Oh what a tangoed web...

At my first session of psychoanalysis I said “I have this image of myself as being stuck in a well.” Because of my accent, my analyst thought I had a Jonah complex. Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a George Orwell essay called Inside the Whale. Very interesting. Written in 1940; and therewithin I find “cold snap”.

I am used to brief bouts of intensely cold weather which I had alway referred to as cold spells, and I had the impression that I had only come across the expression “cold snap” recently. I decided it was somehow “wrong” and not to be adopted, or at the very least suspect because recent. Interesting to see the brain at work, rejecting the unknown, even in someone who rationally and consciously embraces it.

I was thinking about Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea as a metaphor for desire, which, according to BM, is either prohibited or impossible. When part of you goes all out to get what you want, natural forces are unleashed against you. The old man caught the huge fish, but the sharks ripped it apart before he could get it home.

Prendre une décision in French, but in English, do we take them or make them?

Google is beginning to annoy me. I started to find strange cases of synchronicity; I searched for an article to buy online and the next day I was working away and saw adverts for that article on my screen… What a coincidence, I thought, until I realised that my browser was constantly spangled with articles I had looked at in online stores.

To make matters worse, be it Google or Firefox, someone has “enhanced” the search function. Used to be when I searched for a word or expression, the search box offered me up my previous similar searches which served as a useful aide-memoire. Now the search box offers me other people’s searches, or searches that it deems useful, which are of no use to me at all and further pollute my working environment. Because I am fascinated by the written word, I see combinations of words in their proposed search phrases and think really? Does that exist? Or what does that mean? And off I go on somebody else’s search, neglecting my own and wasting time...

... which, as we all know, is of the essence… As a translator, my main, bread & butter bulk per word rate has dropped 30% since the euro was introduced. Which means that to maintain a similar standard of living I should be working 30% faster… But I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers, etc. The competition seems somehow unfair.

Phrasing, Prosaic (the antonyms include pedestrian (belisha beacon) and I want to include poetic).

Typo of the day: pubic relations

Unfortunately, I learnt the meaning of a new French word:

détonner = chanter faux
Now, chanter faux = to sing out of tune, or off-key, but I can’t actually find that as a straight definition for détonner, and instead I find "to jar, to be out of place… " Oops! Some of my notes were slightly out of place. There are no grey areas in singing – it is either in tune or it isn’t. Our choir mistress made me laugh after a particularly laborious passage of a rehearsal when she said “c’est presque ça”. Which means we were rubbish.

I’ve always been proud of my heritage and the pivotal role Scots affirm they have played in everything, but even I found this amusing:

“In another attempt to circumvent its dependence on Chinese tea, the East India Company sent Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to China to steal and smuggle out of China tea plants, which were then taken to India, where by the end of the 19th century they matured and produced Indian tea.”

I watched Merrill Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Sad to say I worked for and with a woman like that in Paris once. I admired her energy and precision until one day I heard her demolishing someone on the phone to save her skin.

"la raison d’état de soi-même"

“The national interest, often referred to by the French term raison d'État, is a country's goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural.”


Simple longing


The sky is so blue I wish I were alone with it

Swish wish this.
Here I am knuckling under to the obligation to work
And part of me wishes it could be ideal
That’s not good enough for a poem.

You need images, abstraction, more feeling

I really really want this.
This is no indistinct yearning but a gut desire

a chain saw snores. I remember the smell of the sap.

later, I wander out into you
I’m no fool
lie back under your vast canopy and dream around the tree tops
singing of distant places
the beauty of the spot
appeases my spirit

is it the best I can hope for?


a love of my own

Keith Jarret playing over the ocean sailing, the wind the spray the freedom the openness the sheer beauty of the music

takes me back to the first time I heard it and I blame you

in the story I tell myself, you introduced me to Keith Jarret and when I hear a single, immediately recognisable bar I remember how much I loved you, how much I longed for you, how much I yearned for you, how much I concentrated all of my longing and all of my yearning onto you

and I didn’t have you
which is why I could do that

and I lived in constant lack of you, to this day I miss you, I am lacking you, I never succeeded in making contact with you

I wanted you to be my man
I wanted you to be my lover
I wanted you to be mine

And you walk away oblivious
You live on oblivious

And I listen to the Köln concert and I scream my longing out over the sea

It is no longer a longing of you
It is no longer a longing of the past or for sex or for love
It is the anguish of a human being caught in mid-life, realising it is alive and has lived and still not knowing what it’s all about

And that music is too beautiful to have existed, it makes a mockery of the rest of life and yet no-one, not even Keith Jarret can live in a piano solo, improvised or not, one-off or not



While I work, I occasionally listen to the podcasts of Eckhart Tolle talking about his book – A New Earth, Awakening to your life’s purpose – with Oprah Winfrey. I find it helps to keep me in an English-language word-order frame of mind to have English in the background, but as I’m concentrating on other words I don’t hear all of what they say. Every time I listen I hear different snippets.

Last time the words that caught my attention were Oprah saying “lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.

These words reminded me of the opening words of a story I wrote, called What did the spider say to the elephant?

“She is sitting on the soft grass, near my rock, looking up at me. I love my rock. It is too hard for her, too high.”

I got that once more uncanny feeling of magical undercurrents, things being connected, not being free to write just anything but that every word counts. Every word is connected to every other.

Webs and networks, hypertext patchworks and links, quantum leaps and simultaneously being everywhere. Or nowhere. The collective unconscious that anyone can dip into. The structure which is rendered dynamic by the fact that there is a missing link, an empty box, a blind spot. A weakness, an imperfection. Something I have that you don’t have and vice versa. Something human, living. In a mechanical system, there is nothing missing but there is no stopping it…

Claude Levy Strauss has just died, and that makes me want to read him again. He spoke on television and it was such a delight to listen to him, so wise is he. I didn’t understand a word about how mythology reads like a musical score but it made me want to understand…

In the meantime, there is
the excess of revenues over outlays in a given period of time (including depreciation and other non-cash expenses); net profit; earnings


picked up from Lionel Shriver

I am now singing in two choirs. Practising "O come all ye faithful", I was sitting in silence with the sopranos listening to the other voices when I found myself whipped away back to childhood, singing hymns at school or at school ceremonies in the church. I didn't want to but couldn't stop myself and ended up with tears streaming down my face...

That moment when you decide not to allow yourself to feel an emotion because it is simply scarily too big.

Potentially overwhelming.

At the prize-giving ceremony we were arranged in rows and had to go up and receive our prize and then go back into the wooden pew and shuffling along one place at a time it feels like being part of a mechanical process that can't stop...



“Ecritures silencieuses”
forêt sempervirante – evergreen forest
choc pétrolier = oil crisis

< people starve not because there isn’t enough food, but because they lack the money to buy it. Rising prices reflect the anarchy of the capitalist system. Jean Ziegler, the United Nations’s special rapporteur on the right to food, said last weekend, “Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time – just as Marx thought. This is silent mass murder.”>>

“…to be a worker you have to lack the economic independence to support yourself out of your own resources.”
own resources. owned resources.

"Also each device added to this milieu must not unnecessarily or unintentionally contribute spurious emissions that do not perform any particular function."

There was a documentary about some underwater river system in Mexico and divers going in with tanks and following a rope (they call it Ariadne’s rope in French) and getting to a place 30 minutes away from natural light. Obviously I am struck by this because my father was a coal miner till he retired and I was always horrified at his stories of having to walk 5 miles underground to the next pit to keep the right of egress open.
This makes me think of fascination and the character at the end of Le Grand Bleu who swims off into the void with the dolphins (oops! sorry, hope you've seen the film and I haven't spoilt it for you!) that to get anywhere, do anything, we need to feel a tug, a pull, to want to follow, find out, go further… but just when does healthy curiosity turn into morbid fascination?


Uncannily like vivacious

Vivace = perennial

Oh do not ask what is it
let us go and make our visit…

You would hardly believe this… I was listening to TS Eliot on the net, reading his poems, and finding fault with his reading… I had a “superior” voice in my mind. When we read silently I suppose we use the perfect voice of the Big Other.

picayune – minutiae - the time catcher. Rather like the feather structures designed by Red Indians to catch dreams, I imagine a fine net that would catch time as it flees too fast through our lives…

I continue to describe my milestones as they turn up regularly or irregularly. Irreducible parts of experience, the nuggets. I enjoy them, no matter if I'm repeating myself – I should apologise but I'm tired of apologising, and we never apologise for the right thing, anyway - the only way to be sure to mention them all is to mention them as they arise and you know you have come full circle when you see one for the second time… they say you have to hear something three times to assimilate it.  This is a restful feeling. No need to shout or emphasise anything in the moment. Because it is all going to have to be said again, and again... until...

This reminds me of the thrill of reading Cortazar’s Hopscotch. From a few pages into the book you never know where you are, how much you have read, how many pages are left. It is a totally disorienting experience. Suddenly, just when you are wishing the book would go on forever so that you can stay inside it like in a friend’s company you realise that what you are reading is familiar to you and so you check and yes, you have already read that chapter, the book is over. A cruel ending, but an unforgettable, inimitable one.

Some books hang around, though, and I often drink maté, nowadays.

… though like a stone, unbothered by it…

About the difference between séduire in French = attract, and “seduction” in English, which is bad. (Laura Says Frank Sinatra was arrested for it!)

To lead away from duty, accepted principles, or proper conduct.
What chance have we got? The rest of the world is at it, playing the game and we British are worrying about the political correctness of being sexual.

and we run away from it all in the the passion to own…

jobsworth, noun
1. (context, mostly, British) A minor clerical worker who refuses to be flexible in the application of rules to help a client or customer.
Etymology: From the phrase "It's more than my job's worth . . ."

I have come up against or stumbled into the semantic minefield of the uncanny in analysis. The frightening aspect of the familiar.

“He ascribes the essential factor in the production of the feeling of uncanniness to intellectual uncertainty; so that the uncanny would always, as it were, be something one does not know one's way about in.”

Being lost at home.
An African painter (Joël Mpah Doo) I was translating used the expression "exiled inside himself..." 
Sometimes, I see an English word in French – on my shopping list on the kitchen wall I had scribbled “pain” which stayed bread for a while then suddenly one morning I saw it in English and wondered why I had written douleur on my shopping list
The other day it was towards the end = vers la fin… and I saw fin as nageoire.
.aleas = contingencies – fringencies – sitges – singe – singer - someone who sings when looked at through French eyes becomes someone acting the monkey…

and death shall have no dominion
dylan thomas

Magpies make a helluva racket!


"The morning segues into the afternoon."             "they didst this"
 and I'll end with a nice typo - translitted - and some sunny pictures...  October and the weather is glorious.

plants 0909


Green and brown

The things that strike me most about Ayrshire are how green everything is, with even pavements and walls colonised by green moss, how brown the river is, and how much the water looks like beer.

I absorb the damp greenness when I'm there. When I see it I feel ravenous for it, it fills me up, it hits a spot. But I don't miss it when I'm away. I love the bright dryness of where I live.

The first picture shows the driechness of concrete bars on a bridge, browbeaten by the weather to a dull, dirty grey, expressing a capture attempt, me trying to capture the river, the river and the countryside having captured me, owning me through a bond that can never be broken, a birth bond. That I ignore most of the time but that grabs me when I come close...

Green and brown. So green, so brown.

The salmon ladder which was built to make it easier for the fish to swim upstream to their spawning grounds, back to where they came from, and which actually makes it easier for the locals to poach the fish, by covering the end with wire, the salmon are like sitting ducks, and can be wheeched oot the watter using a big hook called a gaffe.

Pictures 16 and 17 show what looks like a precision-cut leaf line, 16 from under the branches, seventeen from across the field. Why do the branches of all these trees stop in such a straight line? Did the farmer shave them?

Sorn bridge, from whence my mother's ashes were strewn.

Rowan berries for a touch of orange. Green and brown are rich and lush and ok but after a while a bit, err, boring.

Not mushroom for these celtic chanterelles... I have never seen such crowds of fungi.

Talking about sitting ducks, I took some stale toast along to feed the little quackers, but along came this nasty big white bird and chased the ducks away. Try as I might, I couldn't get crumbs to the ducks, the swans commandeered all the food. I used to think of the phrase "I AM a swan" (from the ugly duckling) as a marvellous realisation of being beautiful, but in fact these creatures are very aggressive and being one is nothing to boast about.


In Augustus extremis

At the beginning of the month, I signed up for an intensive classical singing course in the village. It was an incredible experience. Music and song resounding all over the place, inside and outside my head. I was shocked by the sheer physicality of the activity – it is rather like a sport.

One of the highpoints was hosting a rehearsal of a Polish tango in my living room (see picture). With Norwegian-born Swiss residing Alto Agnes Martin, Bruno Dottin playing cello and Laurent Bourreau on piano (Christine Box listening enthralled). Another was when I invited everybody back for a drink and was rewarded with a Schubert Impromptu from Laurent and some incongruous combinations of improvisations till 3 am.

For the final concert, being the least classical of the singers, I opened the show in the cathedral with Mary Magdalene’s theme from Jesus Christ Superstar – I don’t know how to love Him. The last day we did a concert at the local retirement home and with the pressure to perform replaced by the opportunity to entertain, I did my best rendition of Memory, based on Rhapsody on a windy night by TS Eliot.

I learnt as much listening to and watching the other singers as I did in the lessons and classes. I had my moment of fame when one of the girls at the supermarket check-out recognised me and told me my singing was "sublime"...

Then I went to Scotland (more later) and found myself singing “Funiculi, funicula” whilst stirring risotto for my father. But it was the piano accompaniment to a piece the choir sang by Brahms (How I sprang up in the night) which seems to have imprinted itself most deeply. It comes back to me in quiet moments.


First tango in Graz

“Police are not treating the case as foul play” I read in an online newspaper. Foul play somehow amused me. I hadn’t come across the expression for a long time. It reeks of Sherlock Holmes. From Sherlock to Shylock and the pound of flesh no-one wants to pay.

In Shakespeare I find:
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Was that allowed, even in His day? Is there a name for writing in a mixture of two or more languages?

Marseille turned out to be an astonishing city, with lots of shops and sea air. In parts it seems quite similar to Paris, but with people who give the impression they don’t mind you being there.

The film festival was a wondrous mixture of pellicules. Some were moving, some left me indifferent and some made me want to vaporise the author with a Martian heat ray. I can be quite categorical at times. If I don’t like something I tend to think it shouldn’t be allowed to exist, until I remember that people can have different tastes and mine doesn’t necessarily hold good for the known universe.

I was laughing with the team about the fact that the previous year no fewer than two out of the four films whose subtitles I converted into English had very long sequences of spiders playing with flies stuck in their web – an apt metaphor for the subtitle translator, thought I. The audience is free to stand up and walk out of the cinema, but the translator has to watch every frame. Just as we are sometimes the only people who REALLY read what we are translating because translation requires a grasp, a take on what is intended. Skimming doesn’t cut it.

English subtitles are required for the films entered in the international competition. The format was two lines of 35 characters each. It’s not a question of straight forward translation because the eye reads at a slower pace than the ear deciphers so the words have to be summarised if there is a lot of dialogue.

Naples is the last city
to hang out sheets on balconies.

There was washing on the balconies opposite my town centre hotel window. We subtitlers discussed this and someone said there were gated communities in America where hanging washing outside is prohibited.

tabula rasa. Guenon – this is a female monkey and a French surname but I could not establish a connection between the two.

Imbroglio - This word came to mind as im-brogue-lio but in fact the “g” is not supposed to be pronounced.
“Word History: The history of today's word has been through a bit of an imbroglio itself. It was borrowed recently from Italian. It is related semantically to embroil, taken from the French embrouiller "to tangle, confuse", a cousin of Italian imbroglio. In fact, in Old English, broil meant "to brawl". It only began to surrender that meaning in Middle English when French brûler "to burn" was borrowed and converted into broil, now with its current sense of baking.”

In primary school my two problem words were foliage – I picked it up as foilage and couldn’t get rid of the pronunciation for a while – and rogue – which I imagined was pronounced “rogg-ewe” until I heard it spoken for the first time at the headmaster’s daughter’s birthday party and realised I was very wrong.

The headmaster taught me to fold a letter.

There was a film about pigs flying and the French translator was flummoxed – quand les poules auront des dents is the rough equivalent. And there was a brilliant title for the narcissist, a lady who had stuck a camera down her throat to film her vocal chords and called the film something like "pictures of my voice going round in my head".

There was tango in front of the Opera House and on Tuesday nights tango in the alley in front of the Gymnase Theatre. The shoes are absolutely fascinating… I tried to draw them - the result was painful.

When I recently went to visit Sylvia in Graz, she took me to her tango club, and I spent a pleasant evening foot spotting – ankle spotting. Dietmar suddenly announced that the music had slowed down and I could try, and before I knew it I was “walking” a tango. It is a great feeling. The people in the Graz club travel to cities like Berlin or Barcelona to tango in the street.

Coincidentally, today, Thomas, who set off from Lombez with Phebus to walk sur les traces du rideau de fer is at Sylvia’s house in Graz.


Rush job...

My analyst has erected gateposts to divert the traffic in front of her house off her lawn. I feel good about her re-defining her limits and protecting her patch. We both enjoy her garden. Sometimes I think I feel good about any kind of positive change.

This is a field not far from my house, which I discovered when I was out walking last Thursday. It is said to be “en jachère fleurie” – floral fallow?

I had to translate “audition” in the legal sense, which in English is “hearing”.

It made me think of the musical sense of audition which I suppose is “casting” in French.

Much as I would love to see myself as “good-natured” I have to admit when I try to do too many things at once I become churlish.

I like to take my time over blog posts, and tend to put off writing till I have a reasonable space of time to spend putting them together. However, the world is speeding up, things are becoming crazy, it is very hot, I have a l_o_t of work to do, last night there was a French Canadian storyteller in Lombez, Robert 7 Crows (who says Crow = Corneille and Corbeau = Raven… Mmm. For me, corbeau has always been crow but I have no time to check this ...) On Saturday night I’ll be singing (my workshop has a 6 minute slot) at the end of year extravaganza of Music’Halle and the next day it seems I’ll be off to Marseilles for a week on "business". (nudge nudge wink wink).

so this one is rushed.

Went to the seaside this weekend and when we got to Gruissan we found by sheer coincidence there was a vernissage of an exhibition containing a painting of Françoise. (Exhibition of paintings by Emma Boutin). So here is a very serendipitous snapshot of the subject having stepped out of the frame.


Words, words, glorious words

Words that come up in the course of my work or reading, words that call out to me either because I’ve never seen them before, or because I have taken them for granted and never taken the trouble to look up what they mean.

Pipistrelles are bats. Pulchritude means physical comeliness. Molten seems to always go with rocks. Unbridgeable gaps. Led by their desire to know.


One day last week General Motors declared bankrupt. An abortion doctor was shot dead in an American church by an anti-abortionist. In France, the RMI became the RSA, to encourage people to work by making sure they earn more when employed than when unemployed. This incentive is being implemented against a background of rising unemployment, which is expected to reach 10% next year. I don’t know if anyone will benefit from it.

I believe that if wealth was redistributed, each member of the human race could live decently, have food and clean drinking water, be given a living wage.

The mayor of London is going to put 31 pianos around the capital for three weeks from the end of June, “with only a couple of metal chains and a laminated songbook for protection against the wiles of vandals and metropolitan musicophobes.”

An Air France plane from Brazil to Paris disappeared off the radar. No trace of it was found for fully a week.

For what it’s worth, I realised that there is “frique” in “Afrique”.

Going back slightly further, Anna Gavalda’s book Je l’aimais was released as a film starring Daniel Auteuil. I watched incredulously as he was interviewed and the film summarised as an account of the experiences of the character he played. That is not how I perceived the book at all. To me, the “Je l’aimais” clearly meant that she was saying that she had really loved him, and not the other way round, where the ambiguity would be about which woman - wife or mistress – he was finally admitting to loving. Or, rather, having loved.

I couldn’t believe that the interview was not with the leading lady rather than the leading man, whose role, to my mind, was secondary. The real love in the book is his mistress’, for she loves him exclusively, even moving to Paris to be near him. But he didn't let her "in".

I fondly remember reading Bertrand Russel’s In Praise of Idleness when I was an avid reader in my youth.

“Naipaul is Conrad's heir as the annalist of the destinies of empires in the moral sense: what they do to human beings. His authority as a narrator is grounded in the memory of what others have forgotten, the history of the vanquished.”


Fishing for a good time

PerhapsL&F -

Starts with throwing in your line. So sang Tom Waits.

So it’s a question of throwing in a fishing line and waiting for the bite

The tug

The pull

It is not cheating to throw in the line. You won’t catch any fish by throwing yourself in the water and threshing about.

You have to wait. You have to give them something they want.

And some of the fish will steal your worm and make off with it and remain free

but one fish will bite and be hooked

and for many an afternoon you will swing on the gate listening to the empty desolation of the wind

wondering about the brightness of the sun

the silence and the absence

yes for many a summer’s afternoon you will swing on the gate alone, looking at the ground, looking at the empty bottom of the street, looking



being alone

many many afternoons alone

and then the mornings which you never notice, and the evenings, which come later, much later. It took so long to break through to evening loneliness and you haven’t ever really done it… not perfectly. It is never perfect. It was at one time and yet

whatever phase you are in you are not aware of it and waiting for some parameter to change …

you did not know you were free

and so you were not free

you were a prisoner

trapped in your routine

you used to believe in Brownian movement

you used to believe in chance meetings

you don’t anymore

how did this happen


Seeing's believing

May is full of bank holidays in France, especially Thursdays, and when people take the Friday off to create a long weekend they call it “faire le pont”. I heard the expression “viaduc” the other day – nice image of a double bridge.

I was “looking forward” to cutting the grass on this bank holiday, so imagine my surprise when I went into the garage to get the lawnmower and immediately realised there was something missing. The something was a bright red plastic petrol can. I bought it recently to replace the dull blue plastic petrol can that went missing from the same garage. The absence of the expected bright red blotch almost made me hysterical. I went out into the lane, thinking one of my son’s acquaintances must have needed petrol for his scooter and been afraid to ask, hoping the can itself would have been discarded in the ditch. As I walked up and down looking into the ditch, fulminant, the words “red rag to a bull” came to mind. This definition reminds me of the days when I used to feel frustrated about dictionaries. If I don’t understand the word in French I’m hardly going to understand it in English. Pronunciation is important but… wait a minute – reminds me of the check-in at Vienna airport. I ask Sylvia what a “Vortages Check-in” is. She says she has no idea. She asks the hostess behind the counter and bursts out laughing. It is German for “check-in”. Because I pronounced it in English she then saw it as an English word.

The last time I arrived at Blagnac to travel my mind switched to English as soon as I left home, and when I got into the lift I thought I saw “departs” (when it was actually “départs”). Can’t they get their English right, I seethed, it is departures not departs, which reminded me of the arrivals board which sports “delayed at” instead of "delayed to" – in fact, in English speaking airports they use another formulation altogether – "expected at"… Everytime I see “delayed at” I want to write to Air France but then the person I’m waiting for arrives and complaining seems insignificant.

In a Guardian interview of Kashuo Ishiguro I came across the word bathos (in the adjectival “bathetic” form) for the first time and coevals

In the same interview I realised I was not sure what “vindicate” meant and I discovered the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi sabi: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Phew. That's a relief.


Butterflies are one of the reasons I moved to the South West of France from Paris, along with starry skies and fresh air.

There are two kinds of red. Red that makes you angry and red that warns you of danger.
Returning to Caen from Scotland, having driven up there one Christmas and almost being snowed in by a blizzard, I was heartened by the tail lights of the car in front of me as I was heading down south at a snail’s pace. At one point I actually got the feeling that they had been put there especially for me, to keep me safe and make me feel part of a great network of people who drive cars. I suppose that is the opposite of paranoia.

P.S. fulminer bluster, rant, seethe, storm away, fulminate


L’amour bursting out of la cage

The mountains were so clear the other day. Such a joy.

Mercurial” is a nice, interesting word I have come across quite often, recently, which took me to mercury. "Mercury occurs in deposits throughout the world as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide), source of the red pigment vermilion."

I immediately want to put another “l” in vermillion and I thought cinnabar was a town… On second reading, pigment and vermilion become Pygmalion.

I’m looking forward to reading Alain Badiou’s “L’hypothèse communiste”; found an article called “L’hypothèse de l’émancipation reste l’hypothèse communiste”

- which seemed to resonate with another Shakespeare quote - "Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery."

Ad Libitum - At one's pleasure, usually abbreviated ad lib – ad libido (and shake).

Speare definitely said it all. There seems to be a quote from him for everything. I found great comfort in “Time and the hour run through the roughest day” when I was a child. I remember repeating it to myself, clutching at the words like a talisman. Now it seems tame, as if the spark has gone out of it; it just doesn’t seem to mean much now. Could it be that quotes (like words) have a set amount of energy in them and once you have used it up you must move on to new ones? That would coincide with the experience of learning to sing a song. First you are attracted to the song, strongly enough to make you want to learn it, experience it, master it. Eventually, you overcome the difficulties and by the time you can almost do it with your eyes shut it no longer produces the same excitement, the energy has changed...

But not the energy of the song... which is surely fixed ... the energy of the singer, which is free to vary... Two energies, two vibrations = resonance or dissonance, harmony or dissharmony. Britta was intrigued at the fact that you cannot burn one log. To have a fire, you need at least two pieces of wood.

Rather than loudness, there is a kind of intensity, when a sound is just voiced - there is a kind of vibrational threshold, when you can hear voicing, that is where the greatest emotional intensity lies.

I seem to have managed to throw the wolves off my trail. I am no longer swimming in shark infested waters. I have found temporary respite on a kind of island or at least beach. Who knows how I got here. One Shakespeare quote that I find comforting now is “Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.If the path is the important thing, then a destination (or direction) is maybe not indispensable. Hoc omnia quibus egeo est.

I found some Physalis at the fruit counter of Aldi. I had never considered it edible and I did not intend to eat it, but as soon as I saw it I had to have some. I took it home and left it lying on the counter for a while, hoping it would do something to surprise me. It didn’t. It stayed remarkably the same for a long time. It didn’t even seem to be drying out or shrivelling up. So I stuck two of the fruits, inside their cages, into a pot, and put the pot on the window sill.

A short time later I was amazed to see zillions of seedlings bursting out of the cages. I assume they will grow up to be more Physalis; time will tell. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see what looks very much like a clover leaf in there.


Struck, turalisme

The countryside is coming alive with scents. The world smells wonderful. Magnolia, with its macabre undertones thanks to Billy Holiday, the heady fragrance of quince blossom I have yet to hear anybody sing about, and the totally intoxicating nostalgia of hawthorn. When I smell hawthorn I am small and new again. The lilac is budded, the flowers not fully open, but it is everywhere. The mimosa – took ages to find that name, myosotis was on my lips – the mimosa has faded. We have no electronic devices for capturing and transmitting smells, no matter how sweet.

Et tu Brute, Obama confused England and Britain and his wife tapped the Queen on the back! Our wee group of countries is so incongruous in the modern world, so mixed up they can’t portray who they are to the outside (yes I speak English and the parliament that decides on everything for me is in England but that does not make me English!) and why do they still have a queen anyway?

There was yet another killing in America, in an old folk’s home in a town called Carthage. I immediately thought “Carnage in Carthage”. Carthaginian certainly has a warlike ring to it, and indeed, Carthage used to be the capital of the Vandal kingdom, of all places.

It always amazes me how a single letter change can throw the meaning of a word miles off. I get these moments often. The other day it was “doar” for door.

And as I was listening to the radio I heard someone say “scie” followed, what seemed like a long time afterwards, by “canaliste”. That amused me, too. Il était si…… canaliste…

An idea I found in Tolle that is very important to me: background unhappiness is not content-based but structural.

The machine is a book vending machine in an airport...


Heavy metal silence

When I was a teenager, my next door neighbour, David Steele, had a “pop” group. He played bass and sang. I loved listening to them when they practised in the scout hut. One day, the guitarist didn’t turn up, and David handed me the electric bass and got me to play a base line while he replaced the guitarist. It was sooooo exciting… I don't think I've ever recovered.

I’ve always been a groupie at heart. I’ve always encouraged any body who wants to make music – even me. I find music fits roughly into the “sacred” slot in my mindset or heartset.

Here is a picture of Dave the bass player and George Bell the guitarist.

Yesterday, my son’s heavy metal band were going to be practicing at our house and I was delighted. I don’t particularly like other people’s heavy metal music but I do enjoy the sheer energy that the boys give off when I hear them live. I had some work to do and was planning to use ear plugs but enjoy the energy, the excitement, the vibe from time to time. I would be back in the Scout hut. Continuity.

So they came and they plugged everything in and I went to my office and worked and waited for the music to start. Nuthin. I got engrossed in my work, time passed and still nothing. Eventually I used the excuse of making myself a cup of tea to go and see why they weren’t playing. But they were.

They had plugged their guitars directly into a “carte son" - sound card?

– it looked like a miniature nuclear power station – and were recording the sound and monitoring it on the computer. They seemed to have cut out the “listening” phase of the process.

“But I can’t hear you” I wailed.

“Maman, we’re not playing for YOU” retorted Billy.

So who are they playing for? In any case, the name of the game is change…

“Worry pretends to be necessary – but serves no useful purpose” – Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey – I’m listening to them in the background.

I met translator Philippe Bouquet at the book fair in Lombez recently and was struck by the title of one of the books he had translated – Stig Dagerman's “Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassasier” – roughly - Our need for consolation is impossible to satisfy.

I like the title a lot, it seems to work really well, impossible à rassasier means the same as “insatiable” but is somehow, well, more satisfying.

I had never heard of Stig Dagerman, and found him again shortly afterwards, in JG Le Clézio’s Nobel speech – he is the last writer he mentions.

wie ein frau has a cow – a love story

“In his early years, Gerry Rafferty earned money busking on the London Underground. Poetically, his biggest hit "Baker Street" was about busking at a tube station."

It is certainly one of the songs that signifies the seventies for me.

"Two sources have told the Guardian that 61-year-old Rafferty is "alive and sounding comparatively well". It is estimated that he makes a reasonable income each year from royalties received from his most famous track, Baker Street, which came from his solo album, City to City. ".


Agreeable sound, especially in the phonetic quality of words.[French euphonie, from Late Latin euphōnia, from Greek euphōniā, from euphōnos, sweet-voiced : eu-, eu- + phōnē, sound.]

euphonic eu·phon'ic (yū-fŏn'ĭk) adj.
euphonically eu·phon'i·cal·ly adv.

euphemism – truism – eurythmics - europe - euphoria - euphoric - utopic - empathy - elegiac - utopia- usted - ousted - yank

Out on a limn? I am always surprised when I learn a new word in English, as if speaking a language meant knowing all the words in it.


limn (lm)

tr.v. limned, limn·ing (lmnng), limns

1. To describe.

2. To depict by painting or drawing.

[Middle English limnen, to illuminate (a manuscript), probably alteration (influenced by limnour, illustrator) of luminen, from Old French luminer, from Latin l min re, to illuminate, adorn, from l men, l min-, light; see leuk- in Indo-European roots.]