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The Englishman who tends Monet’s Giverny gardens

The New York Times has an interesting profile of the Englishman who is head of the grounds at Giverny’s Monet estate gardens, James Priest. Excerpts below.

Keeping Abloom the Inspiration for Masterpieces
By SUZANNE DALEY
Published: July 26, 2011

GIVERNY, France — James Priest stood on a footbridge overlooking the lush Japanese-style lagoon at the bottom of Claude Monet’s garden, pleased with what he saw.
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It was here that Monet painted the water lily series that hangs in the Musée de L’Orangerie in Paris.

“Some people go into the museum and they say — ‘wow,’ ” Mr. Priest said. “But I get that feeling standing here. Looking at this makes your head spin. It makes your heart boom — just like his paintings do.”

Mr. Priest, who is British, likes it even better in the evening when the visitors are gone, a solitary view he can relish whenever he wants. He took over last month as head gardener of the grounds that surround Monet’s pink stucco country house here, where the painter lived and worked during the last four decades of his life.

No one has made much ado about handing over an iconic French garden to an Englishman, he said. But he does blanch when asked if parts of the garden — with their wild tangle of flowers — reflect more of an English style than the formal, symmetrical style of French gardens.

“Oh, you must not say that,” he said, looking just a little bit panicked. “It is a unique garden, neither French nor English. It’s an artist’s garden, a dreamer’s garden.”

“This is France,” he added. “They cut off people’s heads for saying less than that.” …

Mr. Priest was raised in England and studied gardening there, but he has lived in France for some 30 years, much of it married to a Frenchwoman and tending the gardens for the Rothschild family estate in Chantilly, on the outskirts of Paris, called Royaumont.

At first, Mr. Priest took his new job at Giverny in stride. But having spent much of the last few weeks giving interviews, he says the weight of the task of caring for one of France’s most famous gardens is sinking in. “I know this sounds silly,” he said. “But it’s only little by little that I’m realizing the aura around this place. I was quite naïve really.”…

Marks and Spencer to return to France this year

According to BBC News, famous British retailer Marks and Spencer is set to return to France this year, after a 10 year absence. They will open a 15,000 square foot store on the Champs-Elysées later this year. Article below.

1 April 2011 Last updated at 08:20 GMT
Marks and Spencer to return to French retail market

Marks and Spencer has announced it is to re-enter the French retail market, 10 years after shutting down all its European stores.

The company said it would open a 15,000 square foot store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris later this year.

M&S also said it was in talks with its partner SSP to launch a number of its Simply Food stores, under franchise, in Paris.

The retailer is also planning to launch an international online service.

M&S closed all its European stores in 2001 in order to focus on its core UK business.

“Marks and Spencer has great brand awareness here in France and a place in customers’ hearts,” said Marc Bolland, Marks and Spencer’s chief executive.

The new French store and website are expected to open ahead of the Christmas trading period.

M&S is the UK’s largest clothing retailer with a significant presence in the food market.

French advertising breaking traditional language rules

September 23rd, 2010 3 comments

This Economist blog puts an everyday French reality into perspective for those new to advertising in this country. As I work in PR, I think the strategy here is easy to remember catch phrases combined with a desire by companies to speak this generation’s social language. It makes sense, but it is sometimes hard on the ears for those accustomed to the beauty and poetic nature of traditional French. I know franglais (a mix of English and French) certainly is being more accepted but still irks and even irritates staunch supporters of la langue française.

Kelhorreur!
Sep 22nd 2010, 15:33 by S.P. | PARIS

SPOTTED this morning on an advertising hoarding in the Paris metro: the most extravagant mix of phoneticised French and franglais I have yet come across. It was an ad for Keljob (quel job), a recruitment agency, promising “le speed recrutement” and “des ateliers coaching” (atelier meaning workshop in French).

The number of French firms using phonetic spelling is proliferating. Alongside Keljob there is Kiloutou (qui loue tout, or who rents everything), a machinery-rental company, or Kelcoo (quel cout, or what price), a price-comparison internet service. Then there is Meetic (mythique) an online dating site, Sajoo (ça joue, or it’s playing), a web gambling site, and Amagiz (à ma guise, in my own way), an insurer. The phonetic shorthand of text-messaging in French—kdo for cadeau (present) and so forth—has certainly helped to overturn the traditional rules of the language, particularly for companies whose brand is all about upending conventions.

The intrusion of franglais into French advertising also continues apace. Examples that spring to mind include Livret BforBank, Crédit Agricole’s new online private bank, or Freebox, the digital television decoder from Free, a French telecoms firm. Many companies simply splash a slogan in English on their ads, and then translate it in small print on the bottom as is required by French law.

What makes Keljob’s ad stand out is the brazen mix of all of the above. The French have a body whose job it is to defend the purity of the French language. Article 24 of the statutes of the Académie Française state that “The principal function of the Académie is to work, with all possible care and diligence, to give clear rules to our language and to render it pure, eloquent and capable of treating arts and science.” While the académiciens toil away, the creatives of the French advertising world seem to be busy throwing out their rules with abandon.

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