Questions of travel, by Elizabeth Bishop

Since we’ve all been temporarily prevented from travelling further than ‘another government-mandated walk around the block? Well, it’s not as if I’ve got much else on…’ , I thought this would be quite a useful poem to think about. It plays with the excitement of travelling, at the same time as it questions its necessity, […]

We escape lockdown corona crisis in France

And so we enter the event I am calling ‘The Second Fucking Time I’ve Had To Flee A Country On The Year Abroad.’ (TSFTIHTFACOTYA for short?). It’s all happened pretty quickly. On Friday I sent an e-mail to the company I was supposed to work for in Beaune, in which I (oh, innocence) wondered whether […]

Corona-vacances : she may be small, but she’s shut down France

You’ve probably noticed by now how it’s all gone a bit Exodus, that the newspapers have become great harbingers of doom, and that the world’s generally on an off-day. Coronavirus (for it is she) has spread to France, which is now the 2nd most infected country in Europe, and the ENS has closed. Plus no […]

The holidays, and halfway through.

(n.b. I wrote this while I was quite tired, so some of it might sound like I was smoking something fruity. I wasn’t.) For Part 1 at Cambridge, we studied the nouvelle vague classic, Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7h. This film, which follows Cléo through her day, represents time as an elastic quantity, […]

Visiting Romans in Vienne

When in Gaul, do as the Gauls do. Something like that. Last weekend we found an opportunity to prance around like it was 47BC, in the little town of Vienne. After some confusion over where we were meeting, how to get from the ENS to the station, then how to get from the metro to […]

A day in Grenoble

I decided to go to the Alps. Although I have been in Lyon for just over a month, my life here so far has been steadily horizontal – far from the breathless climbs that pushed through every day in La Paz. Skiing was pretty much out of the question; despite my parents paying for private […]

The Twelve Labours of Hercules, updated for the 21st century by French administrative staff

According to internet sites of varying reliability, it was Napoléon Bonaparte who first said ‘If you want a thing done well, do it yourself’. Though presumably he said it in French. Such a statement makes sense within the context of French administration, a vast and knotted series of systems designed to never let anyone into […]

London – Lyon by train

I actually travelled York – Lyon by train, but it sounded better with the alliteration. And although both Yorkshire and London firmly believe themselves to be at The Centre of The Universe, even I must concede that London is probably (marginally) more globally important. So London will be where the journey starts. After a 1st […]

Post-election poetry: Enemies, Wendell Berry.

Enemies If you are not to become a monster,you must care what they think.If you care what they think, how will you not hate them,and so become a monsterof the opposite kind? From where then is love to come—love for your enemythat is the way of liberty?From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go free of you, and […]

Night Mail, W.H Auden

(To be read out loud) Night Mail This is the night mail crossing the Border,Bringing the cheque and the postal order, Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,The shop at the corner, the girl next door. Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time. Past cotton-grass and moorland boulderShovelling […]