You probably know by now that, other than a chateau, my favourite place in the whole wide world is a ski in/ski out chalet, preferably with champagne, fondue and a hot tub to ease those weary muscles. This is where I would like to be this winter – and every winter!
Merry Christmas to all those celebrating today and tomorrow – may you be spending next Christmas (at the very latest) in your favourite place, with your favourite people, anywhere in the world!
I gather there is a film currently on one of the streaming services featuring a popular novelist who can afford to buy a Scottish castle just in time for Christmas, so I couldn’t resist combining two of my favourite topics: castles/palaces/manor houses and snow. Of course, not all of these are ‘chateaux’ strictly speaking, but ‘palaces in the chalices’ or ‘castles for the passels’ just don’t quite have the same rhyming resonance, do they?
‘Culture’ might be a bit of a misnomer for what I’ve been doing since April 1st. However, there is such a thing as a skiing and snowboarding ‘sub-culture’ – and no, it’s not the wealthy people posing in their Chanel ski-suits and drinking Aperol in front of an open fire in their immaculate chalets. Skiing to me and my friends since high school is a low-budget, almost alcohol-free, very sporty and fun adventure, with a lot of talk about snow conditions, piste-bashing, skiing techniques and waxing and cutting edges. Sounds absolutely riveting, doesn’t it? Not everyone’s mug of mulled wine, but the upside is a view like the one above.
Sadly, I have to admit that for the first time I truly felt my age, as the altitude and exertions really got to me. I emerged like a warrior after endless wars in Troy: with a strained ligament, a pulled deltoid, throbbing headache, shortness of breath and a cold. Still, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! I mean: how inspiring is this?
I did get quite a bit of reading done and, since I was skiing with Chinese and French friends, it was appropriate to read Chinese thriller Death Notice by Zhou Haohui and Sébastien Japrisot’s One Deadly Summer. Both have been adapted for the screen, but while the Chinese book is all heart-stopping action, the French book is languid, slow build-up of tension and a lot of personal emotion (the film stars a very young Isabelle Adjani). I have also embarked upon the Asymptote Book Club title for March, Domenico Starnone’s Trick, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri, a sensitive, amusing and slightly disquieting view of the less talked about aspects of the grandfather/grandson relationship.
I was planning to attend First Monday Crime at City University last night, but had to give up and go home early because of creaking bones. However, if you are a fan of crime fiction, this monthly event (twice this April – the next event will be on the 30th) is a must-see: great panels, super-nice people and lots of laughter guaranteed.
More exciting events coming up this week: the launch of the new edition of Poetry Review will take place at the Poetry Café in London’s Covent Garden on Wednesday 11th April. And on Thursday my older son and I will be attending the show we’ve been waiting for, dreaming and talking about, singing for the past year or so: Hamilton. Last but not least, my local writing group will be celebrating two years of existence on Sunday 15th with a feedback session and a festive meal.
I’ve also acquired some books in that short day that I was at Senate House library yesterday. I borrowed George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London to reread for the David Bowie Book Club in April. I also borrowed John Berger’s G to reread for Shiny New Books’ celebration of 50 years of Booker Prize – Golden Booker Week in July. Serendipity again reared its spirited head and introduced me to Brian Aldiss’ Life in the West – mention an ex-spy and hedonist and an academic conference – and I cannot resist! I also found an academic book entitled Tatort Germany: The Curious Case of German-Language Crime Fiction, so you can imagine I had to pick that one up! Finally, the ever-wonderful Europa Editions sent me Iranian-born, French-writing author Négar Djavadi’s debut novel Disoriental, described as at once a micro-history of Iran, a family saga and a woman’s personal experience of exile.
And finally, just ‘pour la bonne bouche‘, as the French say, here is one more picture to say farewell to winter. Give me snow over rain, I say!
I am a snow bunny, an unashamed snow bunny (imagine this sung to the tune of An Englishman in New York). Admittedly, at times the memory of skiing is much sweeter when you are safely nestled beside a toasty fire, sipping mulled wine and reading a favourite book. I won’t be skiing this year, but I have plenty of wonderful memories…
And after the effort and the cold, relax the Savoyard or Swiss way, with a raclette in front of the fireplace.
How tall we sink to stand up proud.
Snow drags us down, the sledge lies waste.
Rotting wood, rust-red stain
linger on the dank-wet smell.
We try to hide the holes
gnawed by hungry winged fiends
canvas-scraped death we look in the face
while knives tear at the awning
but scars are integral, scars mask our flight
the yearn in the fleeing
the shudder in mouthfuls
words carefully chosen
swallowed deep inside.
How deep the well and murky.
How friable the shelter.
Find twinges before the gush ends
before the light fails.
When all is said, done, shuttered
how fiercely life remains in the picture.
Over at dVerse Poets Pub, Bjorn has us telling stories about the prehistoric stone carvings found in Sweden. I chose a snowy tale, of course, but join me over at the site to see many other pictures made by early man (and woman).