This was one of the reasons I used to love going over to Normandy regularly. Seen on my Facebook feed a short while ago.
This is my first post since the New Year, so I’d like to start by wishing everybody a Happy New Year. I hope, if you did anything, that you had a good time.
I had a quiet time last night. I don’t go much past 9pm these days, I managed until about 10pm last night (thank you, Arnie, but I gave up and am watching the rest this morning!) but was sound asleep by midnight. Even some local fireworks (apparently) didn’t stir me. But last night, I also had a little help…
One thing I do like to do on New Year’s Eve is to crack open a nice bottle of wine. I’ve never drunk large quantities of wine, even less now, but it is something which always fascinated me. I used to love going over to France to visit the wine regions and maybe add something to the collection.
Probably our most successful trip was down to Burgundy in 2002. Not only did we all have a brilliant time, it was very warm, sunny weather and the gite had a pool, but I managed to bring back a few cases of superb wines, direct from the producers. My daughter, who was then about three, even enjoyed coming tasting with me (although her sips were limited, and I was driving)! And Burgundy is hallowed ground in wine terms. There is a road between Dijon and Beaune, the D974, and the villages and vineyards along the road read like a who’s who of world-class wines. Before God invented road numbering, it was simply known as the Route des Grands Crus, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But because I found learning about wine preferable to drinking it, once I returned from France, my collection would only decrease very slowly. So this was my treat last night (or, two glasses of it. The rest is there for today, to enjoy with my cheese sandwich):
Don’t let the grubbiness of the label fool you – it is grubby because I have let it sit, untouched, for twenty years. This is actually a bottle of grand cru wine, 1995 vintage. In (Burgundy) wine terms, a grand cru is the highest reputation vineyard. It refers to the vineyard rather than the particular wine or the year, although the vinyard gains its overall status, of course, based on the wines produced there over the years. A grand cru is about as safe a bet you can get for a good wine.
The grower, the Louis Latour company, owns plots in several vineyards in the region, and the Chateau Corton Grancey ranks high among them. I always liked the French appellation system because just these few labels narrow the origin to a specific couple of fields – in the world – not just for wines but all sorts of other foods too. Plus Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status guarantees a certain standard. If we think there is any merit in identifying regional foods, we should be using that system too. In the UK, it exists for very few things but is not widespread – we’ve usually no idea where our food has come from.
Ahhh… nothing better than remembering a decent holiday over a delicious glass of wine! Delicious? I’ve got to say more than just delicious. How about sublime? Burgundy is my personal favourite region in any case – surpassing even Bordeaux – and something like champagne is vinegar in comparison. When I taste a Burgundy, I expect to be transported back, and fortunately this wine did not disappoint. So, let’s say that by bedtime, 2019 was looking better, and New Year’s Day, at least, doesn’t look bad either! I’m sure it’ll start going downhill tomorrow!
Lastly, my featured image. Orange tart. Wine was not all my daughter managed to try out!
I look for plusses everywhere these days.
I was very happy at the weekend. I have a small-ish collection of movies, for a computer geek who stores everything worth anything onto hard disk. Of that small collection, a disproportionate number of them are in French.
I find that Hollywood films (and, by extension, British films) are mostly pretty rubbish, but have found over the years that French cinema has produced some brilliant storylines. I always used to buy films with their original soundtrack, but with English subtitles – dubbing was not for me because part of the process was to pick up snippets of the language to take away with me. My knowledge of French was enough to set me on the right track, and with the help of subtitles the films made sense to me. Even if subtitles aren’t massively accurate. True to form, many of the films were useful just for picking up small phrases and later using them over in France.
But with my eyes not being so good, my collection of French cinema has remained untouched for the last few years. Until last weekend.
I was home alone, my wife away visiting family, so had some time on my hands. So, on Saturday I watched what is probably my favourite film ever, in any language, one called Le Bonheur est dans le Pré (which Google translates as Happiness is in the Field, and who can argue with Google?)
I’m not big on actors, but this film contains one of my favourites, Michel Serrault. You might have heard of him from La Cage aux Folles.
But I’m not going to go into detail about either the film, or the actor. I have them as ideas for future posts, so don’t want to spoil the surprise! Suffice it to say that I got through the film, my eyes and ears kept the pace, and I could follow what was going on.
On a roll, on Sunday, I watched Robert de Niro (and Jean Reno, another favourite) in Ronin. This film is mostly in English, with a scattering of French, so a bit easier. It helps that it is set in Paris and Arles, both of which have happy memories. Again, I passed with flying colours, although I could feel the late night yesterday!
I saw a nice surprise yesterday. Years ago I used to read a particular blog. In those days, I had no idea about platforms, I just signed up for emails when she posted. Her tale was interesting – she was an English woman living in Paris. I guess from her perspective, it was just “life”.
I used to love it in Paris, I’d have liked to have lived there myself, but my choice of career made that unlikely. IT is very English-language-focussed and France is, well, French! And by working in both London and New York, I was already in the Premier League, and France would have been a step backwards.
I must be roughly the same age as this woman, had kids at roughly the same time, etc. I think mine was a little bit older, but only by a couple of years. We diverged because while I was settled down by then, she was going through the shitstorm that is life – maybe that was partly why she was interesting, because she had a different life to me?
The woman wrote in an age when a good blog could lead to a book deal. Maybe it still can? And she duly published stuff. I read her first, but it was largely a re-hash of the blog. I think she wrote some more, but I stopped at one.
At some time, years later, I got myself a Facebook account. Maybe I re-read this woman’s book? But whatever the reason, I found her on Facebook., although she’d stopped blogging by then. I forgot about it until I logged on yesterday and saw a post from her, linking to a new blog she now writes. Lots of water under the bridge, and she now writes from the perspective of having bipolar problems.
With recovery, I think a big thing early on is what manages what. Do you manage the illness, or does it manage you? I found that with the stroke – some people could spend the day in bed due to fatigue, but I fought tooth and nail to get past that. And as I managed to get more control, my world got bigger, my horizons broadened to the point where I now blog about all sorts. With this woman, I scanned through the new blog yesterday and saw posts on what seemed like a variety of subjects – there’s certainly been a change over the last couple of years, and seems to have moved away from her health. I hope that’s an indicator of recovery from her perspective too, claiming life back for herself.
The posts are quite infrequent, so presumably there is a whole load of other shit going on, and the blog is just the stuff she chooses to share with the world. I don’t detect a lot of conscious “recovery” stuff, although I suspect that she, too, would define recovery as “getting your old life back”.
Incidentally…in the mid-nineties, I used to visit Paris maybe one weekend per month, before I went to the US, before marriage, before parenthood, before flying was bad!
I used to live in and fly from Southampton, and home-to-Paris could be as little as a couple of hours. The areas I knew well were those around the fifth and thirteenth arondissements, away from the centre a little, the area around the Rue Mouffetard, the Avenue des Gobelins, out to the Place d’Italie, if those places mean anything to you. I used to stay in a tiny hotel on the Rue Censier, when not with friends.
I used to love going to the Louvre on Sundays before I flew home, first because it was free on a Sunday. and second, because the bus to Charles de Gaulle went from the nearby Opera. My wardrobe was mostly French, and I’d have places to myself when I shopped – Saturday morning was my favourite – because “real” Parisians wouldn’t get up until lunchtime!
But Paris was really my bachelor playground and after I got together with my wife, and certainly after my daughter was born, our stays in Paris were sparse. We tended to go to France still, but stayed outside the capital. I have a friend who still lives just outside Paris, so we would meet up occasionally, and children with very little language in common would play together for a few hours. Daughter and I did the obligatory trip up the Eiffel Tower etc. – if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have bothered but it was worth it just to see her face when we came out of the metro and saw the tower for the first time.
The last time, 2008, we took a day trip there – Christmas shopping – from one of our new favourite haunts, Rouen, and had to fight our way through manic crowds by the big shops.
I don’t now know when, or even whether, I’ll get back there given my mobility these days. And, I’m reluctant to travel without money coming in. It’s one of a long list of places with very fond memories, but not really vital to revisit.
I feel incredibly sad tonight to be hearing the news that Notre Dame cathedral is ablaze.
I’m not a religious person but I loved Notre Dame – at one stage pre-marriage I used to spend about a weekend per month in Paris, so know (knew) the city very well. I used to stay in the 5th arrondissement and would regularly walk past the Pantheon down to the Île de la Cité – Paris is a beautiful city to walk around.
Who could not be moved by this?