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Frances Jackson

Frances Jackson

Frances Jackson is a former E&M editor and occasional contributor. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Munich, where she is pursuing a PhD in Czech poetry. Given the chance, Frances would probably spend all of her time in kitchen and is currently cooking her way around the world. She has also been known to dabble in literary translation.

Monday, 16 May 2016 17:18

What's in a name?

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Photo: Roman Boed (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0 

Native speakers of English, who also happen to know Czech are, I grant you, quite a rare breed, but they do exist.  As one of those linguistic oddities (and not even one who can be excused by family ties to the region), the news that the Czech Republic apparently now wishes to be known on the world stage as Czechia certainly struck a chord with me.

Of course, the name Czechia is nothing new. Ever since the Velvet Divorce, which saw post-communist Czechoslovakia split into the Czech and Slovak Republics, the term has been periodically bandied about as a snappier English-language alternative and its origins do in fact go back a lot further than that.  It’s also fair to say that the country’s current name can be a bit of a mouthful sometimes. However, for me at least, the lack of a short moniker has always been part of the Czech Republic’s charm. It lets those of us who travel there for more than just the occasional boozy weekend come up with our own pet names for the place (Czecho has long been a personal favourite of mine), not to mention all the fun that can be had with puns on the word Czech.  Or czuns as we used to call them when I was an undergraduate.

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Photo: Marvin (PA)(Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0 

In the first Good Reads of 2016, former editor Frances Jackson shares a few articles that have got her thinking about Europe over the last few days.  Read about contrasting efforts to integrate asylum seekers in Germany and Finland, the publication of a new annotated edition of Mein Kampf, and why the AZERTY keyboard could soon become a thing of the past.

Frances, former Diaphragm / Baby editor

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IN search of a common ground

I suppose it’s inevitable that, in the face such a torrent of depressing news stories and seemingly insurmountable hurdles as is the case with the ongoing refugee crisis, we are drawn to examples of journalism that give us hope for the future. Certainly, I think that is what made Herbi Dreiner’s recent guest post for the Guardian stand out for me.  He is part of a team at the University of Bonn that has started putting on physics shows with Arabic explanations to help engage young asylum seekers who are still finding their feet in Germany.  I love the simplicity of the idea, its optimism and the way it encourages us to find a shared understanding, rather seeking to emphasise differences and deficiencies.

Thursday, 05 November 2015 18:36

Am I a threat to the German way of life?

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Photo: Peter Alfred Hess; Licence: CC BY 2.0

In the face of increasing calls for limits to be placed on EU migrants in her home country, E&M's Frances Jackson, a Brit based in Germany, wonders if she too is a burden on the state.

For the last four years, I have been living in a country that is not my own.  I wasn't born here.  I didn't grow up speaking the language.  And if you stopped me on the street, I probably wouldn't – apart from a provisional UK driving licence that expires in 2017* – even have any proper ID on me, as I worry about losing my passport, so prefer not to carry it around every day.   

Don't tell anybody, but I am one of those EU migrants you've heard so much about.  I came to Germany – in part, at least – for the cheap higher education and have stayed firmly put since then, going as far as to secure myself a PhD scholarship in the process.

As Europe witnesses the largest wave of mass migration since the end of the Second World War, and anti-foreigner rhetoric continues to rise around us, creeping steadily into the political mainstream, I have been giving a lot of thought to my own status as a sort of "economic migrant".  Does my presence pose a threat to the German way of life?  Am I putting unsustainable pressure on the country's infrastructure?  And if not, why not?

Ancient Greece
Photo: GothPhil (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Another week, another selection of journalistic gems, compiled by one of E&M's editors: Frances Jackson on a modern use for ancient philosophy, remembering Srebrenica and a couple of disconcerting developments in Russia.

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor

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A word of advice from the ancients

In the run-up to last Sunday’s unprecedented referendum, much was written about the future of Greece, not all of it, I fear, especially helpful. One article, however, that seemed to buck the trend was William Irvine’s piece for the BBC on Stoicism and its applicability to the current situation.

Reminding us that the word crisis comes from the Ancient Greek for "decide" (a point that was incidentally also made by German polymath Joseph Vogl at a discussion I went to last week in Munich), Irvine disabuses his readers of the misconception that the Stoic approach is merely that of the stiff upper lip and highlights instead its inherently practical, vigorous nature even.

Though Irvine focuses on how the Greek people might achieve a degree of control over events in their country, I suspect that we could all probably benefit from the wisdom of the Stoic school of philosophy.  You never know – taking time to consider how things could be worse might actually give us some much-needed perspective on this issue and others.

Saturday, 02 May 2015 00:00

The European Kitchen: Stilton Khachapuri

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Photo: Tobias Melzer

Freshly baked Stilton khachapuri

As part of a new feature for Sixth Sense, E&M's Frances Jackson will be creating exclusive European dishes for our readers. First up is her recipe for Stilton khachapuri, a Western European take on a classic bread from the Caucasus.

I first came across khachapuri nearly six years ago during my year abroad in Regensburg. The girl who lived directly beneath me was from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Both of us far from home, my vertical neighbour and I bonded over baking and it was she who introduced me to this most exquisite of breads, sun-kissed and welling forth with molten cheese. The following summer – in what would prove to be the most delicious week of my life – I was invited to visit her family in Georgia. Back in Germany, as the memory of "light suppers" that would last for hours, of home-made wine and fiery adjika, began to fade, I finally persuaded my friend to share her recipe for khachapuri, which I have adapted here.

This version is not exactly authentic as it does not contain any sulguni, but the addition of blue cheese adds a hearty pungency that traditional khachapuri often lacks. I've gone with Stilton to create an Anglo-Georgian bread, but if that's not available, you could always use Roquefort or Gorgonzola. Khachapuri is best enjoyed still warm, however it does also make a rather good ready-made sandwich for a packed lunch the next day.

Pratchett
Photo: Meredith (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wise words from the master of fantasy or just a bit of a joke?

Another week, another selection of journalistic gems, compiled by one of the E&M editorial team: Frances Jackson on the death of Terry Pratchett, untold stories of those seeking asylum in Europe and a group of particularly determined French cycling enthusiasts.

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor

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A fond farewell

It is just over a month since one of the brightest literary lights of the last 30 years went out. Whether his most famous books took place for you in the Disque-monde, Zeměplocha, Scheibenwelt or Mundodisco, the magic of Terry Pratchett remains the same. His humour could be biting, but never caustic; the universe he created an escapist fantasy, and yet so very familiar; his stories simply unputdownable. 

The Discworld novels have been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. They were the audiobooks that alleviated boredom on long drives down France during the summer holidays, the increasingly care-worn paperbacks we passed back and forth amongst family and friends, the television adaptations we used to get so excited about as children. I don’t mind admitting that I got a little teary when I heard the news that Sir Terry's struggle with early-onset Alzheimer's was over. The loss, not just to the genre, but I think also perhaps to the world as a whole, is immense. The ranks of those rare few who have a real understanding of human nature, who recognise the follies of man, but have not lost their faith in humanity, are bereft of one of their finest standard-bearers.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015 00:00

When East Met West

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Photo: Tobias Melzer
 

An English classic, brimming with Eastern promise

Move over Harry and Sally, there's a far more interesting new pairing in town! E&M's Frances Jackson shares a recipe for a bold and romantic take on the classic Victoria sponge – delicately spiced with cardamom and rose water, sandwiched together with a pistachio and pomegranate cream, and just in time for Valentine's Day.

There is something about cardamom – its dominant, almost mint-like aroma; those citrusy notes, paired with an unexpected sweetness – that transports me, even in the depths of winter, to warmer climes and balmy nights. Rose water, on the other hand, is perfumed opulence, an alluring drop of summer, distilled to perfection in a technique said to have been discovered by Persian physician Avicenna in the 10th century.

Whether you're making this cake for that special someone in your life or as a treat to enjoy with friends, don't stint on the spices: the almond sponge is just a pencil outline, the cardamom and rosewater your colour pigments. The filling too should be positively studded with pistachios and pomegranate seeds, shining like gems in the ermine of the cream. Even if seduction is not on your mind, you'll find few able to withstand the temptation...

In this week’s edition of Good Reads, E&M's Frances Jackson shares a few online titbits that caught her eye over the last few weeks: prepare yourselves for a whistle-stop tour of current European hotspots, both culinary and cultural.

 

Frances, Diaphragm / Baby editor

 

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FORGOTTEN EUROPE, BRIEFLY REMEMBERED

 

This is not only my first Good Reads of the year, but also my first as a magazine rather than blog editor. I suspect that the festive season is still preying on my mind though, because I am very much in the mood to indulge myself and shall be shamelessly tailoring these picks to my own personal whims and interests. Some readers might recall that I have previously used these pages to argue that Western media outlets suffer from a chronic lack of interest when it comes to Albania. In general I stand by this point, but I was at least pleasantly surprised to see the country getting a couple of mentions in recent days.

 

The first, which even spent a little while trending on the website of the Independent, was connected to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s decision to arrange three coloured pencils like Le Tricolore in his lapel pocket for the Charlie Hébdo demonstration last Sunday. The author is right to highlight the fact that Rama is himself an artist, yet I do feel that he misses a couple of other important points. Namely that the politician used to live in Paris, and, perhaps even more significantly, is now leader of a European country that – however secular it may be – does have a Muslim majority.

 

My other discovery was a travel piece about the mallësori, a mountain community in the far reaches of northern Albania. Amongst the sweeping and evocative descriptions of life in the mountains, there are perhaps hints of the strain of orientalism identified by Larry Wolff in Inventing Eastern Europe, but for the most part, I found the author to be fairly even-handed in his judgement. In fact, for me, the main effect of the article was simply to unleash a certain nostalgia for the country that I called home for a few months back in 2013. All I can say is read it, and go there. Seriously. Albania is a wonderful place that does not deserve the oft-unsavoury reputation it has acquired.

Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00

Boys will be boys

 

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Photo: © Bio Illusion, courtesy of Miloslav Šmídmajer
Young talents Petr Šimčák and Jan Maršal in Pojedeme k moři

 

Cafe Cinema is returning to Sixth Sense! In the first edition of this new run, E&M's Frances Jackson reviews Pojedeme k moři, a ground-breaking Czech film written and directed by actor Jiří Mádl.

At a time when many critics have been despairing of the state of Czech feature films and finding only documentaries to their taste, there comes along a film that not only bucks the trend, but also seems to have re-written the rulebook.

Pojedeme k moři (English title: To See the Sea) was released in April of this year and quickly became one of the biggest hits of the summer, bagging a number of domestic and international festival prizes along the way. Both young and old have flocked to the cinemas of the Czech Republic to watch this unconventional comedy, which tells the story of Tomáš, an 11-year-old scamp with bold ambitions to become the next Miloš Forman.

Armed with just a digital camera – a birthday present from his parents – and a nose for intrigue, Tomáš sets out to produce his own documentary about life in the southern Bohemian city of České Budějovice. With the help of his equally mischievous best friend Haris, he uncovers a number of mysteries and comes to appreciate that all is not as it seems – particularly when it comes to relationships. 

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