Friday 31 December 2010

Waltzing Matilda

In less than an hour, it will be 2011 and I was wondering how to blog about the New Year and the year ending. I thought I would put a song here, it would be more eloquent than the clichés I could type about, well, about time passing. Can be escape clichés when talking about new year?

I was distractly watching a documentary on Rolf Harris recently, and his interpretation of Waltzing Matilda struck me. I knew vaguely that song (from Secret Valley, a children program I used to watch, which used the music but with different lyrics for the theme song), but I literally fell in love with it. Of course I felt in love the way I usually do: flat on my face, heart beating fast, spirit uplifted as if I was an Australian. It got stuck in my head and I want this to be my new drinking song, my Odyssey song (read: my travel song) and, since it will be New Year, my New Year song. I don't know why I fell in love with Waltzing Matilda. I am not particularly into Australia, although I admire some of its actors, particularly Cate Blanchett to whom my admiration is close to worship (which reminds me that I did not spend an evening with her in a long time), I was fascinated as a child about its wildlife and I really want to go to the Sydney Opera House once in my life. Okay, enough reasons to love the country I guess, but my love for this particular folk song is still a mystery to me. Somehow it reminds me of the Irish folk songs I am quite fond of. And the New Year is a good reason as any to put it on this blog. So here it is, sang by Rolf Harris:

Delenda Carthago

Ce sera 2011 dans quelques heures. Je fête assez peu le Jour de l'An, beaucoup moins que Noël en tout cas. J'ai pensé ici revenir sur mes billets plus récents qui n'ont pas (ou peu) été commentés, histoires de boucler la boucle de 2010. "Delanda Carthago", disait Caton l'Ancien. C'est à peu près tout ce que je sais de lui.Alors voici les billets en question, lesquels sont tous en français (une autre raison pour commenter ces billets, je veux revitaliser la partie française de ce blogue):

-La marche des rois.
-Torpeur hivernale.
-Les questions existentielles 30, 29 et 28.

Pour le reste, bonne nouvelle année à tous...

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Being a night owl again

I became a night owl during my years at university. Probably before come to think of it, but I developed a nocturnal living cycle during my numerous nights where I was working on essays and later on on my PhD thesis. I blogged about it before. I am no more nocturnal nowadays. But since the Christmas holidays, I became a night owl again. It usually happens during holidays and I welcome it. Unlike the days when I was a student, I can sleep late in the morning and I am active doing something fun: reading, watching TV/movies/what have you and of course blogging.

La marche des rois

"De bon matin j'ai rencontré le train
De trois grands Rois qui allaient en voyage,
De bon matin j'ai rencontré le train
De trois grands Rois dessus le grand chemin
Ce n'est pas encore l'Épiphanie, mais puisqu'on s'y dirige, j'ai pensé mettre La marche des rois sur le blogue. J'ai toujours aimé la chanson, dont les origines seraient médiévales. C'est l'un de ces airs de Noël que je trouve particulièrement appropriés pour les parties de Donjons & Dragons. J'ai cherché longtemps pour trouver une bonne version sur Youtube. Jusqu'ici, je trouve qu'aucune interprétation ne vaut celle de ce disque, comme le disait d'ailleurs mon petit frère il y a quelques années. Celle-ci n'est pas aussi bonne, mais elle est quand même interprétée avec coeur et compétence:

Another atheist's rambling on Christmas

The atheist of the title being me. I know I have blogged about a similar topic very recently, but this is still Christmastime after all. This post is also an excuse to upload on this blog a picture of my family's Christmas tree in Chicoutimi. That might illustrate why I find this forced stay in England for the season so cruel. As you know, I received The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, which I have started reading with great interest. Books you love often express things you have been feeling or thinking before and this one does exactly this. Of course it depends of the writer and there is a wide variety of them, but it is fascinating to see how my own experience and perspective on things is an echo of so many other people's. It is good to feel that I am not alone. Reading the book puts things into perspective as well: what I blog about is not always very original.

Christmas for me is a celebration that is now self-justifiable: I celebrate because it's Christmas. I couldn't care less about the veracity of the Nativity legend, which is exactly this, a legend, but I love its imagery and its icons. We could commemorate the death of Balder (as probably many Germanic European did at a time) that it would not make any difference to me. And as I said before, a Christmas tree is a decorated Yggdrasil. Christmas is a secular holiday that took the guise of a Christian one.

Anyway, I thought I would put some video from Youtube on the subject of Christmas for an atheist that I found fascinating. It is from ProfMTH, who made videos which I always loved, because he explains things simply but never dunbimg them down, but also because of his Catholic background, which puts his atheism and his deconversion akin to mine (except mine was not half as dramatic as his). Oh, and it has an interpretation of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, which gave me goosebumps. I put a lot of carols on the blog these days...

Torpeur hivernale

Une photo de la maison familiale à Noël 2007, autrement dit une autre époque. Il avait beaucoup neigé cette année-là. Il n'y a pas à dire, l'hiver, enfin la neige, change radicalement le paysage. Je suis dans un état quasi-végétatif, proche de celui du pommetier sur la photo. Mon cerveau fonctionne encore assez pour lire, ce dont je ne me prive pas, mais je sors assez peu et rarement en dehors de la ville. À chaque vacances de Noël c'est la même chose, vient un moment où tout ce dont j'ai besoin c'est de farniente. Je crois que je devrais hiberner une partie de l'hiver. Cela dit, c'est un peu étrange que je sois dans cet état maintenant: je n'ai pas eu à assister à tout ce qu'il y a de réceptions familiales, soupers avec les amis, collègues, et ainsi de suite. qui normalement viennent avec les Fêtes. Je n'ai pas non plus joué à Donjons & Dragons, ni sorti dans les bars. Cette année, c'est peut-être l'inaction elle-même de ce Noël inattendu qui m'a fait végétatif.

Monday 27 December 2010

Gloucestershire Wassail

There is not much time left for Christmas carols, I think the closer it gets to New Year the less enjoyable they get. Like many holidays, I often find Christmas more interesting in the build up (as long as it doesn't start in September). But there are many carols that I can appreciate between Christmas and New Year. Last year, I discovered Gloucestershire Wassail on Youtube by total chance. I particularly like the version of Loreena McKennitt on A Midwinter Night's Dream. I think I like it because it is a drinking song. Because of this and because it mentions the new year, I think it ties it nicely between Christmas and, well, New Year.

Question existentielle (30)

Le phénomène mérite une question existentielle:

-Quel est l'intérêt du Boxing Day?

Et, un coup parti, je signale ici que personne n'a encore répondu à la question 29 et très peu de gens à la question 28.

Sunday 26 December 2010

The Feast of Stephen (to avoid Boxing Day)

Today is Boxing Day, a day I always hated. But since it is Sunday it will be probably be worse tomorrow, like a nightmare that you live again two nights in a row. Did I mention that I hate Boxing Day? I usually spend the day locked in, reading, watching movies, whatever I can find to avoid going out and meeting civilisation. Although seeing as how people behave like a herd on Boxing Day, "civilisation" might be a generous word.

The 26th of December is supposed to be St Stephen's Day, a saint I know nothing about but his martyrdom and the mention of this day in Good King Wenceslas. Always loved that song, which is also a nice little story. But I love it for its winter atmosphere. Its mentions of cruel frost and rude wind means something to someone who grew up in such winters. When I was a child, I could barely understand English, but the music was enough to make me enjoy Good King Wenceslas. It is also one of those Christmas carols that I associate with Dungeons & Dragons, both because of the setting of its subject and in its music, which dates back to the XIIIth century. Characters walking in the snow on a cold winter night (or day) is a campaign cliché I always loved (and so did my brother who is also our DM). So since I won't play the game any time soon and since I did not put many Christmas carols here, I thought I would put this one. It is, after all, the Feast of Stephen and the frost outside is cruel:

Lire près de l'arbre de Noël

C'est un des plaisirs de Noël que j'apprécie particulièrement: saisir une pile de bouquins, ceux reçus à Noël (j'en reçois en général beaucoup) et le roman que je lis dans le moment, et lire près de l'arbre de Noël, en sautant d'un livre à l'autre selon mes fantaisies. C'est particulièrement plaisant lorsqu'il fait froid dehors (c'est le cas), ou lorsque c'est le Boxing Day et que c'est la cohue dehors. Je peux profiter de ce petit plaisir ici, mais une chose me manque: l'odeur d'un vrai sapin! Enfin, puisque je n'ai pas de train électrique, que je ne peux pas jouer à Donjons & Dragons cette année, on ne boudera pas ce plaisir.

Notons une chose: je blogue près de l'arbre également, ce que je n'ai jamais encore fait dans la maison familiale. Ah oui, je profite de l'occasion pour inviter mes lecteurs à répondre aux questions existentielles 28 et 29. Quant à moi, je retourne à mes lectures...

Saturday 25 December 2010

My own Christmas speech (just because)

So Queen Elizabeth II made her Christmas speech today. On the news, I thought she looked like Mrs Santa Claus (I mean she really looked like Mrs Santa Claus!). I am republican and I cannot believe how easy the royals make it to poke fun at them. But I digress... So every important public figure make Christmas speeches, so I thought why not also a commoner like me? I thought about writing  here a speech or three reasons: first because it is time for Christmas speeches, as I said, second because my brother sent me a video of the wedding speech I gave at my other brother's wedding, and thirdly because I received as a present The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, which I have been wanting to have and read for ages. It made me wonder if I could write one on the topic. I am an atheist, ideologically I am a secular humanist, but I love Christmas. So why does it matter to me?

Well, it matters because Christmas is a celebration which roots predate Christianity and which significance goes way beyond it.  Its imagery is often more Pagan than Christian, it's a celebration of life (yes it is corny to say it, but still true) and I love its excesses. While religious zealots historically found these excesses deplorable and were even against celebrating Christmas, I embrace the Pagan roots, the excesses, the non-spiritual aspect of the holiday. Even as a devout little Catholic boy, I could have never imagined myself spending Christmas in prayers and penance. It does not mean that I disregard charity work done during Christmastime (or done at any time), but any charity work is done to give material, physical comfort of some sort. The pleasure I take from the holiday is desperately physical (for better or for worse, when I have eaten too much like now): I love its atmosphere (and what it represents to me), its religious music I appreciate on a strictly aesthetic level (not believing of the historical truth of its story anymore, but also because its carols have a beauty of their own regardless of their religious significance), etc. In a way, the religious aspect of Christmas is merely cosmetic. And of course there is the question of the nostalgia. Like Halloween, I have strong recollection of my the Christmases of my childhood. At some point, the celebration is in itself a justification of its existence, the memory you have of the past Christmases and the creation of new memories to share in the future are important. I think it is Oscar Wilde who said that all a man is his past. As an utter nostalgic I completely agree. And this is why Christmas as a celebration matters.

Perdre la notion du temps

C'est donc Noël aujourd'hui et je viens de développer mes cadeaux. Je viens également de me rendre compte que nous sommes samedi. Ca peut sembler étrange, mais je n'avais aucune idée du jour de la semaine. Ca m'arrive souvent durant le Temps des Fêtes: je perds entièrement conscience du moment de la semaine où nous sommes et après le 25 tout devient vague jusqu'au Jour de l'An. Ce n'est pas désagréable. Je peux me permettre de ne rien faire, que prendre le temps de lire, d'écouter dela musique et de regarder des films.

La photo de droite est bien entendu prise d'un Noël précédent à Chicoutimi. Le Père Noël était à l'origine dans un centre de table, il est devenu une décoration du sapin...

Friday 24 December 2010

The first Christmas... England for me, that is. In an hour, more or less. I spent my first Christmas away from home last year, but never in England. Strange, as I have been living in this country for more than ten years, on and off. We will celebrate it tomorrow, as proper Englishmen, but I will of course solely miss the tradition of my own country: the celebrations starting at midnight with Minuit Chrétiens (O Holy Night, which is ironic to appreciate as an atheist, but I always suspected it was a republican song disguised as a Christian one), the heavy food eaten very early in the morning, the unwrapping of the presents, the Nativity Scene (another one which one may find strange that I miss, but our Nativity Scene in Chicoutimi is beautiful and artistic and besides I always thought that it was filled with Pagan symbolism), waking up children at midnight... Okay, there are no children to wake up yet/anymore, but still. I guess I am still deeply a cultural Catholic and I live Christmas as such, with the same traditions and icons I identify myself to. Old habits die hard, especially these ones. I want to stay up until Midnight, like I used to not so long ago, to be conscious when Christmas starts.

Anyway, I have decided to put here the picture of the Christmas tree we made back in 2008. It is blurry, but in a way it illustrates my state of mind.

Question existentielle (29)

Cette toute nouvelle question existentielle est la question inverse de la numéro 28, laquelle n'était pas très originale, comme j'ai pu le constater aujourd'hui sur le blogue de Richard Hétu. Cela dit, même si elle n'est pas originale et si elle date un peu, n'hésitez pas à y répondre. Mais voici la vingt-neuvième question existentielle:

-Quel a été votre cadeau de Noël préféré?

Thursday 23 December 2010

Great unknown line number 17

It is a great unknown line that is in fact a rhetorical question my youngest brother asked on Facebook, referring to his time in the gym:

"Why does pain hurt so much?"

It can be used in a wide range of contexts.

23 Décembre

Je l'ai déjà mise sur le blogue il y a deux ans, mais il faut bien que je mette 23 Décembre encore une fois ici. Parce que je me sens nostalgique, parce que je m'ennuie de chez moi et parce que c'est une chanson tellement québécoise...

I got more books

This is something that cheered me up yesterday: I managed to get my hands on some novels of Anthony Burgess, the ones that have been reedited recently and which I was desperate to find. To be more precise, I bought One Hand Clapping (which I never read but always wanted to) and 1985 (which I read in French but wanted to re-read). So I missed their launch in Manchester, but I have at least some of them and am now hopeful to find the others.


C'est mon plan pour l'après-midi: préparer les atocas pour le souper de Noël. Je préfère le mot atoca (ou atoka) à canneberge. C'est par ce nom que je les ai connues en premier et puis il a une dimension culturelle que les autres n'ont pas. Il faut bien se souvenir de ses racines, même de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique et au Québec on appelle les canneberges atocas. Joli nom bien amérindien.

L'atoca peut servir à bien des choses: pur, son jus rajoute du goût à un verre de jus d'orange. Mais en confiture, avec du sucre, elle accompagne parfaitement la dinde de Noël ou son équivalent véggétalien. J'éprouve une certaine fierté à préparer la "cranberry sauce" depuis que j'ai appris que ma nièce avait beaucoup aimé celle que j'avais faite il y a quelques années. Elle ne mangera sans doute pas celle-là, mais au moins ça va sentir Noël dans la maison.

Getting into the festive spirit

I am trying to make the best of the situation. The worst is over, I am comfortable at home and ironically now that I am stuck here the snow is going. But hopefully there will still be some left at Christmas. After messing up my trip home, that is the least I could expect. But I am getting in the spirit. Which now means:

-Reading. I have at last time to read. I will try to finish that book on Viking mythology, as I associate Norse mythology with Christmas. There is also this book which is about Christmases in Québec.
-Listening to Christmas carols. I got pretty much all my family's discography on an USB port. Hopefully it will help me cope with the homesickness.
-Cooking. I will try to make a yule log and will make some cranberry sauce. Maybe make some mulled wine too.
-Eat clementines.I associate them a lot with Christmas.
-Increase my alcohol intake. Well, this has already started. I notice that I usually drink a lot more during Christmastime, when I am at home with my family. I don't get drunk or anything (well, not anymore), but I do drink more. Once a year, I think I can do this.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Un medley de Noël signé François Pérusse

Histoire de me changer les idées et de faire rire mon lectorat francophone, j'ai pensé mettre ici un vieux medley de Noël qui date de 1992, mais qui n'a pas vieilli d'une semaine. Enfin, à part les allusions aux Tortues Ninjas... Les gens de ma génération reconnaîtront tout de suite François Pérusse, pour être plus précis L'Album do peuple Tome 2. La première fois que je l'ai entendue, c'était dans le temps de Noël, juste après une soirée à jouer à Donjons et Dragons. J'associe les Albums de Pérusse à Noël parce qu'ils étaient souvent (tout le temps?) sortis à l'approche des Fêtes. Mais Pérusse est aussi un brillant satiriste et ce medley décrit parfaitement avec juste assez de cynisme quand le Temps des Fêtes tourne au vinaigre.

At least there is snow

This is whatI have people told me, and what I have been telling myself since I got stranded here. I may not see my family, my godson, I will not eat all the good food I usually stuff myself with, I will not play Dungeons & Dragons this year (I sorely miss our games), I will not play with the electric train (another thing I will miss), I will not smell the Christmas tree, but at least there is snow here. Still, I should have been careful what I wished for. It was not the holidays I was planning to have. But after this post, I will blog only cheerful posts, promise. I will find something. Eventually.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Je manque Ciné-Cadeau

Bon, il semblerait qu'il est vain d'espérer, la situation ne s'améliore pas, je serai donc foutu ici pour Noël. Je ne sais pas trop pourquoi, mais j'ai jeté un coup d'oeil sur la cuvée 2010 de Ciné-Cadeau. Je ne regarde plus Ciné-Cadeau même quand je suis au Québec, mais j'aime jeter un oeil sur la programmation. On passe beaucoup de vieux Tintin, y compris Tintin et le Lac aux Requins, qui a été mon préféré pour une raison quelconque, même si ce n'est pas une histoire originale d'Hergé.Il est vrai que Greg était quand même un fan consciencieux. C'est le genre de film que j'aime plus qu'il ne le mérite. Cela dit, j'ai eu un plaisir aigre-doux plein de nostalgie à écouter cette chanson du film aujourd'hui:

Sunday 19 December 2010

Keep calm and carry on

The title of this post was inspired by a classic piece of WWII British propaganda. I am using it today as a mantra and also as an ironic reminder. As my readers probably know from my previous post in French, I was supposed to be home for Christmas, but I will probably be stuck here, because of the snow that fell. I made fun at the way the English are unable to deal with winter, but that is utterly unfunny. I mean, I am used to winters where things get slow because of the snow, but stopping to a gridlock like that? Being one of those victims of the weather? I mean I know winter! I grew up in it! We were on our way to Heathrow and we saw the country getting paralysed by the minute. I just could not believe it. So yes, for the next few days, I will try to keep calm and carry on. But I cannot help but find bitterly ironic that the country that carried on when the Luftwaffe was bombing the country could surrender so easily to a snow fall.

Prisonnier de la neige

J'étais supposé être à Montréal aujourd'hui. Mais avec la tempête qui s'est abattue sur l'Angleterre, je suis collé ici. Hier, l'autobus qui devait nous amener à heathrow a rebroussé à mi-chemin quand le chauffeur a appris que les vols étaient annulés. en fait, je dis à mi-chemin, mais c'était plutôt tiers-cheming ou même quart-chemin. Une heure et demie en autobus nous aurait pris plus de six heures. Nous avons été quatre heures à l'intérieur, sans pouvoir sortir de la ville. Puis nous n'avons pas pu retourner chez nous, les routes étant barrées. Alors on a couché à l'hôtel. J'ai déjà écrit un billet sur la manière pathétique qu'ont les Anglais de gérer la neige et l'arrivée de l'hiver. Depuis hier, je ne la trouve plus drôle.

Friday 17 December 2010

A bit of permanence

With the excitement of the last few days, I forgot to mention something: I have been made permanent at my job. Strangely enough, I had forgotten about it: this morning for me it was business as usual. Yet the news is an important one and it matters a lot to me. I need a bit of security in my life, financial security that you get with a steady job, but also some security knowing that you will not be jobless the next morning. I need permanence on the job front. In the last few years, I had been unlucky with jobs. First I lost one in a very bad moment, then I had a few string of rubbish/temporary jobs, then a frustrating and fruitless time trying to make my way into teaching, being overworked and underpaid (and for a while surrounded by scheming, backstabbing bastards). Being made permanent, it is also a revenge against that time. It has not settled in, but I am grateful for it and I will remember that moment when I get tired or frustrated.

Tôt rentré grâce à la neige

Je me dois de placer une note avant de commencer à lire ce billet pour éviter toute ambiguité: la photo de droite n'a bien sûr pas été prise aujourd'hui, ni en Angleterre. On voit bien sûr sur cette photo des neiges québécoises.

Il y a des jours comme ça où je me rends compte que je vis dans un autre pays. J'étais au travail lorsqu'il s'est soudainement à neiger. Finalement, finalement, on a eu de la neige dans notre coin de l'Angleterre. Pas énormément, mais il y a eu accumulation. L'histoire pourrait s'arrêter ici. Mais alors que la neige tombait dru et que le vent soufflait, ce qui donnait au spectacle un air dramatique, le patron a dit que ceux qui préfèrent partir le fassent. Je serais resté, mais mon supérieur immédiat m'a ordonné de rentrer chez moi, craignant que la tempête ne retarde les trains et que je sois bloqué si je restais plus longtemps. Alors je suis retourné chez moi... même si la neige avait alors cessé de tomber et que les trains étaient à l'heure. Mais bon, je ne me plaindrai pas d'avoir un vendredi après-midi de congé.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Acting night

It was my last acting lesson last night. We performed Chekov's Marriage Proposal, half reading the lines half playing, it was pretty much a mess but I enjoyed it tremendously. I was worried that I blogged too much about my acting class and in a way I probably did, however I feel like I barely touched the topic. I did not really talk about the physicality of acting, or the strong group spirit that one feels there, or the fun of getting the lines (some of them anyway), or the things I learned. I will do it again next year. The aspiring acting world is my community, maybe the one I feel most close to. We have all decided to get back in touch as early as possible during the new year.

There is a lot to say about it, but as it happens sometimes I feel like I would either be saying too much or too little. So I will just put here a quote from Cicely Berry, which our acting teacher gave us:

"I think one of the greatest fears of the actor is that of not being interesting. This really need never be a fear because everyone is interesting in that he is himself. When you get to the point which says "This is me, it will change, and perhaps improve, but this is me at this moment", then the voice will become open."

Question existentielle (28)

J'espère que cette question existentielle n'amènera pas de conflit dans les familles de mon lectorat (surtout pas la mienne!):

-Quel est le pire cadeau de Noël que vous ayez jamais reçu?

Monday 13 December 2010

Acting and sanity

I have decided that I will attend more acting classes next year. I was busy yesterday rehearsing at my teacher's home and will be busy tomorrow night rehearsing again in a nearby town. I need to rehearse, but I discovered yesterday that I needed to do acting, I needed those evenings and that time spent learning lines, finding a voice, finding my character and making him live. I need to do something than watching TV at night and to be more active. I need to socialise of course and above all I need to do something I love. My mother put it perfectly a few weeks ago, she said: "Acting is cheaper than therapy!" This is witty enough to place it among the great unknown lines. It is also true to the core: acting is therapeutic. It is to me anyway and this is why I will carry on. It keeps me sane.

Être loin de l'action

Je ne veux pas transformer ce blogue en chronique météo, mais il semblerait que je manque les grandes tempêtes de neige et les excès climatiques de mon pays. Je suis certain que beaucoup de mes compatriotes doivent me trouver masochiste, mais il n'y a rien de plus difficile pour moi que de ne pas vivre des moments de l'année importants comme ceux-là. De ne plus vivre l'hiver québécois dans ce qu'il a de plus typique, ça me donne un peu le mal du pays. Parce que, qu'on l'aime ou qu'on le subisse, l'hiver c'est beaucoup de l'identité québécoise.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Spinning wheel

I was reading Gwen Buchanan's blog recently (which I found because she made a beautiful portrait of Anthony Burgess) and I noticed a pic of a spinning wheel that struck me. It reminded me of one I saw in the Keswick Museum, which you can see pictured on the left. I don't want to make her blush or anything, but I admire Gwen and consider her a true artist because she can take simple objects and show their aesthetic aspect, turn them into artistic creations: a stone wall, working tools, etc. Back in keswick, I took a picture of this spinning wheel because I thought it looked good, without understanding exactly why I thought so. It is a simple object, it was a long time ago a useful one, but it also has strong symbolic associations with the passage of time and death (I think among other things about the Norns in Viking mythology, even though they did not have a spinning wheel). But I just love it as an aesthetic object.

On compatit

J'ai mentionné sur Facebook mes mésaventures d'hier. Même si le billet sur mon magasinage est passé inaperçu jusqu'ici (il est vrai que je l'ai écrit tard), mais sur Facebook j'ai reçu beaucoup de commentaires sur comment éviter les problèmes et les frustrations que j'ai vécus et d'autres commentaires compatissants. Je crois que j'ai touché une corde sensible.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Forget what I said

As I blogged earlier on in French, I did some Christmas shopping today. I found the experience very frustrating. So much on sale, and so little worthy of buying. And I cannot stand the crowd. I hate big crowds. I blogged not so long ago about Buy Nothing Day and I feel that the post was written by another man. Today I wished I could have avoided buying anything and going to shops. I will be a capitalist again on Monday, for practical reasons, but this weekend my temper makes me a radical socialist. I guess I would have felt different going to small local shops, but big shopping centers really get me sick.

Constatation sur le magasinage des fêtes...

Je déteste ça. Je ne suis pas original, mais je déteste ça. Aujourd'hui on a passé l'après-midi, ma femme et moi, à essayer de trouver des cadeaux à tout le monde. On a fait des progrès, mais ce fut long, ce fut ennuyeux, ce fut souvent angoissant, ce fut encore plus souvent frustrant. Il était un temps où j'aimais trouver des cadeaux de Noël, je ne sais pas pourquoi ça a tant changé. Peut-être parce que maintenant je travaille à temps plein et je n'ai que les fins de semaines pour le faire. Peut-être aussi que c'est parce que je ne trouve simplement plus quoi acheter. C'est un peu parce que ma famille a déjà beaucoup, c'est aussi parce qu'on ne trouve plus rien, c'est du moins l'impression que j'ai. Bien des cossins bêtes, mais rien de bon, ou si peu.

Friday 10 December 2010

"What's it going to be then, eh?"

"There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry."

It may not be his best novel, but A Clockwork Orange certainly has quite a start. It had a strong impression on me when I first read it more than fifteen years ago, at around the same time of the year. For me, it epitomizes winter and teenage at its nastiest. It establishes the setting and characters with efficiency and a dash of poetry. I was reminded of it because the Foundation used it in one of its recent emails. So since it is winter now, often a flip dark chill winter bastard, I thought to put it here. This blog is about true fiction, after all. And there is never enough Anthony Burgess to quote.

Question existentielle (27)

Bon, ça fait déjà un bail que je n'ai pas posé de question existentielle, alors en voici une:

-Que demander comme cadeau à Noël?

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Staying in the cave

I was supposed to go and rehearse like last week, but finally the actress couldn't make it, so I stayed in tonight. I am glad. Whatever I said about getting out of the house a week ago, I felt that I needed to stay at home. I feel tired and I need a rest. Even learning my lines by myself last night got me exhausted (I did make progress though). Sometimes it feels good to be an hermit. It is strange how my mood changed over a week, tonight I felt almost reclusive. It would be more accurate to say that I wanted to feel home and comfortable. Still, the cave can have its charm.

Le parfum des agrumes

Je lisais hier ce bouquin sur Noël au Québec et on y parlait des oranges, qui a longtemps été un fruit exotique associé aux Fêtes. On y parlait également et beaucoup de l'odeur de l'orange, associé à Noël. Ca m'a fait penser à mon intérêt pour les clémentines. Je ne les mange que durant les Fêtes, après cela elles perdent leur intérêt pour moi. Et j'adore leur parfum. Comme l'odeur du sapin et de la neige, je l'associe à Noël.

Monday 6 December 2010

Daydreaming and creativity

Maybe it was because it was Monday, maybe it was because it was a grey December day that leads to melancholia, or because Christmas is coming, or for another reason, but I daydreamed quite a lot at work today. This is something I have done since childhood, when I was at school and bored stiff: I used to invent myself stories, sometimes very complex ones. Some of them we ended up playing them my brothers and I (in teenage and later I got a fair deal of D&Dr material through this), some they were just left in my head.

I guess I never quite grew up and my imagination has always been vivid. I mentioned it before: I am very conscious of my "Don Quixote" side(and I never read Don Quixote). It is strange because my daydreaming did not prevent me from being a good student, neither is it now a hindrance at work. I can have very good, productive days, yet daydream during a fair deal in them. But I sometimes think that I waste what could be good writing material. If I was putting on paper all of what I think about (a character, an image, a certain scene with atmosphere, a good line, what have you) when I should be doing something else, then getting rid of the bad stuff, then working on the good stuff, then trying to organise this into a whole that stands together, maybe I could write a good play, a good crime novel, maybe even the great Québec expat's novel. Well, one can dream. I would need first discipline, I think.

Les stocks

Je crois qu'il est temps que j'aie des vacances, surtout des vacances au Québec, parce que j'ai constaté récemment que je commence à être à court de bien des choses. Il me manque de tout, dont plusieurs trucs que je ne peux trouver que dans mon pays natal. Ce billet est donc une liste des stocks qui me manquent ou qui me restent (j'en écris parfois des triviaux comme ça):

-Beurre d'arachide Kraft. Quantité: épuisé.
-Livres de format poche pour lire en voyage. Quantité: risible. Je dis ça, et j'en ai encore assez pour quelques mois, mais il faut être dans un certain état d'esprit et avoir du temps pour lire des classiques (j'ai quelques briques, mais je me vois mal les transporter avec moi).
-After-shave. Quantité: dangereusement basse. Quand on a la barbe forte comme moi c'est un souci.
-Vêtements d'hiver. Quantité: indéterminée parce que souvent en pièces détachées. Je compte par ailleurs faire découvrir Kanuk aux Anglais.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Mozart and a commemoration

On the 5th of December, I usually blog about The Legend of Saint Nicholas. I still might later on. But Mozart`s Girl reminded me that today is Mozart's death anniversary. And to my great shame I don't think I ever commemorated it here. So here it is.

I blogged about Mozart fairly often, especially about the special relationship I have with his operas. It is through his lyric works that I mainly know and love Mozart. Back in 1991 (I think it was in May), when I was a teenager, my family and I visited Austria, which was therefore during his 200th death anniversary. We visited Mozart's world more than Austria this year, and spent many evenings going to concert, operas, etc. I was hooked for the next Summer. A few years later I got sick of it and listened to other things, mainly XIXth century composers. I got hooked again a few years later. Now his operas are my favourite to sing. I put a lot of his music here and I wanted to put some more to commemorate his death. I thought of his Hallelujah from Exultate Jubilate, but I could not find a good enough version on Youtube to embed here. Most of them simply had an awful sound. But I found this interpretation which is very nice, although I cannot put it here you can follow the link and enjoy it there.

Pas/plus de neige

Je ne veux pas transformer ce blogue en chronique météorologique, mais la neige qui est tombée récemment partout en Angleterre sauf ici m'a occupé l'esprit. Nous avons eu quelques brins de neige, assez pour que le soul se couvre d'un mince manteau blanc, pas assez pour l'ensevelir. Et pas assez pour que je puisse en profiter. À cause du brouhaha autour de l'oeil de la tempête, la bibliothèque a été fermée cette semaine, ce qui veut dire qu'on a eu une part (même infime) des désagréments de la neige sans les avantages. Je me console en attendant le séjour au Québec et en me disant que j'aurai là de la vraie neige.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Born in a different country?

I finally watched this interview with Christopher Hitchens. I was waiting for inspiration for another post and he gave it to me. There was a mention in this interview that he once said that he was born in the wrong country. He was of course refering to the United States of America, Hitchens having always been drawn to it.

I do not think for a minute that I was born in the wrong country. I am completely, utterly, desperately Quebecker, even as an expat, maybe moreso as an expat. But I do wonder sometimes where I could have been born, given my temperament and sensibilities. I once blogged about where I could live and once about absorbing cultures. This post is much more speculative and pretty much cultural daydream. Still, it is interesting to muse about this.

Of course, being an immigrant in England and having lived in this country on and off for more than ten years. I would have grown up as a pretty good Englishman: proud of a literature that I love (big and small), of the acting world that I admire and envy, drinking real ales, being a tea drinker from a much younger age, grumpy about the lousy weather, etc. I may not have been bilingual had I been born here, but I would still have become a republican, something that I would have gained at late teenage, alongside my atheism. I can more comfortably imagine myself being born English than say Irish or Italian because of my atheism: England is a more fertile soil for it and a more welcoming place. That said, I feel very strong connections to Italy. I have difficulties imagining myself as a born Italian, but in my life I came very close to be an adopted one. At some point, the only thing lacking was the language. I even had been Christened with an Italian name by my Italian friends (one day I might blog about this). During my first year in England, I discovered more Italian culture than British one and felt so comfortable in it that one of the Italian students I was hanging around with once called me "the most Italian of all Canadians". It was quite a compliment. But born in Italy, I wonder if I would have become who I am. I am a Northerner to the core, except when I try to be Italian. And it is difficult to imagine myself growing up in sunny mediterranean south of Italy. But maybe my inclination towards this country was done through absorbtion, it was not inherent to my nature.

Quai des Orfèvres

Mon (modeste) lectorat connaît mon admiration pour Henri-Georges Clouzot. Je vous présente donc ici un de mes films de Noël préférés. En fait, Quai des Orfèvres est un film policier qui se passe en partie dans le temps de Noël, mais c'est un de ceux que j'essaie de regarder durant les vacances. Petit chef d'oeuvre peu connu plein d'atmosphère, qui m'a fait découvrir Louis Jouvet (beaucoup) et Suzy Delair et Bernard Blier. Il y a beaucoup à aimer dans ce film: des personnages bien campés, des répliques savoureuses, un Paris d'après-guerre criant d'authenticité, glauque et gris mais pas dénué de charme (je préfère d'ailleurs ce Paris à celui que j'ai vu comme touriste). Ah oui, et c'est un film tourné de main de maître. Pas aussi génial que Le Corbeau, mais quand même un excellent film policier, très solide. Je laisse ici deux extraits du film, en attendant que je me retape le film complet à Noël.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Christmas market

We went to the local Christmas market tonight. It was a short trip and we were both tired and have work tomorrow (and because there is just so much to do there), but as usual we enjoyed it. Some snow fell last night and today, so it looked a bit like winter and Christmastime. There was the typical things: the Salvation army playing Christmas carols, food stands selling delicious meaty stuff (hot dogs and hamburgers mainly), lots of teenagers (many of whom I thought gave me side glances and I do find it tiresome), lots and lots of charities. It was the occasion for me to drink some seasonal ales from the local brewery, which I did, encourage some students businesses (long parenthesis here: I bought a tea mug from young girls entrepreneurs who were not from the school I taught and it was all right as I like to encourage commerce now) and give a few pennies to charities. I refrained from eating a burger, even though all that meat smelled delicious. But we had dinner before and I don`t want to stuff myself on a weekday. A short but nice evening that put me in the mood of the season.


Les choses qu'on apprend quand on côtoie des francophones tous les jours au travail: l'adverbe présentement est une expression ancienne que maintenant seuls les Québécois utilisent. Donc, je me fais identifier comme Québécois à chaque fois que je le prononce ou je l'écris. Il y a aussi l'accent, bien entendu. Je suis d'ailleurs heureux qu'on ne me trouve plus d'accent suisse. Au moins on reconnaît mon accent québécois maintenant... enfin "présentement" j'ai toujours mon accent québécois.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

In the eye of the storm

This picture was taken a few years ago (I believe it was 2007 or 2008) at my parent's place. It does not look at all like this from the window. Outside, it looks grey and there had barely been any snow falling outside. It is ironic, since the country is paralysed because of the heavy snow falls. I mentioned how England reacts to snow before and more recently. But so far, I have not experienced it. We are literally in the eye of the storm. And it frustrates me. I want to have a day or two off work and read at home, or learn my lines, listen to music or simply walk around the snowy neighbourhood. I miss the snow a lot in this country and just when there is a lot, I cannot appreciate it.

1er Décembre

Nous sommes le premier décembre, ce qui veut dire que c'est le début de l'Avent (en fait il commençait hier officiellement, à la Saint-André, mais je n'avais pas le temps de le souligner). Alors ce soir nous allons monter l'arbre de Noël. Il faut bien se mettre dans l'esprit des fêtes, même si la neige manque cruellement. C'est quand même ironique que ça tombe de partout en Angleterre et que je sois littéralement dans l'oeil du cyclone.

Cette photo a été prise en 2008 à Chicoutimi. Elle n'est pas très bonne, mais elle montre une décoration que j'aime bien. Je laisse les lecteurs qui ne sont pas dans le secret deviner dans quel pays nous l'avons acheté.