Monthly Archives: May 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Now, as you know, just because I live in France in the countryside does not mean that I do not love Manchester. Today I’m going to do a top ten favourite things in Manchester, just because I feel it’s time. I know you’ll appreciate that it can be hard to pick out only ten things – and this will be.

#1 St Ann’s Square. From cool little shops around a spacious square to Barton Arcade – a glass and iron arcade that links St Ann’s Square to Deansgate – it never seems crowded and it never seems run-of-the-mill. I love the flower stall by the church, and I love walking round through the little arcades that go lots of other places.

It might very well be raining in the picture, but there’s about a million little places to explore off this one – it’s a kind of meeting-place for all the narrow little roads that run from Deansgate to Cross St. You can go through the Royal Exchange Arcade – never as good as the Royal Exchange used to be before the bomb, of course. You can cut up via the bank, up St Ann’s St, via Half Moon St. And, best of all, the Victorian Chop House, secreted away behind the church. Cut through to King St via Barbour – this place leads everywhere. The buildings are elegant. There are places in the sun. There are lovely shops. There’s the Royal Exchange theatre… this is the quiet, still-beating heart of the city for me.

#2 The University and Oxford Road.

From being about 13 to right now, this is always cool. Students might be annoying, but they are also cool sometimes. This is where I bought the purple coat from yesterday’s blog. It’s where I bought comics by the dozen, and records. It’s also home to the fabulous University museum, with its mummies and its skeletons. It’s not the Natural History museum, not by a long shot, but it’s culture meets grunge all in one place. It’s home to the Cornerhouse cinema, where I became a fully-fledged indie chick and watched arthouse movies in French or Spanish. It can be utterly pretentious, but it can also be a cultured dream. It was also home to the legendary Banshee club, and Jilly’s Rockworld, where I cut my teeth on places that opened late. It’s a world of all tastes. From rock clubs to the Whitworth Art Gallery, it’s a world of contrasts, too.

#3 Oldham St.

back of Afflecks Palace

Across town, in the pretentiously named ‘Northern Quarter’, there sit lots of age-old businesses that fuelled the indie revolution, provided the wardrobe for the Second Summer of Love, for Madchester, for Cool Manchester. Afflecks Palace – a warehouse souk of epic dimensions which stocked everything from faded, pre-owned levis to funky silver jewellery – the only place for a girl to buy purple hair dye back in the day – still hosts a hundred tiny businesses with the coolest clothes. Shabby chic, kawaii, thrift shop, club-land neon, corsets… if it’s alternative, you’ll find it here. Couple that with Piccadilly Records, Eastern Bloc records, the Vinyl Exchange, all the second-hand stores, and it’s still cool.

# Chinatown. Manchester’s Chinatown sits around George St, forming a square completely made up of East Asian foods, restaurants, shops, bakeries and art galleries. You could spend all day here and share in this strange little home-from-home.

Chinatown

#5 Curry Mile. Manchester’s neon capital of curry, Wilmslow Road, is a golden marvel. Sweet shops, sari shops, curry restaurants, Asian grocery stores, it’s a mile of exotic smells and tastes that leads into the heart of the city like an artery of cumin and turmeric.

#6 St Peter’s Square. I love the Manchester Library – it’s round, which is always a good shape for a building. It’s another place you can feel a bit cultured and arty. It connects up the Town Hall with Oxford Road and Chinatown – and it’s another place to escape. If you come up via the University, along Wilmslow Road, it becomes Oxford Road and you can see it all in its splendour.

Central Library

#7 Castlefield and Deansgate locks. Right down at the far end of Manchester’s Deansgate, you can see some of the original city – the Roman fort – and the old fortress is a good place to spend a sunny day. The locks are also a quiet haven away from the chaos.

#8 New Cathedral St.

With Harvey Nichols at one side, Selfridges and Louis Vuitton on the other, it’s a dream shopping parade. Zara, LK Bennett, Lacoste, it’s a consumerist dream. I like to window shop these days, but it’s still a fab place to go shopping.

#9 Old Trafford cricket ground.

Cricket might not be the first sport you think of when you think of Manchester, but it’s a classic part of Manchester life.

#10 The Triangle.

To take a city destroyed by an IRA bomb and rebuild it is something amazing, especially when it’s so well done. Hopefully, it will still look as great in the future and won’t end up all dated! Urbis is a weird-looking museum, all strange glass ski-slope and I’m not sure I approve architecturally, but then I’m a classic-loving girl. Go round the side of the old Corn Exchange and there’s an array of amazing old buildings, from the world’s first public library at Chetham’s to the back of the Cathedral.

Rolling with the punches

Today’s Much Love Monday is sponsored by Van Halen with ‘Jump’. To be accurate, it’s sponsored by David Lee Roth who is my ultimate Much Love Monday ‘feel good’ singer. You couldn’t feel depressed listening to DLR.

He always reminds me of my friend Danny who died in 1992. It’s 20 years ago now, but I can still see his smile if I think of him. Danny was one of the best people I ever knew and he reminded me a lot of Alastair, my brother. They’re both tall and skinny and sharp and funny. For the summer I was 17, it was me, Alison, Nick Gee and Danny – Nick had a little Fiat Panda and we spent a lot of time going places that year, I think.

grainy pic from 1989

I still remember getting the phone call from Andy Mundy to say that Danny was dead. I remember answering it in my mum’s bedroom, and I remember calling Alison. She came up to my house, and I went down to hers, and we kind of met half way on the street and cried and cried. I’d had a huge crush on Danny when I was about 15 – he was snake-hipped and funny, and those were about the two things I liked most in a boy. We’d meet up in Bury Interchange after I finished school and he finished college and then hang out outside Vibes.

Vibes was this record shop which dealt primarily in rock and metal. I bought all my great LPs there and I seriously think it was responsible for the majority of Bury being rockers – or at least it felt like it. In 1988, it was all just beginning for me. Groups of wayward teenagers would gather outside and frighten the grannies. Tattoos, long hair and skinny jeans were the order of the day.

scaring the grannies

I’ve yoinked this pic off facebook because I don’t have one quite so cool. My friend Mark is in the middle along with Gaz, Justin and Martin. You can see Vibes behind it. I worked Saturdays, so I didn’t get to hang out there with everybody else. When I see little emo kids or little goth kids congregating round town centres, it reminds me of us. We all had such good times.

Funnily, Mark – in the middle – not having such a good time of things at the moment. He was the one who gave me the Purple Haze nickname because I picked up this purple coat thing. I say ‘coat’ when I mean part of a stage costume I got in a second-hand store on Oxford Road. I remember that night we met as if it were yesterday. He was saying it was the first night he met me, but the first night he met Henny as well – Henny is right up there with Danny in that group of great people I knew. Those years between 1988-1991 were the best and I had such great, great friends, even if I had terrible (let’s say… unique) fashion sense.

Yes… I really wore this

And the fact that this purple ‘coat’ was a) from a production of Kismet, b) from a second hand shop c) purple d) with kimono sleeves e) with gold embroidery didn’t stop me wearing it at all. Any one of those reasons is a good reason, I’d say.

Anyway… those were the best of times with the best of friends. Here’s a very bad shot of me with all my favourite guys – Carl, Andy, Stu and Henny.

Good friends

So here’s to those formative years, here’s to bad fashion, here’s to skinny jeans and big trainers, here’s to ink and long hair, here’s to friendship, here’s to Danny, here’s to purple coats and here’s Much Love for DLR who reminds me of all of these times.

Today, in Pam’s Poetry Corner, I have a haiku for you. It’s one of my favourite. I love haiku. They are so very simple, but so evocative.

How wild the sea is,
and over Sado Island,
the River of Heaven

Matsuo Basho

So, Happy Monday to you. I’m off to the Plan d’eau at St Yrieix for some sunshine and fun. It’s Pentecost and the final bank holiday in the season of bank holidays. Tomorrow, it’s the GCSE exam paper I mark, so the marking season begins. I could do with a bit of zeal and holy spirit. Not so keen on the speaking in tongues though…

Silent Sunday

 

 

 

I need to break the vow of silence to explain the last two photos. It was Eurovision last night, and we had been given a country to represent. I was representing Azerbaijan, and so I was suitably attired in red, blue and green, just like the flag. I’m going to leave it at that.

This Kiss… This Kiss… Incredible

As you may know, The Great Gatsby is my favourite book. Ever. Full stop. I love everything about it. I love F Scott Fitzgerald. I love the description. I love Gatsby and his tragic love. I love how damaged the characters are. I love the seedy side of the American Dream. I love Gatsby’s mansion and the descriptions of the Mad Years. I love his parties and his unread books. I love how much that kiss with Daisy means and it makes me ache how little it means to her.

I even did it for A level and that managed not to spoil it. Nothing captures those hedonistic, hazy Jazz years or the corrupt, broken, ruthless America. In spite of who he is and how he ‘became’, Gatsby is still pure at heart.

Not only that, but it shouldn’t really be hard to film – it’s a visual delight. But the Redford version is about as asexual as Jedward. There’s no power, there’s no drama. It’s like a castrated, sexless Gatsby with no aching, no longing, no sadness. The party scene is weak and uninspiring. It should be epic, flamboyant, crazy. Plus, the acting is weak. Really weak.

This is why I’m longing for Baz Luhrman’s version – oh he of many, many wonderful films.

The first – Strictly Ballroom  – genius. The Ugly Duckling, David and Goliath, Come Dancing, Muriel’s Wedding – all rolled in to one.

The second – Romeo+Juliet – epic. Now I confess, I’m not a Leo fan. I don’t go all gooey-eyed at him in Titanic but as a young Romeo, he was so very, very beautiful. Claire Danes was fab – the whole Florida scene was brilliant. The party scene was perfect, Mercutio – excellent. Tybalt – hot-blooded Latin craziness. It manages to take a very average Shakespeare play – possibly the one I like least – and turn it into something a bit better than a poor Jeremy Kyle show plot. Like Strictly Ballroom, the music was also epic. I love Love is in the Air – it’s a spangly, sequiny, crescendoing, tremendous anthem of love. And I love the way the actors deliver their lines – rather than just saying them, which is partly why Coriolanus was so poor. And Prince’s When Doves Cry coupled with Des’ree – such a wonderful soundtrack too.

And then…. Moulin Rouge – it takes a great director to turn the usually cold and wooden Nicole Kidman and turn her into something alive and vibrant. But the scenery, the setting, the fabulous, fabulous glamour of it all…. epic. And not for the first time, I love how he mixes the old and the new – how it’s classic and yet also something with a modern twist.

Let’s just not talk about Australia shall we?

And here, and not before time, is The Great Gatsby. 

Now I only need to wait almost seven months for it to come out in the cinema. I think that’s what you call ‘long awaited’.

Being versatile…

I recently got a little award. It’s the versatile blogger award. How cute! Jacqui from French Village Diaries – oh she of the bees like me – gave it to me.

I feel quite honoured because hers is a lovely blog and she always has the kind of life I can only aspire towards – being much further down the Good Life road!

So the deal is this:

Thank the person who gave you this award.

Include a link to their blog.

Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.

Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Include this set of rules in your post.

Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

My 15 blogs are as follows:

A Very Grand Pressigny

Chez Charnizay

My Life in the Charente

In and Around Braye sous Faye

Hola! The Spanish blog

Down on the Allotment 

Loulou Downtown

Kirsty Helen

Hege in France 

La Recette du Jour

Kitty Litter

Catherine Denton

Growing Up in the Garden

Three other blogs I follow and love are:

Days on the Claise

Living the Life in Saint Aignan

and

Another American in France

A bit of an eclectic mixture. I’m reminded of whichever dimwit it was on Big Brother who said: “I’m eclectic. I collect things.” Sometimes, before Big Brother got rubbish and is full of plastic wannabe slebs, it was great. All those people have faded into the ether. I do believe that was Glaswegian transgender Sam who said that, but only on research. But I digress. There’s French lifestyle blogs, design blogs, Charentais blogs, writer blogs, garden blogs. And I tried to pick smaller blogs who’d like the backlinks, like I do! All is fair  in the SEO battle. I might post fifteen huge blogs I read, too, in the next couple of weeks.

So, seven things about me that the person who gave me the award might not know…

1) I too have forsaken the commuter life to live in France, and if sometimes I forget how much I hated having to leave at 6:50 am just to be at work by 8am, then I just need to remember that awful drive. 29 sets of traffic lights between Bolton and Bury. 36 between Bolton and Clitheroe. I miss take-aways, but I don’t need them anymore because I’m not knackered all the time. I miss Sainsbury’s and I miss Asda. I miss cheap clothes and I miss having my hair cut and coloured every eight weeks. I miss the Trafford Centre and I miss shopping.

But really, it’s a longing for something I know is bad for me, like longing for a cigarette – because capitalism isn’t a healthy lifestyle for me and the rat race is very cut-throat.

2. I wish I had a whole lot of time to do a project or DIY blog, but I rarely finish what I start.

3. I wish I had a cool design or art blog, but I don’t.

4. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d dedicated my life to images rather than words.

5. I’m itching to get enough cash to buy a decent second-hand or reconditioned digital SLR camera. Itching, I tell you!

6. Sometimes I look back on my blog posts and think they’ve evolved a lot in three years, and I wonder what it would be like to have a concept blog that’s all on one theme rather than a whole lot of random nonsense. Meh. Such is my life.

7. If I could manage 10 dogs and 20 cats, I’d have them.

Still waiting…

… seriously, it seems like summer is never going to arrive. I keep having a couple of days of mad activity in the garden and then it rains. The grass is epic. We can’t strim. We can’t mow. I keep hoeing back the weeds. I know we need the rain, but the cold is getting to my bones. I’m still in two jumpers and I’ve not had my shorts on for more than two days so far this year. It’s tiresome.

In actual fact, the temperatures aren’t that much different than last year, but it just seems so cold because we’ve had such little sunshine. It’s almost June and it feels like we’re way behind. Plus, our cherry tree has very few cherries – will be surprised if we get a kilo from all of them. Steve’s just informed me that the tree up the road is heavy with them – but I can only assume ours were having a bad year because of the weather when it blossomed. On the other hand, we’ve got hundreds of peaches this year – and we did last year too. Apples also seem thin on the ground. Bloody weather!

Beans… we have.

Broad beans

Peas, we have as well.

You’ll also remember a little planter I made?

Welcome to March

which was based on this:

From Diggerslist

But ended up being my own ‘Welcome’ twist… now I realise I need huge pots – or bigger ones at least! and that I need very low growing plants – because these calendula are far too big and it now looks like this:

So next year, I will separate these pots up and maybe do them in another way. The beauty of recyclable products! However, I am going to do one near the entrance gate because I think it’s cute.

I’ve also done my planters, too. I love verbena, so there’s lots of that:

Verbena

I’ve also painted some 50c pots with gloss paint and put in succulent cuttings from our overgrown succulent can:

Sempervivum in an old rusty tin can

The sempervivum is very easy to propagate – you just separate the hen from the chicks! I’ve potted these up in white painted terracotta pots:

Sempervivum

There are two final touches. One is a vamped up decoupage pot (Verity – I promise I’ll do yours! I do!)

Decoupage on plant pots

And the other touch is the painted tins. I sprayed these with primer then sprayed them green. Some have holes punched in the back so they can hang, like this:

Cheap and easy

And the best thing about these? They cost buttons. I can spray about 30 cans with a can of 4€ spray paint and a 3€ can of primer. A bit of wire and I’ve got a hanging garden. It’s not exactly Babylon, but then who wants that? We all know what happened to Babylon!

My little garden, still with its knickers, grows on apace:

Steve hammered up a ‘Noireau-proof’ fence, since Noireau seemed to think it was his own personal toilet. Poor boy – but I don’t want him digging up my babies! And, for the meanwhile, the knickers are staying.

Meanwhile, the red onions have gone to seed. Nothing to be done about that. That damned warm spell then the cold weather has fair tricked my onions – so I shall now enjoy their flowers and then save the seed. Only one problem in saving the seed of things that bolt – you get other stuff that bolts too.

Oh well.

You have to make the most of what you have, even if that means bolting onions…

Top Ten Tuesday: book adaptations

Some films or television programmes are sad shadows of their literary counterparts. Coriolanus comes to mind. It should have been epic and all I couldn’t stop thinking how badly the actors delivered their lines and how I can’t stop thinking of Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. It was timely; it had some powerful messages to deliver. It could have been superb. In the end, all it came to was a load of actors who really struggled delivering the Shakespearean lines, or delivered them with the kind of unemotional delivery you expect with UPS, not a valiant warrior who refuses to kow-tow to the masses.

And in all truth, most people who read a book say the adaptation is nothing on the original. Harry Potter – ‘nice’ films for kids, but not really of the same calibre as the books themselves. Redford’s The Great Gatsby – shockingly lacking in any sex appeal whatsoever. But some adaptations are genius. Several have Jack Nicholson in them, and I make no apologies for that!

1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The novel is great – Ken Kesey created a masterpiece. But Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, the inmates – great cast and great retelling. I always cry when I watch this movie. I know Ken Kesey didn’t like it and reputedly never watched it, but he should have done. There’s a reason it won so many Oscars! Kesey didn’t like that the narrative had been messed with, that McMurphy wasn’t really the centre of the novel as much as he was in the film. When I read the book, McMurphy seemed – with all his followers – like a modern-day Jesus Christ, with his disciples. And the novel is a bit like the gospel according to the Chief. The film makes less of that, but then I guess point-of-view is such a lot harder to convey in films.

2. The Shining. Jack Nicholson’s forte – playing crazy men. Stephen King books – especially the later ones – don’t usually make good films – they’re so long and complicated it’s hard to reduce them to movie time. I’ve another one coming up – because when they’re done well, they’re epic. You just can’t beat Jack being crazy, though. Stephen King didn’t like it – same as Ken Kesey with Cuckoo’s Nest because Jack Nicholson isn’t supposed to be crazy – but it works for me.

3. The Green Mile. Genius novel, genius film. Stephen King films are hit and miss. Some of the best are Misery, The Shining or Carrie – dark and twisted visions from a dark and twisted mind. Some of them are distinctly average – Needful Things for instance is one of my favourite books – but the plot is so very complicated that it’s hard to film and get down to a sensible time limit for the movies. It’s more like Dickens in plot complexity. A dark, dark Dickens. So it’s no wonder his shorter novels or short stories make easier films. Salem’s Lot  – whilst not particularly a good film – did scare the bejesus out of me when I was 15. That’ll serve me right for reading scary stories late at night. Of course, The Shawshank Redemption is an epic movie – brilliant in its own right.

4. Of Mice and Men. Great story. Great casting. John Malkovich is a tremendous actor. If you see this and then you see him as Cyrus the Virus in Con Air, you’d be forgiven for thinking they weren’t the same person. Gary Sinise does a great job of playing George too – and Sherilyn Fenn was a superb Curley’s Wife. Am I putting this in at the expense of East of Eden? Why yes I am.

5. Brokeback Mountain. The Annie Proulx story is fabulous – and so short. The movie is amazing. I don’t care what issues it raises for men who feel a bit icky about it, or all the jokes that have subsequently come from it, it’s a tragic story about love and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are perfect. Just perfect. I wish I knew how to quit you. Best line ever about unrequited love.

6. Romeo+Juliet. Baz Luhrman – usually hit rather than miss. Shakespeare isn’t easy to do on the big screen – witness Coriolanus. But if anyone could turn it into something uber-cool, Baz would be that person. I’m still in awe of Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom. He’s currently doing The Great Gatsby and I’m waiting with longing. Leo was perfect, as was Claire Danes, and it took this play – which I don’t like very much in general – too much weeping and wailing – and turned it into something beautiful. Fab soundtrack too. Baz rules!

7. American Psycho – super-cool book. I remember when one of my students submitted a monologue based on the book which freaked me out for days. And Christopher Bale, the 80s soundtrack, the crazy killings, the sex with the mirror scene – just brilliant. I like films about crazy people.

8. Pride and Prejudice. I think this is the only Jane Austen I like. And I mean the one with Jennifer Erhle and Colin Firth. It rocketed Colin Firth to super-stardom. It was witty and clever. Alison Steadman was a perfect mother. Lydia – perfect. Wickham – perfect. The Bingleys – perfect. Amazing casting. What I liked most was the fact that I really didn’t think Colin Firth was suited to the role. He grew on me – just as he grows on Elizabeth. And you see all that cold snobbery to be an aching shyness. The scene with the swimming – just perfect too. Brilliant. I could watch this over and over and never get tired. Forget anything with Keira Knightley, Miss Wooden, and give me Jennifer Erhle’s heaving cleavage any day.

9. Game of Thrones – this really should be number one if only for its amazing casting, setting and performance. Yesterday, I confessed my secret.

“I have a crush on Tyrion Lannister,” I said to a fellow lover of all things fantasy.

“So do I,” he said. He’s about as supremely heterosexual as you can be, which made it all the more amusing. Tyrion Lannister could have us all.

10. Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins was exquisite and divine as Hannibal Lecter. Nobody could be Hannibal after him. So perfectly creepy yet such a gentleman. A wonderful, wonderful adaptation.

(Don’t make the list: Atonement, Anna Karenina (Keira!) Reacher (Tom Cruise!) Interview with a Vampire (Tom Cruise!)

And a big Oh Yes to Baz Luhrman’s Great Gatsby

There are two actors who are destined to ruin everything I watch. One is Keira Knightley. I loved Atonement – great novel and I loved James McAvoy. I loved the score and I loved the film. I hate her. I hate her open-mouthed, wooden expression. I hate her inability to have an emotion. She’s the least good actress ever. She has zero sex appeal. A stick has more sex appeal and ability to act than Miss Knightley. If ever a woman was destined to ruin a film, it is she. I wish she’d die in every movie, like Sean Bean does. I don’t wish for him to die, he just does. Keira should be that person. I’m tired of her gaunt, vacant expression.

She does this expression ^^ in every film. Urgh. How did she win a BAFTA for Atonement when she does no acting? She just stands in various positions doing this expression. 10th Most Sexy Woman according to FHM. Do they not have eyes??! Atonement? Ruined. Pride and Prejudice? Ruined. Never Let Me Go? Ruined. And now she’s going to ruin Anna Karenina. Why doesn’t she just take all stories I like and ruin them? I bet she’ll do Madame Bovary next. Bah. I know Samantha Brick would say I’m jealous. I’m not. I don’t find Miss Knightley attractive – though I appreciate she could be a model. I dislike her because she ruins films that I’d quite like otherwise because she pulls this dumb open-mouthed face and can’t act. It’s like she’s had too much Botox, though I know she hasn’t. She just has no emotion in films – ones where she should have emotion and is just awful. Dreadfully wooden.

And the other one – destined to ruin another good adaptation? Tom Cruise. Awful in Interview with The Vampire – vampires should be all raw sexual energy, even if they’re not handsome, like Kiefer Sutherland or Gary Oldman. Tom Cruise has as much sex appeal as a used tea-bag. And he’s about to ruin Lee Child’s Reacher. Bah.

I will watch it, but only to say how I despise it. And I don’t dislike TC. I think he’s a fine actor. But he’s a bully who lands parts he shouldn’t by bossing people to cast him when there are others who are infinitely more appropriate. Anne Rice might have changed her mind over her objection, but I didn’t. Brad Pitt should have been Lestat. End of.

 

You got the face to play the role

Today’s Monday song is a much-needed Kings of Leon burst of energy. We’ve still got rain and low temperatures. It makes it worse that last year it was so very warm. Here’s the Followills with Fans

Caleb Followill is right up there on several levels for me.

1. Man who I love with my whole heart

2. Singer who gets into my stomach and messes around with my heart

3. Possibly my personal best eggcorn.

If you don’t know about eggcorns, they’re expressions that sound kind of right but are mixed up. One of my favourites is ‘chester draws’ instead of ‘chest of drawers’. One I read last week was ‘middrift’ for ‘midriff’ – which is kind of funny because my midriff is kind of drifting. I’d also read ‘without further adieu’ for ‘without further ado’ as well last week – it was a definite week of eggcorns.

The KOL eggcorn was my brother-in-law talking about them.

“They’re into bread.” he said

In my mind, I had the following two scenarios:

1. a group who like sampling foccaccia, brioche, baguettes etc

2. a group who liked the seminal 70s band Bread – they of the badly-phrased ‘Baby I’m a want you’ and they of ‘Everything I own’.

Of course, my bother-in-law said ‘interbred’, casting aspersions on their lineage and genetics. Still, I like to think of them sitting around listening to ‘The Guitar Man’ and really rocking out to it.

I ♥ eggcorns and mis-hearings.

Steve’s favourite mis-hearings includes the famous Megadeth song ‘Neville’s Eyelid’ although I’m not sure that’s an eggcorn per se, rather than just a funny mis-hearing.

via Martha Stewart

So what else am I loving this wet Monday morning, apart from the Kings of Leon and eggcorns?

I’m loving Game of Thrones, of course. I’m about halfway through book three – and there are just some adaptations that rule. I might do a top ten Tuesday about that some day. All being said, the casting is superb – especially Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister. Quintessential fantasy fiction. Of course, Sean Bean dies about seven episodes in, but it was worth it to see him for all that time.

The Killing is also getting very, very good, though I believe it’s not been renewed and you never find out ‘who did it’. It’s kind of Twin Peaksy without the weirdness, Kyle McLaughlin or cherry pie.

Finally on my watch list is Grimm – right up my street. Fantasy combined with fairy stories combined with murders. The main character is also easy on the eye. I love a bit of fairy story retelling – Angela Carter being the master, of course. Angela Carter is a wonderful, wonderful writer – and her retelling of various fairy stories is just – ahhhh! A sensory, wordy delight. Not only that, if you haven’t read your children John Scieszka’s ‘The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales’ or ‘The True Story of the Three Little Pigs’ by A. Wolf then you’ve no idea just how great fairy stories can be.

Other things to love this week:

The hugeness of the broad bean crop and pea crop – last year’s dry weather made it very unproductive. I planted quadruple this year and it’s going to be A-B-U-N-D-A-N-T. What could be better than broad beans in a little butter? Broad bean risotto? Broad beans and chorizo? Broad beans and pancetta? Broad beans and feta? Broad beans and roasted peppers?

Not only that, but bar the Mediterranean crops – tomatoes, aubergines, peppers – everything is HUUUGE. Onions, beetroot, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cabbage – all loving the damp. Ah well.

Much Love to the last minute revision going on for GCSE – ebook sales have skyrocketed after a slower couple of months. I won’t be taking people out to lunch on the rewards, but one day it might mean I don’t have to slave for less than minimum wage as a GCSE marker as I did last year. Not Much Love for the muppets who think last minute revision is cool. One boy even asked me to write a sample essay for my teacher blog – for Thursday. Too little, too late springs to mind.

And today’s poetry corner, a little something else from Emily Dickinson

Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Emily Dickinson

Where the wild things are…

… is generally queuing up outside my kitchen window of an evening, treating us like some kind of beastie Truman Show or Big Brother. We’re quite the centre of attention around these parts.

Beastie number 1, identified by myself, is the Giant Peacock Moth.

This beast, with its huge wingspan (look at the 2€ coin for comparison!) was at least as big as my hand. Find out more about these beasties at the most excellent Days on the Claise blog.

Giant Peacock moth

Took me about 20 minutes of research to find it, and then I found it in the old posts of Days on the Claise, which I follow vociferously. I am a very amateur identifier of flora, fauna and insect life, but I’m keen to learn. I want to know what’s out there watching me.

The second beastie was much more difficult to identify. Steve said there was a beast at the window with huge eyelashes. I thought he was joking, like we say a spider is so big we can see its hairy legs.

No.

It really did look like it’d raided my make-up box and stolen my falsies.

What big eyelashes you have…

This strange looking beastie was identified by my lovely friend Liz, who should have been studying but released her amateur entomologist and found it on the Internet. I believe it’s a male May beetle  or cockchafer (I’ve just released my inner Finbarr Saunders) – known in France as le hanneton apparently – and with its love of big eyelashes, it kind of puts Eddie Izzard to shame. My funny tranny beetle.

At first, I thought it was a variegated June bug – but they’re a New World thing, so this little fella seems like my best guess, being found in France. I looked at a couple of other species, but they were either speckled and more black. It’s just a common cockchafer.

However, these beasts eat plant roots like nobody’s business and are considered a pest, which is a shame because it’s very, very beautiful. They live in cycles of three or four years, so you only see them every so often.

I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, and I’ll update accordingly!

It’s not exactly sex and the city…

Samantha Brick, my favourite love-to-hate ‘journalist’ of the moment has come up with another corker in the Daily Fail. I know why they’re paying her to write it – it must send their hits beyond sky-high – way out in the stratosphere – and from the looks of the comments, it’s not just me who feels this way.

She says French women are predatory man-hunters who are ‘brazen’, ‘hostile and predatory’ and that she hasn’t any French female friends. They won’t come and drink cocktails with her after work and they won’t go on girlie shopping trips. Now, forgive me, because I think this woman lives in deepest, darkest countryside – and even if she didn’t, she’s not living in Paris or Milan or New York.

It made me laugh because even when I worked in London, and the Government or Pearson kindly put me up overnight, we used to finish our meetings and retire to our rooms. Sometimes we’d go out for something to eat – mainly because other people were paying – but mainly, we went and watched telly. We were tired. We worked hard. Plus, cocktails are damned expensive. And here in rural France? Well, I know Izza would give me a beer. Karine would give me a coffee. Caroline would give me some spring water. Céline would give me a coffee as well. I mean they’re not inhospitable, but either they work hard and don’t drink cocktails after work, or they’ve got families. Or both.

Not only that, there are 14 houses where I live. I know who lives in 8 of them. They’re old people. I’m not being mean. They are. We swap fruit and I try to poison them by giving them sugary things, and they give me confits and know important stuff like who the best vets are. All of them – to a woman – wear nylon pinnies – and if I asked them to come on a girlie shopping trip, why I think they’d think I was insane. In the one house I know with younger people in it, I think the husband is an idiot who should be shot. He lets his beautiful dog run wild in the road and said he’d get another one when I said his dog would get run over. Dogs might be two-a-penny to him, but to me, they’re better than their owners for the most part. So I don’t want to drink cocktails with his wife. If she drinks cocktails at all.

And do you know what? If I wanted to drink cocktails after work, I’d have moved to New York. And I bet it’s not all like Sex and the City there either.

I also laughed when she said the women are ‘beautifully made-up’. Now, I go to local cities. I’ve been to Bordeaux, Angouleme, Poitiers, Limoges… just not seeing the beautifully made-up women. I saw a lot when we went to a college open day – the teachers were chic. Chic enough and numerous enough (seven of them in one place!) for me to remember it. Because most French women I know are… decidedly ordinary. They don’t have fake boobs or bleached hair. They don’t have orange make-up or fake tans. They don’t wear fancy clothes. A friend says she knows some yummy mummies – mainly because she lived in the city – but I don’t. The mummies round here, well, they’re not very yummy. I love them anyway though.

Samantha Brick says her ‘friendly hello’ has been ignored at the school gate. Really? If I pick Jake up, I fend off bisous from ten or so mums. There are only forty children in the school, so having kisses from the parents whose children don’t get the bus – well, it takes a good ten minutes. Kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss. Hello. How are you? How’s the family? Really?! Oh! Next. Kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss. Hello. How are you? etc.

Everybody says hello.

Ms Brick also points out that our new President, M Hollande, has a ‘lover’ – the ‘rottweiler’ journalist Valerie Trierwaller – and that she – how very dare she! – stole! M Hollande from his former lover Segolene Royal. She stole him! Like he’s a prize jewel.

1. Look at him, then look at her. She’s a looker. Him? Not so much. Except for the power/politics thing. He might be a whizz in the bedroom. Who knows?

2. He’s a person with real, live feelings. Are men so unable to fend off women that they get passed pillar to post, buffeted from one woman to another? No. They’re sometimes idiots who think with hormones rather than brains. They’re men who never married their former lovers, mothers of their four children. They’re men who get bored. They’re men who might be insecure about their wife’s political aspirations. But they’re not objects to be stolen.

3. Valerie Trierwaller probably didn’t – though I can’t be sure – find out what new mum Carla Bruni would be wearing just so she could steal her thunder. From the look of Ms. Bruni’s outfit for the outgoing ceremony, she didn’t care much for how she looked – and she looked fine. A bit tired. A bit like a new mum whose husband has been running a presidential race. Valerie looked fab. She’s got great pins. But then she knows all the other rottweilers in the media world are just waiting for her to have a bad hair day so they can trash her. She’s a journalist. She knows how it works. I’m not entirely sure her ‘first item on her agenda’ was to ‘put Carla Bruni firmly in her place’. I’m not sure how this ‘sisterhood’ works that Ms. Brick speaks of, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve surreptitiously finding out what your defeated counterpart will be wearing and then finding something less attractive just so you don’t upstage them.

Is Ms Trierwaller such a bitch that she was more ‘gleeful’ about upstaging La Bruni than she was about being the First Lady?! I know where my priorities would be – firmly on not making myself look like an idiot when the whole world is looking – and not trying to upstage the main event – my husband. We’re not all Liz Hurley in safety-pin dresses next to a shabbily dressed Hugh Grant. Some of us just want to support, not fight for the limelight.

So do French women have sinister machinations? Not the ones I know.

Do they ‘bond’ over coffee? Not much – but then, most ‘coffee shops’ include the bookies, and are male-only domains – a bit like pubs were in England up to the late 80s. Women didn’t go in pubs on their own or do ‘girlie’ stuff – not when they were past a certain age. Not unless they were tramps looking for younger men. Women go in different coffee shops – yes they do! – but we’re not talking about a Starbucks world here. Costa Coffee it ain’t. We’re talking tiny cafés with four or five tables and an assortment of chairs. And women – true – don’t go in them as often as men do. But that’s not because the sisterhood is unimportant, but because the home is. You’re either at work or with a young family. Or at home. Women here still shop as a family, still go out with the family – why would it be any different where coffee shops are concerned?

Have my French friends ridiculed my French? No. They think it’s marvellous I speak more than one language. They don’t.

Do they weigh me at dinner parties? I think you know the answer to that.

Do they tell me to go home? No. Because they know how much I love it here.

Have they reduced me to tears? No. But then that place is reserved for few people. I don’t cry easily. They’d have to be absolutely evil to do that.

Anyway, the Daily Mail would do well to remember that they are setting this woman up with a global audience of people who generally disagree with her and dislike her arrogant tone without remembering she might have any number of insecurities herself. Usually, I find we accuse others of what we are ourselves. We find in them the qualities we don’t perhaps realise we are guilty of ourselves – and usually worse than they are. They should know better than setting up a target at the stocks just for people to throw rotten tomatoes in her direction. It would be better for all if Ms Brick kept her views to herself.

It only takes one person to believe that this is how ‘French women’ are – and the beginning of a seed of hatred and prejudice is sown. Women are women are women, nationality aside. And we’re all human. So I might scorn, or laugh, but ultimately, I don’t want anyone to believe that her view of life is how France is – not even one single person.