Somewhat embarrassed to have to resort to this tactic but am seeking support and guidance from my fellow bloggers. As an enticement, here’s a shot of the Beatles album – Help.
Well you wouldn’t really expect anything less from a shameless scouser now, would you?
So, here’s the thing.
Swanning off on a business trip to China last October, I managed to miss the deadline to migrate my MobileMe account to iCloud.
Lovely flight from Paris to Beijing, though, it has to be said. Was a little smoggier the day I arrived to be honest.
I still have an AOL email address but this doesn’t appear to be playing ball yet vis-a-vis my blog. Apple support has been a big old faff.
My goal – to be able to reply to comments of fellow bloggers and to follow their blogs.
Help! Any tips and advice gratefully received.
I did manage to drive in the so-called Games Lanes on Saturday afternoon, making an unscheduled visit into Marylebone High Street to pick up some supplies of food and drink for a bbq. London reminded me of Paris in August when it empties out of Parisians. Not only were Londoners a little thin on the ground, the queue of tourists outside Madame Tussauds seemed much quieter too. All eyes are on Stratford to the East of London with its fabulous stadium and sporting dramas. I, meanwhile, was at a wedding in the West of London. Just look how quiet it was on Friday morning!
Not a one-off I can assure you. The whole of this area was like a sleeping hamlet rather than a 21st Century London suburb.
All the cars were parked up and not even a pedestrian in sight.
Here’s a view down the hill and out further West. Could almost be a Cotswold village. Interesting details on the buildings, too, if you kept your eyes open.
Not the US Embassy – just a rather grand entrance to a house on the main street. I really liked this decorative item in an alcove high above a restaurant.
Hard to believe the amazing #London2012 was only around 45 minutes drive away!
Essuyez vos pieds svp. Wipe your feet please. But then you knew that, didn’t you? This sign was at the base of the steps leading up to my daughter’s apartment on Boulevard de Clichy in Paris.
This was taken a couple of years ago during one of a series of flat hunting visits to Paris. Time was passing quickly and somewhere had to be found for my daughter to live as she spent her year abroad to study French.
The Ile St. Louis is glorious and filled with fabulous buildings at every turn, but this was way out of the price range. A simple white window box and some vivid red geraniums on a balcony – Parisians just make it all seem so effortless.
Just to be clear, I’m not spending my Sunday morning in Paris, but instead, I’m preparing work for the week ahead. So I’m going to write this post as the day goes on as a welcome and occasional distraction from the boring stuff!
I’ll start with a couple of panoramic shots of Paris – one of my favourite cities. This one taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe looking out towards La Defense and the futuristic Grande Arche – part of President Mitterand’s legacy.
This shot was taken from Sacre Coeur, looking down over Montmartre and a curiously threatening weather system. My daughter lived on the Boulevard de Clichy near the Pigalle metro station, just along from the Moulin Rouge. Picasso also lived here – at number 11. While Edgar Degas lived at number 6.
Meanwhile, underground, the sign for the St.Paul metro station in le Marais – one of my favourite districts in Paris. Can still remember the haunting sound of Ave Maria being sung in the quiet station at night as a brightly lit train emerged from the dark tunnel. Strangely incongruous while oddly perfect. Le Marais has some excellent restaurants and bars, not to mention some great boutique hotels. I stayed just around the corner from the Place des Vosges in the Hotel des Chevaliers, now the Hostellerie du Marais – http://www.hostelleriedumarais.com/
This Italian restaurant and pizza takeaway was in the Montmartre district. I really liked the colour of the timber cladding.
Still on the slopes of Montmartre – good exercise I should add – you’ll see an eclectic jumble of buildings filling every space. Be ready for some hefty climbing up endless flights of stairs in these apartment buildings if, like me, you don’t fancy getting in tiny old lifts that resemble that device that rescued the Chilean miners.
Autumn was approaching as this picture was taken one Sunday morning – late September – and in contrast to the UK which relaxed it’s Sunday trading laws, Paris still offers a relaxed treat as shops are closed and only cafes and restaurants are open. You get a sense of the city taking a weekly pause for breath.
Here it is again. Barely a pedestrian in sight and the traffic has calmed to a trickle.
A few weeks ago I’d posted from the Corn Exchange in Leeds. It had a pretty amazing domed ceiling. Then I found this picture I’d taken in the galeries lafayette in Paris a little while ago.
Now that’s what I call a ceiling!
Two close up shots taken in Paris. I thought the shapes, patterns and textures were interesting. The first one taken in a boulangerie window.
And this one of some rough mosaic work in a back street.
Thought this was an interesting visual juxtaposition. Let me know what you think.
Ballet film, right? First those opening shots; it’s got be be set in Paris surely. It could be the Metro she’s riding I suppose. But no, it’s the New York Subway. Mystery solved. The rest of the movie is nowhere near as easy to fathom though. And all the better for it.
On the surface at least, this is about one young woman’s rigid ambition to succeed as a prima ballerina. Yet like any swan gently gliding along, there are often powerful forces churning away beneath the surface of the movie, driving altogether more sinister and disturbing motives. Nina, the innocent ballerina selected to be the Swan Queen, is most obviously prone to the dangerously deranged and obsessive influence of her mad mentor of a mother, played by Barbara Hershey.
Played with a chilling intensity, we watch Nina’s mother teetering on the verge of a sort of brittle madness. Nowhere does the insanity reveal itself more clearly than in the call sign MOM appearing with terrible regularity on Nina’s cellphone. By the end of the movie, however, you have to wonder whether that insanity had been contagious, with Nina falling cruel victim to it’s clutches. Just as in The Sixth Sense, it’s only then that you reflect on what you’ve seen and wonder whether it was indeed reality or the visions of a disturbed soul. You’re left with the distinct impression that Nina has a sharper focus as she spins and spins in the dance than she does in trying to retain a grip on her senses in the daily round of her life preparing for the opening night of Swan Lake.
Natalie Portman’s transformation within the role of Nina is mesmerising, no more so than in the closing sequences, and her Academy Award is well deserved. I probably won’t be rushing off to the ballet after watching this movie, but I’ll certainly make time to watch this over again sometime. Only sorry I didn’t see it on the big screen when it was first released.
I can’t honestly say that I felt a spiritual surge with the approach of Christmas in China but they certainly know how to create the mood. Years ago – as a seventeen year old – travelling to New York and beyond to stay with family in the USA for Christmas for the first time, I remember the thrill and excitement of seeing Santa outside a local gas station shaking a large bell and waving to passing traffic. Not to mention the sweet smell of Christmas candles in large shopping malls. I’d left behind a frankly miserable mid-seventies Britain, dull and in the grip of civil and industrial strife. Christmas in the USA was a shot in the arm.
Now, several decades later, my Air France flight from Paris had flown east not west. Beijing was beckoning.
Crisp and efficient as you’d expect, customs and immigration were dispensed with easily enough, and soon we were pushing out into the stream of traffic heading into the city, past endless new developments. I was struggling between the urge to tune into Mandarin Chinese for the first time, or submit to waves of jetlag that were getting stronger and stronger the deeper we got into the traffic jam.
Snaking in via one or more of Beijing’s four concentric ring roads, I was soon checking in at the Qianmen Jianguo Hotel, my base for the next 5 days. A fine blend of the modern and traditional and with a warm welcome, I’d certainly recommend the hotel for anyone thinking of visiting. Here’s it’s website; http://www.qianmenhotel.com/en/index.html
It was in the hotel’s grand foyer that I first noticed China’s nod to Christmas. This was to be the first of many such nods that became ever more flamboyant, culminating in the commercial excitement that is Shanghai. After a day wandering around Tianenmen Square and strolling through the Forbidden City, a short bus ride and here was Christmas Chinese style, complete with the first of many enormous escalators that seem to reach into the skies.
Someone suggested to me that selling is hard wired into Shanghai and it’s people. They certainly know how to sell Christmas … no expense spared. Recession? What recession? This neon Christmas card stood at least 60 foot high brightening a chilly Shanghai evening.
They do subtle too. Here’s one of several carefully placed poinsettia’s dotted around a development on the other side of town. This is the home of feng shui after all!
Nobody was sending Christmas cards that I could see. Soaps on Chinese television weren’t about to blow up the local pub just because it’s Christmas either. But take a walk around streets and stores in Beijing, Tianjen or Shanghai, and listen to Chinese voices singing ‘Jingle Bells’ (in English), and tell me you haven’t got the Christmas spirit. Listening to ‘Silent Night’ can always squeeze out a sentimental tear or two from me, and this was no different hearing it sung a long way from home in the People’s Republic of China.
I’ve flown over the frozen landscapes of Mongolia and Kazakhstan and north of Moscow. It’s good to be home. Although I still check to see what time it’ll be over in China … eight hours ahead! Might sound an odd thing to say, but a chilly trip to China has really brought back the spirit of Christmas for me.
Merry Christmas everyone. And a Happy New Year!
Incredibly busy at the moment and it’s quite a stressful old time too. In the absence of more substantial posts, I’m opting for the occasional mini-post. Spotted this pigeon on one of several trips to Paris not long ago. Pretty sure it was somewhere in le Marais. Apparently the French word for pigeon is pigeon. So now you know. I’m impressed by the pigeon’s composure and je ne sais quoi.