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Friday, 31 October 2003


Caption competition: There’s a prize for the person who comes up with a suitable caption for the above picture!  Post your entries under comments below, or mail them to me.

Spoke to Petite Maman last night and wished her happy birthday. She was in lively spirits and told me about the loads of presents, and visitors, that she received yesterday. She says that most of the family don’t remember her birthday is on 30th and call her on 31st.  I can’t imagine why people would get confused between her birthday and Halloween.

It feels like this week has been a short one.  This week has been Passion Week at work. In the corridor outside there are all kinds of games: hop-scotch, noughts-and-crosses, puzzles, etc. fixed onto the carpet. We have red heart balloons on the ceiling, and a vie-ma-vie programme where you are supposed to go and find out about somebody else’s job in the company.  They had a programme in the factory yesterday where you could go and see how they make M&M’s and mix your own colours.  A bunch of people came up from the factory at lunchtime with pink and other strange coloured (and shaped) ones. This morning one of our IT colleagues is going to be showing a group of people from the business what she does on a normal day.

Our colleagues in the US came to work yesterday dressed as Halloween characters.  My team-mate who is there mentioned the names some of these characters to me, but I had no idea what or who they are.

Posted by bigblue on 31/10/2003 at 08:05 AM
Filed under: France • (3) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share
Thursday, 30 October 2003
On a trouvé les marrons


I recommend leaving Marmoutier via the old Saverne road. After 1,5 km you can turn left into a minor, poorly surfaced, road and follow this up a hill through the village of Sindelsberg. At the end of this road you enter the church yard, where there is a fantastic birds-eye view back down over Marmoutier.  If, like us, you go at this time of the year there are numerous chestnut trees in the churchyard, providing a delicious snack.

We got some looks from locals who were walking through the churchyard, but they seemed to have a laissez-faire approach to our helping ourselves to their chestnuts. 

Mme Wolff apparently has ownership of a chestnut tree on some common land somewhere in or near Hagenau.  In previous years she has given us, her locataires, a basket of chestnuts to share.

Mme Wolff has been away on holiday this whole week, as have the students Aline and Alain. (The names are just a co-incidence!) Khalid has been working from the UK, so the house has been quiet: only Anna-Sofia and myself have been about. Our other house mate, Elodie fait un stage d’infirmi�re (she is doing a work placement as a nurse).  Basically we hardly see her either.


This picture, also from the churchyard of Sindelsberg, is taken in the opposite direction - facing away from Marmoutier - and gives a good view of the low-lying chestnut trees.

Posted by bigblue on 30/10/2003 at 04:52 PM
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Wednesday, 29 October 2003
La gris rose d’Alsace


About 45 km east of Haguenau, by car, is the village of Marmoutier, which seems to be a stop-off point for a number of coach tours of Alsace, particularly in the summertime.  It has an abbey-church containing a famous Sibermann organ, built in 1710, and considered one of the finest in Alsace

Traces of a Meringovian church have been found beneath the transcept (which is also well worth a squiz). The Meringovian Kingdom of Northern France was around in the 6 Century, and its symbol was a frog. The abbey itself was founded by St Columba (an Irish monk who arrived in France in 590 with 12 companions). Later he lectured the Duke of Burgundy about morals, and as a result was expelled from France.  He moved to Bobbio, in Italy.  Around the abbey, craftsmen and farmers settled and a town flourished in the middle ages. Marmoutier had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Alsace. We can assume that this community was invited there by the abbots to handle their trading activities.  In 1792, during the French revolution, the abbey was abolished and the monks dispersed.

The church is a striking sight, constructed of red sandstone (or gris rose d’Alsace  as it is known in these parts).

Posted by bigblue on 29/10/2003 at 02:31 PM
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Tuesday, 28 October 2003
Le Voyage de Chihiro
Spirited Away
davidm emailed yesterday, recommending the latest film by the aclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. I had read some rave reviews of this film, and look forward to seeing it. This is what he had to say:

Spirited Away is a full-length animated film about a Japanese child who wanders into a kind of feudal Japanese world, populated by witches, creatures and animals. This is a very poor description but in short it was enchanting, engrossing and I would recommend it highly to anyone. I was worried it would be too scary for Holly and told her a number of times before and during that if (for example the sight of the parents getting turned into pigs was too scary for her, we could leave for the comparative safety of the foyer. In the event she was fascinated and loved every minute of the story. The main character is a girl of about her age or perhaps seven or eight, who struggles against odds and manages to pull through, mainly by reciprocal acts of kindness to the creatures she meets. The strength is in the storyline and action which never stops.

The themes were interesting since it differed from the common good-guy / baddy idea so often found in children?s movies, each creature or person had more than one layer of personality and acted on their own. Holly says she wants the DVD for her birthday, but it is only going to be released here in February. I might just order it from Amazon in the states, since they are not bound by greedy European marketing schemes and have it for sale already.

Note: While Spirited Away may not be available in the UK, and Chihiros Reise ins Zauberland ist noch nicht ver?ntlicht in Deutschland, Le Voyage de Chihiro is indeed already available in France.  The languages available on the DVD version are Japanese and French, with optional subtitles in English. I am not so sure whether that makes the French marketers of the film less greedy than the others wink

Posted by bigblue on 28/10/2003 at 12:19 PM
Filed under: Asia PacJapan • (2) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share
Monday, 27 October 2003
faites attention (de les méchants)

Haut Koningsbourg

This is a picture of Haut Koningsbourg, overlooking the murkey plains of Alsace. This castle was mentioned in the historical record for the first time in the 12th Century, and was destroyed by Swedish artillery in the 17th. However in 1899 the nearby town of Séléstat gave the castle to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had it restored to its current glory.

Of course it fell back under the French government a mere 10 years later, and is now the responsibility of some French ministry. My landlady, mme wolff, tells me that it was neglected for many years, until recently, because of its association with the Kaiser.

I noticed today that the myth of the healthy French nation is being exposed.  Who knows what the impact of this news will be on this nation of hypochondriacs

Our local newspaper today had an article which highlights how Disneyland Paris has been overtaken by evil and malicious things, until 2 November 2003.  Our very own kitchen here at chez wolff has been decorated with an orangy theme by anna-sofia.  So, this coming week we can commemorate the paleopagan festival of Samhain, remember all our dead ancestors, and give thanks that the commercial activities now associated with Christmas are delayed for another week.  At least in France.

Today is also the start of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan.

Posted by bigblue on 27/10/2003 at 11:47 PM
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Sunday, 26 October 2003
en retour

Chateau Ramstein

Here is another aerial picture of Chateaus Ramstein and Ortenburg, which I took on the same day as the last one, but from the nearby Haut Koningsburg..

We had a great party last night at Eric’s sister’s house in Verneuil-sur-Seine. It is a large old house, in a u-shape (so interesting layout and flow of the rooms) with a courtyard in the middle.  Eric had put out some candle-lanterns in the courtyard but we mostly stayed indoors due to the cold (smokers excepted).  There was nobody else there from the specific project that I had worked on in Paris when I met Eric.  But there were few actual Parisians on that project.  However most of the people there were DCS employees or ex-DCS.  I met some interesting people, including a Swiss-Columbian couple who had travelled from Geneva to attend the party (i.e. further than me !). 

The highlight of the party was at 00 :30 this morning when Eric announced that he and Virginie were getting married on 12 June next year, in Paris.  Plans have already been underway for the past 2 months, but it has been a well guarded secret and was a surprise to everyone except close family.  As I had a late night and an early train to catch into Paris in the morning, I had only 3 hours sleep.  What a fortuitous night for the clocks to go back one hour!

Posted by bigblue on 26/10/2003 at 01:49 PM
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Saturday, 25 October 2003
en route

Chateau Ramstein

After being outflanked (as he put it in an email) by his joke comment yesterday, I thought I would stick to the military theme, and introduce Chateau Ramstein (snigger snigger). The picture here, showing Ramstein on the lower slope and Chateau Ortenburg above, is taken from just off the road leading to the village of St Dié, from the Strasbourg-Basel motorway.

I am writing this sous le manche on the train from Waterloo to Paris. Besides for the rugby matches today, there is also the match between Leeds and Liverpool which I am �following� via the text messages announcing the major events in the game:

Latest: Liverpool 1 Leeds 0 - Owen(35). Volley Left Footed from 18yds (Sky Sports)
Latest: Liverpool 1 Leeds 1 - Smith(42). Right Footed from 18yds (Sky Sports)

This is also the half-time score.

I have been reading today’s paper on the train and noticed a photo (not available in online version) of an impressive bust of the American poet, and author of Hiawatha, the previously mentioned Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sculpted by Edmonia Lewis in 1872.  In their summary of the highs and lows of the week, the paper also tells the story of a chestnut seller in Vienna, who tried to drum up trade by ringing police with a hoax call claiming that there was a bomb hidden in a shopping centre. He had hoped that if police cordoned off the area and evacuated the centre then lots of people would stand around in the cold to watch and be tempted to buy his products. However, after no bomb was found, police traced the call to his mobile phone and he was arrested.  Idiot.

Posted by bigblue on 25/10/2003 at 05:08 PM
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nous faisons les textos

Chateau Fleckenstein

This picture was taken at Chateau Fleckenstein, from the top of the castle wall that I displayed on 8 October 2003, but at a different time of day.  ruth is noting the shapes of the mountain. There is a glipse, at the end of the valley, of a village that is just over the border (from Alsace) in Germany.

I have decided to go to Paris for the weekend. eric is having his 40th birthday party at Verneuil-sur-Seine. OK, so not really in Paris itself but the banlieu I’ll go through on Saturday morning, returning Sunday.  It should be fun - I’ll let you know how it goes.

brenda, davidm and holly have been in Spain for the past week. I phoned alex this evening to see how he was doing, but he wasn’t there - he went to the evans for the weekend. Within an hour I got a text message:

Hi hope u r well, Dana said u called * Alx is fine * we r bac Sunday AM * Hope to see u soon grin

Yeah, was just checking up on him. Am leaving tom. for my friend Eric’s 40th in Paris. Coming back to UK on Sunday am.

Eric the half a bee? :*)

Is that a childrens character? If so, beyond my time !

Monty pythn

lil blue meanie just explained. . .  grin

. -Y-

So did the rain all fall on the plain? It is now cold here. Frost this morning.

Littl rain & warm but it will b good 2 b home >o


I’ll call you on Sun to see if I can pop round. But have flight on Sun pm back to SXB.

Great looking fwd 2 it I D

This morning it was below zero in Haguenau, with frost on the front and back windows.  But although it remained cold the whole day (maximum 4 C) at least it was sunny.  When I fetched bluemeanie from choir practice this evening, one of the other parents told me it had been frosty in Oxted too.

Posted by bigblue on 25/10/2003 at 12:40 AM
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