Category Archives: Culture

A Poetic Valediction

I’m sure some people think that The Economist must be a boring and staid publication, but this final paragraph from the magazine’s departing Bagehot columnist is sheer poetry:

Beyond the headlines and TV studios, Britain’s everyday impressions are mostly those of a homely and mingled place, not a bitter and binary one. The blare of pop songs on shop radios, the church bell across the marshes, the simian whoops and cackles on market-town high streets of a Friday night. The shared shrugs and sighs after a train has waited too long at a station for some misery-unleashing fault not to have materialised. The vinegar-haddock-urine smell of seaside towns; the perfume-booze-sweat crush of commuters travelling home from booming cities. The saris, shiny suits and waxed jackets, the hipster moustaches and old-school mullets. The emergence from a car park or railway station to be confronted with a scene of architectural horror—or unprepossessing and unexpected gorgeousness.

How Brexit damaged Britain’s democracy

Ever tried a Soiled Kimono?

Here’s a clip from A Very Murray Christmas (recently released on Netflix), which stars Bill Murray and several other celebrities (NB—both George Clooney and Miley Cyrus sing, although perhaps that’s putting it politely).

Murray’s unique brand of deadpan humour can be very funny, and there are some laugh-out-loud moments in this short (56 minutes) film. At one point, Maya Rudolph hands Jason Schwartzman a cocktail asking simply “Soiled Kimono?” I gather that joke has been used before on Saturday Night Live, but it made me chuckle.

This light-weight musical entertainment might just be the perfect accompaniment to wrapping presents on Christmas Eve.

Ecole Communale

Main entrance of a primary school in Correns, France.
Primary school entrance in Correns, France.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité … et Laïcité so says the sign to the immediate left of the main entrance of the local primary school. Everyone entering is continously reminded of the country’s famous, national, three-part motto.

What of the fourth, less well-known term? Laïcité is often defined in English as secularity or secularism. Wikipedia suggests it dates from 1842 and has been used, from the end of the 19th century on, to mean the freedom of public institutions, especially primary schools, from the influence of the Catholic Church.

However, given the decline of Catholicism and the rise of other religions, it’s probably more appropriate to think of it as signifying “the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs”.

But what a thing to remind everyone of as they go to school every day. No religion here please, we’re French! I wouldn’t have thought it equally as important as Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood, would you?