Not so super bugs and a few rather more super bits of randomness

Antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance: It’s what I’m working on now and it’s both fascinating and terrifying. I will be attending this meeting in Berlin this week. Looking forward to hearing about what people around the world are doing to prevent the apocalypse!

Currently reading this. An intriguing book about the rich and dissipated on the French Riviera in the first half of the 20th century. Lots of gossip and cameos by everybody who was anybody, including Churchill. Recommended in a kind of horrifying way. It does make me wonder what the French made of this British invasion.

About to host Sunday lunch for the local crowd. Rick Bayless is on the menu, so to speak.

Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

Shine on, shine on

Harvest moon 


Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

Of dolphins, autumn, and the Cazelets

This is seriously cool.

I took my camera out at lunch today to try to capture some of the beauty of our sudden autumn.

And now . . . to the Brig and the Duchy, Hugh, Edward, Rupert, and Rachel, and their many wives and lovers and children and friends and extended family.

Yes, I’m talking about the Cazelets, whose story is told in the 5-volume series of novels by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

Why Howard is not better known and appreciated, I have no idea. She had a crazy and tumultuous life, about which I know plenty, having read her memoir (and those of her various husbands), but I am now looking forward to reading her biography.

I nominate these novels as among the best written in English in the 20th century. Yes, Proust and Faulkner included. Certainly among the very top of anything set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

The story is complex, and you need the family tree to keep everyone straight at the beginning. But soon you come to know them.

Told from many perspectives and darting back and forth in time, but not too much. I cared about every single one of the characters, even if I didn’t like them much, and yes, I’m looking at you, Edward.

War turns out to be mainly boring! But London and parties beckon, and there is still so much work to do and so many mouths to feed, in a grand country house that is probably not so grand anymore. Memories, and the aftermath, of the First World War, are still extremely vivid, and one can feel the horror of the prospect of all that all over again.

And oh, the entanglements! Wives and mistresses and all the wrong men to fall in love with. Unrequited love and disasters in threesomes and the whole gamut of sexuality and love and experience and loss, loss, loss.

All I can do is urge you to order the entire 5-volume set, and devour it as soon as possible. I will not soon forget the Cazelets. I am sorry I always thought, for no reason whatever, that the books were set in the Middle Ages, and no, I have no plans to try to see the television series made from it. I like to keep them in my imagination.

How on earth did Howard do it? I have no idea. I cannot fathom trying to unpick the structure.

Read what another writer I admire, Hilary Mantel, has to say about Howard here. 

An astonishing achievement. My books of the year.




Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

After le weekend

Our little community of friends in Segny has been mighty active lately, especially when it comes to socializing! This weekend saw the second in a series of long, leisurely, communal Sunday lunches, only this one happened to be on Saturday.

Friends Priya and Shabby hosted us for a delicious feast of dishes from Persiana.


I posted a few photos on Instagram, but failed to snap one of the dessert, a rosewater and pistachio rice pudding made by one of my resident interns, Freya. We are lucky to be able to find such exotic ingredients as rose petals and barberries at our excellent local Middle Eastern shop, which is known variously as Goodies or Goodtaste.

And then there was a considerable amount of lying around the house, watching Netflix, prepping food for the week ahead, drawing some buildings outdoors (more on this to come), noodling around online, worrying about the Catalan vote, and stopping by the crazy-big vide grenier (“empty attic” in French, much like a yardsale) in Ferney. Where I bought nothing but enjoyed roaming around.

Finally, I finished with the Cazalets. Review coming up. Watch this space.

Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

News, reading, le weekend

On Saturday mornings, I try to catch up on the news, the Food Network, and otherwise luxuriate in being able to stay in bed in my pajamas.

This is a pretty startling piece of news about India’s overcrowded, under-resourced railways. 

In a few hours, I will be bereft of a large, complicated family with whom I’ve spent several weeks this summer. I will write more about the Cazelets when I’ve finished this magnificent series of novels.

Kudos to whichever one of my friends recommended these books to me, after a long discussion on Facebook. Huge thanks. Watch this space for the review.

Very much looking forward to reading this profile of one of my writing heroes, John McPhee. His latest book, at age 86, is about his creative process, which I know already to be strenuous and detailed in the extreme.

Bon weekend, all!


Posted in Daily, Reading | Leave a comment

Fun things of the moment

Can’t wait to see friend/teacher/mentor Maira Kalman’s mother’s closet at the Met Museum in New York next week!

Have discovered a new passion: audiobooks. Makes the commute something to look forward to. Recently listened to the first Harry Potter book, read by Stephen Fry, which was excellent.

Now on to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It is sooooo good.

On the political front, this is the best thing to come along since the election (I get the daily newsletter and you should, too). But kudos also to the New York Times and the Washington Post for some seriously excellent investigative journalism in recent weeks.

Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

At the movies

Went to see Lion tonight. Didn’t know much about it, but it was here and it was in ENGLISH.

So, so, so good.

Highly recommended.

Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

An oddity or two

You have to admit, this isn’t the sort of thing that happens every day.

Apparently, this is the best toothbrush on the planet. I may have to try it.



Posted in Current Affairs, France, Oddities | Leave a comment

Le weekend and beyond

Trump’s attacks on the media are nothing new. They’ve been employed by dictators throughout history, and they are chilling. One of the most important essays I’ve read in a great long while explains.

On an entirely different note, I’ve learned how to print my own postage stamps, courtesy of La Poste! This may herald a new era of actual snail mail. Or it may not. Also on the list: how to print them so they are STRAIGHT.

Had a wonderful, carb-overflowing lunch yesterday at a favorite place, the Auberge du Dully. For mysterious reasons, I seem to be very well known to the staff there . . . .

Posted in Daily | Leave a comment

A few good things




that I’ve been enjoying lately.

And . . .

the Instant Pot! Really enjoying experimenting with it. The IP FB page is crazy. Made me late to work at least once 😉



Posted in Daily | Leave a comment