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Polnareff’s Holidays (Explanations – Part 2)

I also know that someone was looking for the English translation of this song by Michel Polnareff, called Holidays. The song is beautiful, yet melancholic, and carries a very deep meaning. I can imagine Polnareff writing it while on the plain, but I don’t know if it’s true or not. I didn’t attempt to adapt the English text to the music, though.

Holidays, oh holidays
C’est l’avion qui descend du ciel
Et sous l’ombre de son aile
Une ville passe
Que la terre est basse

Holidays, oh holidays
Des églises et des H.L.M.
Que fait-il le Dieu qu’ils aiment?
Qui vit dans l’espace
Que la terre est basse

Holidays, oh holidays
De l’avion, l’ombre prend la mer
La mer comme une préface
Avant le désert
Que la mer est basse

Holidays, oh holidays
Tant de ciel et tant de nuages
Tu ne sais pas à ton âge
Toi que la vie lasse
Que la mort est basse

Holidays, oh holidays
C’est l’avion qui habite au ciel
Mais n’oublie pas, toi si belle
Les avions se cassent
Et la terre est basse

English translation

Holidays, oh holidays
It’s a plane that comes down from the sky
And the shadow of its wing
Covers a city below
How close is the ground

Holidays, oh holidays
Churches and council flats,
What is their beloved God doing?
He who lives in the space
How close is the ground

Holidays, oh holidays
The plane’s shadow covers the sea
The sea is like a preface
To the desert
How close is the sea

Holidays, oh holidays
So much sky and so many clouds
At your age you don’t know
That life is boring
How close is death

Holidays, oh holidays
It’s a plane that lives in the sky
You’re so beautiful, but don’t forget
That planes crash
And that the ground is close

The Art of a Desktop, or Some Things to Buy (Maybe) for Christmas

When you visit Sir Paul McCartney’s official website, you begin to feel at certain point that good planning may, after all, be a key to success. Of course, exclusions apply, as Sir Paul’s latest album was apparently conceived over a cup of English tea in the backyard, where there was only a fine line between chaos and creation. [You see, I’ve listened to the album ;-)) ]. But as far as his fans are concerned, their free time is very appreciated. When you log on to the site as a member, this lovely desktop pops up right in front of you, containing everything you might need, from various photos and notes to a video of Jenny Wren. This is what it looks like:

I am sure Sir Paul’s website is a huge success among his fans, as are his songs.

Furthermore, I’ve got an email offering to buy Elvis McCartney print. The description reads:

Fantastic 20″x16″ professionally mounted print by Revolver sleeve designer Klaus Voorman. Entitled ‘Elvis McCartney’ this print was done for the ‘Run Devil Run’ album in 1998 and is said to be from the Hamburg Days when Paul dressed in leathers and resembled a young Elvis.
This print also comes with a certificate of authenticity and is perfect for framing.

And this is the print:

And this is the best thing about it – it only costs £79.99, which, to use consumerist slang, is ‘less than £80’!!! And – £80 is less that £100 (My math skills must be strong…).

I guess I am still under the impression of watching North West Tonight, where they were offering to buy the Manchester United Opus for £3.000. I mean, they were contemplating on who may buy the book, which is so thick and heavy that you can barely turn pages. Not to mention the price you have to pay, before you can embrace this page-turner.

Then again, they should’ve looked at some volumes that were produced in the past centuries, The Statutes of the Realm, a collection of the Acts of Parliament that all English scholars have to see at least once in their career. I had to read one of the volumes in the Central Library in Manchester, and by mistake gave it back, instead of keeping it on my number. Next day I had to order it again, and the librarian said to me (rather kindly, I should note):

‘If you’re still not finished with it today, don’t give it back. We have to bring it from downstairs, and it’s too heavy to carry’.

Gosh, I could write a collection of essays on visiting and working in the library. If you’re an editor reading this and would like a regular column, drop me a line.

John Lennon


Yes, it’s yet another anniversary. There is nothing to say, as no words would express everything we feel on this day every year. For me as the fan of both The Beatles and John Lennon it was difficult to gradually realise that this man is no longer here, and that I’ve only got as much as he’d written/drawn/sung/acted, etc., that there will be no more. In fact, there hadn’t been any more for a long while before I even discovered his music.

My history of attending music venues was strangely linked to Lennon and The Beatles. The first *serious* music venue that I attended was a concert dedicated to Paul McCartney’s 50th anniversary. It took place in Moscow, there was no Macca, but before the concert we were treated to a screening of Let It Be. In 1997, when I just entered the University, I saw an announcement on the board about the celebration of John Lennon’s birthday in one of Moscow’s clubs. I went with a few friends. His songs were mixed with some modern performances, of which my memories are still very vivid.

There is his official website, as well as many good fansites across the web. There was recently an appeal to make December 8th The Day of Peace. I think for many people it has already been such for 26 years now (and perhaps even before then) and will remain such for as long as the memory lives. The idea, in the end, is not about commemorating either John Lennon, or peace. It is about making peace happen. And on that there is no-one better to quote, than Lennon himself:

If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.
Sad, but true. As indeed many of Lennon’s songs. I have decided to put up a YouTube video of one of his classics of The Beatles’ period. In part, it is because I did not want to be ‘conventional’ and go for Imagine, which is totally predictable on this occasion. In part, however, I have chosen this song for its utter dramatism in both lyrics and music and – its poignancy. 

…Won’t You Please, Please…

… exactly, HELP ME! Under the workload this is the song that comes to mind, and I found this rare video on YouTube (thanks to modcentric, whose blog you can read). On modcentric’s account on YouTube there is also a wonderful video of the Awesome Four eating fish&chips, while also singing I Feel Fine. The video is called The Beatles Fish & Chips Intertel Video.

Back to HELP, my Irish neighbour, a musician, always says that this song affected him a lot in his youth because it sounded very sincere. As for me, I was introduced to The Beatles by my father, who was (and still is) a huge fan of Paul McCartney. The introduction took place in about 1990, when I didn’t know English half as well as I do now. The first two albums he gave me to listen to were recorded on an audio cassette, A Hard Day’s Night on side A, and Let It Be on side B. And I vividly recall trying to log the lyrics of the song I Me Mine, literally pressing my ear against the tape recorder. Like I said, I knew very little English then, which is why I couldn’t make out most of the song.

Of course, I listened to a lot of music during my school years, but The Beatles have had the decisive influence. I was the best pupil in my year, and everyone thought I spent days and nights studying. Little did they know that I used to do away with my homework as quickly as possible, sometimes even forgetting about it and leaving it until late in the evening. What I did instead was turning the tape recorder on as soon as I’d get home from school. There is no wonder therefore that I knew all Beatles’ albums by heart by the time I went to the University.

However, my favourite Beatle has always been John Lennon. I loved his talent, his music, his lyrics, his appearance, and that has never had anything to do with the fact that I was born on December 9, 1980. [My looking all over Moscow for round specs did, though]. I do regret slightly that Imagine has become so popular because, I think, people occasionally begin to take it as a commonplace. And, yes, there is a lot of idealism about Lennon, but now and again I find myself thinking things many people would not share. So, in his words, ‘you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one‘.

Anyway, enjoy the movie, and I’ll get back to my work…

A Day in the Life with the Blue Lyre

Yes, there was a post under such title already on this blog, but, since I took part in the History Matters campaign and my entry has been uploaded to their page, I thought I would post it here, too. You can read as many other entries, as you wish, by clicking here. I’ve got to say, some comments are totally amazing, especially those written by children.

You will notice that my ‘one day in history’ is anything, but down-to-earth. There’s no mention of how I brushed my teeth, ‘dragged the comb across my head’, and, since it was my day-off, I spent it at home. I noted what I had for tea, however. The major part of the entry is dedicated to my recalling of what I did in terms of reading, thinking and writing. I shall explain, why I did so. As you know, I am an historian, and for years I’ve been researching into intellectual history, or history of ideas (very broadly speaking). This field borders on both philosophy and art, which is one of the reasons why it fascinates me so much. Consequently, I jotted down, as briefly and clearly as possible, what I thought and felt on October 17th, 2006. What you’re reading, therefore, is a writer’s alienating themselves from their ideas and occupations and looking at these through an historian’s specs.

So, this is a retrospective view of one single day, 17th October 2006.

When I was an adolescent and tried to write a diary, I hated it. But recently I began to write a blog, and I am actually enjoying it. However, I don’t write about commonsensical things there. For this reason I’ll only briefly mention such unimportant details, as my getting up at 10am (because the 17th was my day-off, and the night before I stayed up late); having breakfast; checking my email; having lunch later on; then boiling chicken breasts and eating one of them for tea; and eventually going to bed. I don’t boil chicken breasts every day, and I don’t get up at 10am every day, but the rest I am doing day-in, day-out.

I have always been attracted to history, even before I went to study it. History was always linked to philosophy and art, and was about people, what and how they think and feel, and why. The arts, especially literature, have been my main interest and preoccupation since I was 6, so I ended up as a specialist in intellectual history. Back in 1997, in Moscow, and wanting to be a writer, I went to read History to gain the knowledge of life (in the broadest sense) and to generate my understanding of it, so I would have something to write about. Gradually I began to discover and sometimes to face the memories of my own past. Thinking about it, this is exactly what historians do – they collect information from elsewhere, whilst waiting for the archives to be opened. I don’t know exactly what has opened my archives, but perhaps I just forgot about it now?

This is what I thought on October 17. What did I feel? I felt love. Around that date I was in love with ‘Terrace in Rome’ by Pascal Quignard. The book was short enough to be swallowed in a couple of hours, but sometimes it is short or simple pieces that mesmerise you and touch your very core. Having finished it, I spent the next two days in a state close to cathartic. Even now I am not completely over it. For me as an artist, it is essential that I am in love, as love, whether shared or unrequited, is the source of inspiration. There is nothing particularly original about this view. Likewise, love doesn’t have to be associated with any particular person; the object of love can be a late writer or a book. Love in this case is a mixture of empathy, fantasy and passion, neither of which needs to be directly expressed or fulfilled. But it is essential that such object exists in my life, as something that attracts, challenges, inspires, and ultimately changes me. I don’t think, however, that love is a fleeting feeling; after all, I am faithful to my art.

In the afternoon I found an article about one classic Russian film, which I subsequently blogged. I’ve also posted an announcement on my blog (Notebooks) about this campaign. Later in the afternoon I received a totally unexpected email from a fellow artist. It mentioned his interview in The Wire; I found a couple of tracks on The Wire website and thought that ‘Lords of Fear’ was especially interesting.

In the evening I was again pondering on how to rewrite a cycle of poems that I composed in 2001. The cycle was called (and still is) ‘The Blue Lyre’, but its structure and form are to be totally changed. The main theme of the cycle is the formation of a poet, and in accordance with my plans, I wrote a rondeau. I never force myself to write, and I don’t quite believe in the ‘nulla dies sine linea’ adage. The world and the art, and my feelings for and thoughts about them, compel me, which is why I sometimes stay up in the night. But on October 17 I didn’t.

To see the corresponding entrances, so as to refresh your memory, you can go to the following links: the campaign and the article that I blogged, and the track that I listened to.

I’ll tell a tiny bit more about this cycle. Upon my word, I don’t know why I decided to call it ‘The Blue Lyre’. I think, generally, the explanation is pretty simple, and you can have a go at deciphering it. The rondeau I mentioned is a lovely Renaissance poetic form, and in the cycle it tells the story of the poet being warned against falling under the Lyre’s spell, for it makes everyone who follows it unhappy. But the poet eventually joins the Lyre’s retinue, whilst realising that he will be unhappy either with her or without her. The refrain of this rondeau is ‘I have always been told‘ (“Мне всегда говорили“), and this is what it reads like in Russian:

Мне всегда говорили: «Не слушай, когда,
Из небесных пределов спускаясь, звезда
Призывать в свою свиту тебя станет нежно, –
«Не желаю и знать!» – отвечай безмятежно».

«Коль примкнешь к ее свите волшебной, тогда
В бесконечной нужде проведешь ты года,
За одною настигнет другая беда,
Будешь плакать над долей своей безутешно», –
……………………………………….Мне всегда говорили.

Так ночей моих скудных прошла череда, –
И, за Синею Лирой уйдя навсегда,
Обещанье покоя отринув мятежно,
Понял я: буду с нею страдать неизбежно,
Без нее же счастливым не быть никогда, –
………………………………………Мне всегда говорили.

Julia Shuvalova © 2006

Still, a bientot!

Ups and Downs (Researching For Academia And Media)

I love research. I adore it. There is nothing better than to look for something and to find it in the most unexpected place. For example, I’ve been following the fate of the late Sergei Bondarchuk‘s last film, Quiet Flows the Don, for years. I’ve read a lot about it, I’ve seen the trailer, and today I’ve found an absolutely wonderful interview with a famous Russian actor who’d worked on that film. And I’ve never found that interview before, and I never even knew it existed.

Being a media researcher made me realise that I’ve got incredible perseverance. Not that I didn’t know this before. Simply there is a difference between an academic research and a media research. When you’re visiting an archive, it obviously helps if your archivist is a nice accommodating chap (or an equally accommodating lady). But even when the archivist clearly treats you as an intruder or better else, as a hopeless uncultivated individual who’s got no right or chance to lay their eyes on a precious illuminated manuscript, your knowledge and confidence will make them surrender. In addition, there are printed and online catalogues of books and manuscripts, hence you can always catch your Dark Angel off guard by showing them that you know exactly what the library holds.

In media research, it’s a bit different. Being knowledgeable and reliable yourself is not enough if other people are not, especially those who are supposedly assisting you in your task at finding a contact. I’m deeply thankful to all reliable PRs and members of the public who’ve helped me in the past. I’ve managed to secure some wonderful interviewees for the programmes, but it’s only now that I’m exploring the dark side of the job. For the third week running I’ve been trying to find a medical professional to speak about migraine, and, to my huge amazement, still haven’t got anyone, except for a couple of doctors, whose secretaries are difficult to track down. Two organisations that I tried didn’t have a contact, and the third one is showing great deal of relaxation in not getting back with any kind of response. Thankfully, this is not urgent, and I have vowed to get this sorted by Thursday – it’s truly annoying otherwise.

My current mood – perplexed.
Music in my head – Elton John, I’m Still Standing

You Are What You…

[This post is dedicated to the playwright from Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, who was gifted, but liked listening to The Monkees’ I’m a Believer].


Psychologists have found out that the music young people listen to can tell (almost exactly) who they are. In simple terms, if you’re a jazz aficionado, you’re probably a very brainy person. If you like pop, you don’t like overcomplicating things. If you like dance or soul, your tongue is likely to be your enemy. If, however, you’re a fan of gangsta rap, it’s very possible that you’re timid by nature.

Music, claims an article by Lane Jennings in The Futurist (vol. 39, 2005), is forming the communities, and portals like Last.fm and, of course, My Space, certainly prove the point. But, personally, I have reservations about the idea that it is iPods and iTunes that are causing this change. Rather, they ferment or even bring to the surface the long-existing tendency. And we’ve become more aware of it because fans don’t have to travel miles to the annual meeting of Ella Fitzgerald or ABBA fan clubs – they can simply meet online as often as they like.

To test the findings, follow this link, to listen to The Wicked and Unfaithful Song of Marcel Duchamp to His Queen. The text of the poem was written by Paul Carroll, and was put to music by John Austin. Feel free to tell us what it made you discover about yourself.

[In case if the link doesn’t work, please go to www.toutfait.com, to ‘Music’ folder, and look for ‘The Wicked and Unfaithful Song…’ in the list of works. I do hope, however, that the above link will take you there directly].

Another researcher’s findings (in the article by Kathy Lane in The Mail on Sunday, April 2004) have revealed that in England your eating habits stand for your social status. Apparently, if you’re an upper-middle-class person you won’t be seen dead eating bacon and chip butties, prawn cocktail with Marie-Rose sauce, or rice salads with sweetcorn – typically working-class or lower-middle-class foods. [Strictly speaking, you may indulge in any of these, but only if you’re socially secure enough to be eccentric].

Then, of course, we can bring the whole bunch of food advice in the picture, and it will turn out that the lower classes shop for ready-made foods in cheap supermarkets, while the upper branches shop for organic and ‘healthy’ foods in more expensive stores, or even have their friendly butcher and greengrocer.

It all looks kind of funny and superficial if we take this simply as the reflection of class differences in food consumption. However, I was astounded to read a booklet containing advice on healthy eating for those who suffer from MS (multiple sclerosis). This is the list of products they were not supposed to have: lard, butter, cream of soups, caffein, and – most importantly – fish in batter and chips.

Why ‘most importantly’? Because all of us who’ve been to England at least once already know that fish in batter and chips are one of the favourite English meals, especially in the North. As a matter of fact, the statistics show that the Northerners are more often affected by MS that the Southerners. I asked a representative of one MS Care Centre in South Manchester, if the food guidelines for the MS sufferers can also be used as general guidelines for MS prevention. His answer was ‘yes’. ‘Then doesn’t it look like’, I asked, ‘that the favourite Northern food may also be the cause of MS?’ I would like to be wrong, but I felt that his ‘yes’ to my question contained a lot of astonishment.

So, eating habits evidently define much more than just your social status, which sounds quite commonsensical, and is exactly what Jamie Oliver has been uttering for a long while. Perhaps, then, it is time to do something about it?


What you say and how you say it is also manifestant of your class background. Two years ago I was returning to Manchester from my research spell in London. It was an evening train, and in the carriage there was this group of young office workers, two men and two women. They were talking loudly, and eventually I heard one man, speaking in RP [Received Pronunciation, also known as the Queen’s English], explaining to a woman, how he could tell her social background. She referred to her father as ‘Dad’, which gave away her not-so-high social status. If she was posh, he explained, she’d call her parent ‘Father’.


Until now we may be thinking that everything that is written here may or may not be true. In the end of the day, the egalitarians will say that people must not be judged by the music they listen or by the words they use in their speech. On the other hand, all people like coming together in groups, and the entering criteria must be defined. So, whether one likes this or not, if there are people who want to be ‘upper-middle-class’, there will always be those who don’t fall into the category.

However, reading habits is my most favourite example of how little reading tells about who you are. To define people by their bookshelf is totally futile, because they may be buying books simply to decorate the room or to impress the visitors. Such thing as the entire edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica standing in the most prominent place in someone’s study never means that the owner has actually read it.

Then there are people who read Dan Brown and Gabriel Garcia Marquez with the same degree of pleasure. There are also people who we’d assume are very cultivated because they listen to Antonio Caldara (an Italian Baroque composer) and read Martin Heidegger. I’d imagine that reading Heidegger’s musings on language would at least make one more attentive and sensitive to their own speech. And yet, I’ve been proved wrong.

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