Writing a letter - in French - whether to a government agency, a business, a thank you for dinner or a birthday gift can be fraught with danger.
A high wire act which must encompass the proper French formula de politesse i.e. pretentious words and old fashioned salutations and sign offs, the object of your missive clearly stated and with appropriate Reference i.e. memo heading or case number and the action you wish to happen or have acknowledged.
It goes on.
My conundrum was how to end a formal letter correctly in French. Why?
Because there are many ways to do that:
1-Veuillez agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l'assurance de mes sentiments respectueux
2) Avec mes remerciements, je vous prie de trouver ici, Madame, Mademoiselle,
3- l'expression de mes sentiments distingués Recevez, Madame, Monsieur,
4-mes salutations distinguées Croyez, Madame, Monsieur,
Or more simply
1a)Bien à vous 1b) Votre dévoué 1c) Cordialement 1d) Toutes mes amitiés
These are just the tip of the iceberg.
At the end I chose Cordialement
At long last, the new book has reached its
final stages and the action has moved from the deserts of Iraq and Jordan to
the icy mountains of Bulgaria. To the ski resort of Borovets, to be precise,
which is 1350 metres (4430 feet) above sea level in the Rila Mountains, about
73 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of the capital, Sofia.
I was there about three or four years ago
and took a load of pictures precisely so I had a feel and a flavour of the place
for when I reached this stage of writing. It’s been very useful to look back
over them now.
Take this shot, for instance, up a mountain
in Borovets. I’d completely forgotten that, at somewhere around 7700 feet, for
quite a lot of the time you were above the clouds, it was like looking down on
a misty ocean.
In fact, the highest I went was 2369 metres
(7772 feet). The highest peak locally was Mount Musala at 2925 metres (9600
The only way up is to take the gondola
lift. I think the 1315m is the distance up it travels.
You certainly get the most amazing view as
you slowly crank your way upwards. Not quite as much snow on the trees this far
up, though – there had been too much sunshine that winter.
Down in the resort itself, though, there
was the icing sugar coating effect on the trees, which was a beautiful sight.
Despite Borovets reputation as the booziest
place to ski in Europe, there were plenty of entertainments for smaller
visitors, like this mini dog-sled ride …
… or varying sizes of very small pony. I
wasn’t quite sure about the handlebars and the horn, though.
pic from SnowSphere.com
And for the grown-ups, there was also the
sleazier side to Borovets. Bars and the occasional strip club line the main
Hog roast is a traditional dish, and most
of the restaurants had an outside spit going.
Also to keep the grown-ups happy were night
snowmobile rides through the forest, which was an amazing experience and gave
me all kinds of ideas.
As did some of the very unusual ‘souvenirs’
on offer in one of the local stores. Didn’t think I’d get any of this lot back
to the UK on a plane. Not as carryon, anyway.
Outside the resort, the architecture had a
very Soviet feel to it, like this apartment block on the outskirts of Sofia.
But elsewhere there were old tsarist
palaces and places like this royal hunting lodge, the style and layout of which
I have borrowed for plot purposes.
And I’ve also mixed in the location of this
fortress at Veliko Tarnovo. That’s the nice thing about creating your own
world, you can take reality and mess with it just enough to keep things
believable. After all, we’re trying for realistic,
rather than real.
For those of you who want to know what’s happening in the
world today, just shut your eyes. Your ears too, because what you see and what
you hear doesn’t really seem to matter much anymore. What counts these days is
whatever turns agendas—political and otherwise—into realities.
All of which brings me around to the subject of this week’s
An epic character, perhaps the most well known character in
children’s literature, who stands as a universal symbol of the perils of
prevarication to one’s proboscis.
It all began with The
Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) a children’s novel by the Italian writer
Carlo Collodi, in which a kindly old carpenter, Geppetto, carves a marionette
in the image of a little boy who lives a literal wooden existence dreaming that
someday he’ll be human.But between him
and his dream stand a series of trials and a singular moral defect: Pinocchio’s penchant for lying and bad
Though some literary types have equated Pinocchio’s journey with
that of epic literary heroes such as Odysseus, I think for purposes of today’s
post it’s better described by Jack Zipes in an introduction to a book on Pinocchio,
titled Carlo Collodi.To him, it’s a story about those who venture
out into the world naively unprepared for
what they find, and get into ridiculous situations.
Enter the “nose knows.”
Alas, if only we had as ready a way of separating truth
tellers from charlatans today.
But there’s another lesson to be drawn from Pinocchio.
The list of Pinocchio productions and knock-offs is endless,
but undoubtedly Walt Disney’s 1940 version, praised as one of the greatest
animated films of all time, is the most well known.
What isn’t as well known is that, as originally written,
Pinocchio was an obnoxious boor, whose end was not intended to be
pleasant.Disney though didn’t see that
sort of character as appealing to the masses, and so he turned him into a more
likeable, innocent mischief-maker, who ultimately achieved his dream of
Today’s opinion-shapers still turn the obnoxious into the
likeable, and far-fetched cinematic dreams into realities, but they’ve have
added something else to the mix.They’ve
turned the common sense adage for truth—“As plain as the nose on your face”—on
its ear (so to speak) by libeling any nose other than their own as a Pinocchio protuberance,
not to be believed.
In other words, we now live in a world where up is down and
down is up.But that’s from another
children’s book, for another time.