Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paris in July

Always one to plan ahead, I've just decided to take part in Thyme For Tea and Bookbath's Paris in July blog celebration of Paris and all things French. Which means I have one day to get myself sorted. I'll be putting aside my war books (probably NOT what they had in mind) to focus on my first love - vintage mysteries. I've spent the evening reserving library books (which may mean that my Paris in July becomes Paris in 2012 - you never can tell when those inter library loans will come in!) To give the National Library time to decide if they want to lend me some 1940s books I'll start with Simenon's Maigret as I've got a few of those kicking around the house. So far the potential reading list includes:

Maigret and the enigmatic Lett / Georges Simenon
The double death of Frederic Belot / Claude Aveline
The blackmailers / Emile Gaboriau
Arsene Lupin, gentleman-thief / Maurice Leblanc
Fantomas / Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain

I've had to broaden my notion of both 'vintage' and 'mystery' as I am at the mercy of translators and the Australian library system. So I have two backup films - Rififi (technically a heist film but I've got a copy so that makes it an emergency contender) and an unknown film based on an early French mystery novel whose name escapes me and which I've currently loaned to my mother. I do remember seeing a film of Fantomas but it might be pushing it to find a copy in an Australian library.

All this while watching le Tour! Please join me in all things French this month - be it cooking a meal, listening to So Frenchy So Chic or hanging out with Proust. Leave a comment and let me know what you've been up to!

(Links to the other blogs will come once I can get my hands on the laptop. Blogger app - she no like links.)

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Lost: 1 puppy dog

I took this green Bakelite fellow out to work today and it fell off my cardi somewhere. I've looked all over the library and he's just gone. I'm so sad.

As a pick me up I bought myself a copy of Ballard's Empire of the Sun. I read this over the weekend and I think it's fantastic. So so much better than Spielberg's film. I read an article Ballard wrote about the film - let's just say that it was markedly diplomatic! The book, about Ballard's own experiences as a child in a Japanese internment camp in China, is remarkable for it's lack of sentiment. To say it's about loss of innocence is to sell it short - it's a far more complex tale than Spielberg would have you believe. Despite the horrors of the camp Jim thrives in it. The book isn't about the heroism of those that experience war, but about the dreadful things we'll do in in order to survive. It's extremely powerful and illuminates a theatre of WW2 that is rarely discussed. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unsatisfying reading

I spent the weekend reading. It seems ages now since I watched a film. My first book was, frankly, irritating - as I suspected it might be so really, I don't know why I bothered. Though I'm a huge fan of thirties and forties mysteries, I've never really been a huge fan of Dorothy Sayers. Her central character, Lord Peter Wimsey is a pompous, elitist, show off. I do not like him. Miss Sayers appears to be in love with him. A colleague at work assured me that the new books in the series, written by Jill Paton Walsh, were rather good. To my regret, I succumbed. Thrones, dominations is irritating. Peter Wimsey and his wife spend far too long agonizing over their feelings. When their not quoting John Donne. Still I persevered. Presumed dead is set during 1942, so I was feeling quite hopeful. I do suspect that Walsh is aware of the more irritating traits of her characters as it appears she's made an effort to tone them down (whether or not you feel this is appropriately true to the original books is another matter). Thankfully, Peter Wimsey is absent from the beginning of the book, the sleuthing being undertaken by Harriet, Wimsey's wife. I didn't mind this part. But then Walsh has missed the mark in her depiction of war time England. There are shades of The man who knew too much that really just appear as lack of originality. Much is made of the undervaluation of women's work, then the independent actions of Harriet are completely eclipsed by Wimsey's return. The wealthy Wimsey's are continually shown to be buying under the counter - which wasn't funny, but something to be resented. When Wimsey makes reference to his family about the coding work at Bletchley Park, this was just too much for me - first of all he would never have known about it, secondly, he would never have mentioned it. Grrr. It was a bit like a theme park version of the war. Which is no matter if what we're here for is a good old fashioned mystery. But we don't get that either. It seems Walsh was having so much fun with her 1940s window dressing that she lost interest in it. And so did I.

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Silence of the sea - part two

I've just finished a book in which the words 'semantic', 'extratextual' and 'Gestalt' feature with distressing prominence. I haven't delved into this sort of stuff uni. I find it intensely irritating. The book was The Silence of the Sea by Vercors - a major Resistance work of occupied France. The book itself wasn't the tricksy part - actually there is a bit of a problem with it and I'll get to that in a bit. The problem was the essays that accompanied it - they were longer than the actual work! Makes my head hurt.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


In the mail today - my first piece of Bakelite. It's a belt buckle and I love it. Just need to decide what fabric to make the belt from.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The music of angels

June 21 is Fete de la Musique! All over the world Alliance Francaise organises free music in unexpected places. This year we worked with them to present two classical music performances at the St Kilda library. It was my first day back at work and we'd arranged the afternoon in a bit of a hurry so I was a bit unsure about what was actually happening (and if I could cope!) I needn't have worried, it was beautiful. We had students from the Australian National Academy of Music who live in the old South Melbourne Town Hall. A chamber group performed music by Bach and Mozart - so beautiful you could cry. Then students from the Melbourne Conservatorium sang ancient music. I've never heard the library so quiet as when they started with an austere 13th century religious piece. Magnificent. And people turned up. Phew! Now = tired but happy.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Ah! All the exciting places I didn't go on my holiday! I spent a relaxing week on my sofa, largely in my pyjamas. I read some 1930s mysteries by Josephine Tey, caught up with Xena and did lots and lots of sewing. I finally conquered the jacket of doom! I must say i'm quite pleased with it and yes, lining and all, would be willing to sew it again. I tried a new shirt pattern, which was such a breeze that I made a long sleeved version, which wasn't a breeze at all - I suspect that I shall be getting the scissors out and it will soon be a short sleeve shirt. But that's ok, i now know how to do cuffs. I made a skirt which I'm not thrilled with, think I need some more practice there. I made a winter dress, the collar of which nearly killed me. And a summer dress that I love! (Yes, I know, summer dress... It started life as a shirt.) Plus my mum came up from the country! Yay! We went out to dinner at Kamel which was yum, had Thai takeaway and talked knitting. Best of all, she'll be up again in a month's time. Last day of holiday. So sad.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Curvy Kitty and the jacket of doom

Things have been all topsy turvy this week. I had one sleepless night and for the rest of the week couldn't sleep until the early hours of the morning, only to wake far into the afternoon. And it's not as if I did anything late at night, but lie there fretting about not sleeping. So I was determined to get stuff done this weekend. I recently topped up my sewing stash at the Spotlight sale. I picked up some bottle green pinwale cord to make this 1945 jacket.

I've gone for number 1 with bishop sleeves and a collar. Unusual for a 40s pattern, this one suggests a lining. With guidance from some sewing blogs I drafted a lining pattern. The lining fabric, el cheapo bemsilk, was a nightmare to work with. Very slippery and tending to fray. (I was about to say I'll never work with silky fabric again but I'd love to make some lingerie.) Everything went wrong with this pattern. I sewed up my lining then melted it with the iron. Unpicked and salvaged what I could then cut a new piece. Except i forgot i was working from a different pattern for the lining so had to unpick and recut again. Luckily there was just enough fabric! Then I sewed the collar on crookedly. Turns out cord gives a bit when you sew so you have to start from the middle and sew out in both directions. I must have unpicked that collar four times. Then I couldn't attach the lining to the back neck facing. Took me four goes before I realized it was just like sewing princess line seams and that I had to cut wedges into the unsewn fabric in order to stretch it out. Phew! I'd be very happy with the lining - it makes for an instant proper finish - if i wasn't so worried about all the fraying that might be going on underneath. All that's left now is to attach the waist band, cuffs and decide on the buttons. For a proper finish i really should do bound button holes but i've never done those before and am a bit over sewing challenges right now.

Just noticed the lining sleeves are on back to front. Sigh.