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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: France

Saturday February 22 2014

One of the things I did today was copy, from one TV hard disc to another, a documentary (fronted by Richard Hammond) about the D-Day fighting that took place on Omaha Beach.

One of the shots at the end of the programme looked a lot like this:

image

That is one of the photos at the bottom of this page.

I recall flying over the Normandy Beaches, on the way to the South of France.  Later in the journey, I took snaps like this one, of the Millau Viaduct, but I don’t recall seeing anything like that cemetery.

Tuesday February 11 2014

The best selfie I have ever taken - of myself I mean, not of other people doing selfies - was definitely this, taken on Feb 1st 2007.

But I also like these ...

image image

… which were taken in 2001, in Paris, using my very first digital camera, something called a Minolta Dimage EX1500, which I wrote about at the bottom of this 2006 posting here, complete with a photo of this strange contraption.  First generation digital cameras like that one were lousy in low light, so for making portraits indoors (which was what I first bought it) you needed flash.  But flash from straight in line with the direction the camera is pointing is horrible, a guarantee of red eyes and hideous shadow effects.  But this Minolta Dimage had a flash attachment that you could hold out to the side, at the other end of a wire, which changed everything.  I am surprised more cameras don’t still sport such a feature.

And the reason I mention this now, all of a sudden, is that yesterday, I took another selfie of myself, in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, where I had just picked out a cheap, nasty little portable DVD player the size of a laptop, costing about half what a radio used to cost, to watch in bed and send myself to sleep, which I need to do to cure my Ashes lag.  There I was, wandering back towards the checkout, gawping at the giant flat screen TVs of the sort I can remember costing ten grand but which now cost not a lot more than one grand and some of them even less than that, and suddenly I saw myself on one of the screens.

Out comes the camera.  Snap.  Whenever I see something which startles me, I try to photo it, provided it’s still there to be photographed, as this strange sight was:

image

Unlike the above two photos, this one is not me photoing myself the wrong way round in a mirror, but photoing myself by photoing a photo of myself, which means that my photo is the right way around.

I’ve got the box with the little DVD player jammed under my left arm.  I nearly put it in my bag while I was taking the photo, but that would have been half way to shoplifting and very dodgy looking.  What with me being on camera at the time.

Sunday February 02 2014

The other day, I stuck up a couple of pictures I took in Paris, in February 2012.  Here are three more Paris pictures, taken a few days later, from one of the upper floors of the mighty Montparnasse Tower, which is just about the only very tall, modern tower block anywhere very near to the centre of Paris.  My host for the week, Antoine Clarke, had a mate who worked in this building.

I love the photo at the other end of that link, a classic in the Lined Up Big Things genre, the Big Things in this case being the Montparnasse and Eiffel Towers, and behind them, we see, once again the distant Big Things of La Defense.

On the left, I’me looking in the same direction, but instead of photoing the Montparnasse Tower, I am photoing from the Montparnasse Tower, thereby lining up the two things that were in the two separate pictures in the earlier posting, namely the Eiffel Tower and La Défense:

image image image

In the middle of the middle picture is the Big Thing from which my earlier two photos were taken, the Pompidou Centre.  This is not a view I have seen very much.  Usually the Pompidou seems to be photoed from below.  Very impressive roof clutter, even if a bit arty and self-conscious.

On the right, we see the Sacré Coeur in the far distance, and in between, how Paris looks, on a very cold but sunny day.  Paris, untouched during WW2, looks a lot different to London, doesn’t it?

The sky is so dark because actually, the city itself was so bright.

Thursday January 30 2014

Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography.  The Eiffel Tower features in many photos.  The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.

image

That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.

I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is.  Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.

Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place.  Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time.  But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.

image

What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know.  I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these.  Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is.  When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care.  There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris.  But maybe you would like to know.

And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.

One other thing.  This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong.  When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger.  Is this either too big, or too small?  I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.

Sunday November 17 2013

Last night, at Chateau Samizdata, I and all others present drank this:

image image

Until last night I did not know that there was any such thing.  Well, I knew there was Sauvignon Blanc, but not called that.

Sadly, I failed to properly include the hippo at the top of the label on the left, but you can see plenty of the hippos here, because of course there is a website and you can read all about it.

Clever marketing, I think.  The real wine buffs will like it, if they like it, regardless of the name.  “Oh yes, it’s actually rather good, you know” blah blah.  And the wine unbuffs like me will like it too, because it’s a laugh, and a bit of a tease of wine buffs of the sort who expect wine not to be called such a thing.  So, win win.

Wednesday November 06 2013

More old photos, this time from the time when the Eurostar trains used to depart from Waterloo:

image image image

Taken with my old Canon A70, on June 21 2003.  So, over a decade ago.  I think the sign on the right of these three snaps is something of an exaggeration.  That’s about how long it takes now, isn’t it?  Not sure about that.

The pictures are all pleasingly worse than the ones I take now, with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150.  It would be terrible to think that neither I nor my cameras had got any better between then and now.

Eurostar came and went from Waterloo from November 1994 until November 2007.  Since then, not a lot.

But:

In 2012 a new proposal for the future use of the station was made, namely that it becomes the London destination of all the UK’s sleeper trains. This may become necessary as the phasing out of Mk2 vehicles and their replacement with Mk3 will make the trains too long for the platforms at Euston, and construction of HS2 will make the long sleeper dwell times at Euston untenable. If the Paddington sleepers were also diverted this would concentrate all sleeper services at Waterloo International, thus making use of the former Eurostar lounge facilities for sleeper passengers.

I can’t say I quite follow the logic of all that, but at least Waterloo Eurostar-that-was has not been completely forgotten about.

Sunday July 07 2013

Incoming from Craig Willy, of whom I did not know until now:

Hello Brian,

I see you’ve written a great deal on Emmanuel Todd. I have just written a summary of his big history book, L’invention de l’Europe. I thought you might find it interesting.

I also see you have the impression he mainly criticizes the U.S. for being a “hollowed out,” financialized “fake” economy. In fact he is incredibly critical of the eurozone, for that very reason, which he argues is responsible for the hollowing out, dysfunction and financialism of the French and peripheral European economies.

All the best, and feel free to share if you write anything new on Todd. My Twitter.

Craig

In response to my email thanking him for the above email, and asking if he has written anything else about Todd, Willy writes:

I discuss him a fair bit on my Twitter feed as he offends many with his criticism of Germany and euroskepticism. Otherwise I just wrote this short piece on Todd and the euro from a while back.

This I have now read.  Very interesting, and I think very right.  Interesting parallel between the Euro and the Algerian War.

Things appear to be really motoring on the Todd-stuff-in-English front.  At last.

Saturday May 04 2013

Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo.  One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise.  Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.

I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well.  Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:

image image image

Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.

Next day, Tony departed for the lunch.  Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening.  Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is.  I feared drunken disruption.  Which I would have survived.  Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years.  But the evening ended very pleasantly.

To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:

An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno

And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:

image

The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under.  The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke.  I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them.  Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.

Do not ask men like this to drink and drive.  They just might do it.

Tuesday December 04 2012

Madsen Pirie has a posting up about the Parisian origins of the Statue of Liberty, featuring one of my all time favourite photographs.  Which gives me an excuse to exhibit some snaps I took in Paris last February, of the Statue of Liberty.

There are two miniature Statues of Liberty in Paris.  Before visiting Paris I didn’t realise there were any, and since being in Paris until now, when I looked it up on the www, I hadn’t realised that Paris contained two.  There is a very small one in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and a less small one next to Grenelle Bridge, which is the one I went to see:

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

I still have tons more Paris photos to show off, but that’s a start.

Thursday June 28 2012
Thursday November 03 2011

imageThe usual routine.  Magazine publishes picture of Mo.  Moists firebomb the office.  C’est la vie. I got to the story from here, and here.

However, I don’t believe the Moists actually care that their precious prophet has had his picture flashed about.  I think they’re just looking for a fight, and I am giving them the oxygen of publicity.  Oh well.  But you can’t just ignore this crap.  Here’s hoping the Gendarmes get them.

Don’t agree with the French politician (second link) who wants everyone to “respect” all opinions.  Just tolerate, even as you despise and/or detest, is quite sufficient.

What’s Mo saying, by the way?  Anyone?  Ah, answer here.

LATER: Longrider takes a well deserved whack at a cowardly creature called Bruce Crumley.  He got to it from Julia.

Monday September 12 2011

A couple of days ago, Antoine Clarke dropped by chez moi, and gave me one of these:

image

This evening I had it for supper.  But what was it?  If Antoine told me, I immediately forgot.  Pate (please add appropriate accentage - also to Henaff above) made of pork, I think.  But my French is hopeless and I cannot be sure.  All I can be sure of is that it was delicious.

Thursday June 30 2011

Around this time of year, I often take a break from regular blogging, and I will be again, this year, starting now.  Before I went on my recent trip abroad, I warned that my usual rule of something at least once every couple of days might take a bit of a hit for the duration, but actually, regular service here continued.  But now I feel the need of a break.  So, for at least the next few weeks or so, and quite possibly for as long as two months, things will only appear here if I entirely feel like putting them here, and this time, I think I can promise some quite long gaps.  I am not forbidding myself to blog here, merely saying that for the next bit of a while, you should expect only whatever you may happen to get, and no more.

I’ll sign off with another of Goddaughter 2’s editings of one of my Rennes pictures (see below), this time of crippled bicycles:

image

I hate it when people do that to bicycles.

And a happy holiday to me.

Many photographers get bored with photoing big photogenic things like famous buildings, gorgeous landscapes and spectacular sunsets.  I think part of this is because the more beautiful something is, the more people (as opposed to photographers) already look at it,and I mean really look at it, in the flesh, as it were.  And what they remember of the real thing is typically better than any photo the photographer may later show them.  Certainly better than any photo I take.  The trick therefore is to take photos of things that people don’t normally bother to scrutinise in any detail.  With your photo you are showing them something they wouldn’t normally bother with.

Like tables and chairs, without people.  I photoed a lot of these when I was in Brittany recently:

imageimage

Those were my versions.  As usual here, click to get any of these pictures bigger.

Goddaughter 2 got hold of all the snaps I’d taken that day, and those two were among the ones she picked out to play around with.  I.e. she used Photoshop to pick out everything red in the pictures and make it even redder, and probably added several doses of sharpening to the mix too:

imageimage

The reason I was photoing empty chairs and empty tables is that there did seem to be an awful lot of these about in Brittany while I was there, in Quimper, in Saint Malo and in Rennes.  (The above two snaps were taken in Rennes.) My guess is that the mostly very bad weather throughout the time I was there, together with, I suppose, the larger financial climate, had caused business, in the kinds of places with lots of tables and chairs to put out in the street and serve food and drink on, to be very hard hit indeed.  Every pile of chairs or clump of unused tables was money not being taken by people who are very much in need of it.

Friday June 24 2011

I don’t always do cats here on Fridays, but I often do.  For me they signify the fundamental point of this blog, which is to entertain, and in particular to entertain me, rather than just to be serious and political about everything.  There is more to life than the fact, if fact it be, that the politicians are making a mess of everything.  So it was that, when on my recent trip to France, I kept half an eye open for cats.

Another thing I found myself snapping was motorbikes.  The French really seem to love their motorbikes, perhaps because their roads are longer and emptier than they are in Britain.

So imagine my delight when, wandering around the centre of Quimper of an evening, I came across this:

image

And I wasn’t the only one who felt that this was suitable material for digitalised immortality:

imageimageimageimage

My favourite snap of a fellow digital photographer in Cat-on-Harley action being this one:

image

Was the cat in any way disconcerted by all this attention?  On the contrary:

image

The cat loved it.

Here, I hope you will agree, is the appropriate song, sung by one of the all time great French sex kittens.  (I actually have this on CD.)