Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Allez les bleus!

Late yesterday evening in the quiet, refined streets of Vincennes, between the Catholic cathedral and the Jewish synagogue; car horns, shouts of glee and whoops more reminiscent of wolves than humans filled the night air with a patriotic pride that has not been felt in more than 8 years of sport. France's team, les bleus, issued 3 stunning goals over the course of little more than 90 minutes, beating Spain to the quarter finals of the World Cup 2006. An onlooker could be forgiven for thinking that the joy in the air meant that France had won the cup already, as they did so convincingly in 1998. Zidane, Vieira and the spritely scarface Ribery brought the frogs their first win in a long time and the country is now buzzing with thoughts of victory over Brazil in the next round; ideas which until the start of the second half yesterday were considered pipe dreams.

As a rather girly girl having not more than a passing interest in football, I am surprised by the delight I have taken in this year's World Cup. I always like the Olympics and never miss at least a few minutes of the Paris Marathon, but club football has never caught my attention. This year I've found myself in front of Ukraine v Switzerland, Italy v Australia and other matches, with no patriotic interest at all, yet screaming at the tv with all my breath to encourage a goal by psychological power.

Maybe it's the fact that the French have been so pessimistic about their team of older players, the term une équipe de papi (grandad team) has been bandied about by the press. People at work today are replacing their 5-minute small talk at the coffee machine with 20 minutes of football talk. Middle-aged women are analysing the game with expert vocabulary, repeating what they've heard from husbands, boyfriends and other friends in the know. There is a lightness in the air and a fresh French pride which has been seriously lacking in the last few years.

Last night, despite the age of the équipe de papi, we were shown that experience can triumph over youth, and it's not all about being perky and energetic, but skills and brainpower have their rôle to play too.

With the scurrying approach of my 30th birthday that's all the good news I need to hear.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


The sunglasses were not absolutely necessary, but we needed them for our rendition of 'It's Raining Men'. Why we didn't have umbrellas I'm not exactly sure. The light rain which sprinkled over Paris late on Wednesday evening was not really our idea of a perfect Fête de la Musique, but we had an extremely fun time and the punters seemed to like it! Our repertoire, which I have to admit is rather cheddar-y around the edges (BeeGees, ABBA, Donna Summer) went down well with the people who stopped and stayed and we certainly had a blast. My great friend L, the newest member of our group made a stunning start to her band performing and blew the onlookers away with her glittering rendition of Hot Stuff, and we all played / sang the Moulin Rouge theme Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? the best we ever have.

I hope the audience enjoyed listening and watching as we did singing and dancing around like schoolgirls. It is really is one of the most essential joys in my life and despite the 6.30am start the next morning, I don't regret a single minute of the free time I devote to music.
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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Shut eye

How do you imagine being tired? Take an image of a mother of three forced to entertain, cook, work, taxi around and perform wifely duties. There it is right there. Fortunately I'm not that woman and the only excuse for my fatigue is self-inflicted excess activity.

When you enjoy doing things out of working hours, they tend to start ballooning. Take my choir for example. I adore being a part of it, but for the last few months it has taken up no fewer than 3 whole Saturdays, every single Monday night for the last 3 years (this being France, July and August aside) plus an extra four whole (enjoyable) days in Malta when I really should have been working. My band has taken up 3 hours every week for the last two years and costs at least 7€ a pop per rehearsal. Add to this the hours spent practising individually and you may well begin to wonder why anyone bothers. Yes, yes, the enjoyment outweighs the annoyance at seeing 1 free evening a week on my schedule, but at the moment I'm wondering why I commit so much time to these things.

Disappointment crash and burn is just around the corner, I know. It's the same every summer. June is chock-full of concerts, festivals and the fête de la musique - which in itself brings a two-concerts-in-one-night dilemma, then July arrives and suddenly free time is my new stalker. He doesn't seem to let me go, haunting me every day and never leaving my side except during working hours. He worms his way into every evening and reminds me of a musicless life I don't know yet. I become agitated, at a loss for a responsibility to uphold.

All this to say that this evening I'm exhausted and could do with an early night. I guess that's it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On Tour

I was lucky enough to be taken on a free trip to Malta recently. The choir I sing with was invited to Malta for four days by the French and American Embassies there, to open a Music Festival. This involved, among other concerts, a performance at St John’s Co-Cathedral. This place is a stunning plethora of gold and wood and every square inch of space is decorated. The floor is laden with coloured marble tombs of Maltese knights and walking into the place you are transported to another world where the church ruled all. The Maltese Catholics really know how to show their faith.

The concert was an incredible experience. Malta is a small republic but nevertheless the presence of its President in the front of the audience filled the whole choir with adrenalin and apprehension – all the better to sing with. Concentration was as sharp as the heels on the dressed up Maltese women and we did the best we could to lift the golden roof. A standing ovation – rare in Malta – followed and our sopranos and altos fought back tears. Our director wasn’t so successful in her fight and her emotion moved us all to share in her happiness.

After we’d shaken off the adrenalin and pumping hearts we were able to enjoy Malta for its natural and architectural beauty. We were able to visit Valetta and Mdina during our short stay and it gave me real desire to come back as a schedule-free tourist. Our hotel was just wonderful, with an enormous and varied breakfast buffet, gorgeous marble floors and a pool set in lush gardens with its own bar. We managed to make the most of the pool for the only free afternoon on the schedule!

The food in Malta is something which has remained a mystery to me. Meals were obviously rushed affairs as we had to respect our tight rehearsal and concert schedule. I developed a tolerance for greasy pastry petits fours which I am glad to say have now taken a long-term absence from my diet. Having said that, the warm welcome we received far outshone the quality of the snacks – we were treated like stars. I hasten to add that we are not stars, nor ever will be, and are just an amateur choir who takes delight in singing.

My feet finally touched the ground at Roissy Charles de Gaulles Airport and now it’s back to the old routine.

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