Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

SNCF drop a bollock


Having booked tickets with the French national rail carrier, SNCF, they have my email address and SNCFsend me occasional emails letting me know about good deals etc. Just as any sensible company does their marketing. However, their recent email (above) was a a bit of a mistake. They tried to entice me onto the train to visit Christmas Markets. Living in Strasbourg, the ‘Capital of Christmas’ why would I want to go anywhere else to a Christmas Market?

OK the city is rammed – it was very difficult walking to the pub to see City defeat Newcastle 3-1 yesterday due to the large number of people, and, I may wish to visit other markets, having got bored of Strasbourg’s? So lets take a look at where they suggest I go, one of the historic ones in Dresden, Bautzen or Vienna? One of the major attractions, say Dortmund, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart or Augsburg? No, of course not they are all in Germany or Austria and this is the French national rail company. The choice I was offered are:


Metz? Seriously, Metz? When it’s so close to Meh? But more important where do they say Metz is? Alsace. As any fule know Metz is in Lorraine. Oh dear SNCF.

Christmas is coming.


The Goose is getting fat. Yes we all know the rhyme but we’re not into November yet so why write about Christmas?

Whilst making the journey that was the subject of my last post I came across  the Strasbourg council workmen putting up the Christmas decorations last Friday.

Then when out for a walk on Saturday I came across the pictured decorations in the Petite France area which had already been put up.

I couldn’t help but think that it still being October was too early for the decorations to be put up.

Then on Monday a friend on facebook posted a picture of the fir-tree from the Vosges being erected in Place Kleber.

Strasbourg styles itself as the Christmas capital and with the World famous Christmas Market starting at the end of November I suppose it is necessary to get things ready earlier than it would be for any other city. People are going to be arriving at the end of November and expect to see the decorations all in place. The city has a lot of Christmas decorations so they take time to put up and that’s why they start what I think is rather early.

Here’s the picture of the tree being lifted into place.

Alsace blanc Crimbo


Lots of snow overnight mean we have a veritable white Christmas and it’s still falling.  The picture shows our courtyard under centimetres of snow more than covering the wheel of my bike.  I love the way someone is OCD about the bins that they not only line up but also the handles all have to face the same way.  Evey week someone goes to the trouble to put them in a nice neat line facing the right way, someone with too much time on their hands.

The next picture shows the snow on our balcony.  Christmas was welcomed in with an appropriate drink at midnight watching the wonderful campness of the George Cukor directed Les Girls.  After listening to the best Christmas song ever (Which you’ll have to wait for) the soundtrack is being supplied by Pop Slags Spotify playlist of the best pop of 2010 they tweeted but you can find here.

We’ve already spoken to some family elsewhere in the World, we will talk to more later.  Shortly it will be time for smoked salmon on pieces of bread and presents under the tree will be opened.  Later there will, of course, be turkey with all the trimmings accompanied by a decent vintage.  There will not be a Christmas message from the Queen or anyone else.

The picture above shows the snow looking left from our balcony the last one shows the view to the right showing that even on Christmas Day the trams in Strasbourg are working.

I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and very Happy New Year.

Fairytale of New York

The Pogues and the wonderful Kirsty MacKoll.  The best Christmas song ever, enjoy:


Something rotten in the state…..


….of Belarus.  Earlier this year I completed my ambition to visit every European capital city.  Well every European capital city bar one because Belarus was never on the list of places to visit.  As long as the country stayed, as Condoleezza Rice (wiki) described it, as Europe’s last dictatorship (President Lukashenko, pictured) then I would not be visiting Minsk.  I had thought I might need to get my travelling shoes on again to complete the last trip.  This weekend there was a presidential election in Belarus.  The country had ben close to Russia but they had increasingly been falling out with problems over gas pipelines through the country to elsewhere in Europe and Belarus refusal to condemn Georgia for something Russia wanted them to condemn it for.  The EU, spotting this had offered Belarus a loan if it had free and fair elections and there had been campaigning by other politicians than Mr Lukashenko, opposition politicians had been allowed an hour each to promote themselves on TV and there had been a debate involving all the candidates, apart from Mr Lukashenko of course.

Well it looks like the country will not be getting its loan as the OSCE observers at the elections said the country has considerable way to go to meet its commitments.  Then today we saw reports (CoE) demonstrations resulted in hundreds being arrested including seven of the candidates.

Being aware of your friends and the consequences of counting them your friend is something I’ve thought important.  It is interesting to see that the Wikileaks Russian representative has met senior officials on the Belorussian government and has been accredited as a foreign observer of the elections.  The reason I would have thought the government of Belarus would have avoided being friends with I Shamir, the Wikileaks Russian representative, when it is reported here he is an anti-Semitic, holocaust denying, far-right Russian nationalist.

UPDATE: Further from Harry’s Place about Mr Shamir.  He downplays the demonstration and arrests and it appears the Belarus government is going to publish information showing links between the West and the opposition.  Do the meetings between Government oficials and Mr Shamir play any part in this government information?  Has wikileaks Belarus provided information to one of the most represeive regimes in the World?

Unfortunately I wasn’t an observer for the Belarussian elections.  I was for the ones in Ukraine in 2004 and thought at the time it was not quite the Orange followers good others bad way it was painted.  People at a polling station refered to the Orange gangsters.  It is interesting to read that Yulia Tymoshenko has ben charged with misusing state funds whilst Ukraine Prime Minister.  I don’t know if the prosecution is politically motivated but it has already led to a punch-up in the Ukrainian parliament.  I was very suspicious of her from the first time I saw the platted hair.

Send the Cavalry

A friend wrote to me saying they think this is the best Christmas record ever, certainly the talk about the snow makes it topical, so here it is:

Strasbourg Capitale de Noël


On my way back from a job out in the wilds at the north of Strasbourg on Wednesday I had my camera with me and took the following pictures of Strasbourg at Christmas.  The first picture is of the Christkindelsmärik in place Broglie where there has ben a Christmas Market since 1570:Walking towards the main square you come to these trees all lit up in place des Etudiants:

At the end of it you can just see this pâtisserie in the photo above, here it is:

Next to the pâtisserie is the Rue de l’Outre which looks like this:

Another way of approaching the Christkindelsmärik is along Rue de la Messange where the buildings above the shops are all lit up as well:

And looking from the same street into the place Kleber you can see the Grand Sapin de Noël alsacienne through the decorations.  There was controversy last year that the Socialist Mayor of Strasbourg had ordered some red decorations to be put up as well as the blue and green!

Here is the tree with its Angels and little village at its foot:

And across the square is Galeries Lafayette with its decorations and you can just see the Art Noveau cinema Vox to the left of the shop:

The other major department store in central Strasbourg is Printemps and their Christmas decoration is a little diferent.  This is the last time you will see the store looking like this as it is getting major reconstruction work next year:

Merry Christmas Everybody

The week before Christmas and still no joy in the Christmassy stakes so time to try another track.  When I started this it was only going to be for one week and it would be the seven best Christmas records ever as far as I’m concerned.  So I’ll go back to that and here is one no-one can argue with, whisper it Noddy:

Dylan, Cohen & Waits to release Christmas album


Internet site CAP News leads with the startling revelation that after the success of Bob Dylan’s Christmas album last year he is to repeat the trick again this year but this time as part of a trio with Leonard Cohem and Tom Waits.  Refering to the three artists as the “original men in hats” it goes on to sensationally reveal:

“Dylan approached Cohen and Waits about the follow-up album, and the pair was apparently more than happy to oblige.

“One thing I learned during the years I spent living among Buddhist monks is that enlightenment comes in all forms, and speaks in many voices,” said Cohen, sitting with Dylan and Waits outside Coogie’s Beach Cafe in Malibu. “And one thing I learned when my manager stole my retirement fund was that you don’t turn down an offer to make an album with Bob Dylan.”

“This album will be colder than a ticket taker’s smile at the Ivar Theater on a Saturday night,” added Waits in a guttural mumble, prompting both Dylan and Cohen to stare at him blankly for several seconds before changing the subject.

Hallelujah! Christmas In The Heart Of A Hooker In Minneapolis offers an eclectic mix from the trio; for instance, Cohen contributes a version of “Ding Dong Merrily On High” which he says is actually a reference to a sexual liaison he had with Janis Joplin in the late 1960s. “She was, alas, often merrily on high,” said Cohen, wistfully with a touch of literary mischievousness.

As for Waits, he contributes an original song entitled, “If It’s Christmas, Those Must Be Whores And Bourbon.” He admitted it’s not typical holiday fare, but explained that while writing it, “I got caught in the middle of a pimp war between two kids in chinchilla coats, they couldn’t have been more than 13 years old – they’re throwing knives and forks and spoons out into the street.”

“Riiight …” responded Cohen, and Dylan just rolled his eyes.

Waits’ only other holiday song, 1978’s “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” – a re-recorded version of which is on the new record.”

The song “Christmas Card From A hooker in Minneapolis” was on the playlist from Ida Maria featured in yesterdays post and here it is:

Still not working – bah humbug, F**K Christmas

Well,  the Christmas songs, more snow, looking around the Christmas market yesterday and even the prospect of a Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits Christmas album hasn’t helped inject any Christmas feeling into me.  So here’s a view from Eric Idle:

In the beginning was


The Word.  A magazine I had bought occasionally when I lived in the UK because I liked its writing about music but also about books, films, TV and other matters that interest me.  I particularly enjoyed its free CD of music from which I discovered many new artists I would otherwise not have heard and whom I grew to love.  When I emigrated JTO bought me a years subscription to the magazine and as the advert says I loved it so much I bought the magazine.  Well, not quite.  I bought a two-year subscription to it myself and now I follow the podcast, contribute to the website etc.

Perhaps the musician the magazine introduced me to, whose music I came to love the most is Ida Maria.(wiki & Facebook)  I have not stopped playing the album ‘Fortress around my heart‘(wiki) since I got it at the end of 2008 in fact I was in the first flush of infatuation when some relatives visited in early 2009 and they were able to listen to it as I drove them around Alsace and up into the Vosges for their visit!  Here is the video for the song that was Number one in the top ten songs of 2009 in Norway, ‘Oh my God!’:

Christmas in Hollis

As well as promoting something I like very much, the above was a lead into todays Christmas song.  Ida Maria posted on Facebook a Spotify playlist of Christmas songs.  There were a number on it I had not heard before and here is one of them:

You can sometimes get what you want


Teh majik of teh internetz woirkz wondrz.  Further to my complaints about bookshops refusing to sell me eBooks whilst selling me a physical bookThe Book Depository, (here and follow the link for posts passim on this matter) yesterday I had a comment from Kieron from on a previous post:

Hi, read about some of your issues with UK booksellers with interest and wondered if you’d tried We’re the largest dedicated online bookseller in the UK and ship free to over 100 countries around the world (France included of course), we do sell ebooks too, which are limited by IP rights, so for France most should be okay. We haven’t signed any agency agreements however so some (Hachette etc) titles are currently unavailable. All the best Kieron

I hadn’t been aware of the website before but I am now.  As well as having eBooks for sale they also have a lot of eBooks you can try for free and then buy them if you like them.  An interesting idea with eBooks and an approach which matches mine in that if I like an eBook and expect to want to read it again I buy a copy of it, usually in hardback if possible.

I am having a few days in the sun for the New Year and will require reading material for the trip so the Book Depository you’ll have yourself a customer.

Santa Claus is coming to town

My last post was of the Bruce Springsteen version of this song.  Subsequently I’ve re-established contact with an old friend from school who has suggested this to me:

The Franco-German alliance


French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angel Merkel met in Freiberg im Breisgau today together with their Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministers and the French Prime Minister.  They had a look at the Christmas Market and Cathedral square as well.  When the summit was held in the same place nine years ago the then German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, fell into one of the channels that run through the city, carrying water through it, and left with wet socks.

In the press conference they talked about the Euro reaffirming their opposition to the idea of Eurobonds and Sarko said that neither country had been consulted before the idea was published by a number of other European countries.  The meeting is the usual French German pre-meet before a EU Summit.  Afterwards they had lunch in the ceremonial hall of the historic Kaufhaus.  More than 1.000 police officers were on duty in he city but, unlike nine years ago, this time the Christmas market was not closed.

It was just one Franco-German item on the agenda today.  As well as the meeting of the leaders in Freiburg, the Transport Ministers, Peter Ramsauer for Germany and Thierry Mariani for France, met just across the Rhine from Strasbourg in Kehl to officially open the new twin track rail bridge over the Rhine.  The bridge has cost 87 million Euros and will allow trains to cross at 160km an hour and not 70 at the moment, although the works on the German side are a little delayed and the trains will only cross at 120 km an hour until the works are finished.  The bridge and the new twin tracks between Strasbourg and Appenweier will cut the travel time on the Paris-Bratislava “Magistrale” by 5 minutes.

The last part of this Franco-German love-in took place in Strasbourg where the respective Defence Ministers, Alain Juppe and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, presided in the afternoon over the ceremony at the Pavilion de l’Orangerie marking the garrisoning of the German 291st ägerbataillon of J Bundeswehr (rifle battalion) on French territory at Illkirch-Graffenstaden, south of Strasbourg. This is the first unit of the German army stationed on French soil since 1945, and they now share barracks in the Quartier Leclerc with the 2nd French Armored Brigade.

Christmas is all around

From the film Love Actually here is Bill Nighy, being wonderfully Bill Nighy, recording a version of the Troggs hit Love is all around:

It was our works Christmas do last night and it was a very quiet restrained affair, no shocking or inappropriate behaviour to gossip about over the copier this morning.  I’m afraid even Bil Nighy being wonderfully himself together with the Christmas do hasn’t done the job of making me feel more Christmassy.  Here’s the full video of the song from the film and I agree with Bill at the end:

Its not working


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