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Saturday, December 30, 2006

The end of the beginning and the beginning of une nouvelle année

It has been a long year and a short one. Frustrating and rewarding. Fulfilling and disappointing. It has been our first full calendar year in France, 9 months of those with our own house and something like 7 months actually living in it.

I am not sure quite what I expected and so I do not know whether to feel pleased or disatisfied with our, and more specifically, my achievements over 2006. On balance I think I can forgive myself that I have as yet not developed nor earned anything from my own business. The kindness of friends and family has yet to meet bounds and it seems the getting used to being transplanted is quite enough for the moment. I won't, however, be allowed that luxury in another 12 month's time. If resolutions were the thing then earning some money would have to sit atop my list. Now all I have to do is to string together the moments of enthusiasm and positivity, the flashes of inspiration, to form a continuous garland of possibility and to create something both meaningful and real. No problem!?

Almost 700 people have visited these pages since I managed to install a counter. Some of those regulars, some purely by accident and some looking for I know not what. I hope they found something of value, just as I wish love and light to all who read these words.

Bonne année à tous!

Friday, December 08, 2006

A quote for Christmas.

A post was overdue but I couldn't let this quote go without sharing it here on my blog. Good for all year round, it seemed quite poignant at a time of the year when we attempt to be more sharing and the spirit of the season evokes a greater degree of goodwill to all (men).

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."

Attributed to Edmund Burke (1729-1797) English Parliamentarian.

Paris follows...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Magnificent in grey and orange.

Our resources did not allow us the luxury of a summer holiday this year indeed our last time away was some 18 months ago when we had a great week in Marrakech. So our soujourn in the French capital was much looked forward to, and needed.

The lovely people at the SNCF shared their 25th anniversary celebrations (justifiably, as the investment made a quarter of a century ago in the highspeed rail infrastructure would be unthinkable today) by selling tickets at 5€ each and our fortune in obtaining them owed more to my inquisitiveness then anything else as they were being sold on the linked UK internet site when in France their site crashed, the phone lines melted and would-be cut-price travellers queued endlessly at railway stations around the country.

Checked the view from Tatieflat on arrival: yes the Eiffel Tower was still there and twinkling away on the hour (some Parisiens think it vulgar but they are probably the same old vampires who objected to the Tour in the first place). A sigh of contentment and the holiday was underway.

We rarely do a great deal in Paris: just being there feels such a huge treat. I adore the grandeur of the place, the chic greyness of the buildings, the ceramic frames around the advertising posters on the Métro, the feeling of being on a film set with a photographic opportunity around every corner.

This time though I was determined that we would do more with our time. So, after the obligatory shopping trip to Carrefour Auteuil to stock up the fridge, we headed towards the centre to see the Christmas lights at the Grands Magasins. I was immediately struck by how much orange there was everywhere, seemingly très tendance this year and the main colour of the better lights at Printemps. Somehow the French can get away with colours and colour combinations that would look at best naff and at worst tacky were they to be displayed in the UK. We took in the Fragonard perfume museum - worth a visit and free.

Friday evening we went to see "Une Vie en Rose et Noir" at the Théâtre Dejazet, near to La Place de la République. Essentially the life story of Edith Piaf, this sensational piece of theatre enthralled us. It could so easily have been a "Stars in Their Eyes" imitation but no, Nathalie Lhermitte remained blonde and tall for the majority of the piece. The fifty or so in the audience somehow managed to give an impression however, that of a hugely appreciative full house.

Sunday was the first of the month and so many of the museums and monuments throw open their doors for free. A slight exaggeration as most now have scanning devices and security checks but you get the idea. So on Sunday we were enthusiastic tourists. First stop La Sainte-Chapelle, built almost 800 years ago for Louis IX, a place of royal worship surrounded by intri cate stained-glass windows.

Then on to La Conciergerie where many of those, including Marie-Antoinette, were sent to await their fate at the guillotine. Then a half hour in the rain huddled together under an umbrella that threatened to escape, to climb the vertiginous stairs up the towers of Notre Dame cathedral. Even the announcement that the very top was closed owing to the blustery winds did not bother us and we had an excellent view of both gargoyles and the wider expanses of Paris though the Eiffel Tower was hidden in the clouds and mist.

After a quick late lunch at BHV we took a chance on the Louvre. I am almost ashamed to say I have never really been. I have been to the booking hall before it achieved its full magnificence beneath the pyramid but no further. The weather had broken and the late sunshine cast a fabulous light on the stonework of the building. The pyramid, perhaps Mitterand's best legacy, juxtaposed against the palace works superbly. I marvel each time I see it. Of course we often forget that in fact, in terms of architecture, it is the palace which is the more modern.
We "jumped the queue" or rather we chose not to join the 200 odd standing like sheep at the main entrance but found instead a group entrance through which we passed in something under 2 minutes or whatever it took to be scanned. There wasn't time to do much so we felt we had to go and see the obvious ie the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. No need to describe either but what really impressed me was the building itself. It is astonishing! One gallery is almost half a kilometre long!

Later we emerged via the pyramid to see the moon through the glass before strolling via the Tuileries gardens towards the Champs Elysee where we took the Métro home. A wan looking little boy of maybe 2 or 3 carrying his precious cuddly rat arrived in the carriage in a pushchair. Max wanted to steal the rat. I saw myself many years ago a serious slightly sickly child. I experienced the hurt of another papa pang, but that is for another time.

On Monday following lunch in the 15th with Max's (ex)-Uncle (can you divorce your uncle?) - an entertaining raconteur with tales of the occupation and general condemnation of political figures and politics today, we walked back to Printemps to take photos of the lights and to admire the window displays.

We sadly failed to achieve our main mission whilst à Paris, which was to find somewhere that stocks the exceedingly delicious Poulain chocolate spread. Once tasted you realise that Nutella really is for kids.