Reading in a foreign language – beware!

I used to read a lot in French, not only for pleasure but because it improved my vocabulary. Now I read in English so as not to forget the words I already know. But the other day, a family moving back to the Metropole were selling their books, so we went over to see what they had. And there I came across Autoportrait de l’Auteur en Coureur de Fond (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) by Haruki Murakami. Now, I’m always up for anything he writes and since it’s translated from Japanese, it doesn’t matter if it’s in English or French. It isn’t a novel but an artful comparison between writing and long-distance running, and one immediate consequence was to remind me I need to get fit. So on went the trainers and tracksuit and off I trotted round the block, perfectly happy with my progress until boing! Some sort of muscle behind my knee that I never knew I had. So now I’m hobbling around like Long John Silver. Just thought I’d warn you – though reading in a foreign language may improve your vocabulary, it can have painful side effects.

Now for the cousins!


Have you ever interviewed someone so annoying, you killed them before the interview was over? No, I don’t mean Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ozzie the Mozzie, whom I zapped with insecticide a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, he was immediately replaced by his cousin, Mitch the Itch. This incident came back to me later when I read a thought-provoking post by Roni at Losing Screws about donating to charity. And this in turn reminded me of Channillo.

My weekly series What a Life! What a Day!, similar in tone to the Thursday Interview here on this blog, but with different protagonists, starts there next Monday. Here’s the blurb: How does Mona Lisa spend her day? What does Mr. Plod have for breakfast? What does the Man in the Moon think of us here on earth? Find out in What a Life! What a Day! A spoof of the UK’s Sunday Times series, A Life in the Day, WaLWaD asks famous mythical, literary or biblical figures, or even objects or concepts, to describe a typical day. Humorous, irreverent, instructive, or just plain wacky, WaLWaD will have you thinking outside the box even as you chuckle.

What, you ask, does this have to do with mosquitoes? Simply that Channillo authors, if they wish, can donate all proceeds to the charity of their choice, and coming so soon after Ozzie, Mitch the Itch annoyed me so much that I’ve chosen the Against Malaria Foundation. This is one of GiveWell’s  top-rated charities, i.e. each dollar donated has a significant effect in combating the problem. It’s actually very difficult to eradicate the millions of Mitch’s cousins, so for the moment, the cheapest, and most effective way of fighting malaria is to provide LLINs – long-lasting insecticide-treated nets for people to sleep under. This is the action the Foundation pursues. Each net costs about $3, lasts for 3-4 years, and protects, on average, two people.

The Channillo subscription rates are here. Subscribing to WaLWaD on its own would buy about 10 nets in a year, which may not sound a lot, but as the Foundation says, every net counts. So the object of this post is not to ask you to subscribe (though if you do, that’s wonderful!) but to share the information wherever you can. Spread the word, spread the love – stop malaria from spreading!

Battle of the Aircon

Having read T.J. Paris’s graphic and harrowing description of the man flu, I was so traumatised that I woke up next morning with a sore throat and a runny nose. On the other hand these symptoms may be due to the air con, which Mrs. B. likes to have at some icicle-inducing temperature that would lay a polar bear low. In my experience, there’s only one greater cause for divorce than air-conditioning, and that’s canoeing.


Ulysse, don’t give up!


I’m very glad our neighbour’s back. She’s just been to the Metropole for a week and during her absence I was responsible for walking her dog, Ulysse (being French, he has no ‘s’ on his name, but he doesn’t seem to mind). Now it’s fine walking the neighbour’s dog as long as he gets back in one piece. But as the week wore on I grew increasingly anxious Ulysse was going to keel over and die. He’s old, arthritic, and clearly close to the end, which I dreaded might come on my watch. Actually, I was sharing the task with Philippe, the other neighbour, and I found myself shamefully praying that when it did come to pass, it would be on his stint rather than mine. But as he was doing the cooler morning walk, with Ulysse refreshed by sleep, that appeared to be wishful thinking.

Strangely enough, Ulysse summoned unsuspected reserves of strength whenever he saw a scooter, which he attacked. At first I kept forgetting he felt so strongly about scooters, so failed to brace myself and was jerked into the road while the hapless rider swerved, swore and shook a furious fist at Ulysse (or rather, me).


After the scooter attack, in which bother rider and dog came perilously close to heart attacks, it was even harder for Ulysse to negotiate the sixteen steps back to the flat, but four pauses and ten minutes later, he was back inside, where he collapsed panting on the floor. And I breathed a sigh of relief until the next afternoon.



The Amazing New Cake Diet


Lychee, rose and raspberry meringue nests

I’m amazed that Jamie Oliver and Co. still sell as many cookbooks as they do. Now I’ve nothing against Jamie, who’s likeable, down to earth and does what he can to tackle obesity, but why buy a cookbook when everything you need is online? Enter the name of any recipe or ingredient and up come a million responses. And when it comes to cakes, cookbooks are even more irrelevant because there’s Lili.

There are two reasons why I haven’t yet made any of her cakes. One, we’re in Mayotte, where not only are ingredients hard to come by but our oven’s an absolute nightmare. But that’s temporary. Back in the Metropole, I’ll have no excuse (I’ve been drooling over the strawberry tres leches cake for the past week). Except, of course, my BMI, because how can you add such delights to your diet without it going off the scale?

Well, I’ve thought about this and it so happens there’s a very simple answer. I remember reading once that the great eccentric (and even greater novelist) Evelyn Waugh lived his days backwards for a while – brandy and cigar first thing in the morning, Corn Flakes before bed. Without going that far, I suggest that instead of having Ginger and Mint American Lime Pie at the end of the meal, you put it at the beginning. Because obviously, you’ll still guzzle something like that when you’re already full to bursting, but you wouldn’t feel the same about minestrone, would you? Result? Basically you eat nothing but Lili’s cakes. Sounds like a great diet to me (no kidding – many of Lili’s recipes are healthy).

I offer this dietary advice entirely free, but if anyone wants to turn it into a book, they have my blessing. If you do, you’ll be even richer, I’m sure, than the woman who made a fortune with the book based on her revolutionary diet, Get Thin – Eat Less.

Thursday Interview: Ozzy the Mozzie


– Do you know you’re possibly the most detested creature on earth? How does that feel?

– Couldn’t care less, frankly. Why? You think it should bother me?

– You kill almost a million people a year through malaria. You cause agonizing pain through dengue fever and chikungunya. Not to mention all the nasty itches. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing nice about you. And you don’t care?

– Look, I’m a mozzie, you’re a person, right? We don’t have the same agenda. Or rather we do – survival. Same game, we play it differently, that’s all.

– I beg to differ. For you it may be survival, but we have other aspirations. Love. Curiosity. Self-fulfilment. All the things which give life a meaning and which you don’t even understand.

– Well, if I were you, I’d think a bit more about survival. Because the way things are going, we’ll still be around when you’re long gone, destroyed by your own stupidity. You’re so arrogant, it makes my blood boil. Or rather yours, since I’ve just bitten you.

-Hah! Think that’s funny, do you? Well, look what I’ve got here. One press of this and psscht! You’re a goner.

– So you can kill me but I’m not allowed to kill you. Maybe just a hint of double standards?

– Not at all. We’re a higher form of life, as I’ve said.

– Oh, yes, very la-di-da, with your Mozart and your Walt Whitman and your Einstein. How about Wayne Rooney? For a higher form of life, leaves a bit to be desired, I’d say.

– Well, at least he scores goals. More than can be said for you.

– This conversation’s getting silly. I fly, I bite, I transmit disease. And I might add that when it comes to malaria, you transmit it even more than I do. Besides, if you were so clever, you’d have eradicated me by now, or developed a better immune system. Instead of which, I’ve developed resistance to your drugs. You’re never going to win this war, you know. And it is a war because there’s no way we’ll reach a compromise. (Pssht!). We’re going to be enemies … until  either you… die or … else … uh …

– So much for you, Ozzy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now at least I can get back to work without you interrup –

– Bzzz! Hey, you just killed Ozzy. You know what? I happen to be his cousin. He told me you taste pretty good, so I’ve been tucking in. Already got a bellyfull – delicious! Name’s Mitch the Itch, by the way.

The Tingle and the Soles


Now, I don’t want to bore you with the details, but I had this thing in my pinkie. Not a splinter or anything, internal. A tingle, loss of feeling, that sort of thing. So the doctor says it’s nothing, just the nerves in a bit of a twist, but she sends me to the neurologist
pinkieanyway. And he submits me to a form of torture and confirms what I already suspected – I’m a wimp. I thought of alerting Amnesty International, as it was basically a variant on the electric chair, but apparently it was for my own good. After torturing me, he sent me for a scan, which in comparison was like a trip to Alton Towers. And it turns out there’s a herniated disc with a conflict in C8. I’m not sure what that means. It sounds a bit like Battleships.

Well, obviously I’m reaching the age when they start to poke around inside and chop off bits here and there, but I’d rather postpone it as long as I can, so I went to see Dr. Gousain. He’s a posturologist. I expected something high-tech, but it was disappointingly basic. Touch your toes, look at this pencil. That sort of thing. And then he announced that my spine is the shape of fusilli pasta and my eyes diverge like the Churchill V-sign.

The treatment, theoretically, is simple. Soles in my shoes and a magnet stuck to my IMG_0050temple. I’m supposed to wear the soles all the time, he said, even in my slippers. The problem being that it’s 30° in Mayotte. Slippers? Why not mitts and a beanie while I’m at it? Most of the day, I’m padding around barefoot. As for the magnet, it stuck for a while but came off in a trickle of sweat and I lost it.

So now the problem is, I don’t know what to say to Dr. Gousain. He promised the tingle would go away as long as I followed the treatment, and I truly believe it would. He’s ever so sweet, and I really don’t want to disappoint him. But when I balance a tingling pinkie with slippers in Mayotte, I’m afraid the tingle wins.

Jackfruit Calamity


My devotion to the jackfruit, which reached almost mystical proportions, has diminished somewhat of late. There I was munching a seed when something gritty crunched between my teeth. I’m sure you know the sensation. Very unpleasant. Like eating a mouthful of garden in salad that hasn’t been washed.

I found it strange that this should happen in a jackfruit seed, which hadn’t been anywhere except inside the jackfruit. And indeed, when I eventually worked the grit to the front of my mouth, I found that what I’d crunched between my teeth was my tooth.

All that was left was a gaping hole and a jagged bit, like a fragment of ancient pottery in a museum (I’ve spared you the full technicolour dentist’s eye view). At first, I was pleased to get an appointment only three weeks away. Back in the Metropole, unless your jaw is infected with gangrene, Dr. Moquet won’t have a slot for three months. But then I thought, perhaps it’s too good to be true. It means the dentist can’t tell the difference between a molar and a rawlplug. And he’ll strap me in the chair and set to work with a monkey wrench and a chisel.

But of course, just because I’m in Mayotte doesn’t mean the dentist isn’t good. It’s simply that I’m used to Moquet, who happens to be the best in the world. Not only that, but the fastest. Like one of those farmers in sheep-shearing competitions. He’s beaten his own record, folks – three fillings and a bridge in sixteen minutes!

Not that I’m too fussy, to be honest. Anything to stop that jagged bit of remaining tooth from tearing my tongue to shreds. In the meantime I’ll do my best to recover my respect for the miraculous jackfruit (no, honestly!) After all, it was my tooth’s fault really.