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Personal reflections

The cost of art

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noun. 1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgements of what is important in life.

A while back I saw three films around the same time which all brought up a similar issue; that of a struggling artist.

Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on the eponymous musician who is constantly striving to create folk music whilst having to sleep on friends’ couches and hitching rides across the country to search for a record deal. He reminded my of a few of my friends who are musicians, who simply need to create music, to play, to write songs, to perform. They are not necessarily doing it to become extremely rich and famous, though an income from their passion would help.

Le Regard de Georges Brassens also centres around a musician, this time a real and very successful one. It is a great documentary about the wonderful French singer, guitarist and poet, Brassens, showing us his youth whilst growing up in Sète and later his life in Paris before becoming famous. Brassens moved to Paris at the age of 22 during the war and managed to find a place to stay with an older couple, Jeanne and Marcel. Jeanne was a collector of all kinds of strays; cats, dogs, musicians. They were a poor family in terms of income, but rich in warmth and generosity and without their support Brassens would not have been able to concentrate solely on his song writing, and wouldn’t have become the star he did.  Brassens dedicated a song to her;

La Jeanne, la Jeanne
Elle est pauvre et sa table est souvent mal servie
Mais le peu qu’on y trouve assouvit pour la vie,
Par la façon qu’elle le donne,
Son pain ressemble á du gâteau
Et son eau a du vin…

“Jeanne, Jeanne
She is poor and her table is often badly laid
But the small amount you find there fills you up for life,
By they way in which she gives it,
Her bread is like cake
And her water is like wine…”

Finally Violette is a film based on the life of the writer Violette Leduc at the start of her career in Paris. She is encouraged to pursue her talents by the acclaimed Simone de Beauvoir and manages to publish her first novel. In order to continue writing, without having to spend her time scraping together the money to survive, de Beauvoir secretly becomes her patron by paying her cheques via their editor.

The lives of all three of these artists are supported, at least initially, by others, so that they can concentrate wholly on their art. They are supported selflessly, without an agenda, without hope that one day the artist will become famous and repay the debts.

It got me thinking about the patronage of the arts, which I believe is vital and must be selfless. It must not be an investment in a future monetary value, but an investment in art for art’s sake. Art does not, or should not, exist to make money, to make the artist famous. It exists because humans have been producing it for millennia, because it is a sign of our intelligence, a symbol of our culture. It is how we make sense of the world and for some, life is unbearable if they are not creating.

Unfortunately our society is obsessed with the economy; money rules all. Therefore something can only be deemed to have a value if someone will pay for it; value and cost are inextricable linked. Within this kind of society I do think people should be paid for the art they produce, just as we as should pay accordingly for the music we want, the films we watch. However I can’t see this cost as its sole value.

The stereotype of a ‘struggling artist’ is not a romantic ideal, it is an inevitable situation in a materialistic, capitalist, money-driven society where instead of creating you are producing, instead of experiencing you are consuming.


Where are you from?

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n. The point or place where something begins, arises, or is derived.

I have been thinking about a film I saw last year, Né Quelque Part, about a young French man who goes on a journey to protect his family’s old house in Algeria from being demolished. He says in voice over, “When someone asks where I’m from I say Algeria, but I’ve never even been there.” He goes not only to discover his father’s house, his homeland, his extended family, but also that bit of himself that makes him identify more with Algeria than France.

Affiche Né quelque part

Does this reflex to state one’s parents’ or grandparents’ origins, rather than the country in which one was born and grew up, come from within? A need to honour and remember one’s roots? Or does it come from the pressures of society, a society obsessed with defining people? (Have you seen What Kind of Asian Are You?)

I wonder about the importance of the connection to one’s native land. The connection is never felt as strongly as when it is broken, a sensation I have witnessed as an expat in Paris. Living in self inflicted exile I am grateful that no-one or no situation has forced me to leave Britain and that nothing is preventing me from returning whenever I want.

I certainly feel a pull to my homeland and I am sure it isn’t just to my family but also to the landscape, to the piece of earth I grew up on. And of course I have only realised this after leaving; if travelling and living in another country doesn’t increase your love of a new culture it will surely increase your love of home.

The grass in the pleasant land of Yorkshire is most definitely greener than that in Paris.

Yet I love my life in Paris, I find so much joy in all the city has to offer. And as the time passes I find it harder and harder to assimilate my life and my identity here with that of the ‘Yorkshire me’. At times I feel a stranger in both lands; enraged by the lack of a queuing system when getting on a bus in Paris; confused by walking into a shop in England and the staff not saying ‘Hello’; eating Marmite on toast for breakfast in Paris; turning my nose up at the terrible excuse for a ‘baguette’ in English supermarkets.

Is where you come from simply the origin of birth, the place(s) you grew up, your ancestry? Is it metaphysical, is it all in the mind? And is it important?

Charles Baudelaire – Le Spleen de Paris

– Qui aimes-tu le mieux, homme énigmatique, dis ? ton père, ta mère, ta soeur ou ton frère ?
– Je n’ai ni père, ni mère, ni soeur, ni frère.
– Tes amis ?
– Vous vous servez là d’une parole dont le sens m’est resté jusqu’à ce jour inconnu.
– Ta patrie ?
– J’ignore sous quelle latitude elle est située.
– La beauté ?
– Je l’aimerais volontiers, déesse et immortelle.
– L’or ?
– Je le hais comme vous haïssez Dieu.
– Eh! qu’aimes-tu donc, extraordinaire étranger ?
– J’aime les nuages… les nuages qui passent… là-bas… là-bas… les merveilleux nuages !

A new life of sobriety

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adj: 1. not affected by alcohol; not drunk. 2. serious, sensible, and solemn.

Being sober is something I have been planning on writing about for a while but for some reason I have been hesitating. I think it is because talking about alcohol seems to feel like a confessional, I felt too vulnerable and like I was laying myself bare. But I have decided the time has come, what with it being the new year and everything.

First of all I would like to state that this is just my personal account. I do not claim to be an expert on alcohol, alcoholism or addiction. All I know is my experience.

Me, the drinker

My drinking habits were what I would describe as normal for a drinker of my age. Since the age of 18, more or less, I drank alcohol about 2 or 3 times a week. Maybe one pint in the evening with friends during the week or, since living in France, a glass of wine or a pastis. I would then have the weekend binge drink, starting at home with some wine before heading out to bars to drink, dance, drink, talk, drink, flirt, get hammered. On the menu; a few glasses of wine, a few of pints, the odd shot of vodka or tequila, a cocktail.

Light through the trees, how to control alcohol.

Corny caption competition. Answers on a postcard, please.

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I have been absent for a while on here and though I am far from taking myself or my blog so seriously as to think you would be terribly missing a post, I do think an apology is in order.

So sorry. And apologies in advance for any further delay but I’m a bit distracted, as I’m sure you are, because it’s…


I am in Yorkshire for Christmas and the main feature of returning home, especially at Christmas, is food!

Days home: 5

Mince Pie Tally: 9.5

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A very metallic affair

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Picture of Scaffolding in Paris

Ready to climb the highest buildings.

I see you in town everywhere,
Like others I must stop and stare.
Your strength and your size
Elicit my cries,
My very metallic affair.

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What should we expect?

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After a conversation about expectations of men and women, brought about by the passing around of a black and white (see ‘arty’) video of a naked model posing and pouting, I had this going round my head.

If you’re annoyed about the expectations put upon men, fight against that. Don’t fight against women and don’t use it as an excuse to then expect from women, or to objectify them.

When a woman’s perfect man is strong, muscly and toned with a chiseled jaw, blue eyes and thick hair. A man who is in touch with his emotions but also stoic and supportive, tall and graceful. A man who is rich and willing to pay for dinner, who loves children and would be a great Dad, who is constantly ready for mind-blowing sex but who won’t mind cuddling on the couch. Do you think those are all her own meditated choices? Or maybe it is to do with the images of men she has seen since she was a young girl; the ‘teen’ magazines then the women’s magazines, the adverts, the movies, the TV shows, the footballers, the boy bands.

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To be read with alacrity

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n. brisk and cheerful readiness.

My new word today is one that I have read many times before, but would never have been able to give the precise definition of. When I check “alacrity” on my trusty kindle I find it is buried in there 23 times. 23 times! I have that sinking feeling; how can I not know exactly what this word means? Apparently I have read it in:

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My Cinema Habit

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M-O-V-I-N-G   P-I-C-T-U-R-E-S

In the past year I have spent 132 hours* in the cinema. I think I have crossed the line from ‘hobby’ to ‘crazy’.

It all started in September 2012. I enjoyed going to the cinema quite regularly with friends, maybe once a fortnight, and as we were under 26 we’d get cheaper tickets in a few of the cinemas in town. So my friends and I would head out to Bercy village, or the MK2 at Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, and see a film for around €5.

For those not in the know, 26 is the magic age in France at which life changes. At the age of 26 you pass from the jeune (young) category into the scary, unknown abyss of true adulthood where you are now expected to have finished your studies, secured a full-time job, and be willing to pay the normal price for all the things that used to be free or cheap (museums, cinema, train fare).

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Love Letters

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For a long time now I have had an idea to show the people I love how much they mean to me by writing a letter. I think that it is a mistake to assume that the people we are close to must know how we feel about them and it doesn’t hurt to let them know once in a while.

Now, I have no problems saying “I love you” and I will use it abundantly when I mean it. I definitely will not say it if it isn’t true, for example as a reply to someone else’s declaration of love. Why is it so hard to hear someone say “I love you” and not say it back? It feels so mean and unkind, but for me it is better to be honest with them and yourself. Please note, this kind of situation is purely hypothetical, I am not inundated with confessions of love.

Love Letters

Is this how you write love letters?

I hope those dear to me have heard me tell them that I love them. Maybe it’s a British thing, but I tend not to have many discussions about my relationships with the person in question. Hence my idea to write it down and make it permanent, also relieving the recipient of any embarrassment and awkwardness in the process. Unfortunately as I am an extremely busy person (or just because I fall on the lazier end of the scale) I haven’t got round to it. Yet.

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Changing seasons, changing moods

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red and orange leaves

The colours of autumn emerge

The clocks have gone back and the colours of Paris are changing . Autumn is upon us and brings with it the delight of crispy leaves and the promise of well deserved hot chocolates. As a tour guide, I meet people from all over the globe and am delighted when they are experiencing our seasons for the first time. I giggle when someone asks me “When is Paris’s monsoon season?” and realise how exotic these autumn colours must seem to them.

At this time of year I start to look forward, albeit reluctantly, to the holiday season and at the same time I begin to reflect on the past 10 months. You could call it personal bookkeeping. Read the rest of this entry