Now I always park off road

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two cars parked very closely

Parking, french-style. Clearly, the driver was taught by the ‘that’s what bumpers/ fenders are for’ school of motoring.

Living in a part of town with incredibly narrow roads, I soon learned how to shoehorn my car into the tiniest parking space, but I’m always careful. Not this regular visitor. I have often seen him shunt cars front and back as he shuffles his car into position. Unbelievably, before he set off he tried to reverse even further into the car behind!

Six Word Saturday: My cat, better known than I

Misch, my catSo, I was out for a walk the other day, and as usual, Misch was following behind. I stopped to say ‘Bonjour’ to a lady who was sitting admiring the sea-view. She told me that this was the cat that belonged to the English Gentleman. I replied that I knew it was and the penny dropped: ‘Ah, monsieur, c’est vous?’

But I did wonder how it was I was now being recognised as Misch’s owner. Then a friend showed me the ‘Gazette de la Haute Ville’. There was a piece about the local cats and an entry for Misch:

Tiens, voici Misch. Menue. Noire tigrée, distinguée avec sa clochette au cou. Seulement Misch ne parle qu’anglais. Il faut suivre. Comme elle suit, elle-même, son maître. Où qu’il aille. Sacrèe Misch.

Well, here’s Misch. Small. Dark tabby, distinguished with a little bell around her neck. Misch speaks only English. She must be followed. As she herself follows her master. Wherever he goes. Holy Misch!.

So there we have it. It’s official. I am now the English gentleman with the cat that follows. I should make a complaint on her behalf as she is in fact, trilingual (English, French… and, of course, Cat).

Six Word Saturday: ‘Pour vous, monsieur, c’est un cadeau’

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Pile of gift boxesUsually when I hear this, it means someone is trying to persuade me to buy something, but today it was genuinely meant. 30% off my cheese bill, 20% off the eggs and a free rose when I bought a plant for the doorstep.

Maybe it’s because today is quatorze juillet, perhaps it’s because the sun is shining, for the first time in at least a week, or it could just be my sunny disposition. Whatever the reason, it reminded me of why I like living here: people are genuinely friendly.

This weekend, the town is filling up with holidaymakers; my neighbours arrived from Paris in the night. They visited this morning with an invitation to dinner. On the way back from market I bumped into six friends and made two more.

Last night was the last concert of the season. The orchestra meets again in September. It felt really strange to think that might have been be the last time I played with them; that would be the case if I go back to the UK.

I really need to make a decision.

Fête de Musique: Vivaldi et Albinoni

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Violin and musicAnother concert looms. Tonight, as part of the national music festival, a programme of orchestral and choral baroque music. New to me is Albinoni’s Symphony in G and Vivaldi’s Sinfonia in B minor “Al Santo Sepolcro”. The programme is rounded off with two vocal pieces from Vivaldi’s Gloria and Dixit Dominus, respectively. So, a day of rehearsals followed at 7:30 in the church at Champcervon, near Sartilly, Bas Normandie. I’m told we shall perform standing up; very baroque!

Six Word Saturday: Curry Night in the old town

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Taj Mahal

I’ve been threatening to do it for a while. Tonight, the neighbours are coming round for a home-cooked curry. On the menu: King Prawn Jalfrezi, Sag Aloo, and Vegetable Curry with Pilau rice and Chapatis. Not surprising that I failed to source the garam flour, but a bit of experimentation showed that flour for pain de campagne works just as well.

The indian restaurant hasn’t spread this far west in France and curry is still a bit of a novelty here. (Plenty in Paris though). We’ll see how the locals react to ‘new British’ cuisine.

Off to the market now to see what vegetables are in!

Kunst

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Huge Mural in Berlin

This was a trip organised by the local art class, so art featured largely during the week. Berlin is heaving with art galleries; too much to cover in one blog, so I will focus on the highlights, with links to sites where you can read more.

First, street art. Berlin is particularly rich in original art that decorates the drab concrete buildings and public spaces. Some of it was commissioned by the local council, like this mural. Of the other works, some is done with permission and much is unauthorised. It is rich in style, combines aerosol spray-paint, markers, hand made stickers, stencil work and models. Our guide was Caro Eickhof, a Berliner who has blogged about street art for many years and is well acquainted with the genre as well as the artists themselves.

There are a plethora of small galleries. Of note are CWC (11-13 Auguststraße), currently exhibiting wonderful ethereal acrylics by Nikolai Makarov. He uses many coats of highly diluted acrylic paint with a mixture of airbrush and hand brush to create these portraits and empty interiors evocative of old photographs. As a complete contrast, Patricia Walker’s knitted sculptures are bright, colourful and irreverent. Her ‘Broken Heroes‘ exhibition feature Spiderman caught in his own web, Superman crashing into a wall, a down-and-out Bert from Sesame Street, Hello Kitty committing Hari Kiri, and many more. The exhibition is at the deschler gallery unti the end of June. Funny, and disturbing.

The Liebkranz Gallery (62 Augustraße) hosts an exhibition by Edward B Gordon: Vier Jahre Späte (Four years later), an evocative collection of informal portraits and street scenes. Worth a look.

The two public galleries we visited were Hamburger Bahnhof and the Bauhaus Archiv. The converted railway station hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions, with works by Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Joseph Beuys. Currently the gallery is hosting ‘Solid Light’ by Anthony McCall, a fascinating ‘light sculpture’ of computer generated moving images, projected through a cloud of dry ice. The result is a slightly disorientating experience of light perceived as a wall. Enchanting and odd.

No trip to Berlin would be complete without a visit to the Bauhaus, whose teachers have included Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer and Johannes Itten. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that everything we use today is influenced to an extent in its design by the principles developed at the Bauhaus. Typical of its approach was an emphasis on balance and efficiency of form.

All of this and more makes Berlin an ideal location for modern art enthusiasts.

Six Word Saturday: Back from Berlin—Das war Wunderbar

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Fabulous week, with the Art Class. Berlin has changed quite a bit since I was last there and there is more building going on. Highlights were a tour of street art, the Hamburger Bahnhof (a modern art gallery, not a railway station!) and an evening of 19th century music (Wolf, Brahms and Dvorak) with the Berlin Philharmonic String Quintet.

Too much for one blog, so I will add more later.

Six Day Saturday: It looks like I’ve stopped blogging

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A stop sign

I didn’t mean to; I’ve just been rather busy since I got back from the wedding. Maybe it’s because the end is in sight — I have set September as the deadline for me to wrap everything up, return to the UK and look for a business. I’m not sure I have the resources to carry on beyond that.

So, I have been writing and re-writing like a mad thing. The art class has continued and the orchestra is back in rehearsal for concerts in June and July. I just haven’t had the time to get stuff up on the blog. Hopefully the book will be ready to send out again soon and I’ll get back into a normal routine.

Six Word Saturday: Wedding day approaches: last minute worries

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heart made of daisies and clover

I spoke with my daughter yesterday and I have to say she is remarkably calm; calmer than I am I would say.

I’d remembered the Friday I come over is Good Friday so the suit hire shop will be closed: No problems, her fiancée will pick it up for me;

I haven’t been able to get through to the hotel to confirm my room booking: No problems, there are lots of guests staying there and everything is fine with the bookings.

I haven’t been able to get in touch with her big sister and I am waiting for feedback on the speech: No worries, she has seen it and thinks its fab.

How does she stay so calm? I’m a bag of nerves!

“Les Cordes”: Homage à Jean Dubuffet

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Ink drawing of string trio in the style of Jean DubuffetOur art teacher wanted us to focus on different modern styles this week: Fauvism, Pop-Art, Cubism, Naïve and Art Brut. Inspired by last weekend of music and with apologies to the descendants of Jean Dubuffet (and the members of the orchestra, none of whom look like these characters!) I took the plunge and had a stab at Art Brut. (For the real deal look here). Normally this kind of thing doesn’t float my boat, but I found it so enjoyable I’ve started a second, a painting this time, in the same style, using paint thickened with plaster, applied with a knife. Totally different from my usual style. And certainly not as easy as it looked.

It really is refreshing to jump out of your comfort zone once in a while (although it seems to be once a week for me recently!) It’s got me thinking about my writing, which has become a bit stale recently, probably as a result of too many edits. It might be a good time to try something different, just to restart the engine. There’s a flash fiction competition coming up; I might just…