This blog is not going the way I want it to go. It started with the idea of palimpsest but I knew that was not quite right almost straight away. I liked the word because I liked the concept and I had come across it for the first time. The thrill of discovery. But I am not trying to scrape anything off and start again. Au contraire. Or maybe I’m trying to scrape through layers in places to recover what is underneath.

Originally, I thought the blog could serve to create a kind of “de facto mappemonde clignotante” – a set of master signifiers, nodes, the semantic/emotional poles I would like to capture/describe/put in place. The hotspots of my psychic/inner life. Here a colour, there a word, song, poem, or smell… what makes me me and not someone else, (and at the same time, perhaps, what prevents me from being happy about it).
I wrote in my analysis diary:
“The other day I was thinking of one of them – duck blue (or teal) and I thought I could feel the energy blinking, like Christmas tree lights, they all blink and if one single bulb fuses they all go out, and how do you find which one it is but that’s not what I felt, I felt that once all my spots were blinking like a Christmas tree or map of some kind it did not serve any purpose, in fact it served a counter purpose, the only purpose it served was to fascinate me… and prevent me from actually making my way. Fascinate me in the morbid sense, like narcissus, keep me leaning over my own image my own self, my own ego, instead of engaging with the world or at least with the world of words other than in relation to my own pitiful personality or emotional problems.”
Then later:
The mappemonde clignotante is useless - it just flashes like a pinball table. I want to put a full stop on what I have been. And start a new paragraph, sentence, chapter, book.

Tonight I toyed with the idea of letting this blog fizzle out and starting an anonymous blog to talk about analysis only, in a mixture of French and English, but that didn’t feel right either. It reminded me of all the files I have started and never finished. The line in A love of Swann where Alain Delon says to Jeremy Irons “Most people’s lives are like artists’ studios – full of unfinished sketches”. And of the painting above the piano, which I have not finished talking about. Or should I say writing? Or should I write describing?

It started out as an attempt to portray a particularly dramatic skyscape I glimpsed the first time I went sailing. I don’t like representational art, but the scene struck a very deep chord. The aesthetic “oh gawd I’ve just got to express how grateful I am for how beautiful that is in my own pathetic way or I’ll burst” theory. It was not clear, turquoise waters in the chalky Calanques on a sunny day. No. This was a symphony of grey. The sky was bulging with grey. The sea was stuffed with grey. The line between them was barely perceptible. It was an explosive kind of grey. Bright grey in places, with the Riviera sun trying to hammer its way through; dark, dull, menacing grey farther away. All of it was a very wet grey.

We were coming in to
Marseilles and there was a catamaran regatta going on between us and the old port. We had to time it right to slip through among the competitors. That was thrilling in itself, because having no experience in sail-powered movement the timing involved seemed incongruous. We saw the catamarans at real close quarters, with the skippers leaning over so low they were almost in the water – and when they fell over they were very much in the water. All their sails were fluorescent. Once we were through to the other side, I looked out to sea and gasped at this huge expanse of bevelled grey, concave and convex, with slashes of fluorescent colour like flags in the middle. Growing smaller and smaller.

We parked the boat in front of the town hall and had a cup of tea.

When I got home I took the biggest canvas I could find – it had to be big to get that huge sky in – and painted it grey. I did my best to make the paint as thick and uneven as possible, and lavish on lashes of light and dark grey and bits of white, but it looked disturbingly flat. I didn't dare to touch it for a long time.

Then I tried to draw in the shapes of the sails. To be in proportion, they would have been tiny pin pricks. I can't draw that small. It looked ridiculous. I went as far as painting the sails fluorescent orange, pink, green and yellow.

The result was abominable. It didn’t kill the power of the image I had in my mind; it just didn’t seem to be in any way remotely connected to it. It stayed in the garage for many moons, where it could have been mistaken for a picture of the concrete garage floor with graffiti on it.

Eventually the summer sun reactivated, as it periodically does, my urge to express my aesthetic gratitude through paint, and I hit the canvas with all my favourite colours of the moment, and even some, for a reason unknown to me, that I didn’t like, and didn’t seem to go together.

As soon as I thought of the word perseverance, Persephone came to mind, and I googled her and discovered she ate p o m e g r a n a t e seeds. It’s a small world.


Have a nice trip

Some words just trip off the tongue – like the one I’ve just learnt – sesquipedalian. It feels great! Seems slightly synonymous with German.

Other words and expressions trip me up. Take “to pull no punches” for example. I had to look it up because although it’s a familiar expression, I didn’t really know what it meant. To “pull a punch” is from boxing and means to not put your full force into it – so “to pull no punches” means give it everything you’ve got. Nuke it.

Then I tripped on ‘discomfit’. I suppose it is part of my passive vocabulary. One of the words I have read and recognise as genuine English but have never actually used actively.
discomfit, transitive verb:
1. To make uneasy or perplexed, or to put into a state of embarrassment; to disconcert; to upset.
2. To thwart; to frustrate the plans of.
3. (Archaic). To defeat in battle.

Talking of defeat, I then stubbed my toe on ‘take the flak’. I had a loose, stringy idea of what flack was, something like a cross between flax and (cut him some) slack.

1) Anti-aircraft fire, esp. as experienced by the crews of combat airplanes at which the fire is directed.
2) Criticism; hostile reaction; abuse: Such an unpopular decision is bound to draw a lot of flak from the press.
[Origin: 1935–40; Fl(ieger)a(bwehr)k(anone) anti-aircraft gun, equiv. to Flieger aircraft (lit., flyer) + Abwehr defense + Kanone gun.

Reading an article in the Guardian online about the late Bobby Fischer, it was the use of a word that caused me to pause. I was going to say ‘stuck in my throat’ but that is too strong an expression for the feeling. It just made me feel slightly uneasy. Discomfited me. Made me want to give the journalist a bit of flak.
Fischer didn't play in any of the great tournaments after 1972; promoters wanted him to play exhibitions, but he demanded exorbitant fees and they never took place; he
even refused numerous lucrative offers to endorse products saying he couldn't because he didn't use them.
Perhaps I am a tad linguistically or semantically hypersensitive, but it seems to me that the word “even” here suggests that it is a sign of madness to not accept large sums of money for endorsing products one doesn’t use. Honesty is no longer even a social option.
Céline Dion came on the telly last night, singing a song from her latest album in English. The song was beautiful, but the sentiment behind the lyrics was in total opposition to everything we know about her. It was about taking the risk of living love in the moment with someone you’ve just met – and she is happily married to her manager who has been the man of her life since she was about 12.
Back to the man who invented his own form of chess, “Fischerandom, in which, at the beginning of the game, the pieces are randomly distributed. Conventional chess, he said, was played out - killed by computers and over-analysis. Psychologically, he had to believe that chess died with him, the last, undefeated champion. In a way, perhaps it did.”
Fischerandom would effectively stymie (aha!) the Scotch gambit (l’ouverture ecossaise).

Which leads on to a quote from Thomas Henry Huxley:
The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us.

Pomegranate is 'Grenade' in French, which means the fruit, the Andalusian town and the explosive device.


Mirror, mirror on the bathroom floor

When I arrived in Scotland for Christmas I was delighted to find I could watch my favourite American crime series (CSI, NCIS, Heroes, etc.) on Sky practically all the time. At home I watch them dubbed in French, but with the original sound track the dialogues are subtler and the voices much more exciting. Pretty soon I realised there was no gain, for most of the channels gave approximately 6 minutes actual viewing between adverts. I hate adverts. Chopping the programmes up into such little bits makes them unwatchable. Half the time the adverts come on without prior notice and the result is total confusion.

One week after I got back I was listening to the news on the wireless when I heard “Nicolas Sarkozy is going to ban advertising from State television. The share price of TF1 rose 12% immediately after the announcement.” I was overjoyed. I thought I must have heard it wrong. It felt like “une aubaine” (a godsend). Of course, thought I, everybody is so delighted that we’ll have some watchable channels. I couldn’t understand why none of the other news sources announced this as “good news”. My first mistake was to think that TF1 was a State channel. It isn’t. Apparently it belongs to one of Sarkozy’s pals and the move was seen as robbing the public sector to line the pockets of the private sector.

In the continuing saga of the horrible painting, the one I did in summer 2006 and was convinced I was going to paint over, we are talking temporary rehabilitation. It has been sitting on the bathroom floor leaning against the wall, holding the odd wet towel occasionally. I acquired a piano and the only bit of wall it could go on had a mirror on it that was partially hidden by the piano. I toyed with the idea of changing the height of the mirror. The other day I took the mirror off the wall to investigate this possibility further and hey presto, found that the painting seemed to fit the space. The mirror is not quite big enough to hold towels off the floor.




This poem has no meaning.
Poem has no meaning this.
Has no meaning this poem.
No meaning this poem has.
Meaning this poem has no.
This meaning has no poem.
No, this poem has meaning.

(c) Linda Herbertson

Ce poème n'a pas de sens
Sens ce poème n'a pas de
De sens ce poème n'a pas
Pas de sens ce poème n'a
N'a pas de sens ce poème
Poème n'a pas de sens ce
Ce poème n'a de sens pas
Ce poème n'a de pas sens
Ce poème sens de pas n'a
Ce sens n'a pas de poème
c)Traduction de Linda Herbertson

Este poema no tiene sentido.
Poema tiene no sentido este.
Tiene no sentido este poema.
No sentido este poema tiene.
Sentido este poema tiene no.
Este sentido tiene no poema.
No, este poema tiene sentido.

Traduction de Rebecca Behar

Ce Poème ne veut rien dire
Ne rien dire ce poème veut
POème dire ne veut ce rien
RieN, ne veut dire ce poème
Dire Ce rien poème ne veut
Ce poèmE dire ne veut rien
Ce dire POEME ne veut rien
Ne dire poème VEUT ce rien
Ce rien ne veut DIRE poème
Ne veut rien dire Ce poème
Ce poème ne dire vEut rien
Rien dire ne veut Ce poème
Ce poème veut ne rIen dire
Traduction Rebecca Behar

I love playing with words. I suppose I'm a bit of a Langwitch.
Here, I can't get the bold to work on the last translation, but the uppercase letters stand out a bit. Laura will tell me (if she ever comes back from vacation) if the Spanish works.


Franswaze Guerlin sees Vian rose

In the sidebar is a new version of "Quand j'aurais du vent dans mon crâne" recorded at Le Burgaud near Toulouse. Françoise Guerlin is singing, with Maxime Delporte on double-bass and Mathieu Royer on guitar. The band now has a percussionist, too, Laurent Paris, and the set is terrific. They were booked for the Jazz sur son 31 festival in 2007 and already have some bookings for 2008. Two other songs on Françoise's myspace music.
The choice of songs is very interesting, and Françoise also reads some Vian, particularly a piece about why jazz must be banned because it will surely lead to revolution.
Confluences, or great oaks from little acorns grow.
Françoise has always loved Vian and had been talking about doing a tribute to the man, when our reading group in Lombez was looking for a new subject for a mixed literary/musical evening. So we decided to read Vian and asked Françoise to put together the musical aspect.
The evening was a great success, though the local press was less than kind to us – “la lecture, bien qu’agréable, est restée très amateur, mais Françoise Guerlin a régalé le public etc; etc; (the reading, while pleasant, was very amateur (!) but the very professional Françoise Guerlin delighted the audience, etc.).
The person who wrote the review was obviously miffed at not being asked to read with us, for our group, although called “à livre ouvert” is actually quite exclusive for want of a better word.
Françoise then went on to develop a full set with the musicians and the result is spectacular.


Renewal and roots

These photographs were taken around my home town (? - home village doesn't sound right, but Catrine has always been a village and if anything is shrinking rather than growing) in Ayrshire at Christmas in 2004. The smoke in the bottom right-hand corner is from the lum of a waste disposal plant reeking on the very site of the coalmine my father worked in from the age of 15. The sun may start to set at 15:00, but before it does the light is quite special.

Coincidence or evidence of global warming, the scenery was a different colour this year, I mean in 2007. Zut, it’s already ‘last year’, projected into the past (so soon, so soon).

It took us 24 hours to get to Scotland and five hours to get back. We had a bonus night in Frankfurt as part of our trip, courtesy of fogbound London airports. British Airways put us up at the Sheraton hotel, but didn’t give us our bags. Reminds me of when Mary was visiting me in France from Glasgow and her flight was postponed so often the possible arrival times took a whole column on the kitchen whiteboard.

I went for a walk along the newly created River Ayr Way, a section of which starts at my parents' front door. I bumped into my brother, who had a real camera with him and took some pictures, including the close-ups of Sorn castle and the one below. I thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting my roots, but I don't know if I enjoyed it quite as much as Carly! I sincerely hope we can all get our paws off the gound this year!