Saturday, 29 January 2011

Poudlard, Moldus and all that jazz

So - as part of my efforts to get back into the habit of reading in French, I just spent 10 days reading 'Harry Potter et l'ordre du phenix'. It's a fat old book - just over 1000 pages and in my cheapo edition with already-yellowing pages the print job wasn't great so every 15 pages or so there'd be loads of blobs of ink. But it really does crack along at quite a pace - and a couple of nights I pretty much resorted to reading under the bedclothes because I couldn't bear to stop yet and the lovely man needed his beauty sleep.

As I was reading it though, I realised why I've found watching the films slightly disconcerting - although I read the first few Harry Potters in English (I was at uni, what else was there to do??? other than a new author every bloody week), I've since read them all in French - and so I've got used to the French words for things. It's a great translation when the translator keeps the allusive and punning sense of language - so in Asterix we English bods have 'Getafix' the druid (he's called Panoramix in French), Dogmatix (for Idefix) and Vitalstatistix (for Abraracourcix).

In Harry Potter there's some lovely frenchifications in the original (Malfoy anyone? and what about Voldemort?) and then some great - and some not-so-great - translations.

And the rest...

I loved the urban nature category...

Hanuman langurs in Western India - more info

An urban fox - I like that the car window and street light emphasise the habitat. More info

Rabbits in Paris, with La Defense behind... more info

These three burrowing owl chicks are just quite funny...

And the 'House in the Woods' photos are all gorgeous - this one stands alone, but the whole set are worth a look:

Super toad

Last night we went to the Natural History Museum, to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. The photos were amazing, the crowds awful - it was a sell-out with timed tickets, but I wish the museum had only issued half or two-thirds of the tickets. I hate hate hate having to queue to see a picture, having to peek over people's shoulders and feeling like I ought to keep moving on so that everyone else can get a turn.

Anyway - this is one of the runners-up in the youngest category (under 10 I think) and the only one that seemed to have come from a relatively normal kid, rather than the entrants who say 'I was on a photography exhibition in [insert extremely remote place] with my parents...' 

Put me in mind of a lovely poem by Norman MacCaig, called Toad.

Stop looking like a purse. How could a purse
Squeeze under the rickety door and sit,
Full of satisfaction in a man’s house?
You clamber towards me on your four corners –
Right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.

I love you for being a toad,
For crawling like a Japanese wrestler,
And for not being frightened

I put you in my purse hand not shutting it,
And set you down outside directly under
Every star.

A jewel in your head? Toad,
You’ve put one in mine,
A tiny radiance in a dark place.

Except that obviously this toad had also been startled by the crowds and was doing just what I felt like...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Being a better friend?

I'm still very much finding my feet with blogging - still thinking about whether to stick with blogger or switch to wordpress, what my real topics should be about, whether this is the right blogname or whether I should switch to something more anonymous etc. I added the wordpress daily post challenge to my rss reader, without intending to necessarily pick up each of the slightly random topic suggestions but in the hope it'll keep me a bit inspired. 

And so a recent suggestion was 'three things you can do to be a better friend to the people in your life'. Since work got less crazy, I have been making a real effort to be a better friend, and so I think the three things that I will try to do are
- reach out and check in more often - which might mean several times a week for close friends, or maybe a bigger 'getting-back-in-touch' drive with people I like but have let slip away. And I'm going to try to make some progress through my huge stash of cards and postcards too...
- propose things to do rather than waiting for others to have ideas - and try to go beyond 'let's go for a drink', to include late night gallery opening, theatre and (cheap) dinner, and keep on inviting people back to mine.
- keep on being friends with the man. We're really good, great mates in both senses of the word and I want to keep it that way, to keep on enjoying each others' company, thoughts, ideas and brains as well as being lovers, and housemates.


So I'm going to join (by stealth) in with the weekword game. This week someone chose 'mercurial' - and it caught my attention because it's a word with a real flavour - for me, it's got some of the associations of mercury - silvery but with a kind of darkness, quick and globular (tending to form into little balls - there must be a better word).

And for me at least, to describe someone as mercurial might be full of positive connotations about sharpness, speed of reaction and some of the traits of Arial from The Tempest. But it's also slightly perjorative to me - and the negative ideas about unpredicatability outweigh the shininess for me today.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Books going on the 'to read' list

So last night in the pub, Patrick put me onto Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, the story of a bunch of Directors who grew up in different directions and created very different films.

Today, I got some training. In the classic mould of a senior civil servant, the bloke leading it was the kind of person who seems to have anecdotes, quotes, allusions etc tripping off his tongue. I'm thinking of following up on Trollope's 'Three Clerks' though I've not read any before, and thinking again about whether Watership Down is a political tale.

And then I've also had an email today from Waterstones, to tell me that Leopard has just been published, and to update me on my points balance. It was hotly tipped in a bunch of 2010 reviews, so I'm guessing this is the paperback.

I really mustn't buy any more books for a while - I've bought loads already this year and want to catch myself up. But I am about to 'teach' Jane how to browse a bookshop and so I'm preparing my lesson plan...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The young ones

Great 90 mins this afternoon with the latest intake of our internal graduate scheme. They've been given a 2 week corporate induction which looked a bit dull, so a pal of mine had intervened and lined up various 'real people' to lead sessions with some policy content and a bit of skills focus. I was winging it a bit, but pulled out some PESTLE, SWOT and 'drivers analysis' and the 'boss-approved method' of solving all problems. Handily a couple of them had some relevant knowledge of policies and economics, which saved me from too much talking. And they loved it - really engaged, really positive, really up for taking on new ideas and looking hard at how it might help.

What a fab surprise at 4pm, and how energising!

**Updated on Thurs - because I read an HBR article today on managing people in their 20s which made me think of this. Posting a hyperlink here so I don't lose it!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ce qui se concoit bien s'exprime clairement

et les mots pour le dire viennent aisement.

Brilliant, brilliant aphorism (? I think). My second landlord in Brussels made me learn it, and learn to pronounce it properly - apparently its the strapline for the Figaro newspaper though I've never checked that out.

It's almost impossible to translate into English with any style - something like "that which is well conceived, will express itself clearly and the words to say it will come easily". In English that's clumsy and I'd want to go for something more like "if you really understand what you want to say, you'll be able to do it clearly and the words will come easily". But it's a real shame to have to lose the focus on the idea itself.

Only other thing anyone insisted on my pronunciation over was learning to say "du the au lait" because the oo-ish sounds are very different and very hard. Still haven't got it nailed.

Ten things I'd like to do more (of)...

Inspired (as ever) by Sally, am making a renewed effort with ten things I'd like to do more, or to do more of. In no particular order

- going out for drinks with friends, and for drinks in new places
- looking really good - making an extra effort with hair, make-up, clothes etc
- National Trust and similar countryside outside London
- exercise - but not till February
- learning to cook new meals - really chuffed to have done Jamie Oliver indian-style steaks already this year, want to mix it up some more now
- see friends outside London - esp. Wales and Manchester
- crochet - get the big blanket ends sorted; something new, turn up to a stitch and bitch sesh
- house things, esp painting
- shopping at local butchers and maybe greengrocers too though not convinced by the quality
- talk to and seeing my family

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Entertaining weekend

Lovely afternoon yesterday with book group girls - it's been running 3 years so we celebrated with pink fizz and a fantastic spread of savouries and cakes. Everyone had enjoyed The Help - and it's been a while since I've really enjoyed a book club selection so it's nice to be getting back into it. Talking on the phone to Mum she'd enjoyed it and found it provoked a lot of thinking for her - although interesting not about apartheid South Africa which I'd expected.

And today a really lazy start with a big lie-in, breakfast and papers and then I rustled up some cake before Bruce and Carmel came over for a neighbourly return match to compare house layout and damp problems, drink mulled wine and coffee and eat said coffee and walnut treat. Carmel's brilliant on local history - including where the bombs dropped, famous people who live/have lived around here, and the Tudor history of Greenwich, Blackheath, Eltham etc. I'm really enjoying feeling like part of a street and making the choice to get to know people. Am hoping to find a scrabble player somewhere near here...

Now it's time to get ready for Zen.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Friday, 7 January 2011

Rain like nothing before

At least, like nothing in the last 2-3 months. Hoyin' it down as we left home this morning, proper sheets. Facebook bods in the north say it's snowing again up there.

Dorkiness in the evening

So I finished work on time (yay), went to Waterloo for coffee with Caz - a lovely treat and more importantly a chance to hand back her phone which I've had for more than a week. We've fixed a date for dinner next month and it feels good to be seeing each other more regularly. Funny that something as basic as her monthly teaching session gives us the structure we need to see each other and makes it a lot easier than when we have to pick up the phone and pluck a date from thin air.

This evening I raced through the last 50 pages or so of The Help, and since then I've been updating my LibraryThing - utter dorkiness, but so satisfying to go through a few hundred books and tag them with things that will help me find and remember them. And to realise I've been reading the Booker shortlist since 2005 which does make me ancient. Now about to upload some photos, then into the bath with book No.3 of the year...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ten places I'd like to go on holiday

In no particular order:

Eco lodge safari holiday in Kenya
Arctic circle to see the Northern Lights
Trans-Siberian Railway - and time in St Petersburg
New York and leaf peeping in New England
Gorgeous train across Scotland and sea-kayaking with seals
France - anywhere and everywhere
Cesky Krumlov again
Egypt pyramids
Morocco souks
Plush hotel on Windermere

**And no bloody eclipse in the morning tho' it were terrible dark. Way too much cloud boo hiss**

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 3 January 2011

last holi-day

sleeping till after 10 then getting up about noon was a great way to start; picking up my sewing machine (Christmas present from mum and dad) heavy but good; watching Master Mind at the O2 fun (and 3D), watching Sweeney Todd on DVD less fun. Stargazing good but a bit goofy - apparently there's a partial solar eclipse tomorrow morning to see, so I might check that out. No photos today, arg.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

James Bond baddies

Love this cat. So evil. So strokeable. They have to trim the hair on its sides in summer so it doesn't overheat...

Busy day

Breakfast at Nevada Cafe with James and Katee and sharing the magic of emoji . Then off for a cuppa, fancy biscuits and chat with Gaz and Kelly and nearly-two Freya. Amazingly cute, lovely ginger curls and so good at jigsaws and picnics. Then on to Si and Laura for another cuppa and cuddle with sleepy George. On to Di's to get her email working and now on the M25 home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Day of Doom

So, the morning after the night before. Actually, the whole day after the night before. Not so pretty. Mumbling, stumbling, whimpering and sleeping. Finally started to perk up about 4pm. Major achievement of the day - finishing Damages Series 3 with a 5 episode marathon. Thanks due to Adam for clearing up dinner and empties from last night and looking after Kat and Liam (and to Kat for getting up to say bye to Caz at 7.30am)