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In Bordeaux

  Sun 15th December 2019

I was informed a few weeks ago that I'd accrued ten days' annual leave. I found a return flight to Bordeaux for thirty-eight quid and asked Trina if she fancied a week with me there. Apart from a couple of hours when I had to work a bit trying to extinguish her jealousy of Wendy, and latterly, Hayley, we got on with only the small, expected amount of effort.

The petite studio was a skilfully photographed single room. Once you'd put the canapé-lit down there was a space a yard square to stand up in. After a couple of nights on it, one was glad to do so. In the shower room, the damp, and a pumping, testosteroned air freshener, vied for olfactory dominance. I had to take the batteries out of the latter to suffocate it.

On our first day there we got caught up in the grève générale, walking in parallel with a march which stretched as far as the eye could see along the esplanade, until we found ourselves behind a row of riot cops who started firing tear gas onto their fellow citizens. The smarting eyes and the feeling of having sandpaper being rubbed inside one's throat wears off, which is perhaps why the police kept renewing the volleys. So much for the fraternité bit.

We took meandering routes through the old town. Some of the smaller roads have a soft beauty which is all the greater for being neglected. We found a bar with people dancing to folk music and a cat asleep on a table. Getting round without walking was cheap. For forty-five Euros you can buy an annual bus and tram pass (whereas a month in Bristol sets you back nineteen pounds), although you need something cheap to offset the almost Scandinavian beer prices: in the cat bar, a pint was eight Euros, but it reached eleven for a Basque beer in the outdoor Christmas market.

In the centre d'art contemporain we drifted quickly through an installation by Lubaina Himid. In the catalogue she says that her aim is "to be banal", an objective certainly attained in her installation comprising of painted wooden cutouts of images of slaves, drawn from paintings in which they appear.

More interesting was an exhibition about contemporary architecture, which included a 1967 Danish documentary film about the first adventure playgrounds there. A lorry dumped a lot of waste wood on some wasteland, the children were given saws, hammers, nails and other now-censored threats, and encouraged to build themselves little houses. They also kept animals, and we saw the chldren gleefully watching the project's pet rabbits copulating. "Don't stick your nose up its bum," said a girl, turning one of the rabbits round, sucessfully inducing another frenetic coupling.

My reading was Rosamond Lehmann, The Weather in the Streets. Virago's feminist glue doesn't hold much together, but once I'd reunited the cracked sections and lone pages escaping to the floor, I found it an intense, enveloping story of a doomed affair. In a pub's gloomy bedroom, our heroine looks at a "staring hard bed." I can feel a complete works coming on.

That all makes it sound more arty than it was. Mainly, we drank.

7 comments »

7 comments

Comment from: kono [Visitor]

I love a good story of a doomed affair… as long as i’m not involved of course. And of course we make it sound more arty than it was, if we didn’t we’d be like all those “other” people who don’t write anything down;) The truth is in the fiction we spin.

Tue 17th December 2019 @ 19:58 You are currently replying to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yes, it’s all necessarily selective, and a lot of my life in general is too mundane to make for interesting reading. It’s quite an ask, to hope that someone might read your material, so I have to fish out the juicy bits.

Wed 18th December 2019 @ 09:19 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

You need to scroll down on the lounge, there’s Wilderness Years post that might be right up your alley, an xmas tale called Hey.

Wed 18th December 2019 @ 11:51 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Hey, I’ll do that right now!

Wed 18th December 2019 @ 12:15 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Oh yeah – how did I miss that one! Right up my street!

Tis here folks (er…if it’ll let me publish urls)
http://asshatlounge.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-wilderness-years-hey-xmas-tale.html

Wed 18th December 2019 @ 12:38 Reply to this comment
Comment from: daisyfae [Visitor]

“mostly, we drank” can sum up the vast majority of my recent holidays. i’m not particularly ashamed of that… i can order beer in many languages these days.

Tue 7th January 2020 @ 02:52 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

“Two beers” and “where are the toilets", in the host language, and you’re ready to go :)

Tue 7th January 2020 @ 06:59 Reply to this comment


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There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
Sergei Korovin, quoted in Pavel Krusanov, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic

I am here to change my life. I am here to force myself to change my life.
Chinese man I met during Freshers Week at Lancaster University, 2008

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
James Meek

Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?
Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

I hate the iPod; I hate the idea that music is such a personal thing that you can just stick some earplugs in your ears and have an experience with music. Music is a social phenomenon.
Jeremy Wagner

La vie poetique has its pleasures, and readings--ideally a long way from home--are one of them. I can pretend to be George Szirtes.
George Szirtes

Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
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One good thing about being a Marxist is that you don't have to pretend to like work.
Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
Mick, The Golden Lion, Lancaster, 21 Mar 2011

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