Monday, 26 January 2015

Listening to more Nouvelle Vague cover versions

My current in-car listening are three albums by Nouvelle Vague.  Many if their cover versions have grown and grown on me over the last week or so - for instance, the superb version of Echo and the Bunnymen's All my Colours

But most recently, the outstanding track for me has been their version of Dance with me - originally an absurd track by Lords of the New Church.  There is a marvelous video for this on Youtube that features film from John Luc Godard's movie, Bande a part, which has been synced with the music, and features the three main characters in the movie doing a ridiculous dance together in a cafe.  Not sure if this is the official band video or not.

So Nouvelle Vague issue an album named after a Godard movie, with Godard one of the leading lights of the nouvelle vague filmmakers in France, and possibly illustrate one of their songs using a classic nouvelle vague film.  All very odd.

I saw the film as a double bill with Godard's A bout de souffle ("Breathless") in London when I was a student in the early 1980s.  About time I watched some more movies like this.

The girl in the film is called Anna Karina and was married to John Luc Godard in the early 1960s.  She was actually Danish though, not French.  The hat is very cool, as is the black ribbon in her hair.  I particularly like the little jumps they do.  In the movie, the dance is referred to as a Madison, but actually isn't a Madison.  This scene was said to have influenced Quentin Tarantino and the dance sequence in Pulp Fiction.  Great stuff.

Edgar Froese - RIP

Sad news over the weekend with the death of Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream.  I first heard Tangerine Dream on John Peel when he played a long excerpt from Rubyon Part 1.  What a stupendously great track that is.  The first TD album I bought was Force Majeure, with the beautiful Cloudburst Flight on it.  Since the early 1980s, I have probably heard most of their albums, except some very recent ones.

A real highlight a few years ago were the Bootleg Box series, partially-fan-created live sets which focused heavily on the improvisational, sequencer led shows from the late 1970s.  This morning I have been listening to Live at the Palace Des Arts, Montreal, from one of these boxsets.  The 19 minute "first movement" has been one of my favourite tracks of the last few years.

I saw TD in concert a couple of times in the 1980s and then once again a few years ago at the Shepherds Bush Empire - a show I wasn't that struck on at the time.  There is an internet-based TD project called "Tangerine Trees" which I have also heard a lot of stuff off.  I shall be trying to find some of these recordings later on.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Our aborted plans from last year are back on . . . ?

Last June we felt we were on the cusp of an enormous change in our lives.  Our current home was going to be rented out and we were going to live in France for a year or so while we worked on our latest renovation project.  But much to our disappointment, this didn't happen as planned and in the autumn we formally aborted the plan.

Just after Christmas and the plan is back on.  Our neighbours have some friends who they thought might like to rent the house and we have just had our second meeting with them this weekend.  We are pretty sure the deal is on.  The enormity of this is only just sinking in as I start to work on some sort of plan to clear the garage and move all the stuff we want down in France.

Long lists are being created of everything that needs to be done and by when.  Timelines are being drawn up, and various transport arrangements are being booked.  We are going to have yet another de-clutter and throw out.  And our prospective tenants are going to use a surprisingly large amount of the stuff we don't want to take with us.

So this is it.  Two years away from our Oxfordshire home.  A renovation to finish, sell on and another purchase planned with the proceeds.  A complete break for Wife, who will no longer work day to day.  Vague thoughts about what other things we could do in France.  Plans for visiting various places - Paris, Chamonix, Brittany, Cahors, the Pyrenees, etc.

What impact will it have on the rest of the family?  My mother, Wife's brother, Daughter.

So much to think about.  So much that needs to be done

A splurge of movie watching

We rarely have runs when we see lots of current movies, but we have managed to see three in the last few days.

First up, American Sniper, which we quite enjoyed although felt it spent too long in Iraq and not enough time on what happened when he got back. Sienna Miller was very good we thought, though under used.  I hadn't realised it was a true story - though it was also interesting that Bradley Cooper's portrayal is apparently a much more likeable character than the real person.

Next, The Imitation Game.  I read Andrew Hodge's biography of Alan Turing when it first came out years ago, so this was a very familiar story.  Given that this film also has best film and best male actor Oscar nominations, I have to say that I did enjoy it more than American Sniper.  I have also read a number of Turing's own papers from when I was at university - that seems a very long time ago though

But without doubt, I actually most liked film number three, Wild.  One of my all time favourite books is Cindy Ross's Journey on the Crest, her account of her trip on the Pacific Crest Trail.  So I had all sorts of reasons for looking forward to this one, and was not disappointed.  And I am now desperate to read Cindy Ross's book again - for what will be perhaps the fourth or even fifth time.

Friday, 16 January 2015

A great album I haven't heard for years

For the last year or two, I have been digitizing much of my music collection and selling many of my CDs on Amazon.  In a box containing several hundred cds I have stumbled across Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom - one of the most amazing records ever and one that I haven't heard for years and years.

I remember buying this on vinyl in the 1980s.  The beautiful gate-fold-sleeve cover.  And some extraordinary tracks.  I have probably listened to the track Little Red Riding Hood hit the Road about 30 times in the past three days.  And I'm going to listen to it again now.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

A morning's photography - abstract landscapes

After six days of rain everyday, it has finally brightened up - clear blue skies.  Our indoor / outdoor thermometer says that the temperature is 19 / 19, but it is probably not quite that outdoors.  None the less, it is very pleasant outdoors and I have a long walk up to the local woods, armed with my camera - the first attempt at anything like serious photography for many months.

So six, slightly-abstract pictures from the farmland around our house in France

And one non-abstract of our house in France

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Some photos I've downloaded but not used on other posts

Some photos I have saved as I've been trundling round the internet

Watching From Russia with Love over Christmas I was struck by how gorgeous Daniella Bianchi was.  It is years since I last saw the film - what a star she is!  And she is still very nice now.

Next up, Julia Kendall - still my favourite interior designer on DIY SOS.  Nothing like a girl posing with power tools!

We saw Gone Girl before Christmas, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  Wife had read the book and so knew the story, while I had no idea, and as usual in these cases, had no idea what was going to happen.  Rosamund Pike has become a firm favourite over the past couple of years.

I was rather taken with the two pictures of Nigella Lawson, the left hand one as it reminds me of a Whistler painting, the right hand one as she has little make up on - her natural beauty shines through.

And finally, the lovely Winona Ryder, who I have greatly admired for 25 years or so - not seen her in many films though.  Apparently there were some private photos of her leaked on the internet.  I am too much of a gentleman to see if I could find them.  Years ago, Wife bought me a signed photo of Winona - no idea where that is now.

Colin Stetson's "Judges"

It is wet but mild in rural France.  I am using this as an excuse to stay indoors and continue sorting out my study and clear out loads of old filing.  And this gives me the opportunity to listen to some new music, more specifically, the current available episodes of Stuart Maconie's Freakzone, on BBC 6 Music.  From a few weeks ago comes the extraordinary track, Judges, from the second Colin Stetson album, New History Warfare Volume 2.

It is rare for me to find a new record so out of line with anything I have heard before, but this certainly was it.  Since hearing the track a few days ago, I have played it around 30 times.  Totally awesome every time . . . .

Now there is a large saxophone

Thursday, 8 January 2015

My library has finally reappeared in France

Last July, when we thought we were moving out of our current house and spending more time in France, most of my books were boxed up and either went to our other house in the UK for storage, or were brought down to France.  As a result, I have been unable to lay my hands on more or less any book I've suddenly thought I'd like to have a look at - intensely frustrating for a bibliophile such as myself.

But finally I have two large bookcases in situ in the office in France and I could unpack a dozen or so boxes of books.  With some editing, this will keep me well set up for reading for some time.

My main concern is that holiday guests in the summer might "borrow" some of them - should I plan to move them all out then, and then put them back in September?

Ah, the joy of books!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

My first ever "selfie"

Daughter and I have trousers that nearly match!

Relaxing in the evening in France

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

How things can change quickly - part 2

Our brother and sister in law's best friends have a son who is best friends with their son.  This time last year, he had a one night stand that led to the birth of a boy in October.  He choose not to tell his parents about it, so they had the shock of becoming Grandparents overnight.

He seemed to have coped ok with the baby's arrival.  But then, on New Year's Eve, he was at a party, set off home at 4:00 or so, and failed to turn up.  It is now day 5 since he went missing and there are no clues whatsoever as to what has happened.

There are a few possible things that could have happened, but no real way to tell at the moment.  It has now made the national newspapers - maybe that will produce some leads.

So while we have some good news this week, others have their world turned upside down.  Very sad.


Around the time I was writing this, Brad's body was found in a flooded ditch just off the route he would have been walking home.  No foul prey is suspected.

How things can change quickly - part 1

The other day our neighbours emailed to ask us if we were still planning to put our house on the rental market next year and if we were, they had some friends who might like to rent it from us.

We met them a few days later and they like the house and would like to go ahead and rent it.  The upside is that they would like to start at Easter, which is perfect for us, and they'd like it to be for two years - which is probably longer than we would have planned, but does extend well past the sale of our current refurbishment project and should take us into the next one.

The main downside is that they can't pay the amount we would have liked - but as we are planning to manage the let ourselves, we do save agency fees and so the lower amount is not too bad - and in any case, we had assumed that we would have found someone to rent the house by June, and so the higher rent only comes in during 2017.

So we have all the formalities still to do, but fingers crossed, this means we will move out at the end of March and focus on our French property for the rest of the year.

In less than five days, our world has changed completely

The run up to Christmas - brother-in-laws illness

For nearly three years now, Wife's brother has been battling against a terminal illness.  He is already past the 50% survivorship point, but although the long-term prognosis is poor, in the short term there is always hope.

This year, for instance, he was able to still put huge amounts of effort into his cycling, culminating in the ascent of Alpe d'Huez that we did in September.  And in early November I was able to join him for a long club ride where we did nearly 80 miles - my longest bike ride ever.

But soon after that last ride, he started to get pains in his legs again and after some deliberation, he decided to go ahead with an operation to try and remove some of the bone spur that was pressing on his nerves and causing the discomfort.

This operation went ahead in mid-December.  We went to see him the next day and he was in great discomfort, but this improved as the day went on.  But he had a further operation a day later in case one of his current symptoms was a sign of a bigger problem (which it wasn't).  And then he was kept a further five days in hospital, only returning home on Christmas Eve.

So much of our run up to Christmas was based around this.  If things go well, he hopes to be back on the bike sometime in late January and then we'll just have to see how it goes.  If things go well, we are thinking of organising a cycling holiday at our house in France, which Andrew can use to invite his cycling club friends.

But 2015 could also be a year of decline for him.

It is strange how the illness has brought us much closer as a family.  We had the occasional year when we only saw Andrew and Julie at Christmas.  Now we have been on holiday with them twice and have shared the cycling hobby.  Its sad that it takes such an event to bring us together.

So good luck for 2015!