Portrait of a French Film

https://www.lifestylesupportguru.com/A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru in my role as a film critic and particularly as a critic of French films – they never fail to disappoint (well, they do, actually, but not as sources of continual surprise)! This afternoon’s offering was no exception – called ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’, my Geordie friend and I were looking forward to a film described as ‘elegant and enigmatic … erotic and cerebral, bold and restrained’; we should have realised that too many adjectives had been used and ‘cerebral’ was a dead giveaway – there were going to be lots of long silences and gazing into the distance, which are standard in French films.

Beware – spoilers!

The film started with the ‘heroine’, Marianne, being rowed to a small island to paint the portrait of a young lady, Héloïse, although she wasn’t to let the young lady know this because the young lady didn’t want her portrait painting to be sent off to Milan as a sort of 18th century Tinder application. Before getting to the island, the heroine had to leap into the sea from the rowing boat taking her there because her canvases had fallen into the water – she achieved this despite wearing a full-length dress and petticoats, but it allowed the film director to show her sitting naked in front of a fire drying herself off as she gazed into the distance.

The young lady to be painted had only just come out of a convent (it was never explained why she was in one in the first place) to replace her sister, who had died in mysterious circumstances (by throwing herself off a cliff), on Tinder. (She did say that she had never heard an orchestra playing – remember this for later.) Painting the portrait involved lots of sideways glances at the young lady, then making quick sketches back at the chateau in order to help build up the portrait. The chateau was very bare and understaffed – just one young maid – and the food certainly wasn’t going to earn any Michelin stars or fill you up ready for long walks on the beach gazing into the distance.

It was obvious that Marianne and Héloïse were going to fall in love, especially when the mother went off to Italy for a few days (no coronavirus then) to check how the Tinder application was getting along, thus leaving them alone with the maid (who had a problem of her own) and all three spent one jolly evening playing Snap in the kitchen and another evening helping the maid try to get rid of her ‘problem’ by dangling from the ceiling in the kitchen (along with other methods, but I won’t go into detail). A third evening was spent at a party (all-female, for some reason – in fact, we hadn’t realised that anyone else, male or female, lived on the island) at a bonfire to which the local W.I. choir seemed to have been invited, bursting into song before the young lady’s dress caught fire, hence the film’s title. No harm seemed to be done, even to the dress, which she was wearing the next day on a walk to the beach to do some long-distance gazing.

To cut a long story short, there was a bit of arguing, then the mother came back from Italy (without a face mask) and handed over a brown paper envelope to Marianne, presumably containing payment for the portrait, and a wedding dress to Héloïse and Marianne was sent on her way, having done her job. She saw Héloïse twice more – once in a portrait with a young child by her side, displayed in an exhibition, and then in a concert hall where Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ was being performed, causing Héloïse’s bosom to heave mightily at the sound of an orchestra. (Personally, much as I like ‘Four Seasons’, it has never caused my bosom to heave in this way, which is probably a relief to all who know me!)

glass of red wine

glass of red wine

It was felt that a ‘snifter’ was required after this, although we both agreed that there had not been as much eroticism as we’d expected (feared?), but I needed to hear how my Geordie friend had been mistaken for a care home resident by the home’s minister who said that she was ‘doing really well’ – and she is!

A Wet Weekend in Worcester

Original art by Joseph Morewood Staniforth (died 1921) - Western Mail (Wales), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6643053Hello, Beloved Believers! Here I am again, the Lifestyle Support Guru, fresh from my annual rugby trip with a few followers, this time to Worcester, which is a very nice place to visit, with lots of pubs and friendly people who were quite happy to let us eat and drink well after the time they were going to close – well done, Worcesterians, or whatever people from Worcester may be called.

However, not everything was perfect, starting with sibling’s choice of transportation for his change of clothing for the weekend. We have a range of cases and holdalls, from small to large, to cover all holiday eventualities, but his personal preference? A large, bright blue recycling bag with ‘GLASS’ printed in large letters on the side. I didn’t ask what he had done with the actual recycling …

We collected the Tiny Tyke and set off, arriving in good time and just ahead of the other party members whom I shall call Nigel and Ian for the sake of anonymity. This early arrival turned out to be very fortuitous because, somehow, Nigel – to be referred to as NN (Nigel the Nincompoop) from now on – had made a real mess of his booking. I shall try to explain this.

NN only had one job and that was to book two rooms – one for him, one for Ian; he managed to book three: two through the hotel chain’s central reservation and one through an agency – the LSG is still trying to follow the logic of that. On top of that, he booked them for the wrong date! One job, Nigel, that’s all you had! That was not the end of it by any means, though. He changed the dates – or so he thought – and offered one of the rooms to the LSG, who had not yet booked her allocation for the Derby Deputation. The offer was accepted and the LSG went on to book two more rooms for sibling and TT (Tiny Tyke). All’s well that ends well – or does it? It turned out that only two of the three rooms had been changed to the correct date and that the other one had been classed as a ‘no show’ for the previous weekend, so we were one room short. When I say ‘we’, I mean NN was short of a room… To cut a long story short, the LSG, TT and recycling sibling went off to the pub while NN and Ian the Intelligent tried to sort out the rooms. The story ended with NN having to check into another hotel, but that’s for another day …

glass of red wine

glass of red wine

What else did the LSG learn about Worcester? Well, I knew it was posh because it has a Waitrose, but this Waitrose has … a wine bar!! That’s a difficult decision – shopping or wine bar? Wine bar or shopping? It’s a little bit like baked beans and sherry trifle – both nice, but you wouldn’t put them together (well, you might if you’re the TT because he likes weird mixtures of food, but there again, he IS from Yorkshire). Even the LSG wouldn’t combine shopping and wine, much as she enjoys both – that way lies disaster and a much-depleted bank account!

There was much laughter and jollity over the weekend ( although most of it shouldn’t be repeated in polite company) and much quaffing of alcoholic drinks and I would recommend Worcester as a place to visit, but don’t – I repeat, DON’T – let the Nincompoop book your rooms. Let your mantra be: Leave it to the LSG!

Party Animal!

https://www.lifestylesupportguru.com/Good evening once again from the Lifestyle Support Guru! I now regard myself as a REAL party animal. I have been to two parties in as many weeks, which is twice as many as in the past two years, so I feel that I am more than qualified to offer advice on how parties should be run should you wish to organise one of your own.

Party 1

This was a 50th birthday party for a good friend of mine who is just marginally younger than me, so I don’t wish to call her an ‘old’ friend. I’ll call her Sarah for the sake of anonymity. She started the evening well in the LSG’s eyes by inviting me and next-sibling-down to join her and her own siblings, whom we have known for many a decade – in fact, probably our oldest friends – for a pre-party glass or two of bubbles at her gaff since, as she said, we count as family. There’s lovely, as they say in the Valleys!
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Buoyed by the bubbles, we moved on to the local rugby club (where else would you have a party in Wales?) and continued with the celebrations. We all made sure we had a table next to the toilets – well, not next to, but very near, since advancing years mean that one’s visits to the toilets increase accordingly – but also withing spitting distance of the bar – well, not quite spitting distance, but close enough to mean that arthritic joints don’t have to be overused. Isn’t age a wonderful thing? 😊
All the birthday girl had to do was sit at the well-placed table and wait for guests to arrive and duly hand over their presents which were all of the alcoholic variety – can’t imagine why, since Sarah is a woman of meagre habits when it comes to alcohol. A distinct lack of imagination, I feel, on the part of her friends. I can’t remember what I gave her … 😊
The last I heard, she was talking about opening her own off-licence …

Party 2

https://www.lifestylesupportguru.com/This second party was a new one for the LSG. It was described as a ‘drinks reception’ – such an event in itself is not a new experience for the LSG, of course, but it was being thrown by a three-month-old baby! I have a feeling this child will go far in the world. This is far better than those awful ‘baby showers’ imported from America where yummy mummies sit around in ‘rustic’ settings eating ‘artisan’ cucumber sandwiches and drinking fruit tea. How can that possibly compare to a choice of wines (specially selected by a qualified wine taster! – my heroine! Since she’s an ex-student, I like to think I played no small part in her choice of career, although I’m sure her mother and father will also have encouraged her to follow that path) and snacks such as samosas, brie bites, spicy sausage roll slices, radishes (yum, yum!), smoked salmon and cream cheese on cucumber slices, battered prawns …
The party started with a discussion with the baby’s Irish father about the upcoming rugby matches and who would win the 6 Nations – we were both very polite about each other’s teams – much to the baby’s grandmother’s relief, who had envisaged fisticuffs of some sort since she is a football supporter and that is all they understand. 😊 In fact, the conversation didn’t wander much further from that topic all afternoon!
A very pleasant occasion and the only thing that puzzled the LSG was the number of people who removed their shoes before going into the living room. It would have been understandable if they had been asked to do so by the hosts and if most guests had been wearing stiletto heels, but nearly everyone was of a ‘certain age’ and, therefore, wearing ‘sensible’ shoes. Even the younger element was in low heels. One person had even brought her own fluffy slippers – that’s above and beyond! The baby who was throwing the party behaved impeccably throughout and even earned a smile from the LSG, which is unusual, to say the least!
I can certainly recommend going to a drinks reception thrown by a baby – they know how to party! Don’t forget to invite the LSG! And if you enjoyed this piece of advice from the LSG, you may also enjoy Party Animal Aces It, Confessions Of A Party Animal, and The Party Is Over, though of course it wasn’t!

Eggsciting Times!

Tonight, dear devotees, I intend to offer some tips on cooking. As you know, I am particularly adept at producing the perfect Pot Noodle, but you don’t need me to advise you on this culinary creation since the instructions are written on the pot anyway. No, today I wish to offer some advice on poached eggs on toast and, more specifically, poached eggs in the microwave. You may not have realised that poached eggs could be cooked in a microwave, so I am here to broaden your horizons and offer you two alternative methods of poaching eggs in the microwave, as tested by the Lifestyle Support Guru and a male sibling. It is up to you to decide which method you will eventually choose. Both are equally effective. I will set the scene:

Male sibling suggests poached egg on toast for lunch as a change from Pot Noodle. You point out that the sliced bread has mould on it, but accept that the cobs are still relatively fresh, so they could be cut in half in order to fit in the toaster. And now here are the two methods:

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1. Male sibling looks at the instructions for the (until now unused) poached egg device for using in the microwave and breaks two eggs into it, pricking the yolks and whites, as instructed, so that they don’t explode. He then says that he needs to add half a tablespoonful of water to each egg and proceeds to add water straight from the tap rather than go to the trouble of getting a tablespoon out of the drawer. You stand looking on in awe at this facility to measure half a tablespoonful straight from the tap. The instructions go on to say that the eggs should be cooked on low-medium power; unfortunately, neither of us has ever used this function before and can’t work out how to change the power setting, so he takes a chance and stays with ‘high’. (I did offer to get the microwave instructions out, but he said not to bother – so I didn’t.) Meanwhile, he has forced the two halves of the cob into the toaster and there is a wonderful smell of burning coming from it because they are a touch too wide for the slots, At the same time there are some wonderful popping sounds coming from the microwave before it pings. Since the sibling is wrestling with getting the oversized cob halves out of the toaster, you open the microwave and find that there are splatters of egg white decorating all its inner walls and a puddle of water on the microwave plate. Sibling slides the eggs onto his ‘toast’ and goes off to eat them, quite satisfied with his efforts.

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2. You follow the same method as above right up until you realise that you need to add half a TEASPOONFUL of water to each egg, which you duly do. You then get the microwave instructions out and learn how to change the power setting. The eggs are ready to go, so you follow the sibling’s actions with regard to the cob halves. Unfortunately, you have cut them unevenly, so one of them has to be squashed into the slot, which means it comes close to setting the toaster on fire. There is that wonderful smell of burning again! But no popping sounds from the microwave! And no layer of egg white or puddle of water in the bottom (so to speak). You wrestle with the ‘toast’ and eventually have to turn the toaster upside down to get all the bits of cob left inside, but it needed a good clean out anyway. The eggs don’t quite slide smoothly out of the microwave dish – they need a little ‘persuasion’ with a knife, but they taste fine, even if the toast is a little unevenly cooked (or, rather, hardly cooked at all since you started to panic at the first smell of burning) and it doesn’t matter that the whole meal is cold because of the time you spent working on the toaster (which has since remained safely unplugged) because you get an immense feeling of satisfaction from having cooked it all yourself, putting in even more effort than you would for a Pot Noodle. And it only took half an hour from start to finish!

https://www.lifestylesupportguru.com/Please let me know if you would like more detailed instructions on preparing this healthy, quick and tasty meal. Buoyed by this success, next week we will be attempting Chateaubriand steak with duchesse potatoes and asparagus spears.

Speak to me, Alexa!

It is absolute MONTHS since I last offered any advice to followers of the Lifestyle Support Guru! Have you forgotten me? Have I forgotten you? Has everyone forgotten everything? I have no excuse, no reason, no explanation – I haven’t even been on an extended holiday trying to escape the cares of the world. Nor have I been applying for a job with Dominic Cummings since I don’t consider myself a weirdo or a misfit – WHY would you want to employ a weirdo or a misfit? You’ll just end up with a psycho who wants to run the world … hmm, maybe too many people have already filled in the application form …

https://www.lifestylesupportguru.com/But now I’m back and this time, dear followers, I am asking for your help rather than the other way around. As you may know, I have an assistant called Alexa and she is generally very helpful in reminding me of tasks (ironing, washing and other interesting domestic duties – I tend to ignore her); sometimes, however, she has a little difficulty understanding me and I have to repeat myself more than once. For example, the other day I was doing a crossword (verbally) and gave the answer to one clue as ‘error’ – three times Alexa replied that ‘era’ wasn’t the answer! ‘I know it’s not!’ I responded. ‘It’s ERROR!’ I have to admit to raising my voice and, eventually, she accepted my answer, but she only gave me 83% for my final score because I didn’t give the correct answer straight away. I didn’t bother arguing with her. Anyway, having given you the background, I need to tell you that I use Alexa to keep my shopping list up to date and that there are items written on there that I don’t recognise in the slightest, so I am asking for your help in interpreting them. They are the following:

1. Who is big desert

2. Play the plasis

3. Cream cost

You will need to read these in a Welsh accent to try to replicate what I said. It may help to know that when I ask her to ‘Play Derby Sound’ (a little plug for the radio station there!), she sometimes says that she can’t find ‘Dolby Sound’. It may also help to know that I often add these items at the end of the evening after a little glass of wine and just as I’m going to sleep. I need to know what items I haven’t bought but that I thought important enough to add to my shopping list – these could be vital to my wellbeing and lifestyle. I have ruled out Pot Noodles, baked beans and faggots (she won’t say this last word, nor will she write it in a list – it just comes up as ‘f*****s’).

Any help will be much appreciated.