Barbara – L’aigle noir on the Ile St Louis

She sang in the years when I wish I could have lived.  Like so many of the greats of French literacy, poetry, music, theatre …. Barbara’s star had stopped shining by the time I finally arrived in France. Her voice, poetically haunting, how I imagine it might have been to sit in a smoke-filled cabaret with her standing alone in the spotlight, her voice soaking deep into everyone’s veins.

Not to be, I just have to be content with this YouTube montage and the above photos that brought Barbara to life again on the banks of the Ile St Louis.

Indulging in Pavlova

I don’t get homesick often.  But when it does arrive, it is a gentle creeping in, riding in on the back of clouds that blow in from the Atlantic.

Pounding the rain-soaked footpaths of the Rue de Rivoli this morning had me dreaming of Oz, of balmy summer evenings sipping champagne by the harbour, oohing and aahing at fireworks  in the company of friends.

I’m off to toast those friends from afar and indulge in a slice of oh-so-Australian summer tradition, Pavlova.

Happy Australia Day.

BERRY PAVLOVA
4 egg whites
2 cups castor sugar
2 tsp white vinegar
4 tbsp boiling water
4 tsp cornflour (maizena)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla essence

FRESH WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING
1 500 ml thickened whipping cream (crème fermière)
Icing sugar to taste

BERRIES
500gms fresh berries, when in season (or in winter – frozen ‘cocktail de fruits rouges)
1 tsp castor sugar sprinkled onto berries and lightly tossed

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a 30cm (12in) tray with baking paper and draw a 20cm circle on the paper. Place the sugar, boiling water, vinegar and egg whites into a large bowl. Beat until mixture is stiff enough to hold it’s own peaks. Sift the cornflour and baking powder into the bowl, then add the vanilla and fold in lightly.

Pile the meringue onto the baking tray within the circle.  Place into the oven and reduce the heat to 150C for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat further to 100C for an hour longer. After that, turn off the oven and leave the Pavlova in the oven overnight to dry out.

To serve, top the Pavlova with the whipped cream and the berries.

Escape to the winter grey of the Calvados

There’s no escaping the grey in France during winter. 

From October through till April, everywhere you look,  cloud lingers low and there’s a dampness in the air.   The sun makes the rarest of appearances, her warm glow tucked away, out of sight.  People wrap up heavy to match the sombre colour of the skyline. 

Not someone to be bothered by winter, I embrace it.  My favourite season came like a built-in wardrobe with coats and chunky scarves, gloves, pink cheeks that glow when everyone returns to the warm air from the chill outside.  Hot chocolates and vin chaud, cider and galettes.

It also happens to be the time when I most prefer the ocean.  And when it all comes together like a Saturday trifecta, there’s only one thing to do.  Jump in the car and head to the Calvados.  Unlike the summer rush, it’s mostly void of tourists. With the exception of a few cars making their return to the UK, there are no crowds lounging about the harbour, no long waits to get into one of the quaint, fisherman restaurants.  The waters are calm, the beaches littered with pebbles and shells waiting to be collected by pint-sized fingers.

The grey slate buildings blend perfectly with the sky, the ocean, the lunch, and the quiet harbour.  It’s a little corner of heaven, and my favourite escape.

Reflection

Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people. – Albert Einstein

Here’s to closing off 2010 remembering the good, the not so good, the loved and the lost. And, to holding the memories tight in our hearts.   

Wishing that 2011 takes us one step closer to world peace than the questionable effort of 2010.

Snowed out near Paris

The Internet is full of chatter about people snowed in, unable to fly for the holidays, stuck in Paris, and unsure of what may become of their travel plans.

We’re stuck at the other end of the spectrum.  Snowed out. 

Twelve miles to the west of Paris, the snow remains thick.  Slush belongs only on the pond, and holidays that might have been filled with outings to museums have become adventures down les pistes!  A mammoth hill in the village where the car just can’t make it up and over icy roads, day after day snow that is thicker than most places locally hit, and we are snowed out of pre-arranged activities. 

With the forecast predicting more, we’re looking at being snowed out for a while longer.

L’ombre d’elle même

He looked up over the rim of his glasses as he heard the familiar softness of her footsteps entering the room.  He knew the sound of those footsteps, distinguished, belonging only to her. When she wasn’t there beside him, he would miss her company intensely.  When she returned, with each of her steps, his heart would flutter.

Ever the delicate butterfly he had first caught sight of in a garden many summers ago, her place in his heart grew more and more intense over the years. Never a day passed when he didn’t wish to be in her company, never a moment when he didn’t long for her in her absence.

When the day arrived and he was no longer there, when his chair sat empty and she waited and longed for that pitter patter she felt each time she sat beside him as she’d done for a lifetime before, she softly tread the floorboards, yet something was terribly amiss.

She longed to once again see the smile that would rise on the lips that rested on that same face that peered over the glasses as he looked up at her.  To touch the hand that would reach out from the chair to stroke her hand, squeeze her fingers, and say everything that wanted to be said without speaking a word. 

She was still that same person from the summer long gone, the flick of her hair had remained unchanged for an eternity, yet without the half that made her whole, she had become a shadow of her former self.

******

Il leva les yeux en entendant ses pas pénétrés dans la pièce. Il connaissait par cœur le son de ces pas, qui ne pouvaient appartenir qu’à elle. Lorsque parfois elle s’absentait, le vide qu’elle laissait derrière elle, lui pesait. Dès son retour, et dès l’approche de ses premiers pas, son cœur battait de nouveau la chamade.

Elle était restée cet être délicat, aperçu au détour d’une allée de jardin il y a déjà de si nombreux printemps.  La part de son cœur qui lui était dédiée n’avait  fait que s’accroitre au fil des années. Il n’y avait de journée que pour être avec elle, pas un moment de solitude qui ne fut pour lui une réelle épreuve.

Lorsqu’un jour c’est elle qui constata son absence, que son fauteuil à lui resta désespérément vide, elle se languit de longs moments de pouvoir s’assoir à ses côtés, comme elle l’avait toujours fait avec tant de plaisir. Elle quitta la pièce sur la pointe des pieds, faisant tout doucement craquer le plancher, le vide se faisant sentir peu à peu.

Elle regrettait tant ce sourire dansant sur ses lèvres qui accompagnait toujours son regard.  Cette main qui caressait la sienne, ces doigts enlaçant les siens, ses nombreuses paroles qui n’avaient jamais eu besoin d’être prononcées, tout cela lui manquait encore davantage.

Elle était toujours la même femme que celle qu’il avait rencontrée d’antan, sa manière de redresser une mèche de cheveux rebelle n’avait en rien changé, et néanmoins, en l’absence de cet être qui la complétait si parfaitement, elle n’était aujourd’hui plus tout à fait la même… l’ombre d’elle-même.

Swirls, twirls, et mon petit lutin.

No school Wednesday, snow day Thursday, normal day Friday, no school Monday.

We’re celebrating all the no school days, swirling and twirling chez Euro Disney, Paris.