In search of humble pie

In general, my French lessons follow a fairly standard format. After a session in which we catch up on the French news and on any important student news, our teacher goes round the table asking each of us in turn if we have a presentation to offer. Most of us will have prepared something and,…

Come all ye faithful

Remembering our histories is part of the human condition. In a week or so, on 5th of November to be precise, people all over Britain will light bonfires, let off fireworks and burn effigies. As a nation we will once again commemorate the night in 1605 when the attempt by Guy Fawkes to burn down…

An artisan and a gentleman

For a year now I have been dreaming of working once again with wood. A twenty-year carpentry gap is quite enough. In June the perfect excuse arrived and it has shaped my summer. My wife's birthday was at the end of the summer, and it was an important one too - her seventieth. In June…

Being there

This is the story of a piano concert that caused a family debate that still rumbles on. The seeds of the debate had been sown earlier at a classical music concert in the fifteenth century chapel in Pont-Croix, a village a few miles from our Brittany home. After the concert, my wife and I talked…

The uncommon reader

We, that is people in general, seem to have a compelling desire to label. I am talking specifically about the way we give nicknames to things, nicknames that are adopted by the people, rather than created by some official. I am sure the British are in no way unique, but here naming relates to anything from a building - in…

Sole contender

Every Friday morning at 9.00am there is a race through the aisles of our Breton supermarket. Some hundred or so customers - young and old, alone or as couples - do the sixty metres dash from the shop entrance to the fish counter at the back of the store. There are a myriad routes, some contestants wriggle through…

Tongue untied

It is said that the language we use influences the way we think and feel, and possibly even how our minds develop and decline. For those who are bilingual or more, it introduces all sorts of interesting dimensions. So when conversing, for example, there are choices to be made consciously or otherwise as to the language…

A view from abroad

Eventually, and perhaps begrudgingly, the media and the public here in France became aware of the Scottish referendum. Then, all of a sudden, their interest came with a rush. There is a tendency in France to ignore or negate issues that they see as of 'Anglo-Saxon' origin, but by early September the idea that the Scottish…

A novel experience

  Throughout my adult life I have rarely read books - fiction or non-fiction - and since reading is standard fare amongst my friends, I have been very much an outsider. Then, suddenly last week, I found myself reading a book that I couldn't put down. There were times when I continued reading for hours.…

Whistler’s mother

When it comes to etiquette, I'm in a muddle. I am happy to doff my hat, wait my turn in a queue or offer my seat to women in the underground, but at the same time I see a problem with the idea of politeness for politeness' sake. To me, following rules of conduct or social…