Scrapbook: Week 39

September 24-30, 2022

SATURDAY 24 Departure from London to Paris went much smoother than anticipated. My wife spotted the actor Lorraine Ashbourne in the queue at Eurostar St Pancras. I think also her travelling companion was the actor Andy Serkis, but it was hard to tell for sure. The journey from Paris Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse was pleasingly scenic (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc), though if I’m ever asked if I’d mind not being on Place de la Concorde in heavy traffic ever again I’d surrender happily.

Lunch in Paris…

📌 Bordeaux feels like a proper working city. It’s trams are not designed for tourists and have the comforting French habit of lingering lazily a few extra seconds at the stop, as if the driver’s cigarette break is built into the schedule. I like that about France, and it certainly makes for a bold contrast to the Swiss way of doing things.

SUNDAY 25 In a column that is quite low on messaging, Marina Hyde manages to squeeze out some classic lines. Liz Truss, she says, has started her new job as PM “casting the UK as a country too mad to nuke.” She rips through Truss’s accomplices then settles into a cosy duffing-up of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the opponent of the Nanny State who, at the age of 53, “still has a nanny.”

Mogg comes across like he’s escaped from some knock-off live Cluedo event… his character is called Lord Purple.

Marina Hyde, the Guardian…

📌 Proportional representation is back on the agenda. At the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, it will be put to a vote, but leader Keir Starmer is against it. For what reason, I cannot imagine. PR’s main fault, it is argued, is that it leads to boring coalition politics, something Starmer seems made for.

📌 Things you forget about France but still exist … 1) Nobody picks up and bags dog dirt; 2) The shop mannequins all have erect nipples; 3) Smoking is as popular as ever; 4) They take dogs of all sizes into restaurants; 5) The plight of the disabled person wanting to use the toilet in a French restaurant is a piece of absurdist theatre waiting to happen.

Day One in Bordeaux, including a visit to Marché des Capucins

📌 Witty architecture is not something you expect from French cities…

Un car parque de Bordeauxwhere a vintage Jaguar can be seen crashing out of a wall

📌 At the Brasserie Le Passage St Michel there was a shard of glass nestled in my fish lunch. When we told the waiter he joked that it came from “the fish that eats glass”. French humour, eh?

📌 If you were casting a psycho child killer for a TV drama a photograph of Georgia Meloni giving a speech might be a good place to start.

📌 Wandering in and around the Marché des Capucins is a real pleasure. An old decrepit leather sofa bed counts as cool decor in bars around here.

At Bonsoir Bordeaux

MONDAY 26 News that the pound has lost value around the world starts to make two cups of coffee in Bordeaux look like a bargain…

📌 Bordeaux’s Musée des Beaux-Arts has a fascinating collection(15-20C) of artists that rarely appear in the text books. Albert Marquet is/was a big figure in the Bordeaux art world.

📌 Someone at Bordeaux’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs has a fetish for mixing the ancient and the modern, not always successfully. Thankfully, its partner Musée du Design had pulled together an absorbing interiors exhibition occupying the cells of an old prison.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs…
Musée du Design…

📌 My wife is very disappointed that the area of Bordeaux we are staying in has too many craft beer bars rather than Bordeaux wine bars.

📌 We finally found a wine bar in our neighbourhood that didn’t specialise in beer, then another one where the chef, who held more than a passing resemblance to Tintin, took pity on the elderly couple who sat drinking and talking long after everyone else had gone home. He brought to our table what he called in broken English a “gift of chips, madame”, which was a perfect description for what we ate with a smile.

Gift of chips…

TUESDAY 27 Breakfast in the Marché des Capucins after learning that our train to Toulouse tomorrow has been cancelled. My wife got up early, dashed to the railway station, negotiated seats on a later train and was back in time for toast and jam.

Bistro Poulette, Marché des Capucins

📌 Our Art Class project for this week is to look through binoculars and consider “space”. I resisted the lure of the planets and stretched the idea to destruction by looking at the “spaces” in front of my nose.

📌 First to the antiques stores and stalls, then to the Cité du Vin for a marathon CBBC audio-visual presentation about wine, plus a glass of Bordeaux cremant in the panoramic bar overlooking the Garonne river.

Antiques of Bordeaux…
Cité du Vin…
On the Garonne…

📌 Left behind on the table next to ours in the restaurant: the smallest cigarettes you’ve ever seen.

Tiny cigs…

WEDNESDAY 28 Reports of Keir Starmer’s performance at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool describe him recasting the party of the workers as “boring but decent”.

📌 Relatives in Florida are waiting for Hurricane Ian to hit. Cuba is already devastated.

📌 More experimental over-the-shoulder photography, plus fish soup in the Marché des Capucins.

At the Marché des Capucins…

📌 Our arrival in Toulouse was wet, but at the Citadines we were granted an upgrade from a  room to a spacious apartment, which raised the spirits.

📌 There was some heated debate during aperitifs whether the amuse-bouches on offer in the Place Wilson bar included pickled almonds or a variety of cocktail bean.

THURSDAY 29 Weird. Everything seems to be happening at a distance. Our family in Florida are battling Hurricane Ian with no electricity and we are witnessing the demolition of Britain’s economy from France.

📌 On our first full day in Toulouse we revisited Places Wilson and Capitole to recall memories of the wedding in 1996 of our friends Dominique (a native of Toulouse) and Graham (a native of Shoreham-by-Sea).

📌 The Marché de Victor Hugo is more structured and slightly grander than its cousin in Bordeaux. We went in search of something my wife termed a “tasteless bread-stick opportunity” because I like to keep something in my bag for when I get “hangry”.

Marché de Victor Hugo…

📌 Lovely lunch of bavette, fennel and potatoes, plus apple crumble for dessert and 250cl red wine: €12.

📌 At the Musée du Vieux we learned lots about Toulouse from a stern madame whose English was about as good as my wife’s French. The titbit I found most fascinating was that Toulouse became the “Pink City” by accident. Builders trying to outdo rivals in Bordeaux set about making a unique sparkling white brick, but they fluffed the job and the bricks ended up pink.

The Pink City

FRIDAY 30 In a withering editorial the Guardian calls for Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng to be sacked and PM Liz Truss to be ousted. They alone, it says, have put Britain’s economy in peril and cruelly inflicted hardship on millions.

Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng give every impression of not caring. They seem to think they are clever and other people are stupid.

The Guardian

📌 With Labour Party members and union leaders now backing proportional representation, momentum is gathering for the reform British politics so badly needs.

📌 Back at the Marché de Victor Hugo we averted our eyes when passing the tripperie but bought wine and chocolates for this evening’s dinner hosts.

Marché de Victor Hugo…

📌 On a lovely afternoon guided around Toulouse by our friend Med we especially enjoyed the area of St Cyprien on the Garonne.

📌 Lovely couscous meal at Med & Latifa’s place just West of Toulouse, plus the chance to check out some of the art on their walls.

At Med & Latifa’s…

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…


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