I’m French!

I acquired French citizenship! Ha ha. Je suis française. In fact, I’ve been French for two months now and didn’t even know it. Two days ago I found the belated letter in my mailbox –

What was my reaction as I stood in the lobby of my apartment building, letter in hand? Surprising calm. I’ve lived here for such a long time, have worked 95 per cent of that time, and forked out A LOT in taxes …so I have paid my dues. But it was a funny feeling all the same.

Je suis française,” I said out loud as I pushed open the lobby door and headed off to work, a spring in my step. I’ve never uttered those words before.

I told my boss and some of my colleagues. Everyone congratulated me, it was a novel experience.

“So, now you have dual nationality!” exclaimed a colleague.

“Well, triple, actually,” I replied. (Canadian, British and now French.)

I’ve decided not to be critical of the French anymore because (a) I’m one of them now, and (b) I feel privileged and, well, grateful. Thank you, France. Merci.

If my parents were alive, I think they’d be tickled pink.

This all started because of BREXIT and that dreadful man, Boris Johnson. It was terrible. British citizens all over Europe suddenly found themselves stripped of their European citizenship. It was a rude jolt. Imagine being European your whole life – or for decades, as was my case – and then waking up one morning to find that you’re no longer European. What’s worse is that we were denied the right to vote. I don’t find that very democratic.

I had to get that status back, which is why I applied for French citizenship. The process was arduous, costly and took two years from beginning to end. But totally worth it.

Here’s the post I wrote in September 2019, weeks before my interview at the Préfecture de Police to obtain French citizenship. It’s about the beauty (and necessity) of being bilingual.

the beauty of bilingualism | Juliet in Paris

Malcolm and Marie. new Netflix movie.

This stylish, intimist film – what the French would call huis clos – is due out on Netflix next month. Not having a clue who Zendaya or John David Washington were, I had to google them. He’s the son of Denzel Washington, she’s an actress and singer. She’s very sophisticated for her 24 years, as you’ll see in the movie clip below.

The movie was low-budget and filmed at night in this stunning Californian house, located in the hills around Carmel. It’s known as the Caterpillar House.

 

Here’s the clip. I look forward to seeing this movie.

 

a perfect time to read Toqueville’s Democracy in America

I had planned on reading Toqueville’s celebrated Democracy in America when I retire, but I think I’ll read it now. Despite the fact that it was written in 1835, it remains revelant and engaging.

French sociologist and political theorist, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), traveled to the United States in 1831 to study its prisons. He returned with a wealth of broader observations that he codified in “Democracy in America” (1835), one of the most influential books of the 19th century. With its trenchant observations on equality and individualism, Tocqueville’s work remains a valuable explanation of America to Europeans and to Americans themselves.

From Sing-Sing Prison to the Michigan woods, from New Orleans to the White House, Tocqueville traveled for nine months by steamboat, by stagecoach, on horseback and in canoes, visiting America’s penitentiaries and quite a bit in between. In Pennsylvania, Tocqueville spent a week interviewing every prisoner in the Eastern State Penitentiary. In Washington, D.C., he called on President Andrew Jackson and exchanged pleasantries.

Tocqueville was impressed by much of what he saw in American life, admiring the stability of its economy and wondering at the popularity of its churches. He also noted the irony of the freedom-loving nation’s mistreatment of Native Americans and its embrace of slavery.

As “Democracy in America” reveals, Tocqueville believed that equality was the great political and social idea of his era, and he thought that the United States offered the most advanced example of equality in action. He admired American individualism but warned that a society of individuals lacked the intermediate social structures—such as those provided by traditional hierarchies—to mediate relations with the state. The result could be a democratic “tyranny of the majority” in which individual rights were compromised.

His observations were prescient –

Tocqueville’s penetrating analysis sought to understand the peculiar nature of American political life. He tried to understand why the United States was so different from Europe in the last throes of aristocracy. In contrast to the aristocratic ethic, the United States was a society where hard work and money-making was the dominant ethic, where the common man enjoyed a level of dignity which was unprecedented, where commoners never deferred to elites and where what he described as crass individualism and market capitalism had taken root to an extraordinary degree.

Juliet in Paris again – wouldn’t it be fascinating to witness a discussion between Tocqueville and Jeff Bezos?

Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism. Tocqueville worried that if despotism were to take root in a modern democracy, it would be a much more dangerous version than the oppression under the Roman emperors or tyrants of the past who could only exert a pernicious influence on a small group of people at a time.

Democracy in America remains widely read and even more widely quoted by politicians, philosophers, historians and anyone seeking to understand the American character.

93. not a number to be proud of.

Before I point my finger at France: 93 women killed by their husbands, companions or ex-companions during the year 2020, it should be known that the numbers are higher in my native country. CANADA: 148 women killed by their husbands, companions or ex-companions during the year 2020. That’s 148 too many.

I’m shocked. And there I was thinking that femicide was a French thing, a Latin thing, a police-problem thing. No. It’s a global thing, and it makes me frustrated and angry. Just as the murdering of one’s wife used to be called – and is still called in unevolved parts of France – a crime passionnel, a crime d’amour or a crime de passion in order to lessen the sentence or exonerate the killer entirely, the same laissez-faire attitude appears to extend to other rich, “civilized” countries. Where in the world, I wonder, is this tragedy being taken seriously? Nowhere.

“What continues to kill us is impunity.”
Sandra Moran, longtime champion of women’s and Indigenous rights, Guatemala.

Femicide: the killing of females by males because they are female. A form of terrorism that functions to enact and bolster male dominance, and to render women chronically and profoundly unsafe.

In Canada, guns are the most commonly used weapon in the murder of women and girls. In France, it’s knives and beating.

Violence against women is an issue that transcends borders, class and socio-economic status.

Latin America has the highest numbers of femicide with Brazil and Mexico leading.

The home is the most dangerous place for women where 61% are killed by their partner or ex.

The risk of a woman being killed by an abusive partner increases when she leaves, or plans to leave.

Society still blames the woman, it’s a shaming process. A woman is admonished if she does not leave an abusive relationship, but equally seen as a failure if she does. There’s also a widely held belief that it’s better for children if the woman stays.

In 2019 and following the death of Salomé, 21, France’s 100th victim of femicide, the French government announced a raft of measures. But President Macron received a reality check when he listened in on a call at a domestic violence hotline centre.

A woman, who had endured decades of abuse from her violent husband, had finally built up the courage to leave him. She had asked a police officer to accompany her home so she could collect some belongings, but the officer refused, insisting he needed a judicial order to intervene. (Why is it the woman who must leave the home and go to a shelter?!?)

He was wrong, but the helpline had no legal authority and the operator could only direct the victim to a support group.

President Macron shook his head in frustration. “Does that happen often?” he asked the operator. “Yes,” she responded, “More and more.”

In 2003, Marie Trintignant, French actress and daughter of actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, was beaten to death in a Lithuanian hotel room by her then-boyfriend, Bertrand Cantat, lead singer of the French rock group, Noir Désir. Cantat repeatedly punched Trintignant in the head, leading to her death six days later from swelling to the brain. She was 41.

Loving father and daughter – famous French actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, with Marie.

 

Cantat claimed it had been an accident, a crime of passion. The truth is that he was jealous because of an SMS message Marie had received from her ex-husband. Convicted of “murder with indirect intent” Cantat served only half of an eight-year prison sentence.

“I’m delighted with the decision,” said Cantat’s lawyer when his client got out only 4 years later. “It will allow him to rebuild his future.”

And Marie’s future? Or her parents, robbed of their child? Or her own children, robbed of a mother?

Cantat was convicted of the crime in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, but complained that he was far from home. He was allowed to serve his sentence in a French prison to be near his family.

A year ago, a group of female activists who call themselves “les colleuses” (gluers) began papering the walls of Paris with slogans and the names of all French women killed by their companions. They only paper at night. They say they’re more afraid of rogue men shouting insults at them than they are of the police. How sad that we must rely on ordinary citizens (all women, there are no men in this group) to ring the alarm bell while the government’s response is lukewarm. Video below.

(161) “PAPA IL A TUÉ MAMAN” : la révolte des Collages Féminicides | Tous les Internets | ARTE – YouTube

dinner for one, New Year’s Eve belated

My intent was to prepare a simple but delicious supper for myself on New Year’s Eve. But that didn’t happen. By 8 pm I was lying on my bed watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder on my DVD player, and by 10:30 I was fast asleep. Things don’t always go according to plan. I guess I zonked out because of the four days I had spent with the kids. There was also an adorable but rambunctious cat that I babysat (catsat?). So I made my dinner on the eve of January 1st instead.

Leaving the office at 4 pm on Thursday, I raced to my local fish merchant who sells the freshest and most beautiful fish and shellfish. I knew it’d be crowded. And it was. A long queue of people all wanting their fresh oysters, shellfish, scallops, smoked salmon and fresh fish for their December 31st meal. So I left because no one was practicing social distancing and I don’t like standing in a queue. I managed to find everything I needed at my trusty local MONOPRIX: 4 fresh scallops (coquilles St Jacques), parsnips with which to make a purée and baby spinach to make a salad with sliced beetroot, orange and crumbled goat’s cheese. The day before I had bought a bottle of crémant (fizzy white wine), also called poor man’s champagne – delicious, especially if topped up with blackcurrant liqueur to make a cocktail called kir.

Oh, at another market I bought a lot of plump black Greek olives with which to make a fig tapenade. Warning: addictive! The sweetness of the dried figs cuts through the saltiness of the olives. Very easy to make and a perfect hors d’oeuvre to serve with the crémant or champagne. Actually, what was time-consuming was hand-pitting the olives which is why I like listening to the radio and podcasts while I cook. Throw into a mixer and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a few capers, one garlic clove, lemon juice, the cut up dried figs, a splash of olive oil and water. Whizz and serve on very good crackers.

Most French people eat foie gras on December 31st, but I don’t like it. Literally meaning “fatty liver” the process is to ram a pipe down the throats of male ducks and geese twice a day and pump grain and fat into them to fatten up their livers. Barbaric.

I added a potato to the parsnip purée because I thought the taste might be too parsnippy without it. Cauliflower could also work. Peel, chop and boil in milk then purée. I used a hand-held potato masher. Add salt, pepper, a knob of butter and a hint of nutmeg.

I asked the Monoprix fishmonger how long I should cook the scallops. I had read many Anglo recipes that all said 2 to 3 minutes on each side. My French fishmonger said “30 seconds on each side, no longer.”

“Not 2 to 3 minutes?” I said. He looked at me in horror and said “Absolument pas, ma chère dame. Si vous voulez savoir la vérité, je mange mes coquilles st jacques crues !” Translation: Absolutely not, my dear lady. If you want to know the truth, I eat my scallops raw!

Now it was my turn to look surprised. Raw? Sort of like sushi, I guess. Here are the scallops, so fresh they were literally scraped off the shell. I rinsed them under cold water, dried them thoroughly, heated a skillet until very hot, threw in some butter and when the butter began to foam and turn brown I gently put in the scallops, not touching one another, and just seared them. Salt and pepper, not much; lemon juice if you want or why not a splash of white wine or champagne. 30 seconds each side (60 seconds each side, if you want), and Bob’s your uncle. Forget the fancy sauces. If all your ingredients are super fresh, au naturel is best. The danger of overcooking scallops is they become tough, and that would be a shame.

There are so many beautiful French white wines that you could serve with this: Sancerre, Chablis, Vouvray, a Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire or a Pouilly-Fuissé from Burgundy. I finished off my bottle of crémant. Salad, cheese to follow and a light dessert would have been nice, but I forgot to make the salad and didn’t have any cheese or dessert.

I love cooking. I started young, around 11 years old, maybe younger, encouraged by my mother who cooked a lot and made her own bread and everything else. From our kitchen came a lot of love, warmth and nourishment in all forms.

I wish you a happy, healthy New Year.

a yuletide treat for you

Have I got a Christmas treat for you!

Rewatching Kylie’s vlogs of Italy made me think of a favorite movie of mine: Ingrid Bergman in Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia), directed by Roberto Rossellini. It was also titled Voyage to Italy. Digitally restored, this 1954 classic tells the story of an unhappily married bourgeois couple driving down to Naples from England to sell an inherited villa.

2013 movie review by A.O. Scott at The New York Times – “Voyage” is not driven by the usual machinery of plot and exposition, but rather by a succession of moods, an emotional logic alternately reflected and obscured by the picturesque surroundings. The rich symbolism of the Italian landscape — the volcanic pools at Vesuvius, the ruins of Pompeii, the vistas that have stirred the imagination of artists at least since Virgil — makes the emptiness of the Joyces’ marriage all the more palpable and painful. Their emotional and spiritual sterility contrasts with the fertility signified by the baby carriages and pregnant women Katherine encounters every time she ventures into Naples, and also by the religious procession of the film’s devastating final scene.

“Voyage to Italy” takes place in a series of simultaneous aftermaths — of World War II, of a glorious ancient civilization, of Uncle Homer’s wild life, of whatever passion once united Katherine and Alex. And yet amid all this exhaustion it finds signs of vitality. In its time, this film represented the arrival of something new, and even now it can feel like a bulletin from the future.

During this Christmas Covid season, I can’t think of anything better to do than curl up at home and watch a really good movie. Here it is. Enjoy!

(141) Journey to Italy 1954 720p Drama, Romance – YouTube

have you met Kylie Flavell?

Kylie is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, journalist and cook, passionate about making cinematic content that spreads joy, beauty and renewed faith in humanity. Australian-born, but based in some sublime spot in Tuscany, she has embraced living as an expat.

She might not be everyone’s cup of tea – at times she comes across as winsome. She has a huge following of subscribers and patrons.

I stumbled across her vlogs while searching for something about Italy on YouTube. She really is a talented film-maker, her visuals of the Italian landscape (put to music) are stunning. My personal favorites are her vlogs of the Aeolian archipelago (Stromboli, Lipari and Panarea), a cluster of volcanic islands just north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds, Aeolus. I’ve been wanting to go there for decades, but have not yet been.

She’s a one-woman team and good for her. Oh, and her Italian? She speaks it fluently (I’m jealous because Italian is my favorite language, moreso than French.) She also offers up some darn good recipes.

Ready to be transported to Tuscany? This is Part 1 of her latest Christmas video below – great music in the background. There’s also a Part 2. But make sure to watch her other vids, especially the series entitled “SICILY: Part 1 Stromboli, Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie, Sicilia)”.

(138) HOMEMADE VINTAGE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS IN TUSCANY, ITALY (Addobbi Natalizi Fai Da Te DIY) – YouTube

are our lives predetermined?

I consider myself a rationalist, believing that logic and circumstance (and one’s socio-economic-geographic environment) largely determines a person’s life. I mean, let’s face it: a woman born in Juba, South Sudan is not going to have the same life as one born in Toronto, Canada.

Chance also plays a part in our lives; luck, good and bad. Genetic traits as well.

This morning I awoke from a dream and a deep deep sleep with the following question in my head: What if my life had turned out differently? The dream was about the farm my parents bought way back in the 1970s, a beautiful rambling property with an old barn and a ramshackle hundred-year old house. Over the years the buildings were fixed up and the property tamed. When the drunken tenant farmer accidentally burned the barn down, Dad had a swimming pool put in its place, the remaining old stone walls enclosing it in a U-shape. We went there weekends and over summer vacation; happy happy days.

Why did my mother sell that farm? What if the farm had been kept in the family and I could still go there? What if my life had turned out differently?

Hence, the eternal existential question: Why am I here? I ask this question a lot. It’s this question that triggered the writing of my memoir. I wanted to trace or map the trajectory of my life to determine why I’m in Paris and not back home in Canada. I needed to make sense of it all.

How much control do we really have over our life circumstances? In terms of external causal factors, the answer is “none”.

I think it’s good to examine our lives from time to time: how did we get here, what were the circumstantial reasons/factors that brought us here. And, most importantly, how can we live our lives to our full potential.

It was a 100-acre farm, located an hour and a half drive east of Toronto, between the towns of Warkworth and Campbellford. I miss it.

By coming to Paris I believed that my world would expand, and in many ways it did, but it also shrank. I lost many things.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my book –

As for my father, he was on his way to fulfilling his next dream of buying a hobby farm. We had spent a year of Sundays cruising the back roads of rural Ontario and visiting farms for sale, all of them derelict and available for a song. The homestead that he eventually purchased sat on a hundred acres of woodland and fallow fields, set back from a gravel road. A long driveway led to a brick house dating from the late 1800s. Two sheds and a barn overlooked a pond.

“John is realizing his ambition to become a gentleman farmer,” said my mother to a friend.

“What’s a gentleman farmer?” I asked, imagining a man, suited and tie-ed, sitting on a tractor.  “It’s someone who farms for pleasure rather than for money,” was the response.

One day at the height of summer when the crops and foliage were in full bloom and the trill of crickets filled the air, my mother and I stood knee-deep in a field of goldenrod, she clutching the bottom of a rickety ladder, me sneezing and rubbing my hayfever-inflamed eyes. From the ladder’s top rung my father stood, hammering a wooden name plate onto a tree at the foot of our driveway. The words engraved into the name plate were ‘Fern Hill Farm’.

“But there are no ferns around here…” I said between sneezes.

“It’s the name of a poem, dear,” said my mother, sighing. “Your father’s favourite poet is Dylan Thomas.”  Later, I read the poem entitled Fern Hill and agreed that it was fitting.

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and
cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was
air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the
nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet, 1914 – 1953

a holiday gift guide

I guess Christmas will be scaled back this year. Here are some of my favorite items that make great gifts for yourself or for friends and family:

Reebok DMX Thrill

In two words: supreme comfort. All my walking shoes are Reebok, but this model takes the cake.

LEXON FLIP

This award-winning alarm clock turns on and off by flipping it over. Featuring ON and OFF faces, LCD display and touch sensor snooze, it’s affordable and comes in a range of different colors. I love mine. There’s also a smaller travel version.

URBAN DECAY Born to Run eyeshadow palette

Since the beginning of COVID in March, I haven’t worn lipstick. Why bother when you wear a facemask? So I compensate by using lots of eyeshadow. Known for high-pigment, velvety color and blendability, UD eyeshadows have been a bestseller for years.

PURESSENTIEL ULTRASONIC HUMIDIFIER DIFFUSER

My new acquisition, purchased at my local pharmacy for just under 40 euros. You fill the reservoir with water and add drops of essential oil. It’s completely silent, and the fine mist that comes out fills the room with fragrance. See that blue color? It’s a soft ambient light that changes colors. The Puressentiel oils that I bought with it are Walk in the Forest (Atlas cedar, Cistus Rock Rose, Cypress and Siberian pine), Cocooning (Sweet orange, White grapefruit, Chinese cassia leaves, Bitter orange and Cinnamon bark) and Positive Energy.

UNIQLO – MARIMEKKO

I just bought this for myself at UNIQLO. It’s ultra-light and stylish because it’s MARIMEKKO. Of course you know who MARIMEKKO is: a Finnish design house celebrated for its original prints and colors since 1951. One of the first lifestyle brands in the world, Marimekko combines fashion, bags, and accessories as well as home décor into an expression of joyful living.

ANTIPODES – Protein-rich serum, avocado pear night cream, and this hand cream because we wash our hands ten times a day!

If you can find this brand, grab it because Antipodes is a plant-powered vegan beauty company from New Zealand. It uses pollution-free native New Zealand ingredients in its organic skincare range, and it’s great (award winning). Because I wash my hands ten times a day, I need to put on hand cream afterwards.

CHOCOLATE

 

How fortunate (for me) that I live in a city with the best chocolatiers in the world.

In closing, don’t forget to make a donation to your favorite charity this Christmas: