J Bateman-Irish

Sarko drives a Smart Car

In I love on 02/02/2012 at 11:10 pm

Sarko's Smart Car

I cannot possibly comment on the roadworthy merits of this little machine, reputably dreadful at turning corners, as I have to sample it’s delights (I have yet to pass my driving test). However, I have been admiring for some time their seeming zippiness for city driving, and in particular the rather the innovative way they are parked in Paris – my neighbour’s Smart is frequently positioned on the corner of the road, half a wheel blocking access to a zebra crossing, facing into the street instead of parallel with it. It is politely parked. I have seen worse.

And in the 16th arron., a large number of these petite voitures sport tinted windows, which frankly, has made me love the Smart car even more. I suspect it is a favoured low-key vehicle for those who are trying to avoid the spotlight. I honestly can’t imagine why you else you would want darkened windows on a car so small. And, it is an area populated by fur coat-wearing ladies and politician types. So, it was no real surprise when a friend mentioned her husband had seen Sarko driving away from Carla’s house in a Smart. What an excellent idea! No cavalcade, no police escort. Well below the radar, and economically and environmentally responsible to boot. Might we say a smart car for a…well, now that’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it?

Sarko drives a Smart Car Pinterest

Michka and Feodor

In Reading on 30/01/2012 at 3:24 pm

Hanging out in the local toy store with my son, waiting for Papa to pay for some shopping, I spotted this…

As you probably know (though I didn’t), Michka the Bear by Marie Colmont is one of the celebrated Pere Castor stories (Flammarion), and it happens to have featured in my son’s Christmas school spectacle. This bargainous copy was only 2 euros. As any mother who has lived here longer than 5 minutes can tell you, books, toys, clothes – anything ‘children’ – is at least twice the price of ‘back home’ (which is why such things are the bulk of my baggage on return trips from the UK). What’s more, it’s part of a collection of similar priced classic Pere Castor stories (some original cover art here), just reissued, each with its own beautifully illustrated, unique vintage style.

The more I looked at Michka, the more I felt the images were somehow familiar. It wasn’t until got home and looked up  Feodor Rojankowsky that I realized where I’d seen the style before. The Little Golden Book series featured in my own childhood (of course we’re also massive fans of Richard Scarry here), though I’m sure I did not appreciate the skill of the illustrators then as I do now. Rojankowsky (known here as Rojan), a Russian emigre, lived in Paris in the 1920s and 30s, before fleeing to America during the German occupation of the Second World War. He perfected his painting technique in France, through the rather more grown up subjects he encountered in Pigalle (warning for those of sensitive dispositions), but is better known for his children’s illustrations, in particular animals. He went on to publish over seventy children’s titles in America with Little Golden Books and in 1956, received America’s top picture book prize, the Caldecott Medal, for Frog Went A Courtin‘. Who knew that Michka ‘the generous bear’ could have such an interesting story to tell?


Michka Pinterest Board

Hawaii 5-0

In Reading on 27/01/2012 at 10:08 pm

I don’t know why, but Hawaii is big in my life right now. I’ve never been, no particular desire to go, but it’s looming large all the same. Recently, a friend has moved there, another has written fictitiously around the subject, the film the Descendants announces itself from posters and in conversation, and then here I am doing a casual google on the Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto (I’m currently spooking myself out before bed reading Hardboiled and Hardluck), and what should pop up on the ‘journal’ page of the author’s English language site, but pictures of her in Hawaii.

I associate the film of her bestseller Kitchen with uni, and with a past that, these days, is all but a ghost to my present. And that’s pretty much how I’m beginning to feel about Hawaii. Like Yoshimoto’s writing, for me, Hawaii is an imagined place that has gradually got under my skin…and I can’t quite help but think it’s haunting me.

Hawaii 5-O Pinterest board

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