Showing posts with label Christine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christine. Show all posts

Monday, September 14, 2009


For as long as I've known Christine, I've associated this famous photo, entitled Provençal nude, taken by Willy Ronis in 1949, with my ex-wife and her family context.

There are two reasons for this association. First, I believe this image has always been a favorite of Christine's father: a keen photographer who married a Provençal girl. Second, above all, this scene of a girl washing herself in a delightfully old-fashioned rural setting evokes the context of the family's ancient manor house in Brittany.

Willy Ronis has just died at the age of 99. I don't usually publish nude photos of myself... but I'll make an exception, in honor of Willy.

Christine took this photo long ago at Le Ruflet. Clearly, I'm sure you'll agree with me that the inspiration of my wife was not solely me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Magic roses, minimum dog

Christine took this photo to show me roses of the Albertine variety that blossomed recently, almost magically, alongside her house in Brittany:

Apparently it's an old rose-bush that was there long before Christine acquired her property. She cleaned up the harsh rocky surroundings of the plant, which soon blossomed splendidly, no doubt for the first time in years... thanking her for her care, as it were. And the most amazing thing is this magnificent variety of rose has the same name that Christine once chose for her antiquarian book shop.

On the right edge of the photo, we can just make out the snout of a dog, who seems to be making an effort to get included in the picture. This minimum dog is of course Christine's Gamone, the delightful daughter of my Sophia.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Brilliant photographer

Alongside Christine and our son François, the fellow with the white shoes is Stéphane Gautronneau: a professional photographer who knows how to handle motor bikes and other interesting subjects. Click the following photo to visit his splendid website:

Family photo

It would be impossible to describe the amazing depth of synchronicity behind this snapshot of Christine and our friend Céline in a tea shop on the Rue St-Honoré:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Old house in Brittany

[This happens to be my 600th post in the Antipodes blog.]

Christine has always been so much in love with her ancestral Brittany (in a simple but profound paternal family fashion that has no apparent links with silly Celtic folklore) that it's only right that she should reside there today in a beautiful house.

Christine's splendid dwelling is an ancient presbytery: that's to say, the residence, once upon a time (when the Church was rich), of the village priest. The least that can be said is that her house (which I know quite well) has a soul. The question, of course, is: What kind of soul? Breton Catholic? Celtic? Maybe even Druidic? Now, I don't expect that my ex-wife will necessarily agree with me... but I'm totally convinced that, whatever old souls might have been hanging around there up until recent times, in the ancient stones of this delightful village, Christine has finally chased them away and replaced them quietly and calmly by an intriguing new soul: hers.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


In memoriam: Christian L

For the last couple of years, I've been participating as a guinea pig in a project conducted by the French medical-research organization named Inserm [Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale] aimed at determining whether a regular supplement of folates and omega-3 might have a positive effect upon the incidence of vascular accidents. In concrete terms, this means that I consume a couple of big tablets every morning... without knowing whether they might contain folates, omega-3 or simply placebo junk. Then, once a year, at the hospital in nearby Romans, I meet up with a Parisian nurse who tests me in one way or another for half an hour. Besides taking a blood specimen, she has a nice little test for seeing whether or not I might be developing advanced signs of something terrible like Alzheimer's disease. The test consists of asking me to name, say, every kind of animal (or country or color, etc) that springs into my mind in the space of thirty or so seconds. Now, to be quite honest, this kind of test scares shit out me... for the simple reason that it never fails to evoke the most nightmarish situation that I can possibly imagine. I'm referring to the idea that I might wake up one day and find that, for one reason or another, I no longer possess the most fabulous but fragile baggage that I've been acquiring over the last half a century: my mastery of French. I would like to imagine that my acquaintance with the language of Molière has infiltrated my brain to such an extent that my neurons now reek of it, as if they were eggs left to rot in a charming old French hen house, alongside a pig pen.

I imagine my brain, when I'm optimistic, as an aging Camembert cheese abandoned in one of those primitive fly-proof containers that we used to call safes back in Waterview, South Grafton, NSW, Australia. In the best of cases, if I wished to appear modern, in a technological spirit, my cerebral apparatus might be likened to the motor of an aging automobile, which seems to be branded Citroën, but which might well have been assembled imperfectly out in Australia. My soul is surely impregnated with the image of Notre-Dame de Paris, in the same way that the Shroud of Turin seems to convey a shadow of Christ... but I fear that my spiritual photo might simply be that of the humble redbrick church—referred to pompously as a "cathedral"—in my birthplace, Grafton.

In any case, I'm in no way opposed to the idea of exercising my brain.

"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Holy days

A few days ago, when I took this photo of the last section of the road leading up to my house, I had the false impression that the warm dry season was under way.

The grass and weeds had shot up rapidly over the last few weeks, so I put the two donkeys down in the paddock where I used to run my sheep... until they strayed to my neighbor's place last year, at the time I went out to Australia. My neighbor and I had been waiting for winter snow to drive the sheep down from the rocky slopes, enabling us to capture them. But this did not happen, since last winter was exceptionally warm. My neighbor told me that the five stray sheep did make a brief appearance at his house, accompanied by three baby lambs! But they moved back up the mountain as soon as the snow melted. We have the impression that they've become totally wild, and there's no obvious way of catching them. Pierrot, a local sheep owner, has tried to coax them towards his van with a bucket of food pellets, but the sheep are not attracted by this familiar technique. It's amazing that they haven't been decimated yet by roaming dogs. For the moment, they've never ventured near the road, where they could become a traffic hazard. Naturally, if this were to occur, our only solution would be to go out with rifles (with permission, if possible, from the local gendarmes) and cut them down.

The warm dry weather didn't last for long. It has been drizzling at Gamone for the last twenty-four hours or so, and I have the impression that I'm dwelling in the middle of an equatorial rain forest.

When strolling around in front of the house a few hours ago, waiting for Sophia to return (drenched) from her morning piss/turd excursion, I noticed that my neighbor's huge truck (I'm talking of another neighbor, down in the valley, not the guy with my stray sheep) was still parked in front of his house. This reminded me that today is in fact a religious holiday in France. Ascension Day. Isn't it amazing that the whole economic activity of the nation grinds to a halt because of an alleged miracle that took place two millennia ago, when an individual who had been nailed to a wooden cross, up until he was pronounced dead, apparently recovered magically his good health and finally drifted up into the heavens like a hot-air balloon?

I remember above all Ascension Day in 1964, when I was residing at the Franco-British College at the University City in Paris. I had recently encountered a Breton girl, Christine, whom I would end up marrying one year later. She had been obliged to explain to confused Anglo-Saxon students such as me why the country was on holiday once again, just a fortnight after the May 1 holiday... celebrating workers! Christine's theological English wasn't sufficiently fine-tuned for her to give us a convincing summary of the events described in the gospels concerning the ascension of Jesus. So, she resorted to mime, and flapped her arms and wiggled her fingers in such a way that we immediately understand that Jesus had in fact taken off like a bird.

Another of Christine's excellent mime acts concerned the illustrious writer Chateaubriand, shown here in a famous painting by Girodet:

He lived in a castle in the small Breton town of Combourg, not far away from Christine's childhood home in Saint-Brieuc. Well, to inform us Anglo-Saxons that she was talking about the writer, rather than the fat steak of the same name, Christine would resort to a mime act that consisted of waving her fingers at the level of her hair to simulate the appearance of Girodet's Chateaubriand contemplating the ruins of Rome. Much later on, Combourg would become one of my hotel halts during my annual bike trips from Paris to Brittany and back.

In exactly eleven days, the French economy will halting once again, on the final Monday of this jolly month of May, to celebrate the religious festival of the Pentecost (also referred to as Whitsunday). Initially, this was a Jewish holiday. Well, after the above-mentioned ascension, it appears that the Holy Spirit chose this festival day to descend upon the heads of the former friends of Jesus, accompanied by a huge gush of wind and tongues of fire, causing them to speak in new languages ("in other tongues"). I don't think Christine had invented a mime act for this complex affair. I guess she thought it was high time that we Anglo-Saxons, blessed by the Holy Spirit, got around to understanding a new language, which would greatly simplify our communications: French.