Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I remember the first time I came to Paris, the highlight of my aunt and uncle’s visit was to go to Fnac. I wasn’t sure what was special about it, it just seemed like the biggest ever Our Price to me (a chain of record shops when I was a kid). There certainly were a lot of records there, but at fifteen I was unable to see its full potential. When I lived in Madrid there was a Fnac off Sol near the Corte Ingles (a department store). I still wasn’t over enamoured with it then. It was a good place to get concert tickets, but I couldn’t see how it had claimed that space in the European psyche. And then I arrived in Paris.

Fnac is as much a part of French culture as the baguette and the French language. It sells ... things. I bought my first mobile phone in Fnac and then my first DVD player. I bought my i-pod there, my digital camera. I go there to stand in the presence of really expensive, really shit hot speakers. Sometimes when no one is looking I stroke those speakers. I stand in front of the guide book section and wonder whether to buy the Lonely Planet or the Guide Routard. I go there to wander by the piles of CD’s that are there to tempt you. ‘Look at me,’ they rustle as your fingers glide over their wrapping. There’s a spot in every Fnac where a little space has been provided, music is piped and there are French men lounging around on the floor with their heads buried in the latest BD (Comic book).

Fnac is one of the only stores that can legally open on Sundays. Fnac sells culture, so Fnac can sell.

I wondered past Fnac’s magnetic field yesterday and could not resist its pull through the doors and up the escalators. I glided around the camera section, CD section, DVD section, past the tills. I was on that golden high of clutching a Fnac bag. I got home and manically ripped off the cellophane wrapping, whacked up the sound on the CD player and then realised I had intended to buy salad!

Anyway here are some other things that you can buy in France.

Phoktober 23rd

Phoktober 24th

Phoktober 25th

Phoktober 26th

Phoktober 27th

Phoktober 28th

Phoktober 29th

Phoktober 30th

Monday, October 22, 2007

Better than Blogging?

So I’ve been tagged again... although again it’s quite a ‘thinkerly’ one, so here goes. This meme doesn’t seem to have a title, so I’ll go with 3 things that are better than blogging! What you mean there’s meant to be life away from the computer screen? Well apparently so. Anyway there are rules first, so here they are:

1. After your intro, copy/paste this line and the rules below it: The originator - one Damien Riley - wants to see how far it goes so please keep his link intact: http://rileycentral.net/

* 2. Encourage people to post with the incentive of a link by including those who have passed it along here: Audrey, Celtic Angel, JM, Romance Writer, Deep Thinker, Absolute Vanilla.

* 3. Visit at least 3 on the list who’ve written and passed this meme. Leave them a comment.
And then you are supposed to, “pick three things that enrapture, consume, fascinate, or otherwise enliven you more than blogging. Then write a few lines about each to explain what the nonblog activity does for you, why and how.”

So I was thinking about this on a particularly long metro journey all the way across Paris and I was making some notes and I realised that I had to intro with this story.

Many, many moons ago when I still lived in Spain and there was a thriving Dutch community out there, talk sprung up about this weird but apparently fantastic new programme. A bunch of Dutch people had got onto a bus and travelled around that tiny country with many canals and windmills and the next thing you knew the ‘Big Brother’ phenomenon had begun. After Holland the next country to air Big Brother was Spain. In the spring of 2000 Gran Hermano hit our screens and using the pretext that it would improve my terrible Spanish I turned on. The next thing I knew on Thursday evenings me and the girls would whip up some cocktails, some guacamole dip and what not and we would not be moved for the three hours it was on. On the night of the final, there was a whole bunch of us there and you’d think it was a cup final or something the cheers that went up around the building (not just in my apartment) when Ima... (mmm seems I’ve forgotten his name) won.

Despite the fact that we watched this (let’s face it – AWFUL) programme for three months, one thing we were all dead certain about was that we would never in million years want to do it. It was our worst nightmare incarnate. Stuck in a house with a bunch of strangers and cut off from everything we held dearest.

1. I could live without blogging, in the end I did it last year when I was cut off from civilization by FREE (bastards), but what would really send me over the edge is not being able to explore my creativity. Be it writing which is probably my biggest output, but also the painting, sketching, designing costumes and stages, taking photos or making bad pottery. It’s simply what makes me me.

2. The music. When I think back to key events in my life, there’s always a soundtrack. The soundtrack starts the year my parents built the extension on the house and we were packaged off to my cousin's house for the duration of the work. We listened (and sang) to the Grease soundtrack until the early hours of the morning. We moshed to Oliver’s Army. When we came back Waterloo Sunset was on the tape my Dad played while we were decorating. When my first teaching job in England drove me to tears I came home and played Carter USM at full volume (my neighbour’s were sweeties). This morning as I tried to cut off my senses from the over stuffed metro by closing my eyes and plugging myself into the poddy, Ring my Bell brought a big grin to my lips. Be it on my stereo or in a live venue, I need it.

3. And lastly reading. I have a huge pile of books to read, I always have a book on the go (even if it takes me forever to read it). It transports me to other times, other places, other worlds. It began my love for travel (which would be number 4 if I was allowed!) and nurtured my love of writing. When my fingers drop off, I’ll still be able to read.

So now I guess I need to pass it on to somebody else. Mmm... I’m going to ask Jon at Writing in a Vacuum to have a go.

Oh and Phoktober 22nd

Sunday, October 21, 2007

This was the week that was

So this was the week where Cecilia and Nicolas Sarkozy got divorced, I had my knees x-rayed, I was forced to walk across vast tracts of Paris due to the transport strike and England lost the Rugby World Cup Final. I don’t really have much to say about the first and last point, apart from: ‘Thank some divine deity that that is all over.’

As for the x-ray fiasco, well the fact that a month after I went arse over tit in those gorgeous but extremely inconvenient shoes and still can’t kneel down meant that I was sent merrily to my nearest ‘Centre de Radiologie’. The knees were duly x-rayed and as I suspected nada was broken. My final diagnosis was to give up praying!

And so to the Transport Strike. Now in reality I like walking across vast tracts of Paris. I love looking at the ivy glowing scarlet as the sun shines through the leaves. I love peering through the windows of the Tibetan tea shops and reminiscing about how I watched Liverpool beat West Ham in that pub. I thoroughly enjoy walking across Paris when I CHOOSE to do so, NOT, when I am forced to do so by the transport unions. I don’t like not knowing how I am going to get home from work, or considering not trekking across town to meet my friend who has flown in from Madrid, or missing the surprise element of my colleague’s surprise birthday party because I couldn’t get a taxi for love nor money and then got stuck on a metro full of tossers (otherwise known as England Rugby fans). I am particularly pissed off that the one day Transport strike stretched into THREE. I am also slightly miffed that the Transport Unions are beginning to make me question whether unions are a good thing and whether Transport workers should have the privilege of retiring at 50 whereas the rest of us face the prospect of never retiring because by the time we get really old the Government won’t have any money left to pay our pensions. In fact, I don’t even like thinking about getting really old because in my dreams I will win the lottery and buy a flat and become a hermit (who occasionally lunches) and writes all the time. I’ll have a big lounge for cool parties, a really comfy bedroom, a big bathroom and maybe a little garden. Oh and there will be a study too, with a lot of blank walls where I can stick my post-its. You see I have spent a lot of time nurturing this dream and the fact that the transport unions have burst my bubble is extremely unkind of them.

Here are some photos from last week’s Fete de la Vendange. I walked to that; I walked up the extremely steep hill gladly; twice.

Phoktober 15th

This guy was providing entertainment before I even got to the Fete.

Phoktober 16th

There were all sorts at this Fete.

Phoktober 17th

Like I said all sorts.

Phoktober 18th

And lots of entertainment.

Phoktober 19th

And then these started showing up all over the place.

Phoktober 20th

Phoktober 21st

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

This year Blog Action Day's theme is The Environment. I've done other posts about Climate Change that you can read here, but for today I decided to do something a little different...

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action DayKristin rubbed her wrist as she followed the scurrying secretary and the clip, clip, clip of her mother’s heels; she hadn’t meant to get her teacher into trouble, but she wasn’t exactly sure why this was Miss Tanner’s fault as it was she who had done it.

“Mrs. Colby, Kristin.” Miss Tanner beamed as she turned to face the whirlwind that had just entered the classroom.

Mrs. Colby clattered the biscuit tin onto the nearest desk. Miss Tanner’s smile froze as she looked at it. “The Time Capsule project.”

Kristin had never heard her teacher speak so quietly.

“I presume you gave the children clear instructions?” Mrs. Colby folded her arms across her chest.

“Eh, yes,” Miss Tanner peered at Kristin. “Kristin was supposed to ask before she put anything in it.”

Now both Mrs. Colby and Miss Tanner were staring at Kristin and she could feel herself going red.

“And I also said to put in everyday things.” Miss Tanner’s confidence grew as Kristin’s head fell lower.

Mrs. Colby tutted and turned to Kristin.

“What exactly did you put in it?” Miss Tanner knelt down and looked at Kristin, her eyes asking for permission to open the lid.

“Everyday things.” Now it was Kristin’s voice that was small.

“It was more like my bloody flowerbeds.” Mrs. Colby’s hands flew to her hips.

Miss Tanner had not taken her eyes from Kristin and finally Kristin dared look up and nodded. Miss Tanner lifted the lid and removed the five ziplock bags containing the wilted remains of Mrs. Colby’s flowerbeds.

“I just thought that in the future there might not be any flowers and so people would like to know what they looked like. I thought they’d keep. Mummy puts things in those ziplock bags so that they keep.” A tear spilled out the corner of Kristin’s eye.

“What have you been filling my daughter’s head with?” Mrs. Colby rolled her eyes.

Miss Tanner stood up and looked at Mrs. Colby. “Maybe if you had asked your daughter she could have explained. I’m sure that she did not maliciously intend to ruin your flowerbeds.”

“No flowers in the future.” Mrs. Colby scoffed.

“Well I don’t know about you Mrs. Colby.” Miss Tanner held up the bags for inspection. “But my Mum used to plant bluebells, pansies and snowdrops.”


“It just seems amazing what you’ve got in your flowerbed? Not very English country garden are they?”

“Well, the weather’s better now. We can have more variety.”

Miss Tanner raised an eyebrow. “I think that’s Kristin’s point Mrs. Colby.”

Copyright ©, 2007. Verilion

Sunday, October 14, 2007

When you're smiling...

It seems that I make people smile; well more specifically Vanilla, I make Vanilla smile. To prove that I make her smile she’s gone and given me this award, which in time honoured tradition I need to pass on to 5 people.

I always find that part so difficult because for a start you want to pick EVERYBODY. But then you go and think about it and the people you have picked have already got the award. The next thing you know you’re no longer smiling. And then you think about the people who you didn’t nominate and maybe they are no longer smiling.

But Susan at Patchwork Reflections, who made the award says, comments make her smile and everybody who comments deserves the award. Oh I see. So the last people who did actually make me smile because they left lovely comments were:

Jon (hobbies include gorehounds, writing children's books and collecting blog awards), Monsieur Moon Topples (who still plays with his spiderman toy, so of course he puts a smile on your face), Scarlett (the most enthusiastic blogger in the history of blogging), Matthew at Common Misadventures (who has got the most gorgeous picture of a woodpecker up, don’t get distracted by the baby squirrels, just keep scrolling down, you can do it), Vanilla (and her reflections), Minx (who has also got a big smiley moment captured on her blog) and Marie (who sings to put a smile on her face).

OK that’s not 5, but where did I get 5 from hey?

For Phoktober 14th here are some other things that made me smile.

I will do a proper Fete de la Vendange post later in the week, but in the meanwhile here is an erratum. Vendange means Harvest, so although this is to celebrate the Montmartre wine, it seems that because the wine is so bloody hard to get hold of and usually not very nice, now every winemaker is invited (which might be why my head hurts)!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Photo Story

What I like about Phoctober is not the fact that I’ve taken thousands of fantastic photos during this month, but the fact that I’ve had a chance to go through the old and just show them for what they are. I use photos to illustrate, but I rarely do a photo post just for the sake of a photo post.

Having said that there is a wee theme to today’s photos, and no it’s not gargoyles again.

Phoktober 9th

Phoktober 10th

Phoktober 11th

Phoktober 12th

Phoktober 13th

This weekend is the France v England quarter final in the Rugby World Cup. According to Women’s Hour on Radio 4 (and I was multi tasking so this may be a bit hazy) since Rugby has turned professional, more women have become interested because the players have become ‘buffer’! Now despite the fact that this is happening in my fair city, that the players are hot and it features my home country, I will be going to the Fete de la Vendange to drink wine, eat, sniff at the 200 bottles of wine that come from the very small Montmarte vineyard (terribly hard to get hold of a bottle and probably not worth even trying) and watching the fireworks! OK, I may pop into a pub if I pass one to check on the scores.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Catching up - Part III: A wordy kind of post

So while I’m catching up I go and find myself something else to do. Next Monday is Blog Action Day (see above) and the focus this year is The Environment. I found this while I was searching for some stuff for the Eco-Ecole Club (try saying that very fast, over and over). I figured the little darlings have got enough to be getting on with for the moment, so I’ll do this one. Don’t know what I’m going to post yet. The other options were to donate your blogs’ proceeds of the day to a charity. Hang on! Are you lot making money out of this?

Anyway, I’m now going to tackle the book meme that Vanilla tagged me for ...ooh eons ago. Mmm... when you take out Vanilla’s answers this seems like a manageable book meme.

Total number of books owned
Well there’s a little pile there by the fireplace, that bookcase there, there’s some more on the phone table, that other bookcase...Look everywhere I am there are books: at home, at work, in my bag, there’s even a book under my pillow. I have more than enough for one person really, but then again you can never have enough. Does that answer your question?

Last book bought
I don’t live in the land of readily available English language books, then again I’m not deprived of books, but I do like to make part of my trips back to Blighty involve book shopping. So I bought:

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

Twenty love poems and a song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Lady Friday by Garth Nix, the 5th in the Keys to the Kingdom series. I’m not entirely sure about this series of books, but the first book, Mister Monday has got probably the best prologue I’ve ever read.

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.

Last book read

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery and Coven of One by ole Minx.

Five books which mean a lot to you

Only 5...

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. If I can’t cross a bridge without playing Pooh Sticks, it’s because of A.A. Milne, and E. H. Shephard’s drawings. I really dig Pooh bear because there are days when I feel of very little brain. You know if we all lived our life like Pooh we probably wouldn’t get an awful lot done, but we’d eat a lot of honey!

Setting Free the Bears by John Irving. It was probably the first book that made me cry. It was hysterically funny, so full of historical resonance (the first time I read it was as the then Yugoslavian state began to fall apart) and dreadfully sad too. And yeah I’ve read it a few times along with quite a lot of other Irving books.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read this shortly after moving to Mexico. Living in Latin America so fully explained why Magic Realism emerged there and vile pretenders like Louis de Berniers will never do anything more than write poor parodies. Anyway back to Love in the Time of Cholera; Marquez draws you in and makes you believe absolutely every word. Your heart beat quickens, you sigh and gasp, its beauty on a page.

Heaven Eyes by David Almond. I remember putting the book down in complete awe and realising I had just read the best Magic Realist since Marquez. Who is Heaven Eyes? We never know, but this is a story that will stay close to your heart for years to come and fill you with hope.

Oh no... I’m at five and there are so many more... Ok. Last year I read History of the World in 10½ chapters. You couldn’t put a more disparate bunch of themes together and tie them together with a woodworm if you tried, or unless you were Julian Barnes. I have an absolutely terrible memory and yet I think I can just about remember everything he writes about love in the chapter entitled parenthesis. This is the sort of love I want to believe exists.

I’m not going to tag anyone for this meme as it’s been going around for a while and if you haven’t done it already then you SHOULD. Let me know if you do have a go. Also as this is quite long I won’t add a Phoktober bit, but do check it out here. I’ll catch up on that tomorrow!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Catching up - Part II: The Nice Bit

So here is Part II of the catching up, see I’m getting there.

Apparently I am ubernice, see it says so here. I like to keep mentioning this because it’s not often you get called nice and it brings a smile to your face. I don’t know about you, but I hear that word and my eyebrow arches so high it disappears into my hairline. Anyway this latest little badge (to add to my thoughtfulness and schmoozyness) came to me via Maht at The Moon Topples. And if I’m ubernice (see I’ve mentioned it again) it’s going to be kind of hard to find someone who tops that, but here goes:

Debi Alper – as the only blogger that I have met in the flesh so far, I can totally vouch for her niceness. She gave me a big hug and smiled a lot and was really nice the whole time we wandered along the South Bank.

Scarlett at From the shores of introspect and retrospect – Now despite the fact that I am quite possibly the worst commenter in the history of blogging, this chick is the Queen of Bloggy Enthusiasm and Positivity. My question Scarlett is: How do you do it?

Jon M at Writing in a Vacuum – Again I always leave Jon’s page with a smile on my face. He is so nice that you almost wish you could give him a little hug (and his gorehounds). Oh and he’s collecting these awards, so I have to help, don’t I?

And then there’s Canterbury Soul – He’s fully deserving of this award, he’s just always so nice. Oh and the thing that wins him this award hands down is the fact that he’s a Liverpool supporter, that’s just got to make him a good guy.

Kimy is a fairly new reader of my blog and again I apologise for commenting so infrequently, but I do read you on the feeder thingamajig. Anyway, Kimy is always posting these little quotes that are sure to get your brain cells working in a good way, so I think she is also deserving of a ‘nice’ award.

I have to say that in comparison to the other two award things I’ve received this is probably the ‘nicest’ design as well. OK already, enough niceness.

Phoktober 8th

In terms of the comments yesterday it seems that most of you liked the pictures of Tibo (rolls eyes) or the water shot. Obviously I can’t force you lot to share my love of gargoyles, so here’s another shot of the fountain.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Catching up

What feels like forever ago I got tagged by Vanilla to do a book meme, then I think this whole Phocotober thing was mentioned, then I got tagged to do the Shameless Lions collective story and then despite not doing any of the above I got an award! But sometimes real life intervenes to keep your fingers away from the keyboard and you may have noticed a lack of me talking about books, writing a story, showing pictures or displaying nice new shiny awards. I do kind of plan to put all that right (this week, not in one post).

But First on the list. I’ve been in touch with the tamer of the pride and apologised, but I won’t be joining in with the Collective Story at the Shameless Lions Writing Circle, which you can find here. I pass the story onto to Maht at the Moon Topples. The Pride is now home to a few homeless lions as well so if you didn’t get one the first time round get in quick.

Seeing as I’m not doing this catch up in any particular order, I’m now going to post some random photos. They are all old photos because although I did have my camera in my bag all week it was raining on Monday when I came home, it was raining on Tuesday. It was raining on Wednesday, Thursday I was tired and Friday I may have been a little tipsy!

Phokotber 1st

This was taken when I first got my camera a couple of years ago. I fell in love with those swimming pool pictures by David Hockney eons ago and have probably been messing about with the idea reflections on water ever since.

Phokotber 2nd

I think that Sacre Coeur is quite possibly the most hideous church in all existence, although that one in Lyon is a close second. Despite that I love this little park in its shadows.

Phokotber 3rd

And something has always got to have it’s redeeming features; gargoyles are always supercool.

Phokotber 4th

See! This one is in Troyes (pronounced trois – of course) in the Champagne region, or near it, or around it (I once posted a photo of somewhere where I wasn’t too sure of the location and I got this anonymous comment telling me exactly where I had been and where I had not been). It’s not a great photo, but have I mentioned that gargoyles are supercool?

Phokotber 5th

And flying buttresses are also cool.

Phokotber 6th

Troyes is a very oldey worldy town and I kind of like the fact that they are keeping it like that. Although if they could please move table service into the 21st century I would also be grateful.

Phokotber 7th

Monday, October 01, 2007


I’ve been planning this post for a while now; ever since I first read the guardian review where Peter Hook, Joy Division and New Order bassist was quoted as saying:

‘it felt like someone had ripped out my heart’

He’s talking about Anton Corbijn’s film ‘Control’. I knew as soon as I read the review that I would have to go and see the film. It tells the story of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis who committed suicide on the eve of their US Tour in 1980. I don’t think I’m giving away the ending by telling you, because to be honest I can’t think of anyone who would go and see the film unless they liked Joy Division. I know, I tried and I watched my friend’s faces fall one after the other as I gave them a briefer synopsis and asked them if they wanted to go, but a surprise text from a fellow fan prevented me from going on my own.

I read an interview with Corbijn the week the film was released. Corbijn was big into the Manchester scene in the late 70’s and when photographing Joy Division he had no idea what they were saying because his English was poor and they had strong accents. If you’ve seen black and white moody shots of Ian Curtis, they are probably Corbijn’s shots.

‘Control’ is based on Deborah Curtis’s (Ian’s widow) book called ‘Touching from a Distance’ and I also noticed as the credit’s rolled that she was heavily involved in the production of the film.

And then there’s me, part of the audience, but first let’s go back to my thirteen or fourteen year old self. All I have for music is this tinny tape deck and big bro has the 70 watt speakers and after years of heavy metal and punk, finally something good is pounding through the walls. In the end the reason Joy Division still speaks to so many teenagers is that Curtis’s lyrics captured that feeling of ‘otherness’ so perfectly. When I finally got my own stereo with no records to play on it, it was big bro’s Joy Division records that I sneaked out of his room to listen to (along with Dad’s top notch headphones so that I could hear Hooky’s baselines crystal clear).

So here I am half a lifetime away and I know the music and I know what happened, but somehow I expected more. The score of Control is fantastic, the photography is beautiful, but I left with this feeling that it was a film for fans. There wasn’t enough substance on the screen for an outsider to understand anything more. There were lines and moments that were brutally painful, but that was because of the experience that I had walked into the cinema with. Corbijn’s characters were like moving stills. That didn’t make the story any less harrowing or take away the feeling of shock at the end, but I just wondered. I wondered if we hadn’t been fans would it have been a different film.


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