Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Anglo-French”

out of the mouths of bébés…

anouka cat

“Je vais faire de bruite très calme, car j’aime le bruit très calme1.”  The musings of a French romantic poet? Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier or Alfred de Musset, perhaps? No. The musings of a three-year old.

With her French artist / yoga teacher mother and English sax player father, the odds were high that Noukie (now nine) would be quirky and artistic. But her idiosyncratic, artistic, and at times esoteric take on the world seems more profound than that.

Seeing the dusty body of a pigeon lying in the gutter, its blue-grey feathers ruffling in the wind, she said “il est cassé, le pigeon” (it is broken, the pigeon): as though it were a broken toy she could no longer play with. Then, taking Pascale’s hand, she asked calmly, “Parle me encore de la mort” (speak to me more about death). Read more…

26 Atlantic Crossings

Canigou

When ‘The Unseen’ (shown below), a painting by Canadian artist Barb Hogenauer, pinged into my in-box last May I felt a sharp pang of homesickness for the dramatic landscape of Céret in southern France, my home for seven years, where the view from my window was of The Canigou (above), sacred mountain of the Catalans.

‘The Unseen’ was my artwork – produced by Barb for 26 Atlantic Crossingsa collaboration between 26 Canadian visual artists and 26 writers based in the UK. You can read my poetic response to ‘The Unseen’, below.
my artwork the unseen

The Unseen

The squall hits at dusk, blackening the sky

Like a three-day bruise,

Shrouding the mountain in sulphurous mists

Red sandstone runoff bloodies the sea,

And icy flames of phosphorescence –

Blooming phytoplankton and disturbed crustacea –

Flicker on the ship’s churning wake

Old World émigrés cross themselves,

Filling with foreboding for their journey’s end,

But Canada holds no Ellis Island-like inquisition:

This is home.

Of course, everyone’s response to art is different: I’d be interested to know what Barb’s painting evokes for you. The painting was recently sold, along with a framed copy of my poem, so is now gracing the home of some second generation Canadians, for whom the combination of my words and Barb’s painting had particular resonance, and evoked profound emotions.

If you’re curious to learn how such a geographically challenging collaboration came about, you might want to read this blog post by project originator, Faye Sharpe. Of course, if you had, by chance, been in Prince Edward County, Canada when the project went live, you may even have visited the 26 Atlantic Crossings exhibition, which featured all 26 artworks alongside their matching sestudes (poems of exactly 62 words – a playful inversion of 26, the writing group’s name, inspired by the number of letters in the alphabet).

26 Atlantic Crossings is the latest in a series of fascinating projects I’ve been lucky to be involved with, organised by writers’ group 26: these range from 26 Treasures, a collaboration with National Museums in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (which resulted in a beautiful hard-backed book), to 26 Characters, a project celebrating favourite fictional characters from childhood, at the Oxford Story Museum. You can see more about these projects on my website.

If you’d like to know more about the project, why not download the lovely little 26 Atlantic Crossings e-book free, HERE? (You’ll find ‘The Unseen’ on pages 36/37.) On the same page you’ll find a link to a gorgeous paper version of 26 Characters, for sale at just £5…

Wordy Wednesday: acronym

Royal spotting at the Badminton Horse Trials

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I discovered a few years ago that acronyms weren’t quite what I’d thought they were… This brings a blush to my cheeks not only because I am now a copywriter, but also because at 14, while working at the Badminton Horse Trials (indulging in a spot of Royal watching while sporting a fetching turquoise t-shirt bearing the legend ‘NatWest is Best’), I’d laughed condescendingly on noticing ‘AIB Bank’ emblazoned on a fellow worker’s t-shirt, and – in the patronising way of a teenage know-it-all – explained to him that the acronym meant Allied Irish Bank Bank – I have a horrid feeling that I might even have attempted this in an Irish accent. Of course, as I later discovered, it wasn’t an acronym at all, it was an initialism. Oh the shame…  Read more…

La Petite Princesse

princeanouka cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve finally worked out who Noukie, my friend, and the child star of my previous post reminds me of: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s hero, The Little Prince. I have ‘7 Pieces of Wisdom from The Little Prince’, by GPS Guide, which I stumbled upon yesterday, to thank for this insight.

LP

‘Le Petit Prince’ was first published in 1943, and has since become the most read and most translated book in the French canon. It has been translated into 250 languages and sold 80 million copies: as my much-thumbed copy is in France, I went for a wander in Sherborne this afternoon to make this 80,000,001. And at Winstone Books, a lovely little independent bookshop on Cheap Street, I found this particularly pretty pocket-sized edition, published by Collector’s Library.

Re-reading it this afternoon has confirmed my intuition: Noukie really does resemble the Prince, sharing his innocence, profundity and charm. “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” says the Prince (One can see only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye): a sentiment that could have come straight from Noukie’s lips. Read more…

Chickens, chambres d’hôtes and UFOs


pauloMy Brazilian friend Paulo & his boyfriend Didier had been talking for years about leaving Tooting and spending a year or two in Didier’s home region of Burgundy, but once I’d moved to Céret in the Pyrenees-Orientale they decided that the sunny south of France was rather more appealing.

Paulo’s practical skills and artist’s eye were vital in refurbishing the dilapidated townhouse they bought in Quillan and transforming it into a quirky and welcoming chambres d’hôtes. (Thinking about running a B&B? Paulo’s advice is only do it if you like ironing…)

Nidelice (‘delightful nest’) is popular with cyclists, walkers and white water rafters, and with Dan Brown-readers and conspiracy theorists drawn by Rennes-le-Château, for its claimed links to the Knights Templar, and also by the Cathar castles of the Languedoc; the last bastions of the Cathar ‘heretics’, whose fascinating religion saw men and women as equals, had people rise to become ‘Perfects’ by forgoing meat and sex, and deemed the Catholic Church to be the ‘Church of Satan’. Read more…

bullshit, horse-shit, testosterone & pee

Bull running in Céret

Céretferia

Céret is famous for three things: its Musée d’Art Moderne1; its cherries; and its feria.

Running over Bastille weekend, the Céret feria, which finished yesterday, is a 3-day festival of bullshit, horse-shit, testosterone and pee. It is famous for its bull-running and bullfights, and for being an orgy of drunkenness that attracts thousands of revellers to the town (both the bullfights and the drunks leading to a fair share of controversy). 

The feria temporarily transforms Céret from a picturesque, tranquil, civilised ville to a loutish, shouty party-vile, where the rosé is warm, the beer is cheap and the streets run with rivers of pee. Like bulls spotting the crimson swirl of a torreador’s cape, the pissed, pumped-up rugby players thronging Céret’s streets snort, bellow and paw the ground at the sight of red-lipped girls wearing shorts, crop tops and red & yellow USAP socks.  Read more…

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