Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm totally obsessed.

I made the huge mistake of buying the soundtrack to a musical I knew I would love, and now it's too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep. I'd heard all about it, I knew it was popular, but I never realised how the music from this story of two witches can cast a spell over your mind and have you dancing through life.

Wicked is a musical based on the two witches from the Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West is the main character and it tells the story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy and Toto arrived.

The show-stopper from Wicked is Defying Gravity, which even after hearing it twenty times gives me chills and Idina Menzel's top E in the last part of the song is totally ethereal.

I haven't yet got bored of it, but it's been going around in my head every day this week and I'll either have to power through and keep listening until I'm sick of it, or force myself to go back to Stevie Wonder and book tickets for the West End show. Sad but true, my life is now revolving around musicals; that's what happens when your man goes away for weeks at a time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


It's the time of year when all is safely gathered in, as the song would have it. The wine estates of France (and probably the rest of the Northern Hemisphere) are collecting, pressing and fermenting the fruits of the vine and turning them into what will become the fuel for drunken mistakes. On a more optimistic note, they are producing wine which will be enjoyed throughout the world for years to come. And a few bottles of plonk to be used for cooking.

Chablis is in the middle of its harvest and the weather is perfect. Blue skies and sunshine for over a week now, the work is pleasant and there is no risk of diluting the wine with the rain water that would inevitably go with the grapes into the pressing machines.

I visited Chablis very briefly on Friday and Saturday to see G and watch the harvesters at work. It was a fascinating thing to watch, above all because it only happens once a year and for a short time. Most of the grapes are picked by a machine which drives through the vineyard shaking off the grapes; but the Grands Crus (i.e. the best grapes) are picked by hand. I never actually thought to ask why that is, but I will!

It is quite a sight to see a whole trailer full of grapes being emptied and sent to the pressing machine. I took a short film but it's on its side and the quality isn't good because it came from my regular camera. Still, it gives an idea of what hundreds of grapes sliding down a metal thing looks like.

Is it going to be a good year? Apparently it is, contrary to what everyone thought during August. With little sunshine and far too much rain they thought that the wine would be acidic and tasteless, but in the last few weeks in the warm sunshine the grapes have ripened nicely and it seems that things are looking positive.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Paris Lights

On my way to work one day last week I was lucky enough to enjoy one of those rare treats: a stroll through an empty Parisian garden in the sunshine.

Normally in the Jardin des Tuileries there is little peace and no quiet, with tourists jostling for space with pushchairs and all manner of ridiculous souvenir sellers. The chalky Parisian ground stains your shoes with other people's footprints and wheel marks from the variety of skateboards, rollerblades and Vélibs which really shouldn't be there.

There are never any free reclining chairs around the pool and wherever you look some snotty child is wrestling with an ice-cream cone.

Last Wednesday it was totally different. As I stepped into the garden on my way from the Tuileries métro station to the rue de Lille, my destination, I turned my face to the sunshine
and literally began basking and appreciating this beautiful city for what it has to offer.

On my left was the Louvre museum with its glass pyramids, reflecting the sunshine coming from the east, and on my right was the grande axe, a long section of boulevard stretching from the Louvre to the financial district of La Défense. The sun lit up the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d'Orsay on the other side of river with a light that I had never seen in these gardens; mostly because I come to this area at weekends and not at 8.30am.

I may be waxing lyrical but the sight of the rising sun across Paris was truly beautiful and boosted me until lunchtime.