Friday Fun: I’d Rather Be Skiing

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!

The glacier in Banff, from Jasper Collection.
A more rustic chalet look on Lake Tahoe, from Lake Tahoe Getaways.
Room for books and a reading chair, from Chalet Contemporain.
Love the sofa and view in this one, plus I’ll keep the dog. From Pinterest.
This one is on, Odles Lodge, Brix – if I book, do I get to keep the man as well? Preferably making me a cup of tea rather than just admiring the view.
No curtains, I hear you exclaim. But the skiers go by so fast, they wouldn’t even see you. From Casa Tres Chic.
As I said, I could live there all year round, but it’s doubly attractive in the snow… From

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!

Friday Fun: Chateaux in the Snow

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?

This is of course the castle everyone thinks of when they imagine winter, mountains, snow and overly-romantic situations. Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, from Travel Triangle.
But I raise you the Winter Palace in St Petersburg with a colour that really pops out amidst the white, photo credit Minigaleeva Elena.
The Russian Czars really did know how to get palaces built that would fit in well in a snowy landscape. Alexander Palace and Park, from Nicholas II site.
More modest, in a land more given to rain than snow, Drimnagh Castle in Ireland still looks beautiful. From the castle’s restoration page on Facebook.
Ah, now we’re coming to the chateaux, in this case Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, from My French Country Home Magazine.
Chateau Amboise is equally breathtaking in winter, with its terrace overlooking the Loire. From the castle website – don’t forget to visit the tomb of Leonardo Da Vinci while you are there.
Peleș Castle in Sinaia, Romania, may look medieval, but it was built in the late 19th century and had all the mod cons, as well as a beautiful location in the Carpathian Mountains. From
More of a fortress than a chateau, Rasnov Castle in Romania is a popular post-Christmas dinner walk away for the locals (or maybe that was just my family?) From

Cultural Summary April 1-10

Val Thorens from above the clouds.

‘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?

Mont Blanc from the ‘other’ angle.

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 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!




Friday Fun: Heading to the Alps

No matter what I say or do, I cannot forget about mountains and snow in the winter months. I miss them more than I can say, so here are some pictures to delight me (or to help me wallow in my misery).

Chamonix at night, from

Thermal spa at Leukerbad in Switzerland, from Le

A summer shot, but still beautiful. Sankt Gallen in Switzerland. From Panoramio.

The Alps in autumn, from HG

My favourite vineyards, although the dream of owning one with a chateau recedes daily. From

But it’s the skiing I miss most. Chamonix once more, from


Friday Fun: Snow and Mountain Love

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…

This is my idea of heavenly powder... from
This is my idea of heavenly powder… from

Nope, I can't jump like that, but I keep on dreaming. From
Nope, I can’t jump like that, but I keep on dreaming. From

A corner of the French Alps formerly known as home.
A corner of the French Alps formerly known as home.

If you get bored of using your own legs for locomotion...
If you get bored of using your own legs for locomotion… Plus an indispensable finger over the camera lense!

Personally, I find snowshoeing more challenging than skiing...
Personally, I find snowshoeing more challenging than skiing…

Mont Blanc is a stunner from all angles.
Mont Blanc is a stunner from all angles.

And after the effort and the cold, relax the Savoyard or Swiss way, with a raclette in front of the fireplace.


Life Endures

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
or else
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.

Copyright: Bjorn Rudberg

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).

Holiday Haikus

Snowy landscapeSilver mother-tongue:

winter nights are still too short

to share you with friends.


If you must pass too:

let the murmur of the snow

be your only guide.


Our Falcon-hut

hugs its icy green mantle

closer to its heart.


Shrill squawks of delight

our boys, your boys: who can tell?

Bundled-up snowmen.


If laughter ceases,

what is left? Bring more mulled wine!

Games room rings with us.


Inside the prison,

outside of the storm,

I am laughing.


Winter Haikus

Winter Pass

Soft swish then silence

No traffic out my window-

Snow has come at last.


Steady trickled drip.

Drainpipe thick with icy coat.

Downward flash of mouse.


Frozen carrot nose,

Twigs in perfect puffy spheres.

Ours is best of all.


Lego bricks scatter.

Damp circle in flattened grass,

Where proud snowman stood.


Spit out weak coffee,

Collar up, I venture out

in the toothache cold.


With enormous thanks to Quirina, who reawakened me to the possibilities of the haiku.