Misunderstandings and misconceptions…

Just a quick post today…

I thought this was fun…but also demonstrates the subtleties of language that non-native speakers don’t pick up on. I’ve always had difficulty explaining that there is no real difference between “That’s pretty good” and “That’s not bad”.

Mayber this is why international negotiations sometimes go awry.

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A Photo an Hour (Epic Fail)

I always like these posts when people, like Bev at Confuzzledom, do them; they give a glimpse into other people’s lives. I’m very nosy, and enjoy these pockets of every day lives, lived in other parts of the world. I guess it’s the same reason that I love those lit-up seconds peering into windows as ytou go past on the train or bus.

There’s usually an official day to do “A Photo An Hour” but I always miss it. So on Saturday I thought I would do my own.

I woke up quite late – Mr FD had got up earlyish to go for a ride. The Club were leaving at 8.30, but he decided not to go. He woke me up to tell me that he wasn’t going… Thanks, love.

So I didn’t take a photo immediately on getting up. I had my bottom half shower/top half sponge wash – it’s not been quite as bad as I expected, not properly showering, or using deodorant, but I guess that’s because I’ve not really exerted myself very much! Then I had my breakfast and browsed FB. Here is my breakfast tray (finished)

9.30

I had half juice/half water, coffee, a slice of buttered toast and an apple. The little dish is for all my tablets – glucosamine, plant sterols, Omega-3 oil, plus three “medical” tablets for various ailments. I set the alarm on my phone for 1 hour hence, and read my book.

10.30

At 10.30 I had gone out to buy some yoghurt in the Bio Shop. They only had vanilla-with-chocolate-bits-in so I didn’t buy any. It is deliciously creamy yoghurt, so I can’t imagine it’s that good for you, but I don’t want chocolate adding more not-good-for-you-ness! I want the mango yoghurt back please!

There’s a queue at the boulangerie, which is decked out in French flags – I’m not sure if it’s for Bastille Day (which is today, Saturday- or at least “today” the day I’m writing about.) or for the World Cup final tomorrow (which is today, the day I’m writing this!)  in which France is playing Croatia. I join the queue to buy our usual Petrisane Graine – a softer baguette, made with seeds. I was tempted by the cakes, but didn’t succumb. (I’m writing this on Sunday, as a scheduled post for Wednesday. I did succumb today – a strawberry tartlet to share between the two of us!)

Unfortunately I forgot to set my alarm for the next hour – so it wasn’t until 4.00 in the afternoon, when I next looked at my phone that I realised I hadn’t taken any photos in the intervening five-and-a-half hours! Mind you, it wouldn’t have been very interesting:

11.30 Sat at the computer

12.30 Eating lunch (sausage sandwich)

13.30 Zentangling

14.30 Zentangling

15.30 Having a lie down.

16.30 Still having a lie down

17.30 Chopping up green peppers for a beef stroganoff

18.30 Stirring the beef stroganoff.

19.30 Watching TV – an interesting programme from the author of H is for Hawk, about training a goshawk. (Having eaten the beef stroganoff in the intervening hour)

20.30 Watching TV – Doctor Who on i-player

21.30 Watching TV – an epiosode of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” that had been recorded.

22.30 Going to bed…reading, then lying awake until about midnight worrying about how we’d get out of the house in the case of a fire. This is because the smoke alarm had gone off for no apparent reason earlier in the evening, so I was worried about an undetected fire smouldering somewhere. How would we get out of our third floor bedroom window? Could we carry a cat in a bag (Bib was on the bed)? Would the other cats survive? Could we get onto the roof? Was the ladder in the study, under the eaves? What’s the number for the Pompiers? Would a rope made of torn up duvet cover hold our weight? How quickly would our old, wood filled house burn? Actually, it is a valid worry, and something we have thought about, but not in great detail. Perhaps we should…

Anyway – a photo an hour? Hmm. So much for that idea!

Enthusiasm

Well, the World Cup is over, football’s not coming home, and France has won.

I’m not a football watcher – although I did sit through a few matches this year, mostly while inspecting FB, or snoozing! – but Mr FD is. Amusingly, having told me that “there are only a few matches I’m interested in” he proceeded to watch practically all of them. Of course, the England matches were accompanied by cries of both joy and anguish, and not a few rude words.

I didn’t watch the final, as I was cooking dinner (Hairy Dieters’ Thai Prawn Curry, with loads of veggies), but, although I live in France, I had a sneaking wish for Croatia to win, as I always support the underdog. And while Croatia are a good team, I think they were seen as being inferior to France.

Well, it was easy to tell that France had won, from the noise coming from the Capricorne bar opposite. Cheers, horns, shouting, singing….Fairly obviously quite a lot of liquid refreshment had been taken! Then the yoofs on their tiny 10CC(or whatever) motorbikes started buzzing up and down the road, making sounds like frustrated hornets and tooting their horns. This went on for quite a while.

It was a pleasure watching Macron, the President of France, and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, president of Croatia, greet the players – big hugs of commisseration for the second place Croatians, with tears being shed by all. Encouraging words were spoken, and sincere handshakes given, as the rain poured down.

But most of all, I love the enthusiasm shown by Macron as the final whistle was blown – not standing up, not standing on his seat, but leaping onto the desk in front of him!

I think he was a bit pleased!

Miffed

Here is Bib, looking miffed.

But why is she looking miffed?

Because of this:

This is Jasper sleeping in a box.

A few days ago, Michel across the road gave us some vegetables – half a marrow, some green beans, some parsley, and lots of new potatoes, all in a box. We ate the green beans, put the marrow in the fridge (I still haven’t used it), chopped and froze the parsley and left the potatoes in the box, on the work surface. We went into the kitchen a few hours later and found Bib ensconced on top of the knobbly potatoes and fast asleep.

She had claimed the box as her own! We reclaimed the potatoes as our own, but left her the box.

Unfortunately Jasper decided he liked the look of the box, and so now there is a constant turnover of cats going in the box. One claims it (currently Bib) but at one time or another needs to get out – to eat something, to stretch, to answer a call of nature, to go for a stroll – and then another one will hop in and mount a takeover bid! So far Jasper, Bib and Pomme have been fighting for ownership of the box. Millie isn’t interested.

PS I know we shouldn’t allow cats to loll on worksurfaces, but it’s difficult to keep them off, as the kitchen is their only access point to the balcony. Be assured we use chopping boards and anti-bac spray.

Sobering thoughts

Every day I go to Tracing Rainbows, Ang’s blog, where she posts faithfully on a daily basis. She blogs about all number of topics – crafting, recycling, her family, her faith – there is always something interesting to read.

Today she writes about family – the importance of family, the joy of seeing the Thai boys, who were rescued from the cave, reunited with their families, the pain of seeing children separated from their parents by the Trump administration. Ang explains this is why she joined the protests against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. I don’t usually comment, but today I did.

I wrote supporting her attendance at the anti-Trump protests, and said that I see Trump’s administration as evil – I find the man distasteful, his attitudes are to be decried, he appears to be racist, xenophobic, mysogynistic, a liar, and unintelligent. His government, and others like it, seem to be fuelling the far right, fascist parts of our society, giving them permission to air their fear mongering, hate filled policies and beliefs.

This chilling piece – it is long, but it is worth reading – was written by Fintan O’Toole, published in the Irish Times on July 8th

“To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about forty percent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your forty percent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too.

And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.
But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery.

Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

People have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”.

And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

And the results are quite satisfactory. There is good news on two fronts. First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious?

Second, the hardcore fans loved it: Fifty-eight percent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.
This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable.

So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality. They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.”

Let us protect our freedom with all our democratic power, and continue to be brave with everything we must face.

 

Leaving aside the problem that the use of “men” in this quotation might bring up (let’s assume that the author was talking about humankind) this is so true.

And yet…

I feel helpless. In the midst of what is going on in the world, the hate, the lies, the rise of fascism – and dear God, could what happened before happen again? Is that what we are being cajoled into supporting?! – what can I do, here in my house in the middle of France?

I suppose I can do the small things for now – supporting charities that promote love and support the homeless (PC4R), fighting where I can for justice (Amnesty International) and speaking out against even the tiniest bit of opinion that talks about refugees and migrants as “vermin” or “undeserving” Not letting it pass “because I don’t know how to say it in French”.

Leaving aside the problem that the use of “man” in this quotation might bring up (let’s assume AGAIN that the author was talking about humankind) this too is true. Every person on this earth has a part to play and we cannot, we must not, separate ourselves from the suffering of others. As Christians, as Muslims, as Jews, as atheists, as those who aren’t sure, we should be fully involved, fully implicated, fully engaged in alleviating the pain and anguish that others are experiencing.We shouldn’t see them as “other people”, or “different to us” – they are part of this earth as much as we are, and are as fully deserving of our respect and our support as our neighbour, our friends or our family.

It’s just that I don’t really know what I can do…

Zent-eagle

I’m sorry that, at the moment, my posts seem to chiefly revolve around book review and zentangles with the odd update on my treatment. But, if I’m honest, that’s mostly what life consists of at present!

With my radiotherapy scheduled at 13h30 every day (except yesterday, for some strange reason) it does rather get in the way of things! I can do stuff in the morning – usually computer- or desk-based, like zentangling ore blogging – until I have an early lunch. My taxi-ambulance picks me up at 12.45, and I get home at about 14h30, often feeling quite tired. I have cup of coffee, and then a lie-down for an hour or two, sometimes catching up on a TV programme on my computer, sometimes reading. I don’t really want to have a nap then as that means I don’t sleep well the following night.  I perk up a bit in the evening, so we watch some TV – of course, Mr FD has been watching the World Cup (as this is a scheduled post I’m writing, I don’t know if England won their semi final match) and also the Tour de France, so on those evenings I retire upstairs to watch more catch-up TV. Tonight (Thursday) we’re going up to Friend Cathy’s for apèros with Monique & Michel from across the road: I’m going to make some little puff pastry pinwheels to take up, with cheese, or tapenade filling.

So, here’s the most recent zentangle finished:

Sorry the photo is a bit blurry, but if you click on it to biggify you may get a better view. Here’s a detail

I’m gifting this (if they want it!) to Phone Credit for Refugeesto do with as they wish – a raffle prize, perhaps? – as I can’t really donate as much as I’d like to this worthy charity, but I can do zentangles! I chose an eagle as a subject, as I feel that giving the gift of communication to these people so far from home and desperate to contact their loved ones,  is almost like giving them wings. It’s also a strong, brave bird, and to have left everything they love for such an uncertain future is a courageous thing to have done.

My next zentangle is going to be a cat, to support a small charity here in France that captures, neuters and releases feral cats. One of the women on a support group on FB that I belong to is a volunteer with this charity so the zentangle is for their Christmas raffle. So I’ll be cracking on with that shortly.

Don’t forget: if you’d like a zentangle for yourself, or as a gift, then let me know. Always happy to oblige! (Especially if you’re willing to give a donation to PC4R!)

Book Review (again…sorry!): Ten Days One Guernsey Summer (***)

I am proud to be a Ten Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley

I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. So, here it is:

The Net Galley synopsis reads thus:

This is the story of a family living on the Channel Island of Guernsey, faced with the potential of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany during June 1940. Based on a true story, this is how they faced up to the decisions that needed to be made during the last few days before the occupation of the British Channel Islands.

We also follow the story of a German bomber pilot, and the actions he was involved in during the same period and how his life and actions impacted on that Guernsey family during 10 Days one Guernsey Summer. This is a story of love and compassion in the face of extreme adversity.

A must read for anyone interested in this period of history, 10 Days One Guernsey Summer is a story that will warm your heart and bring you to tears. Prepare to live those days and experience what it was like to face a period when decisions had to be made without anyone knowing where those decisions might lead.

I really, really wanted to enjoy this book – it was written by the grandson of the main characters, it involves a period of history that I find interesting, set in a place about which I know very little. The reviewers on Net Galley gave it five stars almost unanimously, with very flattering write-ups. I was looking forward to a story that hooked me from the first pages, that would “grab your heart and not let go until you can breathe a sigh of relief at the last page” (as one reviewer wrote.)

I think you can probably tell that there is a big “but” coming….

BUT…

I’m afraid that I found the story, and the telling of it, incredibly pedestrian. There was not a lot to hold my interest, just a slightly tedious recounting of everyday life (albeit during a momentous time in history) wherein the protagonists go to work, come home, discuss options, make decisions…but not much else happens until the day before the invasion of the island by the Nazi army.

I was more interested by the non-familial story, that of the German bomber pilot. This story held a little more jeopardy, and it was interesting to read “the other side”. Bernhard was a sympathetic character, an ordinary German, who was doing a job that he had to do, in as “moral” a way possible. He tried to avoid killing defenceless civilians, he acknowledged the bravery of his opponents, he wrote to his family and girlfriend, keeping the worst of the war from them. He was a likeable character, but we didn’t get much insight into his psyche: it was more a straightforward description of his actions: what he did rather than why he did it, or what he thought about it

And I think this was my problem with the telling of this story: it read very much like an account of actions, without much going beyond this. There was very little dialogue, very little descriptive writing, very little observation about motivation and character. So much so, that by the end I didn’t really care what happened to any of them, let alone being moved to tears, as one reviewer promised. Yes, I learned about how people went about their every day life on Guernsey in early 1940; I found out a little about the tomato growing and export business on the island; I even discovered information about the food that was eaten…but I had no sense of getting under the skin of the characters.

As readers of my reviews will know, I also find myself getting irritated by bad punctuation and poor writing, and there were examples of both in this book. When I was teaching 9 and 10 year olds, I refused to allow them to use the adjective “nice” – I explained that this was lazy writing, and always pushed them to find another adjective that told me more about the thing they were describing. The author uses “nice” too many times for my liking, and, I’m afraid, not many other adjectives.

He also thanks his proof reader – quite frankly, I wouldn’t be thanking someone who has such a poor understanding of the use of apostrophes. They were used in a very random fashion: frequently used for plurals (which is wrong. Example “The three K’s climbed into the plane”), sometimes used for the third person singular neutral possessive (which is wrong. Example: It’s wings shone in the sunlight), sometimes NOT used to denote a missing letter ( which is wrong: “Its a lovely day today” ) It’s this lazy editing that really annoys me, and I seem to find it so frequently! I’m sorry, regular readers, that you get subjected to my rants about it so often!

I’m not sure if it is an editing, or a proof reading, or an e-reader problem but there were also rather too many occasions when the spacing of words was incorrect, with words broken in the middle, or running into the next word with no space between them. Only a small matter, but a tad irritating.

I’m sorry to sound so down on this book, as it is obviously a subject close to the author’s heart. At the end of the book he talks about his love of Guernsey, of his grandparents and his family; he tells us how he has lived and worked on the island for all his life, and describes his childhood experiences. I really wanted to like this book, and maybe that’s why I gave it three stars – because finally, the author’s love for the subject shone through. In my opinion, it isn’t well written, but at least I knew that there was a passion in the writing, that the people meant something to the author, even if, sadly, I ended up not being terribly interested in what happened to them.

Nazi troops march through St Peter Port, Guernsey

A view of St Peter Port today