• Books read: 2023

  • Books read: 2022

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  • Le Pont Mirabeau

    In my novel Lost In Paradise, I make use of a handful of poems to aid the plot. I hadn’t planned on doing this at the outset – other than including a few lines from Milton’s Paradise Lost – it just happened after Scarlet, one of the story’s protagonists, uttered a line from Louis MacNeice’s poem ‘Snow’.

    World is crazier and more of it than we think…

    … a line that just popped into my head as I was writing.

    One of the poems I make use of is ‘Le Pont Mirabeau’ by Apollinaire. This is the fragment I used:

    Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Lucienne
    Et nos amours
    Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
    La joie venait toujours après la peine

    Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
    Les jours s’en vont je demeure

    La Lucienne is la Seine in Apollinaire’s original, but since the Lucienne is the river that runs through the story’s imaginary city of Parrinon, I took the liberty of changing it.

    Being a poem, the words and meaning are open to interpretation, so I leave that to the reader – and Google Translate if you don’t read French.

    But the reason I’m writing this note is because only yesterday I discovered that the Pogues recorded a version of the poem in an English translation, and it’s simply marvellous.

    And their translation of the poem, tuned to fit the lyrics of a song, is quite beautiful:

    Below the Pont Mirabeau
    Slow flows the Seine
    And all out loves together
    Must I recall again
    Joy would always follow
    After pain

    Let night fall, let the hours go by
    The days pass on and here I stand

  • Robbie Coltrane RIP

    Sad as I was to hear of the death of Robbie Coltrane today, it triggered a wonderful memory of the big man from 1990 when I saw him play Dario Fo’s classic solo piece Mistero Buffo — a play which the Vatican denounces as “the most blasphemous show in the history of television”. Marvellous!

    I was sat in the middle of the third row of a tiny theatre that Robbie completely filled with his colossal presence and physical hugeness. And being so close to the stage, he often made eye contact, which made the experience all the more intense. It was in Scotland too, so he didn’t hold back on the accent. An astonishing night out, a breathtaking experience, impossible to forget.

    I found this related piece in the Scotsman.

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  • The Chemical History of a Candle

    An outstanding series of five short videos (~10 to 20 minutes each) based on Michael Faraday’s lectures The Chemical History of a Candle.

    In these lectures Michael Faraday’s careful examination of a burning candle reveals the fundamental concepts of chemistry, while at the same time superbly demonstrating the scientific method.

    The lectures

  • Quote: Shaun Tan

    “So you want to hear a story? Well, I used to know a whole lot of pretty interesting ones. Some of them so funny you’d laugh yourself unconscious. Others so terrible you’d never want to repeat them. But I can’t remember any of those, so I’ll just tell you about the time I found that lost thing…”

    Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing is a thing of beauty. Wonderful art woven with an evocative narrative that’s inspirational and fun. Do watch it.