Kate Tempest on Traps and Lessons

Kate Tempest
Kate Tempest at the Alhambra, Geneva, 2019.

At the Alhambra, Geneva, yesterday evening, Kate Tempest was greeted by a packed, enthusiastic crowd of which I was one. She whipped up a deluge of words and music breaking over us, wave after wave, constantly reminding us, bringing us back to a forgotten fundamental, that language is a union of sounds and sense. Out of the interplay, sounds rubbing against sounds, or clashing in unexpected dissonance, the whole underscored by music, meaning thrust out like leering faces surging from a crowd, unexpected, startling, only to be lost in the next wave of the storm.

Hurled so loud, the amplified beats replaced the racing heart in our chest. The words blurred in our ears such was the volume. Was the loudness a gain? Maybe. Force fused words till at moments all was but music. The sheer mass of words itself made music out of them. However does she remember so much? The blurring between words and music was reinforced as her voice slipped and slid between the two, bending the spoken word to a rythme that was not its, the stream of words, sometimes suspended, sometimes almost bursting into song, was like a jogger walking fast who breaks into a run only to slow to a walk again.

Was the excessive volume a loss? Surely! Much of the beauty of the play on words and sounds was drowned out. That it could be listened to otherwise was evidenced by her latest album, A Land of Traps and Lessons. Every word of grim reality and of heart-rending visions, every clash of sound and meaning can be heard and appreciated. Whatever. I don’t regret having been present.

As the initial applause died down at her entry, Kate Tempest walked to the edge of the stage and peered out through the spotlights, saying, “Let me see your faces. I like to see your faces.” It made her feel less strange doing what she was about to do she said. Her concert ended with People’s Faces, a heart-wrenching battle-cry, at least I imagine it did, I had to rush off to catch the last train. In that final track of her new album, she says, “There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces” and concludes, “… the current’s fast but the river moves slow and I can feel things changing, even when I’m weak and I’m breaking and I stand weeping at the train station ‘cause I can see your faces. I love people’s faces.”

Musical awakenings

Got woken at six by the incessant round of a snow plough. There was me imagining the workers of the municipality were doing needless overtime to annoy us, till I pulled aside the curtains and looked out… I suppose I should be thankful. I managed to finish another chapter of my book People of the Forest. Now back to sleep and the sound of quiet snoring against the backdrop of snow falling…

You wish! It’s the anniversary of the Neuchatel revolution, March 1st. So we are treated to a brass band celebrating the occasion. Exceptionally, due to the snow, the musicians were bussed in this time.






Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust and more

Philip Pullman on Book of Dust

I have just finished listening to the audiobook of La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. Having been a fervent reader of the stories about Lyra, I was delighted to hear Pulman was to write a trilogy set in Lyra’s world. I will probably write more about La Belle Sauvage but in the meantime let me say that I was carried away by the story and couldn’t put it down.

To mark the launch of La Belle Sauvage, the first book of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, The Book of Dust, Pullman answers questions of readers and famous fans for the Observer.

Read also an extract from La Belle Sauvage published by the Guardian. See A foretaste of Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust.

Photo: Suki Dhanda for the Observer





In the hands of writers


Hands are like faces, they tell stories, but are maybe not so easy to mask.

Since I began attending the Geneva Writers’ Group I have taken a number of photos in attempts to visually capture the group work. Those photos reflect the frontal nature of conferences and workshops with anywhere between fifty and ninty people aligned in rows in front of the workshop giver. Today, thanks to the capacities of my new iPhone, I tried a different approach at a workshop jointly run by Susan Tiberghien and Jason Donald.


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Gallery: Inauguration


The inauguration of the Place de la Gare in La Chaux de Fonds took place mid October 2015. It was marked by a display of slides projected onto surrounding buildings accompanied by music. See the gallery for more photos.

Avec une série de photos émouvantes montrant la Chaux de Fonds et son histoire, on a inauguré la nouvelle Place de la Gare ces derniers jours. Cliquer pour voir la galerie de photos

A writing workshop

Here’s one way of looking at a writing workshop. This one was given by EmJay Holmes and organised by Joy Manne. It took place in Pully, Switzerland and the theme was: Crisis and the Dynamics of Desire: Developing conflict in fiction. Each photo represents the work place of one of the participants. If you want to see a larger version of each photo, just click on it.

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Alexander Hahn


The artist Alexander Hahn recently opened at exhibition entitled All the World’s a Stage at the Kunstraum Oktogon in Bern. It was a chance to catch up with artist after twenty five years. I wrote several articles about his work in the early 90s. I have include photos of two of these and a series of photos of the exhibition on the Artworks site.

More re-defintions

I continue preparing my definitions for next week’s exhibition entitled Re-Définitions. A bit late you might say, but in parallel I am writing on average a new chapter of my book every day. ‘Tschatcher’ (not a hundred percent sure of the spelling) is derogative slang for chattering. Here the revised definition reads: The work consisting of weaving together fig leaves to make your self watertight. Where in hell did I drag up that idea, you might be wondering. The word suggested ‘thatching’, which was my starting point.

Freeing words


Here’s my project for a poster for an exhibition I will be doing as part of a week about words and their use held in my village, Saint-Blaise organised by a group called MilleFeuilles. The exhibition is entitled Re-definitions, the subtitle roughly translates states: Free up words so that ideas can flow. The exhibition will be in the windows of a disused shop in one of the two railway stations in Saint-Blaise.

The idea of my exhibition is to suggest new definitions for words inspired by their sounds or parts of the words. It has been done before by people like Douglas Adams and John Lloyd in The Meaning of Liff. If all goes well I will publish a gallery of the illustrated definitions after the event.



A group in Saint-Blaise called Mille-Feuille is preparing an exhibition-animation for September 2015 about words and their definitions. Much of the work will be done with local school children and the results will be on show in shop windows in the village. I offered to take a number of their words and invent new definitions rather like Douglas Adams and John Lloyd in their book, The Meaning of Liff, and then illustrate them. Above is an illustrated definition I am working on. A ‘subrepticement’ is a tiny transparent animal that lives under the belly of larger reptiles thanks to suckers on its paws. Unfortunately its life span is very short and it has a reputation for telling lies.