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Friday, 30 September 2011

Friday's French music break - Joyce Jonathan, "Les souvenirs"

Friday's French music break this week is from a young singer with the sweetest of voices.

Joyce Jonathan (screenshot from official clip for "Je ne sais pas")

Joyce Jonathan's "Les souvenirs" is from her debut platinum album released last year "Sur mes gardes" and although it has never been released as a single, has recently received quite a bit of media attention.

That's largely down to a television reality show, L'amour est dans le pré - the French equivalent of Farmer wants a wife.

In the last series one of the farmers "looking for love" played Jonathan's song in the hopes of wooing his heart's desire.

It didn't work, but the moment was magic and touching (well soppy would perhaps be more appropriate) and Jonathan herself was surprised the track had made such an impact with viewers.

"I didn't see the programme when it was first broadcast because I was performing. But my sister called me and to be quite honest I was thrilled that the song had been used in the show," she said.

"I had no idea Jean-Michel (the farmer) listened to my music," Jonathan continued, giving the game away perhaps that although coming to the end of a 100-date tour, she, like many French, had tuned in regularly to see the latest ups and downs of those lonely hearts looking for love on the farm.

"It's also obvious that he must have listened to the whole album as the track has never been released as a single," she added.

"I don't know whether the song helped him in his attempts to court Nathalie (it didn't) but I'm happy it was part of his story.

The 21-year-old is one of those acts that owes her rising popularity to, first Myspace, and later the fan-funded music label My Major Company, which gives everyone the chance to invest in up-and-coming artists.

Her voice is clear and delightful. Her style is folk-pop, so very much up-to-the-minute in what's popular.

And "Les souvenirs"?

Well it's pretty enough, but perhaps the lyrics were a little too slushy and lovey-dovey for Nathalie (remember the woman who rejected Jean-Michel's advances).

Take a listen.

What do you think?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday's French music break - Jean-Louis Aubert, "Roc éclair"

Friday's French music break this week isn't just one song. It's an entire album.

Little surprise really as Jean-Louis Aubert's "Roc éclair" is just sublime.

Jean-Louis Aubert (screenshot from appearance on France 2's On n'est pas couché)

You could choose any track from the album released in 2010 and lose yourself in both the poetry of the lyrics and the magic of the music.

Aubert is perhaps something of an acquired taste as, if you were being unkind, you might describe his voice as being one only a mother could love - and then only if she were tone deaf!

It's not true though and it hasn't stopped Jean-Louis Aubert from success over the years because, and it has to be admitted, there's a quality to his singing and songs that just...well fits.

His voice is typically French, if you will, in that it's not quite in tune but somehow is at the same time - entirely appropriate for a rocker.

Add to that the fact that he can write a pretty fair tune and compose poetical lyrics, and you'll understand why he has had such a long and successful career.

Now those of you of a certain age and with an interest in French music might just be familiar with the name.

Aubert was the front man for Téléphone, the French rock group formed in the 1970s and whose many, many hits included "Ça c'est vraiment toi", "Un autre monde", "New York avec toi", "La bombe humaine", "Cendrillon" and the list continues.

Téléphone were enormous in France and helped shape, what was until their arrival in 1976, a pretty non-existant home-grown rock scene.

They split in 1986.

But back to Aubert and the album "Roc éclair".

It was written and recorded last year after the death of his father.

"When I write, it comes almost automatically," he says on his official website.

"But this album was really special; as if I were looking over my shoulder as I wrote," he continues.

"I had also lost several close friends and even though I wasn't depressed or in the doldrums I cried a lot.

"I felt some very deep emotions, including joy and that's the meaning in the title of the album; there exists a chiaroscuro that gives faith in life."

Ahem. Remember he is a poet.

Enough of the words though. Check out his official website if you want to know more about him and there's also an excellent short bio (in English) on Radio France Internationale's site.

For the moment, here are just three tracks from the album, each of them exquisite.


"Maintenant je reviens"

"Demain sera parfait"

"Puisses tu"

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and that "interview"

So, the former head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) has "spoken" to the French in a mind-numbingly tedious and staged interview on prime time news here.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn (screenshot from TF1 interview)

The subject of course, as if you needed telling, was what really happened in room 2806 of the Sofitel in New York on May 15.

Except what viewers were treated to was anything but an insight.

Instead it was a carefully orchestrated affair with DSK claiming he had been proven innocent, admitting to a "moral failing" (so that's the new, politically correct term for any indecent behaviour) and almost terrifying poor Claire Chazal, the journalist faced with the onerous task of not asking anything that might embarrass.

Humility, sincerity and honesty were hardly at the top of DSK's agenda as he twisted the facts to suit his proclaimed "innocence".

He brandished the report of the New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance junior, claiming that it not only proved his innocence but also showed that Nafissatou Diallo had lied throughout, an inaccuracy in interpretation TF1 was quick to point out in the following night's prime time news, presented by Laurance Ferrari, a journalist who might just have given DSK more of a grilling had she been allowed the "honour" of interviewing him.

But Ferrari wasn't the one who had been chosen. Rather it was Chazal, a women with decades of experience, an anchor of TF1's lunchtime and evening news at the weekend and reportedly a friend of DSK's wife Anne Sinclair (herself a former television journalist).

The 54-year-old was clearly frustrated at the limits that had so obviously been given to her and the whole "interview" proved to be nothing more than a charade.

Diallo had lied...she was also, just like the French writer and journalist Tristane Banon, who accused DSK of trying to assault her in 2003, a troubled woman... the weekly news magazine L'Express was nothing but a tabloid....the US justice system had frightened and humiliated him even before he had been able to proclaim his innocence...and on and on it went.

Great television though - well in terms of ratings - as it pulled in around 13 million viewers.

If you want to watch the whole "performance" in its original French, then sit back, listen and "Watch with Mother" to all 23 minutes and 47 seconds worth.

Bon courage.


Cora Vaucaire dies - "the end of an era"

You know when you're sitting there, doing nothing in particular while listening to the radio when all of a sudden a song is played that blows you away?

Such was the case this past weekend, and a quick Shazam revealed it to be " La complainte de la butte" performed devinely by Cora Vaucaire.

Cora Vaucaire (screenshot from YouTube video)

Off to Google for more information and sadly it transpired that the song was being played in memory of Vaucaire who died on Friday night at the age of 93.

In an official statement the French prime minister, François Fillon, paid tribute to the woman nicknamed, because of the clothes she wore when performing, "la dame blanche de Saint-Germain-des-Prés" and noted the sad coincidence that Vaucaire had died the weekend the country was celebrating its national heritage as part of Les Journées Européenes du Patrimoine.

"She was a delicate woman whose figure was as fragile as her voice was powerful, clear and subtle," he said.

"It's sad that on the day we're celebrating the beauty of our patrimony we should lose one of the greatest interpreters of French musical heritage of the 20th century."

As he always does when a great French artist dies, the minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, also paid tribute to Vaucaire saying that, "She had been the last representative of an era of French music, and that her death marked the end of that era."

More digging quickly disclosed just why Vaucaire earned such praise from both men.

"She was" wrote Agence France Presse, "one of the main ambassadors of the so-called 'rive gauche' (left bank) music from the 1950s; an advocate without concession of music from the Middle Ages to contemporary French poets such as (Jacques) Prévert, (Louis) Aragon, and (Charles) Trenet."

Born July 22, 1918 in Marseille, Geneviève Collin (her real name) was the widow of French lyricist Michel Vaucaire (1904-1980) the man who, together with Charles Dumont, composed "Je ne regrette rien".

Perhaps the one song that stands out from her complete repertoire, and the one for which she is best known, is from Jean Renoir's 1954 (Italy) 55 (France) film "French Cancan".

Anna Amendola might be the woman you see performing in the role of Esther Georges, but when it comes to singing "La complainte de la butte", it's Vaucaire's voice you hear.

So just for a moment, forget all that modern day warbling that passes for singing and mindless songs probably requiring less than a moment's thought as they're thumped out for mass consumptions.

And instead wallow in some "real" music, a sublime voice and a time gone by which somehow, although it no longer exists, will surely remain forever.

Oh yes, and it doesn't matter one jot if you don't understand a word.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Friday's French music break - Sinclair, "Ça tourne dans ma tête"

Friday's French music break this week is from singer-songwriter Sinclair, who perhaps hasn't quite lived up to winning the best newcomer award (confusingly in the category "group") at the 1995 Victoires de la musique (the French equivalent of the Grammys).

Sinclair (screenshot from YouTube video)

Sinclair (real name Mathieu Blanc-Francard) is very much now a solo act and one whose musical influences, according to his official site, include Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone.

Yes, the 41-year-old has groove, soul and funk in his blood, as you can hear from his latest single "Ça tourne dans ma tête".

But there's a problem with the sound and his undeniable talent at writing songs with rhythm.

First up he hasn't got a great deal of it when he moves - well not if the video is anything to go by.

Secondly his voice isn't that great and the sound is just a little dated.

It might have shades of Mika to it and although it's definitely something to bop around to, that's it really.

Nothing more. Nothing really fresh and innovative.

And that surely just has to be a little embarrassing as Sinclair was a judge during two seasons of the now defunct TV talent show Nouvelle Star (the French version of Pop Idol) before stepping down in 2009 because he hadn't been satisfied with the musical and artistic level of the candidates during season seven.

Anyway, this is his latest single, taken from the imaginatively titled album "Sinclair" (must have taken a long time to come up with that, as it's only his tenth).

Take a listen and see what you think.

And if you like it, perhaps you want to check him out live.

For a full list of tour dates (march and April 2012) check out his website or go to his Facebook page.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A French melon-powered power plant

Do you like melons? Tasty aren't they?

Sweet when ripe, and refreshing.

North American "cantaloupes" (from Wikipedia, USDA photo by Scott Bauer. Image Number K7355-11.)

You've got to be careful about storing them though because apparently their pungent pong can permeate other food and you've probably also noticed how their remains can stink out a kitchen when left in the bin.

Something to do with the amount of methane melons produce when they decompose - just like all fruit really.

The company Boyer S.A Philibon in the southwestern département of Tarn et Garonne knows all about that.

It's one of France's biggest producers and packers of melons and its processing station is in the town of Moissac.

But Boyer S.A also has a huge waste problem in the shape of rotten melons - 1,800 tonnes of them annually.

So earlier this year it called in the experts, turning to the Belgian-based company GreenWatt, a specialist in building, designing and maintaining biogas plants and the fruits (ouch) of the two companies collaboration will be unveiled on Friday.

That's when France's first biogas plant or anaerobic digester will open.

And it'll apparently be able to produce enough hot water for the whole of the Boyer S.A site as well as the equivalent of electricity for 150 homes which it'll sell back to the country's largest utility company Électricité de France.

Not bad going for a load of mouldy fruit, and very green to boot.

So forget nuclear, coal, hydro-electric, thermal, wind and solar power.

The future is melon - well at least as far as Boyer S.A is concerned.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Gérard Depardieu "explains" airplane pee incident on US TV

So Gérard Depardieu, that great slob of a Frenchman with his disgusting manners, has had his day on US television.

Gérard Depardieu (screenshot "Anderson" talk show)

You might remember the incident aboard a Paris-Dublin 'plane last month when one of France's best-known actors reportedly peed in front of other passengers because a member of the cabin crew refused to allow him to use the loo just as the 'plane was ready to taxi for take off.

That was followed up by a laughing fit live on air from TV presenter and journalist Anderson Cooper as he joked about the incident.

Well, the two men came face-to-face, albeit via satellite, on a recent edition of Cooper's syndicated talk show "Anderson" and it was a chance for Depardieu to give his version of what had happened and for Cooper to quiz him as to why he had peed on the 'plane.

As you can hear from the accompanying video (it's all in English - just for a change - although heavily accented and guttural on the part of Depardieu) Cooper, who insists on calling the actor "Depardoo" praised him for his "fine sense of humour" and milked a ridiculous incident for all it was worth.

And much to the delight of an audience tittering away in a manner worthy of the canned laughter that accompanies so many cheesy sitcoms, Depardieu showed absolutely no remorse for his vulgar gesture and passed it off as...well see for yourselves.

It's hilarious - not.

And how great it is to see arguably one of France's finest actors make such a complete buffoon of himself - again.

Oh well.

Jeannie Longo's husband accused of buying banned EPO

It's a sad day for cycling and for sport in general when one of France's greatest cyclists is embroiled in a potential doping scandal.

But that's exactly what women's cyclist Jeannie Longo is facing at the moment.

Jeannie Longo (screenshot from BFM TV report)

It all began on Friday when the sports daily L'Équipe reported that Longo faced a possible suspension for having missed a series of random drugs tests by giving the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (the French Anti-Doping Agency, AFDL) insufficient information as to her wherereabouts.

The 52-year-old is a sporting phenomenon who just a couple of months ago won her 59th national title and whose exploits over a long career have seen her win 13 world championships and four Olympic medals, including Gold in the 1996 Road Race at the Atlanta Games.

Not surprisingly she is widely considered to be one of the greatest women cyclists of all time and in a survey conducted in August by L'Équipe magazine, the weekly supplement to the sports daily, Longo topped the list as France's favourite practising sports personality.

On Saturday though another report appeared in L'Équipe.

This time it involved Longo's husband and trainer Patrice Ciprelli who, the paper revealed, had apparently bought the banned performance enhancing drug EPO back in 2007.

The accusations were based on evidence supplied to the paper Joseph (Joe) Papp, described in the French media as an "obscure and second rate former professional road racing cyclist from the United States."

Indeed Papp is hardly an angel. He served a two-year suspension after testing positive for testosterone in 2006 and after he retired, appeared as a witness in the case against the former Tour de France winner and fellow countryman Floyd Landis.

In an interview with L'Équipe, Papp said he had sold EPO to Ciprelli but had no direct contact with Longo.

"He (Ciprelli) didn't mention her by name but I figured out the drugs were for her," he told the paper.

"In one email he said he wanted EPO for his wife, stressing all the time that he would pay for it himself and he wanted it delivered to a third party."

The paper also published copies of an alleged email exchange between the two men in which Papp appeared as the intermediary for Ciprelli in his ordering and purchasing of EPO from China.

The accusations have been taken seriously by the governing body for cycling in France, Fédération Française de Cyclisme, FFC.

On Tuesday its president, David Lappartient, announced that Ciprelli was being suspended while an investigation was launched.

"The accusations are ones that cannot be taken lightly and I think that for the sake of the French team it's important to relieve Ciprelli of his duties temporarily," he told BFM TV.

"I cannot comment on the accuracy of the so-called evidence and claims, but it seemed logical to me to take this step especially as the team is due to compete in the World Championships next week."

Those World Championships take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Longo is due to represent France in the time trials...unless the AFDL decides to open an investigation.

Monday, 12 September 2011

A slice of life in France - Lautrec, Tarn

As the website Travel France Online says, the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec never set foot in the village of Lautrec in the southwest of France even though it was the ancestral home of the artist's family.

Lautrec, Tarn

But plenty of visitors tread its streets each year thanks largely to its status as one of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" (The most beautiful villages of France), its proximity to the striking city of Albi, and yes...the garlic.

Rue de Lengouzy, Lautrec,

Now it's not often you can say you've been to one of the garlic capital's of the world - and it's not something you might want to admit to - but l'ail rose de Lautrec (or pink garlic to the rest of us) is apparently "recognised by gourmets as prince of seasonings, with a flavour that is particularly sought after" and its growth and harvesting are strictly certified and confined to the clay-chalky hillsides surrounding the village.

For those Garlicophiles among you (there must be some) try checking out these sites for more information (both in English); the first one is a tourist site for Tarn and the second is dedicated solely to Lautrec's pink garlic.

Oh yes, and if that isn't enough, you might want to give the recipe for pink garlic soup in the photo a bash.


Pink garlic soup recipe

Anyway, moving on rapidly from garlic, Lautrec is one of three villages in the département of Tarn (along with Castelnau de Montmiral and Puycelsi) belonging to the independent association of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" whose aim is to "protect and promote" French villages (of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants) which it deems to have "outstanding heritage" and which have "not turned into soulless museums or 'theme parks'".

Lautrec fits the bill perfectly.

A 30-kilometre drive from the département's main city of Albi, a Unesco World Heritage site since August 2010, and just 15 kilometres away from the second city of Castres, Lautrec is a gem with bags of historical and architectural interest for a place that boasts barely 1,700 local Lautrécois or Lautrécoises.

17th century restored windmill, Lautrec

Steps to windmill

Make your way up to 17th century mill almost near the peak of la Colline de la Salette and take a moment to catch your breath and admire how well it has been restored before going further for a panoramic view of the village.

Lautrec, Tarn - panoramic view

Lane to windmill

Take the steps down the village lane - mind how you go - and pay a visit to L'église Saint-Rémy (Saint-Rémy church) dating back to the 14th century, listed as an Historic Monument in France since 1999 and one of the village landmarks. You can't miss it.

Throughout the village you can admire the beautifully maintained traditional half-timbered houses, the 15th century market place and visit the underground grain silos all of which, according to the village's official website, "make it a veritable living history book".

Half-timbered houses

Clog maker and nature walk sign

Place des Halles, Lautrec

Place des Halles, Lautrec

For more of a taste as to what Lautrec has to offer, take a look at the accompanying YouTube video which is a diaporama of one visitor's impressions.

La Terrasse de Lautrec

And finally if you do pay the place a visit and are looking for somewhere to stay, then check out the 17th century La Terrasse de Lautrec, a bed and breakfast on rue de l'Eglise in the heart of the village, a member of the French Chambres d'Hôtes de Charme and whose magnificent front door is just asking to be knocked...very loudly.

Bon voyage.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday's French music break - Ornette, "Crazy"

Friday's French music break this week is "hot off the press" so-to-speak.

It's the single "Crazy" from the yet-to-be-released debut album by Ornette.

Ornette (screenshot from YouTube video of live performance during Disquaire day)

Never heard of her?

Don't be surprised, as she's not exactly a household name here in France - yet.

All the same, the 28-year-old Bettina Kee (her real name) has some pretty impressive credentials and is very much the new darling of the French public radio channel France Inter at the moment.

And with reason.

Because Ornette's "Crazy (sea me)" is quite simply delightful, delicious and different.

She has worked with the likes of the Australian-born singer Micky Green, French musician Arthur H and the late, great Alain Bashung and her sound is...well...unique.

Interviewing Ornette on France Inter, the presenter Augustin Trapenard, who is clearly a fan, described her as, "A musician, pianist and singer with more than one identity and an eclecticism that comes across on the album."

And the woman who apparently likes both Dido and Lady Gaga explained how she chose her stage name.

It's in honour of the American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer, described as one of the "major innovators of the free jazz movement in the 1960s" Ornette Coleman.

"One of his songs is called 'Lonely woman' and that was what I wanted to call myself when I first started performing alone," she said.

"But I found that a bit 'heavy' and redundant, so instead I plumped for 'Ornette' which I also found a very pretty name and it's also appropriate because even if I don't exactly play the same sort of music, I also like improvising when I play."

Anyway, if you want to catch Ornette at one of her upcoming concerts, scoot along to her official site for a full listing.

In the meantime, kick back those heels and enjoy both the France Inter interview and the single "Crazy" - the teaser...and far too short.


And just for the hell of it, the full version performed live during Disquaire day in April 2011

The postcard "lost" for 41 years, vanishes again

Perhaps you're an optimist and believe that nothing ever gets "lost in the post" and instead mail failing to arrive at its destination on time has simply "gone missing"...for a while.

It's there, somewhere in the system. But nobody really has a clue where.

(from Wikipedia)

Well a cynic might say that's what the postal service would want us to believe.

Except occasionally there really is evidence that our sometimes tried and tested patience is not misplaced.

Such is the case of a postcard, according to the regional daily La Dépêche du Midi, sent by a certain Monsieur Le Petit in July.

He was holidaying in the southwestern village of Praz-sur-Arly and wanted to say a simple "hello" to his friends, Madame et Monsieur Bigot, who were renting a gite just over 630 kilometres away in the southwestern village of Saint-Martin-de-Vers.

"The area is very beautiful," wrote M Le Petit.

"See you soon. Enjoy your holiday and have a good rest."

The card plopped through the letter box of Charles Dardenne, the farmer who owns the gite, at the end of August.

But the Bigots weren't there.

And with good cause.

Because the card was postmarked July, 1970.

Yes it had taken a mere 41 years to reach its destination.

Dardenne, when interviewed by the paper for Thursday's edition said he was thinking about tracking down the Bigot family and M Le Petit to find out what had happened to them.

Clearly though, the postcard had other thoughts, because a day later, when contacted by Agence France Presse, the farmer said it had gone missing - again.

"It's a mystery, but I cannot find it," he said.

"Perhaps it'll make a reappearance in another 41 year, but I won't be around to see it," he added.


Thursday, 8 September 2011

A French couple's "toothsome" lunchtime discovery

A gentle warning before you read any further, especially if you're just about to sit down to eat.

The following tale might put you off your grub.

(from Wikipedia, author Rainer Z)

That's certainly the effect it had on a couple in the western French town of Guérande on the coast of Brittany

Retired policeman Jean-Paul Dosset and his wife Claudine, had defrosted some chipolatas and put them on the grill to share with family and friends for lunch on Monday.

And all was well until, as the regional daily Ouest France reports, Claudine bit into one of the sausages and discovered of all things...a tooth.

Well to be precise it was a post crown; not exactly the most appetising accompaniment to the meal and one which, not surprisingly really, rather put the couple and their guests off their food.

"There were chipolatas, steak haché (mince) and chips on the menu," 61-year old Dosset said on Laurent Ruquier's daily round-table radio show "On va s’gêner" on Europe 1

"We're a large family and we didn't know how many people would be coming to lunch," he continued.

"My wife took a mouthful of chipolata and felt something hard, first of all thinking it was a bone.

"But after she discovered what it was, that was curtains for the main course and we went straight to the dessert - a yoghurt."

Their cat ate the rest of the sausages and lunch on Tuesday was fish.

The manufacturer of the chipolata, Défial Normival, is more than a little non-plussed about how the offending tooth apparently managed to make its way inside the sausage in the first place, as the director of quality control, Cédric Loyer told Ouest France the day after the story first hit the headlines

"The meat passes through several processes of cutting and mincing," he told the paper.

"It's impossible that the tooth managed to get through without being detected or being marked in any way."

The Dossets don't intend to ask for compensation, but they still have the tooth and have written a letter to Défial Normival, repeating their story.

Meanwhile the company is reportedly waiting for a "complete analysis" before making any further comment.

This latest "toothsome" discovery comes just a month after a couple from the western city of Angers found a post crown - complete with root - in their lunchtime steak haché.

As the French say, "Bon appetit".

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Yvonne, Germany's runaway cow, is safe and happy

After three months "on the run" Yvonne - Germany's "fugitive" cow - is safe and happily reunited with her son and sister and enjoying a new life at an animal sanctuary in southern Germany.

Yvonne, Germany's runaway cow (screenshot from Guardian website)

Yvonne's story is one that has captured the imagination of both the German and international media over the past couple of months ever since she, in the words of NPR, "Darted to freedom just as she was about to be sent to the slaughterhouse."

After 98 days on the run, she has finally been captured.

Actually, to be absolutely precise and, in spite of all the attempts German authorities have made to find her, Yvonne "gave herself up" when she wandered into the meadow of a farmer last week.

Yes, a silly summer story with a happy ending.

Yvonne, a six-year-old dairy cow, first hit the headlines back in May when broke through an electric fence of a farm in the village of Zangberg, 80 kilometres northeast of Munich.

She had been due to be sent for slaughter.

Her exact whereabouts remained a mystery for the next three months although she was believed to be "in hiding" somewhere in a nearby forest.

At one point she was spotted crossing a road, almost colliding with a police car, which led to the local authority giving hunters the go-ahead to shoot on sight because she was reportedly a potential threat to traffic.

It was an order they later overturned after animal rights groups protested and the national daily tabloid Bild Zeitung took up her cause.

The paper offered a €10,000 reward for anyone who could find her, and kept the story alive with regular updates.

The Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary also stepped in, stumping up €700 to buy Yvonne from her former owners and taking the lead in the search to find her; and it resorted to some extraordinary measures.

They included enlisting the help of her sister Waltraut, who had also made a dash for freedom when Yvonne disappeared but had later returned, to lure her out of hiding.

And the services of Ernst, the so-called "George Clooney of bulls" to woo her home with his "deep baritone moo".

Ernst the bull (screenshot from ZDF news report)

They also called upon the "skills" of an animal communications expert from Switzerland, Franziska Matti, to tempt Yvonne to return.

But as Matti said after she had "spoken" to the cow (telepathically of course) "Yvonne was not ready to come out of hiding" and even though "she knew that Ernst had been waiting for her she was scared and thought that humans would lock her up and she would no longer be free."


Yvonne remained elusive - until last week that is when she wandered on to a meadow of farmer Karl Gutmann to join the rest of his grazing herd.

He informed the Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary who confirmed it was Yvonne by her ear tag.

Gutmann claimed his reward and Yvonne headed off to spend the rest of her days with her son Friesi and her sister at the animal sanctuary in the southern Bavarian town of Deggendorf.

But, even though Gut Aiderbichl says on its website that she has arrived safe and sound and is settling in, it wasn't exactly been an easy job loading her on to the transporter.

True to her reputation apparently, she struggled and even pushed over the vet who was trying to tranquilise her.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Friday's French music break - Imany, "You will never know"

Friday's French music break this week is from a woman with the most extraordinary voice.

Love it or hate it, "You will never know" by Imany cannot leave you indifferent.

Imany (screenshot from interview on France 2 television)

It's the first single taken from her debut album "The shape of a broken heart" and would, on the face of it, appear to be the French music scene's discovery of the summer as far as the media here is concerned.

Much has been written about her over the past couple of months and she has made multiple appearances on both television and radio.

But musical success has come neither easily nor quickly for the 30-year-old, who said in a recent interview that it was, "A dream come true" but one which "had taken some time to fulfil."

That's mainly down to her having spent seven years based in New York as a model, a career she didn't exactly plan but "fell into".

Born in France, Nadia Mladjao (her real name) is of Comorian origin and one of 10 children and although she had always wanted to be a singer she also had some hang-ups about her voice.

"That's what I wanted to do when I was seven, but I also thought that it was something other people did and not me," she said.

"In addition I was a bit self-conscious about my voice because when I was small nobody told me that I had a good voice, rather they said it was a 'big' one and I didn't think singing was for me."

Any thoughts of pursuing her childhood dream were put on the back burner when Nadia was "discovered" in the Paris metro and there followed seven years modelling in what she described as an "average career complete with its highs and lows" and during which, when she didn't have work, she continued to write.

"Nadia" became "Imany" ("faith" in Swahili) - a name she plumped for without knowing its meaning because, "At the time there were plenty of girls who worked for the agency who were called 'Nadia' and I didn't want to be 'Nadia number four'."

A fitting choice as it turned out as, "Without faith we'll never achieve anything," she said.

And three years ago, according to her biography on her official website, not exactly thrilled with life as a model, she gave it all up, took the risk of returning to Paris with just "A few clothes, some photos and half-a-dozen original songs."

Hard work, knocking on doors, a string of small gigs as the opening act for other artists and getting heard by the right people paid off, and last year she had enough of a reputation and self-penned material to record her first album with a number of well-known and highly-respected French musicians.

The result was the album "The shape of a broken heart", one which has brought about plenty of comparisons with the Grammy award-winning US singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.

And that's largely because of Imany's resonant and powerful voice - the very same one she had something of a complex about when she was a girl.

"It doesn't annoy me at all when I'm called 'the new Tracy Chapman' because I'm a fan," she says.

"I just think it's a little bit of an exaggeration as there's only one Tracy Chapman."

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