Lazenne Wine Suitcases

I grew up in French. It’s my mother tongue, my first words were in French (“non” and “cheval” if you’re interested), and for about ten years I lived at least 70% of my life in French.

But I’ve never been to France. This is particularly ridiculous because I live in London, and I’ve been on the Eurostar several times, so I’ve been through France on my way to other countries on at least six occasions, but somehow I’ve never stopped off there.  Read more

Weekly Reading List #1 – Brain Surgery, Demons, And Poems

Previously I’ve been mini-reviewing books in the reading list section at the end of my weekly round-ups, but they’ve been getting a bit long and unwieldy of late so I thought I’d move them to their own separate post.

Sometimes a book will merit a post all of its own, or I’ll be given a book by a publisher in exchange for a full review, in which case they’ll be reviewed separately. But I do like to keep track of the books I’ve read and what I liked / disliked about them, and I read so much that I don’t have time to write full reviews of everything. So here we go: the first of the weekly book review lists.

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Uncorked by Paul Shore

When I first offered to review Uncorked, I did so because I thought it was a book about wine. The author replied that this wasn’t the case, and that he didn’t want me to get my hopes up and end up reading something I didn’t enjoy.

I thought I’d give it a go anyway, because it sounded like an interesting memoir. And it was.

The book begins with Shore moving to Saint-Paul de Vence, a small town in Provence where Marc Chagall created many of his most famous paintings.

When he moved to France for work, Shore wanted to live in a place that wasn’t too popular with tourists or other expats. Like many people who move abroad, he wanted to truly experience French culture and understand what life in Provence is like as a local.

And he managed to do just that.

Read the full review on ExpatFocus.

The Inevitable Admin of Adulthood

This week I’ve been good at dealing with things I normally put off. Things like horrible bills, and chasing people to fix my house (the boiler has broken. AGAIN.) and stuff like that.

A while ago I resolved to stay in the country for the rest of this year. I have a number of personal life things that I need to sort out, ideally before the end of 2015. Some are ambitions I’ve had for ages (learn to drive) that are becoming more urgent the older I get. Some are fun things I’ve never done before (have a Hallowe’en party) and some are less fun, but part of the Inevitable Admin of Adulthood (get my divorce finalised).

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Review: Powder Room

Powder Room

Sam is an adorable, clumsy, nervous young lady whose life is not going the way she had hoped. Caught up in dreams of doing better, she meets up with Michelle, an old friend from college, and her glamorous, beautiful Parisian friend Jess. Sam has been enviously following Michelle’s life on Facebook ever since she moved to France, and hearing about her engagement and successful job first-hand only serves to increase her envy. Sam finds herself painting her life in a more positive light than it really appears: she invents a career as a lawyer and pretends she’s still with her old boyfriend, Sean.

All seems to be going to plan and she appears to have been accepted by the glamorous ladies. But then her old friends show up. Loud, bawdy and thoroughly dysfunctional, Chanel, Saskia and Paige do not back up the impression that Sam is trying to give. Desperate not to let her carefully constructed lies fall down around her, Sam spends the evening avoiding both groups of women in turn, trying to pretend that nothing is wrong whilst desperately hoping she can keep it together just for one night.

The storylines intertwine nicely and there are a few subtly-explored themes, too: the music that plays when Michelle is snorting lines in the cubicles is the same as the tune that accompanies the underage girls who stand in front of the mirror obsessively reapplying make-up. The sense of euphoria on all their faces is much the same, and you realise that the older girls are just that: people play-acting at life, none of them actually realising who they are yet, even if they’re pretending to have it all sorted out. The parallels between the beautiful Parisiennes and the pseudo-glam of the fourteen-year-olds might seem to be few and far between, but scratch the surface and you’ll find they’re pretty much the same underneath. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

It is a movie about obsession and desperation. Obsession with other people’s lives and with an idealised version of what your own could be; desperation to fit in, to make people believe your world is better than you yourself believe it to be. It’s about how worries and problems present themselves in the digital age: how people construct a social identity that makes their lives seem so much better, so much more fulfilled, than they actually are. About how we all put up walls all the time, but how social media has made it easier to paint beautiful murals over what is really just crumbly bricks; how easy it is to pretend that everything is fine, and how friendships can break down due to such a lack of honesty.

It’s a bit of an odd premise, a film set almost entirely in the women’s toilets, and it’s not the best acting I’ve ever seen. There were parts that felt very much like an A level drama performance; a good one, admittedly, but not quite movie quality. And yet, despite all this and despite the storyline being quite bleak, I left the cinema feeling strangely uplifted.

The band deserve a shout-out, too: Spice-Girl-infused-grunge-punk band Fake Club were one of my favourite parts of the movie, and definitely helped to move it from just a bit of an odd movie into something I’d probably watch again.

Worth a night out with the girls if you’re feeling like seeing something unusual, comical and quintessentially English in the most current sense of the term. Powder Room comes out in cinemas on the 6th of December 2013.