Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “France”

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…

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…

Is that book alive?

river My partner is careless with books, cracking their spines so they stay open more easily; folding down corners so that he can find his place; using them as extemporised coffe mats to protect the arm of the sofa. Books which go to him pristine, their pages crackly with promise, are likely to come back ringed with coffee stains, their covers cracked, stitching loosened, pages turned down. (Disclosure: I’m by no means perfect when it comes to looking after books and have even been known to read them in the bath, leaving them swollen and wrinkled.)

The book he’s reading at the moment, however, is a signed, first edition: Piers Paul Read’s true story about the survivors of a plane crash who resort to cannibalism to survive (for some reason Nick thought this would make hilarious reading for our plane journey across the Pyrenees with the kids). He sits up to read this, holding it in two hands, never opening it beyond 120° and using a proper bookmark. He has also given the kids strict instructions not to tickle or splash him when he’s reading it down by the pool during our holidays. (Just realised that I have written ‘holidays’, rather than ‘holiday’: it must be from spending too much time in France, where it’s always plural – les vacances.) Read more…

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