a perfect day

I walked for 5 hours yesterday. I left my flat at 1 pm and returned at 6 pm, laden with foodstuffs for my dinner, a chilled bottle of rosé wine and shopping bags from Au Printemps and COS. It was a perfect day in every way. First stop the Parc Monceau: hot and blindingly sunny.

Bordering the park is this museum (free entrance) where I went to see a painting and porcelain exhibition from China and Japan. After the bright sunshine, it was pleasant to step into the cool quiet blue of the exhibit rooms.

Then on to the boulevard Malesherbes, direction Villiers, to saunter in the sunshine and observe Parisians (including myself) enjoying their day.

The café terraces were packed.

I walked all over, popping into shops and revisiting old haunts (rue de Lévis market street) while enjoying the breeze and sunshine. As mentioned in an earlier post, this district is off the tourist grid and populated largely by locals. The metro station is Villiers. Then down (or up) the wide and stylish boulevard Malesherbes to Place Saint-Augustin with its large Roman Catholic church built between 1860 and 1871.

Eastwards along the boulevard Haussmann to the two side-by-side department stores, Au Printemps and Galéries Lafayette. Downstairs, in the Au Printemps cosmetic-beauty store, there’s a huge array of skin products on offer as well as a nail and hair salon.

Upon learning there was a 25 percent discount for Au Printemps cardholders on that day, I bought a few products (Esthederm is one of my favorites). Then I strolled down the rue Tronchet to my favorite clothing store: COS. Swedish owned, it’s part of the H&M group. I purchased a linen summer top then continued walking south to Concorde metro station to jump on the number 1 line. Once home, I poured myself a glass of chilled rosé and reclined on the chaise longue.

we’re enjoying exceptionally fine weather here in Paris

The type of weather where you don’t want to be indoors. It rained throughout April and the first half of May, now we’re being graced with perfection: warm-hot and abundant sunshine accompanied by a lovely cool breeze. Where shall I go on this sunny Saturday? I’ll be heading to one of my favorite parks in the 8th arrondissement (bordering on the 17th arrondissement): the parc Monceau. I know it well. Before I got the job I have now, I used to work in a French law firm that overlooked this park. I was in it every single day (Monday to Friday) either crossing it, sitting on a bench on my lunch hour eating a sandwich or doing yoga exercises in a group. It’s small, leafy and intimate.

But today, there’s a particular reason why I’m going there. To visit the Musée Cernuschi. Also know as the Musée des Arts de l’Asie de la Ville de Paris, its Asian art collection is second to that of the Musée Guimet.

Here’s a post I wrote on the park and the surrounding district. Some of the shops mentioned have been shuttered permanently because of COVID –

a Sunday stroll along the boulevard de Courcelles

to be continued….

Phillip Schofield quits ITV over scandal

Who’s Phillip Schofield?

A well-liked TV presenter on British television.

Why did he quit his job, and what’s the scandal?

In February 2020, Schofield publicly announced that he was gay. The scandal is that he was having an affair with a younger man who works on the same TV program.

So? Or, as the French would say – Et alors? Why is this our business?

The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom. It legalised homosexual acts in England and Wales, on the condition that they were consensual, in private and between two men who had attained the age of 21.

The U.K. currently has its knickers in a twist over this story.

Phillip Schofield has sensationally quit ITV and admitted to an affair with a younger male colleague at This Morning while he was still married.

The 61-year-old – who stepped down from presenting the daytime TV programme last Saturday – said the “consensual on-off relationship” was “unwise, but not illegal”.

Schofield said he was “very sorry” for the affair, which happened while he was married to his wife of 30 years, Stephanie Lowe.

The TV presenter admitted he lied about the relationship to ITV, his colleagues, friends and his agents who have since parted ways with Schofield.

I guess I’ve been living in France too long but, again, why is Schofield’s marriage or sex life our business?

The hypocrisy is stunning. And it smacks of homophobia. After losing his job of 21 years, Schofield is being publicly eviscerated for lying and having an affair. He says he feels “completely broken”.

After learning his fate on Thursday, Schofield fled to Cornwall to be with his mum Pat, 85. Those close to Phil said he is struggling to come to terms with the situation. A source added: “Phil is feeling incredibly upset and taking some time out to weigh up his options. He has privately been sent a number of messages of support from friends in the industry.”

Phillip Schofield has lost his job. Picture: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images


The hypocrisy is breathtaking. The lies perpetrated by British politicians – huge, massive lies that affect the lives of millions and drag them down to unheard levels of bankruptcy, poverty, deprivation. BREXIT was an absolute lie, rammed through by Boris Johnson and motivated purely for his own self-interest. Not a single one of those politicians have been held accountable for their lies. And where’s Bojo today after having wrecked the country? Raking in millions on the international speaking circuit and living in his new manor house in Oxfordshire. A serial philanderer, he’s on his third wife who is days away from having another baby. The baby will be the couple’s third child and Mr Johnson’s eighth.


getting your driver’s license in France – baptism of fire

The Webster dictionary describes baptism of fire as an introductory or initial experience that is an ordeal. If that is so, then I’ve experienced dozens of baptisms since coming to France. People who haven’t moved here don’t have a clue how hard it can be. Paris is not all flaky croissants, rose-colored macarons and chocolate eclairs.

There’s a difference between being a tourist and a (working) resident.

Getting French citizenship (which I didn’t even want, but after Brexit, me and my British passport were no longer part of Europe) was a two-year ordeal. Pounding the Parisian pavement hunting for work wasn’t exactly a party, nor was interviewing and doing myriad tests in a foreign language. I won’t even touch on the subject of apartment hunting. This isn’t a pity party. But moving to a foreign country – alone and with no support system – can be challenging, to say the least.

Years ago, my sister sent me a whiny email from Toronto complaining how hard it was to run our father’s small publishing company – “Do you know how hard I worked? It wasn’t easy. YOU have no idea.”     “You wouldn’t last 24 hours in my world,” I retorted.

Anyway, back to my driver’s license which is the title of this post. Back in Canada, I got my driver’s license when I turned sixteen. I remember nothing about the test and driving exam, but I don’t think it was too difficult. I passed, and from that moment on I drove. Decades later, I bought myself a car here in Paris. Using my Canadian driver’s license, I drove for two years before concluding that owning a car in Paris is madness. So I sold it. And then my driver’s license expired. So I was car-less and license-less, but I did nothing about it.

Fast-forward another decade and I want to drive again. I miss it. I envision myself sailing down a Spanish highway on my way to Toledo, Seville or Cordoba. (I could also take the train, but my dream fantasy involves a car.) So it was time to bite the bullet and get myself a French driver’s license. I had heard all kinds of nightmare stories: that it was really hard; that very few people pass the theory test the first, second or even third time; that the driving examiners are sadistic and gleefully flunk you just because they can. And that it’s expensive! It can cost anywhere from 900 to 1800 euros, depending on what driving school and package you choose. I paid just under 1000 euros for an online driving school called Le Permis Libre. I recommend it.

Stage One is to obtain what’s called “the Code”. It’s all theory and covers every aspect of the driving experience from actual driving to first aid, the environment, car mechanics, traffic offenses and more. Today, it’s harder and more technical than it used to be. Work colleagues who have been driving for 20 or 30 years have told me that if they ever had to take the theory test today, they’d flunk. There are not only ten themes and a thousand questions to study and memorize, but traffic signs as well. These are just a few of them:

Did you know that headlights are brighter on the right side than the left? (above slide).

And because the French love to make things difficult, there are multiple trick questions as well as illogical ones.

A month ago, I took my first exam at the local post office. We were three in a small room equipped with three desks, tablets and headphones. There are 40 questions. In order to pass, you must get 35 of them right. I failed spectacularly because I hadn’t studied properly. I approached the whole thing flippantly with an attitude that said – I’ve been driving since I was 16. How hard can this be?

So I studied more seriously, crammed for an entire weekend, and did the test again on Monday at 9 am. This time round, I was all alone in the small room. The woman padlocked my phone, coat and handbag in a locker and walked away with the key. “You have 35 minutes,” she said before closing the door.

I did the best that I could, finished, then went to work believing that I had flunked again. A few hours later, I went onto the website of Le Permis Libre to see the results.

Vous avez passé l’Epreuve Théorique Générale du permis de conduire le 22/05/2023.

Vous avez obtenu la note de 36 sur 40.


Frankly, I was surprised, but thrilled. Now for the next step: the actual driving test, which shouldn’t be difficult unless I get a sadistic examiner.

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan

As mentioned in an earlier post, I discovered Dylan late in life –

Upon learning that the legendary singer-songwriter will be playing Paris in October 2022, I’ve taken an interest in the man. I was never a fan. Oh, sure, like everyone else, I sang along to his greatest songs: Lay Lady Lay, Blowin’ in the Wind, Like a Rolling Stone, etc., but he was on the far periphery of my musical odyssey as I romped and rocked my way through the 1970s and 80s.

I’ve spent the past month watching his early performances and interviews from the 1960s on YouTube, reading his memoir (Chronicles), viewing Martin Scorsese’s documentary (No Direction Home) and observing his startling transformations and mutations over the decades. He’s been called so many names: Shape-shifter. Protest singer. Jewish boy from Minnesota. Born again Christian. Trickster, troubadour, joker. Iconoclast, innovator, icon. And in 2016, Nobel Prize for Literature winner. What an extraordinary life this man has lived. And to think it all started with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and a clutch of amazing songs.

It was difficult for me to choose one single song to honor his birthday on May 24, there are so many. In the end, I chose Pretty Saro from my BD playlist. Pretty Saro was recorded during a Columbia recording session in 1970, fell by the wayside and was forgotten, only to be discovered and released in 2013. What’s surprising about it is Dylan’s voice. Not a trace of the whiny, nasal delivery of the past, but instead warm and melodic while dipping to low notes and then, surprisingly, up to high notes. And isn’t that the perfect word to describe the chameleon-like Bob Dylan? Surprising.

Cannes film festival. The Zone of Interest. Martin Amis.

UPDATE – I posted this at 1 pm on Saturday. By nightfall, I read that Martin Amis had died.

I never watch coverage of the Cannes festival (televised daily on French TV), and I don’t know why. I should, because I love movies. I think it’s the pomposity of the red carpet that turns me off – all those strutting peacocks and barking photographers.

But listening to France Culture radio this cool, sunny morning while making a stack of pancakes and firing up the espresso machine, I learned of a new movie that everyone’s talking about:

The Zone of Interest is a 2023 German-language British-Polish period drama film written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, loosely based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis. It was shot in 2021 in Auschwitz.

The Zone of Interest had its world premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2023.


The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.


Nazi Drama ‘Zone of Interest’ Is a Cannes Sensation With 6-Minute Standing Ovation (from Variety Magazine)

Glazer’s film is austere and challenging as it tells the story of the commandant of Auschwitz and his wife, who have created their dream home directly next to the concentration camp. The constant screams of prisoners, gun shots and smoke from the gas chambers haunt their paradise, but their indifference to such horrors creates a terrifying and sinister juxtaposition.

Below is a fascinating talk with the erudite and impeccably polite Martin Amis. Born in Oxford, England four years after the end of World War II, Amis is a novelist, essayist and satirist known for his virtuoso storytelling technique and dark views of contemporary society. Here, he discusses the origins of his book title, The Zone of Interest, the inexplicability of the crimes of Hitler and the German people, the literary life … and more.

Paris night photos. and a few party pics.

Since I bought my first smartphone in February of this year, I don’t use my camera anymore. I sort of miss it. But the phone camera is so practical! I took a few night pics last Saturday when I went to my friend’s birthday bash in a 12th arrondissement bar.

These above photos aren’t us. We were (happily) crammed into a stand-up bar on the Place d’Aligre.

Hadn’t had a Mai Tai in years. Delicious.

Me the next day in the lobby of my friend’s apartment where we went for brunch –

life’s a crapshoot – migrant surge at the US border – Venezuela

Migrants from Latin America waiting in line on the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas.  Huddled masses indeed.

Look at this photo. While I’m enjoying gourmet food in France and merrily taking photos of snapdragons, hundreds of thousands of migrants are illegally crossing into the U.S. Thousands more are in northern Mexico waiting to cross.

Lucky. Unlucky. Life’s a crapshoot. I could be one of them, you could be one of them. One of them could be me or you. Where we are born and to whom can largely determine our destiny. But not always. There are other factors.

While on my lunch hour yesterday, I was looking at these migrant photos on my computer screen. My Franco-Vietnamese colleague (born in Saigon, himself a refugee back in the 1970s), came over and said – “Where are they coming from?”

“Ecuador. Mexico. Guatemala. Venezuela.” I replied.

“Venezuela used to be the richest country in Latin America,” he said.

And that got me thinking. What destroys a country? What kills the hopes and dreams of its citizens and forces them to flee with nothing more than a knapsack on their back in search of safety, shelter and aspiration for a better life? For their children’s lives?

Where will he end up? Why must he leave home to attain a better life elsewhere?

What happened to Venezuela? Curious, I googled. Government mismanagement. Widespread corruption. Soaring debt. Hyperinflation. Massive unemployment. Autocracy and political persecution. U.S. sanctions.

Home to the world’s largest oil reserves, the petrostate Venezuela was blessed and cursed with oil. Between 1972 and 1997 alone, as much as $100 billion in state oil wealth was embezzled by the ruling elites and institutions.

That’s what happened to Venezuela. Greed. Oversized egos and delusions of grandeur … and utter incompetence. If it’s not a natural disaster, it’s men who wreak destruction on the lives of ordinary women, men and children; we’ve seen it, over and over. I’m thinking Vladimir Putin. The murderous, hardline Iranian regime who kill, imprison and torture girls and women who don’t wear the obligatory hijab. The depraved Talibans of Afghanistan.

It’s not true that migrants-immigrants-refugees-asylum seekers want to voluntarily leave their homelands. Given the choice, they’d rather not. It’s dire straits, desperation, persecution and the likelihood of death that force them to. It’s not their fault that their countries and economies are run by gangsters, narcissists and psychopaths.

The migration of people is the oldest phenomenon in human history. (In the near future, we’ll have climate refugees). My maternal great-grandfather fled Russia for England because of persecution of Jews; same for his Belarussian wife. Same for my maternal grandfather, decades later, who fled Riga, Latvia with his six brothers. My own parents left England in the 1950s for economic reasons and opportunity in Canada. I left Canada for France.

Thanh left Saigon with his mother and eight siblings to escape communism and the never-ending war. My friend, Kaiss, left Iraq because of multiple wars, largely initiated – illegally – by the American administration. The Pentagon’s “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign – “an attack so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed” – killed his father (along with 7,000 other innocents). He died like a dog in the street. One of Kaiss’s brothers is confined to a wheelchair for life, a paraplegic.

We’re all migrants. Many with deep scars.

random photos including homemade banana bread

The nice thing about banana bread is that it keeps up to 5 days, wrapped and in the fridge. Every morning I’d cut a generous slice and take it to the office to sit at my desk and eat it with a double espresso on the side. A nice way to start the day.

No matter how long you’ve been speaking a foreign language, you’ll suddenly come across a surprising new word. The other day I passed a florist shop. Out front were yellow snapdragons. Guess what they’re called in French? Gueule de loup, which means ‘wolf mouth’. I laughed out loud and took a photo.

Lunch the other day with a colleague:

This weekend, my Swedish friend has organized a two-day birthday bash at different locations across the city (that haven’t been disclosed yet.) His sister sent us the lyrics to “Happy Birthday” in Swedish – and a YouTube video – so that we could sing to him. As I was watching the video, I thought – Wait a minute, his birthday’s in December. I know that because we share the same birth date.

It’s a belated party. I’ll take photos.