The Kettle Explained


One of the blogs that intrigued me on those excellent blogging 101 and 102 courses was T.J. Paris’s A ma vie de coer entier, with its tagline, “La Vie est Trop Courte pour Boire du Mauvais Vin”, its array of medallion photos, and above all its ongoing account, in the style of an 18th Century novel, of a trip to Oxford by a certain Papa Bouilloire.

One gets an idea of who bloggers are through  their About page, where T.J. writes:

La Vie est Trop Courte pour Boire du Mauvais Vin. “Life is too short to drink bad wine” penned Goethe in one of his lighter moments and it has a real resonance for me. If you are going to do something, then make sure it is worthwhile! (Drinking good wine is also highly recommended!)

A ma vie de coer entier – To my life with all my heart This is an ancient inscription and message of love, found on a poesy ring inscribed, in quaint and badly spelled French dating from the 15th Century. I chose it for the name of my Blog as I believe that living a rich life is something that you should dedicate your whole heart to.

Informative as this is, it didn’t quite satisfy my curiosity, so I wrote to TJ asking if I could send him a few more questions. His answers are here:

1. Where does your interest in France come from?
My Grandfather was an author who loved European literature and culture so we were always encouraged to read from his library and I fell in love with France through books, mainly 18tth century and 19th century histories, travel stories and early novels. Like most Australians, we had a great mixture of predecessors  from all over Europe including England, Scotland, France and even Schleswig- Holstein (as my grandfather was fond of telling) so European music, art and culture was a staple diet between trips to the beach and mucking around “in the bush”. Throw in a compulsive interest in French art and design then I suppose you have the recipe for the perfect Francophile. Mind you it was a close run thing between France and Regency England for a while.
2. Where does the (brilliant) name Papa Bouilloire come from?
I noticed that, unlike a sensible English (and Australian) hotel which usually supplies a kettle and some sort of tea and coffee making facilities, French hotels have no such thing. Consequently I thought it very clever of me to take a small electric kettle with me to France so that we could have a hot drink in the hotel in the evening. I proudly told this wonderfully sensible measure to my French friend thinking he would praise my good judgement. Unfortunately he was horrified and when I asked him what I was to do when I wanted a coffee in the evening he said simply “Why, you go out and buy one of course.” Because of my yokel attitude he dubbed me “Pa Kettle” in French and said it also matched my “pot boiler” writing style. We are still great friends but the name stuck.
3. Your Bouilloire writing style is deliberately ‘old-fashioned’. Does this reflect your own reading preferences?
I definitely prefer earlier writing and found the early English (and French) novels composed as a collection of letters particularly enjoyable. I also love Tobias Smollett’s great travel story “Humphrey Clinker” which no one seems to have heard of any more but is an absolutely hilarious tale of a misfit family’s journey through England and Europe in the late 18th century. These early novels never take themselves too seriously and I just love the mock heroic way they talk of the most mundane actions to show how absurd people and situations can be.
4. Where does your interest in porcelain come from?
In my other life I actually speak Japanese and developed an interest in Japanese art and antiques as part of my studies. In a strange twist I became aware of how much French art and design from the mid 19th Century until the 1920s was directly influenced by Japanese art and went from loving Japanese porcelain and art objects to European porcelain and antiques. I love the fact that most of the Impressionists were also great collectors of Japanese woodblock prints.
5. Who do you support when France play the Wallabies? (Had to put that in, being Welsh, but maybe you don’t like rugby at all!)
Western Australia has only just become Rugby wise. When I grew up it was strictly Cricket and Australian Rules Football. We had heard of Rugby and soccer but only as something “The Brits” play. I would have to say Wallabies out of loyalty and a sense of hope for the underdog. [Comment: Perhaps when they play the All Blacks, TJ, but they’re never the underdogs against Wales!]
With TJ’s consent, I share these answers with you, and for those who don’t know it, invite you to visit his blog. It has some beautiful photographs, a haiku poetry challenge, and of course the Papa Bouilloire story, with the name now fully explained. Bonne lecture!