Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Snow in the mountains

A brief visit to Corsica – and it’s been snowing. As we took our place on the little plane in Nice Airport on the final leg of our journey to Calvi, we were given a copy of Corse Matin which was headlined “La neige s’installe dans l’intérieur”.

It seems that in some parts of the island, 60 cm fell in one night last week and the village of Boziu, in the mountains between Corte and the Castagniccia was particularly affected. In a month when I usually look forward to seeing Corsica’s spring display of the first wild flowers, the newspaper carried pictures of stuck cars, sheep being given emergency food and people struggling against the odds in heavy winter clothes.

As we landed, the snow covered mountains dominated the views from the airport. It was sunny (though cool) in the coastal strip around Calvi, but the mountains were visibly blanketed with heavy snow. What an amazing sight!

Our little apartment was as welcoming as usual, but first we had to eject an unexpected tenant. A baby Gecko lizard had taken up residence in our séjour, and at first we hardly saw him against the sandy coloured tiles – a welcome reminder that we were in a place that enjoys a Mediterranean climate. A second came as we shopped for food in our local Super U - piles of delicious Corsican oranges still bearing twigs and green leaves from local trees.

But we still needed the heaters on full blast for the rest of the day.

I have to apologise by the way - this was written on 23rd March, but thanks to France Telecom I am at the moment unable to update my blog from Corsica.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Rose tinted

John Hanson Mitchell’s new book – The Rose Café – Love and War in Corsica (Shoemaker Hoard, 2007) is a cheerful and undemanding little work, but it deserves a place in the jigsaw of Corsica’s literary heritage.

The book is an autobiographical essay based in l’Ile Rousse in the Balagne in 1962. It is based on the notes of a young American writer who worked in a café for a single dreamy summer to escape service in Vietnam, and it sews a tapestry of intrigues, love affairs and daily routines as the lives of the café’s staff, visitors and locals interact with each other.

The details of dress, games and food are meticulously recorded and it is this authenticity which gives it such importance. The timing is 18 years after the end of World War 2 - and before Corsica’s holiday boom started.

When the action takes place, some of the old Corsica is still there and the dark world of Prosper Merimée’s Colomba hovers in the background throughout. The other dark presence is the spectre of the recent war, still haunting some of the characters as they try and escape from their past.

Against this backdrop, the young Parisian student, Marie - about to resit her Baccalaureat - flits like a pretty butterfly. But the older, heavier beasts that inhabit the Rose Café demand closer attention…

It’s a good read - both for those who know Corsica and those who don’t - and I commend it to you. But I wish the author hadn’t been quite so remote from all that was going on!

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