Wednesday, December 28, 2005
[*] After sending in an application letter (as requested) to the French consulate for a long-stay visa to study and travel, I received a set of forms (in quintuplicate) to complete for moving to France and no cover letter to clarify how the form was to be completed in the context of my application. It's like banging your head against a wall (in quintuplicate). The form also asks you to phone a particular number for an interview appointment, but that number simply has a recorded message saying that phone applications are not accepted, and to write. Goto [*].
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
Found a CD of Casella & Respighi playing 4H arrangement of "The Fountains of Rome" at Harold Moore's (where my little companion is always well received). Was also delighted to find a DVD of the Merchant Ivory farce Merci Dr Rey.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Today's newspapers were full of interesting detail:
We spent the afternoon in Bath, where the proprietor of its smallest pub, the Coeur de Lion took a real shine to Bondi. I was invited in for free mulled wine while Bondi lounged before the fireplace.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Next few days were spent relaxing at some stables in Gloucestershire (above).
Saturday, December 17, 2005
*yes the song is about Winchester Cathedral.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Whiled away 3 or 4 hours at the Wigan cineplex watching Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. The point has been made before that there is probably a shorter great movie lurking within the longer almost-great movie up on the screen. Nevertheless, only a complete curmudgeon could deny the presence of beautiful moments in the beastly length.
Watch for Howard Shore as the conductor in the theatre where Kong has his NY debut. Since he was replaced as composer for the film during post production - by James Newton Howard (oops almost wrote James Newtown Hotel) - I wonder if he was conducting his own music, or had the latter's played over his arm-waving.
A letter arrived from France, confirming my enrolment at a Parisian language school. I was thus able to send a letter onto the French Consulate in London to ask for an appointment for a long-stay visa. If I can get that sorted, it means I can plan further jaunts into the continent with greater confidence. I'm earmarking time in August for the 20th anniversary of the Rarities of Piano Music festival - held each year in Husum, Schleswig-Holstein. I can imagine passing through there either on my way to or from Scandinavia.
I slipped into Manchester this afternoon for a haircut - the first since my #1 cut in September - so I'm looking a little less wild and woolly. Sadly, my fave cafe there Love Saves the Day seems to have closed down, so I'll have to look to more obscure places for a decent coffee in the north of England.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
We had our smoothest run up the M1/M6 ever, and so I phoned ahead to Bondi's vet to get him booked in for a late afternoon session of overdue medications.
Left Cherbourg without the best of memories. The manager of the Ibis hotel refused to pay for the doctor they ordered for me after becoming ill from a meal from their kitchen: "I'm not responsible for my guests". Couldn't even get the cost of the meal deducted from the bill ... the manager only left the option of complaining to Accor (the hotel group that owns Ibis, Mercure, ...).
This picture is on the ferry in Cherbourg port, just before 9am. Travellers were asked to check-in at least 90 minutes before departure, but no one turned up from Brittany Ferries to man the entrance gates till less than an hour before departure, so we were left huddled in our cars unnecessarily as the temperature hovered around freezing.
Thankfully it was a very very smooth voyage to Portsmouth, and we were London bound by 1.45pm.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
After a late room-service dinner at my hotel, I fell victim to gastroenteritis, and after a pretty terrible night, a doctor was summoned. So I need to lie down for the rest of the day and will miss the local sight seeing I had planned :-(.
Friday, December 09, 2005
My mood wasn't improved at MSM. It looks great at a distance, a medieval Emerald City cast adrift off the coast of Normandy ... but really a very grey place dominated by Lourdes-style souvenir shops and pizzerias. There's a long spit-road from nearby (drab, cheap hotel-dominated) Beauvoir, so that you are above the reach of tides licking the flat marshland for miles around the rock. I read somewhere that it is now only surrounded by water about twice a month. Not much else is on in the immediate area, apart from a Reptilarium where they raise staff to run ticket gates at MSM.
I returned briefly to the spit the next morning to get some better pictures as the wind was blowing so hard on Thursday that I couldn't hold the camera steady.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Out of Angers, for a day of château-spotting. Angers is a sister-city to Wigan, obvious from the fact that I can’t understand what denizens of either are saying. Admittedly the French do have a better line in fountains.
The Loire was completely obscured by fog until I reached Saumur, en route to Fontevraud.
The 904 year-old Abbey Royale de Fontevraud is where Eleanor of Aquitaine and some of her contemporaries are buried. The surrounding village is beautifully quiet, and the huge abbey grounds with their white-walled cloisters are a tonic for the soul. The abbey has been used for a large number of choral and instrumental CDs*, and must have been a major recording studio during its heyday in the middle-ages.
* Sorry, Mr 'uxley: no Original Cloisters Performance of Nunsense. The Abbey was a prison for all of the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, so I could imagine an inmate's performance of (no, not Prisoners of Love!) Madame Butterfly... Ah Pauvre Papillon! But enough of such nonsense, I'm trying to type in a freezing carpark in Beauvoir (near Mont St Michel) where I can get wireless internet access and my hairy hand is frozen.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I've just read that scientists have identified the dog laugh. " It's that excited panting along with a big smile you see when a dog greets its people, has a thrilling rabbit chase, takes an invigorating swim in a river or sees its buddies at the dog park. "
When I have Bondi with me, then the situation is a little different.
Random Jacques: Jeneparapluijesuispamplemoose [I mean what..ev..er: it can only be ONE thing]
Me: Malamute de Alaska.
Random Jacques (emboldened): [in French] How did you find the final volume of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu ?
Me: [I have no idea what he said, so maintain beatific smile]
Random Jacques: [thinks:] Ah! a philosopher! A true Frenchman! [says:] alouettegentille alouettealouettejeteplumerai. [more unintelligible nonsense]
Me: [getting older and more exasperated] Je suis desole. Je ne parle pas Francais.
Random Jacques: [taps temple several times] These Frenchmen are crazy!
I had a brief CD shopping orgy in FNAC, ending with me carrying off a new Vivaldi opera, some Satie rendered by oud, lute & chanter, a sprinkling of jazz piano trios and some other on-a-whim. I'll get to properly hear them in the car tomorrow when I'm following the Loire eastwards.
Just had a brainfart to check on availability of Robert Lepage's Far Side of the Moon on DVD - an adaptation of his fabulous one-man stage-play. I recalled that it had screened a film festival somewhere and I had missed the opportunity to see it. Anyway, in typical scary universe fashion, it turns out that it was released on December 2.
The last time I had a brainfart like that, was when I was trying to remember the names of some books I'd loved as a child, about an elephant in an incredible castle (not Babar!). Well I finally recalled it was the Uncle series by J.P.Martin, illustrated by Quentin Blake. That month they were reprinted for the first time in nearly 30 years! That is, two out of six books were - the publisher refuses to do the others on the grounds that they are dated and classist. Just like the other books they've been compared to: Alice in Wonderland et al. They also pop up on nearly every published list of the greatest English children's literature, but still they are largely unknown to those under
* My baby-sitter used to be a man
* My bigamous husband swapped his wives' children at birth
* I played golf with the beast of the apocalypse
* My son is having an affair with a novitiate
Today I found this little gem:
If you open your heart to a cat and love it forever, it will eventually love you back.