for years as it is my favourite horror novel.) What I particularly love about this short story is that the ghost is not merely scary, he is malevolent and can hurt physically. And there are rats, which makes the story even scarier.
-Canon Alberich's Scrapbook and Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad by M.R James. Respectively the first story he wrote, the first story I read of him. Little gems of atmospheric horror. Alberich is more straightforward as a ghost story and so is the threat, but Whistle has a long, slow build up of terror that is a real feast for the reader.
-Thrawn Janet by Robert Louis Stevenson. I only read it once, more than twenty years ago, in a French translation, but I still remember it. I am going to read it again this month. Why did he kept haunting me? Stevenson is great as putting the little sinister details that stick to your mind like a bloodthirsty leech to your vein. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it just makes me shiver still today.
-The Tapestried Chamber by Sir Walter Scott. A classic ghost story from the early days of the genre. 
-The Red Room by H.G. Wells. Wells is of course better known as a science-fiction writer, but he shows he can work in other genres. This story is a deconstruction of the genre, almost an anti ghost story, but it still manages to be scary.

So here it is, there is enough here to keep you in the mood until Halloween.

Lire dehors en automne

Il a fait un temps splendide hier et aujourd'hui et il semblerait que ce sera encore le cas demain, vendredi et toute la fin de semaine. Il fait doux, il fait soleil, mais la brise et les couleurs dans les arbres nous rappellent que l'automne est bien arrivé.

J'ai déjà dit ici à quel point j'aime lire dehors durant l'été. Aujourd'hui, j'ai eu une soudaine envie de lire dehors. Après tout, une journée d'automne s'y prête aussi bien. Aujourd'hui, j'ai lu un peu en attendant le train, des histoires de fantômes bien sûr. Avec les arbres et la brise fraîche, l'atmosphère est saisissante et parfaite pour ce genre de lecture. Dans un monde idéal, j'aurais un jardin où je pourrais m'asseoir avec une tasse de thé brûlant ou une bière et je pourrais lire mes histoires d'épouvante, mais je me contenterai d'un banc de parc ou de gare.

Ah oui, cette photo a été prise à Bath. Je la mets ici un peu arbitrairement, mais j'aime Bath, elle a été prise en automne et on peut y voir des bancs publics.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

A social life of sorts

Thinking about it yesterday, I discovered that there is another reason why I finally decided to do acting again: I need a social life, or some seem of it. My wife have a fair deal of friends she can see here, friends from work, friends from her years at uni, friends from childhood even, when she is lucky and they are around. In my case, most of my friends are on the other side of the Atlantic and the nearest ones are up in Liverpool. I like my job all right and I like my colleagues, but none of them are my friends and I don't see this changing in the near future. I rarely mix friendship and work anyway, it is not my kind of cocktail. My social life is pretty poor, if one thinks about it. While I am not exactly a very social person, I still like to speak to people sometimes with the same interests as me.

And there is also the particular aspect of the acting crowd: we share something that is difficult to share with anybody else. I say this and I did not keep the people I knew from my acting course in Montreal as friends, but I enjoyed their company when I was doing the course. And even if I was not making any friend, there would still be the interaction with people, sharing the same love of acting. I am naturally a shy person and the stage has always been for me the privileged place for me to express myself, but also to actually be a social creature.

Le train-train quotidien (ouch!)

Je sais, je sais, le titre de ce billet est un calembour épouvantable. Mes lecteurs connaissent ma fascination enfantine pour les trains. Je ne crois pas être blasé de ce moyen de transport, lequel a toujours pour moi un côté exotique. Je viens d'un continent dominé par la voiture. C'est tout de même un peu étonnant que j'aime le train et l'ambiance des gares (enfin, ça dépend lesquelles), parce que je me déplace en train tous les jours. J'aime beaucoup les longs voyages en train, mais pas quotidiennement. Je suis assez chanceux pour vivre juste assez loin de mon lieu de travail pour que je ne m'épuise pas à voyager chaque jour. Le train que je prends n'est pas aussi confortable que le TGV en France, mais c'est quand même mieux que le métro de Montréal. Et je prends toujours le même plaisir à observer la campagne anglaise de la fenêtre.

Monday 4 October 2010

Musing on haunted houses

This picture was taken during our holidays in the Lake District, in Keswick. The austere, sinister beauty of this house struck me as perfect for a haunted house. "If that's how your mind works" said my wife when I told her this earlier this evening, and I have to put it as a great unknown line (number 12 if you are counting) before going any further. I will also put here a disclaimer: I have no interest here about "real hauntings", which I don't believe in. This post is about the haunted houses of folklore and literature.

I am reading ghost stories these days and it got me thinking about the haunted house as a theme and a dramatic setting. Ghost stories are probably more often set in houses, however old, than in ancient castles. There are a number of theories about this: both haunters and haunted can be perceived as intruders, stories are scarier when a familiar, seemingly secure environment reveals a malevolent presence, etc. If you are into literary analysis, you can can read the introduction of The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories by Michael Newton: there is a good part of the text that reflects about the significance of haunted houses. I have my own theories about them: for authors and readers, everyday life must have felt sometimes opressive and because of its very banality threatening. Having ghosts invade familiar environment could have been a way to introduce through fiction ecitement in the desperately boring nature of the life of ordinary people.  The same motivation might be at the basis of many claims of real hauntings: you appear more heroic if you said you struggled against the Forces of Darkness than if you tell your investment in a house was a poor decision.

There is a problem with haunted houses as a setting: when things start getting ugly, why wouldn't the tenants leave? The threatening environment is limited to a closed space. Writers have to be inventive to keep their characters in the place: the house is in a secluded area and blocked from external help, or the characters want to be there to see for themselves if the house is haunted, or something of the sort. I often wonder how I would deal with haunted houses if I ever decide to write a horror story. I dabbled with the plot device when I was playing Call of Cthulhu, but not all that much. During my days in Liverpool, I dreamt of turning the house I was living in in a haunted house in a short story. I had the perfect setting, sadly no plot ever came to my mind. Maybe one day I will give it proper thoughts. This post is a start.

Citons François Pérusse

Une citation de François Pérusse tirée de je ne me rappelle plus lequel de ses Albums du Peuple:

"Que le bonheur submerge votre demeure jusqu'à ce que les plafonniers fleurissent."

Le contexte: même si les formules de politesse dans les messages sont obséqieuses, les messages n'en sont pas moins directs et brutaux. Même sans contexte, je la trouve toujours hilarante.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Going back to acting

Some people wanted to know about this and I can now confirm it: I took my decision and I am going to take these acting classes. I was missing it too much and thought it was now or never. I don't think I will ever become a professional actor, not at my age, but I am glad I can play again, even if is only for myself,my teacher and my fellow classmates. A small audience is better than no audience. And the fact that it will not be in my mother tongue will make it quite interesting. It is starting in about a month. I will of course keep you posted about it.

Aller aux champignons

Il y a un champignon sauvage qui pousse sur le terrain, près de notre stationnement. Personne ne l'a encore arraché et j'espère qu'il sera encore là pour un temps. En général, je n'aime guère le goût des champignons, sauf ceux que l'on vend parfois au marché français qui vient en ville l'été. Vous pouvez en voir quelques uns sur cette photo, perdus entre les olives qui sont ce que j'achète le plus souvent au marché français. je vais devoir beaucoup à la gastronomie française si jamais je me remets à en manger comme je le faisais enfant. En effet, depuis une dizaine d'années ou à peu près, ce sont des amis français m'ont pour beaucoup réconcilié avec les champignons, surtout quand il sont sautés avec beaucoup d'épices, avec parfois en plus de la crème.Je n'arrive toujours pas à l'aimer dans une sauce à spaghetti ou dans une quiche, mais parfois ça me tente d'en manger.

J'espère donc être un jour complètement réconcilié avec le champignon, parce que je suis un peu fasciné par lui en dehors de son aspect gastronomique. Je l'associe beaucoup à l'automne. Quand j'étais enfant, nous allions cueillir des champignons à chaque année à l'école primaire, aux alentours de septembre/octobre. à cette époque, je détestais cordialement le goût de la chose, mais le truc me fascinait malgré tout, à cause de son association avec la saison, avec aussi le supernaturel. Pour moi, le champignon était la pourriture vénéneuse qu'utilisaient les sorcières pour faire leurs potions. En fait, champignons et sorcières allaient de pair dans mon esprit, du moins lorsqu'ils étaient à l'état sauvage. Un voisin nous avait renseignés, mes frères et moi, sur les ronds de sorcières, ces cercles de champignons qui, selon la superstition, étaient supposés indiquer le lieu ou des sorcières s'étaient réunies. Je ne croyais pas aux sorcières et je savais que le rond de sorcières était un phénomème naturel, mais à chaque année je regardais les ronds de sorcières sur notre terrain (et ceux des autres) avec fascination. Il s'est intégré admirablement à nos jeux d'enfants. Alors ces temps-ci, je me demande si je ne devrais pas retourner aux champignons. Pas pour les cueillir (j'ai eu ma dose de mycologie), seulement pour les observer.

PS: Parlant de surnaturel, je rappelle à mon lectorat que j'ai posé une nouvelle question existentielle récemment et que je suis très curieux de lire les réponses.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Terrifying image

This picture was taken in Bath, almost a year ago, on the 30th of October. I cannot remember exactly where. I cannot remember what this statue was or why it was there. I think it was in the Royal Victoria Park. In any case, I think it is a terrifying sight.

In the documentary I put here on M.R. James, one of the persons interviewed mentioned that James's type of terror he created in his writings was subtle, at the corner of the eye, barely perceptible, which was enough to create dread. That is what struck me about this statue in the woods: there is something malevolent about the expression of its face, with the darkness coming, the autumn colours, it simply looked really threatening. I read once a scary Transylvanian tale that spoke of a guardian spirit of the forest, who murdered a few careless lumberjacks. The spirit could take many forms, but I always pictured him like this statue.

Question existentielle (22)

Puisque j'ai la tête à l'Halloween ces temps-ci, j'ai songé à cette question existentielle:

-Quelle est l'oeuvre de fiction que vous avez trouvé la plus terrifiante?

Faust animé

English below... Yes I know I don't do it very often, but that is worth the effort.

Les trésors que l'on trouve sur Youtube. Je cherchais donc une interprétation du Veau d'Or tiré (bien entendu) du Faust de Gounod, je suis tombé sur une animation géniale qui résume en deux minutes l'intrigue complète de l'opéra, avec poésie et efficacité et sans sacrifier l'atmosphère. C'est tiré d'Opéra imaginaire et l'auteure est Hilary Audus. L'interprétation de l'aria est de Nicolai Ghiaurov. Vous trouverez l'animation au bas du billet. Ca me surprend un peu que personne ne fasse des adaptations animées complètes de grands opéras. Certains opéras à grands déploiements, comme Faust, se prêteraient parfaitement à ce médium. Enfin, au moins nous avons ce petit chef d'oeuvre de deux minutes.
For the opera lovers about my readers, and the others too, I found on Youtube a lovely little animated movie that is simply a two minutes masterpiece. I was looking for an interpretation of Le Veau d'Or from Faust of Gounod. And I found this little gem, which summarises the opera the time that the aria lasts, with efficiency but no shortness poetry and atmosphere. It is beautiful. The animation was made by Hilary Audus from a series called Opéra Imaginaire. The aria is interpreted by Nicolai Ghiaurov. I am surprised they don't make complete operas in cartoon. Some large scale operas such as Faust would work beautifully for the medium. Well, at least we have this two minutes adaptation.

Friday 1 October 2010

Countdown to Halloween

So today was the first day of October. It is for me the official countdown to Halloween, although I have my officious one which starts in September. But this evening, I took out Grizelda and put her on display in the living room. I hope to find more witches to decorate the flat.It might be a long month for my wife.

This Jack O'Lantern I carved last year, as people may remember. I am always proud of the Jack O'Lanterns I carve. But last year's ones were really good, much better than the year before. Soon I will buy another pumpkin (maybe more) and I will try to better myself in the art of Jack O'Lantern carving.

When I was a child, my brothers and I were playing a "Halloween game" throughout autumn, now I will just read ghost stories and watch horror movies. Yes, my wife will probably find the month a bit long.


Nous sommes le premier jour d'octobre aujourd'hui. C'est à peine si j'ai septembre passer, ayant été très occupé au travail. Aujourd'hui, le temps était misérable, horriblement pluvieux et morne. Pour moi, octobre est le mois qui mène à l'Halloween, le mois où je lis sérieusement des histoires d'horreur et où j'essaie de marcher dans les bois aussi souvent que possible. Cette photo a été prise à Bath l'année dernière, le 30 octobre. Le feuillage des arbres n'est pas aussi magnifique ici, pas pour le moment en tout cas, et il n'y a pas de ville qui ait la beauté intemporelle de Bath, mais j'ai pensé mettre la photo ici pour souligner le début d'octobre.