‘Voulez-vous partir with me ….

…and come and restez la with me in France’ – so the Bill Wyman song goes.

Cover of Flirting with FrenchI love a good mixture of Franglish (or Spanglish for that matter).  Eventually, with examples of the above, combined with expressive mime, facial expressions and dexterous hand gestures you can get yourself understood.

My French teacher endured approximately seven years trying to teach me the basics of French conversation and grammar. His perseverance was rewarded when our whole family got lost in Caen at the beginning of our summer holidays ‘under canvas’ and, since I was the only one who had supposedly learned French, I had to locate our first night’s accommodation.

I had seen Maurice Chevalier, Alain Delon and Sacha Distel all speak fractured English on the TV and naively assumed that the majority of the French population could do likewise!!  Duh!!!

To my complete amazement I learned that every French person I accosted (in the street or even in their homes whilst having their family diner – I was desperate), with my pitiful ‘je suis perdu – où est le… hôtel??’, was met with a mixture of indifference or a rush of ‘gauche et droites’ which left me more confused than ever.

The same French teacher had also advised me that ‘gesticulating’ as a last resort might be the way to go. SO bearing this in mind, I bravely flagged down a passing police car and watched, horrified, when a Charles de Gaulle look-a-like stepped out of the Citroen with his hand resting gently on his holster and asked me (in French) what the problem was?  Well, for starters the gun was… Anyway, I managed to impart the necessary information and he quickly rose to the challenge. We were in our hotel 15 minutes later having witnessed said gendarme ‘tearing a strip off’ the hotel owner for turning the neon sign off that would have alerted us to the hotel at least 3 hours ago!

Cover of complete language pack italianAll library customers can avoid painful scenarios such as the above incident by utilizing, with the aid of their Library Card Number and password/pin, the eResource, Mango Languages.  There are 72 languages available (including American Sign Language). Clicking on the option ‘Building the Basics’ after choosing the language you wish to learn is a great way to start your linguistic adventures.

Of course, you can also:

et voilà…

Bonne chance! Buena suerte! In bocca al lupo! Lycka till!

A Blessed life

Cover of Absolute PandemoniumBritish actor Brian Blessed is a force of nature. Everything about him is big, robust, and gung-ho. He’s a boys’ own adventure wrapped in facial hair.

His autobiography, Absolute Pandemonium, is everything you would expect from such a singular creature – full of ripping yarns, scrapes, scraps, and quite a lot of swearing. Oh yes, the language is quite colourful in places.

By any measure Blessed has had an extraordinary life. From humble beginnings in a mining town in South Yorkshire he’s had a career that has seen him steadily employed (when he wasn’t too busy climbing Mount Everest) for over 50 years. He’s appeared in everything from Blackadder and I, Claudius to Flash Gordon and Much Ado About Nothing. And he’s got a few stories to tell, some of which might actually be true.

To give you a bit of insight into what Absolute Pandemonium is like, I thought I’d share a few descriptions of famous people Blessed has met, loved and worked with over the years –

On Peter O’Toole:

Peter O’Toole wasn’t just a man of extremes; he was the man of extremes: Lord Byron with a knuckle-duster, love.

On Prime Minister Harold Mcmillan:

…he was about as animated as a curling stone, though seemed to move slightly slower.

On Orson Welles:

He seemed to be about the size of a rhino. Absolutely enormous, he was, and smoking a cigar that looked more like a log.

On Katharine Hepburn:

Boudicca in slacks

On Geneviève Bujold:

She was effervescent, naughty and very, very beautiful.

On meeting legendary Hollywood producer, Dino De Laurentiis for the first time:

He greeted me warmly, like a long-lost son.

‘Who the hell are you and wada-you-want-a?’

On Timothy Dalton:

Tim’s an incredibly handsome man and looked just like Errol Flynn in the film. A bit of rough compared to me, of course, but he definitely has something.

And finally, on his own good self:

Now, if I ever had to choose one word to describe myself, in addition to virile, sensual, intriguing, dainty, elegant and of course sensitive, it would have to be tenacious.

Definitely recommended for fans of the man himself or the people he’s worked with to get the inside (though possibly exaggerated) story on what they were like – honestly the section on O’Toole is rivetting.

To be honest, towards the end I was a bit over all the anecdotes in which Blessed’s tremendous actorly insight saved the day but I’ll forgive him because if you can’t skite a bit on your own memoir, when can you? It’s also extremely funny and I was hooting with laughter within the first few pages so I can forgive Blessed a bit of ego stroking.

What are your thoughts on Mr Blessed? Delightfully madcap or too much like a foghorn for polite company? I suspect both…

Recent necrology, August-September 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Frans Bruggen, 1934-2014
    Dutch conductor, recorder player and baroque flautist
  • Mary Cadogan, 1928-2014
    English author who wrote on popular and children’s fiction
  • Graham Joyce, 1954-2014
    British writer of speculative fiction
  • Bill Kerr, 1922-2014
    Australian actor and comedian
  • John Ritchie, 1921-2014
    Music educator, composer and conductor, ‘father’ of Christchurch music
  • Joan Rivers, 1937-2014
    American actress, comedian, writer and TV host
  • David St John Thomas, 1929-2014
    English publisher and writer who founded David & Charles publishing house
  • Eoin Young, 1939-2014
    New Zealand motoring journalist

Recent necrology, July 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Cover of The Garner FilesCarlo Bergonzi, 1924-2014
    Opera singer whose glorious style, phrasing and tone made him the epitome of Italian vocal art
  • James Garner, 1928-2014
    Actor who breathed new life into the Western genre and excelled as the hero of the Rockford Files
  • Nadine Gordimer, 1923-2014
    Masterly liberal South African novelist who chronicled her country’s journey from apartheid to troubled democracy
  • Cover of The ConservationistCharlie Haden, 1937-2014
    Double bass player who drew on his country music roots to master a bewildering range of jazz styles
  • Anthony Hobson, 1921-2014
    Bibliophile and scholar aesthete who won the admiration of Cyril Connolly
  • John Leach, 1931-2014
    Composer and cimbalom player who helped create the jarring ‘sound’ of the Cold War for The Ipcress File
  • Cover of What Is On Top?Ray Lonnen, 1940-2014
    Actor whose TV career spanned 50 years and who was best known for his role as an undercover agent in Ulster
  • Lorin Maazel, 1930-2014
    Conductor who ranged across the classical repertoire and became the first American and the first Jew in the postwar period to conduct at Bayreuth
  • Louis Zamperini, 1917-2014
    American Olympian and airman whose extraordinary tale of endurance after being shot down was the subject of the bestselling book Unbroken

Recent necrology, April 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently:

  • Rubin Carter, 1937-2014
    Boxer wrongly convicted of murder who found Bob Marley fighting his corner
  • Cover of Love in the Time of CholeraAlan Davie, 1920-2014
    Artist who won the admiration of Rothko and Pollock and later embraced ‘magic symbolism’
  • Bob Hoskins, 1942-2014
    Actor who excelled as the tough but engaging anti-hero of Mona Lisa and The long good Friday
  • Richard Hoggart, 1918-2014
    Commentator and academic whose Uses of Literacy lamented the impact of mass culture on traditional working-class life
  • Doris Pilkington, 1937-2014
    Aboriginal author whose story of Australia’s stolen generation inspired a film starring Kenneth Branagh
  • Cover of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4Mickey Rooney, 1920-2014
    Icon of American youth and energy who was as prolific in his marriages as he was on screen
  • Patrick Seale, 1930-2014
    Author who deputised for Kim Philby in Beirut and became the pre-eminent expert on Syria
  • John Shirley-Quirk, 1931-2014
    Former science teacher turned bass-baritone whose talents proved an inspiration to Benjamin Britten
  • Sue Townsend, 1946-2014
    Writer whose diaries of spotty teenager Adrian Mole became a publishing sensation
  • Owen Woodhouse, 1916-2014
    NZ jurist and chair of government commissions, notably workers’ accident compensation

Recent necrology, February 2014

cover for Shirley TempleA list of well-known people who have died recently:

  • Gabriel Axel, 1918-2014
    Danish director whose drama Babette’s Feast prefigured the modern fetish for food on film
  • Mavis Gallant, 1922-2014
    Canadian born writer whose sharply witty short stories explored post-war rootlessness and exile
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014
    Academy Award winner considered by many to be the greatest character actor of his time
  • Alexander Ivashkin, 1948-2014
    Russian cellist and musical ambassador who refused to follow the KGB’s score and held a post at the University of Canterbury in the 1990s
  • Paco de Lucia, 1947-2014
    Flamenco guitarist who embodied the genre’s proud traditions and took its music to the world
  • Harold Ramis, 1944-2014
    One of Hollywood’s most successful comedy filmmakers, famous for such movies as Caddychack, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day
  • Shirley Temple, 1928-2014
    Film’s most popular child star whose ringlets and dimples dazzled audiences and studios alike

Recent necrology, December 2013

cover of Merry Christmas CowboyA list of well-known people who have died recently:

  • Ronald Biggs, 1929-2013
    Criminal involved in the 1963 great train robbery
  • Janet Dailey, 1944-2013
    American author of numerous romance novels
  • Jim Hall, 1930-2013
    Elegant jazz guitarist who played with Ella Fitzgerald and Sonny Rollins
  • Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
    Former President of South Africa who guided the country from apartheid to democracy during a life filled with hardship and strruggle
  • Peter O’Toole, 1932-2013
    Hell-raising actor who blazed to fame as Lawrence of Arabia but never fulfilled his early promise of true greatness
  • Eleanor Parker, 1922-2013
    Versatile three-time Oscar nominee who played Baroness Scraeder in The sound of music
  • Paul Torday, 1946-2013
    Novelist whose Salmon fishing in the Yemen satirised Western adventurism in the Middle East
  • Colin Wilson, 1931-2013
    Author who electrified the critics in the 1950s before turning to books on crime and the occult

Recent necrology, October 2013

A list of well-known people who have died recently:

  • cover of Anthony Caro a life in sculptureAnthony Caro, 1924-2013
    Britain’s greatest sculptor who assumed the mantle of Henry Moore
  • Patrice Chereau, 1944-2013
    Film director and enfant terrible of the French theatre who staged a controversial production of Wagner’s Ring
  • Tom Clancy, 1947-2013
    American author and inventor of the techno-thriller who predicted 9/11
  • Nigel Davenport, 1928-2013
    Versatile actor whose magnetic gaze marked many memorable roles for stage, film and television
  • John Hopkins, 1927-2013
    British-born conductor who devoted 50 years of his career to music in Australia and New Zealand
  • Christopher Koch, 1932-2013
    Australian author best known for his 1978 novel, The year of living dangerously
  • Trevor Lummis, 1930-2013
    Social historian who drew on word of mouth to illuminate accounts of the past
  • Frederik Pohl, 1919-2013
    Publisher who launched Isaac Asimov’s career and then became a highly respected sci-fi writer himself
  • Mark Brandon Read, 1954-2013
    Notorious Melbourne criminal and author
  • Lou Reed, 1942-2013
    Rock and roll star with the Velvet Underground who influenced a generation of musicians

Recent necrology, June 2013

A list of well-known people who have died recently:

Recent necrology, April 2013

A list of well-known people who have died recently: