Ramblings: Christmas Time

Christmas has always my favourite time of the year – ever since I was a child where there were all of the joys of decorating a Christmas tree, watching Mary Poppins and Oliver!; the anticipation of Father Christmas coming down our chimney after midnight and trying to stay away to hear him, but always suddenly waking up at dawn and running downstairs to see what presents lie waiting for us under the stairs. School plays and The Snowman, two weeks off school and the time to read and write and relax… Then later, Christmas parties and shopping for gifts, midnight mass and the smiles of goodwill from even the grumpiest of people; the smell of pine and vanilla and gingerbread and the excitement of a snowfall on Christmas Day. Searching for childhood Christmas movies in France and the delight of finally finding Scrooge on VHS, making Christmas playlists and wearing Santa hats outside; Christmasses spent away from family, trying to recreate the same atmosphere and happiness and never actually making it work; Christmasses spent traveling to be with family because that is the only place where it feels right. Christmasses in England, in the Netherlands, in France, in Israel, in California, in New York… 

Last year I failed at Christmas. I didn’t plan anything properly and ended up staying in New York, alone, with no real plans except for maybe cooking a meal for everyone who didn’t have a place to go. I put the old fake Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve, spent the weeks before trying to get into a Christmas spirit by playing my favourite Christmas songs everywhere (and making everyone else play them too), drinking many a Christmas shot of Powers and buying gifts and sometimes losing them along the way. Christmas Eve was lovely, spent baking cookies and watching movies with a friend… Christmas Day came with people too hungover to come over for dinner, so luckily my friend invited me to other friends’ house, people who just added a chair to the table and made me feel welcome. Even though all ended well, I was determined to never spend Christmas in New York without my family again.

Fast forward to today, a year later, a year full of ups and downs and big surprises, and I am spending Christmas here, this time planned and with the same anticipation that I had when I was younger. Next year C. and I will be celebrating our baby’s first Christmas – this year we are celebrating together as a family for the first time. There is something really, really special about showing the one you love all of the different traditions you have at Christmas… Starting with the Christmas tree. I was really intent on getting a real tree this year. I’ve tried to do it over the past few years, and have always failed for some reason, but this year I was determined it would happen. On Tuesday night C. came home from work brandishing a beautiful Christmas tree (at 2am – because tree stands are open 24 hours in this city), and we spent Wednesday decorating the apartment and the tree with lights and baubles and Christmas music. This will be my last Christmas in this apartment with B, so we are planning on spending it all together, cooking and watching movies and relaxing, and just being cozy while it is probably going to be freezing and snowing outside. Remember that blizzard that started on December 26th a few years ago? Bring it on!!! Snow angels and snow men and snowball fights! Although I should probably find another winter coat soon, as this one isn’t going to close for much longer…

And once Christmas is over and the New Year has been rung in it will be time to seriously relax, save as much money as possible, find a new apartment, and finally welcome our little girl into this world… All part of this new adventure that is honestly the most amazing one that I have been on in my life.

Photography and Nostalgia: Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2004

Me, Grenoble 1998Auntie Dot in Melton 1994Zoe in Manton 1994Dylan in Loughborough 1994Koss and me, Oakham 1994Koss and Zoe, Oakham 1994
Zoe, Simon and Koss, Manton 1994My room, Sassenage 1994School courtyard, Grenoble 1994Rebecca, Champollion 1994Alice and me, Sassenage 1994Me and Karli, Sassenage 1994
Me, Grenoble 1995Worshipping the Docs, Grenoble 1995Rebecca, Grenoble 1995Cannibal, Pascal, me Grenoble 1995Andrew, Grenoble 1995Goth Jade, Grenoble 1995
Pascal, Grenoble 1995Shannon, Grenoble 1995Cannibal Corpse back patch, Grenoble 1995Spontaneous mosh pit, Grenoble 1995Karli in my Sepultura t-shirt, Grenoble 1995South of France, 1994
Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2005, a set on Flickr.

A few months ago I purchased an amazing little tool called the Wolverine Photo Scanner (see link below for more details if you are interested). The tool scans negatives and slides into .jpg format photos that you can then load onto your computer and post online. So for the past few months I have been scanning all of the negatives I have managed to save over the years and over the multiple moves from country to country and apartment to apartment. I finally finished uploading and labeling them all this week as I had a bit more downtime than usual, with it being Christmas and all.

The photos are a mix of moments in time, taken between 1993 and 2004, mainly of people and places in my life at the time. The amount of nostalgia felt while labeling all of the photos was intense, as there are moments that I had forgotten about, and moments that I will never forget as long as I live. Some people come and go over time, others remain around, however far away you may live from each other and however many months pass between conversations. The photos are all mixed up, as I didn’t have the heart to sort them by year, so you may find an image from 1994 in our old house in Sassenage, France right next to one of me and my volunteer friends in Kibbutz Evron in Israel in 2003. I feel as if this entire set is a snapshot of a decade and of the changes and non-changes that may have happened over those years. I thought about making a playlist to accompany the set, but it would have taken many hours and would have been too long to accomplish before the end of the year. Maybe a project for 2013?

Before I post an obligatory piece about 2012, I felt a real, old-school nostalgia piece was needed, not only because I feel that it helps me to collect all these images in one place, but also because a lot of my friends are probably going to appreciate seeing these, especially as at the time none of us had cell phones and cell phone cameras, and I was usually the only one who would take photos during our random nights and days out…

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them. Bob Dylan

From our house in Sassenage, through the apartment in Ile Verte, Grenoble right through to my first apartment alone with my best friend and roommate Maud, my home was always the main meet-up place and place to hang out for me and my friends over the years. Cooking up pots of pasta and sauce and smoking hash in the Ile Verte, listening to metal into the early hours before going out to explore the huge graveyard down the street; making mulled wine and listening to The Cure on vinyl at our place on the 5th floor at 5 Rue Crépu in Grenoble; standing on the balcony and belting out parts of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to our neighbours at 4am; playing tarot around the table talking about the world and how we could change it…

Walking through the streets of Grenoble with bottles of wine in our hands; sitting on the steps of the FNAC and the church waiting for something to happen. Trips up to the Bastille and nights spent drinking in bars until we were drunk enough to go dance in a club up in the mountains; Paris with Maud and dancing to Bauhaus in a basement bar; electro-goth nights in Grenoble and Lyon; Nick Cave in Lyon in 2001 and standing speechless in front of him, because what on earth can you say to someone you adore without sounding like an idiot? Months and months spent on a kibbutz in Israel, making new lifelong friends and drinking cheap Russian vodka, dancing on tables until 5am and getting up at 6am to go to work in the kitchen. Walks and naps on the beach in Nahariya; talks around bonfires and an 8 day trip around Egypt with $150 in my pocket. Visits to my family in Sacramento, California, meeting up with old high school friends and realizing that some things never change. Little Luna cat as a tiny kitten, still the same little Luna as she is today, 12 years older. Working in the pub in Empingham, England; hanging out in the graveyard and talking for hours; walking around Rutland Water and waiting for the next big thing to happen…

There are so many moments I could write about, so many moments I have already written about and made into chapters of a book that I may or may not finish one day, and I love having a visual reference to these moments in time and to the people I shared these moments with. There are about 400 photos in the set, and there are some people and photos missing because I somehow lost the negatives along the way, but the ones I chose and/or found really portray a great view of our lives at the time.

“Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart.” - Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Music ramblings: The Prodigy

Sometimes I feel like my tastes in music have become way too nostalgic... It's becoming more and more rare for me to actually discover a new band or musician that I fall in love with. I think I can count the amount of times that happened last year on one hand (and I am trying to rack my brains to figure out who they were right now, to no avail). Maybe I am just relying too much on the stuff that I already know I love (and there is a lot of that), so I'm not even looking for anything new. (This means I need suggestions, for those who didn't get the hint).
Anyway, I was making a playlist on Spotify for my sister (it's HERE if you feel like listening to it) and have since been dancing round my apartment (and subsequently at work during a performance of Being Shakespeare) to The Prodigy all day. I still remember the first time I heard them, back in 1994. I think it was the first time I really got into music that wasn't rock/punk/folk/metal/goth/EBM. I was in England during my summer holiday and the video for No Good (Start the Dance) was pretty much playing on a loop on MTV (between Alanis Morrisette, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, Stiltskin, Gun, Blur, Oasis, Alice in Chains and that bloody Wet Wet Wet song). I loved that video (still do actually). Dark and creepy with furious dancers in an underground basement area. Kind of like a visual dance track of the parties I was used to going to. I bought Music for a Jilted Generation that summer, but pretty much only used to listen to a couple of songs off it for a while. My sister also immediately fell in love (although that was no surprise, she was already well entrenched in the underground rave scene in France).

Fast forward a few years and The Fat of the Land came out. I can't tell you how excited I was, especially after having heard Firestarter and seen Keith Flint's new crazy punkesque look and vocals. I like angry music and I like to dance, so couple anger with dance beats and it seemed like the perfect combination. Like dance music for those who are into the darker side of things. EBM and Dark Electro also worked, but there was something really refreshing about The Prodigy. There was that whole controversy about the track called Smack My Bitch Up (and the awesome video that came with it), but that just made me like them more. That track, as well as Breathe are still firm favourites of mine. In fact, I've been dancing to Breathe all day.

That said, I missed out on the album that was released in 2004 (I was too busy living an idyllic life in Israel on a kibbutz while drinking too much vodka), and I didn't even realise that they released another album in 2009. Must get on that as soon as I get home tonight... And I still haven't seen The Prodigy live, which I really need to one day.They should totally co-headline a tour with Skinny Puppy or something... Anyway, seeing as I am back in 1994 now I'm going to move on from The Prodigy for an hour and listen to some Asian Dub Foundation, just to take my mind off the fact that my sister is currently watching the Buzzcocks live at Coachella, while I am stuck at work in Brooklyn.

The Prodigy official site
The Prodigy on Wikipedia

Photography: Rutland, England, March 2012


Rutland, England 03/2012, a set on Flickr.

I really do come from a beautiful place in England. The smallest county, Rutland, located between Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire. Tiny villages, rolling hills, old, old buildings, village pubs... Here are a lot of photos that I took on my trip. I'll add descriptions over the next few days as I haven't had a chance to do so today.

Enjoy <3

Snow/England/Nostalgia... TOTPs?!

I was going to write a really serious article about something serious that is happening in the world today, but that is going to have to wait until I am in a really serious mood... Woke up to hearing that Jimmy Savile had sadly passed away this morning, and then seeing the snow falling rapidly outside my window lead to me spending about 3 hours of my life watching old Top Of The Pops Christmas specials on YouTube. Which then lead to just regular TOTPs videos...

I miss the England I grew up in today, so I'm just giving in to nostalgia, laughing my head off and enjoying all of the silly outfits and good music (as well as terribly bad music). Here are some gems, enjoy, while I waste the rest of my Saturday watching more and more.

The Stranglers - Golden Brown 1982

David Bowie - Starman 1972

The Rolling Stones - Let's Spend the Night Together
(OK - I know I wasn't born then, but who cares):

The Cure - Lovecats 1983
(I love how they make it painfully obvious that they are miming)

Spandau Ballet (cue snickers of laughter) 1982

Falling back in love with the radio again...

I am beginning to rekindle my love with the radio again. For so many years I stayed away, from the disappointment of what I thought radio had become, from the stations that play a total of 10 songs, over and over and over again until you want to pound your head against a wall and kick something. But something happened this year, and I stopped feeling nostalgic about my past love of the radio, and am finding that it does still exist and that I can enjoy it again.

First radio hero was of course John Peel. Memories of his voice and the voices from The Archers on Sundays. John Peel is the synonym of a substitute father figure for me. That soft, deep voice, always calm and rich, playing some amazing, amazing music, late at night, during the day, whenever. He gave unknown artists a gateway to a wider audience, because if John Peel liked an artist or band, then he/she/they HAD to be good. All of my favourite artists have Peel Sessions (I used to tape them directly from the radio, and even still have some of the tapes). There were many a time that I used to finish work in the summer in England, and fall asleep to John Peel’s voice. I was living in London in 2004 when he died and was devastated. He was the most veneered and loved radio DJ of all time, especially where I come from, and I wish he hadn’t passed away so young. Can you believe he started broadcasting in 1967?! He went from the pirate radio station Radio London when it closed to BBC Radio 1 and pretty much stayed there for the rest of his life (with other broadcasts on Radio 4).

I think it goes without saying that the UK has the best radio set up, still to this day. But I didn’t really grow up in the UK, so my Radio 1 listenings were limited to before I turned 10, and the summers from my 16th birthday until I moved to New York in 2005. I grew up in France, where in early to mid 90’s there were both NRJ and Fun Radio, two radio stations that actually played GOOD music. I would listen to Fun Radio all day long, especially to Cauet and Miguel’s shows. They broadcast the very last Nirvana live show in full in 2004 (another one that I taped from the radio and listened to endlessly). I would sit on my windowsill by the little stream and listen to them play my favourites while discovering other bands along the way. Although never as good as British radio, they didn’t do a bad job for a few years… Until some internal radio rule decided that rock music was “out” and that it was time to only play the same 10 (bad) songs over and over again. Bye bye French radio…

I didn’t even bother with the radio much when I moved to the US. Every time I tried to tune into a radio station it was the same thing, so what was the point? I was better off making my own playlists and listening to them as opposed to forcing myself to listen to something else that I didn’t want to. Maybe I should have tried harder, but whatever, I didn’t miss the radio anyway.

Until I finally went back to England for a visit this year, and started listening to BBC 6 Music (yes, Marc Riley it’s all your bloody fault!). And I was hooked again. But now, I can actually listen to British radio here at home in New York, because you can stream the shows from your computer. Yes, you can listen to British radio from anywhere in the world. I also started listening to East Village Radio too, and discovered some cool shows, like Andy Rourke’s weekly show, where he pretty much plays whatever he feels like playing, and this often matches whatever I feel like hearing. I suppose that having more time at home now that I am not working insane hours at my old job helps to be able to actually sit down and enjoy the radio again. Suggestions are more than welcome!

Also. Did I mention how much I adore Marc Riley? Well I do. And I totally want to interview my mum about her Radio Caroline listening days...

Here are some links for your listening pleasure:

BBC 6 Music

East Village Radio (EVR)

Full list of Peel Sessions

Slavoj Žižek - Shoplifters of the World Unite (Essay)

Slavoj Žižek - Shoplifters of the World Unite
(taken from the LRB - London Review of Books - website)

This is just a brilliant analysis, review and interpretation of the recent riots in England. I am terribly jealous of how amazingly correct Žižek is, as well as of his ability to express himself so well. I wish I could provide such a clear and concise review of how I feel about the riots, but as I can't, I will let Žižek's words do it for me.

Read it - it's SO GOOD.

"Welcome" - film by Philippe Lioret

I just finished watching this and am still crying my eyes out. Bilal, a Kurdish teen, walked for months from Iraq, to try to find his girlfriend in England. As his attempts to cross the Channel with a handler fail, he decides to try to swim the Channel, and starts training at the local swimming pool. The relationship that develops between Bilal and his swimming instructor resembles an awkward father/son relationship, where the father figure, Simon (played by Vincent Lindon), tries to help Bilal, but obviously feels conflicted about this, as he is going through his own personal drama (divorce) at the same time.
The film also depicts how refugees are treated in France (they are not sent back to their country of origin if said country is at war; but do not have any rights while they stay n France - basically al is done so that they are pushed to go back home again). it is also illegal for French citizens to help or house refugees, and the police can literally search a home without a warrant if they feel the need to.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I've always liked Vincent Lindon, and he plays his role excellently here.

More information on the movie:
Mars Distribution (French)
IMDB (English)

This brings up a much larger question... The immigration situation is a huge deal in most Western European countries. Whereas in the past immigrants were pretty much welcomed with open arms (think of the Poles that were taken from refugee camps in Uganda after WW2, and given automatic British citizenship for helping rebuild England; or the Algerians who were given homes and work in France in the 60's and 70's when there were too many jobs and not enough people to do them); nowadays people are either sent back to their countries of origin or, if they are deemed to fit within the status of a refugee (see HERE for the ECRE definition) either are held in detention centers, or left to live on the streets with no status, means of income or housing.

I've heard so many arguments from French and English people about this "situation" (from the far left to the far right), everyone has an opinion about it, but no one has a real solution. In the end it should be up to us to actually HELP people who are running for their lives - not treat them like subhumans. Most of the time people will not leave the country they were born in with nothing except the clothes they are wearing if it wasn't because they were in grave danger of torture, rape or death.

Just something to think about.

England... I forgot you somehow...

I left London 6 years ago, and landed in New York with a couple of suitcases, a new job and what appeared to be a sea of new experiences to have, people to meet and a new life to explore. I never really looked back... I wasn't really happy in London. I didn't enjoy my job that much (especially not the pittance it paid), I didn't really know anyone, and didn't know how to meet people, couldn't afford to do much more than work and eat. I did live in a great house, with wonderful people, but at the same time I missed my mum, sister and brother who were in California, my on/off boyfriend who was back in Colombia (is boyfriend really the word? I don't know anymore), and all my friends in France and Israel. I missed the sunshine and the desert, the "real" coffee, the long nights... I was lucky to have the rest of my family in England, and made regular trips up to Empingham to be with my Nana and Aunt, but I was too restless for London at the time, too full of anger at not being able to live in the US, too full of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life.

New York swallowed me up. A lot happened over the space of 6 years, some of it covered very openly, or more discreetly, in this blog. But now I feel like it has spit me out, the same person, a little older, a little wiser, but with a lot more hindsight, and also, foresight.

I finally went back to England last week for 6 days. 3 days for work, 3 days for myself. It was quite a revelation, in a sense. Everything is still in segmented phrases in my head for now, so that is how I am going to portray it here...

I love London. The buildings, the Tube, the smell of the soap, the parks... The politeness of living in England. Yes, people DO stand to the right on elevators, and wait for people to get off the train before they get on, however busy the platform is. Fruit pastilles. Chips and mushy peas late in the evening.
The countryside... Rutland. The green of the land, thatched roofs, The White Horse and Sunday Lunch. Jacket Potatoes and long conversations with Auntie Louise. Home.
The proximity of the rest of Europe and the idea that Paris IS only a short flight or train ride away.
Charlie and Cristi and Lynn not far - why were we not all such close friends before I moved? Would I have moved if we had been? (Probably, but I still wonder).
QUIET. The ability to actually sit in a pub and have a conversation with people who are not off their faces on something.
People who have known me since I was born. Family. REAL news on television. Really, really old things. Israel being only a 5 hour flight away.

There are more. Just let me get my thoughts together properly. Sometimes I see everything through the opposite of rose-tinted glasses, and I feel like I spent my time in London looking through grey-tinted glasses 6 years ago. Now I have more perspective...

Back later.