Sunday 30 December 2018

Post-Christmas blues

Well, the year is about to end and Christmas is practically over since the 27th or so. It ends way faster than before. I still have a few days of holidays, but nothing to really look forward to for a long while So here it is, the post-Christmas blues, when you just feel a bit deflated for having had so much fun and that it was so short, like always when you had so much fun. I will do the best I can to fight it and I might blog the ways I deal with post-Christmas blues. Please feel free to give your ideas in the comments.

Question existentielle (339)

La nouvelle année approche et avec elle, une certaine appréhension de ma part. D'où ma question existentielle:

-Pourquoi est-ce que je n'aime pas le Jour de l'An et ses célébrations?

Friday 28 December 2018

A mysterious wizard

This little statue of a mage, looking vaguely like Merlin or Gandalf, is in the basement of the family home, standing near the table where we usually play our sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. It is one of many figures of creatures, monsters, gargoyles, or knights that we have in the basement's living room and which, alongside the laminated posters of medieval or pseudo medieval subjects (one about a medieval festival, another about the runic stones) that gives our gaming place a special atmosphere, as well as provide some inspiration. As long time readers of this blog know, my brothers and I only play during Christmastime now, when we can all be together there. Of all the figures we have, this is the one I prefer, although I have no idea where it was bought, by whom, and who he is supposed to represent, if anyone. I sometimes wished he had made his way in our games, turned into one of the many characters we met over the years. What is his name? Where is he from? What is his history? How old is he? And what about the crystal shard he is holding? Is it me or is the wizard looking at it with concern? So many questions, which I hope one day we will find answers.

L'anse-Saint-Jean à Noël

J'ai pris cette photo sur Facebook, sur la page d'une amie (la mère de mon filleul et la femme de mon meilleur ami, je la connais depuis le cégep, pour la petite histoire). Ils ont passé Noël et une partie des Fêtes à l'Anse-Saint-Jean. J'y suis allé la plupart du temps en été et en automne, jamais en hiver, en tout cas pas dans mon souvenir. Comme l'image était à la fois saisissante et idyllique, j'ai décidé de la mettre ici.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Not my Christmas meal

Well, not this year anyway, as I has my expat's Christmas. But you see on this picture the Christmas meal my family had for the réveillon, a hearty supper taken after midnight on Christmas morning. Turkey, stuffing, meat pies (pork pies), mashed potatoes, olives, cranberry sauce, applesauce, ketchup for the pork pies and I think I haven't forgotten anything. No salad, but we usually make one on the next day to go with the leftovers. my wife finds it borderline insane that we eat so much and so late, but I always loved this tradition and miss it when I cannot follow it. We are one of the few families in Québec that still follow it: most have this kind of meal on the night of the 24, before they unwrap their presents, and everything is over when Christmas comes. I think it should be properly observed.

Brumes sur la Tamise

Nous sommes allés aujourd'hui nous promener dans le parc principal de la ville où nous vivons. Après une heure au terrain de jeux, notre petit loup a insisté pour aller voir les canards, les oies et les cygnes sur la Tamise. La rivière longe le parc, voyez-vous. Alors nous y sommes allés. et j'y ai pris cette photo alors qu'une brume s'installait dessus. N'allez pas me demander comment ça se fait qu'il y avait de la brume au parc, mais pas ailleurs dans la ville, ça me mystifie complètement. Mais c'est vraiment joli. Quand je me désole de ne pas être au pays, à Noël ou à des moments de l'année qui ont de l'importance comme ça, je me rappelle que je vis dans un joli coin de pays et que la vue peut être parfois saisissante, comme vous le voyez ici.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

The obligatory song on this 26th of December

Happy Saint Stephen's Day everyone! As people knowing old Christmas carols, this is the day featured in Good King Wenceslas, which I share every year on this blog, in one version or another. It is a favourite of mine. This year, I will use a slightly different approach, as I will share the carol as featured in The Big bang Theory. For two reasons: 1)while I do not follow the show anymore, I find this particular moment hilarious, and 2)it happens in a Dungeons&Dragons session. As you know, my brothers and I now play D&Dr exclusively during Christmastime, so it kind of resonates with me. Our games are far different than this one. But more to that in another post, probably tomorrow if I can find the time to blog. Here is the complete clip:

Noël 2018

Je n'ai pas pu bloguer hier, comme de raison nous étions trop occupés avec un petit loup qui n'a jamais été excité comme ça avant. Je voulais dire rapidement joywux Noël encore une fois, avec une nouvelle photo du sapin de mes parents. Je m'ennuie de là-bas, mais j'ai quand même eu un bon Noël et je compte m'amuser d'ici à la fin des Fêtes.

Monday 24 December 2018

Christmas Days

It is Christmas in less than an hour and I thought that maybe one last time this year I would give a reading suggestion for Christmastime, as this blog is often about books and because 'Tis the season to be reading. If you have time, that is, as I have less and less, especially with a young child. Nevertheless, I am reading at the moment Christmas Days by the aptly named Jeanette Winterson and quite enjoying it. Twelve stories, like the twelve days of Christmas, with... twelve recipes to go with them. So far, it is actually very enjoyable. A lot of them (again: so far) are supernatural (but never scary) in nature, while the recipes are not merely recipes, but filled with anecdotes and autobiographical notes on how she came to discover them. I didn't know Winterson, I think I will read more of her. In any case, this is my seasonal read.

Les crèches ici

Dans moins d'une heure et demie, c'est Noël, alors je vais écrire rapidement deux billets. J'espère vous souhaiter Joyeux Noël demain, si j'ai le temps. Ces derniers jours ont été assez chargés et je n'ai guère eu le temps de m'arrêter quelques minutes. Sinon, Joyeux Noël à mes lecteurs. Mais enfin bref, nous sommes allés récemment dans un garden centre compléter nos achats. Nous avions appris qu'ils avaient fait les choses en grand et que les décorations étaient magnifiques, Je n'en suis pas certain, mais il y avait une section avec des crèches en vente, dont l'entrée avait cette crèche plus grande. Ça m'a étonné: les crèches ici sont dures à trouver et en général circonsicrites aux églises. Je crois que c'est dû à la domination du protestantisme. Je me trompe peut-être. Elle ne valent pas la crèche familiale, dans tous les cas.

Musing about wrapping presents

Christmas is in less than 24 hours now and I just finished wrapping all the presents. I hope so anyway. It was never ending. I made some observations about it:

-I am really rubbish with wrapping paper. Maybe because I am a man, I don't know, but it looks like I recycled the wrapping for every gift. I didn't.
-I feel sympathy for Santa's Little Helpers. Doing all the work from toys and gifts creation to packaging and wrapping, in the North Pole, in what must be dire working conditions... Kudos.
-Santa Claus must be a terrible boss for them, come to think of it.
-We bought far too many presents for Wolfie. Half of them, he may not even notice. Next year we must go easy.
-When Wolfie grows up, I wonder how I will be able to explain that Santa Claus only gives presents to the children who have been good. Wolfie can be very naughty, to the point of being an agent of chaos sometimes.
-Christmas is truly all about children.

Well, that's it... Now we have to wait.

Sunday 23 December 2018

Guy Rondou existe

Stupéfaction en lisant cet article de La Presse+ aujourd'hui: Guy Rondou existe. Celui immortalisé dans la chanson 23 Décembre de Beau Dommage. Moi qui pensais que c'était juste pour une licence poétique pour faire une rime. Il semblerait que la chanson soit plus autobiographique que je ne le croyais. L'article donne d'ailleurs plus de détaisl sur la genèse de la chanson. Enfin, comme nous sommes le 23 décembre, c'est une tradition que de la partager ici sur Vraie Fiction.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Christmas Eve Box

This is a Christmas Eve Box. I don't know if you have it on your side of the world, but here, families have gone crazies for them. You have one for your little one, you put in it things for him or her to enjoy on Christmas Eve, as a sort of ritual and thus stay patient until Christmas. Some special pyjamas, a few DVDs to watch in the evening, a book or two to read before bedtime, maybe some chocolates and candy canes, etc. Although right now it is empty. It was my wife’s idea to buy one. I am not sure if we’re starting a lovely new Christmas tradition or just giving in to more consumerism. But it was bought at a Cancer Research UK shop so our money went to a good cause, if nothing else. And it is quite a pretty box. Also, although it is empty for now, Wolfie loves it. I mean he likes carrying it around and sometimes throwing it. In any case, any suggestions for its content are more than welcomed.

Le sapin familial de 2018

 Photo prise par mon frère PJ. Tout ça pour dire qu'aujourd'hui, ma famille (mes parents, mes frères et la blonde de mon frère Andrew) ont monté et décoré l'arbre de Noël. Un vrai de vrai sapin naturel. Le 22 décembre, c'est un tantinet tard, mais ça laisse quand même un peu de temps pour l'apprécier. Et je vais le dire tout de suite, pour écarter toute ambiguïté: c'est le plus beau sapin de Noël, celui que ma famille fait. J'aimerais donc y être cette année, surtout que maintenant, quand nous ne sommes pas là, c'est toute une génération de la famille qui manque.

Friday 21 December 2018

Christmas fox

I took this picture in a garden centre nearby, which had been decorated with many such Christmas displays. I have no idea why, but I liked this one in particular and so did my wife and my little boy. I think when it comes down to it, it is because of the fox. There is just something about a fox in a snowy background, with pine trees all around.

Un autre Noël sous la flotte?

J'ai parlé à mes parents aujourd'hui sur Facetime. On m'a appris qu'il pleuvait à boire debout, alors il semblerait que je ne manque rien cette année de ne pas être chez nous à Noël (du point de vue de la température à tout le moins.. Ici aussi, il pleut, ce qui est malheureux, mais prévisible. Il fera sans doute trop doux pour qu'il neige, alors ça risque d'être un autre Noël sour la flotte.

Thursday 20 December 2018

About old toys

Today, we had a small family Christmastime gathering: we saw my wife's brother and sister and their spouse/partner. But sadly not our niece, who was busy today. She still bought Wolfie a present for Christmas, which I might blog about later. You might remember that I mentioned last month the intention of my dear brother-in-law of shipping our way the boxes of old toys his daughter did not need. Well, he was a man of his word: we received loads of toys, all dusty and taking lots of space in the living room. I must admit however that I did not have too much to complain about otherwise: our niece was a tomboy, so there are many very fitting toys for Wolfie: figures of dragons, monsters, knights, one huge castle model (all in pieces of course), he was fascinated by all them and and very happy. And I was quite happy too because I will be able to enjoy them as well. So I am not too unhappy about the outcome in the end, to my surprise.

Il y a 40 ans...

Il y a un anniversaire important à souligner aujourd'hui. Il y a 40 ans, notre famille emménageait dans la maison où mes frères et moi allions grandir, qui était au milieu de nulle part à Chicoutimi. "Dans le champ", m'a dit papa. Mes parents m'ont demandé si je m'en souvenais, je leur ai répondu que j'ai une bonne mémoire, mais pas à ce point-là. Mais je me rappelle un peu de la suite, le quartier qui s'est développé par après, les maisons construites autour de la nôtre (j'avais une fascination pour les pelles mécaniques et les bulldozers), les nouveaux voisins d'alors qui sont devenus mes premiers amis d'enfance, la cour-arrière qui menait à un champ, les boisés pas trop loin que je croyais hantés et même quelques moments d'hiver où on se sentait isolés au bout du monde. Ma grand-mère maternelle m'a déjà dit qu'on avait surnommé notre maison "la petite maison dans la prairie". On aurait pu aussi l'appeler Hurlevent, parfois.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Carol for Christmas

'Tis the season to be watching and tonight I want to suggest a movie for Christmas which I am rediscovering this year: Carol. Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, which I haven't read. It is a love story between a young lower class and aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (played by Rooney Mara) and a wealthy and older married woman named Carol. The title character is of course played by none other than... Cate Blanchett. My favourite actress got rubbed of an Oscar again as she is absolutely mesmerizing there (well, I guess she always is). Generally, I am not very fond of love stories, but this one is so well built and the homosexuality of both characters in a time when it was a stigma considered a mental illness,sometimes even a crime, just gives true pathos and dimension to it. And both Blanchett and Mara are very convincing. And as the core of the plot is set during Christmastime, I consider it a Christmas movie. Not a shallow feelgood one, but a Christmas movie with heart and soul that haunts you after watching it.

Toute la mesure de l'hiver anglais

Photo prise la fin de semaine dernière, l'une des journées les plus froide jusqu'ici. Il a gelé au sol, il y avait une glace noire sournoise sur l'asphalte, mais il n'a pas neigé. Je trouve ça parfois déprimant, de savoir qu'on n'aura pas de neige avant un bout, si on en a cet hiver. Surtout que le temps est plus doux depuis. Surtout qu'on ne voyage pas cette année, il pourrait bien neiger.

Monday 17 December 2018


I blogged last week about Secret Santa at the office, which happened Friday afternoon. I said I might blog more about it, so here it is. My Secret Santa Claus got me this: some grooming products for men: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, aftershave... The brand is Man'Stuff, or MAN'STUFF, as the label says in bold. According to the website, it is "a no-nonsense range of essential toiletries, designed for men". And the face on the no-nonsense male alpha on the logo looks suspiciously like a hipster, and his beard hasn't seen a razor in a long while. I have six bottles all in all, that cost from £5 to £10. One of them is meant based on coal or meant to smell of coal, I am not sure. I will give a try to each one of them, although I am a bit weary of what they might make me smell of. I wonder who gave me this and why. Does that present says something about me, somehow?

Trois longs jours...

Je tombe en vacances mercredi soir. Ce lundi a donc été le premier de trois longs jours de travail. Enfin, j'ai le sentiment que l'impatience face à Noël et les vacances de Noël rendront les deux prochains jours au moins aussi longs que le premier. Incidemment, c'est mercredi que les écoles ferment aussi. Je compatis avec les élèves du primaire et du secondaire, donc, tout en les enviant un peu, car je crois comprendre qu'ils rentreront tous chez eux à midi. Une fois les vacances commencées, l'Avent devient de l'anticipation, et ça devient donc très plaisant. Il faut juste que je passe au travers de ces deux jours...

Sunday 16 December 2018

A Star in the East

My wife suggested that I put more Christmas music on Vraie Fiction. I agree with her, so tonight I decided to put something from the Christmas album of Harry Belafonte. I thought about Mary's Boy Child first, as there is a version of it that is sung everywhere on the radio these days, but I shared this one in 2016, so here is another one from the album, lesser known now. It might surprise you that an atheist like myself goes for religious Christmas music instead of the many secular songs the season has given, but in fact I always preferred traditional Christmas music. Especially when sung by Belafonte, whose soothing voice has just the right level emotion,. There is genuine love and reverence in it. And this is a voice that calls back to the Christmas of my childhood, when my parents played this album over and over again.

"Ça va bûcher!"

Photo prise en 2014 sur la page Facebook de La Panthère Verte. Et tout d'abord: "Ça va BÛCHER!", quel calembour atroce! C'est peut-être québécois, mais c'est atroce. Drôle de façon de vendre une bûche de Noël végane. Tout de même, je n'ai pas pu essayer ladite bûche lors de mes séjours au Québec durant les Fêtes, mais c'est l'un de mes objectifs gastronomiques, alors j'espère qu'ils en font encore à chaque année.

Saturday 15 December 2018

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

‘Tis the season to be reading. And I can’t believe it’s ten days until Christmas already and it’s only my second Christmas reading suggestion this year (in my English posts at least). So today’s festive reading suggestion: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, an adventure of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. A stolen gemstone with a dark and troubled past (the Blue Carbuncle of the title) is found in a roasted goose. While the gemstone is quickly given back to its owner, the whole plot is about finding the thief and discover how it got there... and incidentally where the goose is from. This is a proper Christmas read not only because it is set in the season, but because along the criminal investigation we witness a good deal of Christmas spirit, a few acts of kindness and generosity. Beyond the thinking machine that we often think he is, Holmes is shown as compassionate and benevolent. And like in every Sherlock Holmes story, you read it for the characters and atmosphere as much as the investigation and the resolution. This is so far my best literary discovery for Christmastime.

Ciné-cadeau: c'est commencé

C'est maintenant officiel, Ciné-cadeau est commencé. Des status Facebook de mes amis me l'a rappelé ce soir. Un 15 décembre, c'est un bon moment, juste assez pour se mettre dans l'ambiance des Fêtes et patienter dans les jours avant Noël. Je vais le manquer cette année, mais avec l'internet, je peux me faire mon propre Ciné-cadeau maison, avec des titres qui ne passent plus depuis longtemps. Sinon, pour mes compatriotes qui peuvent en profiter, que pensez-vous de la cuvée 2018? Allez-vous la voir?

Thursday 13 December 2018

Winter Royal

"Tonight's poison. I think I'm in love." This is what I said on Facebook about Winter Royal and I think it deserves to be a new great unknown line. Winter Royal is the new winter ale from Rebellion Beer, and it is also part of my new Christmastime drinking stocks. I might even have it on Christmas day itself, I love it that much. Apparently, Winter Royal is a beer which existed decades ago at the old brewery in Marlow, but became unavailable when it closed down in 1988. So it is an ale reborn, all the more fitting for Christmas and the winter solstice. But it is mainly a flavorsome ruby ale that keeps you warm on a cold winter night.

P'tit Loup prépare Noël

J'ai blogué quelquefois sur P'tit Loup, le louveteau qui est le vedette d'une série de livres pour enfants et de jouets. Il semble être très populaire dans le monde francophone. Toujours est-il qu'il a au moins un livre qui est consacré à Noël, qu'on a offert en cadeau à mon petit loup deux fois plutôt qu'une: une fois à Noël 2016 par ses grands-parents, puis à Noël 2017 par l'un de ses oncles...  Je ne me rappelle même plus lequel des deux. Au moins, ça lui fait des livres en français dans la maison. Et enfin, depuis que les Fêtes commencent, Wolfie s'intéresse au livre et me demande au moins parfois de le lire avec lui. Je crois qu'il s'identifie au personnage principal.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Radio (Christmas)Times

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and 'Tis the season to be watching. Case in point: Radio Times has finally released its Christmas issue. I don't have many Christmas traditions specifically linked to England, but one of the very few of them is buying a Radio Times to use as a TV guide for the season. In an age of streaming, browsing and of multiple channels, when you can find by the click of a mouse what is on the telly, this old-fashioned way of checking and choosing the entertainment has something reassuring and timeless. Owning a paper copy of Radio Times and reading its articles is part of my little Christmas pleasures.

Noël, Noël (Passe-Partout)

Je trouvais que je ne mettais pas assez de musique de Noël sur ce blogue, alors j'ai pensé partager une chanson du spécial de Noël de Passe-Partout. Je l'ai fait écouter à petit loup, avec un succèes modéré. Dans un même ordre d'idées, j'ai retrouvé sur YouTube Le Noël de Pruneau et de Cannelle, pour les nostalgiques de ma génération. Pas les meilleurs arrangements, mais il y a là bien des cantiques peu connus ou carrément oubliés. Mais celle-ci, que l'on retrouve aussi dans l'album, est une chanson originale:

Tuesday 11 December 2018

I, Secret Santa

This Friday, we will be doing Secret Santa at work. I thought I'd escape it with my new job (I say "new", but I have been in this job for a year and a half now). I am not too keen, but I guess it does build up team spirit. It certainly brought some excitement in the office, with the younger female part of the staff wondering who was whose Secret Santa and what presents were they to expect. It is a small company, about a dozen employees, so with a bit of investigation someone can find out who bought what for who, although as the staff is made of a majority of women in their mid twenties to early thirties, it might make things a bit more challenging. I have been asked over and over again by the girls what I wanted for Christmas. The price range for the gifts is between £5 to £10. I bought a small notepad at around £6, with a beagle on it, as my colleague is a dog lover and beagle owner. I wonder what I will have. Maybe another mug, which although unimaginative is always useful. I might blog about it again, if it is worth another post.

Le temps des pingouins

Tout d'abord, une précision: je sais que les pingouins et les manchots sont deux espèces différentes, mais j'utilise le terme pingouin pour l'un et l'autre afin de faire plus simple. Et la photo a été prise à Branféré et elle est ici pour illustrer le sujet du billet. Toujours est-il qu'il m'est venu à l'esprit que le pingouin est un oiseau que l'on trouve un peu partout quand Noël arrive, surtout mais pas exclusivement dans les articles pour enfants: sur le pyjama de mon fils, dans les images associées à Noël, sur le papier d'emballage, comme décoration du sapin. Je songe d'ailleurs lui acheter, enfin je veux dire demander au Père Noël de lui apporter en cadeau un toutou de pingouin.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Nanaimo bars

We were invited today by a friend of my wife, a mother of twins a year older than Wolfie, to go to their place for an afternoon meal. She is a Canadian from Alberta married to a Brit and, while we don't know her all that much for now, she seems very eager to develop a friendship with us. My guess is that because our family situations mirror each other's: Canadians (not that I feel very Canadian mind you) married to an English person. Anyway, it was a very a pleasant time, their two boys were sweet and Wolfie enjoyed himself too. She had said to my wife that she had prepared (for the first time) a typical Canadian delicacy. I rightly guessed that it was Nanaimo bars. Now it does not come from Québec, or indeed Alberta, but I know Nanaimo bars very much as it was often parts of our Christmastime desserts in my family and the family of my friends. I don't remember eating them any other time of the year. So it was fitting and it tasted of home. It is a very nice dessert, shamelessly indulgent, full of sugar and so very easy to munch.


Photo prise par mon père il y a deux ou trois semaines, dans le domaine familial au Saguenay. je la publie ici parce que la neige et les vrais hivers commencent à me manquer beaucoup. Ici il pleut et même quand il fait plus froid il n'y a pas un flocon qui tombe. En tout cas, la neige ne s'accumule pas.

Saturday 8 December 2018

Scotland Yard

Once upon a time, before my brothers and I started playing role-playing games, we were very much into board games. To a point when they sometimes even influenced our make belief games. I used to ask for at least one board game as present at Christmas. One of my favourite has been Scotland Yard, which we received at Christmas 1987 if I am not mistaken. I was then, and I am still an anglophile and loved very much old fashioned crime fiction stories set in London and England and its police had a fascination over me. I didn't even know then that Scotland Yard was not even its real name, or even its real nickname anymore. In fact, everything about it being the élite of police in England was a tired old cliché. All the same, it was all I knew then of England's police life, or all I thought I knew, and it all seemed so exotic and exciting.

So I got the game as a Christmas present and to this day this is maybe my favourite board game (I rank it slightly higher than Clue/Cluedo). The premise is pretty simple: master criminal Mr. X is in London and he must be captured. One of the players is Mr. X, the others are detectives from the Yard and they are pursuing him in London through public transports: taxis, bus and underground. How much more British can you get? You spend tickets to travel (yes, even in taxi) and when you spent them all, you are stuck. That's a rip off, but not entirely unrealistic. In any case, it is a very exciting game and it is full of atmosphere and character. And what makes it unique is that it is a game of collaboration as the police officers work together to catch the villain. Strangely enough we did not play that often to Scotland Yard, maybe because I considered it a bit of the Holy Grail of board games. Maybe also because we played it as a make belief game more than anything else, although then Mr. X was not the only adversary we had. In any case, I would like to revisit Scotland Yard again.

"La fête de Noël au Québec"

Je plogue souvent en anglais des livres à lire durant le temps des Fêtes, j'ai pensé queje devais le faire pour mon lectorat francophone. Tout ça pour dire que j'ai reçu il y a plus de dix ans La fête de Noël au Québec et que c'est devenu un incontournable pour moi, littéralement mon livre de chevet dans le temps de Noël. C'est un ouvrage encyclopédique qui couvre tous les aspects de la célébration en version québécoise. Pour le nostalgique comme l'expatrié que je suis, c'est le livre parfait, on en apprend autant que l'on se souvient de trucs oubliés.

Thursday 6 December 2018

Grumpy Santa

'Tis the season to be drinking and I wanted to share online the rediscovery of one Christmas ale which illustrates perfectly in its name and its label one aspect of Christmas: Grumpy Santa by the Staffordshire Brewery. I drank it before, I think, but I remember mostly their Cold Turkey, which I did not like all that much. Then there's this Grumpy Santa, which tastes pretty good for a blonde (thankfully it's a dark blonde). But I bought it for the label and the name. Oh the name! Christmastime may be the most wonderful time of the year, there are moments when one feels tired, fed up, not in the festive mood and yes, grumpy. This beer is an homage to these moments. Let it be known: 'this (also) the season to be grumpy (sometimes).

Comment un chat voit le sapin de Noël

J,ai trouvé ce dessin comique sur mon fil Facebook. Il se trouve que j'ai beaucoup d'amoureux des chats parmi mes amis, bien du monde qui se sont découverts un amour pour les félins bien avant que ce soit mon cas. Dans tous les cas, ce dessin illustre assez bien la relation entre le chat et le sapin de Noël. Domino n'est pas si pire que ça, mais il a ses moments.

The stories of Saint Nick

It is Saint Nicholas' Day today. He is of course the prototype of Santa Claus, or rather Santa Claus before he gained weight and moved up North. I don't want to write a long post, but thought I'd share this video about the "real" Saint Nick. Or rather the old one, the one of old folklore rather than the modern legend. My favourite is "that butcher story", which I often shared on this blog.

Question existentielle (338)

Nous sommes aujourd'hui la Saint-Nicolas. Au lieu de mettre cette chanson comme je le fais d'habitude, je vais poser une question existentielle que j'imagine beaucoup de parents doivent se poser:

-Quoi dire à un jeune enfant à propos du Père Noël?

Wednesday 5 December 2018

A train in the snow

Not a real one, but a model train by LGB. The snow itself is real, however. I found this picture on the Facebook page of LGB and thought I needed to share it as a Christmastime and winter post. When I was a child, in the weeks before Christmas, before the tree was up, we generally had our LGB train running in the basement on a network of railways set up by my father. It was a way to getting into the season mood and kept us patient through Advent. Of course we never ran it on the snow outside, but in our make belief games, it was winter anyway. This is partially why I associate trains and LGB models in particular to Christmastime.

Chercher le Polar de l'Avent

J'ai déjà blogué l'année dernière sur ce bouquin publié par Série Noire et que j'ai vu par hasard à Olivieri du temps de mes études à l'U de M, il y a de cela vingt ans déjà. Je regrette amèrement jusqu'à ce jour de ne pas l'avoir acheté. J'espérais naïvement l'avoir parmi mes cadeaux de Noël cette année-là, mais je n'ai pas été exaucé, ou alors personne de ma famille ne l'a trouvé. Je vais reprendre mes recherches cette année, en espérant pouvoir le lire l'Avent de 2019. Mais je vais élargir mes recherches grâce à ce blogue. Si par hasard vous l'avez, ou si vous savez où le trouver en France, au Québec ou en Angleterre (sait-on jamais), faites-moi le savoir dans les commentaires.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

It's not a natural tree...

...but it will do for this year. So anyway, we made the Christmas tree last Sunday. I thought the sooner the better, especially since we are stuck with an artificial one this year. We have had natural ones in the past years, sometimes, but this way before Wolfie's birth: because of his car seat, we cannot carry a natural one of a decent size in the car. I had forgotten how small our Christmas tree was. And how it smells of nothing. That said, I cannot complain too much, as putting it up was a real joy. Mainly because of Wolfie. At two, he is far more conscious about the Season and far more active than before, so he really, really, really had fun putting the decorations on. Or rather, bossing me around to put them wherever he wanted them to be.

Se "tinquer" pour les Fêtes...

Je ne sais pas trop comment on écrit le verbe québécois "tinquer" (ça vient de tank, alors ça pourrait être "tanker" ou "tinker", mais c'est bien ce dont il s'agit. Les caudeaux de Noël sont pas mal tous achetés, ou en train de l'être. Les décorations mises. Pour la bouffe, il faudra se préparer un peu plus proche du moment, mais ça vient aussi. Ne reste que l'alcool. Le défi, c'est d'en boire moins que l'on se stocke, pour en avoir assez aux vacances. Comme je ne bois que les fins de semaine, ça passe encore. Jusqu'ici, j'ai surtout acheté la bière de Noël de Marks & Spencer. Ce n'est pas ma préférée, mais elle se boit. Je compte me diversifier dans les jours et semaines qui viennent. L'Angleterre a une panoplie de bières festives, alors j'ai l'embarras du choix.

Monday 3 December 2018

Whiteout ('Tis the season to be reading...)

'Tis the season to be reading and, as you may remember from the previous years, it means that I will suggest books for you to read during your Christmas holidays, or maybe ask for Santa to put under your Christmas tree. Today's suggestion (and the first this year) does not have so much to with the Season as it as with the season. I long for a proper winter and what's more wintery than Antarctica. So the book I suggest is Whiteout by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Steve Lieber. I blogged about it and its sequel last week, I thought it was just as fitting for a Christmas read. In this graphic novel the continent is pure winter nightmareland. Be that as it may, the protagonist, U.S. marshal and tomboy (you can even say butch) Carrie Stetko, has made the Ice (as it is called) her home. Then someone gets murdered. You have blood on snow, isolation, blizzard, violence, a thousand ways to die a gruesome death, a good deal of international intrigues and a dash of espionage to give it some weight as well as authenticity, there is a lot to love here. Whiteout is not only a great thriller, it's an intelligent one.

Le rond-point enneigé

Parce que j'ai insisté, mon père m'a envoyé des photos des premières neiges chez nous. J'ai lu il y a deux ou trois ans que Chicoutimi était l'une des rares villes où il y avait des Noëls blancs année après année. Autant dire que c'est vraiment le bout du monde. Ce que j'ai toujours cru du rond-point où j'ai grandi. Cette photo n'est donc pas celle d'un pôle... maisle rond-point marque peut-être bien un certain pôle, à tout le moins une polarité.

Sunday 2 December 2018

Wolfie and Santa Claus

As Christmas is coming, there are lots and lots of special Christmas activities, especially craft markets in our little town. We went to two of them yesterday. One was fairly small and rather bland, the second had Christmas music, decorations and... Santa's grotto. There was an authentic Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as they often call him here in England, who was meeting little children for three pounds at the entrance. We offered Wolfie to see him, and the answer was unequivocal: "No!" With a look of fear and distrust that was very cute to see. He did not like one bit that jolly old man wth the long white beard clad in red. we tried a few times, and again and again he repeated a resounding no. On the plus side, we saved ourselves three pounds.

Les pâtés à la viande

Aujourd'hui, nous sommes le premier jour officiel de l'Avent. J'essaie donc de me préparer à Noël du mieux que je peux: acheter les cadeaux, mettre les décorations, mais aussi trouver la nourriture pour les Fêtes. ce qui va me manquer, comme toujours, ce sont les pâtés à la viande, l'un des incontournables gastronomiques de Noël au Québec. Il y a quand même des variantes ici, mais je me demande si je ne devrais pas prendre mon courage à deux mains et essayer d'en faire. Ceux que vous voyez sur la photo ont été cuisinés l'année dernière par mes frères PJ et Andrew ainsi que par la blonde de ce dernier. Je n'ai jamais eu ni la patience d'en faire, ni l'énergie, ni vu l'intérêt, ma femme étant végétarienne. Cela dit, lors de notre dernier Noël au Québec, nous avons découvert que notre petit loup était friand des pâtés à la viande, alors je ne serais plus les seuls à en manger.

Saturday 1 December 2018

The Advent Calendars

We are the first day of Advent, at least when it comes to the secular, non liturgical countdown to Christmas. In other words, it is the first day of December and the countdown to Christmas starts today for Advent calendars. We have three this year, three cheap(ish) ones which images don't look at all like the lush image you find on this picture. I bought this one a few years ago, in our local independent sweet shop, back when we had one. It was a nostalgic Advent calendar. The chocolate in it was good, but the image even better. This year will be special enough though: little Wolfie is starting to be more conscious about the whole Christmas thing and will soon understand at least part of the ritual. Although I don't know if he has the patience to eat only one a day...

Trois grands rois dessus le long chemin

Nous sommes le premier jour officieux (car en fait, ce sera demain) de l'Avent et donc Noël approche à grands pas. Comme c'est une tradition sur ce blogue, je mets ici pour commencer les Fêtes La marche des rois ainsi qu'une photo de la crèche familiale, la même à chaque année ou presque (j'essaierai d'en avoir de nouvelles pour l'année prochaine). Cela dit, j'essaie une nouvelle version du cantique à chaque année. J'espère que vous aimerez et que ça vous mettra dans l'esprit des Fêtes.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Cold War Crimes

I wanted to give one ultimate reading suggestion for #Noirvember and was not sure what to suggest. Then today I found by chance this article about climate changes and the way it is reshaping geopolitical interests and potential conflicts in the Arctic. The first picture of the article and its content made me think of the graphic novel Whiteout by Greg Rucka, which is set in Antarctica. But more exactly its volume two, Whiteout: Melt, as it features Russian mercenaries dressed pretty much like them. Anyway, I will not give much of either plots away, let's just say that they're dark, violent and, more to the point, cold. And both belong equally to the crime fiction and spy fiction genres, but they have heart. I try to revisit them this time of year. I will do it again, especially now that the graphic novels are very topical.


Je ne sais pas trop pourquoi, mais aujourd'hui il m'est venu à l'espritque je n'ai pas traversé le Parc des Laurentides depuis 2016 environ et que je ne suis pas arrêté à L'Étape depuis plus longtemps encore. Je crois que la dernière fois, ça devait être en 2003 ou à peu près. Et encore, c'était dans les bâtiments temporaires après qu'elle ait brûlée. Je n'ai jamais si tant aimé L'Étape que ça, mais pour le voyageur saguenéen qui revient au Saguenay ou qui le quitte, ça a longtemps été comme un arrêt obligé. On y prend l'air de la région une dernière fois, ou on la retrouve après une absence qui semble toujours trop longue. L'Étape, c'est un peu un poste frontière officieux. Je me demande à quoi elle ressemble maintenant et si elle est autant fréquentée qu'à une certaine époque.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Deer in the woods

I took this picture in Derbyshire, but I am blogging about an anecdote that happened recently on our way to Henley. When I say anecdote, it is almost nothing: we were on our way there, in a road boarded by hilly woodlands, the kind that makes you feel like you are in the Shire, when I saw two deer walking by, on the top of a slope, in the woods. They were not very big and had no antlers, from what I understand it might have been a doe and her fawn, but of course I might be wrong. It was only for a few seconds, unfortunately Wolfie could not see them, but it made my day.

Tempête dans un Second Cup

Photo datant d'un bout de temps, prise au Second Cup sur Mont-Royal, enfin l'un d'eux, celui proche du métro je crois. Un chocolat chaud et un café, ou deux chocolats chaufs, je ne sais plus.Tout ça pour dire que j'ai lu aujourd'hui quej'ai lu dans La Presse affaires qu'un groupe de franchisés poursuivaient la compagnie. Cette nouvelle risque d'inquiéter ma femme: elle est anglaise, donc forcément elle se sent chez elle au Second Cup, tout en se trouvant dans un café vaguement exotique. Leur chocolat chaud, on l'a en stock et on l'a récemment partagé avec nos amis. Si jamais les cafés changent trop à cause de leurs déboires ou si la qualité se perde (pas qu'elle soit mirobolante, on s'entend), c'est tout Montréal qui va perdre de l'attrait pour elle.

Monday 26 November 2018

The beast in the water

I took this picture in Derbyshire, of a mysterious creature that was swimming in a lake at high speed. I will let you guess for a moment what this strange and unsettling critter is... Did you find out? It's an... otter. The picture was taken in an otter sanctuary. I had a look at it recently, when I was writing this post, and it struck me that this could easily pass for one of these pictures of lake monsters that folklore and cryptozoology are fond of. But no, the beast in the water was only a mundane otter. Which is just as well, because while I stopped believing in cryptids, I always loved otters.

Faire découvrir le hockey

Comme je le disais dans un autre billet, nous avons reçu de la visite samedi dernier, dont deux jeunes garçons de sept et six ans, qui comme tous les jeunes Anglais de leur âge s'intéressent au football et c'est à peu près tout. Alors qu'ils fouillaient dans les jouets de mon fils, celui de sept ans a découvert le bâton de hockey de petit loup (photo ci-contre et je ne retrouve plus la balle, soit dit en passant). Il m'a demandé ce que c'est, j'ai donc expliqué rapidement que c'était un bâton de hockey et ce que le hockey sur glace était, ainsi que ce qu'il représente pour les Québécois en général et ma famille en particulier (mon grand-père était maniaque). Je leur ai même montré comment ça se jouait avec des vidéos sur YouTube, du Canadien de Montréal bien évidemment. Ils étaient très attentifs, ce qui m'a un peu étonné. Je crois les avoir bien accrochés, en tout cas j'ai éveillé leur curiosité. Je crois que je vais continuer l'initiation au hockey lors de nos prochaines rencontres.

Cyber Monday no more

As you may or may not know, today is Cyber Monday. I don't like Mondays much to begin with, but Cyber Mondays even less. Or at least it was the case when I was working in sales. Cyber Monday meant special offers, which meant a lot of customers coming to buy stuff, which meant frantic work in a short period of time and usually a handful of troubles: last minutes hesitations from some clients, problems with the discount codes or links, issues with orders, etc. As I do not work in sales anymore, at least not directly and not in such a way as Cyber Monday would need to be applied, I don't have to deal with it and its problems anymore. For me, this Cyber Monday is a Monday like every other. Which is bad enough, but it is bearable.

"La petite école"

La petite école, c'est le terme qu'avait une de mes grandes tantes pour parler de l'école primaire en général et de la nôtre en particulier. Ce qui m'agaçait même à l'époque: notre école primaire était assez grande pour une école primaire, ayant des élèves de la maternelle à la sixième année. Ce n'était pas une école de rang, mettons. Quand j'entends parler de petite école, j'imagine une école de village comme celle sur cette photo, une miniature bretonne d'une école d'autrefois. Quand j'ai vu cette miniature, j'ai tout de suite pensé à l'expression de ma tante.

Sunday 25 November 2018

A new invitation to Derbyshire

I blogged last year about the childhood friend of my wife who lives in Derbyshire with her husband and her little boy, who is about two months younger than our old little Wolfie. We visited them a few years ago, where I took this picture (I am not sure I uploaded it before on Vraie Fiction) of their "neighbourhood", which is basically the countryside. They live in a lovely place. She recently renewed the invitation she made a year ago to us, about spending a few days, maybe a long weekend, at their place. It would be lovely to go back. I don't think we can before the end of the year, but this is something we must most definitely plan for next year.

Quel rapace est-ce?

J'ai pris cette photo au National Museum (de) Cardiff il y a un an et demi environ. Le musée avait toute une collection d'animaux empaillés. Je ne sais pas quel oiseau de proie c'est et je me demandais si parmi mes lecteurs il y avait quelqu'un qui s'y connaissait en ornithologie et qui pourrait m'éclairer.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Pulp cover for #Noirvember

Once upon a time, I used to display a cover from the old pulp magazine Detective Tales and comment on it, as a sort of monthly tradition. I thought this would be something perfect to do for #Noirvember. I decided to go for a stereotypical pulp fiction cover, from the November 1938 edition: a damsel in distress, a hero and a few villains in a dramatic action scene. The setting is what appears to be an exotic temple or palace. The damsel in distress is a blonde, gagged but curiously not tied up. There is a henchman holding her and towering over them what appears to be the leader, all clad in white and sporting a devilish looking goatee. The villains seem to be of Middle Eastern or Asian extraction, and they use old fashioned knives. There are three of them. The hero (private eye?) is already wounded and is fighting the biggest one, a thuggish looking guy with a bloody curved knife. Things are grim for the good guys. I wish I could find the story linked to that image, if there is one.

Un bataillon d'enfants

Ma femme a gardé contact avec ses amies de l'université, en particulier deux d'entres elles. Elles étaient toutes les trois inséparables à l'époque. Maintenant, elles ont toutes deux des enfants, l'une en a deux, un garçon et une fille, l'autre trois, un garçon et deux filles. Ils sont venus pour une visite aujourd'hui chez nous. Ce fut fort plaisant, mais ça me frappe toujours de voir à quel point six enfants peuvent créer le chaos dans une maison: le salon, la salle à manger, j'ai l'impression de voir une champ de bataille. Un enfant seul, c'est de l'ouvrage, quand ils sont en groupe, je crois que leurs actions sont concertées. Je me réjouis, quand même: les amitiés de leurs mères se sont perpétuées dans la nouvelle génération: ils s'entendent bien ensemble, ne se chamaillent pas trop et ils ont tous de l'affection pour notre petit loup. C'en est même touchant. Mais ce qu'ils font du grabuge en jouant!

Ouzo and the Greek Connection

Tonight (well, yesterday technically) was the anniversary of my meeting with the woman who was going to become my wife. You can read the story of that moment here and here. Every year I celebrate by eating a mince pie (read the posts for more details). But I was wondering if I should not vary the celebration and drink a shot of ouzo instead. Not that I am a big fan of ouzo, in fact I don't remember its taste much but from what I remember it just tasted like a strong alcohol tastes. But that night, we went to a Greek party with our common Greek friends, a group I used to call the Greek Connection and we drank a bit of ouzo then. It might have been the very last time I drank ouzo. I remember trying some before, but not after. Or maybe my memory is all muddled up. We do not see the Greek Connection anymore, except through social media, but we do miss them and we are ever grateful for making us meet. So maybe one day we might just drink a bit of ouzo at their health and ours.

Ciné-cadeau: l'horraire officiel

Bon ben c'est officiel: l'horraire officiel de Ciné-cadeau est sorti. Je ne sais pas depuis quand exactement, mais il est disponible sur le site de Télé-Québec. Je ne vois à vue de nez aucune différence avec ce qui avait filtré dans les médias plus tôt ce mois-ci. Qu'en pensez-vous? Quels titres vous intéressent le plus? Quels films manquent, quels sont ceux qui devraient faire un retour, quels sont ceux qui devraient être enlevés? Ce n'est pas le Ciné-cadeau d'antan, mais j'aimerais quand même pouvoir le voir cette année.

Thursday 22 November 2018

See Rome (and die?)

Today is the 25th anniversary of the death of Anthony Burgess, my favourite writer. I blogged about him yesterday. I do it again today, given the anniversary. I wrote last year a full blog post about when I learned of his death, which I suggest you read. Today I still blog about this novel and Burgess' report with Rome, which is an ambiguous and paradoxical one. The video below illustrates this very well, in his own words. He died in London, but I suspect his spirit to haunt Rome (metaphorically of course). Since I have started re-reading Beard's Roman Women, I have been wanting to visit Rome even more. Although not to die there, or afterwards.

"Tu es du Saguenay quand..."

C'est un vieux, vieux meme que j'ai vu pour la première fois dans les médias sociaux il y a longtemps et que j'ai déjà partagé en 2011. Je l'ai retrouvé récemment sous cette forme et il n'a pas pris une ride. J'ai donc décidé de le partager ici encore une fois...

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Rome in the Rain

As it will soon be the 25th anniversary of the death of Anthony Burgess, I have been rereading Beard’s Roman Women. One of his lesser known novels, but one of my favourite, in spite of having a rubbish title. Rome in the Rain, as Burgess would have preferred it, and which is the title used in most of its translations, is far better. In it, scriptwriter and new widower Ronald Beard is trying to rebuilt his life in Rome with his new, younger, Italian (and thus exotic) lover Paola, while (possibly) haunted by (the ghost of) his first wife Leonora. It’s a modern day telling of the myth of Orpheus, with literary references to Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein, Byron, the Holy Grail, and a lot of other things. It is a short novel that is nevertheless very dense. At its centre there is Rome, the ever decadent city that is also a gate to the Underworld as well as the crossroads where all civilisations join, clash and die.

Premières neiges à Chicoutimi

Mon père m'a envoyé cette photo hier. Ce ne sont pas (encore) les neiges d'antan, mais l'hiver est déjà commencé à Chicoutimi. J'envie ma région, comme à chaque fois que ça arrive. Mon père m'a demandé pourquoi je demandais des photos de le neige alors que j'en ai déjà beaucoup des années précédentes. La raison est simple: ça me fait sentir plus proche de mon coin de pays.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Dealing with English winters

My wife has a Canadian friend, or rather acquaintance as they are not very close, a mother of twins who is married to a Brit. A few weeks ago, we were discussing the coming winter and our attitude as people from a country famous for its harsh winters living in a country that is famous for being wet all year round. She said that she felt pathetic here, as she is always cold during winter and wear heavy clothes. It struck me that I do the same. I blame the poorly isolated buildings and the humidity, which is far more difficult to deal with than the cold and dry winters I grew up in. English winters, in other words, are not so easy to deal with as one would think, even for Canadians (or Quebeckers, for that matter).

Où sont passés les vrais rebelles?

Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais j'ai chanté il y a quelques semaines le grand succès (et ver d'oreille) de Gaston Mandeville à petit loup, enfin ce dont je me rappelais puis je le lui ai fait écouter. Depuis ce temps, il adore cette chanson. Il danse dessus avec le sourire fendu jusqu'aux oreilles et refuse d'écouter quoi que ce soit d'autre. Il l'appelle "Où, où, où". J'ai parfois hâte qu'il ait envie d'entendre autre chose. Mais d'ici là, j'ai pensé vous partager ce que mon fils fait écouter et subir à ses parents et ses grand-parents.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Clementines at last!

At last! I had been waiting for them and desperately seeking them in fact, and finally here they are, they have arrived, they have clementines in M&S! So I bought these yesterday, two packs to make sure we won't be out of stock (Wolfie is also quite fond of clementines). I have no idea why it took me so long to get my hands on them this year. November is not November without them, or at least November is a very depressing month without clementines to brighten it up.