Sunday 31 July 2016

My Stuff

I want to Reconsider My Life. I guess I'm in the pre contemplation stage. I've read lots of articles about Japanese sensation Marie Kondo and her methods of transforming lives. Of course I've even bought her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but naturally I haven't read it yet. 

Recently I watched an interesting Finnish documentary called My Stuff. 26 year old Petri Luukkainen is single and lives in Helsinki. He's been dissatisfied with his life for a while. 

My stuff has begun to define who I am.
My flat is all full now, yet I'm empty inside. 
So he sets up a rather intriguing experiment. Petri puts literally all of his stuff in a self storage unit and allows himself to get one item a day. 
I'm rebelling against my stuff. 
In what seems a rather Scandinavian approach he starts off naked in his apartment, which is now completely empty, and he has to do a nude run through a Helsinki winter night to get a single coat. 

It's certainly not how I'd structure things, but it's interesting to watch someone else do it. I don't want to butter my bread with my finger, or use the same finger to clean my teeth.

I need room to think why I'm not happy. 

Initially Petri's quality of life goes through the roof each and every day with each retrieved item. But very quickly Petri isn't getting something every day from the storage unit. 

7 things is plenty. I won't take anything. 

He didn't go to the storage for 10 days! But then makes a big grab including his bike. Petri has a lovely relationship with his grandmother who he goes to for advice. She is quite old, old enough to be considering her mortality, and that the things that will inevitably be all left behind. She's sweet, and gently supportive.

The advantages of living in a climate
that provides an external fridge

Rather astonishingly it is 51 days before he picks up his laptop, but he still doesn't have a phone, and his friends start to push back about how he can't organise social outings without a phone. One of the most surprising, and yet obvious things for me when Petri was thinking about his possessions:
A table needs a chair.
That's rather philosophical really and taking things back to basics. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Petri comes to realise that "Your life is not made of your things". He does eventually pick up his phone, and in the end decides that he can manage with 100 things, but needs another 100 things for comfort and joy. 

My Stuff is available at SBS On Demand. (I can't be sure whether this link will work outside Australia)

Thursday 28 July 2016

12 Books Every Australian Should Read

I do love book lists that make the books within compulsory reading. They're always good to ponder, and this one from Australian Geographic is no exception. Check out the original page as it gives a passioned plea for each books inclusion.

1. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin, first published 1901

2. The Harp in the South - Ruth Park, first published 1948

3. Voss - Patrick White, first published 1957

4. Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay, first published 1967 (see my review)

5. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton, first published 1991

6. True History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey, first published 2000

7. The Secret River - Kate Grenville, 2005

8. Carpentaria - Alexis Wright, 2006

9. A Fraction of the Whole - Steve Toltz, 2008

10. Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey, first published 2009

11. Autumn Laing - Alex Miller, 2011

12. The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan, 2014

5/12, well  really 4.5/12, as I only ever got half way through Cloudstreet. It was a difficult time when I tried to read it, I was working permanent night shift, I've long thought that I should try it again, and I hope to one day.

I'm a great fan of Jasper Jones, so exceptionally thrilled to see it here. The Secret River languishes in the OMG I Can't Believe I Haven't Read That Yet section of my life.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Stage 21 Le Tour de France 2016

I've just spent the last three weeks working two jobs. My day job and my night job- sitting on the couch trying to stay awake to watch the Tour de France. I've had variable success. Apparently Mark Cavendish won 4 stages. I didn't see any of his wins. The broadcast here is from 10pm to 2am, it's a marathon for the Australian viewer, one that I've whinged about before.

But it started in Normandy this year, at the spectacular Mont St Michel. I saw that. I had been there in 1998, it's such an astonishing place. Of course there is spectacular scenery along most of the 3,000 km route. My favourite stage is the final stage, Stage 21 Chantilly/Paris Champs Élysées. The Tour de France has finished on the Champs Élysées since 1975. And I was there, on the Rue de Rivoli in 2013 to watch the final laps of the 100th Tour (and see Chris Froome win his first). It was an incredible experience.

Sunday night I got home from work at midnight just in time to watch the stage start. I did the best I could but had to give up as the cyclists arrived at the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. I taped it and watched the last few hours the next afternoon. The broadcast didn't finish until 5 am. It's pretty impossible. 

The final stage is basically a nonstop moment of Paris glory. There are heaps of aerial shots of iconic monuments. 

with some unusual view points at times

The Louvre

A glimpse of the new Les Halles,
I haven't had the chance to visit as yet. 

Opéra Garnier
one of my favourite Parisian buildings
I end up visiting every trip

I just love the gilded bronze statue of Joan of Arc
at this corner, Place des Pyramides

The spectacle of the Patrouille de France
they did a perfectly timed flyover as the cyclists
turned onto the Champs Élysées
And there was some cycling too. 

Celebrating with a beer!
Instead of the traditional champagne
A fabulous stage win for André Greipel,
with Peter Sagan second.
Two of my favourite sprinters.

Paris in July 2016

Sunday 24 July 2016


As soon as I began reading Sounder I realised that I was in similar territory to another 1970s Newbery winner- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry which I read a few months ago (see my review). Sounder is the slightly older of the two books, published in 1969, and is historical fiction telling the story of a black sharecropping family in the South of America at an unspecified time, although I can't remember a car ever being in the story even for the police so I suspect it is set quite some time before the Depression era tale of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Sounder is quite an unusual book to read, as Sounder, a dog, is the only named character. Sounder lives with a family in their isolated, unpainted, uncurtained cabin. Actually Sounder lives under the cabin, sleeping on coffee sacks under the stairs. Sounder found the father when he "wasn't more'n a pup."

'Sounder and me must be about the same ag,' the boy said, tugging gently at one of the coon dog's ears, and then the other. He felt the importance of the years- a s child measures age- which separated I'm from the younger children. He was old enough to stand out in the cold and run his fingers over Sounder's head. 

The family are very poor, eeking out their rather marginal existence. The boy is keen to learn, and keen to go to school but the eight mile walk each way is too much in the winter cold. Sounder and his master, the boy's father, go out hunting each night, but they have been returning empty handed for some time. There were no racoon or possum hides to sell, and no meat for the family to eat. Winter also meant no crops, no work, and so no pay.

There are some interesting quotes about books, stemming from William H. Armstrong's work as a teacher I suspect.
The boy had heard once that some people had so many book they only read each one once.
It shouldn't have surprised me I suppose but it was a shock to have it pointed out that "no mailman passed and there was no mailbox" for the poor and illiterate. At one stage the boy retrieves a book from the rubbish. Rather intriguingly for someone who has taught himself to read by reading signs in stores he finds himself holding a book of Essays by Montaigne.

It was a book of stories about what people think. There were titles such as Cruelty, Excellent Men, Education, Cripples, Justice, and many others. The boy sat down, leaned back against the barrel, and began to read from the story called Cruelty.

But the words were "too new and strange". Sounder is a slim little volume, a mere 90 pages, but it sure packs an emotional punch. The boy's father is driven to do a desperate act by poverty and lack of food for his family. These are resilient, strong people living most difficult lives. There is indeed Cruelty and violence.

William H. Armstrong was a white teacher, and some people have criticized that he can't tell a black story. In an Author's Note at the beginning of the book he tells of a black man he knew in his childhood. This man told him the story of Sounder.

It is the black man's story, not mine.... It was history- his history. 


Thursday 21 July 2016

Children's Books Set in Paris

The lovely Deb at Readerbuzz put together a fantastic list of Children's Books Set in Paris for Paris in July this month. Naturally, I had to think about this list a bit more. I ended up expanding it a bit.

A Giraffe Goes to Paris - Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, Jon Cannell

A Hundred Million Francs - Paul Berna

A Lion in Paris - Beatrice Alemagna

A Little in Love - Susan Fletcher (see my review)

A Spree in Paree - Catherine Stock

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

A Walk in Paris - Salvatore Rubbino

An Armadillo in Paris - Julie Kraulis

Adelaide - Tomi Ungerer

Adèle & Simon - Barbara McClintock

Alice-Miranda in Paris - Jacqueline Harvey (see my review)

Anatole - Eve Titus, Paul Galdone

Belinda in Paris - Amy Young 

Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child - Jessie Hartland

Catherine Certitude - Patrick Modiano, Sempé (see my review)

Charlotte in Paris - Annie Bryant

Chasing Degas - Eva Montanari

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Ian Fleming (see my review)

City Cat - Kate Banks, Lauren Castillo

Come Fly with Me - Satomi Ichikawa

Come With Me to Paris - Gloria Fowler, Min Heo

Crêpes by Suzette - Monica Wellington

Critter - Tomi Ungerer

Different Like Coco - Elizabeth Matthews

Dodsworth in Paris - Tim Egan

Eloise in Paris - Kay Thompson, Hilary Knight

Everybody Bonjours! - Leslie Kimmelman, Sarah McMeneny

Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures. Framed in France - Jeff Brown, Macky Pamintuan

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau - Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (see my review)

Henri's Walk to Paris - Leonore Klein

Kiki & Coco in Paris - Nina Gruener, Stephanie Raiser, Jess Brown

Let's Go, Hugo - Angela Dominguez

Lily B. on the brink of Paris - Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Madame Eiffel. The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower - Alice Brière-Hacquet, Csil

Madame Martine - Sarah S. Brannen

Madame Pamplemousse Series - Rupert Kingfisher (see my review)

Madeline - Ludwig Bemelmans

Minette's Feast - Susanna Reich, Amy Bates

Minnie and Moo Go to Paris - Denys Cazet

Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris - Marissa Moss

Mirette on the High Wire - Emily Arnold McCully

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris - Leigh Hobbs (see my review)

Mr Leon's Paris - Barroux, Sarah Ardizzone (translator) (see my review)

My Secret Guide to Paris - Lisa Schroeder (see my review)

Nicholas - Goscinny & Sempé (see my review)

No Dogs Allowed - Linda Ashman, Kristin Sorra

Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) - Maira Kalman

Oops! - Jean-Luc Fromental, Joëlle Jolivet (see my review)

Paris. A Three-Dimensional Expanding City Skyline - Sarah McMenemy

Paris-Chien. Adventures of an ex-pat dog - Jackie Clark Mancuso

Paris. Everything you ever wanted to know - Lonely Planet (see my review)

Paris in the Spring with Picasso - Joan Yolleck, Marjorie Priceman

Paris Up, Up and Away - Hélène Druvert

Pearlie in Paris - Wendy Harmer (see my review)

Pigeon of Paris - Natalie Savage Carlson (see my review)

Postmark Paris. A Story in Stamps - Leslie Jonath

Revolution - Jennifer Donnelly

Rooftoppers - Katherine Rundell

Ruby Red Shoes Goes to Paris - Kate Knapp (see my review)

Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder - Tanya Lee Stone, Boris Kulikov

Secret Letters From 0 to 10 - Susie Morgenstern

The Cat Who Walked Across France - Kate Banks, Georg Hallensleben

The Cows Are Going to Paris - David Kirby & Allen Woodman, Chris S. Demarest

The Family Under the Bridge - Natalie Savage Carlson, Garth Williams (see my review)

The French Confection - Anthony Horowitz (see my review)

The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau - Jon Agee

The Inside-Outside Book of Paris - Roxie Munro

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick (see my review)

The Mighty Lalouche - Matthew Olshan, Sophie Blackall

The Mona Lisa Caper - Rick Jacobson

The Moon Was the Best - Charlotte Zolotow, Tina Hoban

The Red Balloon - A. Lamorisse

The Red Necklace - Sally Gardner

The Story of Diva and Flea - Mo Willems, Tony DiTerizzi

The Tale of Hilda Louise - Olivier Dunrea

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (see my review)

This is Paris - M. Sasek

Tiger in a Tutu - Fabi Santiago

Zazie in the Metro - Raymond Queneau (see my review)

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin - Lloyd Moss, Marjorie Priceman


October 2016 36/81

June 2018 37/81

Paris in July 2016

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Where the Lilies Bloom

I'm no expert in Appalachian literature, although I did enjoy Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods a few years ago, and so I'd never really heard of Where the Lilies Bloom until it came time to read it as part of my 1001 quest. It's a powerful read. Coincidentally I've read a few books this year about poor sharecropping families in the American South. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (see my review) and Sounder (review soon-ish).

Where the Lilies Bloom tells the story of the Luther family who live a hard, rather meagre existence in a run down home in a remote part of North Carolina. Mary Call is our 14 year old narrator. She lives with her father Roy Luther, and her siblings Devola, Romey and Ima Dean. Roy Luther is quite unwell and preparing himself and the family for his death. He asks Mary Call to take over when he's gone, to look after the family, and stop her older sister the beautiful yet "cloudy-headed" Devola from marrying the slovenly, mean neighbour and landlord Kiser Pease. It's a lot to ask.

So it is that Roy Luther has requisitioned me  to give him a simple, homemade burial when the time comes. After I am sure his heart and breathing have stopped, I am to wrap him in an old, clean sheet and take him to his final resting place which will be within a stand of black spruce up on Old Joshua. We have not talked about how I am to get him there. 

It's all a rather intricate set up for the classic orphan tale. The children's mother has already died "of the fever" four years earlier, and Roy Luther is ailing rather quickly. It's a hard enough life with a father to head the household, but is about to become harder still for four children living alone in the wild mountains of Appalachia.

He's let things beat him, Roy Luther has. The land, Kiser Pease, the poverty. Now he's old and sick and ready to die and when he does, this is what we'll inherit- his defeat and all that goes with it.

But Mary Call is tenacious, and this is a story of determination and persistence in the face of true adversity. No first world problems here. Their house is crumbling around them, they have very few resources, and a harsh winter is setting in.

I'm not going to let this beat me. If it does, everything else will for the rest of my life. 
The Luther family turn to "wildcrafting", gathering wild buds, roots, leaves and bark, to make money. In an afterword the authors tell that they were inspired to write Where the Lilies Bloom after they moved to Boone, North Carolina and met people earning their living this way. "There are whole families who occupy themselves thus and earn a fair living at it, but this is not an occupation for the lazy, the squeamish of the fainthearted."

Where the Lilies Bloom is full of strong, memorable characters, I think I will remember them for some time.


Monday 18 July 2016

French News

I've been trying to learn French for thirty something years. Ugh, it's rather terrifying when I put it like that - especially given my current level of ability. But then just recently Facebook has told me that Attainable Goals Are Key anyway.

So maybe I've already made it?

Possibly, but I do like to keep plugging away. I have a few favourite sources of French news that I try to use, watch, listen to each week to keep improving, or at least not regressing particularly badly, and to know what's going on in France. French news is a great way of hearing French regularly, particularly when you live in a rather Anglophone part of the world.

Australians are especially lucky to have SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), our multilingual broadcaster. My favourite is 20 Heures, a weekend news broadcast (also available on the France TV website). I record the Monday broadcast here because the rather delightful Laurent Delahousse is usually the presenter.

He made all the Brexit stuff seem much more interesting. 

Sometimes it gets rather difficult to follow whatever he may be talking about. But it does make the ironing fly by. 

It's really interesting to see news from another country's perspective. The report on the Eurovision final was all about Russia, Ukraine and France.

Australia came second, which was a phenomenal result, and while we did rate a mention, it was all gone in but a moment. There is much more news about Africa than we see here in Australia (i.e. essentially none).

Sometimes there is just some good old Paris porn. 

Another recent story highlighted Bateaux-Mouches, their history and they seemed to be making some new boats. I've done a few trips on the Seine now (a Paris must-do) and the last time we used Bateaux-Mouches - it was fab, and lovely to be reminded of that trip just by watching the news. 

Some problems are the same the world over. There was a recent story about a dog refuge, and I learned that 100, 000 dogs are abandoned in France each year. Some stories are particularly French. I remember one story about policemen and chickens a few years ago, I still don't know what it was actually about. Some of the mysteries of language and culture will always remain secret.

I also often listen to a radio news broadcast on SBS. It's on four times a week - Mardi, Jeudi, Samedi and Dimanche à tries hears, also online at any time. I hope these are available outside Australia, but am not sure if they are.

For some reason I tend not to use French online newspapers, like Le Monde or Le Figaro, or even Le Parisian or 20 minutes (that devil of no time again I suspect) There are lots of English language news services that report on French news. France24. The Local. They're good too, but it's better fun to bat on in French I think.

News in Slow French is a weekly subscription service that I've used a few times, but not as often as I'd like. They offer a weekly episode with an annotated transcript. It's very handy to be able to read the transcript and listen to the audio simultaneously. You can listen to snippets of it free online, but need to subscribe to get the full episode. If I had more time available I'd really like to try a subscription.

What are your favourite French language news services?

Paris in July 2016

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog