Going round in circles

When in France, we are visited each autumn by an invasion of green scutal beetles, generally known as stink bugs, although ours don’t stink. They fly around the room like overloaded transport planes, lurk in the window frames and settle on ledges. One of their favourite tricks is to perch on the rim of a lampshade. The bulb throws a giant silhouette on to the ceiling that makes the bugs look like something from a horror movie.  Continue reading

In praise of anchovies

My recent blogs have been on weighty historical and politico-economic themes. Imminent blogs will offer more of the same, since the past few weeks have been consumed with reading weighty historical and politico-economic tomes. I will want to share my thoughts on all that before I forget what they are. All the more need, therefore, for a little light relief this week. So I will write in praise of the humble anchovy.   Continue reading

Plus ça change

Autumn has come early to the Tarn. Normally, the leaves are still green when we leave our house here at the end of October. We watch the gradation of colour as we drive back to England. But this year the colours started changing in late September, and the leaves started falling. The weather has still mostly been warm, but not in the mornings or evenings. The sun has seemed less able to recharge its batteries each day.   [read more]

Philippe Pétain

In presenting Philippe Pétain as one of my nominations for Heroes of the 20th Century, I have an uphill task. As head of the French government in 1940, he signed a peace treaty with Hitler, gave most of the country to the Nazis, ran the rest in collaboration with them, got put on trial for treason in 1945, was found guilty and was sentenced to death. Not the most impressive c.v. to put before the judges.   [read more]

The Red Army Choir

A piece from the vaults, summer 1999, marginally amended

Well that’s three thousand words knocked off today, so I think I deserve a drink. Off to Villeneuve-sur-Lot for une pression underneath the arches. In fact, it isn’t underneath the arches, partly because there isn’t a bar there and partly because I find I am subject to the Lightning Seeds at full volume. I register with relief that the song is not Three Pints Down My Shirt. An England football anthem played publicly in rural France would be beyond satire.   [read more]

Last tango in Parisot

One of the consequences of living a supposedly literary life is being invited to attend, and to speak at, literary festivals. It is not compulsory to accept, but publishers tend to take a dim view of refusals. For me, for the moment, the experience is still a novelty, and I mostly enjoy doing it. But some literary festivals are better than others, of course. The best of all has been the Festilitt in Parisot, which I attended in late October.   [read more]