Unplugged? Who? Moi ?



To unplug or to ne unplugged?
To unplug or to be unplugged?

I ? Unplugging my computer? Unplugging my blog? Are you dreaming? Or are you teasing me?

I had to live unplugged for more than a year. It was awful during the first weeks – and I was not blogging at that time. Participating in online reading groups. Posting brief messages and illustrations on Facebook. Following a few friends. Reading the news. Working about literary papers and needing online resources.

Life without a computer

Finally, I found that The Village provided an internet connection twice a week, three hours each day. I was the first, waiting for the doors to open. I was the last, being gently but firmly pushed out.

No notes to be taken at odd hours. No research during the night. Nobody to talk to. No discussion about books. A complete desert.

Looking wistfully for a connection

Therefore unplugged, NOW? No, nope, never!

Well, yes, of course. I have to. I need to. I like to. To be unplugged. But only because I know I can connect again anytime I wish… Et toc !

ding dong merrily on high

The French Provincial Lady is restless


When I was a child and being restless in winter, Mother used to tell me what HER Nanny told her when SHE was a child: “snow is coming”.

At the beginning of the week, snow was coming, snow came, and snow is gone. Anyway, we had snow on the 23rd of November in the Dordogne. Even if it lasted only until a little later after noon and then melted, there was snow. That is unusual and to be “marqué d’une pierre blanche” (it marked a milestone, or it was an event).

On Saturday and Sunday, I was unusually restless. Was it due to the coming snow as Mother would have said? Perhaps. It was more probably due to a conjunction of facts, feelings, and emotions.

I had a serious panic attack for no reason other than the delayed shock of the Paris events. Nobody I know was hurt or died this time. But while receiving the last e-mails, I was both relieved, grateful and shaking. My whole body was shaking with fear. In retrospect. With my mind’s eye, I was playing the events again and again. But I was playing other events that I have seen in other countries that have been at wars. Those mutilated trees throwing stumps towards the sky. Those razed houses clinging to the earth in a last embrace. Those lost human beings who do not know whether they still are human beings or already animals, full of pure and unconditional fear. Those animals wandering like human beings, looking for something, for someone, bleeding, stunned, snorting, crying, shouting. The dust. The noise. The silence at the heart of the noise. Oh, I have seen war and the after effects of bombs and rockets, as well as of half human and half electronic and distant violence. How can and how may one be deprived and denied of one’s humanity? To be reduced to neither tree nor house nor animal nor man or woman?


Delayed shock said my GP. Delayed trauma. Unseen horror which stays hidden in the depth of depths and makes one roll in a tight ball and shout and cry and snort. And doubt. No, not doubt. This is past doubt. This is horror and fear in the rough.

Snow was coming. Leaden sky. Is it better to die in the full light and heat of July, in a field of wheat and cornflowers, than in the bleakness and cold of a furrowed brown earth in November?


And the individual takes its course, leaving behind the crowds and their collective hurts.

Once there was a family with great-grand-parents, grand-parents, parents, great-uncles and great-aunts, uncles and aunts, cousins by the dozen, brothers, and sisters. A tribe. A family. They have gone one by one. Where are they now? Some have grown new families, young off shoots that do not need the older roots and branches. Some are dead. Some are ageing. Some are dying.

My last great-aunt is dead. She was 97 and would have been 98 this Christmas. She was the last link in the long line of great-grand-parents, grand-parents, parents, great-uncles and great-aunts that I have known. How many uncles and aunts? And then? Then, it is I, the last link who remembers and is in charge of the line and its memories. Is it so soon? How ridiculous, how touching is life! So little. So fragile. And its testimonies are so brittle, and yet enduring. A sentence in a will: “to my great-niece who has always given me respect, friendship, and affection, I leave…” Shall I see her any time I shall look at myself in the looking glass? Shall I feel her any time I shall caress the chest of drawers so old that it is like satin under the hand. She is. A tiny second. She was. The looking glass is empty.

 How can one live among these walls and objects that have belonged to others? What am I? A human being in its own singularity or a simple link in a long line of ancestors? And what will come after me? Or am I destined to end wandering on one of these roads, deprived and denied of humanity? Is it the end of my world that I see or the end of a world that we contemplate? Or both?

There is no answer. A wave grows and floods all. Water. Foam. Noise. Onslaught. Silence. Silence. Immensity, depths and silence.

Yes, the French Provincial Lady has been restless. She still is.


 (Janine Jansen plays Bach : Chaconne)

The French cornflower


By coincidence, I was editing the last paragraphs of my previous blog entry


when I heard of the terrorists attacks in Paris on Friday night.

Here were the words I was writing in the last but one paragraph:

“Today is Remembrance Day. We do not have poppies in France, but cornflowers, blue as the sky, blue as the sea, blue, deep, deep blue. Blue as the life in summer. And Remembrance Day for me is the memory of the dead, the memory of the people who suffered and died, not only in WWI but also in WWII and the conflicts and wars that followed. We humans have made a mess of the Earth over more than a century.”

Indeed, what a mess we humans have made of the Earth during more than a century! What a mess we are making of it today still: Paris, Beirut, Iraq, Syria, the whole Middle-East, Central Asia, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South-America, Western World, Russia, Asia;  whole continents seethe and bleed with wars, known or unknown, open or undeclared, martyred towns and countries, tortured people, individuals or groups.

Do we need terrorist attacks to remember these facts? Bleak facts. Dreary facts. Hard facts. There is no feeling in what I am saying. No pity, no anger, no tears. Just facts.

The world is at war with itself and cries.

The Cry (Jean-Michel Folon)
The Cry (Jean-Michel Folon)

If I was proven right with my last but one paragraph, I hope that I shall be proven right with the last:

“But there is always a tiny cornflower that raises its head to speak of peace and brotherhood: beyond policies and economy and finance and industry, there is culture.”


May we all, humans of good will, find the gestures, the looks, the smiles, the words, the caresses, the little kindness at our own small measure, to make the world a Common House, or better, a Common Home, where peace will be as comprehensive as possible. And I believe that love and culture can be formidable weapons.



Johann Sebastian Bach – Cello Suite n°1 in G, BWV 1007 – Pierre Fournier

11 novembre 2015: today is still 11 novembre 1914

Anglo-Saxon poppies and French cornflowers

The blog I “wrote” yesterday, using the words of Wilfrid Owen, ()

was intended as a tribute to all those men who came to fight for us, on the European continent, and mostly in France. I wanted to thank them and their families, posthumously but also their descendants for whom life could never be the same afterwards.

To all of them, to all of you: thank you.

12095167_10153201450303193_5197100785171240194_oThe Allies Victory

It was also a reminder of the situation that was created after the 11 November 1918. The Peace Treaties that were signed in 1919 contributed greatly to the outbreak of WWII. And in the wake of WWII, decolonisation begot more conflicts around the world. We still suffer the consequences and more fights, and now more migrants. This long line of soldiers of WWI is not far from the long lines of today’s refugees. And children still want to play in fields flowered with poppies – not only the poppies of Flanders but the poppies that mark with their blood red colour the soil of our Earth.


Children playing in the poppies of the world

But today is Remembrance Day in France. It is still a holiday. The trauma and the liberation were too great and are not completely erased. True: more and more supermarkets and big shops/stores stay open. People do not stop in the middle of their activities at eleven o’clock for one silent minute. I am almost sure young people do not know why they are on holidays and what WWI (an antiquity) was. Nevertheless, there is still a ceremony at the war memorial (le monument aux morts), with le maire, le conseil municipal and the notabilities of The Village, as in all villages, towns and cities and in Paris under the Arc de triomphe in the memory of the unknown soldier (le soldat inconnu) and for all soldiers.

monument aux morts

The War Memorial of The Village

But I have seen mentalities and sensibilities change during the past years. Fortunately.

My last great-aunt who died this summer at 98 was the last representative of the majority of the French sensibilities after WWI. She was born at Christmas 1917 and was “an accident”. Her brother and sister were much older than she was. She did not know the war except by hearsay; by heavy black weeds around her, widows, mothers without sons, young girls without fiancés, a country without men, and social conditions which had changed a lot. She never married. She hated les Boches, during her whole life. She was 22 when WWII began and she suffered from this war – not by hearsay. Her father was dead, her brother was called, made prisoner, escaped, joined the Résistance, as she did, was left for dead as shot among truly dead comrades. The house was broken into and invaded by Germans looting: all jewels and precious things that had not been hidden were stolen. She had all reasons to hate these soldiers and their country. But her hate did not abate with time, and she never understood how I could have gone on my own in a church in Bonn to pray for reconciliation with a lighted candle and enjoyed visiting Beethoven’s house!

Sketches and vignettes from la Dordogne: 11 novembre 2015: today is still 11 novembre 1914:

French soldiers in the trenches

She knew one thing: we had recovered l’Alsace et la Lorraine in 1918 and they were still ours at the end of 1944/45. She had welcomed all les pauvres gens qui fuyaient (the people who had to flee during the Exode) and she never understood why they, coming from the Eastern part of France, did not declare that the Dordogne cooking (la cuisine du Périgord) was not the best in the world!

This was a common state of mind in France: a long-standing hatred of the Kaiser, les Prussiens, and Germany.

It needed all the strength and the willpower of Robert Schumann and other “Europeans” to create the very first European Institution for steel and coal in the first years of the 1950. But the reconciliation between France and Germany was a long labour still under construction with President Giscard d’Estaing and Chancelier Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982) and openly shown by President Mitterrand and Chancelier Helmut Kohl when they were together holding hands during a commemorative ceremony of our wars.


Helmut Schmidt (who died today) and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing


The Germano-French symbol of reconciliation

Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand

My great-aunt foamed with rage!

My great-grand parents and my grand-parents were more divided and less representative of the French people. They had cousins and friends in Britain and in New-England, but also family in Germany, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia and Poland, Mitel Europa. My great-grand father spoke German fluently and had studied at Heidelberg. Music was German or Italian. Great painters were to be found in Flanders and Italy and in Germany as well. The baroque and rococo styles flourished in Bavaria and Austria.


The logo of the Heidelberg university



Their roots were not deep in France, but deep in Europe and they fought all idea of war. There was the same movement in Britain. It is well described in Kasuo Ishiguro “The Remains of the Day”. I have difficulties and feel unease with this book because I understand the temptation for an aristocrat with family and friends on both sides of the barricade to try and mend things, to find a compromise. In this case the compromise can be fatal. And there could be no compromise before WWII. It was slightly different before WWI as they were still living on the values of honour and “officers and gentlemen”.

Of course, in the end, they did their duty. They killed each other.


Les Gueules cassées – disfigured soldiers back from the war

They came back wondering why.

They blamed the 1919 Treaties and foretold WWII and the subsequent conflicts.


Signature of the Versailles Treaty in the Galerie des glaces (1919)

They picked up as they could their family links and friendships. They were considered as traitors by their neighbours.

In 1939, there was no hesitation against Hitler. They found who might have flown Germany, and the German and Russian spheres, and all together joined the Résistance. Their neighbours found them neighbourly again.

After WWII, they became staunch Europeans. Not Europeans of this neo-liberal European Union.

I went to Berlin and was told before, to go and see Unter den Linden – I think the idea and the name were important as much as Rupert Brooke’s poem “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester”, which begins with Berlin:

Just now the lilac is in bloom,

All before my little room;

And in my flower-beds, I think, 

Smile the carnation, and the pink                                         

And down the borders, well I know,  

The poppy and the pansy blow . . .

Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,

Beside the river make for you

A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep

Deeply above; and green and deep

The stream mysterious glides beneath,

Green as a dream and deep as death.

— Oh, damn! I know it! and I know

How the May fields all golden show,

And when the day is young and sweet,

Gild gloriously the bare feet

That run to bathe . . .                                                  Rupert_Brooke_Q_71073

                            ‘Du lieber Gott!’

Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,

And there the shadowed waters fresh

Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.

Temperamentvoll German Jews

Drink beer around; — and THERE the dews

Are soft beneath a morn of gold.

Here tulips bloom as they are told;

Unkempt about those hedges blows

An English unofficial rose;

And there the unregulated sun

Slopes down to rest when day is done,

And wakes a vague unpunctual star,

A slippered Hesper; and there are

Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton

Where das Betreten’s not verboten.

unterden linden1

Unter den Linden

I was told to buy music and books, to visit museums, go to concerts, the opera, enjoy the culture … and visit our cousins and their friends.

Today is Remembrance Day. We do not have poppies in France but cornflowers, blue as the sky, blue as the sea, blue, deep, deep blue. Blue as the life in summer. And Remembrance Day for me is the memory of the dead, the memory of the people who suffered and died, not only in WWI but also in WWII and the conflicts and wars that followed. We, humans, made a mess of the Earth, and of more than a century.

But there is always a tiny cornflower that raises its head to speak of peace and brotherhood: beyond policies and economy and finance and industry, there is culture.

Remembrance Day: 11 November 1918 – Remembrance Day: Today

November 1914-1915-1916-1917-1918

and during all the wars


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
(Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918)

Civilians from 1914 until tomorrow and the day after tomorrow

There are poppies and remembrance everywhere in the world

And children who believe in peace

Farewell, Persephone…


Farewell, Persephone…

With November coming in, and pomegranates making a last show, you are leaving us to join your husband in the Infernos.


Farewell, Persephone…

With November coming in, you are going in a trail of blazing glory. The whole Earth is celebrating you with her best colours. Leaves have been invited and are dancing for you in their best gowns of yellow and gold, russet and copper, bronze and reds. The woods are all aflame, and the gardens are adorned with their most vivid flowers: dahlias, dishevelled or disciplined in round coronets, chrysanthemums vying with the waltzing leaves for bright and shining hues, and berries. Berries of all kinds, alluring orange and red, and the remaining black ones, calling for the birds to fly for them, twitter and peck the best.


Farewell, Persephone…

With November coming in, all little field and tree folk scurry around to gather nuts and acorns, the last grains, the bits of fruit left by us, your people.


Farewell, Persephone…

With November coming in, it is the time of our last harvest: grapes are almost all in and prepared for the wine that warms both hearts and bodies; apples are taken in and those that are still on the trees fall down on the soil with a thud; blackberries have been gathered and turned into jelly and jam, as have been the last gooseberries. A lonely tomato still hangs, solitary, on its branch in the garden. Pumpkins, marrows and squash brighten the browning earth. There is no Harvest Festival in thy country, Persephone, and none in mine, but we give thanks for the crops for which we have toiled while you were among us and that are now safe in barns and houses.





Apples (2)

Farewell, Persephone…

With November coming in, the sky is still blue, and lazy white clouds parade around and stroll across it. There is dew in the mornings, sometimes hoar frost that crunches under feet, glistening spider webs and gossamer threads, liquid pearls that shimmer in the light. Later, the sun will drink them all and warm the day. Is it summer still? The evenings come in a glory of pink, mauve, purple and blue with a hint of orange and red. And the moon glimmers in a deep dark immensity.

gossamer threads


Farewell, Persephone…

Soon, the sun will go down as a red balloon in cold skies. Soon, the earth will be frozen. Soon, the trees will be pruned and the hedges trimmed. Soon, the scent of smoke will rise up in the air and wisps will ascend in the chill to reach the bleak sky. Soon, the last apples will be rotting on the earth. Soon, the nightingale hill will be barren and the birds gone. Soon, the red robin will come to demand crumbs and food will be given to the black and blue tits. Soon, we shall crave for warmth in the home.


Farewell, Persephone…

There is nothing frightening about thee. No fairies and no witches follow thee. No horror, no pain, no fear. You are the goddess of bountiful life, and when you go back to your husband for some months, these allow the Earth to sleep. To sleep? No. The wheat grain does not sleep nor die really. It rests and gains strength for it will grow when thou wilt return to us.

2988699553 (1)

Farewell, Persephone…

Spring will be here soon and thou wilt be back with it in a trail of blazing greens and whites and yellows and pinks.

Hail to thee, Persephone!