Retracing Marseilles

Marseille always leaves a dull, empty thud in my heart. The streets are dirty and dazzling, the city ancient and teeming with an aroma of green olives, gutted fish and rosemary. The ghosts of past events haunt me, they overlay the city like a thin sheath and render every turning of a corner a possibly lethal point, every passing a potential run-in with heartache.

Figures and memories spring to life and chase each other across the canvas. Part of me wants to chase after, but I deter from fear of what I might unravel, rather than from the belief that it’s all in my head.

Because it’s not. The ghosts are very real, and with every silent step on the pavement they clench my heart just a little bit tighter, just a little bit harder. Cutting off the blood supply – but never enough to numb me completely.


The Dormant Village

Pure coincidence led me to spend the night in the small town of Béhuard, located on an island in the Loire. Arriving late in the evening it seemed completely abandoned, and when our host left us it was as if the last echoes of the last footsteps of the last man that ever was disappeared into the night with him.

Come morning the town was just as devoid of life, but wandering up and down its cobbled streets I noticed small details testiment to the fact that someone did care for this little island and that perhaps, just perhaps, it was only sleeping, lying dormant in wait for spring and summer and for it’s inhabitants to come back to it again…

But Their Monsters are Much Cooler Than Ours…

Sometimes one thing leads to another. Girl is talked into going to market. Girl’s guy goes into shopping frenzy – buys ten tons of crap. Bored girl finds grumpy headless man doll, absconds with it in hope of passing the time… And does. Turns out bodyless grumpy men – also known as daruma dolls– are a big thing temple wise in Japan, and the hour or so it took me to actually find that out led me to uncover a number of other interesting characters in Japanese lore…

Daruma Doll

Uji No Hashihime

Uji no hashihime prayed to a deity to turn her into an oni so she could kill her husband, the woman he fell in love with, and all of their relatives. To accomplish this, she bathed in the Uji River for 21 days, divided her hair into five horns, painted her body red with vermilion, and went on a legendary killing spree. Besides her intended victims, anyone who saw her instantly died of fear.


Kuchisake-onna wears a surgical mask and asks children if they think she is beautiful. If they say yes, she takes off the mask to reveal her mouth slit from ear to ear and asks the question again. The only way to escape is to give a noncommittal answer, such as “you look OK.” Barring that, you can distract her with certain Japanese candies. But if the children say yes again, she will cut their mouths to make them look like her.

Aka Manto

Aka Manto hides in public bathrooms. In one version of the story, Aka Manto asks women if they would like a red cloak or a blue cloak. If the woman answers “red,” Aka Manto tears the flesh from her back to make it appear she is wearing a red cloak. If she answers “blue,” then he strangles her to death. Unfortunately, if you encounter Aka Manto, there may be no escaping: Some versions of the story say if you don’t answer or if you pick a different color, he will immediately drag you to hell.


Meaning filth licker in Japanese, akaname can also be translated to mean red licker since aka is an homonym for red and filth. For this reason the akaname is often described as being red in colour. The akaname is the “personification of the fear of using a dark bathroom late at night”. It is said to come out at night to literally lick up the grime and dirt that accumulates in unclean bathrooms.


The Nurarihyon is usually depicted as an old man with a gourd-shaped head. The Nurarihyon will sneak into someone’s house while they are away, drink their tea, and act as if it is their own house. Because it looks human, anyone who sees him will mistake him for the owner of the house, making it very hard to expel him.


Sunekosuri appear on nights when rain falls and rub against the crotches of people who walk on roads at night. The victims have a little difficulty walking, but no other harm. Another legend states that Sunekosuri slips into darkness at night and pull on people’s legs, making them fall over.


In old times, this was a yokai found on the roads leading to Kyoto. The legend goes that late at night, a samurai walking down the street when a man in a kimono stepped in to block his path and said “Excuse me … just a moment of your time … “ The samurai readied himself for an attack, and shouted back “What do you want?” The man suddenly shed his kimono and stood stark naked. He then bent over and showed his ass to the samurai, which had a single, huge eye. When the eye opened, it shown with a bright light. The samurai screamed with fright and fled from the mysterious monster.

Suddenly our Western ghost stories and legends seem rather timid and unimaginative…

And then there was… Nothing

There are many alternate roads into the future. Many people spend their lives worrying about the what’s and if’s, others bull rush ahead and stand surprised first when they cross the finish line and find life wanting of a first prize.

I’ve always considered myself somewhere inbetween – hopeful, gambling on a deep plunge to eventually lead me to a possibly positive outcome, but more than ready for alternative and more dreary results.

But I honestly must say I wasn’t expecting this.


The news was all over the place. “Big Fire at Nedre Foss Gård”, “Pictures before and after”, Nedre Foss Gård is Burning”…

And it was. The physical evidence was there – clear to the eye – as we stood and watched cold, confused, but above all disbelieving. Not as to the fact that the building was burning. That was plain to see. Rather it was a gathered, collective bewilderment as to what this actually meant for us. What we would be. What our value would be without our restaurant to define us.

What was left.

It may sound overly dramatic. It was after all just a restaurant. It was after all just a building.

But in order to be a good chef or waiter you have to let yourself be defined by your work. If home is where you spend the majority of your waking hours then your official residence is nothing but a convenient hotel that you check into every evening to get some rest.

Home is where the drama happens, where friendships and relationships are forged. Where every evening is a new, carefully planned out battle and where every possible outcome will be lamented and analyzed in the dark holes of the local drinking establishments later in the night.

We will find ourselves. Right now we are like the spokes around a missing hub, but we will find ourselves.

And even without the hub, the wheel turns…

First Light

The first dawn of the rest of my life crept up quietly to dominate the sky as I slept away the flight to London Heathrow. Then a few hours calm, grey drizzle gave way to the blinding sunlight of Marseille, bathing the city as well as myself in sunlight and forcing me to revert my eyes from the run-down beauty. A short train-ride to Montpellier plunged me into darkness again, and as I now sip my café au’lait and punch keys at a local café it is what must be the first true light that carefully peeks over the adjacent roof-top to sting at my eyes.

It’s bleak yes, but it brings with it promise of a new era, an era of new idiotic schemes and complications, of challenges and failures.

My old life was fantastic! May it be gone for good!


Say It With A Sign

There is a simpler way.

We rush and stress and worry about not finding the right paths, about not being able to make it on time, about disappointing everyone or even worse – disappointing ourselves and our own ambition.

There is a way past all this fret, a solution if you will, that has been staring us in the face since before we posed the problem.

The French have figured it out. The way to absolution, to peace of mind lies in knowing that wherever you are in your life all roads, all paths, all directions lie before you. Robert Frosts dilemma is multiplied infinitely and therefor made null and void. One can never choose the right path or make the right choice if the options are infinite, yet neither can one choose the wrong one, for out of those infinite paths one may emerge that nullifies the “correct choice”.