2020 - Winter

The Moocher’s

Image: “Nenana Ice Classic Tripod” © jkbrooks85. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Author: Linda Zagorskaya

– “You know this place is haunted, don’t you?” – she said in such a trivial way, stating the most undeniable fact ever – “What’s with this bewildered look on your face? You have internet on this telephone of yours and we have the best signal in town, go on, check it, I’m not making things up! Or just hang around and see for yourself, you have been warned! They are not mean though and love young boys like yourself!”

She uttered her monologue loudly, stretching each word, as if to make sure I understood the meaning of it, and went back to serving other customers. Their numbers were quite scarce, but they seemed to be regulars. An elderly couple was sitting at the bar and chatting with the hostess. They looked like old buddies finding each other after twenty years or perhaps just after a day, it was impossible to tell. 

– “What’s in that big green bottle, honey?  Let me have a try.” – The lady took a sip from the glass, lifted it up to the light and made a disgusted grimace – “This bottle must have been opened since the last flood! There, you have a sealed one just behind, let me have some of that!” – The hostess did not protest; the number of opened bottles did not seem to matter. The customer drank on happily, reminiscing on some crazy parties that used to have in the bar.  

 An old man was sitting on a bar stool, his back crooked, he was almost lying on the bar. He seemed to have grown into the furniture and taken its sinuous forms. In fact, there was not a single straight line in the whole establishment. The back of the bar, full of thick dust-covered bottles had a frontward tilt, threatening to fall to the feet on the barmaid. The main bar was once covered with leather-like material, the shreds of which now provided support for the glasses, avoiding embarrassing accidents on customer’s lap. Across the room there were small tables for two persons each along the wall, defying all laws of gravity, threatening to tilt over to the center of the room. A pool table, once standing in the middle, was pushed to the back, where the floor seemed a bit straighter. The winner of the game was determined by the force that pushed the balls only in one sure direction and not by the player’s skill. It was impossible to stand straight in the middle of the room without the feeling that the walls may close in onto the poor customer, burying him or her alive under the twisted rubble. 

The lady behind the bar did not mind the strange setting and worked the beer taps and the shifting bottles with ease. She was as old as the establishment itself, and just like that of the establishment, it was impossible to determine her age. She wore a oversized sac for a dress that could as well serve as a night gown. Her hair suffered years of peroxide and permanent curling, it had no shape or color. 

– “Ma name’s Connie….” – She said stretching the vowels in a “good ol rural Ameeerican way” . 

I would expect her name to be Barbara or Sheryl or Rosemary, but when she said it was Connie, it became obvious – it could not be anything else. 

– “I am so glad to meet you, Connie.

She disappeared, ignoring what I said, but materialized few minutes later with a couple of colorful pens and post-it pads all bearing an image of a drunken-looking deer, an American flag, and the name – The Moocher’s. 


– “I wouldn’t use the bathroom if I were you, young man.” – an old man woke up from his lethargic state after seeing me get up from the stool. – “And whatever you do, don’t change the music!

– “Oh, you stupid old Mac ! You will scare all my customers away! A young man like you is not afraid of ghosts, are you?” – Connie looked straight into my eyes with a crooked smile on her face. I felt that she was the main ghost herself and it was up to her if the the walls kept the whole structure in place or not. 

A bright jukebox proudly stood in the back of the room, a testimony to the good old days when dancing and partying was the daily routine at the Moocher’s. With every step towards the shiny machine I felt an acute risk of the ceiling plunging onto my head, but I could not resist the luring of a splendid instrument. Despite the years of use it was in perfect shape, a time machine waiting to transport an naive user into the days of the Alaskan gold rush. 

– “Choose your tune, young man! And come back for another drink. I have something to show you.” – said Connie and put a huge book on the bar – “And you must buy a ticket!



The town resembled a huge market square, despite the bitter cold, the wind and the remaining snow from the harsh northern winter. Several dozen people, mostly in groups, occupied all the streets of this 200-soul-strong town. The gold rush days of Alaska were long gone, but the spirit of booty hunters and crazy adventurers is very much alive to this day. 

Huge pickup trucks lined the streets, the engine roar echoed for miles down the Tenana river, startling the virgin silence of the area. There were Alaskan natives who came from the nearby settlements to this tiny connection to the modern world. Rednecks from all over the state came to enjoy their pints and show off their trucks. Few lost tourists were present to witness the history in the making.  

They were all waiting for The Event. Who will win the jackpot? 300’000 US dollars will not make anyone a millionaire, but every year it gives the  bidders hope for a new life or a least an easy retirement. 

The visitors attack The Moocher’s in an adrenaline rush. There is enough booze for everyone. No-one is afraid that the crooked walls may not withstand such flooding of people. These walls have seen all kinds of floods! Everyone will be served, and nobody will be left indifferent by the magic of this haunted place. At the end, it’s in the ghosts’ interest to keep to walls up!

A heavy book is lying on the bar, carrying the weight of a hundred-year long statistics, giving hope to a lucky guesser to get The Date right. More than a date, the hour and even the minute are of utmost importance – the precision will decide if the bounty will be shared among several winners or if one fortunate chap will strike the « gold ». 

The black-and-white tripod is firmly set on the snow-covered river, trapped in the ice from the beginning of winter. The cable is connected to the tower that houses the clock. Few more hours or perhaps days, the mystery will be soon revealed. Meanwhile the guests are entertained by old Connie and perhaps are met by the ghosts that live in the decrepit bar. The phantoms will slam doors and change the music in the jukebox if the tune chosen by a clueless guest was not to their liking. 



Every year around mid-April, although some years they had to wait until May, people gather in Nenana to witness a natural wonder – breaking of the ice on the Tanana river. 

The tradition to put bets on the breaking of the ice dates back to 1917 and ever since all the bidders and the winners are immortalized in The Book. 

If you ever pass by Nenana, stop and take a break at the Moocher’s. Don’t worry about the walls or the ceiling, the ghosts will make sure nothing falls on your head. Get a drink from Connie and buy that ticket.  You never know where your luck will strike …

2020 - Winter

Life as a Medievalist in the Zoom Era: an Interview with Dr. Juliette Vuille

Image: © Juliette Vuille.

Author: Lex Rodriguez

Lex: How are you doing today?

Dr. Juliette Vuille: I’m fine, thank you. I’m moving house, so I’m just packing up my apartment, it’s pretty exciting. It’s Monday morning, I’ve just finished correcting mock midterm exams and now I’m seeing you so you are the highlight of my day! Last weekend my friends decided to have a barbecue to enjoy the nice weather but when we arrived it started raining so – oh well!

How did this very odd rentrée go for you?

I think it was a little bit depressing simply because when we moved everything online last semester, there seemed to be an end in sight. We’re now all in semi-confinement again, without much of an idea of when this is going to end. Last time, teaching on Zoom, transferring exactly the same type of teaching we had in person online, was not fun: it was a lot of work. It was ok because I thought, “Well, it’s going to end soon and next semester will be better.”

Since this is my last year at the University and I really like to teach, it was a little bit depressing to see that there’s no end in sight. But by now I think I’m getting into the groove of things! I think the first three weeks were hard, because we didn’t know for the longest time what would happen and how much we’d be able to teach, or how. I had this idea that if teaching was going to be online, I wanted to change what I was going to do, and especially how I was going to do it, because it’s not the same thing to teach online or “en présentiel.” So I thought there’s no point in trying to do a seminar on the same subject, and maybe it would be nice to take advantage of the possibilities of online teaching: my goal was to create a class for which the final project would be to update some Wikipedia entries about medieval English Women, which are so often overlooked, as well as female scholars who have focused on gender in the medieval period. Things like that would have been cool. But then the Décanat told us “you need to keep exactly the same thing because it might move en présentiel and then might be back online.”

I teach a class on Margery Kempe, a fifteenth-century mystic who is very drama-drama-drama! She has fourteen children, she tries to become a brewer and a miller, and then she has visions of God: she gets married to God in Rome and she goes on pilgrimages everywhere… She also cries all the time, which makes her a super annoying dinner guest. I was thinking it might be a good idea to use the component of being online for this class, even though we needed to keep the same subjects. So I created a Twitter handle for the class (@MargeryRocks), and all the students actually tweet out memes every week – and they’re really good! This woman lends herself particularly well to memes and it’s been pretty funny, but also a great didactic tool. Creating those memes is actually a good way for students to clarify for themselves key concepts, and really get the gist out of the reading. It’s been going pretty well.

What classes are you teaching this semester?

I am teaching that class on Margery Kempe, a woman who was accused of heresy and who represents very much the limits of acceptable behaviour in the Medieval Period, especially for women in the public space. That’s a third year class. I’m using her as a limit case for students to grasp the historical context of the time, such as notions of heresy, affective piety, and the practice of pilgrimage. Since she always skirts the unacceptable, she is a great tool to understand what, in fact, is! Besides this one, I have a second year class on the House of Fame by Chaucer, which focuses more on literary authority and intertextuality. I’m having students read bits of Virgil, Ovid, Dante or the Roman de la Rose, for example at the same time as they read the House, so they can gauge how Chaucer is using all of those sources and is referring to them time and again. In the “Discovery” class, you get to study Chaucer but you never get to see how intertextual he really is, how he’s bouncing off ideas that exist somewhere else. If you only have Chaucer to read, you don’t really understand what amazing things he’s doing to the dream vision genre. That’s been really cool. I don’t really know about the students, but I know I’ve really been enjoying myself! Those are the only two classes I’m teaching, only four hours this semester!

We only have one to two MA classes per semester in medieval now. We used to only have one, taught each semester by Professor Renevey, but I really wanted to teach some MA classes, so when Rory Critten and myself arrived three years ago, we lobbied to be able to teach one each every year. I love teaching MA seminars, and I allows us to have students who want to do their mémoires with us as well!

You had to take care of the timetables, so how did everything go in relation to the covid regulations?

Every person in the administrative department has their little hat on, so for example I take care, with other people, of the social media page on Facebook. My biggest job by far though, is the timetable, which I work on with Ana Gomes Correia, the doctoral assistant in American Literature, who is really good. Usually we start compiling the timetable every year, it’s about 120 different classes, and the goal is not to have any clashes between classes of the same level, especially MAs (because we don’t have many such seminars) but also second and third years. Once we removed as many clashes as we can, there’s one form per class that has to be filled, with a different code depending on what you can validate it in. So for example if you have a third year class that you can do as an option, in medieval, or in gender studies then it will have different codes for each of these validations. We then have to check all of those codes.

This year, things weren’t so different, because we had no choice over what was going to happen, and therefore prepared everything as usual. It was the Décanat dealing with the Rectorat – so between the University that wanted to keep a third of the teaching en présentiel with a token system, and the Décanat, which disagreed. It was also a back-and-forth with the Canton, because they had to validate it as well so we were all waiting to know what was going to happen. When we were told, there was a bit of work to deal with new “covid size” classroom occupancy, as each room was evaluated and its occupancy was reduced by about a third. Occupancy is always a problem even in normal times, as you probably have experienced by having to sit on the window-sill for some of your popular seminars! So we had to move a lot of classes around and then we realised it was all for nothing because most of those classes were not happening in person! Now a lot of people are teaching from 8:30 to 10 because we had to change that and everybody had already made their timetable. It was a little tricky, but not as much as you may think. The Décanat did the main part of the work and were key in the decision-making process. I think that their decision to keep as many of the first-year workshops en présentiel was a good one. The transition from high school to university can be tough, and last year I saw that a lot of first year students lost track of classes when it all moved online. It was a good idea, therefore, to keep as many first-year workshops as possible in person, I just wish I were teaching first-year classes this semester! At the same time, I think that in the next couple of weeks, everything is moving back online anyway. (Editor’s note: this interview was conducted on the 26th of October)

Do you have any classes en présence?

Lex: I have one class that is taught “en commodal” which means that the students who have the right colour token can physically go to uni, and the rest of the students follow online, which is a bit weird honestly.

Juliette: I’m part of the Conseil de Faculté and a lot of the students are saying “if you’re moving things back on campus (which is what has been happening in the past few weeks) only to move then back online again, it needs to be “commodal,” but this type of teaching is not ideal for teachers. And “commodal” is funny to me because “commode” is an old-fashioned word for toilet in English so it makes me laugh! I taught this MA seminar in the context of the SPEC MA in medieval studies (overseen by the CEMEP) (editor’s note: Juliette was in charge of organising this spécialisation programme last year), and we organised conferences and public lectures at the Palais the Rumine for this. The last time I taught in person was on the 13th of March, for one of the mini-conferences for this SPEC MA! It feels such a long time ago! Last semester, my MA seminar which was linked to this SPEC moved online, and the students only had my voice and a PowerPoint, which must have been really boring for them. This SPEC MA, however, is not only lectures, but is also intended to develop “professionalizing skills”, often involving practical work in archives or museums. So for example one of my students was scheduled to help Ramona Fritschi, the archivist of the BCU, in cataloguing the Special Collections’ medieval manuscripts – because there actually isn’t a catalogue of them yet. Since however everything closed, we had to find something else for the students who needed to do practical work. I managed to find images of an as-yet unedited Middle English text, which the student transcribed, and which we are now planning on publishing as an edition!

If we take an optimistic point of view, what are some positive aspects of this situation?

Well, all my students know my cat now! (We laugh) I think one positive aspect for me as a researcher is that in normal times we go to a lot of conferences overseas, especially during the Summer. Since most were cancelled this year, there was much more time for research and just to read. So that was nice, I managed to finish my first book! Holy Harlots in Medieval English Religious Literature: Authority, Exemplarity and Femininity. I also had time to do more work on my other project which is about messenger figures in Chaucer’s works, and how they act as metapoetic devices for the author to represent himself in his poems, as a poet transmitting stories just as messenger convey news. In other ways, the situation had a negative impact, because it gets really tiresome to communicate with other researchers via Zoom and Skype. But actually this type of communication also allowed me to get closer to my colleagues based in the US because I’m always home and we Skype every day. On the other hand, I communicate less with my colleagues in Lausanne. So there’s good and bad!

For teaching, I don’t know… Some teachers said that some students contribute more via Zoom than they used to in person. But the problem is that some students don’t have access to a good internet connection or a good microphone so they’re effectively silenced by technology, a real shame, and something that discriminates between well off students and others. That’s why I do my best to record my classes, but then there are legal problems with that as well, because one has to make sure that it’s alright to record the Zoom meeting with every student. Also, there’s the problem of students who have several classes at the same time. Sometimes they might choose to never go to the one class that is recorded, and as you may know, watching something that is recorded takes twice as much time than actually following it live. For example, you pause the recording because you didn’t understand something, and you can’t ask questions, and so on, so it’s not that great. This is a very unusual situation, and trying to pretend as though it’s the same as before, and that people can learn the same way they could in person, or that you can do the same amount of work is illusory. So I’ve been trying to adapt it. I tried to plan the same amount of work for my classes as usual, but I realised, “this is not going to happen” so I altered some readings because in class we don’t have time to discuss all the material. Everything takes more time: for instance, you start the class and you have to wait for everyone to connect, or you create a breakout room and people take time to leave, and come back.

Are you on campus sometimes or do you only work from home?

I try to go to campus once a week, but last week it’s been recommended that we don’t come. I have this very nice apartment, very medieval because it’s right next to the cathedral of Lausanne, but it’s been a bit claustrophobic: it doesn’t have a balcony or anything. Right now I’m talking to you from my kitchen table, which doubles as my office desk! This led me to decide to move to the mountains, near Sion in Valais where I’m going to rent a chalet with a garden, for the same price as this apartment! Right now, there’s no point being in town, really. I’m moving for a year. In the future I think I’m going to go on campus twice a week to have meetings and go to the library. Right now I usually just go to the library and come back home. I have the chance, unlike most people, to be able to work from home completely: I can do almost everything online, apart from going to the library. It’s just a little bit depressing to stay in my apartment, so I like going on campus but I don’t know for how long I’m going to be able to do that. The recommendation is “don’t go if you don’t have to” and sadly I don’t always have to.

Now for more personal quarantine-related questions. Do you have a favourite mask?

I have quite a few of the fabric ones, I wash them all the time. I do like to accessorize so if I’m wearing red, I wear a red mask.

We all talk about COVID-19 a lot and we all have different names to call it. Some people came up with creative names like “the Rona.” Do you have a favourite way to refer to it?

I guess I just use “the pandemic” but I feel everybody is always talking about it, so I mostly just try and avoid the subject.

What did you binge-watch during quarantine?

I think that, surprisingly, I watched less TV than usual! But to answer the question, well, there are stupid things I like to wath. There’s what I call “massage of the brain” TV series, like Brooklyn 99. What is cool about that show is that they develop a very specific language, and with my friends we speak like the characters and meet up on Zoom to watch the show together. We have private jokes about it, and even matching t-shirts (pineapple sluts, anyone?). Apart from that, I’ve been watching movies, French movies, Japanese movies, … I haven’t watched so many TV shows.

Now a few questions to get the readers to know you better! Do you have a favourite beverage at the moment?

Let me think about it… Well I have some friends who have a brewery called La Mine and their beers all have names with “mine” in it, like “La Parchemine,” which I of course love because I’m a medievalist geek (laughs). Otherwise, I’ve been drinking artisanal beer from local breweries in Suisse Romande. Ever since I’ve lived in England where there are so many artisanal beers from microbreweries, I’ve been interested in them and in ale. I also like gin and tonic and whiskey. Otherwise, I’m a big tea and coffee drinker. I always have my cup of tea when I’m teaching. Kevin Curran and I always have a cup when we teach, and we often teach in adjoining rooms, so we often run into each other while going to our respective classrooms each with our own cup! I have my special cup that I like to use for teaching. It’s all black but when you pour hot water into it, it reveals a manuscript page.

What’s the last book you’ve finished reading?

I’m always reading four or five books at the same time. Right now I’m reading The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, she’s an amazing author. It’s about an Indian scientist who immigrates to the US. I’m also reading the end of the Wolf Hall trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel. She mostly writes historical novels. She won the Booker prize for the first two books in this trilogy. It’s about Thomas Cromwell and Henry the VIIIth. What impressed me about her is that, in my research I have studied an early XVIth century mystic, Elizabeth Barton, who is commonly referred to as the first martyr of Henry the VIIIth’s reformation. Barton only constitutes a quite insignificant character in Mantel’s book, but she had read all of the sources I had found on her for my research! That is very impressive for a fiction writer. However her last book is a bit too long, if I am honest, that’s why I read Lahiri at the same time.

Quickfire round!
Cats or dogs?

I’m usually a dog person but I got roped into adopting a cat and I love her!

Christmas or Halloween?


Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?

Very good question! I would say Lord of the Rings because I read it as a child and I loved it. But Harry Potter is how I learned English. I had never done English at school (preferring the infinitely more useful Ancient Greek as an option), so when I was 17 and wanted to take English at Uni, I went to England and there read Harry Potter in English, as it was not too difficult for a beginner to read, so I associate it with one of the best discoveries of my life: the English language.

Chocolate: dark, milk or white?

Dark and milk chocolate, the ones that are real chocolate (laughs). White is too sugary.

So that was all for today! Thank you very much Juliette!

I really miss human contact so whenever I can get a bit of it through Zoom, I really appreciate it. Chatting with Juliette was really nice and enjoyable!

2020 - Winter

Of Ice and Smells

Image: “Frozen Pond” © nighttree. SourceCC Licence.

Author: Katharina Schwarck

“Are you sure you want to go further?”, I ask my best friend Daphne as she, not carefully enough, walks over the frozen pond in the forest behind my house where we are playing. It smells of cold. “Of course. This is solid.” It’s getting dark soon and we have to be home at six. It’s December and like every year I get a new Christmas hat from my grandma. My mum keeps telling me that one day I will stop liking them but I still like them and I cannot imagine ever not liking them. Actually, I’m wearing it right now. This year, it’s green with red seams and a little elf with a red hat who waves at people when I look at them. I’ve named him Bobo. I look down to my feet. With one leg, I am still standing on steady soil and with the other I’m standing on the frozen pond. In summer, I make friends with the little frogs who live here. I’m a bit scared of breaking through but Daphne can’t know that I’m scared. “Are you reaaally sure?”, I insist. Maybe she knows I’m a little scared now. She takes another step and starts poking around in the ice with a stick.
The ice breaks and we’re both drenched in muddy and very cold water. I scream a little. “It’s so cold!”, I say, trying not to let my voice get too high-pitched. I move my hands around. Everything is so cold and sticky. I am trembling. “Oh, come on”, Daphne says, gets a grip of her stick and pulls me up. I’m almost crying. We get to solid grass. My gloves are floating in the half-broken ice. Bobo is on the ground, covered in muddy snow. I hide my face so Daphne cannot see how worried I am for Bobo. This is such a bad day. We pick up our stuff. “We should probably go home?”, I ask. Daphne nods. We start running towards my house. “Do you think they will be mad?”, we wonder.
The way isn’t far but it has never seemed further. I have never been this cold in my whole entire life, and I’m the third-oldest in my class. When we get to the door, I am so scared to ring the doorbell. I can barely move my hands. Daphne looks at the doorbell expectantly, so I ring it. My grandma opens. “Oh my god, girls! What happened to you?” I start crying. “Oh, but it’s okay.” She starts laughing. “Everything is okay.” She brings us upstairs, takes all of our clothes off. I show her Bobo while rubbing my eye. “Don’t worry my love”, she says, “I’ll make him beautiful and healthy again”. She kneels down to hug me. Grandma smells of home, and warmth, and Christmas. She’s wearing a pink cashmere pullover that soothes into my skin. She gets up again, winks and leaves Daphne and me to take a bath. First everything is a bit awkward but then we can feel our hands again and we play with bubbles and the shampoo that stings in our noses and eyes when it gets too close. “There was a monster in the pond and it came out like this!” Daphne gesticulates while holding a bubble dragon between her hands. “Whooosh, whoosh”, she moves it up and down. “And you beat it like this”, I say, “pfouuuuh”. “And then we helped each other out like heroes!”. She sprays some bubbles on my head and I smell pink and fruity. I grin. We come downstairs in freshly washed bathrobes that smell of white and clean and cosy. When I enter the living room, I am hit by a wave of home and feel good and family. I can hear the oven buzzing, I see some dough rests in the kitchen. My grandma brings us tea. “How are my two princesses? You were proper mud queens!”, so we tell her about the pond monster and about how we helped each other like mud heroes. “Now that’s just wonderful”. She smiles. We take our cups of tea and start staring into the fire that is burning in the chimney. It is properly dark now. My hands are getting just hot enough on my bunny cup. I put my face right above it so the tea heats it too. I recognise the tea. It’s called “evening sweetness” and it’s my favourite. It is round and sweet and yet spicy. But not too much. It is just right. Not many people like it. There is too much going on they say. But I love it. Daphne feeds me a warm cookie. It melts in my mouth as the chocolate chips reach my taste buds. I close my eyes while listening to the crackling sound of the wood. There’s a little fir spiciness in there as well. Maybe grandma is burning a branch of a pine tree or something. Daphne puts her head on my shoulder. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad day after all…

2020 - Winter

Zoom Confessions

Image: “Writing Class 1” by kchichester is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This semester, the MUSE team wanted to get an insight into the life of the students and instructors and find out a little more about the new habits that we have all acquired over the past few months. So, the MUSE team sent out a form to students and staff of the English Department and asked for their anonymously juiciest experiences on the platform Zoom, all of which are compiled here.

We warmly thank everyone for their amazing collaboration and are celebrating every single Zoom confession.

Enjoy ;)




I fell asleep during a lecture lol

Woke up, opened Zoom, put my recording phone next to it, went back to bed.

Fully blamed Zoom for being late to teaching my class.

All of last semester I taught in a spare room where only a third of the ceiling was painted (because I got lazy and stopped midway through painting the ceiling, 10 years ago). I had to adjust my camera so that only the painted part of the ceiling showed, but some days I forgot. On those days, I appeared to be speaking from the dug-out of a war zone (the unpainted part was in a bad state) – I don’t know if anyone else noticed and maybe I shouldn’t be confessing it now. My sister’s birthday present to me was to paint the ceiling while I was away so, no more Zooms from our war correspondent.

Is it rude to smoke a cigarette with your camera on during a lecture?

I was eating lunch during my class (grilled cheese and tomato soup) and didn’t realise that while my video was off… my microphone wasn’t, thereby exposing the whole class to my horrible chewing sounds!

Not my story but my sister told me that once in one of her master’s classes, the professor would keep on popping in and out of the meeting because of bad connection. The second time, she reappeared in her… car. She was parked and for some reason, the connection was better. Then she left. Minutes later she joined the Zoom meeting again, but this time that woman was DRIVING. So yeah, she might have created the very first carpool Zoom class. Take notes, James Corden.

I once reeaaally needed to go to the toilet but like… For number 2. I didn’t want to miss the class so I cut my camera and microphone, put a sticker over my camera just in case, took my laptop and brought it with me to the toilets. And did number 2 while following my Zoom class.

I’m pretty sure I followed several Zoom classes while naked in bed because I had just woken up. Of course my cam wasn’t on.

Not super fun (sorry) but I once had a violent panic attack at the start of a Zoom class (for no reason, it wasn’t the fault of the Zoom or the teacher’s or anything, just my brain gratuitously messing with me). I cut everything and called a friend.

I once slept through an entire Zoom class.

I play Among Us on my phone during class on a regular basis, oops.

I peed during Zoom classes at least 3 times if not more (brought my laptop with me and turned off mic and cam). Why miss the class if I can bring it with me to the bathroom?

This might not be very funny, but it is to me so I’ll share it anyways. Today I was supposed to be in this Zoom call at 10.15 but I had to go to the dentist to get my wisdom teeth out at 10.30. I knew it wouldn’t take long to do it, but I didn’t want to connect late and possibly not get access to the call. Therefore, I left my computer on, said hello; went to the dentist (scared to death because there was a storm); came back home 45 minutes later, with half swollen face, just in time to say “Merci, au revoir”. The saddest part of this ordeal is that the lecture was recorded…so it wasn’t worth it

So I sometimes do something else on my computer while I’m in a Zoom class, and one of the things I did today during class was to check my mails. Among them was a notification from a website I have an account on. It’s a website where I sell pictures of me. I checked on my account mechanically, and then it struck me that I was doing that during a Zoom class and it’s kind of weird hahaha

One of the most stressful moments of my week is trying to listen to the last 10 minutes of my AALS 1&2 class as I change into yoga clothes and race out the door to my weekly yoga class, desperately hoping that my camera doesn’t come on as I’m topless and balancing precariously with one leg in my pants and the other flailing in the air.

If Zoom means I get to see more cats on screen, hear cats playing with toys and cats purring into microphones, and watch my professor calmly pour his coffee before commencing lecture, I never want to return to in-person teaching.

I started the semester with such good intentions: I had a designated home office space, note books, note taking strategies, a clear timetable, I was going to always turn on my video… Yesterday I woke up at 12:15, just in time to roll over and fire up my Zoom class on my phone without leaving the comfort of my blankies. Oops.

I tended to switch off my camera and mic to play with my doggo while listening to the lectures on bad days, kept me calm and made the learning a lot fluffier ! Also, who didn’t switch on their camera because they were in a PJ-day mode, all wrapped up in a cuddly blanket? I guess I am not the only guilty PJ-sinner

I sorted, sized, folded and counted 70 items of tiny newborn clothes while streaming my Anthropology class yesterday. Studying from home has its benefits for some populations, it’s permitted me to go back to school while pregnant.

One Friday morning I had a dental surgery (a gum graft) and right after it I had a Linguistics class (taught by Jennifer). So I got home, ate some cold soup and attended the Zoom class with a huge icepack on my face (so I looked ridiculous haha) and talking only via the chat. I kept doing that for the following week, too (talking mainly via chat). I’m still recovering so idk when I’ll talk normally again lol

During the first week I attended a bunch of classes – that is Zoom classes, I mean yay – to finalize my schedule as we love to do in the Faculty of Arts. Anyway, I made the effort to put make up on this first week to have the impression to have somewhat of a routine. And I don’t know what happened, but I received emails from no less than three strangers; either commenting on my “perfect make-up” (I mean why a guy wouldn’t notice that on Zoom?) or finding my unil email (HOW?) to ask me random questions about certain classes. I don’t know if this is the new way of meeting people or sliding into someone’s DMs, or if this is creepy or cute or funny? Either way it made me laugh in this strange time ahahah

One day we were on Zoom in groups of two. I was with this guy and we did some exercise together. When we were coming to the end, I noticed some smoke close to him. I was afraid that his computer was burning, but it was a cigarette. The dude was smoking during the lecture!

*responses have been edited for clarity and length

2020 - Winter

Which English Department Staff Member Are You Most Like, part 2!

We all know the English department staff members as lecturers… but what about as people? We here at MUSE have crafted this quiz based on answers from a series of staff members in order to help you decide.

Find out which one you are most like by taking our quiz now!

We hope you enjoy it, and that you’re ready to think really hard about sandwiches!

2020 - Winter

Avocado Toast with a Twist

Avocado Toast with a Twist
©️Leah Didisheim

  Author: Leah Didisheim


Ingredients (for 1 person):

  • 1 avocado
  • ½ lemon (more or less)
  • 150g of button mushrooms (champignons de Paris)
  • Your favourite bread (about 4 slices)
  • Olive oil to cook


  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Provence herbs mix
  • Garlic powder


Heat up your oven on 50/70°C and put your bread in it (you don’t have to wait for the oven to be hot). (You could also toast your bread or just keep it the way it is if you prefer.)

Wash your mushrooms, cut off the bottom of the tails and slice them. When that’s done, heat up a pan to maximum heat with olive oil in it. When hot, put the mushrooms slices in and turn down your heat a bit. Wait for the mushrooms to soak up in oil – add some if needed (which I always do); a disturbing amount is needed. When the slices begin to shrink and all have oil on them, add all of the spices according to your liking (you can use other spices if you prefer, these are just the ones I always use). Stir the mushrooms from time to time (reduce the heat if needed) and take them off the heat when cooked (I personally like them a tad crispy) and set them aside.

Then (or while your mushrooms are cooking), take your avocado and cut it in half. With a spoon, take the avocado flesh, cut it in small pieces and put the pieces in a bowl. Take a fork and mash it all up. When there are no more chunks of avocado, press half a lemon and add it to the mixture. Before mixing it all up, also add some cayenne pepper and mix the spices and the lemon juice a bit. When that’s done, mix it all together.

Take your bread out of the oven (or before if it was already crusty, which is what we’re aiming for – check it a few times while preparing your other ingredients) and cut it in slices.

Put the slices on a plate and spread the avocado mixture on top of each slice. On top of that add some of the mushroom slices and you’re good to go!

You can add more or less of all the ingredients depending on how much you eat and the taste you like best; these are only suggestions.

Bon appétit!

2020 - Winter

Prose poems ❧

Image: © Lara Lambelet

Author: Lara Lambelet

Her scent

My senses covet the scent of her breasts.

They are now faintly dampened by my tears.

A hindrance to my unwholesome desire, the pungent wreath tantalizes my soul.



People are sad in the metro.

Tinted in blue, white, sold in lots.

Vague and wandering looks;

don’t predict anything good.

Words bang and choke behind the fabric.

This is the new gregarious instinct; a muzzle for the individual.

It veils the softness of a smile brought to a child;

disarmed in the masked procession of obedient beings.

2020 - Winter

A Stair Case

Image: ©️ Julie Dey

Author: Julie Dey

It may sometimes be a question of viewpoint. That is why the reader should pay more attention to the surface of things. Read story A and story B and then adjust your lens.

My name is The Staircase, I live in an old building which is four storeys high and of which I know all the occupants. For example, on the ground floor, there is the guardian who has the good grace to make me as clean as a whistle. I like the way she cleans my steps which are damaged by the wear and tear of time. She flutters around me, passes from one floor to another and leaves behind a subtle smell of cleanliness.

Oh! Here comes the young lady living on the first floor. A handsome woman, always on high stilettos. With her self-confident gait, she climbs up the stairs and caresses my railing with her perfectly manicured hand. She wears a sumptuous dress, which, every step, lets me glimpse at her lace underwear. She pulls her keys out of her coat, opens the door and double locks it.
A few minutes later, I hear the musical notes of her piano getting lost in the stairwell. It is the end of the day. Through the window of the floor, I observe the setting sun which disappears slowly behind the hills.
Someone just walked into the building, a draught pushes the dead leaves into the lobby.
A man with polished shoes climbs upstairs with the quietest footsteps. He holds in his hand a splendid bouquet of carmine red roses. His other hand is tense and sweaty. He stops in front of the young woman’s door, hesitates and then rasps shy knocks. The door opens, a kiss, a few words exchanged, the door closes. He goes down again, his legs wobbly, feeling giddy.
It is night. Loud voices come from the second floor. They are Mister and Mrs who argue again. One hears glasses and plates breaking on the floor. A door opens violently and then closes in a crash. A big man takes a heavy step down my steps, opens the door to the building and then sinks into the darkness.
In the attic, I hear high pitched squeaks, hustle and bustle, probably some mice.
The bell tower of the Grande Place rings two times, the door opens. It is Mister who comes back from the Café next door. With an unsteady gait, he climbs up my stairs clutching the handrail. His clothes smell of alcohol and tobacco.
Winter is here again. It snowed a lot last night. I see through the window the hills covered with their white coat. Early this morning the guardian was clearing snow. The two kids from the second floor are excited, their cries resonate in the stairwell, they run me down and rush to the playground. When they go back home, my stone steps are wet and cold because of their snow-covered boots.
Two turns inside the lock. It is the young lady from the first floor. She wears her fur coat which brushes against my steps. Probably going to work. She comes across a blonde-haired woman and smiles at her. The blonde woman enters the old lady’s flat on the third floor, presumably the housekeeper.

It smells of gingerbread. It’s from the third floor. From this apartment comes a delicious smell of cooking, sometimes a roasted chicken, sometimes an apple pie, what an olfactory delight! She’s the old lady from the third floor. A nice lady who has always lived alone.
Today as every other day, she goes for her usual walk. I hear her door creaking. She grabs the handrail with her frail wrinkled hand and slowly and carefully gets down with a trembling step. She leaves in the air a subtle smell of powder and soap. After her walk, she usually sits down on the bench near the entrance and looks thoughtfully at the children playing. A few minutes later, the blonde woman gets out of the building.

On Sunday, when most people get together with family, the old lady goes to church, wrapped up warmly in her heavy coat with her rosary clanking in her hand.
Winter is already gone. After all this white comes green. Nature awakes, I hear birds chirping by the window. The sun shines and warms my steps. What a delight. Nonetheless, something spoils this fresh atmosphere. A putrid smell comes out of the door of the old lady, therefore I imagine the worst.
It has been two days since and the smell only gets worse. The guardian knocked at the door of the old woman but this latter does not answer. Owning the duplicate key of her flat, she unlocks it and screams.
The residents of the other floors rush one after another. The young lady is shocked, she then sits down on my steps nearly fainting. Mister and Mrs come next and Mister calls the police.
The kids from the second floor are curious and want to see the dead body but their parents prevent them from seeing the horrific scene. The ambulance and the policemen arrive. They carry the old lady, whose body is covered with a pure white sheet, on a stretcher and carefully gets down to the ambulance. “Heart attack” the ambulance man declares.

It has been over a month since the sad event. On the third floor, it smells of fresh paint because the flat is being renovated. Every morning, I hear the workmen coming to work whistling. Right after begins the concert of electric drills and hammers. At the end of the day, the workmen go home with a tired heavy gait.
The renovations in the flat are now over. A young couple moved in. Something saddens me. The door has been replaced, there is no more creaking… and I will never hear it again.

It is summer. The air is heavy, even at night. A burst of fresh air comes in when the man of the third floor enters the building. He climbs up the stairs, one sweaty hand on the handrail, the other typing on his phone, as usual. The cries of Mr and Mrs resonate again, suddenly cut by the melody of the young lady’s piano.
On Sunday morning, like every Sunday, the woman of the third floor gets out for a walk. As usual, she stops by the window and looks outside with her blank gaze. She then goes out and comes back with some warm bread from the bakery.
The ritual of life goes on and time goes by.

Many years went by. I am now very old. My steps are worn out and cracked on all sides. I fall apart. The walls are damp and musty. The building has been emptied of its occupants. Some workers have come to discuss a demolition project. They plan to construct an old folk’s home.
The building will be gone tomorrow morning.

Time has come. I am not afraid. I am blessed to have lived such a long life and to have seen many people from different backgrounds. I am happily going to remember forever the old lady of the third floor.

An excavator crashes on the roof, breaking down walls and ceilings. Some bystanders gather around the demolition site.
A little boy exclaims:
– Dad, look! They break it all down except the staircase!
-Yes, but they’re gonna demolish it now, look, the excavator rises and BOUM on the staircase! Come on, it’s over, time to go home now.
– Hey dad?
– Yes, buddy?
– Do you think the staircase is dead?
– Ah yes of course he is. Definitely dead!

Olga is a beautiful woman. She does not know it. Maybe she pretends not to know. She thinks it is simplistic to show your awareness about your own beauty. Pretending is better because it leaves room for mystery, room for possibility. Olga likes this word. It is the name of her favourite lipstick. The red velvet one she wears every day. She likes to think she lives a life of endless possibilities or rather possibilities of impossibilities. “Create yourself new possibilities” claimed an article she read in a magazine (the ones she found in the next-door tobacco shop, in the section titled “feminine readings”, to avoid any misunderstanding.) Olga had already read the ones titled “How to please your man?” and the other May issue “Get the Bikini body in 10 days”. “Too easy” she used to think. Her husband was deadly in love with her and her body was envied by all her girlfriends who fought with the numerals on their scales.
Olga lives in a 5-storey building. She just moved in with her husband Dave. Dave wanted a high ceiling flat and a room for his desk and computer, namely a room as the extension of his office in which he spent an awful amount of time. Olga thinks that Dave’s life is controlled by extensions. The one defining him as “male” and the cell phone stuck with fast glue to his hand.
Olga wanted a flat with a lake view. When she was younger, she would have killed for such a view. Now she had one. The lake view was the kind of things she could mention during one of these dull parties she had to accompany Dave to. People were more friendly if you had a lake view. The power of two words. It was Olga’s way to reassure them she fitted their parties and that her invitation was not the postman’s mistake.
Olga worked as a secretary in a consulting firm. When anyone would ask her about her job, she would unintentionally omit the word secretary. “I work in a consulting firm” was evasive enough to avoid any further questions about it thus, allowing Olga to shift attention away from her and redirect it to the addresser. That was an easy task, people love to talk about themselves. In fact, she did not want to speak too much because words had a bad tendency to betray her sometimes. Words are so loaded and heavy they may drag her down, she may drown.
Olga prefers listening and observing people. While listening to them, she dissects them inch to inch and absorbs every component of their being to fill herself, but it remains insufficient, she is still hungry, still so empty.

Olga likes her flat, but she does not like the occupants of the building. She hates hearing the couple argue. Why do they always choose to argue when she is watching her favourite soap. She cannot hear if Brad cheated on Jessica or if Jessica’s step sister had had an affair with Brad’s twin brother. Olga needed silence to concentrate, it was important for her to understand the events. (What would her friends think at her Pilates class when they’d find out she did not understand the story. For sure, they would reject her. They only accepted the ones who followed.)
She also hates coming across the woman after the argument. When Olga meets the woman in the stairwell, she notices the blackeye on her sad face, the same boxers have when they get punched in the face. She knows she must feel sorry, but she does not want to be forced to. She is the one who decides what to feel or not. Olga wonders why it seems so hard for people to put on a happy face. When she wakes up in the morning, she washes her face and puts it on. It is not itchy; it is a second skin. It is soft and practical.
Dave says she is so beautiful when she smiles. She loves Dave and Dave loves her. She knows he loves her because she sees it in his big brown eyes and by his soft touch on her skin, almost unnoticeable. He loves her because why wouldn’t he? It is not questionable nor explicable, it is definite. Maybe it suits Olga to think that way because again, it is easier.

When Olga meets the beautiful woman of the first floor, she feels her mouth tense, she quickly glances at her and politely greets her. She sees her pearl white skin, smells her perfume, feels the brushing of her fur coat. The woman smiles at her. Not a smile because there is a need to but a warm and kind smile. A warning sign. No evaluation, no looking up and down, just a smile. Olga is confused.
The bell tower of the Grande Place rings two times, Olga takes a sip of her glass of wine, she hears the door open. Dave comes back from work. She hears the same ritual. He throws the keys on the shelf, pours himself a glass of water, sits on the sofa, watching his phone. Olga gets up and hugs him. “You should be sleeping by now. I’m exhausted, let’s sleep now” he says. Olga returns to her bed, switches the light off. She cannot sleep. She imagines the scene. He comes back, throws the keys on the shelf, pours himself a glass of water. She hugs him, he hugs her too, he then asks her how her day was, tells her he loves her. The remake of the scene lasts the whole night. She wakes up, puts on her mask. “Good to go” she thinks.
Winter is here again. It snowed a lot last night. Olga sees through the window the hills covered with their white coat. Early this morning the guardian was clearing snow. The two kids from the second floor are excited, their cries resonate in the stairwell. Olga smiles at them. She wonders if someday she’ll have a baby. A baby to herself, the flesh of her flesh. A baby that she would love and that would love her endlessly. She looks at the snow. Her mom never loved her because she cared too much about the snow. This icing sugar that would make her wicked. Olga was sent to a foster family home; she never saw the snowwoman again.
Olga decides to make some lemon cake. She’ll make a layer of frosting because Dave likes it that way. She starts musing. It always smelled of cooking in this flat before she moved in. The old woman apparently loved baking too. A common tie binding them. Olga always made sure to lift the door a little bit when she entered her house, so that it would not creak. Then, she would wander in the apartment without making any noise. She observed her for hours behind the dining room wall, gazing out the window: the lake. Wide body of water.
One day when the old woman turned her back, she poured some white powder in the cake mixture. She was her mother’s daughter, she thought. Wicked.
A week after, she and Dave moved into the flat. While decorating the cake, she looks out the window. What an amazing lake view, she thinks.

This short story was inspired by the short stories “Sunrise”, “Bluebeard’s egg” and “Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood.

2020 - Winter


Image: © Timon Musy

Author: Timon Musy


A seventeen-legged bug floats on coffee
The bartender is sleeping, high on bicarbonate
Not seeing the peeping moths on the neon light
Calm and breezy

– He did not wake up yet

The pie crust tastes vaguely familiar
Old waste oil and engine coolant, honey and salt
Graphite on the table

– He did not wake up yet, he took the left road

I do not talk
The coffee drips through a crack in the wall
And agglutinates in a six-feet deep black pool
A fish could smoke a menthol cigarette
Spit on a fly
Buy a scratch ticket
Everyone left. The ceiling looks at me
I’m blind

– You’re all I need

I feel like a dog trapped in my car
Not sure whether the engine works or not, did not try
Don’t know where I left my key
In the middle of the road
Just woke up
Not hungry

– All I need

I do not miss her
We never met
Maybe she never existed

2020 - Winter

A Series of Surprises

Image:  “Light Curtains” © Andrew Mason. SourceCC Licence.

Author: Sorcha Walsh

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. Alanna woke up in a bed that was decidedly not her own. This did not, at first, produce any sort of unusual reaction within her. This was not, after all, the first time she had woken up in a bed she didn’t recognise. She turned over, expecting to see a strange man who was probably less attractive in the daylight, and mentally prepared herself to stealthily sneak out of the door. However, she was instead met with the sight of a woman, long brown hair mussed from a rough nights’ sleep, and her face half-buried in the pillow. Now this was new, even for her. Usually if she woke up in bed with a woman, there was a man between them. Far more disturbed now by this realisation, she decided it was time to leave, before the sleeping beauty arose. She sat up and swung her legs out of bed, and found that they landed squarely in a pair of slippers. Men’s slippers. She rolled her eyes. She’d promised herself she would stop homewrecking, weeks prior, and had mostly managed to keep that promise. They were pretty small men’s slippers, all things considered, her feet fit quite snugly inside of them.

She was suddenly struck with a sense of deep malaise. Her legs, surely, hadn’t always looked like that? And her head felt much lighter somehow, and, oh god, her hands, why were they suddenly so… hairy?

She stood up abruptly and ran out of the door, tripping as she went, coming to a hallway. Blindly, she stumbled her way to the first door she came to, which by some stroke of luck was a bathroom. She stared deeply into the mirror, aghast at the face that stared back. A strong brow covered deep-set eyes, crowned by a head of floppy hair. Below, an aquiline nose, below that a straight mouth and, between them, a well-groomed, full, silky moustache, accompanied by an immaculate goatee. Instinctively, she retched into the sink, and made her second unpleasant discovery of the day: she had been drinking Bloody Marys the previous night. When she stood back up, a third surprise awaited her: the brunette woman who had been sleeping was standing behind her in the doorway.

“Is everything ok love?” enquired the smooth voice. Oh God. Alanna thought. A Brit. I’m in a poxy man’s poxy body and I’m living with a poxy poxy Brit. Just my luck. 

Out loud, she replied with an affirmative grunt, surprised by the resonance of which her voice was now capable. 

“I’m making toast, d’you want any?” said the oblivious woman.

“M-mh” said Alanna, suddenly grateful for the cover her bout of nausea had provided her. She needed to think, fast. Her first instinct was to attempt to avoid suspicion and adopt the persona of this… man. But really, she hadn’t done anything wrong. Her only crime, as far as she could see, was waking up. Really, it would be bad (not to mention inconvenient!) to keep it a secret. So she gathered all the nerves she could muster, stood up straight, and made her way downstairs, only to be met by yet another unpleasant surprise: a side-tackle from a ball of kinetic energy that she quickly deduced was a child. She stumbled slightly but picked the kid up and carried them downstairs, somewhat awkwardly, gripping them around the waist and holding their body out horizontally. Luckily, the child seemed to think of it as a game, laughing and crying out “Wheeeee” as they went down the stairs. At the bottom, Alanna put the child back down on their feet (more or less) and tried to find what she could only imagine was her partner. She looked down at her left hand. No. Her wife. Steeling herself once again, she made her way into the kitchen.

“Can I talk to you?” she said in her natural accent, cursing the awkward formulation. Her wife (?) didn’t seem to notice the awkwardness and continued buttering bread while nodding.

“Listen, there’s a problem. Or something. I’m… I’m not… I’m not this.” Alanna said, gesturing vaguely to her entire self.


“As in, I’m… I’m a woman named Alanna.”


There was a beat.

“So do you want to do, like, hormones and that?”

“No, you don’t understand. I am a woman and my name is Alanna.”

“Yeah, you’re a woman. Of course I support you.”

Alanna wanted to tear her hair out. This support, under any other circumstance, would have been charming, and for someone in the situation the woman imagined her to be in, extremely validating and reassuring, but she didn’t want hormone therapy so much as her body back.

“I woke up in this body today, but this isn’t the one I fell asleep in last night. I have no idea who you are. My name is Alanna Quinn, I live in Dublin. I’m twenty three tomorrow, I’m like five foot nothing, I definitely don’t have children and a wife. And I don’t know how this happened.”

Unexpectedly, the brunette woman burst out in near-hysterical laughter.

“Oh, that’s funny! You’re such a joker, Liam. Now get Posey ready for school.”

And just like that, her wife, whose name Alanna did not know, pecked her on the lips and flounced upstairs. She reeled back, stunned for an instant, and gave a deep sigh. This was going to be, somehow, even more difficult than anticipated.

2020 - Winter

Quarantine Overture

Image: © Giulia Asselta.

Author: A S


Soft shivers delayed

Teeming tears kept at bay

By a long-forgotten memory of warmth. 

A spark not-indifferent

Born of hope and fulfillment

Which have gathered in dust from eons ago.

Sifting and trembling

Those arms lifted daintily

Crushing and calming the silent recluse.

Quiet embers of a past

Lit ablaze by torrential gasps

A reminder of what it means to sleep.


Melody II

That shivering sky

Emitting no reason

Wavers unflinching 

to the beat of a heart.

As if were reflected

A tune of inflection

Crying and screaming 

and pulling apart.

But where there is healing

Conceal not your breathing

And stumbling, carefully

Stride into the dark.



In the midst of your waking dreams

Three whispers stop by, each begging

To listen. The first caressing and cooing

The second tickling and tingling

While the last, stares at you in silence.

And peeking you crouch below

Reaching for strands thin as noise

Those things which you wear on your shoulders

And on your head. Yet you shiver

And suddenly straighten, brushing those short strands

aside, while your gaze stops to grasp the moon.

And crawling, your heart clutches

at the whispers, calling to scream

among them. 




On the ramparts of my heart the trumpets are blowing

Not for victory but rather, a cry for truth.

As ragged and tired men go home and weep

For loss of understanding that they do seek

Belated tears fill sorry eyes

and drop.

to endless sighs

But a promise of song lifts their hearts and their eyes


It’s there.

Brimming with tremor,

Booming in Upheaval

And beating

Can you hear the rain?

2020 - Winter

Prose Pieces by Lara Lambelet

Image: © Lara Lambelet


Author: Lara Lambelet


Soul Letter


Dear Mary,

I received your letter and your delicious biscuits which made me very happy. And yes, I won’t forget to put the cat’s collar back on. What a scoundrel that one is! In your letter, you asked me how to live a joyful and serene relationship. Here is what I can answer you.

I remember one day, during the summer of 1950, when my dear and sweet James and I were walking along the bank of the Seine. I was so grateful to have him by my side. Our rocky beginnings were far from predicting the success of our union and yet we had now been married for three years. I remember the question he asked me that night: “What have you learned about love?”. I replied that the most important thing I had understood over time was that it is not possible to make the other person happy. When you try, you fool yourself and you are going in the wrong direction.

You know sweetie, I found myself in the same situations as you. In insecurity, expecting too much from the other person and being afraid of losing them. But it was when I understood that nothing can hold the other person back that I felt real freedom. Be yourself, radiate and don’t be afraid to displease.

I thought I was going to lose your grandfather. He was a player who was scared to love. But don’t make the same mistake as I did, my little one, don’t give him everything. It won’t work. Learn to love yourself and to prioritise yourself. If this man you’re talking about really loves you, he’ll come back. Love is scary when it is not lived. Love makes you stronger when it is welcomed and nourished with the right seeds, with a lot of patience and understanding.

There, little one, I hope my words will be of comfort to you. Don’t lose hope. Love will come, be it with this man or another.

Your grandmother



I observed her auburn hair, the lower part of her bare back and the arch of her hips, half hidden by the ivy surrounding the garden gate. It was quarter to six o’clock. A beautiful opening of a summer evening. She was gorgeous, seated and focused on her reading. Then my gaze was drawn to the gradation of reds and greens that adorned the gate next door. I approached and grabbed a burgundy leaf. “How can Mother Nature create such things? “I thought to myself. A ray of sunshine dazzled me, and my thought was lost. I wandered here and there, letting my senses guide me. A little further away from the house overlooking the lake, I leaned against a pillar of the canopy dominated by brown tones.

– Would you offer me a dance?

– Here, now?

– Yes

– But to what music?

– That of Nature. Can’t you hear it?

– No, I can’t hear it.

– Close your eyes.

Then she took me by the waist, slipped her hand into mine and swung us slowly from left to right. One step back, then one forward. The singing of the birds came to mingle with the stirring of the fine breeze. With my eyes still closed, I savoured the moment. The scent of the lily bed at the bottom of the garden reached my nostrils. We continued our slow waltz under the fragmented marquee. We must certainly have looked silly, but surprisingly, I felt good.

– Can you hear it now?

– Yes, it’s wonderful.

We were now at the bottom of the garden. The view of the lake was breath-taking. You could even see the reflection of the sun on the surface of the water. At the bottom of the garden was a huge fruit tree.

– Plums? prunes? I asked.

– I’m not sure. Hold on a moment.

On tiptoe, she picked the offspring of the age-old tree.

– I’ve always dreamed of having my own garden in which I could escape,” she continued.

My eyes lingered on the drop of juice from the fruit, which her teeth had just bitten into, running down her lip.

– A plum. Here, taste it.


*content warning: injury and death


Tetanized, he observed the blood effusion on the right leg, lacerated all along, of the dying fox. The restraint of his spirit on the scarlet river made him dizzy. His hands grabbed the leather steering wheel. The hammering of his heart in his rib cage contrasted with the increasingly muffled groans of the red-haired creature. As he approached the clearing, the sinuous road and the thick October fog had played a nasty trick on him. The cracked windshield and the blood that gushed from it were witnesses to this.

Every Thursday night, after a hard day at the office, Charles would meet up with friends for a drink at Please Don’t Tell, a trendy New York bar with an evocative name and vintage atmosphere. One beer had turned into two, then into four. One propensity hiding another: the visceral need to please others. Under the pompous influence of Tom, an old friend from his university years who was now his brother-in-law, Charles rarely managed to impose his true desires on others as well as on himself. His feet were numb, and he had stumbled to the vehicle. His eyes were blinded by the city’s lights, and he had fallen over a manhole. “Damn it,” he mumbled. The torn trousers were perfectly suited to his putrid breath. The key inserted, the engine humming and the smell of dried tobacco.

A crowd had gathered around the drained remains. “Somebody, call an ambulance! “pressed a young woman dressed in a yellow raincoat. He hadn’t moved; his body was stuck in the car seat. He embodied both a feeling of fear and euphoria. A nightmare? Dream? The sweetened reality emanated from a filter that presumably did not match that of the people present at the accident scene. Suddenly, someone knocked against the window. “Sir, are you alright? You need to get out of the vehicle. The police are on their way” said a nerd in his fifties. Charles was livid. No reaction. It’s a fox. It’s a fox. Words were jostling in his head. His hand trembling, he turned up the volume of the radio in the hope of silencing the hubbub of his mind. He hesitantly pressed the gas pedal. The red bush was lit by the headlights. He closed his eyes. When they opened, the illusion disappeared. He accelerated and fled pusillanimously under the screams of the sirens. Help had just arrived and was working on the inert body of a young man with red hair. Matt was twenty-two years old. Charles, haunted by the vision of his actions, lost control. His feet were saddled with the pedal. 100km/h. The speedometer went crazy. 120km/h. 150km/h and the car rushed at high speed against the front of a shop. Charles was forty-five years old.



– Chemin de Verdonnet number…, I start to answer.

The memory fades away. Unattainable. It floats in an ocean of tentacular thoughts. We all have had addresses. A farandole of places imbued with happiness, moments of complicity, melancholy, the screams of kids or even authoritarian “dinner is ready” echoing in the four corners of the house. Isolated in a remote part of my memory, this element, which I am struggling to extract from my past, rushes exponentially towards the void. Yet it seems easy for me to depict the environment in which the six-year-old me was parading on an imaginary red carpet in flashy outfits. Disparate. Coming from idolized characters, my looks transported me to the depths of my childhood dreams. When I closed my eyes, the light shades tending to creamy white on the walls of the living room appeared to me like a flash. I feel the softness of my mother’s smile and the reassuring warmth of the blanket resting on my shoulder on rainy evenings. With concentration, the vermilion couch, combined with a few cushions Native American patterns, takes shape like an unfinished sketch. Although this flat was the cradle of my early youth, its rooms alienated me. Expelled. Or was it the decision of my progenitors to expatriate me from my world? I no longer know who is at fault.

– You know, on second thought, this is not where I really felt at home,” I continue.

– It makes sense to me. The walls only knew you as a child. On the other hand, the house before you left is certainly connected to some deep anecdotes, isn’t it? Come on, I’m sure you’ve got some gossip to tell me,” James enthuses.

A home away from the crowds where silence prevails. When you open the front door, the vastness of the room is disturbing. My eyes wander along the imposing mahogany table and stop at the pile of neglected administrative files. A thin layer of dust covers it. The dust is nesting. It penetrates. It disturbs. It upsets. It irritates. Nevertheless, I observe it and cherish its presence. The area is surrounded by lush vegetation. My mother has always been fond of decoration, although it was always too cluttered for my taste. Cat figurines, paintings, candleholders and junk. Suddenly, a spicy smell, certainly that of my brother’s curry chicken simmering, takes me out of my daydream and I find myself in the centre of the kitchen. Its furniture and instruments are worn out by time and by its careless users. I can still see my father with a large butcher’s knife in his hand, my maternal grandfather’s knife, cutting a piece of meat on the marbled worktop. This culinary cocoon has stories to tell. Monotonous and solitary meals. A table filled with tightly arranged cutlery for frenetic celebrations.

The hustle and bustle pushes me upstairs and to its bevy of rooms. I choose to stop on the landing of my room. The scaly white door has been covered with photographs, remnants of my adolescence and its anamnesis, which disorderly surround the four calligraphic letters of my first name. Made from a jet-black felted cloth, my baptismal name is like an introduction to the treasures inside.

– Shall we go inside?

– OK, but I have to warn you. My parents haven’t been there since I left. So, expect a museum of Lara, including cobwebs and dust.

When you open the door, it squeaks as usual. When I first step on the floor, I remember that the parquet floor also has an annoying tendency to creak. I explore the space. Not the slightest change. Although I’ve been living in Edinburgh for some time now, the period I’ve been living at the address, Route de Salles 20 in Berlens, is pretty much my entire life. Coming back to this timeless and so familiar bubble gives me goosebumps. The pleasant atmosphere in the bedroom pretends to be a somewhat distinguished mix of genres. Against one of the walls, an orange-coloured wood panelling, in front of which the bed is placed, enhances the tone and gives the room its singular spirit. When André Prévot evoked the bed, he referred to it as a piece of furniture where one rests when alone but tires when in pair. My bed, measuring about one metre forty and especially cluttered with stuffed animals, acts like a sponge. It absorbs and stores. It is the graveyard of my emotions, dreams, one-night stands and everlasting passions. In a niche of the bedroom, the music scores and colourful vinyl still brighten up the old electric piano. A key, that of a D, no longer sounds. A tear runs down my cheek. I had missed this place. This cruise into my past is only imaginary, yet the sensations are so stirring that I have to sit down.

One morning, my father proudly bought me a garland of LEDs that he had installed vertically against the edge of the wall. I will always remember my enthusiasm and the famous photoshoot for which the red shades were a great inspiration. Then comes the centrepiece. The crucial piece of furniture in this intimate space: my desk. It was a gift from my best friend. Orderly and methodical at all times, it is the pillar of my determination, the symbol of my success. With my elbows resting on the varnished wood, there I wrote, for many hours, poems, novels, essays, lists, wishes and often love letters. I cried and laughed. I also remember leaving there the wooden dice he gave me. A symbol of a bygone love. A shattered love. It is disturbing how a simple object can have enormous power over us. It is stored in a box now; the kryptonite is under control. Among the objects that were dear to me, a large flowered cup, where various teas used to brew, also rests there. But this is all part of a past era. The memory evaporates. I open my eyes. Basically, an address is just an address; what fascinates is the vivid and chipped mosaic of stories that emerges from it.

2020 - Winter

Chocorange Cake

Chocorange cake
“Chocolate ring shaped cake” by the Italian voice is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Author: Katharina Schwarck


This is a recipe for the absolute yummiest cake I have ever made and ever eaten in my whole entire life. It will make you drool, it will warm your heart, it will make you want more. You don’t believe me? Try it yourself.


Ingredients for a cake pan of 28 cm:

120g soft butter or margarine

140g sugar

4 egg yolks


1 teaspoon cocoa powder

120g dark chocolate, grated

1 orange

            its zest

            3 tablespoons juice


4 egg whites

1 pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

150g ground peeled almonds

60g zwieback



Preparation (about 30 minutes):


  1. First of all, you’ll need to preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. You can also take out a cake pan and grease it already. Then, you take 120g of butter, shortly (very shortly!) put it into the microwave or leave it in the kitchen to heat up a little. Put the butter in a bowl, stir in the 140g of sugar and the egg yolks, (don’t forget to keep your egg whites for later!), continue stirring until the mixture turns light. Finely grate the 120g of dark chocolate (you can do so by just cutting it up with a big knife on a cutting board), add the orange zest and squeeze in 3 tablespoons of juice (or basically your whole orange). Add the cocoa powder and mix thoroughly.


In a different bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until it’s stiff, add 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating briefly until the beaten egg whites are shiny and bright like your future :).


  1. Grind the 60g of zwieback finely by crushing it in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or something similar (I used to take them and break them with my hands over a bowl when I was little. I do not recommend). Mix with ground peeled almonds if you like them and you’re not allergic (or take the risk, you never know).


  1. Now, mix the chocolate-orange mix with the zwieback-almond mix. Then, pour layers of the beaten egg whites onto the mixture, carefully fold them in with a rubber scraper (carefully, I’m serious.) and fill the finished dough into the prepared form.


  1. Bake in the lower half of the oven for about 50 minutes. Remove, leave it to cool a little, take the cake out of the mould, and let it cool some more on a rack.


  1. To finish off your beautiful soul-warming cake, you can either throw some powdered sugar on top of your creation or, if you’re feeling artsy, cover it with jam (apricot, more orange, or whatever you think would taste good) and add some orange slices. For the second option, warm up the jam in a small pan with some water, pass the mixture through a sieve, and spread the cake with it.


  1. Enjoy!


PS: if you adapt the heat and time a little, the dough can also perfectly be made into little muffins.

2020 - Winter

Poems by Kimberley Perrenoud

Author: Kimberley Perrenoud

A Strange Autumn


When I see the sun, I go out for some fun

When I see the rain, I stay inside and fill my brain

When there is thunder, I start using a highlighter

And when the weather is cloudy, I feel like writing poetry

When arrives the second lockdown

We all have a reason to feel down

But I will lie down on the lawn

And look at the stars all alone

Maybe till dawn

Stormy Sky
Stormy Sky – ©️Kimberley Perrenoud


Tough Time

At the moment Life is hard

But not so much

When you are lucky enough

To have a yard

Listen to the birds outside your window

Try not to be overwhelmed by sorrow

Have a look! Somewhere might appear a rainbow

Which will lift up your spirits, I know

Waterfall -©️Kimberley Perrenoud


One for All and All for One

We are having online courses – To alleviate the work of nurses

As a community we should be stronger than ever

But instead of struggling together – It turned out that people don’t care about one another

While people are dying from that virus every day – Nobody in the streets seems to care today

All people do is complain about the new sanitary measure – They don’t understand that these rules were not made for pleasure

But that we need to follow the rules today – If tomorrow we want to be able to say

“The pandemic is now behind us! – It is no longer risky to take the bus!

We survived as a community – We have not let down the elderly

Nor all the young, and so-called ‘healthy’ – Who could also have died in our country

We took the matter seriously – And we can, once again, be happy!”

It is today that efforts should be made – If tomorrow we want this crisis to fade


Every single person in this country has to make a sacrifice – Because as we saw the rules don’t suffice

Be careful now more than ever – If you want all of this to be over

If you want to see your favorite festivals again – Please, please now use your brain

And understand that if today you don’t care – You are going to send your grandma to the intensive care

Or maybe your asthmatic friend – Or maybe your healthy boy/girlfriend

Remember that you are only a human – An ordinary woman or man, not Superman or Wonder Woman

And that the virus kills as it pleases


So now do your bit for your neighbor – For your grandparents, your cousins and many more

‘cause who you infect on Monday – Can infect your brother on Friday

There is nothing magical that will save us – If you continue to let spread the virus

Half of the population is not enough – To stop this dangerous cough

If tonight you don’t listen up – If you don’t act as a grown-up

Please please you all know someone – Who could die from it and maybe not only one

So wake up immediately – And start acting responsibly

For no one can resurrect your sister

When she will have to suffer the consequences of you, DANGER !

Love tag
Love tag -©️Kimberley Perrenoud