Showing posts with label Manya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manya. Show all posts

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spaghetti dogs

My daughter Emmanuelle—who seems to imagine (rightly so) that her father is snowed down under tons of surplus stuff—is always delighted to hear that I've had the courage and determination to get rid of some of my junk. In particular, whenever she drops in at Gamone, she makes a point of examining the contents of my refrigerator, deep freezer and larder for products that have gone beyond their use-by date. This morning, I was surprised to discover that Manya had apparently failed to detect the presence, in one of my kitchen cupboards, of a dusty packet of spaghetti dating from so long ago that I'm almost ashamed to indicate the date.

Come on, William. Don't be ashamed. What's a dusty 4-year-old packet of spaghetti between you and your understanding readers?

The stuff was probably still quite good. In any case, I put it in boiling water for ten minutes, with salt and appropriate herbs, and served it up to my dogs… who've never been too concerned about human inventions such as use-by dates.

In fact, the dogs eat precooked canine pasta regularly, and they gulped down the spaghetti with enthusiasm. Sophia, of course, has always functioned with food in the style of a vacuum cleaner. She hoovers up her fodder as if it were stuff to be cleared away and cleaned up as rapidly and completely as possible. On the other hand, I was interested to observe Fitzroy trying to invent efficient ways and means of dealing with all those slippery white worms. Finally, like an imaginative and amused child, I think he mastered the suck approach.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Childhood challenges

I watch French TV regularly, since I often find it entertaining and enriching, indeed excellent. For me, the ultimate luxury is the possibility of being advised to watch a particular program through a positive review written by my daughter Emmanuelle, published in her Télérama weekly. Lately, an additional luxury has appeared: the thrill of watching the one-hour travel documentaries signed by my son François, moving around in exotic foreign environments on his moped. (He has just returned from Vietnam, and his forthcoming TV moped mission will be in Australia.)

Last night, I watched a splendid one-hour documentary about the 75-year-old French comedian Guy Bedos.

Inventing a play on words for this funny man whose personality and disposition are profoundly serious, Emmanuelle described Bedos as "the gayest of French melancomics". A childhood memory, at the age of two or three, consisted of seeing his mother striking his handicapped father with a hammer. On the surface, Guy might be describing a witch, rather than his physically-attractive and forceful mother... but there is no trace of hatred in his calm words, merely a constant and immense despondency. "I try not to shame the young man, indeed the child, that I once was. That's one of my golden rules: Never destroy that child that was once inside me." His method, as a stand-up comic, consists of creating humor out of sad stuff. Often, his words are violent, but he explains: "I only attack powerful individuals such as the pope, the president of the republic, or members of government who happen to be important, unpleasant and dangerous."

Yesterday, by chance, I also encountered the wonderful words of another Frenchman who evokes his childhood. I'm referring to a small autobiographical book by 69-year-old JMG Le Clézio (Nobel prize for literature in 2008), who describes his father. Just as Bedos was faced with a wall of misunderstanding on his mother's side, Le Clézio discovered comparable obstacles on the side of his father, who had developed a detestable armor-plated character through toiling for decades as a medical doctor in French colonial Africa.

Guy Bedos is a pure specimen of the Mediterranean, brought up in Algeria, and settled now in Corsica. As for JMG Le Clézio, he's often presented as a native of Nice, but his ancestral soul is pure Breton. Few observers would be tempted to evoke these two French celebrities (what a silly word!) in the same breath, as I am doing now, for there doesn't seem to be much in common between them. But what struck me yesterday, when I was confronted by both of them in the space of a few hours, was the way in which they appear to have exploited their artistry (another silly portmanteau term), not so much to seduce an audience, but rather to handle vast purely personal challenges that arose during their childhood. This corresponds to my own belief that many writers often work primarily, if not exclusively, for themselves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dog know-how

The question I'm trying to answer is: Who taught my dog to swim?

It wasn't me. I have no experience whatsoever in teaching animals to swim. Besides, I wouldn't have the financial means to hire a talented swimming coach to give Sophia lessons... which are no doubt highly expensive. The only plausible answer that comes to mind is that my daughter Manya has gone to the trouble—secretly, without ever informing me—of initiating Sophia into this sporting activity.

To be frank, I find that Sophia's style in the water could be improved considerably. For the moment, it's fairly primitive: a sort of paddling action, like a child. I don't think my dog has ever tackled anything in the way of breaststroke, butterfly or backstroke. But I guess that'll come, if she continues regular training.

Suddenly, I'm reminded of a delightful true story concerning a knowledgeable but eccentric lady in Sydney named Beatrice Miles. She was notorious because of countless amusing and less amusing incidents, often involving city taxis. Although "Bea" (as she was called) had inherited amply financial resources, enabling her to reside in the posh suburb of St Ives, her specialty consisted of often taking lengthy taxi rides, and then refusing to pay the fare... for reasons that were hard to fathom. Whenever she was in need of cash, she would resort to highbrow busking, reciting lengthy extracts of Shakespeare on street corners in Sydney.

The anecdote that just sprung into my mind has nothing to do with taxis or Shakespeare. Miss Miles had decided to visit the famous surfing beach of Bondi with a pet sheep. An inspector complained that it was against the law to bring animals to the beach.

Bea Miles: "The sign says that dogs are prohibited. This is a sheep, not a dog. The sign says nothing about sheep."

Beach inspector: "Lady, this is ridiculous. There's no grass here for your sheep to eat."

Bea Miles: "My sheep hasn't come to Bondi Beach to eat. It merely wants to do some sunbathing."

Getting back to my dog, Manya and I noticed that, after a minimum of swimming and basking in the sun, Sophia definitely likes to visit the Bourne with eating in mind. That's to say, she's likely to forget suddenly the chilly stream and the warm limestone rocks, before disappearing into the riverside weeds and bushes and searching excitedly for scraps of food left there by campers and other visitors. She always seems to be tremendously happy to find a fragment of abandoned food in the wilds, so to speak, as if her archaic hunting genes were getting back into momentary action.

It's a fact that Sophia at Gamone, like Bea's sheep at Bondi, likes to spend a lot her time simply sunbathing. And, these days, there has been a lot of sun around. Then, as soon as her internal temperature has peaked, Sophia dashes into the kitchen to cool off by lying on the cold floor tiles.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dog's Xmas

Whenever Emmanuelle drops down to Gamone for a few days, as is often the case, she looks after, not only her father (who takes pleasure in cooking for his epicurean daughter), but our dog too. Yesterday, I was attempting to save my virtual yacht in the Vendée Globe regatta from running into a calm zone... unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, Manya took Sophia out for a long walk on the slopes. And I used a long-focal lens to take a photo of them from my bathroom window.

OK, I agree. That's a terribly lazy approach to taking photos of your daughter and your dog. Quick, I need to throw in a few plausible excuses! As everybody knows, I'm getting on in years, and I can no longer step out boldly in the Xmas weather and wander around on the slopes. Besides, that silly computerized regatta is truly exciting but demanding. Ask my son François... who seems to have suddenly decided to pull out of the rat race and visit New Zealand.

For Sophia, apart from strolling around on the slopes of Gamone with Manya, it might be said that happiness is a sunny morning.

Emmanuelle is constantly aware that our dog, like all of us, appreciates acts of kindness... such as a Xmas gift of a soft pillow.

One of the nicest images in the Cosmos is that of a yawning dog leaning on a fat, soft, warm pillow on a sunny morning.

It's the canine equivalent of pulling out of the rat race, and indulging in lazy delicious sleep.

With lessons from my children and my dog (and Christine, too), it's not impossible that I'm slowly acquiring wisdom.

BREAKING NEWS: Over the last twelve hours or so, I've been receiving messages from alarmed observers, virtual skippers in the Vendée Globe regatta, who can't understand the circumstances in which my son suddenly turned his vessel in a northerly direction. Has he gone mad? Did he fall overboard, leaving a phantom vessel with nobody aboard? Is this some kind of a subtle navigational strategy aimed at getting back into the race? To say the least, the behavior of François was disturbing... and many of his fellow navigators have been worried, if not anguished. You know how it is. We round-the-globe sailors are a tightly-knit bunch. Many of us have left our wives, family and friends back in Brittany while we brave the oceans of the world on our computer screens... and we naturally get worried as soon as one of our kin gives the impression that something might have gone wrong. OK, we can always call upon the friendly Royal Australian Navy to intervene, if the worst comes to the worst, to get us out of trouble. But we don't necessarily wish to upset Aussie taxpayers. In any case, the good news is that my son François, on Kerouziel, is back in the race. The bad news is that he's going to miss out on an excellent opportunity of visiting New Zealand. In case readers don't know, that's the land where his paternal ancestor William Pickering [1843-1914], after whom I was named, did the basic surveying for the future city of Auckland. In that same land, more recently, a certain French secret-service agent named Alain Mafart, who happens to be a relative of my son's mother, Christine Mafart, organized the destruction of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior. As they say in the land of Confucius: That's the way the cookie crumbles. In any case, it's a fact that we navigators live in a crazy world where all kinds of exceptional events can happen... including encounters with vast zones where the wind no longer blows. That's sailing. That's life.

Hey! I'm wondering. Are Vendée Globe skippers allowed to sail with a dog aboard?

Monday, March 24, 2008

La Parisienne

My daughter sent me this photo, taken last year in a Paris courtyard. She was testing her newly-purchased scooter, which she now uses regularly (with a helmet, of course) for getting around in Paris.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

My daughter at Gamone

I picked up Emmanuelle in Valence (exceptionally, the train from Paris stopped at the old station in the middle of the city) on Wednesday at the beginning of the afternoon. Half an hour later, we were at Gamone, where Manya was looking forward to a couple of relaxed days, away from her busy life as a journalist at Télérama in Paris.

Manya knows how to maximize opportunities for relaxing in an intelligent fashion. Most people would imagine that a computer is for working, a bed for sleeping and that, if you’ve just had a shower and washed your hair, then you might walk around in the sun to dry it. For Manya, operations of this kind can be combined efficiently and pleasantly.

She was amused to see me fiddling around with my recently-purchased machines for making coffee, bread and toasted sandwiches. I realize that I’m like a child with new toys. As my friend O said on the phone the other day, after hearing me describe these new kitchen gadgets: “William, you’ve gone all take-away.” And O, hearing me talk about home-made bread (a tradition at Gamone) and toasted chicken sandwiches (a suggestion picked up during my recent trip to Australia), seemed to be a little disturbed at the idea that I might have abandoned good old-fashioned French cooking of the high-cholesterol kind... which is a fact.

Besides talking in front of the fireplace, my daughter and I went out for several walks, including a climb above Pont-en-Royans to visit the medieval ruins I spoke about in an earlier blog. There are no crowds in this corner of the world. The first morning, my neighbor Dédé dropped in to say hello at breakfast time, but he was the only person other than me that Manya saw during her two days here.

The calm is conducive to relaxation and clear thinking. I believe that Gamone has always been reputed as a good place for a mind-cleansing spell. Manya knows that, here at Gamone, she can wash more than her hair.