Monday, October 03, 2016

A long, steep and winding road (that is, if you are going up...)

I have just noticed that my last entry was in 2010!
Is that possible?
Has it really been SIX years since I sent you news about Lalinde and the Dordogne and the beautiful life in France?

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Back from fair London City (but no bells on my toes...)

    It was the glint of the little compact mirror that caught my eye. I looked over at the other side of the tube train coach and saw where it came from. A man was sitting across the aisle from me, plucking his eye brows, carefully and methodically getting rid of every offending hair that spoilt the perfect line of his brows. Next to him was a pair of beautiful long-fingered hands with dark aubergine finger nails, fluttering like two magnificently exotic moths in the harsh light of the train. When the brow plucking man sat back I could see who the hands belonged to; a perfect clone of Cher -- high cheek bones, perfectly kohled eyes, shapely siliconed lips, long straight black hair framing the lovely line-less face - clearly he had taken a photograph of Cher to the plastic surgeon and commissioned him to copy this photograph to the tiniest detail. He was wearing a pillar box red coat - as if to offset the black hair and the white hands, and I thought to myself " trust a transvestite to get it so perfect. Since women's liberation, no woman ever seems to give that much attention to detail anymore..."
    I got off the train at Green Park to link up with the Victoria line (I had forgotten how many stairs there are in the London Underground! Up, down, up, down, up, down -- never-ending stairs!)and found myself being drawn to the music like a magnet -- an old guy (well - perhaps it is the result of an eventful life, but he did look a lot older than me!) on a clarinet playing the sweetest sounds. Oh! How I love the musicians in the London underground! But on to the next train, and this time, seated opposite me, a small, wiry man, probably in his forties, in a purple velvet jacket and a top hat that looked like it had been nicked from the film set of a Dickens novel, so high I am sure it doubled the man's height.(oh how I wished I had my camera with me!)
    From there to the glitz and the glamour of Kensington High Street - that is, the glitz and the glamour inside the store windows but sadly not outside. Not inspired by anything I saw, off to Piccadilly, the National Geographic shop where everything inspired me. What a great place to spend much more time than I had - and definitely worth another trip back to London as soon as I can...
    Later I walked through Leicester Square, just to feel the lively heart beat of the place again. It did not disappoint. The smell of one pound pizza slices, the colourful bill boards of all the latest movies, the jugglers and mime artists and theatre ticket touts -- nothing has changed and it felt good.
    Then, down to the Tate Modern -- what is a day's visit to London without having popped into this most amazing of amazing centres of wonderment? -- for a glorious Gaugin fix and the silent echo of the polished gallery floors and high glass ceilings and light and light and light bathing it all in an aura of exquisiteness, back along the river and the hub-bub of the South Bank and across the bridge for a last glimpse of the Houses of Parliament - always such a majestic view and so, so beautiful, and the London Eye on the other side - good to see it is still there - surely they won't take it down now, not after all this time and since it had become so part of the London scene?, and the traffic on the river, the ever changing skyline...Then, before catching the train back, a last Mojito at The Cuban, my favourite little spot where the torn posters on the walls and the rickety blue chairs now seem to look like that from age, not because that is what the interior designer had put there.

    Ah! And then I made the mistake of picking up the free copy of the Evening Standard (they used to only hand out free copies of the early edition on a Thursday -- now also on a Monday - or is it every night?) to read on the train. I say a mistake, because reading the news in the UK is enough to make anyone want to be sick. Apart from the back-biting and fist-fighting going on on the X-Factor scene (who cares???) and Rooney that says 'he quit'(are those toys I see flying out of the cot?) and Osborne about to announce the austerity cuts just as the new EU taxes are appearing on the horizon (wake up world, we are in dire economic doldrums, in case you had not noticed), and 'elf an safety' deciding that century old cobblestones are dangerous and should be lifted (shu' up! muy bruvver Keef says i-url make youse stree's buggy and wheel-chair frien'ly) (and horror of all horrors -- even the newspapers are starting to spell the way everyone now speaks, I ki' you no'!)) and William and Kate announcing their wedding plans (he also says he intends to shake up the royal family a long as he continues to pronounce the last letters of his words, it's fine by me!) and the current inquest into the terrible 7/7 and one survivor telling how the victims died in agony while the paramedics were standing outside waiting to allowed to go in and save people -- again 'elf an safety' having taken over from the 'Blitz' heroism of yesteryear...
    And then I get to page 11 and there, in colour, two photographs of a young man in a hoodie kicking and stamping and swinging a puppy by its leash and I almost hurl. I force myself to read the article. It is about a person who took these photographs of this monster on 1 October in Knee Hill Park in Woolwich, south-east London and then passed the photos on to the SPCA -- who are now putting the film footage out there on u-tube and warn that it is "extremely shocking and deemed to distressing for under-18's", and appealing to the public to come forward if they know who this young an is -- a reward of £20,000 on his head.

    I choked back my nausea and closed the newspaper -- not able to read any more. And then the anger took over.

    What kind of society is this, Great Britain, where you have someone ready with his phone to take film footage and photo's of a teenager kicking a puppy like a football, swinging a puppy through the air on his leash, stamping all his weight on a puppy cowering on the ground, but not stop the young man from doing these monstrous acts?

    What kind of society do we live in where you will not step forward and stop abuse when you see it? Where you can film a torturer but not dare stop him from continuing?
    I ask the question and despair, because I know the answer will be the same as the answer given to the young 7/7 survivor who asked what happened to the spirit of the people who went out during the blitz and helped victims while the bombing was still raging around them.

    'Elf an safety? Non-involvement? Fear? Apathy?...

    It is good to be home tonight...

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Friday, October 15, 2010

    Tips for Expats for readjusting to life back “home”

    On the Expatica site , Audrey Hill gives American expats tips on what to prepare yourself for when repatriation nears. From bracing yourself for car commuting to how to stay international in your homeland. Audrey writes this specifically for American Expats, but knowing how many expats from all nationalities are constantly moving back 'home', I believe this article would be useful for everyone!

    Wherever we live can be an adventure and a challenge, as long as we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Until the next adventure, here are some tips I learned when trying to readjust to life back home:

    1. Realise that you will have to start over in some way. Like me, you might have to find a place to live, a car to drive and a job.

    Ideally, start to rebuild your life before you move back home. E-mail your resume to potential employers and let them know when you’ll be available for an interview.

    2. Life might feel like it went on without you. While you’ve been meeting new people and experiencing new things, so have your loved ones. Life hasn’t waited for you to return.

    You may feel a bit left out when you hear about all that has changed, but realise that you have also changed and allow that to strengthen your relationships.

    3. Consider that you might have to put some effort into rekindling your friendships and relationships at home. Chances are you’ve lost touch a bit with your old friends while you’ve been gone. It’s going to take some energy and time to catch up. They’ll want to hear about your other life and tell you about what’s been going on with them.

    4. Accept that your friends and family will probably never be able to completely understand what your life was like abroad. The most common question I was asked was, “So how was Spain?” As if two years living in a foreign country can be summed up in a few sentences.

    But don’t take it as disinterest; you can share your experiences over time with the important people in your life by showing them photos and telling stories about your time abroad.

    5. In your job search find a way to inject your experiences living and working abroad into your resume and interview answers. Don’t think of your time away as time lost, even if it was in a different field; think of it as life experience gained that will add to your appeal as a potential employee.

    Promote your experiences in interviews, and work them into qualities that will contribute to the job.

    6. Be prepared to find yourself missing aspects of your former life. Like me, you might find yourself frustrated by the excess of your native culture and missing the simplicity of having fewer choices and less stress. You might feel depressed as you begin to lose some of the memories of life abroad and feel yourself disconnecting from that life.

    Look at photos and stay connected with friends there, but also live in the present. Try to find happiness in daily activities. Look at this home like you did when you lived abroad -- you’ll find that there is probably beauty to be found here if you try to look at it with foreign eyes.

    7. Expect the unexpected. Think of it as another adventure, just like the one you started when you moved abroad. And now that you know what to expect, you can always start a new adventure by living abroad again.

    Audrey Hill is a writer and editor who spend time living in Spain and traveling Europe. She moved to Spain to study abroad and experience living and working abroad and soon settled as a private English teacher before moving back to the US in late 2007. You can read her Expat Voices profile here.

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Thursday, October 14, 2010

    A message on FB made me remember...

    Photo: skierscott

    The Sound Of Silence
    (Paul Simon, 1964)

    Hello darkness, my old friend
    I've come to talk with you again
    Because a vision softly creeping
    Left its seeds while I was sleeping
    And the vision that was planted in my brain
    Still remains
    Within the sound of silence

    In restless dreams I walked alone
    Narrow streets of cobblestone
    'Neath the halo of a street lamp
    I turn my collar to the cold and damp
    When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
    That split the night
    And touched the sound of silence

    And in the naked light I saw
    Ten thousand people maybe more
    People talking without speaking
    People hearing without listening
    People writing songs that voices never shared
    No one dared
    Disturb the sound of silence

    "Fools," said I, "you do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you"
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence

    And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon god they made
    And the sign flashed out its warning
    In the words that it was forming
    And the sign said "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
    And tenement halls
    And whispered in the sound of silence

    Such incredibly beautiful - and meaningful words.

    Is there anyone amongst my readers old enough to remember the sixties? Not the flower power and the free sex, the LSD and Woodstock, the hippies and the burning bras and the Vietnam protests and the fluorescent colours. Yes, it was the time of all that. All that and pop art and mini skirts and paint-on eye lashes and white lipstick too.

    But it was also the time the Berlin wall was built and the Bay of Pigs was invaded. It was the time of Mohammed Ali and Bob Dylan and Joan Baez too. It was the time of the Beatles and the first man on the moon, of a handsome American president getting shot and his beautiful widow cradling his bleeding head on her pale pink Chanel skirt. It was the time too when the colonial invaders starting withdrawing from Africa and when India invaded Pakistan, when Fidel Castro became president of Cuba. The time of Martin Luther King and Mao and Khruschev...

    It was the time when musicians started writing beautiful lyrics which reflected the confusion and fear and protest and voices of the people. Lyrics which had meaning, which sent a message, which made us think.

    Beautiful music... Thank you for the reminder, beautiful Sophie...

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Monday, October 11, 2010

    Bellou Jaillet -- a great aquarelliste exhibits at Moulin de Larroque

    A couple of days ago I went to the Moulin de Larroque, where the new owners, Duncan and Prudence had invited me to attend the vernissage of one of the foremost aquarelle painters of France -- an artist who only uses the exquisite hand made paper of the Larroque paper mill in Couze.
    Bellou Jaillet immediately struck me as someone from an era gone past -- someone who has stepped right out of the Romantic Period. Immaculately dressed, with a charm that one rarely comes across, eyes that dance when he speaks about his work, elegant white hands emphasising the points he wishes to put across -- and paintings that strongly evoke an era in the past as well. He talks about the difficulty he had at first of painting on the hand made paper - much more textured than usual water colour card -- but how, once he had mastered the technique, he never used anything else.
    Interesting then to see how their is a synergy between the artist and his medium. The paper compliments his delicate painting, his painting brings the character of the paper to life. One painting in particular seemed to be so realistic -- the reflection in the rippled water almost made you think you were looking at the real thing -- when you realise that it is the water colours on the textured paper causing the effect.
    To add to the Romantic Period feeling, most of his paintings are done "entre chien et loup" -- at dusk -- the colours soft and dreamy and muted, the skies fading into soft pinks and blues and greens -- adding to the feeling that it is romanticism and poetry which guide his brush.
    "I always paint the sky first and if that is right, I continue with the rest of the painting. But if the sky does not look right, I abandon the painting and start again", he says.
    "Extremely nuanced and refined colours.." writes one critic.
    "His vocation is to translate the beauty of the world, with the help of the water colours and gouaches, into a hommage to nature in the style of Turner and Constable and Corot", says another.
    The president of the French National Society for Fine Arts, the Admiral Francois Bellec, calls him "the painter of our sweet France"...
    Considered to be one of the great contemporary water colour artists of France, he has won innumerable gold medals and accolades for his work -- too many to mention, and in November 2009 he was invited to exhibit in the Grand Palais in Paris - truly an amazing accomplishment!(so well done to Duncan - what a feather in the cap of Couze to have this great man exhibit his work here in our midst!)

    And then, as if by magic, when I left the exhibition and looked up at the sky -- there was Bellou's painting! I simply had to go fetch him away from all his admirers for one moment to come outside to look:
    there, in his honour, surely, the sky over the Dordogne was a perfect copy of one of his paintings! We do, here in the Dordogne, make our visitors feel very special!...

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Lost in (the Dordogne) France?...

    When I went out on the terrace this morning to greet the swans, a man was pulling his boat upstream, with great effort. I have no idea where he came from, where he was going or who he was, but such an incongruous sight on the Dordogne (there are no boats on this part of the Dordogne as there is a natural weir in front of the chateau and the water is too shallow and runs too fast for any form of boat) warranted a quick photograph and immediately brought Bonnie Tyler's gravelly voice to mind...

    Lost In France
    (Lyrics by Ronnie Scott & Steve Wolfe)

    I was lost in France
    In the fields the birds were singing
    I was lost in France
    And the day was just beginning
    As I stood there in the morning rain
    I had a feeling I can't explain
    I was lost in France in love

    I was lost in France
    And the vines were over-flowing
    I was lost in France
    And a million stars were glowing
    And I looked round for a telephone
    To say 'baby I won't be home'
    I was lost in France in love

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Saturday, October 09, 2010

    A French Phrase a Day

    Do you sometimes get to the point where you really don't know which way to go any more - and then end up not doing anything at all? (Please say that you do!...) Every time I try to decide on which phrase or word to highlight in my "French word/phrase for the day", I hum and ha and dither and thither and the result is that I should probably rather call it "French word/phrase for the month"
    So -- instead of once again posting nothing today, I have a few for you to choose from. (Look at the first one -- not knowing which way to turn. The French say: Not knowing which saint to confess to. I love how the French language, time and again, reflects the French way of thinking!...)

    not to know where or which way to turn :
    ne pas savoir à quel saint se vouer

    it takes one to know one :
    qui se ressemble s'assemble

    not to know what to do with oneself:
    ne pas savoir quoi faire de son temps

    not to know where to put oneself:
    ne pas savoir où se mettre

    not to know whether one is coming or going :
    ne plus savoir ce qu'on fait

    to be in the know(colloquial):
    être bien informé

    to be in the know about something (colloquial):
    être au courant de quelquechose

    know-it-all, know-all (colloquial):


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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • La vie est belle! Last night in the Dordogne

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  • Chateau Lalinde : Home from home in the Dordogne
  • Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Un cab sav, s'il vous plait...

    Some time back I had a conversation with a sweet old man from the village about the pros and cons of progress. We were sharing a table at Le Blazon, under the chestnut trees, enjoying the exquisite champagne air of the late summer evenings -- as we were both on our own for the evening meal, all the outdoor seating was in great demand and the little restaurant was full -- always a very welcome sight in this area where tourism is at an all time low, we both were quite happy to share a table. I knew Michel from sight but had never 'formally' met him. He lives in a house only metres away from the central market square, and although well into his eighties, he seems to always have a lovely woman at his side.
    I am not sure why I added that 'although' into the previous sentence! After all -- we are in France - a country where age really does not matter at all and where men and women never seem to lose attraction for one another!
    (It turned out that his 'lady friend' is from up north and started visiting him a little too often. He likes his independence -- so he bought the house across the street for her. Not a bad solution, Michel!)
    Anyway - we talked about progress when I made a comment about what a pity it was that there are plans afoot to widen the bridge across the river. And I say 'we talked' but I should rather say Michel embarked on a lengthy lecture on the advantages and benefits of progress here in La France Profonde -- the 'Deep France' or countryside. He was born in Lalinde 86 years ago and "if there had not been progress, we would not be eating together tonight and not at this little restaurant, and not having a discussion." Living right in the heart of the region where one is daily confronted by signs of our forefathers, Cro-Magnon Man, I should have know better than to make the flippant remark...
    However --
    When I recently read about all the changes which are about to happen in the French wine industry, it was probably with a little less trepidation and resistance than it would have been before my evening with Michel.

    The French wine industry has been looking trouble in the eye for quite some time. With the emergence of the New World competitors, the French industry was suddenly shown up for what it has become -- too complex, too diverse, too dependent on family names and tradition. In a world where people are producing generic wines - no matter what the weather, the climate, the direction in which the vines are planted or the soil in which they grow, the wine will always taste exactly the same, year in and year out -- the small-producer of France has become lost -- and with him, his excellent wines. Unless a wine producer spends 80% of his time marketing his 2000 bottles, he is not going to have the where-withal to put food on his family's table next year. And where does this wine producer get the time and money and know-how from to do that marketing in Japan, in the States, in the rest of the world?
    I had old acquaintances from the UK drop in the other day, and when I offered them a glass of wine, the comment was
    "Oh good! At least you have been able to make out what is what with these French wines. We are totally confounded with the variety and selection and have no idea what to buy or order in a restaurant."

    These people probably consider themselves 'wine connoisseurs' -- but that is when they are faced with a list of twenty reds and twenty whites -- all with names that people talk about, that are dropped casually in conversations, that the wine buffs in Britain tell them are the 'good wines'. When, on the other hand, they come on holiday to France and they are confronted with a few hundred different wines on the supermarket shelves, they are completely lost. The result, sadly is often that they then go for the most expensive wines in the shop, convincing themselves that if the price is so high it has to be a good wine.

    So, what is France doing about this problem? Instead of raising the rest of the wine-drinking world to their level if knowledge and understanding, they have given up after all these years. Impossible. If you cannot beat them, join them, they say and finally they have now sunk to the lowest denominator.

    The new French wine export strategy is to think "Coca-Cola" -- i.e. speak a language the masses understand.

    To fend off "New World" competitors, French wines are now dropping complex regional labelling for the plain old chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon -or as they say elsewhere, horror of horrors! cab sav.. The plebs cannot even be asked to discern between a Chablis and a Graves, or between a Bourgogne and a Bordeaux. (I suppose we should be grateful that those 'buffs' at least know there is a difference between different types of grapes, between a chardonnay and a sauvignon, between a merlot and a shiraz.... Or do they?)

    The change concerns everyday wines, notably those bound for export. Labels on better varieties, grand cru and AOC or "controlled designation of origin" wines will carry on in time-honoured fashion.

    But it's a jolt in a country where regional identity remains strong (are you from Brittany? Provence?), where the term "terroir" -- soil -- is an agricultural mark of pride, and where wines can be declined down to the hillside where the grapes grew. Historically, place has been primordial, even in everyday wines. French producers relied on their reputation for quality and savoir-faire and did not worry about making labels understandable to the uninitiated.

    But then again, in one generation France lost 20 to 30% of the share of the principal markets, and in 2009 alone, exports of French wine tumbled 19% to €5.5 billion, dropping to levels a decade ago, according to figures from Ubifrance, the French agency for international business development.

    But - as if that is not enough of a massacre of ancient tradition, the reforms also allow producers to mix the same grape variety from different regions to allow more creativity and to adapt easier to market demands. This possibility of mixing ensures a consistent quality wanted by the consumer who is expecting the same taste from 1 January to 31 December...

    Pass me my glass of Chateau Tiregand before I faint, please... And apologies Michel -- but even you cannot argue that this is 'good' progress -- you who insist that the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle of wine is part of the wine ritual and for that reason alone, screw-on caps should never be used!

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