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Christmas glee

Each year I take pains wrapping all my presents in a chosen style, and this Christmas was no exception. I went for recycled paper, yellow ribbon, and an individualized Sukie sticker. It almost made up for the fact that I cannot for the life of me wrap items in a neat way – especially if their shape is anything but square – so that I need to distract whichever family member is being honoured from the parcel’s quasimodesque aspect. Gifts are, in turn, a way of distracting said family members from the various issues they take from their daily lives to the Christmas tree, and I believe that in spite of their aesthetic ambiguities, mine did a pretty good job.

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You don’t always realize that things are old until they break, and it may take time before you even notice that they are no longer there. A few weeks ago, as I was getting ready to move to Geneva, I saw through the window of my parents’ house that a piece of our street sign was lying on the ground. I went out under the morning rain and casually took it home, hoping that the neighbours would fail to notice my illicit act of uncivility. I enjoy looking at it, although I’m not sure what “Derri” might signify on its own. One night, my brother and I subrepticiously attempted to steal the remaining part, but the screws were too old and rusty to give in to our efforts. The stubborn sign still stands there, in the street corner, proudly proclaiming: “ère Montet” – the Montet era.

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Over the last few months I visited a number of exhibitions and sites related to Celtic culture in the three lakes region. Though I haven’t yet acquired my own dagger and sickle, I’m considering building a mud hut with thatched roof under the trees somewhere. You know it’s time to move on when 1) there still isn’t space for you in the fridge after two months and you have to smuggle your stuff into a corner 2) your host keeps things in your room that she regularly has to come and get 3) she tends to forget you live there so you have to lock the door 4) her contractors use your toilet and you’re asked to clean it 5) in fact she doesn’t even share her own bathroom with her boyfriend, so yours is open to the whole community 6) when you’re away for the week-end she has guests sleep in your bed 7) she thinks she knows what you want or need much better than you ever will 8.) you find her crying over her journal in the kitchen 9) she uses you as an audience for her biased monologues 10) you told yourself: “well, at least I love the garden” but then she had trees cut down and you can’t even build your mud house close to the pond anymore.

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Oak grove

A few weeks ago I went to the woods and dug up young oaks before transfering them into pots. Many died but ten are still alive, and one of them’s even got fresh new leaves! I don’t have a clue what I’m hoping to do with them though it would be cool to have a potted oak in town when I finally find a place of my own. My attempts at planting things have never been fully convincing but I’m determined to get better at it. So now that mum has started to remember watering them when I’m away from home, there’s a chance for me to become an expert gardener in local varieties and, who knows, I might inspire others to desecrate forests in order to replace the exotic with the local.

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Admittedly, this picture was easy for me. Just another excuse to use polka-dot-patterned adhesive tape, really. The ad shows how countercultural elements are appropriated by companies in order to sell products. And the problem is that I really like it – these things never fail to work for me. I remember many of Camel’s ads from years past – so influential were they – even though I never became a regular smoker. Spray cans represent customers’ power to participate in the brand’s image by designing packaging, thus supposedly making it more DIY and empowering. There is something fishy about the idea of selling freedom in the form of addiction that still does not hinder it from being appealing. I believe the illusion is achieved here by a call for liberatory creativity which, unfortunately, happens to serve the purpose of glorifying a brand that solely has its own interests in mind. And yet, as health is increasingly invested with ideology, I wonder whether smoking cigarettes isn’t becoming an act of resistance again.

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After being unemployed for four months, during which I worked quietly for myself at my own rythm, the recent change of pace came as a bit of a shock. Suddenly my PhD proposal deadline arrived, I started having job interviews, and after the Berlitz school of languages selected me for their initial training I only had a few days to find a new place to live. This means that after six weeks here in Prêles, I’m leaving again and will (temporarily?) take a room in a posh village named Coppet, by the lake near Geneva. Even though it all seems sorted now – I am a PhD student at the university of Geneva, I teach French at Berlitz, I live in Coppet during the week – I have yet to become comfortable with my new situation before I can feel settled. After all, in one year, I have lived in Canterbury, Yverdon, Bienne, Prêles, and Coppet. No wonder it’s a little distabilizing.

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By clicking on the tags from my latest post, some of you may have noticed that there are regrettably few blog posts about the hermit lifestyle. I am proud to have found my niche, and will try my best to live up to it. Thanks to having moved back to my parents’ house in a charming village, I know I will have much to contribute to the trend I intend to set. For those who choose to follow me, here is step one: walk in the fresh night air with a Moleskine sketchbook and a pencil until you find a beautiful tree. Then draw it as well as you can, though of course you won’t be able to see the lines on the page. And then, ask yourself, isn’t this what life is like? Hopefully, there will some coherence to your drawing in the end.

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