Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I've been doing:

  • Reading on Kindle.  I like it but not for everything, not for collections of poems, where I need to be able to get my fingers in and out of a solid, three-dimensional book.  It's better for narratives, it's a little like reading from a scroll (or so I imagine, never having read from a scroll), a small section at a time appearing and disappearing and making way for another, you can roll back and review but you can't hold more than one thing in front of you at once, so it's kind of concentrating but constraining.  What it is good for, for me, is reading in French, something I'm rather dilatory about doing.  So for example, I've had Flaubert's Un Coeur Simple with an English translation, not a very good one but serviceable and fine for a crib, kept open on the menu in parallel, and then with the built-in French-to-French dictionary, which is much better than resorting to a French-English one, I can fairly zip along, without the need for a cumbersome and discouraging pile of volumes in front of me, and by the end I was hardly flipping back to the English at all except occasionally to confirm things.  This system works best for classic out-of-copyright stuff that can be got in both languages free from Gutenberg.  Truth is I can't quite bring myself to pay for much on the Kindle as it just doesn't seem like a real thing for my money, if you know what I mean - the exception to this being the wonderful Words on the Street, from Bauble Tree Books ( Dave and Rachel, sitting in a tree... ) which works very well in this form.  
  • reviving old projects and thinking about new ones.
  • eating cock-a-leekie and drinking whisky macs for Burns Night.  Our old quasi-Scottish friend who died last year was the pretext for celebrating Burns Night in the past, so it looked like that was that, but then we remembered about it late in the day and decided spontaneously just to do the bits we always liked best, which were the cock-a-leekie and the whisky macs.  In the chilly grey wet and western fringe parts of the world it seems a good idea to have a festival in late January, especially one involving boiled fowl, leeks, ginger and malt, if not sheep's stomachs.
  • holding warrior poses.
  • emptying two kitchen drawers and filling them up again, more tidily and with less crowding. They won't stay like that.  

  • making marmalade from clementines, bitter oranges having once again eluded me.  A patriarchal family of glossy jars, father (a full litre), mother (.75l), firstborn (.5l), triplets and a baby now occupy the shelves out back. It looks a bit runny, mind...

  • worrying about our young neighbours' beautiful border collie, who I found some ten days ago by their gate, his hind leg broken by a hit-and-run driver (an event I was an ear- but not eye-witness to, but I don't want to think about that more than I must).  They came home shortly afterwards after we'd already arranged to take dog to the nearest available vet, and mother, father and very small boy all piled into the car with injured dog for the trip to the surgery.  We rather feared that when they learned how much it was going to cost to fix it would be curtains for the poor dog, but they seemingly didn't hesitate to have him taken further afield to a surgical vet and operated on.  And it will cost a lot, especially for a young family with a small child and new mortgage.  I was really touched and impressed by the concern and compassion the little boy, who can't be more than two, showed for the dog, both when he came home and in his absence; his dad said that the morning after when the dog was staying at the vet's the boy went outside and was calling him and asking in some distress where he was. In my observation not all small children are so kindly disposed to their family pets. Dog is now home, wearing an e-collar and confined to the conservatory while the limb heals.  By French country standards, they are caring and responsible owners; they have fenced the garden quite carefully so he didn't have to live on a chain, even though they were only renting the house at the time, they've given him comfortable accommodation, and he is clearly part of the family.  The trouble is you can't really expect a border collie to stay put on its own in a garden all day unoccupied, and he found a way out. Even that I can't reproach them for; Ludovic found him as a stray, presumably dumped, where he was working, and begged his girlfriend to let him bring him home, so saving him from impounding and a more uncertain future. 
  • baking potatoes on the fire.
  • sleeping on new Ikea fast pillows, buy one get the other half-price.  Hoping to help Tom's shoulder, which maybe it does. It's good, really posturally much better but somehow not all cuddly and kindly and welcoming like the big squashy square French pillows we have grown used to.  Probably worth persevering with. 
  • waking up to just the right amount of snow.

  • digging over the veg beds, planting early broad beans, finding the compost heap alive with very busy tiger worms, which had done a fine job of turning everything within an inch or two of the top into excellent rich brown compost.  I cannot adequately express my joy at this.

The black coffee they serve out of doors
among tables and chairs gaudy as insects.

Precious distillations
filled with the same strength as Yes and No.

It's carried out of the gloomy kitchen
and looks into the sun without blinking.

In the daylight a dot of beneficent black
that quickly flows into a pale customer.

It's like the drops of black profoundness
sometimes gathered up by the soul,

giving a salutary push: Go!
Inspiration to open your eyes.

( I was that pale customer...)
  • whistling Dixie.  Literally.  Driving myself mad.  A persistent tune on the brain like an old bit of chewing gum you can't spit out.
  • looking at the atlas and dreaming of Scandinavia.
  • counting birds for Bretagne Vivante, (thanks to Setu for putting me onto it), though I fear not very accurately. I couldn't resist including the sparrowhawk I looked out of the window to see mantling menacingly on the laurel hedge outside on Sunday.  Feeding the birds, feeding on the birds... I don't think it caught any of our precious blue tits.
  • deciding not to enter into on-line discussions.
  • Watching Tom make chicken stock:                                                    


On which note I shall close this at last.  Probably I should have posted one of these a day rather than in such a welter, but it's ever feast or famine hereabouts.  


The Crow said...

I am enjoying your feast of a post, Lucy; every last drop of it!

Catalyst said...

As am I. Though I think I'd have to avoid Whiskey Macs and Cock-a-Leekie. (Pretty strange for a guy with a given name of Bruce!)

Rouchswalwe said...

Purgatory and Swedish pillows. All in one post. Only you, sweet Lucy! Good to know that everywhere, there are good-hearted folk who will care for our canine friends. Funny that you should mention Burns Night, for which I received an invitation this year (having no idea what it was). What fun in January's cold! Wishing Tom all the best in healing his shoulder.

Zhoen said...

My drawers look like that at the moment, although they have already begun the process of entropy.

I have terrible music worm susceptibilities as well. My condolences.

Anne said...

I do hope the dog will recover, and I sure wish you hadn't mentioned Dixie. Otherwise, what a delightful post.

Roderick Robinson said...

Kindle. Plutarch has had problems loading a decent French-English dictionary; I'm told the big Collins-Robert (which I priced yesterday at £35; I regularly replace mine; and must once again having come up against en boucle on Earlybird's blog and not finding it in my current Fifth Edition) isn't available for downloading. A French-French sounds just the ticket.

Earworm. Tell yourself you certainly wouldn't live for Dixie, let alone die for it. Studied objectively, the tune's as rotten as an ad jingle. Not that that's much help. It will probably be replaced by an ad jingle:

Cleans a big, big carpet,
For less than half-a-crown

Again the two-decade difference and think yourself d--n lucky.

Kitchen drawers. Utterly delusionary.

Tom. By that he becomes a stockman, a modern-day equivalent of cowboy (which the French pronounce so ludicrously).

PS: Avoided the collie story; you've said it all. We have a new neighbour who preens dogs for a living. She takes her own collie for a walk and I watch through my atelier window. She throws a Frisbe which the dog catches in flight time after time, leaping up, curvingly, full of anthropomorphic happiness and self-evident health. I never tire of it and neither does the collie.

rr said...

Thank you for the book mention. Apparently it was the other Lucy whose genius suggestion it was to do the one-liners as a cartoon in the first place, all the way back in 2004 or so. I like it on my kindle too, particularly given the annoyance of the paper-thin problems.

Now that the "press" exists, it requires feeding.... given its tree theme, it would very much love, to take an entirely random example, to explore the possibilities of the box elder..........


(I'm very serious)

Lucy said...

Thanks people. Dixie was the fault of watching 'Outlaw Josie Wales' over a week ago, where someone sings a snatch of it. I was irritated by not knowing how the two parts of it went together so made the mistake of looking it up, which implanted it virulently in my brain thereafter. It's fading now but only just.

RR - How embarrassing! I looked over my shoulder and wondered who the other one might be but had never seen another around, I thought it was odd... Anyway, I've taken out the reference and haven't made a prat of myself anywhere else! Thanks for the suggestion, I'll bear it in mind.

zephyr said...

What a post...i hardly know how to comment, there is so much to think about and respond to...so...i will take the lazy way and just say this: i'm so glad the collie is in such caring and sweet hands.

that collage of yours is my favorite of them all. so far.

Unknown said...

Kindle is weak on poetry. Line lengths are a problem. The Merriam Webster French English dictionary has weaknesses including the inability to identify words which have articles plus apostrophies in front of them (ie l'absence).It has many omissions but defintions are good. Avoid at all costs An Electronic French Dictionary by Lucas Nicolata. Have you tried underlining and making notes? K is very good for that!

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

The collie's folks are kind, though they don't really do as much to address his needs as they might: a bit of training, regular walks or games with a frisbee would go some way to allay his boredom and restlessness. But they are busy, and, dare I say it, rural French, for whom indulging your dog a by spending quality time with it isn't very high priority. I hope he'll be OK, he is such a beauty, in looks and character.

The French-to-French dictionary is in some way integral to French texts in the same way as the English one is to English ones, I don't fully understand how these things work, I just zip the cursor down to the left of the word in question (apostrophised articles are no problem) and the definition, in French, pops up. Occasionally of course the definition includes a word I don't know either, but I can usually deduce the sense, and, as I say, I keep the translation open in parallel too. It works well, though the 'Life of St Julian the Hospitaller' was so weird and horrid I've rather had it with Flaubert for now! Enjoying Thackery's Paris Sketches though, Joe...

Dick said...

Cock-a-leekie and whisky macs and then holding warrior poses. Presumably with imaginary claymores, keeping Brits at bay.

And baking potatoes on the fire. I don't know when we last indulged that slow food luxury. We might just squeeze two into the woodburner.

I like the look of those fast pillows. Thanks for the lead.

And thanks for the Tranströmer. I love 'filled with the same strength as Yes and No'.

'Dixie' is a very persistent ear-worm. I hope you've graduated to something a little more tranquil.

Our sparrowhawks appear to have moved on since the red kites started to breed. Now the sky clears as soon as they come sliding by.

Rosie said...

hmmph, how come you got snow and we didnt! Nice to know that some of your neighbours actually care about their dogs. We have been having Billy Boxer trouble...big scratches on glass doors...

Marly Youmans said...

At a local Burns party, our haggis came from . . . Texas! Is that an abomination? You'd think it would have at least come from the Carolina backcountry!

Your snow reminds me of Frost's "Dust of Snow": The way a crow / Shook down on me / The dust of snow /From a hemlock tree etc.

Avus said...

A very interesting and varied post, Lucy.
I "borrow" the Kindle I bought for Mrs Avus, from time to time and can see exactly where you are coming from.
As a fellow dog lover I felt your concern for the collie

christopher said...

I love your world. From this place on the left coast of North America it always feels so...French. I love knowing someone who lives in France and sometimes uses translations to get along as I would have to all the time.

Pam said...

Thank you for celebrating Burns' Night. We sort of forgot. Shame...