Monday 31 October 2011


"A gypsy fire is on the hearth,
Sign of the carnival of mirth;
Through the dun fields and from the glade
Flash merry folk in masquerade,
For this is Hallowe'en!"

Happy Halloween everyone! I am not sure what to say about this one. It is here too soon, in a way, I have been thinking about it since August, yet I feel like I did not prepare it enough. Halloween always comes both too late and too soon, and it always leaves too soon. But I am enjoying it anyway. The flat smells of pumpkin and candle, the Jack O'Lantern is smiling at me. He better does: I wrote his story. And I did my good deed of the night. As it is difficult to write more about Halloween especially since I have literally turned this blog into a Halloween shrine for the last two months, I thought I would just leave to my readership this anonymous quote, which I found in today's Nemi strip in the Metro. Nemi always has the right word, or finds it.

And for those who have time for a little bit of spooky fiction, here is a short animated film made by Michael Dougherty, titled Season's Greetings, which was the prime material for this movie. It is full of atmosphere, spirit, it also has a neat little twist at the end. My last, modest contribution to your Halloween 2011.

Un repas d'Halloween

En fait, je n'ai pas mangé cela ce soir, je n'avais pas la patience de cuisiner. Ce soir, j'ai soupé d'une pizza, comme je le faisais enfant avant d'aller faire mon porte-à-porte (y a-t-il une expression française pour trick or treat?). Mais j'ai pensé hier de souper avec quelque chose de plys typique. J'ai trouvé la recette de fondue dans Halloween fun and food de Sara Lewis (connais pas). Le bouquin n'est pas exactement LA référence en matière de gastronomie de l'Halloween, mais il ne m'a pas coûté cher (moins de cinq livres) et j'aime cuisiner des fondues. Et puis dans une citrouille, c'était comme qui dirait approprié.

J'ai légèrement modifié la recette. Elle exigeait du gruyère et de l'emmenthal, mais n'ayant pas de gruyère, je n'ai eu que de l'emmenthal, fondu avec ce qui restait de vin blanc, de l'aïl, des échalottes, du paprika et d'autres trucs. Ah oui, et le mélange déposé non pas dans un caquelon (on n'en a d'ailleurs pas), mais dans une petite citrouille vidée. Pour tremper: du pain et des pommes (l'autre fruit de l'Halloween). Ce n'est pas la meilleure fondue que j'aie mangée, mais avec une Hobgoblin et à cause de la valeur saisonnière, ce fut un souper très apprécié.

A good deed on Halloween night

It is Halloween now at last! Or maybe it comes too soon, I don't know. I thought to start celebrating, I would tell of a good deed I just made and in the meantime publish a great unknown line. I was walking home from work, I usually walk through a poor/working class neighbourhood on my way to the train station. There were a few children trick-or-treating. I love this tradition, which has a bad reputation in England, unfortunately. Just before I arrived at the station, I saw a young boy with his older teenage brother. The little boy barely had a costume: some bandana that was supposed to make him look like a pirate I guess. They had just been not answered at a door and the child's bag looked desperately empty. I had a piece of chocolate which I got from work (they were celebrating too there) which I thought to eat at home. I called them like this:

"Hey kid! I got a chocolate here from work, and I ain't gonna eat it, so you can have it."

Not the greatest unknown line, I know, but with the pseudo-American slang (it wouldn't fool an American, but it does fool Brits sometimes), spoken by a stranger clad in dark clothes, I thought it had an effect. Sometimes it is not so much what one says as how one says it. I was aiming for sounding both generous and detached. The child was intimidated, but thanked me, and the big brother said "Cheers!" So it was my good deed of the night. I brought a bit of the spirit of the season and this proud tradition that is trick-or-treating here.

Question existentielle (85)

Joyeuse Halloween tout le monde! La question existentielle de ce soir:

-Quels sont vos souvenirs les plus vivaces de l'Halloween?

Sunday 30 October 2011

Halloween and gluttony

I thought about blogging about it a while ago, not sure as I am typing this on how to deal with the subject. Tonight I had a cheese fondue in a small pumpkin, with a Hobgobling. Delicious, but sickening. Maybe blogging about it is unwise right now. But I am not a wise person. I think of how sickly it was, eating loads and loads of chocolates, smarties, marshmallows covered with chocolate (in form of Jack O'Lanterns, gosh I loved them), taffy, liquorice and many other things after going trick or treating as a child, especially since dinner before going trick-or-treating was often pizza (and not thin ones: stuff with thick base and lots of cheese), yet I survived. And I was thinking that eating and drinking in excess like I used to do and still do around Halloween was indeed an old, old, old tradition, a Pagan ritual that sneaked into the modern age deeply rooted in our psyche.

For instance, trick-or-treating is a ritual of sharing and a gesture of trust among neighbours. But more so, the treats we eat are the descendents of the perishable food gathered through the harvest that was needed to be eaten before turning bad or to make room for more recent stocks. Most holidays have this element of plenty, of needing to eat and fill one's belly while it is possible, while there is abundance. It is the case of Christmas, Easter, Halloween is of course no different. And as it also reminds of death, of the grave, of the shadows and fears that we face, there is a kind of defiance mixed with anxiety in the gluttony, in the eating excesses. "For life is short but death is long", as says a song I love to quote around this time of year (for me it is the perfect Halloween song). It is not incidential that Stingy Jack carries his lantern in a turnip, then a pumpkin and that he fools the Devil by having him climb into an apple tree. Turnips, pumpkins, apples, they are all products of harvest (and my allusions to gluttony in my take of the legend is not incidential either). This is one thing I love about Halloween: it is conscious of the fleeting nature of lively pleasures. So I love being gluttonous on that day and on the days leading to it.

La veille de la veille

Une petit observation comme ça: nous sommes la veille de l'Halloween, ce qui veut dire, littéralement, la veille de la veille de la Toussaint, l'Halloween étant "All Hallow's Eve". Il faudrait peut-être dire la veille de la Samhain, qui est le nom original de l'Halloween. Cela dit, comme l'Halloween a été adopté avec le christianisme, et c'est sous ce nom qu'elle a survécu jusqu'à nos jours, je crois qu'il faut la garder. Je dis survécu, mais l'Halloween s'est en fait développée et a pris l'ampleur qu'elle a aujourd'hui en Occident (du moins dans le monde celtique et anglo-saxon), avec son nom chrétien, si j'ose dire. Ce qui est ironique, vu que l'on essayait en fait d'éliminer une fête païenne, de l'étouffer sous l'austérité grise de la Toussaint. Que je suis content que ça ait foiré (sauf, hélas, en France). Ce qui montre qu'une fête abâtardie, sang mêlée, a une résilience certaine. Surtout que l'Halloween, je crois, nous permet de prendre contact avec une part importante de notre psychée, comme vous pouvez le constater en lisant ce blogue.

The Great Pumpkin

I usually watch horror movies during Halloween, but there is one movie I try to watch every year, which is all about Halloween and is not a horror movie, not even scary, yet I think it captures the season oh so perfectly. Other fans of Charles M. Schulz probably know that I am talking of course about It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. There is everything and more in it: the automnal atmosphere, leaves falling down, the fiery colours, the whole childhood rituals of Halloween, rendered perfectly, a little bit of playful fear, plenty of Jack O'Lanterns, a bit of World War 1 recreation with Snoopy fighting the Red Baron (I think Schulz wanted to remind people about Rememberance Day), the little relentless cruelties of childhood (Schulz was a master at depicting them) and of course the Great Pumpkin, which is quite a profound concept. You can read more about it here. But even if you don't care about profound themes of cartoons, you can enjoy this one as a seasonal treat. Here are the first minutes:

Question existentielle (84)

Une autre question existentielle reliée à l'Halloween, après la numéro 83, laquelle n'a pas encore reçu de réponse:

-Quelle a été, ou quelle est, votre friandise préférée à l'Halloween?

Saturday 29 October 2011

Jack O'Lantern

I carved the Jack O'Lantern tonight. You can see pictures of it here and here (just how many pics of the same carved pumpkin can you publish on a blog? I am terrible). I love the whole ritual of carving pumpkins (well obviously), and of course the result. It smells of Halloween now: hollowed pumpkin and burning candle.

For those who have been busy preparing Samhain and may not have had time to read this blog much, I made my own version of the Jack O'Lantern legend, if you have any patience and time to spare please read part 1 and part 2 and tell me if it is any good. I think some of it was a bit rushed, but it is the first piece of genuine fiction written by yours truly, on a blog called Vraie Fiction. And it is my contribution to the Halloween season.

J'ai pris une citrouille...

J'ai pris une citrouille
J'en ai fait un lampion
Lampion couleur de rouille
Le nez en tire-bouchon

C'était un poème que l'on apprenait en troisième année dans le temps de l'Halloween, je ne me rappelle plus du reste, sauf de la fin: "De gros yeux immobiles et le sourire fade". Enfin bref, ce soir j'ai pris une citrouille et j'en ai fait un lampion. Le nez n'est pas en tire-bouchon, c'est un nez somme toute assez classique. J'ai décidé de faire les yeux énormes pour faire changement. Je n'étais pas très sûr du résultat, mais finalement Jack O'Lantern est très réussi. La bouche n'est pas géniale, mais dans l'obscurité avec ces yeux elle se marie bien avec le reste.

The legend of Jack O'Lantern (part 2)

Part 2 of my take of the legend (pat 1 here), and what did I get myself into? Maybe we can wait for next Halloween for the rest, it is taking a lot of space and burying other posts. Anyway here it is...

Seven years later, when the Devil came back to claim Jack's soul, Jack was no better than when he first met him. He had kept on going his wicked ways, unrepenting, and deserved Hell more than ever. Satan was waiting for him at the end of a village, by an orchard, this time persuaded that his prey would not slip through his grasp.But desperation make men cunning, and Jack had always been a cunning man. He had tricker the Devil once by appealing to his vanity, now looking at the apple trees around him, he decided to appeal to the Devil's gluttony (and his fondness of apples, which alledgedly dated back from the Dawn of Man, when he had tempted Eve).

I don't know exactly how Jack managed to convince the Devil, what words he used and which tone he had, I am not certain that as I am storyteller I would be able to depict faithfully what happened but nevertheless, the Devil, because he was gluttonous or because he liked the flavour of apples or for some nostalgic reason dating from his time as a snake in the Garden of Eden agreed to climb up that tree and pick up some apples. Now, going up and down a tree is easy for a man, a snake or a fallen angel taking the appearance of a man or a snake, but Jack had carved with his pocket knife (stolen a few days before) a cross at the bottom of the apple tree and Satan was stuck there. Jack had fooled the Devil twice. Satan cursed and threatened, but was powerless to do anything else. Jack agreed to destroy the cross only when the Devil promised never to claim Jack's soul ever again. Jack then scratched the cross away. Before he left to go back to the Underworld, the humiliated Prince of Darkness gave this warning to Jack:

"So you fooled me Jack, and just for this you deserve to be granted your request. But do not fool yourself: you have chosen your fate now, just as you had done so in your life. I will keep my word, but you will learn to be weary of Lucifer when he keeps his word."

Jack thought little of it at the moment. He had, after all, got the better of the most powerful being after God and he felt invincible. So he carried on his wicked way, unafraid of the fires of Hell, until after years and years of excesses his body could not take it anymore and died. At the Gate of Heaven, Saint Peter refused him entry. Jack was sorely disappointet: had he fooled the Devil for nothing? He plead and plead, until an impatient voice was heard saying: "Depart from me". Jack did not overstay his welcome. Saint Peter curtly pointed him in the direction of Hell, which Jack found easy enough to find (however tortuous was the path, it was rather large, and he felt he had known the way all along). He arrived at the Gates of Hell at dusk. The Gates of Hell was then at the end of a field of turnips. It was very cold outside and very dark, but through the keyholes Jack could see and feel the hot fires of Hell, which seemed almost welcoming after the long way down. He knew he was in a familiar place, he knew he belonged there. Yet the Gates did not open.

Jack shouted, plead, begged as he used to do so convincingly as a mortal, but the devils on the other side of the door would not accept him. He stayed there ages and the night was getting darker, when a terrible voice was heard.

"So the Old Man wouldn't let you in either?"

"Oh My Lord, it's you at last! I am sorry we had this silly misunderstanding a while ago, but I discovered I was wrong. People often told me to go to Hell when I was alive, this is where I should be as a soul, I think, and besides, didn't you claim my soul so many years ago? I am here to give it to you, freely."

"But I swore never to take your soul, Jack. And I told you I would keep my word. Your soul has no value to me anymore. This is where you belong, but you willingly and rather foolishly refused to enter there when you had the chance. If God doesn't want you, why should I? And what satisfaction would I have to torment you forever? Your torment, Jack, is where you will carry it. You shall spend centuries and centuries on this earth you did not want to leave as a mortal, but you will not drink anymore, you will not enjoy life, sinful or virtuous, you will until the End of Time walk this earth as a shadow, cold, weary but condemned to go on. Now depart from this place."

"But my lord, it is dark and I wouldn't know how to find my way."

The gates opened slightly. Jack could now see the Lord of Darkness, or a glimpse of him. He was a huge, towering figure, winged, who seemed made of burning embers. He threw a burning piece of ember at Jack.

"Take this, Satan said, put it in one of those turnips and use it as a lantern. The name the Old Man gave at me at the beginning of time was Lucifer, the Lightbearer. May this flame bring you light, so you shall see what you can never have anymore."

Jack took the flame in his ghostly hands and placed it in a turnip. He managed to fins his way back to the land of the living, travelling mostly at night. Since then Jack placed the flame from Hell in a pumpkin (he found it in America). You can still see him on cold autumn nights, travelling around the world, hoping to find a road that will lead him away from the land of the living.

Question existentielle (83)

L'Halloween est presque arrivée, alors ce blogue va se consacrer à la fête pour les prochains jours, sans doute exclisuvement (quoique ce soit déjà le cas). Allons-y aujourd'hui d'une question existentielle:

-Quel a été votre costume préféré à l'Halloween?

Friday 28 October 2011

The official beer of Halloween

I cannot believe I never blogged about Hobgoblin before! Well, I did, indurectly, but I never wrote a whole a post about maybe my favourite English beer. Shame on me. This picture was taken a long time ago, back in 2008, the label on the bottle is now slightly different, but it gives you an idea.

I first discovered the Hobgoblin in Montreal, around that time of the year, at the SAQ on Saint-Denis. Strange than a British microbrewery had managed to find its way to Québec. I loved it then, I love it now. I even won a t-shirt of it in a draft, with the famous hobgoblin. I discovered later on, when I came to England, the Wychwood Brewery and its other products. I tried most of them at least once, although for some I was not quite sober enough to appreciate them. I love the unapologetic attitude of the microbrewery, the firm stand they take for traditional real ales, the way they mock lagers in their advertisement. "What's the matter, lagerboy, afraid you might taste something?" is now one of my favourite mottos. But especially, I love how they use folklore to brand themselves. So it is my favourite beer here, or one of my favourite. And they now have labeled themselves, or self-proclaimed their beer the official beer of Halloween. It might sound arrogant, but in a country that does not celebrate it as it should, I am glad there is a beer that wants to be part of the season. In Québec,  my personal beer for Halloween is St-Ambroise Pumpkin Ale. Here, it is the Hobgoblin.

Les feuilles d'automne (encore)

Voici une autre photo de Bath en automne, pour illustrer le sujet de ce billet. Bien sûr, tout les endroits ici ne sont pas aussi magnifiques que Bath peut l'être en automne. En fait, à n'importe quelle saison, je me demande si quelqu'endroit que ce soit est aussi magnifique que Bath, à quelque saison que ce soit.

Enfin bref, je m'ennuyais au travail aujourd'hui. C'était une journée tranquille. Quand je m'ennuie, il m'arrive de jeter un coup d'oeil à la fenêtre (ça vous arrive aussi?). Et puis j'ai remarqué une autre fois les arbres couverts de feuilles flamboyantes. Jaune et rouge ne sont jamais aussi jaune et rouge qu'en automne. et même les feuilles brunes et desséchées ont quelque chose de vivant. Il y a surtout du jaune là où je travaille. L'entreprise où je travaille est dans un parc industriel, au milieu d'un quartier qui a l'air passablement débâclé, tout est brique, verre et impersonnel. Pourtant, les arbres en automne donnent de l'âme à des endroits qui n'en ont pas. Et j'ai pensé aux villes où j'ai vécu ici, les villes que j'ai connues. Même les moins jolies, comme disons Liverpool (j'adore Liverpool, mais elle n'était pas jolie partout), Reading ou Milton Keynes, ont un certain cachet en automne. Je me rappelle avoir marché dans les quartiers des affaires à Milton Keynes, tout briques et béton aussi, et c'était presque joli en automne. Bien sûr, quand une ville est déjà belle (disons Bath), elle devient irrésistible en automne.

Thursday 27 October 2011

The legend of Jack O'Lantern (part 1)

So here is the first part of my take on the legend, as have promising, I hope you enjoy, it's a work in progress...

Jack was a very wicked Irishman, known for being a drunkard, a thief, a trickster and overall an unpleasant man. A sinner, in Catholic terms. It is surprising that Jack never became a werewolf from all his wickedness as a living, but he suffered a fate far worse than what scientists called lycanthropy.

One night that Jack had drunk too much (one of many nights, he never spent much time sober), he was out of money but still thirsty. As he was still thirsty (Jack never felt he could be drunk enough), he decided to use one of his old tricks to get a few pennies: begging. With his dirty grey beard and his ragged clothes, Jack knew he looked like a beggar anyway.

There were not many people in the streets of the little Irish village on that dark October night, except, at a crossroad, by a dim streetlight, a handsome young man in expensive clothes. Even drunk, Jack could tell the man was filthy rich, so he decided to try for the stranger's compassion. In the dim light, Jack could see the features of the man more easily: he was clad in rich dark clothes and was holding in his right hand a burning match that didn't seem to consume.

"Can you spare a penny my lord?" asked Jack.

"I will lend you more than a penny, Jack, replied the man with a sly smile. A golden coin, in fact, enough for you to pay all the whisky in Ireland, if you can drink that much, but later I will ask for something in return, as payment. Nothing comes for free in this world, even to a thief."

In his drunkenness, Jack did not notice that the stranger had called him by his name. And Jack did not mind being called a thief, not even for a penny, let alone a golden coin and maybe all the whiskey in Ireland! From his left side pocket, the stranger produced the golden coin, which he threw at Jack's feet. Jack kneeled down, ceased the coin, thanking the man profusely.

Jack got very drunk that night, and the night after, because of the stranger's generosity. He did not drink all the whiskey in Ireland, but plenty of it, and lots of stout, and cider and other alcohols which names he couldn't even remember. At the end of the week, Jack was painfully trying to treat the worst hangover he ever had (he had even started drinking water, a liquid he always hated), when the strange man came to ask his due.

It was on October 31st, the evening was falling and the man was standing at the same crossroad. Jack was walking, hoping that the autumn air would cure his terrible headache. He recognised the stranger. The man hailed him:

"It is time to pay your due, Jack!"

"I will if you don't speak so loud! My head is killing me."

The stranger smiled broadly.

"Your current suffering is nothing to what's waiting for you where you are going. Last week you accepted a coin in exchange of payment. Tonight I am here to claim your soul."

Hearing these words, Jack knew who was talking to him. Drunk, Jack could easily get in trouble, but sober, even sick, he could be shrewd and cunning. He knew that even the smartest creature had an Achille's heel, and that the Devil was known to be vain.

"I know who you are claiming to be, said Jack, but why should I believe you are Old Nick? I mean, you have a golden coin, so what?  That's hardly proof of anything."

Hearing this, Satan entered in a diabolical fit of rage.

"You fool! Doubting me is as bad as doubting the old man upstairs. For this you will suffer."

"Well, according to you, my Lord, said Jack in a mocking tone, I am already going to hell. What fate worse than this one is expecting me, if you are the Devil? If you are, just show it by, I don't know... Producing a golden coin is easy enough, what about turning into one and getting into my pocket?"

So that is why Satan did. In a few seconds, the stranger turned into a mist of fiery red and black smoke and shrank into a golden coin that flew into Jack's pocket... Where a little silver crucifix was waiting for him. Jack had stolen it from a priest. He thought he could have melt it and sold it and was he glad he had not done it yet. The Devil was trapped. Satan cursed himself for being so proud and for letting a mere mortal get the better of him. But there was nothing else he could do but beg Jack to free him. Jack did, but only after he made the Prince of Darkness swear that he would not claim his soul for seven years...

Question existentielle (82)

Encore une question de nature gastronomique (et devinez ce que j'ai mangé hier):

-Quelle est la recette parfaite d'un grilled cheese?

Wednesday 26 October 2011

This mid-term break I am not living

I remembered it today: we are now in the middle of mid-term break, for schools. In England at least as in Québec it is earlier in the month. When  used to work in schools here, I did not experience much: in my first job in an English school, I was only working part-time (i.e. on Monday) when 2009's mid-term, and my second school I only started working way after mid-term.

Which is kind of sad, because I think mid-term here comes at a perfect time: right before Halloween. I would have plenty of free time to prepare for it, to read and watch horror stories/films, to listen to spooky music, whatever I love to do before Halloween. Boy I would be an happy English child now!

And on a side note, it also shows how much my teaching career is way behind met: the thing about it I am most nostalgic about is the time when I was not working.

Passer du jour à la nuit

Lorsque j'ai quitté le travail ce soir, il faisait encore jour, mais le soir commençait à tomber. Une soirée automnale comme je les aime, fraîche et ensoleillée. Mon trajet en train est de vingt minutes environ. Une fois arrivé à destination, il ne faisait pas encore nuit noire, mais presque. Les ombres grandissaient et les lampadaires étaient allumés.

J'aime cette période de l'année particulièrement, lorsque le soir tombe vite, mais donne juste assez de temps pour pouvoir l'apprécier et apprécier les jeux d'ombre et de lumière. Plus tard, quand l'année avance, je rentre et il fait nuit noire, ce qui est moins plaisant. Ce qui est pire, c'est de passer d'une obscurité à l'autre: quitter le matin quand il fait encore nuit et revenir toujours dans la noirceur. Je le faisais encore il y a deux ans. Cw n'était qu'un jour par semaine, mais c'était déjà trop. Ces temps-ci, je passe du jour à la nuit en une trentaine de minute.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Free coffee (but I declined)

There was a van coming to work today, a new "food" van, well in that case it is a coffee van. They sell pastries and coffee. There are loads of small catering businesses on wheels like this one coming, but the coffee van has one thing in particular, apart from coffee: it comes in the middle of the afternoon. To introduce themselves, they were giving free coffee and it was a big success. Except for me. I did not go and pick up my cup.

I usually do not refuse a free drink or meal, but this one I thought I did, for a number of reasons. Firstly because at 2:00PM, I think that drinking coffee is ill advised on a week day, especially when one is quick to suffer from insomnia. I guess I could have taken decaf, but even the taste of coffee has a psychosomatic effect on me: I feel restless, almost on speed, just smelling the darn thing.Coffee has a bad effect on me. This is one of the reasons why I don't like it much and never managed to get hooked on it. My long time readers know that I don't like coffee, a dislike that sometimes grows into contempt. This was, of course, the second reason why I didn't accept the free cup. There is no point taking something free if I won't enjoy it.

I find it ironic that I discovered my dislike of coffee in a country that is now trading its traditional tea for coffee. I say this and I do enjoy sometimes a cup of coffee, to my great surprise, it is usually Italian related. But at 2 o'clock in the afternoon? No way. It is not worth the risk.

Un jeu d'ombre et de lumière

Cette photo a été prise à Bath en 2009, un 30 octobre pour être plus précis, lors de ma dernière visite dans la ville. je voulais la publier depuis un bout de temps, j'ai même considéré l'utiliser pour la photo du mois, mais comme elle a déjà été prise il y a deux ans je croyais que ce n'était pas approprié. Mais qu'importe maintenant, j'ai décidé de la mettre ici. C'est l'Halloween très bientôt et cette photo est pleine d'atmosphère saisonnière.

Ce que j'aime dans cette photo, c'est le mélange d'ombre et lumière, qui n'est pas contrastée: la pénombre s'installe, absorbe pour ainsi dire la lumière, le feuillage a des teintes de feu qui meurt, les oiseaux (des black birds comme dans la chanson des Beatles, je crois) sont une présence vaguement inquiétante. On ne voit pas le diable mais son oeuvre, commme j'aime à le répéter (même si ce n'est pas de moi).

Monday 24 October 2011

Preparing for Halloween

It is in a week time. Getting impatient already? I am. Even though it will be on a Monday and I cannot celebrate it nearly as much as I want to on a Monday. I will however carve the pumpkin into a Jack O'Lantern this weekend. The one on the right I carved in 2009. I was quite proud of the result. I don't know how Jack will look like this year: devilish, vampiric, or maybe ghostly, like Jack should feel after so many years of roaming the Earth?

I will do the usual this week: reading horror stories, or Halloween-related stories (this book, for instance), watch horror movies, put more decorations if I can find any, eat sweet things and of course, blog about Halloween. I have many topics I want to cover: gluttony and the primitive origins of trick or treating, my own take on the tale of Jack O'Lantern, some more about Halloween of my childhood (I do believe there is still some details left to cover) and beer (you'll see). Often for such celebrations, preparing for it is more interesting than the day itself, especially at an age when I don't trick or treat anymore and in a place where Halloween is only a minor holiday.

Une toux contagieuse

L'automne serait la saison idéale sans ce désagrément majeur: le rhume qu'elle engendre souvent. En fait, c'est toujours la saison idéale, mais je serais un homme heureux si je ne toussais pas. J'ai une toux qui me prend la gorge ces temps-ci. Je ne suis pas le seul: j'entends tousser au travail et dans le train. Tout le monde tousse ces temps-ci, il semblerait.

Je crois que c'est dû aux changements de température, peut-être aussi un peu aux changements de luminosité. J'espère simplement que le chatouillement que je ressens dans le larynx ne se transformera pas en mal de gorge carabiné qui m'empêchera de savourer les friandises de l'Halloween qui s'en vient. Un rhume, ça arrive toujours au mauvais moment mais plus encore à l'automne. Au moins je peux me consoler en constatant que je ne suis pas le seul.

Sunday 23 October 2011

The virtues of rooibos

I know this blog might seem to have become a food and drink blog now, but I need to go where my mind muses. Stay tuned for my post on Halloween and gluttony (no kidding, I have one in mind about this very topic). I am drinking rooibos at the moment. I discovered it by total chance, looking for some hot drink without caffeine that I could drink at night. I found Twinings' Redbush tea, which is in fact rooibos. Not officially/properly tea, but close enough, definitely closer to tea than the infusion my parents used to be fond of. It took me a while to really appreciate it, but it grew on me.

It has a number of virtues: antioxidant, no caffeine, no caffeine and well, it has no caffeine so I can drink it at this time and not feel restless or dehydrated. Many of its virtues might be psychosomatic, but I do find rooibos calming. At a time when insomnia has become an issue for me (I have never been a good sleeper, but this has gone worse lately) and as I to avoid relying too much on medication, rooibos might become my new warm milk.

L'art de survivre à la mélancolie du dimanche

Parce que bon, les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne c'est bien beau, mais ça n'arrange rien: je trouve dimanche mélancolique et plus le lundi approche plus j'ai ce sentiment de fatalité. Alors j'essaie de survivre à la mélancolie. Je sais, j'ai déjèa blogué là-dessus en anglais (et je crois un million de fois, de manière directe ou indirecte) Cela dit, je parlais ici de combattre la mélancolie du dimanche. J'essaie une autre stratégie ces temps-ci: d'y survivre, tout simplement. La mélancolie a du bon, surtout en automne. En tout cas elle a du charme. L'hiver, c'est autre chose, surtout après les Fêtes: il faut des remèdes plus radicaux.

Alors aujourd'hui j'ai marché dans les alentours. Il faisait chaud, mais pas trop, alors c'était une belle journée automnale appréciable. J'ai lu. J'ai essayé de faire des tâches ménagères. En fait, j'ai essayé de m'adonner à des activités tranquilles, histoire d'être le moins actif possible, tout en l'étant. Vous me suivez? C'est un équilibre subtil à atteindre: l'esprit doit demeurer occupé sans pour autant devenir soucieux, ou obsédé par un problème quelconque. Après avoir passé ma journée d'hier à magasiner, je voulais un dimanche tranquille.

Fancy a modern ghost story?

I am a big fan of Conor McPherson since I saw his Shining City back in the Lake District. It is the only play I read of him, but I want to read more. I admire a lot of things about it: how believeable, natural the characters were, how dead genuine the dialogue was and how on top of this he managed on top of this to make a believable ghost story set in modern day Ireland. McPherson has a way of twisting expectations of the genre that is pretty much pure genius. It is a cliché to say that someone goes beyond the genre. In his case, he puts the genre back in modern drama. As Halloween, the most Irish holiday with Saint-Patrick, I am on the look for ghost stories and horror movies. I was happily surprised,  looking for info about McPherson, to discover that he wrote and directed a horror movie, The Eclipse, in 2009. To top it up, the main character is played by... Ciaran Hinds, an actor I greatly admire. More about the movie here. There are some clips of the movie around Youtube too.

I don't know if I can see it before Halloween, but I hope so. If like me you prefer sobriety to gore and shock, this movie, if it is anything like McPherson's stage work, might give you a genuine chill. Here is the trailer.

Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne

"Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur

Vous trouverez le reste du poème ici. J'ai assez peu lu de Verlaine dans ma vie, en fait je suis plus François Villon en ce qui concerne la poésie, mais j'aime bien les premiers vers de ce poème, qui capturent parfaitement la mélancolie automnale. Quand je ne sais pas trop quoi écrire sur ce blogue, j'aime bien citer.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Late snack

Well, my readers might be happy to know that I survived the shopping trip today. I am almost sane again. That said, it left me tired and wanting to stay away from that falling/fallen civilisation that is the shopping center (I do have the feeling of venturing into Sodom and Gomorrah every time). But buying new jeans made me notice something: I am quite skinny. So to treat myself after this tiring Saturday and to be sure I will not melt into oblivion, I am having milk and biscuits. I think I deserve a Saturday night treat, after such a long afternoon.

Question existentielle (81)

J'ai une fringale, alors je m'apprête à manger des biscuits avec du lait. J'espère que ça ne me rendra pas insomniaque. Cela dit, je me pose maintenant une question existentielle:

-Quelle est la meilleure collation quand on a une fringale un samedi soir?

The necessary evil of shopping

I am running out of wearable clothes. It is a sad fact of life: I will survive them. My jeans are slowly but surely falling apart and I need new socks, new shirts, new jumpers, new everything. I have a new coat so there is one thing on less thing on the list, but still, I need to do what I hate to do on a Saturday: go clothes shopping.

As I type this, I am wearing a ten years old black jumper that is greying, or at least looking pale black, if that makes sense. It is very comfortable, as old clothes usually are. But however I love old clothes, I now need to face civilisation and buy a few things in this temple of perdition that is the shopping center. I hope to survive the afternoon, but I might turn mad by the end of it. At least I will go and buy warm clothes, my favourite sort. I need to keep this in mind to stay somewhat sane.


Je ne mets pas assez de musique québécoise ici et je voulais mettre un peu plus de Félix, mais je me demandais ce qui ferait l'affaire alors que l'Halloween s'en vient. L'année dernière j'avais mis Grand-papa Pan Pan. Et puis j'ai retrouvé Bozo sur Youtube, peut-être le premier vidéoclip québécois. Le vidéo et la chanson sont oniriques, ce qui sans être nécessairement terrifiant est caractéristique de l'Halloween. Et puis je trouve que les marais, les étangs et les lacs vaseux sont toujours un peu sinistres. Alors j'ai décidé de mettre Bozo ici...

Friday 21 October 2011

Two great unknown lines

The workplace is a great source of great unknown lines (this one being maybe my favourite). Sometimes you have to be there, sometimes it could work for every workplace, which is why I love the two I am going to publish now. I hesitated before publishing, I try to stay discreet about work, but since for the record there is no real animosity between the protagonists, I thought I couldn't get those unpublished.

So my manager is off for a little bit. Some of my other colleagues didn't know about it and one asked me:

"So Guillaume, did you finally snap and kill him?"

This is the first great unknown line. It is even funnier because I look nothing like a murderer. Seriously. I don't. I wouldn't snap. I am no Norman Bates. I mean, I actually like my manager, my colleagues and my work environment, even on bad days I am surprised I prefer it to a school I used to work for. Anyway, I guess I don't mind having a sinister reputation, because I replied:

"I wouldn't do something that stupid, I'll be the prime suspect."

Which I think is both diplomatic and slightly Sollozzo-esque (remember that line in The Godfather, "If I'd wanted to kill you, you'd be dead already").

Un vendredi échevelé

Fatalitas! C'est quand on craint le plus une chose qu'elle se produit. Hier je posais une question existentielle sur l'insomnie. Vos bons conseils n'ont servi à rien: l'insomnie m'a pris pendant une bonne partie de la nuit. J'ai réussi à dormir, finalement, mais pour la première fois depuis quelques années je n'ai pas entendu mon réveille-matin sonner. L'horreur. Je me suis réveillé et levé juste à temps pour me préparer et sortir, mais j'avais les cheveux en bataille (réponse à la question existentielle numéro 15: maintenant) et j'étais vaseux. La journée au travail n'a pas été particulièrement atroce, en fait elle a été plutôt tranquille, heureusement d'ailleurs, mais j'ai eu pendant tout ce temps la désagréable impression d'être échevelé.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Another Danse Macabre

Yes, I blogged about it before. I love Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre, it is one of my favourite pieces of music for Halloween. And I found this piece of animation on Youtube yesterday and couldn't resist. Yes, animation is a big word, as there is barely any, the drawings are pretty crude, the colours are iffy at best (and so darn pastel), but for some reason I find it irresistible. A still dance with skelettons is spooky enough, especially with that music. According to the Youtube description this comes from PBS and was made in the 80s. I used to watch British sitcoms on PBS. I wish I had seen this short film. Since I have sadly little time to watch and read horror stories, those short films put me in the Halloween mood. I hope this one does the same to you.

Question existentielle (80)

Une question d'une importance capitale pour moi, qui en est affligé plus souvent qu'à mon tour:

-Quel est le meilleur remède contre l'insomnie?

Wednesday 19 October 2011

The fear of the blank page

I have been quite prolific recently as a blogger, what with Halloween coming and my favourite season in full bloom. But I am worried about after Halloween, the post Halloween blues which I always dread. I am worried about the inspiration I will have then. I am not sure I will do any acting to keep me busy, as I received no news about an acting course. Not much happening in my life means one thing: not much to blog about.

I know I am not a writer, great or small, but I do fear the Blank Page Syndrome. When inspiration does not come, when your muse is off, when you have nothing to fuel your writing, even if it is just a post. I have more than enough to keep me going until Halloween, in fact I might be lacking time to blog about everything I want to blog about. But once Halloween is done, I will need to do lots of invocations to my muse. Did we discover who was the Muse of bloggers? I don't think we did. I don't care about patron saints, I mean a proper muse. I will need one when the time comes.

S'habiller chaudement

L'expression commence à prendre tout son sens ces temps-ci. J'ai peine à croire qu'au début d'octobre il faisait doux. Ca m'a pris quelques semaines, mais maintenant je porte mes vêtements chauds: gilets cols roulés épais, le manteau d'automne (ici il peut aussi faire office de manteau d'hiver, la plupart du temps), les gants épais. Il ne manque plus que les bottes et le foulard (la tuque c'est pour plus tard). Et ce n'est pas seulement nécessaire le matin et le soir: je suis sorti ct après-midi quelques minutes et la température était bien fraîche.

Cela dit, après avoir trouvé le temps trop chaud, voire même collant, après avoir passé un été médiocre, je suis content que l'automne ressemble enfin à l'automne. Je préfère aussi les vêtements chauds aux vêtements légers: les températures automnales sont les plus propices au confort.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

The smell of autumn

Today was a perfect autumn day, sunny, windy, cold, crisp... I didn't feel like going to work and I could have stayed out all day, only going in pubs for a quick drink or a lunch, and then out again. Sadly I had to go to work.  I know I can't complain. Still, there are days like this one where I feel like a bear and think I should just prepare to hibernate.

But what I noticed today was the smell of autumn. Well, my brother sort of lead me to it as he mentioned it on his Facebook Wall, saying that he loves it. I often mention here the fiery colours of autumn, but rarely its smells. It is usually more difficult to describe. Autumn has a distinctive smell, something ripe and cold and often dry. It smells of the coming winter, of fruits, of harvest, of moulding stuff, yet it does not smell of decay. It is something strong yet soothing. Springtime often smells rotten, especially in the beginning, especially in Northern countries like my home, where everything that had been under meters of snow start rotting in the open. Summer can smell nice, but it is often too agressive. There is a sweetness in the smell of autumn, even when the cold wind prickles the skin. And after a walk in the autumn air, you can still smell in on your clothes. Bliss.

La Veille de la Toussaint?

Parmi tous les cadeaux que j'ai reçus de Wendy récemment, il y a une de ces décorations (qui représente un chat noir) que l'on met dans l'eau pour lui faire prendre du volume (jusqu'à six fois la taille originale en dix jours, il paraît). Elle est en train de mijoter dans l'eau. Cela dit, ce n'est pas pour ça que j'écris ce billet. Ce qui m'a fasciné, c'est l'emballage.

Ou, pour être plus précis, la traduction en français sur l'emballage. C'est une traduction littérale épouvantable, "Grow your own Halloween" devient "Élevez votre propre Veille de la Toussaint". Un unilingue francophone ne pourrait pas suivre les instructions correctement. Dans un premier temps, je trouvais ça pathétique, puis ça m'a frappé: les Français pour eux, c'est tout ce qu'est l'Halloween, littéralement la Veille de la Toussaint. Ils n'ont pas la même histoire que nous avec la fête. Mêmes les Anglais la connaissent et l'apprécient mieux. Parce que la Veille de la Toussaint, c'est ce qu'elle est au mieux. J'ai lu et entendu de plusieurs Français que l'Halloween était une fête controversée, vue comme une manifestation du consumérisme et de l'impérialisme culturel américains, voire pour certains curés, une fête diabolique et sinistre. Je trouve ça bien dommage. On a nos gâcheurs de fête au Québec (et en Angleterre, donc!), mais ils n'ont pas le haut du pavé. Pas à ce point-là.

Monday 17 October 2011

The Origins of Satan (a sort of biography)

My readers know that I am fascinated by the Devil in folklore and literature, especially but not exclusively in his Christian form. So I was so happy to discover on Youtube a very instructive and complete video about the origins of the Satan character and its development and evolution in Western culture.

I knew a little about it, but in sum very little.What I find particularly interesting is the plural origins of the Devil and its inconsistent, often contradictory forms. For instance, the Serpent of the Genesis was never supposed to be Satan, merely a cunning trickster who fooled God's creation. The Original Sin, as written, is a practical joke. In The Book of Job, Satan is on good terms with God and follow his will. The Christians, and often not early ones, developed him into what/who he is now, the ultimate bogeyman. But what a fascinating character! An amoral underdog, ready to revolt against the most powerful being in the world, knowing every weakness of mankind and being able to exploit them, a seducer... I don't want to be like him, but I would love to play him, as I mentioned before. Evil characters are very often more interesting than good ones. But to understand a character better, it is important to know his origins, his genesis, so to speak. So here it is.

Question existentielle (79)

J'y ai pensé en écrivant ce billet:

-Quelle est la meilleure chanson de feu de camp du patrimoine de l'humanité?

Et en passant la question 78 n'a pas encore été répondue.

Sunday 16 October 2011

I won (and received) something

Sometimes blogging bring unexpected benefits. As my readers may know already through the posts of another blog and through comments on my own blog, I won something because of this blog. This is the second time something like this happens to me. Wendy the (very good) witch sent me The Halloween Tree, the fantasy novel that inspired the name of her blog. I am spoiled. I thought I would only receive Bradbury's book, but this was grossly underestimating Wendy's generosity: I also received some treats, lots of decorations, some Halloween pencils with jack o'lanterns and ghosts on them and I am forgetting a few of them.

This is more than enough to get myself into a Halloween spirit. And I will reshuffle my reading list so I can start reading The Halloween Tree tomorrow. I can barely wait. I expressed my gratitude to Wendy before, but I thought this deserved a post. So thank you Wendy.

Une chouette

Bon, ce n'est pas la photo du mois, elle je l'ai publiée hier, celle-ci je l'ai plutôt prise au mois d'août dans une foire, mais j'ai pensé la mettre ici quand même aujourd'hui. Pour plusieurs raisons. Tout d'abord c'est une chouette, donc elle est associée aux histoires de fantômes. À entendre cette chouette en particulier, on comprend pourquoi: elle avait un cri strident que l'on aurait pu qualifier de spectral. C'est octobre, l'Halloween sera ici dans deux semaines, alors c'est le bon temps pour publier pareille photo sur ce blogue. Finalement, ça n'est pas vraiment une raison, mais quand je donnais des cours de français le samedi matin, j'appelais les filles de ma classes les chouettes. Détails profondément trivial, mais ceci est un blogue, alors il y a place à la trivialité.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Moon Shadow

I am feeling like a bit like a hippy tonight and listening to Cat Stevens, one of my my weekend treats.It is also a remedy from the rubbish we have on TV (that rubbish). So I decided to put Moon Shadow here. It was Cat Stevens's favourite song of  his repertoire and it is still Yusuf Islam's favourite one. I am not sure if it is mine, I love a lot of his songs, but it sure is the song I prefer on a quiet Saturday night. It is simple,soothing, profound. Yusuf Islam might have expressed in Moon Shadow his religious experience of the Muslim he was maybe already turning into, but the song has a serenity that needs no faith to enjoy. Aesthetic is always, at the core, physical.

Question existentielle (78)

J'ai hésité autant comme autant à sortir aujourd'hui, malgré le beau temp, puis il m'a comme fallu sortir, je commençais à me sentir claustrophobe. Et puis il me fallait magasiner. Une fois dehors, il m'a fallu moins d'une heure pour vouloir revenir, je trouvais la foule du samedi après-midi oppressante. D'où cette question existentielle, qui est en fait deux questions en une (une question paradoxale, donc):

-Pourquoi est-ce que je veux être dehors quand je suis chez moi et pourquoi est-ce que je veux revenir chez moi quand je suis sorti?

Rota Fortunae

In English, it means the Wheel of Fortune, in other words the changing nature of Fate. I am a medievalist, or I was at some point. My latin has always been poor, but the concept of capricious Fate, Rota Fortunae, I understand a good deal. People who thinks medieval times were primitive and uneducated should think twice. The Wheel of Fortune is a very modern concept (before becoming the name of a stupid game show), that I think is the ancestor of the absurd and maybe a distant great uncle of existentialism.

I was thinking about this when I read that unemployment was in a record high in the UK. I was jobless for quite a while and had a string of bad jobs afterwards. Now I don't have the ideal job, but I am lucky enough to have one. And I do look at jobs adverts from time to time, and while there isn't all that much, it seems that there is always something available for a French speakers. I have this asset over the locals (so I hope nobody will ever accuse me of stealing any job here). Wherever I go and live, it will be an asset, except, ironically enough, in Montreal, where there are plenty of bilingual people. So I am feeling lucky... for now at least. But I understand the changing nature of fortune and I know the recession can reach me everywhere too. And I am not even mentioning the other bad things that can happen: sickness, accident, what have you. I understand my luck. I think it is Machiavel who said that you were in control of half your life. The rest was in the ands of Fortune.

When I think of the concept of Rota Fortuna, I also think of the Carmina Burana as adapted by Carl Orf, the first song especially, which I discovered with Excalibur (sadly it is now the theme song of another stupid show). It has been overused, but it lost nothing of its powerful evocation.

Une souche (surnaturel)

C'est la première fois que je participe à la photo du mois, dont le thème ce mois-ci est le surnaturel, ce qui est fort approprié pour octobre et pour l'Halloween qui s'en vient. Soyez indulgents, parce que c'est la première fois que je participe et je suis encore un peu perdu sur la manière de faire. Je suis allé dans un bois la semaine dernière et y ai pris cette photo d'une vieille souche ouverte, éventrée comme...  Comme une souche éventrée. Je trouve les vieilles souches terrifiantes, comme je l'ai déjà dit. Les arbres en général, en fait, peuvent être terrifiants. Ils ont des formes spectrales, ils touchent au ciel et leurs racines touchent plongent dans les fondements de la terre, peut-être bien jusqu'en Enfer. Je me rappelle d'un épisode de Nils Holgerson avec un arbre démoniaque, il y avait l'histoire de fantôme The Ash Tree de M.R. James. Ce tronc d'arbre mort est peut-être bien hanté, comme l'arbre de l'histoire de M.R. James, pleins d'immondices et de créatures monstrueuses.   
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Friday 14 October 2011

A cold night chill

I am watching Autumnwatch (my Friday treat) and they mentioned the hot autumn days we have been having. It is true, but as one of the hosts mentioned (I can't remember which one, I have a shoooort attention span), it gets much colder at night. Cold night chills have been part of this year's weather for quite a while now. I love them. Well, at any time really, including in the morning. I intend to spend the rest of the evening reading ghost stories, with the window open to feel the night chill. The best pleasures in life are the simplest ones.

L'Art de l'insulte

J'ai récemment blogué sur Tony Tomassi, l'un des politiciens que je méprise le plus. Parmi les personnages publics que j'ai varlopé le plus, il y a le cardinal Marc Ouellet, le maire Jean Tremblay, Maxime Bernier et Yvan Delorme. J'ai traité ce beau monde tour à tour de dévot ignare, de mollah, d'idiot du village, de sinistre ensoutané, de chef incapable... Et je crois que toutes mes pointes étaient parfaitement méritées.

L'insulte est l'arme des faibles, paraît-il. Je n'en suis pas sûr. Parfois, quand on fait face à l'ignorance, la stupidité, la lâcheté, l'incompétence, l'insulte est une nécessité, une arme intellectuelle valable, voire même morale. Doit-on être poli envers un politicien véreux, un escroc, un chef de police incapable, un fanatique religieux, un hypocrite? Et je ne parle pas de certains collègues qui te prennent en grippe. Beaucoup trop de gens m'ont regardé de haut par le passé, alors que je travaillais dans une école, j'ai eu mes bêtes noires et je crois que j'aurais dû parfois dû avoir recours à l'insulte. Une insulte mordante, une insolence bien placée, bien aigre, bien méprisante. Il y a quelque chose d'honnête dans son usage. Et je me demande si mes lecteurs n'y ont pas eu recours, je veux dire sans rougir, insulter quelqu'un comme le capitaine Haddock, avec la colère du juste.

Thursday 13 October 2011

A shop for the hungry expat

Nealry three years ago, I found some websites that were specialised shipping Canadian food to hungry expat. I was ready to order some, I even emailled the websites to learn more about them and their services, but for some reason it never went further than this. Maybe because I was unemployed at that time and thought I should not spend a fortune for peanut butter, I don't know. But then I discovered through Google the existence of this shop in London. It doesn't only sell food from Canada, but also from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The colonies, in fact. And I was happy to discover that they have Kraft peanut butter! (I guess it is no big surprise, but it's still good news). They sell lots of things I don't care about. But they have Kraft peanut butter! Just when my stocks have run out. And the price is not even prohibitive. More expensive than at home, but not nearly as expensive as getting it shipped from mum or from an online company. I just have to order online and it will travel here from... London.

Brave Margot (pour le chat)

Mettons donc un peu de musique sur ce blogue, surtout qu'il manque souvent (je trouve) de la chanson en français ici. Alors ce sera Brassens encore, Brave Margot, qui parle notamment de chats, d'allaitement et de maternité. Comme Brassens, j'aime particulièrement les chats et je trouve Brave Margot délicieusement innocente. Moi, j'aurais vraiment été là pour le chat. Je vous jure. Enfin, je mets la chanson ici, une interprétation de Brassens devant public et j'espère que vous la fredonnerez en l'écoutant.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

I have the pumpkin

This is another Halloween related post, but it is also a little piece of news of some importance: I bought the pumpkin last Monday. I am quite happy and it is quite a big pumpkin. Not as big as the ones I used to buy in Montreal, but for one purchased here in the UK it is massive. So I will make a nice Jack O'Lantern, I am thinking about the design already. I want it to strike terror.  And I need more decorations for the flat, even though I will probably be the only one enjoying them.

This is my only regret about almost every Halloween spent here: I do not receive trick or treaters, because I am living on top of a block. Trick or treating has a bad reputation here, undeserved I think (you can read an interesting thread about this on Digitalspy). As I blogged before, it is an act of sharing and of trust between neighbours, it brings people and communities together, it can even create friendship. I love Halloween also for this, because it creates bonds the time of an evening. But I digress. These evenings, I look at the pumpkin in the kitchen and I feel inspired.

Où Tomassi peut-il maintenant se cacher?

Mes lecteurs de longue daute savent à quel point je méprise ce gros suffisant corrompu, nommé comme ministre pour cause de népotisme. Bien avant que sa nature de petite frappe soit dévoilée, je le méprisais pour sa défense grossière de la bondieuserie à l'école. Tony Tomassi s'est par la suite caché derrière son papa, derrière les députés du Parti libéral, derrière ses origines italiennes (ce qui est le degré zéro de la petitesse) pour cacher sa profonde incompétence et son mépris du devoir. Et la réalité le rattrape enfin. J'ai lu avec intérêt la chronique d'Yves Boisvert aujourd'hui, même si j'avais souvent les dents serrées. et une chose m'est venue à l'esprit: ême si Tomassi s'en sort, s'il garde son titre de député jusqu'aux premières élections, s'il ne subit pas de procès (ou sil le gagne), il n'en sortira pas indemne. Le maiale ne peut plus se cacher derrière personne, pas même son père.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

When the trains run late

I used this title before, but I had to use it again. So this morning, the train ran late again. Well, by this I mean that for the first five minutes of the journey, there was no train coming: a shuttle bus was waiting for the commuters to carry us from A to B. Of course, a bus going through the narrow streets of a small town is slow, so it took quite a while to get to B, the second train station on my journey. And then the train was late. A fellow commuter asked me when was the next train coming, I answered "I don't know, thirty minutes ago". She laughed. I think it deserves to be counted as a great unknown line.

Unlike the last time in May when the trains ran late, this time I enjoyed it a lot. I love the atmosphere of train stations (really, I do) and I rarely get blasé of them. It was a beautiful autumn day, warm enough but with enough fresh air to make it comfortable. I was neither too hot nor too cold. I sat on the bench and read a ghost story by M.R. James (this one, read it if you haven't already). I arrived at work thirty minutes late, relaxed, energised and having enjoyed the autumn air (and a pleasant chill, thanks to the Cambridge scholar). I wished the train had been later.

Un presque pâté chinois dans le four

Alors que j'écris ces lignes, un shepherd's pie végé est en train de cuire. Il sera prêt dans cinq minutes. Ce n'est pas le premier que l'on a fait, mais avec les patates pilées et la "veggie mince" c'est le plus proche que l'on a jamais fait du pâté chinois québécois (lequel est en fait une variante du cottage pie anglais). Il manque bien sûr le maïs en crème, ce qui m'attriste un peu. Je peux vivre sans viande, mais un pâté chinois sans maïs en crème c'est pas la même chose. Au moins on le mangera avec des betteraves. Vous devinerez que j'ai un tantinet le mal du pays.

Monday 10 October 2011

Musing on Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving in Canada today. Of course, here it is a Monday like any other. Back when I was living in Canada, I thought little of the holiday itself. We called it "L'Action de grâce" in French and I always considered it a watered down version of the American version, something we never quite got a hold on and a genuine attachment. It happened much earlier than the American one, it was also much more modest than the American Thanksgiving, especially for Quebeckers.

This does not mean that I did not enjoy Thanksgiving. I did, but not because of the holiday itself, I never gave much meaning to it. Even the words "Action de grâce" seemed strange to me. I enjoyed Thanksgiving for what it brought (a long weekend and a free Monday) and what was surrounding it: autumn, harvest (even though I was not conscious of its association with harvest), etc. I enjoyed it, barely remembering the holiday that was theoretically at the heart of it. But in the middle of autumn, in October, when nature is soooo beautiful, well, there is plenty to do and to enjoy. As a teenager, my family and I spent a few Thanksgiving weekends at l'Anse-Saint-Jean, maybe the most nowhere you can ever find in Québec. Hearty food (tourtière, fondue bourquignon), red wine, heavy cakes, long walks in the wood, that was heavenly. My brother's birthday often fell on a Thanksgiving weekend. It is the case this year and today. So Thanksgiving for me is a holiday that I love for its circumstances.

Bonne fête PJ

Je vais sans doute l'appeler ce soir, mais je vais le souligner maintenant: c'est la fête de mon petit frère aujourd'hui. Je le souligne à chaque année et ça devient de plus en plus difficile de faire quelque chose de spécial. En 2009 j'avais mis du François Pérusse. La première année de mon blogue j'avais mis du Brassens ("Marquise, si mon visage..." il venait d'avoir trente ans). En 2010, je l'avais souligné modestement.

Cela dit, comme je l'avais mentionnée l'année dernière, j'aimais parfois plus la fête de PJ que la mienne. Enfin presqu'autant. Il était né en octobre, période de l'année idéale, en plein automne, juste avant l'Halloween. La saison et la fête qui s'en venait imprégraient sa fête. Sa fête tombait souvent durant la fin de semaine de l'Action de grâce, ce qui faisait qu'on pouvait la célébrer durant un long congé. La dernière fête que je me rappelle avoir fêtée avec lui était en 2005, alors qu'on demeurait ensemble à Montréal. On avait cuisiné une fondue suisse nous-même (lire: on avait râpé le fromage plutôt que d'acheter un mélange tout fait) qui était particulièrement délicieuse (avec une once de rhum dedans, ça ne pouvait pas faire autrement). C'était un lundi d'Action de grâce comme aujourd'hui.

Alors j'espère que mon petit frère s'amuse aujourd'hui. C'est encore l'Action de grâce cette année. J'espère que l'année prochaine, je pourrai la célébrer avec lui. Ca fait un bail.

Sunday 9 October 2011

A walk in the woods

Yesterday, I went walking in a nearby(ish) wood. It was a cloudy day, which made the woods quite dark, it was cool and autumn was in full bloom. I love walking in the woods in autumn. As I blogged before, I find woodlands very atmospheric, especially in autumn. As I mentioned in my post last year, forests are associated with the supernatural and the danger of the unknown. Even now that we understand nature better, woodlands did not lose their eerie feeling. Walking in the light and darkness of the forest, I felt like a character in Dungeons & Dragons or one from a horror story. As Halloween is getting closer and closer, I love to to get myself in the mood by doing these kinds of walks, it has become a yearly ritual since I live in this country.

Question existentielle (77)

Je n'ai pas encore acheté de citrouille pour faire mon Jack O'Lantern, mais j'ai déjà commencé à sortir les quelques rares, petites et timides décorations d'Halloween que j'ai ici. Alors j'ai pensé à cette question existentielle:

-À partir de quand est-ce le temps d'installer les décorations d'Halloween?

Secular(ist) Twelve-Step

The Atheist Experience has a new blog. I haven't changed it in the blogroll yet, hopefully I will shortly. I haven't been on it much yet, but one post caught my attention: Matt Dillahunty did his own take on the Twelve-Step Program. And I really loved it. He criticised it on the show before, so his post does not come as a surprise to me.

I am enthusiastic about it for a simple reason: as a still Catholic teenager, I saw plenty of alcoholics and addicts giving testimony in religion classes. It had its use and it did open the eyes of many on the danger of alcohol (or other substances), but I always found the A.A. program somewhat sinister: it is about oblivion of will and powerlessness, I always thought it was replacing the substance by another kind of addiction. Using God as a placebo, so to speak. I thought this even as a Christian and I think it might have put me off drinking: I didn't want to cure an addiction by doing the program. I find Matt's Twelve-Step more empowering.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Le Masque du Diable

Ce billet est en quelque sorte un avis de recherche. J'ai vu il y a des années à Radio-Canada un petit film animé absolument génial. Il s'appelait Le Masque du Diable. J'ai découvert des années plus tard, grâce à des recherches intensives sur internet, que c'était un film de Jean-François Laguionie. Je ne connais pratiquement rien du cinéaste.

Le Masque du Diable fait partie de ces classiques oubliés. J'ai réussi des années plus tard à retrouver sur Youtube L'Apprenti Sorcier/Krabat. Mais de Masque du Diable, point. Je ne parlerai pas en détails de l'intrigue, pour ne pas vous gâcher la surprise. Grosso modo, c'est l'histoire d'une vieille dame qui déteste le carnaval et les masques et fuit dont son village pour passer sa soirée dans la montagne les soirs de fête. Un inconnu habillé de rouge et masqué la défie à une partie de dominos. Il lui propose un pari: si elle gagne, il lui redonnera sa jeunesse. La vieille dame ne veut qu'une chose: c'est qu'il enlève son masque et révèle son visage. La conclusion est terrifiante.

Alors voilà, je me demande 1)si quelqu'un a déjà vu ce court métrage animé et 2)si on peut acheter des copies quelque part.

The Birth of Horror (a documentary about Dracula and Stoker)

Halloween is approaching, so I thought I would post another bit of video about an horror icon to put my fellow Halloween lovers in the mood. This is another post about Dracula, the book, the character and also about its author. We often forget there was a novel before the movies, comic books, etc. And an author... The last part of the document couldn't be embed here, but you can find it on Youtube. I am skeptical about some of th things Christopher Frayling says, I think he makes the mistake of linking a bit too closely Dracula and Vlad Tepes (whom Stoker knew very little about, read this to know more), but it is still an interesting story about the genesis of the novel and its many, many layers. It also sheds some light on the reasons of its enduring popularity, especially among men like me, who discovered it as a teenager and fell in love with it. I don't care about vampires when they are angsty watered down romantics, as they often are now in fiction. I love them bloody and raw, feral, like the Count was originally and should always be.

Suis-je en train de devenir un Anglais?

Je me pose cette question parfois. J'en ferai peut-être un jour une question existentielle (lisez la dernière, en passant), mais il faut pour cela que ça ait une portée un peu plus universelle. Enfin, l'un des commentateurs sur le blogue de Prof Solitaire m'a fait la remarque récemment, dans un des billets du Prof. Il paraît que je m'exprime à l'anglaise lorsque je commente, avec des phrases brèves et flegmatiques. Je pensais que c'était une fausse perception et puis ce matin alors que je mangeais mon déjeuner, je me suis rendu compte que c'était un déjeuner caricarturalement anglais: toasts avec confiture (Wilkin & Sons pour demeurer dans la caricature) et thé... Au moins, je bois le thé sans lait et il a été acheté en Bretagne. Mais sinon, qu'est-ce que je suis caricaturalement anglais aujourd'hui. Je pourrais jouer Monsieur Smith dans cette pièce et il serait très facile de me mettre dans la peau du personnage.

Je me demande bien si, lorsqu'on aime une culture, on ne risque pas d'aimer plutôt ses clichés... Ce qui est pire, c'est lorsqu'on les intègre, les intériorise.

Friday 7 October 2011

It's cold in the attic

A quick trivial post before the weekend. As I am typing this, I am wearing a heavy fleece from an old winter/autumn coat which fell apart last year. I kept the fleece because it is comfy, orange and I think orange looks nice, especially in autumn. It is cooold in this attic flat. Well, not this cold, but singularly colder than the last month. Temperatures dropped dramatically these last days. I don't mind one bit: I find it more comfortable this way. And I can wear the fleece and put it to good use.

Se payer la traite

C'est vendredi et j'ai eu une journée épuisante, alors ce soir je me paye la traite. J'ai décidé de suivre le conseil de Cynthia de Sur un Boeing Bleu de Mer) donné ici et de me bourrer la fraise. Au moment où j'écris ces lignes, je mange de la réglisse achetée au magasin de friandises local. Elle est un peu sèche, mais elle est quand même très mangeable. Et j'écoute du Cat Stevens. Le bonheur. Je compte me payer la traite pendant toute la fin de semaine, je ne sais pas trop encore comment, mais je compte me payer la traite. Alors les suggestions sont bienvenues.

Autumnwatch starts tonight!

Well, the title says it all: Autumnwatch starts tonight. This is one of my favourite programs here in the UK, as my long time readers know already. So I am spending my Friday night in. I don't mind at all. So tonight I'll watch British wildlife. I might even blog as I do this.

Question existentielle (76)

Voici une nouvelle question existentielle, un jour (et un billet) déjà après la numéro 75. Eelle est peut-être un peu influencée par ce billet aussi. Enfin bref, la voilà:

-Sur internet, quel navigateur préférez-vous utiliser?

Thursday 6 October 2011

Great words from a dead man

Steve Jobs died today of the worst disease mankind ever knew (I honestly think cancer is by far the worst disease ever, worse than the plague even). I knew little about the man, but I am an avid iPod user, so his life did have an impact on mine. And then I heard this speech he made at Stanford University, and those words had a strong reasonance in my mind. I reproduce them here:

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

You can read, see and hear the full speech here. It is something that an atheist like me can be easily relate to, about his own mortality. According to Wikipedia he was a Buddhist, but they are often technically atheists. In any case, I thought this was pure wisdom and very touching.