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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Art of Naming

I have always liked noting the names of boats and yachts Recently I had the chance to visit Zanzibar. Interestingly this guy did not name his boat after his beloved but after the degree of feeling to her - too much.

Too much love will kill you
For several days I used to sit for hours on the beach and observe life there. This ferry boat used to bring several cars, TVs and washing machines. After what happened to Egypt recently one would expect that the name Mubarak would be painted over and that Ruaha (whatever this means) would be the new one. 

The names of the dictators...
This hair hairdresser is located next to the crazy market. The name is obviously a translation from Swahili but I can't think of what it might mean. The owner invited me for a haircut. I refused.

Ready for surprises?
This summer we spent a dozen days on the island of Hvar in Croatia. There is some extremely kitschy fashion for the names of these boats. Ecstasea is a perfect example.

Those modest boats
Fortunately there are still some modest local boats. This one bears the endearing name of Little Ivo - Mali Ivo. I imagine that it was named after his newborn son Ivo.
Little Ivo in Jelsa

Libido Bar

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last drops of honey

Today I thought it would be a pity to miss the sun and warm air so I took the bike for a 2 hour tour of an area I liked in October when we went there to an apple festival and a futile mushroom picking. This outing was a kind of an unexpected gift as I already starting thinking of all kinds of skiing exploits. It was a joy to feel the warm air on my back as I was slaloming between cows.

Today I covered the distance from the village of Mourex to Divonne-les-Bains and from there to Vesancy and back to Mourex where I had parked the car.

I took out the camera only in Vesancy although Mourex would have deserved some pictures.

For some reason I am fascinated by old barn gates and I often take pictures of them. I imagine there was quite some life around these gates several hundred years ago. Today I noticed that the shadows play merrily on the gate.


Shadows playing on a gate, Vesancy

These trees are incredibly beautiful in the sun and I wish I knew the name at least in some language.
I wish I knew the name, Vesancy

Apparently not much is known about this castle. It is from the 12th century and first used to be a fortress but later became a simple home of the 'noble family of Vesancy'. Only now I noticed that the church cross is reflected on the left tower.
Le Chateaux de Vesancy

The castle was bought out by the commune in the 19th and 20th centuries and now shelters the town hall. When seeing the RF (Republique Francaise) sign one is once again reminded that the French Revolution took place some 222 years ago.

                                La Republique Francaise where nobles once were
Somehow I like this picture as the dead leaves look like a river of honey. That's how the nature was on this warm 29th November.

A river of honey

These dry leaves are quite nice from close with endless curly forms. They were quite fine in the afternoon sun, I think better than when they are wet and slippery, glued together.
Sunbathing leaves

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Baptism of Fire: or from Nyon to Morge

Some 20 days ago was Boris' first true bike trip. His biking career has been very steep: in March he removed the support wheels, in April he got a beautiful blue bike which he started riding in the park, in May - we went out in the streets, late May we went off-road. Come June and Boris was in for a 30 km one full-day ride.

I had full confidence in him, of course, and everything turned out to be fine. The only stressful moment of the whole trip was getting on the train in Geneva and then again getting on the train on the way back in Morge. Somehow we were not on the right platform both times and the time was short.

Boris by Geneva Lake

Boris was riding his bike even when we were all having a break. He can't get enough of it.

Andrej and his new style (pay attention to the socks)

Recently Andrej started dressing by himself. Putting on long socks and pulling them all the way up is one of his signatures. This time he chose two different socks.

Jelica, Jessica and Jovana (JJJ) drinking coffee in Rolle

Jelica in the fields
(almost like St Martin in the fields)

Boris in the fields

Boris and his new shining bike with its beautiful blue colour. Tour de France started yesterday and he missed it but

Lantern in St.Prex - someone made those sharp teeth

Somewhere in the fields

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Just a facade - Aix-en-provence


The happy shepherd (out of the picture)

Instead of flowers - Gorde

Savon de Marseille - here, there and everywhere

Monday, June 13, 2011

I hope the right hill

I have been thinking lately of the Sisyphus myth and the fact that it has almost become acceptable for the stone to return.

Titian, Sisyphus

However, what would really be unbearable is pushing a returning stone on the wrong hill....

Franz Stuck

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Price or value

Last Sunday I was lying on the ground in the local park. The grass was slightly wet from the short rain but pleasantly warm from the scorching sun. Boris was making frantic circles with his new blue bike, immensely proud that he had just biked with me on the street, giving priority, taking priority, careful when there is a 'Stop', keeping a straight line, giving a hand sign when turning.

Little brother Andrej ,keeping a niche activity, was deftly flying on his 'Micro' scooter which recently replaced a low-quality Chinese brother.

Then I saw it. Boris was tired, red and.....thirsty. He simply went to drink water from the beautiful metal tap in the park but at this moment I realised how important this water-drinking business had been to me for many years.

Of course, we do all kinds of banal things every day and usually we do not attach a special contemplative value to them as otherwise it would be too difficult to go through the days. But this time I somehow thought of the magic of it all: what else could one do on a lazy Sunday afternoon but think of taps?

I remembered different taps from the past and how it feels to drink from them. I can remember the tap in my secondary school (5th school in Sliven) toilets and drinking litres of water there heart beating violently after hours of football in the heat.

I can remember so vividly the tap in my grandmother's yard (23, Asen Zlatarov street, Sliven) and the time when it was too big for me. I tried to reach the metal nuzzle but somehow fell in the stone basin and cracked my head. This was soon after the same head was cracked by a stone kindly thrown at me by a friend and a bit before I cracked a classmate's head with a piece of wood which I tried to throw like a boomerang.

I also remember the fountain somewhere in the middle on the road from Shiroka Laka to Solishta (Rhodope Mountain, Bulgaria), those 5 kilometers that looked endless on an August afternoon. The value of water was so high for us then.

This reminds me of the difference between price and value and how it was illustrated somewhere by an example of water in the desert: there is no price or it remains the same, value is infinite.

I am thinking now that different people surely drink in a different way like different people jump in the swimming pool differently.

The difference would come from:

- the way one keeps one's lips: a small pout or a wide-angled approach gulping larger quantities of water;
- drinking straight from the nuzzle or not: sometimes there was no time to kid around so I had to drink straight from the nuzzle. This speaks of strong thirst and kind of voracity.
- the way one puts one's palms: drinking elegantly from one of them or dipping one's mouth and nose in a basin made by both.
- naturally the angle of the neck relative to the tap is also revelatory of one's innermost sexual desires.

Naturally, entirely different skills are required when one drinks from the river or from a puddle (I haven't but one never knows).

Let us not forget of the water either. This is of course a topic for a different blog post but see how playful it is on the picture below: shooting out in a relative straight line, reaching the point where its kinetic energy turns into static and then tiredly falls down into semi-random pattern.

Boris, Alfama, Lisbon

It is obvious how different people (Boris and Andrej) drink in a different way. There is the playful, naughty, theatrical drinking of Boris, almost licking the water, ready to please.

On the other hand, there is Andrej's ferocious approach to the act. He attacks it as if he wants to drink it all or as if this water has just eaten his ice cream.

Andrej, Alfama, Lisbon

Friday, April 8, 2011

Balconies: best of both worlds

Balconies have always fascinated me. I realise that wherever I go dozens of the pictures are from balconies. It's good watching balconies but also being on balconies. I got the taste for sipping wine or beer in fresh air especially after spending hundreds of hours on the one below, the beloved Tulipan street, 16 in Budapest.

Somehow on a balcony one has the best of two worlds: the security of home and the clear sky: the fridge is never too far and Venus is there for you with your first glass of wine. Balconies are even better if you can play music in the background or even if the only music is the one of the cicadas.

View from Balcony on Tulipan street, 16 (Budapest)

Poruguese balconies are a special breed: there is rarely place for a small table or chair. It's a balcony to lean on and greet your neighbour or an observatory balcony. The one below is a thought over composition: the scarf and the flower match perfectly well.

Central Lisbon: composition

The balcony below would be lovely in summer when the tree is in leaves. That's in Alfama - a magic place with an Arab history and feel.

Balcony in Alfama: old Arab part of Lisbon

Fortunately, it is still not forbidden to dry one's clothes in Portugal. Who was the one to decide that this was ugly.

The balconies below are on the hill symmetric to Alfama - Bairro Alto. Writer Fernando Pessoa was living not far from here. One can see that buildings are better taken care of. clothes, maybe drying them here is forbidden after all.

Bairro Alto (Lisbon)

The one below is in Bairro Alto too, the ex-resident is back, transformed into a dove. Balconies are also the life behind them. Remember La Vie, Mode d'Emploi (Life: A User's Manual) by George Perec.

Abandoned house: Bairro Alto

Somehow, the is the most hopeful balcony. It is right above a Fado place in Alfama. I imagine that this tree throws a lovely afternoon shadow in the room and the light plays endless games on the white bed cover.

Balcony over a Fado place (Alfama, Lisbon)

The balcony below is a small rooftop garden, ideal for watching a World Football Championship or a good movie in the open air.

Rooftop balcony

And there are a couple of balconies outside Lisbon too. Like the one below. Maybe.

Corner balcony: Coimbra

Monday, February 21, 2011

Even trivial things so used and tried

Today I was fully under the spell of Andrey Tarkovsky's Mirror. A month ago I had the urge of watching quality Russian cinema again and we started by Mirror and what a good choice.

I was thinking today why I liked it so much and what makes it different. I know it sucks a bit to demystify beauty but a bit of rationalism wouldn't hurt after all. I live in France after all, 200 m. from the place where Voltaire spent the last 20 years of his life.

One of the things that I really liked is the dream-like character of the shooting. Tarkovsky kind of invites us all to dream with him of his childhood. I don't know how he does this from a cinematography point of view but it seems to me that it is mostly through the long takes. I like so much these long minutes when the camera roams in forests and meadows, looks into the eyes and then away into the distance. Good life is a long take, isn't it? Today I have been thinking that a long take shows a bigger respect to the viewers, there is less trickery in a way. Long takes slow down time and free space for thinking.

This is the second reason I liked it so much - the free space. Mirror is a movie where there are lots of free spaces for thinking and living-with in a compassionate way. By free spaces I don't mean clumsy gaps but silences which one can load with emotions or let go in a Buddhist way. It's again about respect for the viewer, about giving him/her a share of authorship.

Dealing with time in this movie is phenomenal. Tarkovsky shows so well that one is the child one used to be. In a way time is one, times merge together and childhood is not left away in a dusty attic. Indeed, it is reflected in a mirror and often swims in white haze but it is still there, just a dream away.

Mirror is a also a movie about the father, the missing father. Arseny Tarkovsky, an important Russian poet, left the family when Andrey was five. The father who used to appear on the horizon came no more. Arseny's beautiful poetry is read throughout the film. There is no judgment there. Things are as they are, beauty is all around.

This is a link to the First Date poem which is about love, of course. Both the Russian original (very beautiful) and the English translation are there.

And suddenly all changed, like in a trance,
Even trivial things so used and tried.....

And....if you are curious about it, just watch at the scene I embedded. It's seven minutes but it is worth it. It's a scene of intense beauty where one finds all: the longing, the endless sadness, the mysterious wind.........And among all this the amazing stranger who comes by mistake, quickly understands all about her loneliness, falls with her and then surprisingly throws this pantheistic idea about the plants which feel, know and comprehend. All our problems come because we refuse to trust the nature which is in us, because we don't have time to think....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

From Village to Village, Violin in Hand

Yesterday, at dinner, when asked what he wants to be in life my elder son Boris replied 'I want to be a Gypsy'. He clarified that he wanted to be a Gypsy in order to play his violin all day long, do gardening and wonder from village to village.

Gypsy girl with a mandoline,
Camille Corot, 1874

I think this is not such a bad choice at all although we tried to explain that you don't become a Gypsy, you are born one. We also mentioned that you can play violin and do gardening without necessarily being a Gypsy. However, he insisted on the choice of profession for some time. It is possible though that you can play violin, do gardening and travel from village to village only if you are a Gypsy.

Gypsy in reflection, Courbet, 1869

I don't know from where Boris gets his fascination about Gypsies. When asked how he know that Gypsies wonder from village to village he answered with his usual matter-of-fact air 'I just know, it's like that'.

It is a known fact that Gypsies have long been romanticized as we can see on the Corot's and Courbet's paintings. Unfortunately it is not the case any more in France especially after last years Bulgarian and Romanian Gypsy incursion. At the entrance of Ferney-Voltaire where we live it is written in an euphemistic way that wondering people are not welcome on municipal territory. I am afraid Boris will have to change his choice of career.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Andrej Turns Four or How Pizza Found Pizzo

A couple of days ago Andrej finally turned four. I say 'finally' as not being four had been a serious problem for him. For him the more, the better. Sometimes when he is angry with me for not letting him eat a fifth sweet he tells me 'You are zero years old' showing his fists without any fingers sticking.

Andrej turned four on Thursday and we wanted him to spend the day with his classmates preparing a cake but unfortunately both his teachers fell ill and I had to keep him home for the day. As the sun dared to peep through the clouds I decided to take him downtown Geneva for a walk to his favourite Parc des Bastions.

Our walk started next to Plainpalais, next to a statue of a philosopher. Who is it, I wonder? Andrej also has a skeptical look as all philosophers should have, shouldn't day? Yes, I turned four and I reached the goal but now my new target is five. Andrej is shooting at a moving target.

Andrej and the philosopher

I don't know why but I have always been attracted by water taps which are used in case of a fire. There was one at the corner of my street as a kid and it was always a silent presence except on the day when an old house burned and the firemen used it as a water source. They can often be beautiful urban objects.

By the water tap

We are already in the Parc des Bastion, one of the nicest places I know in Geneva. The park is quiet now, expectant of the spring to come. Andrej is posing in the next two pictures engaged in a psychological battle with the camera. Will you take a picture of me or will I take a picture of you?

Condensed happiness (1)

Condensed happiness (2)

The park is famous for its chess boards and I thought that Andrej could pose as a pawn at H2, ready to strike the non-existing enemy.

An important chess figure - Andrej

After the Parc des Bastions we went to a little square in the old town overlooking the park. That's a perfect spot for watching the winter sunset over the park. It is also a place where the 'official' chestnut tree is located meaning that the chief botanist of the canton observes the coming of the spring on this particular tree.

The official chestnut tree

This little square hides a set of very appealing old kids' toys, simply different from the standard set of toys one can find at playgrounds. Here is a merry-go-round where you have to pedal. Andrej's legs were not long enough though and we had a problem. Mine were not short enough. Some cutting and pasting of legs would have been needed for a perfect peddling couple.


Here is a small Trojan horse but no one should be afraid of it and your hard disk will stay intact.

Trojan horse

And, of course, we finally made it to this obscure object of desire - the chocolate muffin. All the suffering, walking, posing and playing was just an excuse to reach this coveted goal - a fresh, warm muffin with a vanilla filling with a hot chocolate in case the chocolate-ness of the muffin is not enough. If I can paraphrase Freud: it is not all about sex, it is all about chocolate.

A well-deserved muffin and hot chocolate

Even a muffin has an end and we had to go. On the way down to the lake we discovered the missing half of Pizza, her partner, her love. This is Pizzo. It is a perfect Yan and Yin, Yin and Yan.

Pizza can finally be happy - Pizzo is found

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Killing them softly

In October I spent some days in Malta. One sunny Sunday morning I decided to go to a fisherman's village Marsaxlokk (to be read Marsa-shlok) mainly because of its name (don't you like the 'x' in the middle of the word and on top of that it is read as 'sh') but also because of the guide's promise that the world's best fish market takes place on Sundays there.

The evening before there was a huge rain in Valletta which actually means Malta as there is little else in Malta outside Valletta. The rain was so serious that coming back from a Saturday outing with Venelina and Dora I was afraid that the water would get into the car and we would drift away direction Africa.

The morning after was as fresh as if no deluge had threatened to wipe the island the night before. Sometimes nature is so innocent and oblivious of what it had previously inflicted or at least pretends to be totally innocent. It was naughtily offering people a gentle African breeze.

The only sign of the rain in Martaxlokk were the huge puddles which were quickly evaporating in front of the eyes of Sunday morning coffee-drinkers. Evaporating puddles always remind me of childhood Sliven, the thrill to get out of home after being forced to hide during a summer rain. The only drawback was the fact that the leather ball would get into the water and become really heavy.

View of Martaxlokk port

I find that the Martaxlokk fishermen found a really cute colour combination for their boats. It fits so well the stone of the village houses.

The gentle killer boats

No matter how gentle the boats look like they have hidden killer properties and are actually there to bring those guys below to the tables in a non-living state.

Scampi anyone?

Hecatombe 1

Hecatombe 2

Hecatombe 3

Hecatombe 4

Hecatombe 5