Whatever little time I have at the moment is spent almost exclusively drooling over the thought of calissons. That no doubt someone in my family has just eaten or is about to eat (if it’s my father as a side to coffee) because it’s Christmas time and calissons flow freely this time of year.
It’s more than six years since I’ve eaten one… Can’t… take… much… more!
(Image from here)
I am typically not very fond of anything taken from French and adapted into English (song or movie). I don’t really see the point: I got what ‘made it’ in its original form and why I liked it, so I am typically biased and assume I won’t like a remake or cover.
Part of it is indignation, part of it is snobbery (but it was so good in French! Why would you change it? Can’t people watch dubbed movies?). I know, it’s close-minded. I’m working on it. And I have to admit that despite my prejudice, my socks have been knocked off a few times by song covers (movies, maybe not so much). The Rakes’s taking on ‘Le Poinçonneur des Lilas’ is one perfect example. I love love love it, and the evocative poetry of 1950s underground Paris having morphed into London’s Piccadilly Tube station just works. Not even a shred of indignation I feel.
Now they just have to make a video as good as Serge Gainsbourg’s, because I’m afraid his is still hands down better.
My little nephew Scott just turned 5 (and it seems like yesterday I was on the phone with his father at 1:30AM Melbourne time getting updates on his birth, dancing around the kitchen in excitement/sleep-deprived delirium – does it go even quicker when they’re your own?). We’re working on a little project for him and we need the weather to seriously start cooperating because we can’t do it in rain, cold and wind.
Speaking of birthdays, it’s also my mother’s today. But I’m not working on a project for her involving paper and scissors… I know, I’m playing favourites… Sorry Maman…
So ‘Chemical Yeast’ in French translates to ‘Baking Powder’ in English. And when recipes call for half a packet (it’s understood it’s a packet of Alsa, which is a kitchen staple in France), it’s 5 grammes-ish.
The lightbulb just went off in my head. It’s a bit embarrassing considering I’ve lived here 9 years and brought home baker’s yeast countless times (direct translation, see?) and didn’t bother to investigate on Wikipedia until this morning, even when the resulting cakes and biscuits tasted a bit too much like bread.
(Image from here).
On occasion my mind pulls out of nowhere a little gem from back home that makes me at once nostalgic and very giggly. For no apparent reason I started to think about the FLNJ yesterday (that’s ‘Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin‘: ‘Front for the Liberation of Garden Gnomes‘) – and I am not punking anyone: it’s real.
France takes freedom very seriously – it’s in our country’s motto and it was stamped on our coins until we joined the Euro. The ‘Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin‘ is basically about kidnapping garden gnomes that are perceived as enslaved and open to ridicule as ornaments of private gardens. They are taken out to forests or parks and ‘released’ back to a more natural habitat, free to frolic and do their gnome thing.
I wasn’t familiar with the FLNJ until I saw one of their posters in Montmartre in 1999. And my vague understanding is that there are branches throughout France that have periods of activity and then lay low for a while (it’s a bit like Fight Club so it’s hard to find information – I suspect the first rule of FLNJ is, well, you know).
And let’s be clear: the liberators aren’t just thieves after some adrenaline kick – although I can’t imagine jumping a fence and plucking a gnome from a bed of lettuce is much of a kick – they always leave an FLNJ manifesto in the letter box. And even go as far as revealing the location where the gnomes will be released so their owners can retrieve (and re-enslave) them.
I love how useless and nonsensical it is. And I secretly suspect my sister of moonlighting with the FLNJ because when I pointed to the poster in Montmartre, she immediately knew what it was and explained the FLNJ’s philosophy. The stronger she denies it, the stronger my suspicion will be. My sister is after all a born righter of wrongs.
(Image from here).
Has it already been a week? Dang.
All right: have some Sophie Marceau doing a happy little dance until I come back with more pictures and stories. It’s taken by the way from a not so good French film (Fanfan) – if you ask me this is the best part.
PS: Would you find it useful if I wrote some French movie and tv reviews?
PPS: You might be puzzled as to why Vincent Pérez is also dancing and what is actually going on. He rented the studio next door to Fanfan and had a fancy two-way mirror installed so he can watch her (he thinks he’s in love with her but he’s already engaged, bla bla bla). Creepy? Much.
This fountain is one of my childhood landmarks – and if I had to explain the concept of time this is the most poetic way I can think of.
The garden and the fountain are at the back of a humongous ‘hôtel particulier‘, in a street I skipped down every Wednesday to go to my weekly music lesson. Behind a dark green gate – so my only ticket to seeing the fountain was if the gate was open. Because aged 6, I was predictably too short to peer above the gate. I can’t tell you how many times I was crushed when I caught my breath in front of that damn closed gate… Arghhhh, so close!
Until I grew to a surprising 1.75m in height (maman and sister Sophie are both a little shorter) – and then, ha ha, could see the fountain whether the gate was closed or not, any time, any day. And I never got tired of looking at it. I always found it as magical and beautiful, and spared a thought back to my shorter, younger version who fumed in disappointment so many times being denied a peek…
This is a poor quality image taken with a disposable camera on an overcast day, but I am biding my time until I can take proper pictures with my good camera… Next trip…
Some quick orientation: the Music Conservatory that was for sale for 12 million euros? At the end of the street, same side as the garden and fountain. The Horseman on the Roof – shot a few metres down on the ‘Place des Quatre Dauphins‘ and adjoining streets in 1995. I used to walk down during my school lunch break to look at the set (my school, few streets up). There you have it.
At the moment I know technically we’re supposed to be in spring. Except I’m pretending we’re in Autumn (because that’s what September is supposed to be in my world view, even after 8 years in Melbourne – stubborn I am). I think I’ve still got a good month and a half of denial ahead of me when I’ll be able to wear toasty stockings and shoes, and rug up in scarves and béret during our daily walks.
And then it’ll be on to summer and I’ll blind people with my paleness like every year, while my siblings go towards dark months and a winter Christmas. And like every year I won’t manage to get into the festive spirit of a hot Christmas day… I need freezing cold with a chance of snow, dark at 5PM, my brother scoffing marrons glacés and the telling of jokes from inside papillotes wrappers – and then it feels like Christmas. Stubborn and grinch-ey am I?