Just imagine

While Trump claimed he had been vindicated – and therefore his Russian headache and cloud had lifted (fake news and alternative facts, as usual) … While Theresa May had created a big, huge, enormous splitting headache – for herself, her party, plenty voters who had supported her … I accidentally hit upon a very bad idea.

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Book review: “Une haine de Corse” – a historical hatred

Histoire véridique de Napoléon Bonaparte et de Charles-André Pozzo di Borgo” is the book’s subtitle. This is not Marie Ferranti’s first book. Nor is it her first to receive a prize. It actually got two in 2012. But as readers know: not being awarded a prize does not mean a book is bad; while being awarded a prize does not mean a book is good.

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Book review: Memoirs – “Code Name Pauline”

Pearl Witherington Cornioley and Hervé Larroque’s short book aims to tell Pauline’s story to young adults. It is part of a series called “Women of Action” But though aimed at young adults, it does not mean the book may only appeal to this specific age group.

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French food on a budget: Tartiflette

Tried out the Tarte au Maroilles? Then you may have a carton of about 15 cl of crème fraiche left over. So what to do with this? Well, why not use this to make Tartiflette?

Tartiflette is another French main dish which is easy to make and should not cost the earth. Unlike Tarte au Maroilles, this is not a vegetarian dish. It also doesn’t originate from northern France, but from a region which was once part of the Duchy and later Kingdom of Savoy.

Like many European mini-states, it no longer exists. Bits of it ended up as parts of modern France. Two regions bear names linked to the former duchy: the departments Savoie and Haute-Savoie.

These two departments are right next to Switzerland and Italy. Tartiflette is made using a cheese from the area. This cheese is called Reblochon.

As with the Maroilles, the local French delis might sell it. However, I doubted I’d end up with a budget Tartiflette. So it was back to the internet to search for alternatives. As with Maroilles, the list included Brie and Camembert.

This time I decided to use Brie. So I hooved it double-quick to the local supermarket, for a triangle of about 150 gr of their cheapest Brie. This cost less than a Euro. At home, there were already potatoes, which at the moment cost about 1 to 1.50 Euro per kg. Onions came cheaper, at 0.50 Euro per 500 gr. The fridge contained 200 gr of diced bacon, of which I only used half. The 200 gr package cost about 1.50 Euro. The fridge also contained the left-over crème fraiche. A carton of 30 ml sets you back about 0.50 Euro here. To this needs to be added some butter or oil, as well as the costs of boiling, frying, use of the oven – but this dish tasted even better than the Tarte au Maroilles I’d made earlier!

Tartiflette

This is a main dish which can be served on its own or with a salad.
Don’t underestimate this dish, it’s quite filling.
The recipe serves 4 people.
Preparations take about 25 to 30 minutes
Oven time is about 35 minutes with the oven set at 250 C.

Ingredients

1 kg of potatoes for 4 people. (For 2 people, I used 2 medium-sized potatoes per person. Steer clear of potatoes used to make fries, which remain firm after cooking.)
3 large onions. (I used three medium ones.)
Oil to fry in (I used non-salted butter through-out this recipe.)
150 gr diced bacon. (I used about 100 gr for 2 people.)
Butter to grease an oven dish.
10 cl of crème fraiche (I used the left-over 15 cl, mixed with some white wine to make it more liquid.)
1 Reblochon (Replaced by about 150 gr of Brie for a 2-person oven dish)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparations

Cook the potatoes in water with salt. Ensure they are soft to the core, but have not turned into mash. This might take 20 to 30 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and cut in thick slices.
In the meantime, peel the onions and cut in thin rings.
Using a frying pan, heat butter or oil and add the onions.
Once the onions have glazed, add the diced bacon and season to taste with pepper and salt.
Let the mixture fry over a low fire for a few minutes.
Grease your oven dish.
Preheat your oven at 250 C. This will take about 10 minutes.

Put the potato slices in the greased oven dish.
Cover with the fried onion and bacon mix.
Add more pepper if needed.
Cover the onion and bacon mix with the slightly liquified crème fraiche.
Cover the crème fraiche with cheese slices.

Put the dish in your oven for 20 to 35 minutes, checking regularly towards the end. The cheese should have melted slightly and browned. You are aiming at a “gratin”, so ensure the cheese doesn’t burn.
Serve warm with or without a salad and wine.

Nous sommes Charlie: marches and mixed feelings

As I was unable to join any of the marches taking place in France yesterday, I watched the coverage of the Paris one on CNN. Of course it was very moving, emotional, impressive. But I was also left with mixed feelings.

From my previous two posts about what happened on Wednesday (see “Je suis Charlie“) and its aftermath (see “Nous sommes Charlie“), you can guess what my believes and values are. But are we truly “nous sommes charlie”, and if so: for how long?

When I wrote the previous posts, there were two siege-scenes still in progress (see “Nous sommes Charlie 2“). Shortly afterwards, both ended. Saturday, I read that Wednesday’s total number of victims had unfortunately increased.

Sunday, the morning news was that there had already been attacks on papers in Germany. The offices of a Belgian paper had been evacuated after threats.

A day after the marches in France, I’m sitting behind my laptop and a coffee. A table away from me, two adolescent muslim girls talk about events in Paris. “It leaves me stone cold”, one states, “I’m totally not interested in what happened in Paris.” The other one agrees. Ah well, Friday, a few reporters had already stated that in many Parisian Banlieus, there were no “Je suis Charlie” signs to be seen. Not all of us wish to be Charlie.

Sunday afternoon, I watched the coverage of the Paris march. It seemed world leaders had kind of “hijacked” events and the Parisian march.

Sure, I’m glad the majority of them bothered to be there and march in unity – if only for about a quarter of an hour. Or as a journalist put it: “just long enough so the press could take the necessary pictures”. It was perfectly stage-managed. It must also have been a boost for mr Hollande, who is one of the most unpopular French Presidents to date.

Nevertheless, it was impressive to see leaders like mr Netanyahu and mr Abbas both there. Though this morning, barely 24 hours later, French papers already stated President Hollande had not wanted mr Netanyahu to show up. So when was mr Abbas invited? Regardless, it is to be hoped that their fifteen minutes walk during this march of unity will be a first step on a long road towards solutions for problems in their region.

Marie LePen and co had not been welcome and remained unwelcome. They organised their own march. But it certainly showed that unity and “Nous sommes Charlie” is interpreted very flexibly by some.

For the Turkish Prime Minister was welcome. Despite a number of foreign journalists first having been manhandled and then arrested in his country – less than a week ago. They were later released, but countless police, members of the army, students, liberal people are still held in Turkish prisons. So like other people, I wonder how he managed to join a march which was also about freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and a great many other values with which he and his government seem to have problems with.

Yes, I know there is at least one satirical magazine which is still allowed to publish in his country. It seemed it was once visited by members of Charlie Hebdo. This week, it published cartoons in favour of the Jihadist terrorists responsible for what happened in Paris. With freedom of press in Turkey being only possible for papers and magazines which tow the government’s line, I doubt publications of such cartoons are an expression of freedom of speech or press freedom. Nor was the Turkish Prime Minister the only representative of a foreign country where Western values and freedoms are truly upheld.

So watching these world leaders walk in front of the millions of ordinary people, left me with mixed feelings. Even though it was only for about fifteen minutes.

It was a relief, when the focus turned upon Charlie Hebdo’s remaining staff, mourning family members, partners, relatives, friends left behind after the horrors of the last few days. And the most moving and most impressive scenes and statements were not those of world leaders, but these and of the millions of ordinary people expressing support, how they felt, and what they stood for: “Nous sommes Charlie”.

 

Nous sommes Charlie 2

Yesterday, many people united and joined demonstrations and protests against the killing of journalists, cartoonists, editors, publishers, policeman in the recent attack against the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Perhaps you, like me, joined one of these demonstrations.

The most moving pic was not among the photos of the demonstrations. It was of course the photo of her father’s empty desk taken by his mourning yet defiant daughter Elsa Wolinski. She shared it on Instagram.

Yesterday morning, while the manhunt had moved to Picardy, there were already reports of another Paris shooting. A man apparently dressed very much like a special policeman, had shot a street cleaner and killed a police woman. At first, this incident was reported to be unconnected to the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.

At this moment, it is clear it was not a stand-alone incident. The killer has killed two hostages and is holding more in Paris. According to the UK independent, he is demanding the release of his fellow Jihadists who are holding hostages just outside Paris.

While reading all this, I stumbled upon another page of this UK newspaper. It reported mr Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger, had just received the first 50 lashes of his sentence. His sentence, for being a liberal blogger interested in freedom of speech. His punishment consists not only of imprisonment, but of being publicly lashed FIFTY times for TWENTY Fridays!

As Amnesty International and the Independent report: he “was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial – which then earned him a more severe sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison.”

And it is not just mr Badawi, who has been punished for being a blogger. His lawyer, mr Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights activist, has been jailed for 15 years by the Saudi Courts of Justice as well.

As I have not heard any reaction from the Saudi Arabian Government condemning what has happened and is happening in Paris so far – even though the policeman executed so appallingly in the street was a decent Muslim – I as a blogger and human being, felt obliged to join a petition started by Amnesty International, to try and stop the flogging of mr Badawi and to try and get him and his lawyer out of prison.

You may disagree with me. You may condemn my action. That is your right and remember: you will not be decapitated, slaughtered, flogged, put in prison, tortured, if you state your opinion.

For me, signing the petition was a logical part of me expressing my “Je suis Charlie” feelings today. For I think that all the deaths in and around Paris since Wednesday only will have some meaning, if “Nous sommes Charlie” does not stop with the capture of the attackers and freeing of hostages in France.

 

 

Libertine

Just back from France, I was physically living in my usual niche of the EU. The rest of me, however, was still south. I was functioning in lowest gear and slowly picking up speed. Stress, hurry, quick, fast, urgent? Such notions had been deleted from my dictionary and diary.

This resulted in me missing my public transport connection. No problem during the rush hour, but I managed it during the early evening, when public transport materialises about once every 30 minutes. If you’re lucky.

Walking home via the supermarket would be faster than waiting. So I sauntered past closed shops, open bars, busy restaurants, while humming a French song about “amour”. I crossed the square with its church and row of various small restaurants, one of which is Knossos.

Outside Knossos sat two women on a low brick wall; drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. As I neared, I heard they were chatting in a foreign language.
It was not Greek. It was not English either.
Drawing closer, I was able to distinguish more.
Suddenly, I recognised sounds, rhythm, words: they were chatting in French.

As I passed, my ears caught a few phrases:
“… comme il dort avec toi, – avec moi, – avec nous, – il dort avec tous … “
“Mais oui, …”

I was shocked! It took an effort to pretend I’d not heard a thing.
With difficulty I continued unfalteringly on my way to buy vin, pain, Boursin – though my head must have turned tomato red.
Meanwhile, my brain was digesting the French:

“… like he sleeps with you, with me, with us … he sleeps with everybody …”
“Yeah, …”

No need to read three novels on shades of grey! No need to watch Nymphomaniac! No! All you need is missing a public transport connection and you land in a scene with limitless possibilities of interpretation.

Which he? Who was he? Did I know him?
What did they do? Did both ladies … alone, together? What else?
Who else? How many? What, where, when?
My brain was in overdrive. How very French and what a shame …

What are you thinking?
The nerve!
No! What a shame I don’t smoke, of course!

Otherwise, I could have stopped to cadge a cigarette and could have struck up a conversation. Then all my questions would have been answered – after offering an Ouzo or two, maybe three.
And then you and I would have known, who is living a libertine life here!