Posts Tagged ‘Strasbourg’

Buttons of Brixton!


When I lived in Brixton I bought a blazer from the nearby MacMillan charity shop for about a fiver.P1110885 It’s royal blue with red stripes.(Pictured left.) If the shop obtained it from nearby residents it must have come from one of the more leafier parts of Brixton as the label says it is ‘Aquascutum of London at Alfred Sayers of Ealing and Wembley.’

I wore it quite a bit in London but now living in Strasbourg the winter’s are too cold and the summers too hot to wear it much of the time. I’ve been here five and a half years so I must have had the jacket more than six years. In that time it had it most of the buttons had decided to part company with the blazer. The buttons were quite dull, unobtrusive metallic ones.(Pictured right.)P1110889

At the weekend JTO and I went to the restaurant Marco Polo to celebrate her birthday – the Jambonneau braisé au miel et picon bière, pommes sautées, salade was fantastic!

Afterwards we adjourned to one of Strasbourg’s record shops to se if there was anything worth buying for Record Store Day (Here known as Disquaire Day!) – I hadn’t seen anything listed that I wanted so I hadn’t made any special effort to get anything. There was nothing.

P1110922We returned home via Petite France (EN) to go to La Mercerie Du Bain Aux Plantes to see if they had any buttons I could put on the blazer. After some effort we found some gold circular ones that fitted the existing holes and really  jazzed up the blazer.

We returned home and it had been quite an awful day , weather wise, so we were not going to go out. Why not sew on the buttons? I first did the three on the frontP1110886 used to do the jacket up and they were a bit tight but worked.

I then had to cut off the two remaining old, dull buttons on one sleeve and sewed three new buttons on each of the sleeves. As you can see from the picture on the right, they look really quite impressive. I must say I was quite pleased with myself.

I was taught to sew by my mother just as she taught me to cook etc as she believed boys should be able to do these things. I also learned to sew at school as, by the time I was studying everyone did these and everyone did metalwork. I have previously written about my sewing exploits.

I desperately wanted to avoid ‘Suits You’ as the headline so the one above is a play on:



I had not really heard the term bucket list much until recently. 9788883701009-850_1I must have missed the film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die, you kick the bucket. I have for a long time had a list of places I wanted to visit. I kept them in my Moleskine notebook.Like the one on the left) Also in it were details of books I wanted to read and records to buy.

I then found out about the website where you can post details of your bucket list, of course there had to be such a thing in MV5BMTY2NTUyMjIyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzYwMDM4._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_good old cyberspace. So I got an account and put a few things on it.

Today I was uploading my list from my notebook to the site. (Sounds very technical, I was just typing the item into the list and giving some background on why I wanted to do the thing as a start for writing the mater up once I had achieved it.) I was pleased because I found that I had achieved one item from the list already. It was written in April 2008. (I know that as there are items written before and after it which place it at that time.) That item which had been achieved was to visit Hamburg which I did in the last weekend of June 2011.

It was a fantastic visit and I am surprised I did not write about it here. Places I want to goAs well as the Reeperbahn and the Beatles museum we visited the home of the Hamburg football team in the city, St Pauli, walked around the city, had a tour of the harbour, went to the wonderful Sunday morning fish market which sold most other things than fish and ate well and drank some good beer.

Home is in the Rhine valley between the two mountainous ranges of the Vosges and the Schwarzwald meaning the air is pretty still. It was great being somewhere where there was a proper breeze coming inland from the sea.

Since visiting Riga repeatedly when JTO was working there, having completed our goal of visiting every European city, and my having enjoyed living in Liverpool when there as a student, we had decided to try and visit Hanseatic port cities, of which this was the first. Last year we visited Gdansk which I wrote about on this blog here, here and here.

So, it is nice that one item on my bucket list has had some of it achieved.

I don’t know much about classical music…..


I have been listening a lot to Sibelius this week. JTO says she thinks it sounds cold, drawing pictures Sibeliusof the Finnish countryside in the current season. I, on the other hand, hear warmth in the music. People in the warmth of their homes. The ending of the long cold winter and the arrival of the spring and the warmth. The CD contains symphonies 5-7, The Oceanides, Finlandia and Tapiola played by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paavo Berglund. As you will see from the cover of the CD they did not go with the cold and snowy Finland but with the land of lakes.

The title of this piece is half of a saying usually made about art and attributed to people who are philistines. It continues “…but I know what Sibelius III like.” I never learnt about classical music, I don’t really know much about it and that which I like I came to via a different range of influences. Take Sibelius. That’s him on the right of this post.According to the notes on the CD, “the ‘age of Romanticism’ was bound up with an outbreak of nationalist fever in those countries outside the well established French/Austro-German/Italian musical traditions.” It goes on to mention “Glinka in Russia, Liszt in Hungary, and Smetana in Bohemia followed by Grieg in Norway, Nielsen in Denmark, Albéniz in Spain, Alfvén in Sweden and Elgar in England.”  It places Sibelius in this tradition. The Fifth Symphony is the one I started listening to this CD for. The notes go on to say, “Compared to the agonisingly bleak and introspective Fourth Symphony, Sibelius’ Fifth is a far more outward-going and positive affair, the composer’s final musical statement in the heroically conquering mould familiar from his first two symphonies. Originally cast in four movements and completed just in time for his 50th birthday celebrations, Sibelius later telescoped the first two movements into one to produce one of the most exhilarating utterances in the history of symphonic form. The gently contemplative central movement provides a sobering contrast before the indelible horns calls of the finale push the music ever onwards towards its exultant conclusion.” Ah the horns.

In November 1984 I first heard ‘Since Yesterday’ by Strawberry Switchblade. I loved the ‘indelible horns’ at the start of the song and that recur during it. A friend who worked in a record store knew of my love for this song and, when clearing things out from his record collection, gave me the whole album it came from. It was some time later that I learnt that the musical theme in the song had been taken from the Third Movement of the Fifth Symphony by Sibelius, which was why I bought it and now listen to it.

That has pretty much been a theme of my life. If I find something I like I go back to the things that inspired the author or musician. It was from my love of Echo and the Bunnymen that I went back to the inspiration of the lead singer and found Leonard Cohen. It sometimes went astray. When, as a young man in my late teens/early twenties, I loved the writing of Jack Kerouac I sought out his inspiration Thomas Wolfe, the American writer from the early part of the twentieth century. I instead found Tom Wolfe the then writer of new-Journalism and now noted author.

So, I discovered the late String Quartets of Beethoven from the book ‘The Unbearable Lightness of imgresBeing‘ by Milan Kundera, one of my all-time favourite books. The main character is agonising over whether to return to Soviet Prague from Paris to follow his partner. She loves Beethoven and introduced his music to him. The last movement of Quartet 135, the last, is called ‘the difficult decision.’ It has a theme running through it “Muss es sein? Es muss sein.” (Must it be? It must be.) The main character reflects on this whilst agonising over the decision and, when he has made a decision he justifies the decision my “Es muss sein!” Beethoven fits into other themes in the book about heaviness and lightness but it was listening toimgres-1 the music after reading that section of the book and hearing the theme as described that led me to fall in love with the piece of music.

Morrissey is to blame for another. The only time I saw the Smiths the first song they played was the eponymous first track from the album, The Queen is Dead, which starts with actress Cicely Courtneidge nostalgically singing the First World War song ‘Take me back to dear old Blighty‘ from the 60’s film ‘The L Shaped Room‘. Before that the Montagues and Capulets from Serge Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliette was played through the PA. I was aware of the piece of music but after being put to such a use I had to have it on record.

There are other similar stories to each of the pieces of classical music in my record collection apart from two which feature Mozart’s last three symphonies. Those were given to me by my mother when I left home and I have played them a lot of times and have come to love them a lot.

Film 2013


I’ve never been one for doing reviews of films, never really thought people would be interested 20135961.jpg-r_160_240-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxin what I had to say about them. However. Last month I just managed to catch up on two films that were being shown as part of a Télérama (Radio Times but more intellectual) catch up on the best films of last year, Holy Motors and The Deep Blue Sea.(Links to trailers for the films) The first showed someone working throughout Paris at night and the second showed a Judge’s wife falling for a former Battle of Britain airman. Both were really good and enjoyable. The former with the added bonus of an appearance of Kylie! I was really sorry to miss out on The Master but I did.

Then last week I went to Zero Dark Thirty. I had been concerned at the first half being about how intelligence about the search for the head of Al Qaeda and the operation to take him out. Enthralling cinema.

trailersThen this weekend and a veritable cinema feast. First up was Silver Linings Playbook.(Happiness Therapy in France) I had received a lot of encouragement from the best blogger in Reading, and he won’t like this, but the positive encouragement was added to by Stephen Fry on the Danny Baker Show where he talked about the subtlety of this film. From the performances of the male and female lead through to the shades in the OCD of Robert De Niro. It is a fantastic life-affirming film, go and see it now!

Then I went to see Django Unchained. I had expected to see a Tarantino blood-fest, which I did not think it was so much. I also thought it had much more of a story than his recent films, a lot of wit and a good story. It also had, as legal blogger David Allen Green pointed out, thought-provoking moments with regard to the law.

The last film of the weekend was a visit to see Lincoln last night. imgres-1This was the most disappointing film of the last four.  It was a fine performance from Daniel-Day Lewis and Shirley Field. I thought the film was dull, too much of a reflection of the Iraq-all-war-is-nonsense hokum and, as someone with experience of Parliamentary maneuvers and knowledge of the working of the US system through reading the fantastic Robert Caro books on Lyndon Johnson, suffered from the double problem of being too long and not dramatic enough.

Well, three fantastic films and one  worthwhile story that could have been told better, that still leaves Sugar Man, Hitchcock and Shadow Dancer on show. I hope the remaining months are as good as February seems to be.

You know what this has to end with:

Alsace hardcore


I haven’t posted about the fact it’s snowing because, it’s Alsace it’s what happens in the winter. P1110883I guess the closest I came was through hinting at it in the post yesterday showing the planters on our balcony with a covering of snow. The first picture shows the courtyard of our flats, notice the covering of snow, it is not melting, it must be cold – probably below zero.

Picture 2 shows the flat across the courtyard from us. You will notice that they have both P1110884windows wide open. On a day when the apple weather app. on my mp3 device, there are other mp3 devices available, shows the temperature as -3 and The Weather Channel app. has the temperature at -1 but feeling like -6 then big style respect to the Alsace hardcore.

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.

Everything’s gone green & crazy English


On Friday I went to see some people about work after Christmas and cycled through an area of Strasbourg called Esplanade to get there. I have been along this route several times, particularly when I used to go Fencing but I was either on the tram or did not have my camera. This time I did and I reproduce for you a picture of two tower blocks.



So what? They’re tower blocks, just the ame as in any other city? The black panels facing us are not just any cladding but are solar panels, facing the south. So, the building will not just consume electricity  but generate it too.  Something I think is good and I’m pleased to see the Council making an effort to reduce the environmental impact. They have a plan for this which can be read here.

On a separate note, whilst making my way home on Friday I passed a shop that had closed down. In its window was the following sign:



What is a ‘relooking’ apart from another bastardisation of the English language when swallowed into French. Just the same as using parking as a noun for the car park or talking about trainings for training courses. Grrrrr!

The title comes from one of the first singles from New Order, one of the many fabulous tracks from the band, after they stopped being Joy Division, enjoy:

I’ll keep holding on


I have written before about the fact that I am converting, what is a much bigger vinyl collection, in terms of numbers, than I had thought it was, to MP3 before. The most recent time here(It is about half way down). When doing this I discovered there some albums I thought I had in my collection but I discovered were no longer there. Two that fall into this category are More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads and Velvet Underground and Nico. The first I managed to buy again from  eBay a few months ago and I have enjoyed listening to it again. The second is still not in my possession. Cycling down one of the main streets in Strasbourg, perhaps that’s why it got the name ‘Grand Rue’, I passed this record and clothing shop pictured left and my eye was caught by what was in the window. I have inserted a close up picture if you cannot picture what it was that caught my eye. Yes, the album I need to add back to my collection. The bugger is that I have been working for the University a lot lately. It is good in that they pay well. It is bad that they do not pay for work done between September and December until March. So, I’m earning a decent whack but haven’t got my hands on any of it. I have done some work for the regional engineering apprenticeships organisation but I get the first installment of my pay from them at the end of the month. There is no point asking you to guess one of the first places I shall go when paid but until then it is a case of hoping that no one else who wants this album sees it before I get paid. Which will happen first?

The title of this piece comes from a fantastic song by The Action, enjoy, although the film is very old, here:

100 top albums of 2012


It seems to early to me. Especially as there are five weeks left in the year, but Piccadilly Records in Manchester have produced their list of the 100 best albums of 2012, 20 best compilations and 20 best reissues. I am not surprised that I have none of the records in the top ten with the highest being the new Richard Hawley album(Pictured left), Standing At The Sky’s Edge, which is such a big change of direction from his previous albums I have found it difficult to get into it.

The next one I own is not till 30 with Coexist by the The xx (right) which I have enjoyed. I agree with the description by Piccadilly Records that it is a more mature record from them.

There are ten more places to the next of the store’s top 100 I have bought this year at 40 Jack White’s very good Blunderbuss(Pictured below left). I was encouraged to buy it by @RobSealy and have not regretted doing so.

There are only 4 places to the next of the albums I own that feature in the top 100, Sun by Cat Power (Below right). I have only recently got this and it has been a regular play with one track, Cherokee, featuring as one of my tracks on This Is My Jam a week or two ago. People seem to be a bit sniffy about Cat Power, I don’t know why as I thought The Greatest was appropriately titled and was given, rather appropriately, You Are Free on leaving a job at Lambeth Council and have enjoyed listening to the three of them.

So, although I did not have any in the top ten that’s four of my five in the top fifty. There are more than fifty places to the last of my entrants in the top 100. There are others I have considered buying, or, Like The Jim Jones Review, are playing Strasbourg before the end of the year so there is a chance I might enjoy the show and buy the album.

The last is also an album people have been sniffy about too, Born To Die by Lana Del Rey. I like large orchestral songs like those of Scott Walker and also like 60’s Girl groups and I think the way she has melded the sound of the two is very good.

So that’s the 100 top albums of 2012. Read the list. Post in the comments those you have bought or recommendations for one’s I haven’t bought that I should.

UPDATE: Afterwards, whilst thinking about this post, I realised that I was in Manchester and went to Piccadilly Records this Summer. I was looking to buy some vinyl but didn’t find anything I wanted in their store but did in one around the corner and came away with two Kraftwerk records, a Thin Lizzy best of and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.

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.

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