Pistols in Paris and thoughts on Punk.

Punk Rock – forty years young this week – the release of Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols. This being a French things blog, here is a Anarchy in the Uk sung in a rather good French translation by Mr Rotten himself. Watch the video for the reaction of the French to Mr Vicious in his errant ramblings round Paris. I guess punk was designed to shock – anarchy and swastikas – no real political statement, just a confused desire to be different, to shock, to break the existing musical codes. – A much quoted start from Mr Lydon himself – he walked down that very fashionable “Swinging London” street The King’s Road in 1975, wearing a T shirt bearing the words “I hate Pink Floyd” he was  spat on by hippies (perish the thought). Punk, still as fresh now as it was then. Some music is timeless because it is too technical and immensely boring (Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Boston) etc. Some music is actual like Mr Springsteen because he addresses issues (via a gritty and traditional style). A lot f music is throwaway and expendable, but Punk is just simply eternal. Enjoy the vid. Just to say that the French never really had a rock movement equivalent to punk – French punk was just noisy new wave pop with groups like Telephone. In Rock terms (though many will disagree) France has always been very conservative – Hey we still venerate Johnny Halliday. I guess the real French musical revolution came with Electro – daft Punk, David Guetta, Lost Cities and now (oh shit) the world’s best known French artist “Christine and the Queens” WTF is that about. So dear readers, long live punk, thanks to the Pistols – I know you are all screaming “what about Joey and the guys???” well they weren’t truly punk and neither was Patty Smith – best American punk band ever, the MC5. Like the Pistols, they are not yet and will never be past their “Sell By” date. Listen to the original Sex Pistols, as good today as ever it was.

The Fate of Dictators and Revolutionaries

 

Is this the fate that befalls all dead dictators and revolutionaries ? – to become a fashion statement – to have their image emblazoned on T shirts and worn the world over by teenagers who probably have little or idea of whose face they are wearing.

Ernest Che Guevara – aka – El Che, he was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, a physician, an author, a guerrilla leader and  major figure of the Cuban Revolution. To quote one well known website ; « his stylized visage has become an ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture. » I guess that means his face is on a lot of T shirts and posters.

A « ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion » – long time back, only leftward-leaning, politically aware students would have worn a Che T shirt, then a few years ago, teenagers everywhere were wearing them – It left me wondering who was picking up the royalties ? Wich enterprising soul had bought the rights ? Or quite simply had Mr Guevara’s iconic béret-coiffed and rugged bearded countenance fallen into the public domain ?

There was also a craze for Mao T shirts, a while before Mr Guevara’s face became a popular T shirt design, kids were wearing he who inspired the Cultural Revolution as – well I suppose it was a fashion statement.

Of course no one in their right mind would walk about wearing an Adolf Hitler T shirt. Why wear Mao Zedong ? – Numerically he might not have wiped out so many people as Hitler and his Nazi régime, but there were still an estimated 2.95 million people who died during the Cultural Revolution.

If I follow my logic to its conclusion, walking round with Ché across your chest is okay because he is on record as only having executed 300 people.

So here I am, trawling the Internet, looking for fashion statements of defunct dictators who have been responsible for the deaths of millions.

One website offers up some « cool » Stalin tees for as little as 23€. I continue my browse and, hey ! Pol Pot T shirts and fridge magnets. They’re going to make good Christmas presents.

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Now that Castro is no more, is this how he will finally be remembered ? A cigar smoking face on a tee ? – I’ve just come across one website offering up to 50 different Castro tees.

So it’s « cool » to have a revolutionary emblazoned across your chest – The Che, Lenin, Trotsky or Marx, you can even have a dictator like Mao, Pol Pot or Castro – why then aren’t youngsters walking down the street wearing Hitler or Pinochet or Mussolini ? Guess these guys just aren’t as fashionable.

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Personally, I’ve never worn a T shirt to make a political statement, and you get to that age (my age) where you should never wear tees with logos – the plainer the better – which of course will never stop me, depsite advancing years and an advancing waistline, wearing my old Rock and Roll T shirts arund the house, much to the amusement of my family who just say I look ridiculous – well ridicule never killed anyone

La Cuvée du Patron or How much will you pay for your wine?

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1000 Euros for a bottle of wine! You must be mad. I could get 50 bottle of really posh plonk for that kind of money or 100 bottles of something half decent or, if I weren’t too fussed about the quality, I could drive home from the supermarket with 250 bottles of table wine. 1000 Euros or a bottle of wine – well you certainly aren’t going to drink it – this is an investment – this is going to sit in your cellar slowly gathering dust until you can sell it on for at least double the price.

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The bottle in question – a 2010 Chambertin-clos-de-bèze, fetched the astronomical price at last year’s wine sale at the Hospices de Beaune. Today marks the 2016 wine sale at Beaune and investors will be there to spend silly money on the best that Burgundy has to offer.

The Hospices de Beaune are (as the name suggests) is the town of Beaune in the Burgundy region. The Hospices are (or were) a medieval hospital offering care and alms for the poor, the sick and the needy. Beaune is in the heart of wine country – : Mersault, Pommard, Nuits St Georges, Chatteau Latour, Chablis – legendary wines that fetch astronomical prices at the yearly Beaune wine auction, where all proceeds go to funding the charitable works of the hospice.

In 2015, the wine sale in Beaune netted a record 11.3 million Euros, this year’s sale has only raised 8.4 million, roughly a quarter less.

The reasons are simple, it is not lack of buyers, there are more buyers than ever, it is a shortage of wine and the shirtagr of wine is all down to the effects of climate change. Thanks to weather change, there hasn’t been a decent harvest in the Burgundy vineyrads since 2010. Local wine producers reckon that over the past four to five years they’ve had in total the equivalent of just under two decent harvests. As the wines beome scarcer, intesrest from investors willing to pay serious wine money grows, leaving little place for those «amateurs» who buy the stuff to drink it, rather than keep it in a vault.

Prces of Pommard, Chablis and such have been rising steadily since 2010. In 2012 there was an incredible 50% price hike. 2014 saw a 26% rise and in 2015 prices rocketed by a further 37% rise – all good news for the Hospices (and also the auction house Christies who organise the annual sale). Bad news though for serious wine lovers. This begs he qustion, just how much would anyone be willing to pay for a bottle of wine. Prices are certainly on the rise.

We’ve just «celebrated» the Beaujolais nouveau in France – the «Bojo Noovo» is always released on the third Thrusday of November. Last year it was easy to pick up a bottle of this young wine for around 4 Euros at the local supermarket. This year the average bottle is retailing around 5 or 6 Euros – add on more of you fall the for the supposedly «organic» Beaujolais.

Reasons why people move to France are manifold – the weather, the beautiful countryside, the quality of life, the education system, the excellent health care – however (jokingly or not) most expats will cite the «cheap wine» as one of the reasons. is wine really that cheap?

When I see the silly prices that are paid in the UK, well wine out here in France doesn’t exactly seem cheap, just more reasonably priced in rapport with what you are drinking. My local wine is Sancerre off the shelf or from a local grower, prices are around 10 Euros a bottle – that’s roughly £8 sterling, in the UK though, I’ve seen bottles of my local tipple going for up to £20 UK (that is silly money for a bottle wine though it is certainly less than 1000€.

So, in my what you pay is what you get price guide, I am not sure of the current US$ vs € exchange rate, however for a half decent bottle of Côtes du Rhone – a Beaumesde Venise, a Rasteau, a St Joseph or a Gigondas, you can pay between 7€ and 10€, roughly between £5 and £7 UK pounds. £5 for a bottle of wine in the UK is peanuts, though you are probably buying a French table wine or an Esatern European plonk under the guise of «Bulgarian Country Wine» or «Romanian Bulls Blood» (Yep the marketing guys are scratching their heads to think up quality names for what are ostensibly amalgams of various table wines from different producers all served up in the same bottle with a sprinkling of chemicals.)

For a decent a drinkable «off the shelf» Bordeaux an uninformed drinker will lay out anything from 10€ to 15€ – for sure at this price you are getting something vaguley drinkable to share with guests over Sunday lunch (You may have understood that I am not a great fan of Bordeaux wines – Much ado about nothing)

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And now, my quest

A few years back, when all the British press were waxing lyrical about «Hoooooow Loooooovely it is to live in France,» one Sunday Times journalist said that she found lovely local table wine for just 2€ a bottle – so, with some ex-pat friends, 2 Euros in pocket and no more, we hit the local supermarkets and wine stores to see what we could bring back for 2 Euros – you had to find a proper botte of wine (ie a glass bottle with a cork, no plastic bottles and no screw tops) red white or rosé for 2 Euros or less – the result was «La Cuvée du Patron» retailing at 1.69 Euros – and you know, well as a summer BBQ wine, a sangria wine or a cooking wine, it wasn’t half bad. We later found the same wine on the wine menu of a local restaurant at 10 Euros a bottle – pretty cheap for a restaurant wine, though you might just be better buying a half liter jug of wine for 6 Euros – poured directly out the wine box.

Finally, over the past couple of years in France there has been an explosion of independent wine shops, all dealing with small vineyards and selling proper organic wines for as little as 6 Euros a bottle – little gems and all the better for your guests (and you) because they are kind of exclusive.

In this house tonight, beef stew and to wash it down, a Beaujolais Nouveau retailing at 6 Euros a bottle.

In conclusion, how much wine can you get for 1000 Euros? One bottle of «Chambertin-clos-de-bèze» or about 600 bottles of «Cuvée du Patron;» Not sure what you are drinking tonight, but CHEERS.

Thoughts on Running Away (not that I am planning to)

I’m fine, these are just a few musings.

It’s November – mournful, grey leaden skies, damp and drizzle and fog and rain and more damp and more rain and the world feels kind of rheumatic. It hurts when I move and I can’t think through the thick fog. I want to run away BUT

I’m not sure if I really want to run away. It actually sounds just a little risky and very uncomfortable- like an adventure. I don’t want real adventures, just the kind that don’t take me too far from home and finish with a large glass of malt whisky (preferably in front of a roaring fire)

Running away from home. Why? I like my home, it is comfortable and full of home comforts. This said, I am not sure that my home would be the sort of place that other considering running away might want to run to.

I’m not sure why I actually want to run away. What am I running from? My family? I love my family and though the old cliché tells us that we don’t choose our family, my wife and I chose each other and then we chose to have kids. I suppose it is simply the kids that never get to choose their parents. Apart from my close family, I have very little family left not to choose. You can choose your friends and none of them are people from whom would wish to run away, besides you just don’t run away from friends, you run away from home.

I have never thought about this ; perhaps my family would like me to run away. It would give them a break and save them having to run away from me.

You run away from home only if you are lucky enough to have a place to call home. Those who have no home are not running away, they are just running, fleeing war or persecution or poverty – these people are looking for a home to run to.

Why run away at all ? Why can’t all those people that make me feel like running away, just run away themselves. I was here first !

It is apparent that I want to run away from those events, happenings and circumstances that are upsetting me. However am I not also an integral part of the problem and wherever I run to the problem will always be there because it is in my character.

Before you run away – know what you are running from and have some idea of where you are running to.

When you run away, ensure that you buy a return ticket (preferably an open return) because you will surely return one day. As opposed to disappearing, runaways often run back. I think it running back is inherent in the term runaway.

Running away (for those who are serious runaways) is ostensibly an act of self pity. You feel sorry for yourself and you run away from those you love in the hope they will contact you and implore you to return.

If those you love do not contact you with tearful pleas for you to return forthwith and on your own terms, do you keep on running until they do contact (with the risk they won’t) or do you return home immediately to confront your loved ones.

In this last case you are confronted with the shocking discovery that those whom you thought loved you actually don’t care, indeed they were quite pleased when you decided to leave

Why did the Three Bears Go For a Walk In the Middle of Breakfast?

Hooray, it’s the weekend – that 48 hour blip when we all catch up on life – housework, washing, shoppingn and if you have kids, it’s that time for near-family breakdown as, last thing on Sunday night, your offspring retrieve their schoolbag form where they flung it on Friday evening, and begin their homework.

Hooray, my daughter has finished her formal school education meaning an end to the Sunday night homework stress. Notwithsatnding, as a teacher, Sunday is quite simply the prelude to Monday and is dedicated to lesson preparation. Looking for new and exciting ways to teach English grammar. The wife is working on probabilty, the mays and mights and what ifs and what could have happened … to impart these structures to her students she has hit on the idea of «Unsolved Mysteries»

So, here’s an unsolved mystery – the Mary Celeste. Being a lazy chap, I have «borrowed» the Wikpedia entry on the mysterious fate of this ship and her crew (I have to say it is succinct and well written and I certainly could not have done better.

Mary Celeste (often misreported as Marie Celeste) was an American merchant brigantine, discovered adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Azores Islands, on December 5, 1872. The Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia found her in a dishevelled but seaworthy condition, under partial sail, and with her lifeboat missing. The last entry in her log was dated ten days earlier. She had left New York City for Genoa on November 7, and on discovery was still amply provisioned. Her cargo of denatured alcohol was intact, and the captain’s and crew’s personal belongings were undisturbed. None of those who had been on board were ever seen or heard from again.

What might have happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste? What could have been their reasons fo abandonning ship? They might have been kidnapped by Aliens? They could all have just decided to go for a swim during the middle of dinner.

Looking for more exploitable and «teachable» unsolved mysteries, I suggest one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Why did the three bears go for a walk?

Okay, so three bears living reasonably comfortably in a small house* in the woods, suddenly, during breakfast one morning, decide to go for a walk, and they don’t even lock the house when they’re gone.

*I say small house because mummy, daddy and baby bear all shared the same bedroom, so I guess we are in some kind of one up, one down cottage.

Imagine, you are in the middle of breakfast, perhaps not yet fully awake and therefore, not quite in your state of full mental awareness. You are waiting for your porridge to cool down and suddenly you just leave the house and go for a walk. Why?

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I don’t know about you, but I take breakfast as soon as I get up, so I’m still in pyjamas and I certainly wouldn’t go for an early morning walk in my pyjamas, except to put the dustbins out or retrieve my morning paper from the letterbox.

What made daddy bear just walk out the house and what made mummy and baby bear follow him? A strange far off noise or lights in the sky – some distant and untoward event that merited closer investigation? It can’t have been all that «untoward» if the bears later returned.

Perhaps daddy bear just decided he needed a stroll around the garden whilst his porridge cooled down, and mummy and bear simply followed him outside – for we do not know actually how far the three bears went or even where they went or how long they were gone. Obviously they weren’t going far because they didn’t bother to lock their house. However they were gone long enough for Goldilocks to eat their porridge and have a nap.

Of course, the three bears lived in more reassuring times and they lived in the middle of a forest – they didn’t need to be as security conscious as modern bears. Unless of course, they simply rushed out the house so fast that they forgot to lock it or mummy and daddy bear were suffering from mild dementia or perhaps they were just stupid.

What if they had locked the house? Well Goldilocks might never have got in.

This of course brings me to the second unsolved mystery in the Three Bears Mystery. Who was Goldilocks and what was she doing wandering round the forest on her own early in the morning? (I say early because I presume the bears got up early, though we don’t know on what day this happened. Imagine it was a Sunday and the bears were actually sitting down for a brunch, generally taken later than breakfast)

So, at an unspecified time of the morning on an unspecified day, a blonde girl (of unspecified age) is walking through the woods on her own. Why? Is she too simply out for a walk in the middle of breakfast?

In some versions of the story, Goldilocks is a «little» girl. Why would a little girl be wandering around the woods on her own? Is she lost? Has she been abandonned by her parents? We know that Goldilocks is suffering from hunger and fatigue – she needs food and a bed – quite logical that she may venture into an empty house in search of sustenance and rest. If this last scenario were the case, We can assume that Goldilocks has been on the road for some time. Is she running away from some one? The girl needs help though. Just as well she found the bears’ house and not Hansel and Gretel’s bewitched, edible cottage.

Let us assume that Golidlocks is not «a little girl» but a teeanger advancing into adulthood. She might just be crossing the woods as a short cut home form a wild all night party. She might be fleeing from a gang of people smugglers? Or is there something more malevolent in the Goldilocks mystery – is she actively seeking the bears to steal their porridge? Was it indeed Goldilocks who created the diversion that made the bears leave their house?

Fairy tales are good for this kind of probability exercise.

Sleeping beauty for example – why wait 100 yars for a young prince to come and cut your hedge? A good gardener with a decent hedge timmer would have done it far sooner and far quicker.

The Seven Dwarves – They own a diamond mine for chrissake, but they live in a small cottage and all sleep in the same room. They don’t even employ a housekeeper – they wait until a princess comes along to do all the cooking ad cleaning for free. Are these dwarves just plain mean or is their some kind of sexual or masonic motif? Hey they all sleep together then along comes Snow White and no one even makes a play for her.

What if Cinderella hadn’t lost that glass slipper?

What if Munchkin laborers had gone on strike and not finished the Yellow Brick road before Dorothy blew in?

And what if I didn’t manage to find some plausible way to end this post?

And what did happen to Goldilocks?

Grey Days On the Edge Lands of Bourges

Grey, sad November. When the rest of the world is shopping for Christmas, in France the shops are closed – It is Sunday, a bloody miserable Sunday, just the day you might like to walk around shops for consumer comfort in these grey times – here two snaps from a local shopping heartland this afternoon. It’s dead, like November.

Christmas is coming

Inflatable Giraffe

Pea Soup and Sacrifice (and shopping)

PEA SOUP

« F*** me, it’s a real pea souper this morning. Can’t even hardly see to the end of the garden. Far too dangerous to drive to work, might as well say at home. »

In translation

There is a thick fog this morning and visibility is very poor, down to only a few metres, thus making driving conditions far too danegrous. It would be far safer to say at home rather than risk the journey to work.

IF I CAN’T SEE, I CAN’T GO

My wife reminds me that I work within easy walking distance and can therefore go to the daily grind on foot.

« And what if it’s not there when I get there ? »

A bemused look from my better half, so I explain my theory of only being able to work in paleces that I can see

« I mean if the fog is so thick and visibility so bad that I can’t actually see where I work how can I go to work … if I can’t see where I work … »

The theory isn’t working, and my attempt at fog humour fails miserably.

At work, my daily « check in » with the boss. He likes to see me everyday and it is important to be seen. What you do when you’re not visible doesn’t seem to matter, the important is to be seen, charging around with a fistful of papers and a couple of dossiers under your arm, vigorously shaking hands with colleagues adding that you haven’t got time to stand and chat, you have too much to do. It always helps when you tell them that you have taken time out of a busy schedule just to come and bid them good day. (sounds like the basis for a good internal comms strategy)

I try my fog humour on the boss

« Well I nearly actually didn’t come to work because I couldn’t see the building and I reckoned that if the building wasn’t there then there was nowhere to work. »

The boss rolls his eyes and stares at me like he’s missed to joke, unsure if there was one in the first place.

« Oh, English humour » he laughs nervously.

I WANNA LAUGH

One Brit amonsgst several hundred French, such is my lot. Not an unhappy one, though you do miss ex-pat colleagues to chat with and spark off. I can’t rememer the last time I had a ood laugh at work. Can’t remember the last time I had a good laugh at all. Of course it’s November, a month of rain, fog, grey skies, death, more rain, the start of the annual flu epidemic and the mad run up to Christmas.

IT STARTS WITH DEATH

November starts with death and death has its own day off – yes it would be too much fun to celebrate Halloween, instead – November 1st – All Saint’s Day – is a public holiday, no one goes to work, we all spend the day tending the graves of our beloved deceased, flowering up their tombs, cleaning a year’s worth of bird shit off the headstone and weeding the borders round the grave – I suppsoe the dead do deserve somewhere nice to rest in peace.

Nowadays though you don’t get so many folks spending the day with the dead – not because there are less dead people than before (though that génération that would systematically gavesit on All saints day is itself dying out) there are simply more shops open. Like the US and the UK, public holidays have now become shopping holidays and this November 1st holiday is the time when all the ation’s major retail chains launch their Christmas Toy fairs. YShop now to avoid disapointment, bcause the toy fairs all finish around mid November at which point toys are thrown ff the shelves to make way for festive food.

ULTIMATE CUT PRICE SACRIFICE

If you have shopped and dropped on November 1st, or even if you have totally missed out on shopping because you spent the day with dead people, not to worry, the next public holiday is just around the corner – November 11th – Armistice Day – when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This most solemn of days has aso become a shopping holiday over the past few years, leading me to wonder how those who laid down their, lives would feel that they had paid the ultimate price, so we could get cut price in the spécial « Armistice Day toy sale. » – Great time to buy your kids a toy gun.

ONE YEAR ON

They have joined « the fallen » – those innocents who were slaughtered in last year’s Paris terrorist attacks. Victims of the war on terror or the war thet the terroritsts are waging against us, our values and our way of life. Their names will never be inscribed on any war memorials, but in many towns and villages all over France, those killed on November 13th 2015 were remembered along with the hundreds of thousands of French men who fell in World War One. Poignant wreath laying cérémonies for the dead of the Great War and then seperate wreaths for those who did not go to war, but simply went for a night out with friends in a bar or to see a concert. Those victims who lived wanting every minute of plasure to last , a world away from the slaughter of the trenches where you think every minute might be your last.

Death was already firmly placed in the national November psyche, as sad and sombre as the weather, but it was death from another time and place. There are those who might say that we are still reaping the sad harvest of the « colonial » seeds we sowed générations ago.

THE CALAMITY OF UNCERTAINTY

So, I want to finish with this thought – The calamity and uncertanty of the Trump presidential victory. I would like Mr Trump to take heed as this weekend in France we have paid homage to those who died in the great war of the great empires and those who have died from the results of modern empire building. We marking the centenary of the Great War, but with the foreign policy that Trump is proposing, we are a mère step away from reinforcing those old empires under different guises – Putin has been emboldened by the Trump victory, for sure Trump will be lenient on Turkey – the door is wide open for new Czars and Sultans and the door is wide open for new wars and new massacres . Just a personal opinion.