Read Along With Me Part 1

Yesterday’s wind has dropped, but the incessant rain was much fiercer today. I therefore continued with Germinal.

This work by Emile Zola is widely acclaimed as one of the finest French novels.

There are 7 parts to the book. Because of the number of illustrations and their positions on the pages, offering the opportunity for readers to sample extracts from Zola’s sublime poetic prose as it frames the pictures, I am diverting from my normal practice and publishing these sheets as I work my way along my rereading, leaving my review until the end.

These are the leaves from Part One. As usual, clicking on any illustration will access the gallery facilitating enlargement.

Late this afternoon, although much colder, the skies cleared; the sun emerged to share the cerulean canopy with the moon, and set over the still water-laden Christchurch Road.

This evening we all dined on barbecue spare ribs, and Jackie’s colourful savoury rice with garlic; she drank Hoegaarden, Ian drank Erdinger weisbier, and I drank more of the Nero d’Avola.

Rained Off

With steady rain and strong winds returning today, as we splashed our way along Christchurch Road dodging spray from our own and passing cars to New Milton we were rather regretting it was to be a packed morning, beginning with a dental hygienist session at 9.30; followed by collecting dry cleaning from White’s while trying to keep it that way as I carried it across the road back to Morrison’s car park; a brief brunch at Quench which – no doubt because market day appeared to have been rained off – was virtually empty, allowing us to be served quickly enough to finish with another encouraging chiropractic session resulting in a three week interval before the next one.

During the afternoon I made progress on my re-reading of ‘Germinal’ by Emile Zola,

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s nutritious chicken and vegetable stewp and fresh bread with which I drank Corte Aurelio Nero d’Avola 2022 and Ian drank Hoegaarden.

Thérèse Raquin

Such was the critical outcry labelling the first serialisation of this novel entitled “Un Mariage d’amour” in L’Artiste between August and October 18th pornographic, that Zola provided a preface to the second, 1868, edition explaining his object and refuting the accusations. Certainly anyone seeking prurience would have been disappointed.

I finished reading my Folio Society edition of the work this morning.

Here are the front boards and spine;

and the title page and the frontispiece;

“The Passage du Pont-Neuf…” in which the story mostly takes place “is no place to go for a nice stroll”. “At night the arcade is lit by three gas jets in heavy square lanterns. These gas jets hang from the glass roof, on to which they cast up patches of lurid light, while they send down palely luminous circles that dance fitfully and now and again seem to disappear altogether. Then the arcade takes on the sinister look of a real cut-throat alley; great shadows creep along the paving stones and damp drafts blow in from the street until it seems like an underground gallery dimly lit by three funeral lamps. By way of lighting the shopkeepers make do with the feeble beams that these lanterns send through their windows, and inside the shop they merely light a shaded lamp and stand it on a corner of the counter, and then passers-by can make out what there is inside these burrows where in daytime there is nothing but darkness. The windows of a dealer in cardboard make a blaze of light against the row of dismal shop-fronts, for two shale-oil lamps pierce the gloom with their yellow flames. On the opposite side a candle in a lamp-glass fills the case of artificial jewellery with starry lights. The proprietress sits dozing in her cupboard with hands under her shawl.” Thus the author sets the scene reflecting the generally stifling mood that keeps the main protagonists trapped.

Thérèse has spent her childhood and adolescence suppressing any normal emotional and physical needs to the oppressive atmosphere created by her aunt and husband. Continuing into her young adulthood it is poignant that regular Thursday evening dominos with characterless acquaintances offers the only relief from crushing boredom and unconsummated marriage, until her passions are unlocked by the brutal advances of one who becomes her lover.

Desirous of freedom to marry each other the adulterous pair devise a not unexpected solution, the setting of which offers far more pleasant bucolic descriptions along the banks of the Seine.

Zola’s narration of the deeply destructive effect that guilt and delusional experiences have on these main protagonists careers along at breakneck speed displaying deep understanding of complex characterisation, in particular the part played by thoughts of terrified minds in tune with each other. Locked together in violent passion they can no longer make love.

Two characters who light the way to the ultimate conclusion are the now paralysed aunt who has no speech and can only use her eyes; and the not uncommon device of a haunting painting.

Far from being pornographic this is a grim tale of selfish transgression and inexorable retribution with few personnel and minimal physical activity.

Leonard Tancock’s introduction is useful and informative;

and the lithographs by Janos Kass in a powerful contemporary style.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s classic beef and onion pie; boiled potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, and meaty gravy, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Harbingers Of Spring

With a weak sun periodically lifting the grey of the day, after a shop at Tesco Jackie and I drove into the forest, where we found reflecting pools continuing along the lanes and verges,

such as those of Bisterne Close;

Forest Road, where one rather bewildered gull looked bemused as a flock of others took off when we arrived;

and Beckley Common Road, along which the worst potholes have actually recently been filled.

This latter road also harbours discarded wheelbarrows beside mossy roots like those on the bank at the other end of

Bennets Lane from

The White Buck pub.

Another wrecked van has been dumped on the path to a house off Molsley Passage. I hope the residents take comfort from the

golden gorse landscape they can look out on.

Currently the ubiquitous blackthorn rivals the splendour of the gorse.

Although we are certainly seeing harbingers of spring, ponies like this one on Bisterne Close are retaining their shaggy winter coats.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty penne Bolognese with Parmesan cheese. I added Scotch Bonnet sauce to mine. The Culinary Queen and Ian both drank Blue Moon and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Bees Awake

The forecast overnight heavy rain persisted, clattering on the kitchen Velux window until shortly before dawn. Slowly, sheepishly, the sun crept into the skies, warming the garden enough for me to walk around in shirtsleeves, looking at the difference in the light from yesterday.

The gelatinous liquid aiding temporary hibernation of the bees was now running freely, for most had left their roosts.

One tottered tentatively around its berberis berth.

This evening we all dined on succulent roast breast of lamb; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; al dente carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, chopped cauliflower leaves, and tasty gravy with mint and cranberry sauce. Jackie, Becky, Ian, and I drank Sacchetto rosé.

Becky’s Biology Lesson

Despite the dreary drizzle-day and thanks to Martin’s weeks of clearance work in the beds there is now no corner of the garden not

brightened by snowdrops and more.

As usual clicking on any image will access the gallery, each item of which can be enlarged and bears a title; some also bearing bumble bees which yesterday had sped freely around the garden. Today, motionless, they cling to a number of plants from which they had sought sustenance then. When I mentioned this to Becky she explained that these insects, not having skeletons, contain fluid beneath their flesh which in cold weather coagulates causing a state of somnolence until liquifying once more on warming up.

Ian returned from Southbourne last night, in time to shop with Becky today for our dinner this this evening. They returned with 6 rib eye steaks; chips, and peas, which Becky cooked to perfection, according to individual choices; with M & S rice and bread and butter puddings to follow. I drank more of the Côtes du Rhône Villages


This morning I finished reading Emile Zola’s masterpiece and later spent a good while scanning the illustrations and drafting this post.

It is 50 years since my previous enjoyment of the Folio Press edition of 1973, being a reprint of the Folio Society’s 1956 publication. I have not studied the original French, but Charles Duff’s translation is fluent and contains number of colloquial English phrases such as “kick the bucket” which suggests effort to render them intelligible to UK readers.

This is the title page and the frontispiece.

From the opening paragraphs depicting the feverish anticipation of the theatre-goers of a city waiting the opening of the new presentation of the Théâtre des Variétés and the first sight of The Blonde Venus to the intense excitement of the races Emile Zola carries the readers along at breakneck speed as if we are present in various venues, also including stately homes, bucolic environments, streets splendid and sordid; night and day, light and dark, playing their part in the narrative.

All senses, especially keenly that of smell, are engaged. The pungent, foetid scents, pervading the back rooms and corridors of the theatre, its windows closed against the cold outside in the depths of inadequately heated winter, assaulting the olfactory nerves which are enticed by sweeter scented warm flesh in a variety of bedrooms more or less savoury.

Nana, a young girl from poor, muddy, streets, by virtue of her generous nature and her gifted charms, rises to be the virtual Queen of Paris capable of attracting and bedding numerous wealthy men until she bleeds them dry and eventually discards them.

She places the child of her teenage pregnancy with an aunt; she visits when she can, though often neglects him; she occasionally falls in love, but usually uses her sexuality to earn wealth and admiration, otherwise indiscriminately. She also has a lasting lesbian affair.

Zola’s insightful characterisation shows how destructive obsessions can be, including almost modern text-book understanding of a lover’s compulsion to return to a physically abusive partner, or to tolerate constant insults and betrayal; being the source of self-destruction.

The fluent, poetically descriptive prose, so full of detail makes it hard to believe that this exploration of contemporary sexual norms comes from Ludovic Halévy’s having introduced him to an operetta at the above-mentioned Théâtre, and providing him with many supplementary stories about the star.

An early morning episode after a night on which Nana has no wish to sleep is just one of the many delightful paragraphs encompassing the author’s evocative skills: “She looked at the sky through the window panes, a livid sky across which soot-coloured skies were scudding. It was six o’clock. Opposite, on the other side of the Boulevard Haussmann, the still sleeping houses showed in sharp outline their moist rooftops in the morning twilight; and on the deserted roadway a troupe of street- sweepers passed by with a clattering of their clogs. And, contemplating this woebegone awakening of Paris, she found herself seized by the tender emotion of a young girl, by a need for the countryside, for the idyllic, for something gentle and white.”

The perhaps inevitable conclusion is beautifully told with an unexpected twist, and set in an historical context which puts it in an apt perspective.

The delicate etchings by Hungarian born Marcel Vertès exquisitely capture the essence of the period.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty lemon chicken; savoury rice with garlic and peas; sweet potato chips; and tender Broccoli stems, with which I drank Côtes du Rhône Villages 2022.

Swollen Pools

Today’s brighter and dry morning greyed over during our afternoon forest drive, as the rain set in again.

Swans and gulls took advantage of the swollen pond on Hatchet Moor. The last two swans and the gull in this gallery are Jackie’s work.

Coots foraged on the bank.

Mallards occupied this reflecting pool at East Boldre. The last of this set is Jackie’s.

She also produced these images of the reflected lichen covered branch and last year’s blackberries, while I focussed on

ponies among burnt bracken.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s penne Bolognaise sprinkled with Parmesan cheese; she drank more of the Malvasia and I finished the Shiraz.


On the dank, headlights-dark mid-morning of another day of continuous rain dripping into potholes, we splashed and sprayed our way along the pools of Christchurch Road to half-term-children packed Tesco and back for a big shop, its urgency prompted by yesterday’s news featuring a shortage of teabag supplies.

I spent the afternoon reading, until our grand-family returned home from an outing with Ellie carefully guarding

a page of stickers bought for her by her parents. For some time she was not about to let anyone else hold them. Eventually I was able sneakily to scan them when she had momentarily been distracted.

This had led me to remember transfers. When Chris and I were still very small my godmother, Auntie Gwen, visited us every Saturday afternoon bringing small gifts. During one period she would bring sheets of paper transfers. These would be placed face downward on our arms and soaked off with careful, gradual, application of water. Jackie, Becky, and Flo all remembered such treasures and Flo especially was surprised that they went as far back as the 1940s.

On her android tablet Becky has this photograph she produced with a very old camera of Sam sporting a transfer in August 1984.

This evening we all dined on left overs – some untouched – from last night’s Chinese takeaway with the addition of spring rolls. Jackie drank Bonelli Malvasia white wine 2022 and I drank more of the Shiraz.


Caught Napping Again

I spent a day on which incessant rains returned in earnest reading more of “Nana”.

Apparently Becky had plenty of time to seek out and set Jackie’s camera to catch me napping again.

Ian returned home to Southbourne late this morning, and was therefore unable to join the rest of us in our evening meal from Oliver Chinese Take Away’s excellent food, with which I drank Mighty Murray Shiraz and Jackie drank Hoegaarden

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