Greg Takes All: the last part of the Wonder that is Fifty Shades of Greg


After much toil and procrastination over the past few months or so (during which I had so much to do, and so little inclination to do it that I ended up doing nothing), I am happy to present the final five sketches in my little collection of Gregoire La Souflurre comics. I’ve really enjoyed creating these; I hope you’ve enjoyed following the whole series – I do have another one in the works, but I’m currently working long hours, so that isn’t going to materialise any time soon…


46.A college senior, SJ, and I both participated in a “college adoption scheme”, in which second years adopted and looked after finalists as they panicked their way through Finals. SJ was my adoptee, and, as a keen sportswoman and frisbee player, a pictorial offering was definitely in order. I drew this (though she’s not at all clumsy and very very nimble!) and she loved it – apparently, she kept it as a talisman during dark dark days…


47. My university is very keen on rowing. Very very keen. (Too keen, but that’s a different matter altogether). To commemorate that, I temporarily made Greg an M1/W1 Rower and gave him a college blazer for his pains. It’s a shame that I never reached his dazzling heights, but then again, I’ve always hated anything remotely resembling sheer hard graft…

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48. I, a good friend of mine at university, is literally one of the most fabulous people I have ever had the privilege to meet. He’s also quite good at bop costumes, as has been immortalised in the college hall of fame as Freddie Mercury in the gloriously random video “I want to break free”. The vacuum cleaner was, of course, an added touch – my friend didn’t drag one with him everywhere he went in college!

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49. My friend M is a fabulous all-round sportswoman, who’s dabbled and excelled in almost every sport I can think of – netball, rowing, boxing: you name it, she’s probably done it. This picture was created to celebrate her fantastic achievements, including being a national champion in youth boxing!!! As you can probably imagine, I try my best not to annoy her.. 😉

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50. One of my best friends, J, who has been such a rock of support during a tough three years of undergrad, is (as you can see) is a chemist – and a damned good one at that. She’s also, by her own admission, incredibly clumsy in the lab, and has apparently broken countless test tubes and petri dishes in her time. This last picture of the series was meant to be a fitting tribute for a fabulous gal x

Well, that’s it. Finis. I have no other words, except to say a big *thank you* to all of Greg’s fans who have adored and cossetted him all these months. These pictures are for all those whose motto in life is “Greg is love, Greg is life”…

H & G x


Greg at arms: the penultimate post.


Here, as promised, are the next five Gregoire sketches in my now long-saturated cartoon series. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love drawing my Gregs and pretending to be so clever and witty with my “subtle” references and slick visuals. But, equally, I can completely understand if others, less inclined to seeing cross-dressing teddy bears on their computer screen, feel otherwise. None of these are actually dedicated to anyone in particular, but they are some of those which I laboured over the most, and certainly cherish the most. I must warn you, dear audience, though, that flair skirts and tulle feature in four out of five of them!


41. After long and almost painful deliberation, I have decided that it is this Gregoire La Souflurre comic which is my absolute favourite. I had always been keen to mix up Gregoire’s wardrobe a little more with more “international fashion” and there seemed to be no better way to do this than to bundle him to the north pole and give him the fluffiest eskimo outfit in the process. The tableau thus morphed into something beyond recognition, and I love every little piece of this creation: from the snow-boots, to the dead fish ornamentation, to the igloo itself…


42. Again, at risk of being almost unbearably stereotypical in my depiction of global fashion, I really wanted to do something a little different, and spice up Greg’s life. Though I am a rubbish dancer, I adore Latino music and Latino dance, and despite the fact that I never, ever, want to inflict myself upon another person as their dance partner when tentatively trying out a salsa move, I wanted Greg to have the freedom to do so, flounces, flowers, and all! Hence Flamenco Greg was born…


43. Recently, in another attempt to procrastinate from doing what I should be doing (ie, my degree) I decided to gorge myself on old-time cinema and wikipedia browsing. As a teenager, I was very keen on makeup and photography, and loved to experiment with both when I was taking GCSE Art (such a shame that my enthusiasm was not matched by my talent). I was especially fascinated by 50s screen icons and the muses of the infamous David Bailey. A little of this has stayed with me throughout the years, and, in an attempt to make Greg into an icon, I allowed him a little freedom to dress up as one…


44. …You didn’t actually think I would let Greg mimic Monroe without a tribute to Hepburn as well? Part of the fascination with the old-time cinema lay in the absolute glamour and sophistication of most of their female stars, with Audrey Hepburn, in my opinion, ranking high above the rest. The fact that I, dazzled teen that I was, had the iconic poster of Hepburn (in the same pose as Greg above) from Breakfast at Tiffany’s probably makes it fairly obvious that I forced the same obsession with the beautiful icon on my defenceless creation.


45. I am friends with a lots of people who read Science subjects for their undergraduate degree, as opposed to the Humanities. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well, this means that most of them would take exams at the end of their second year, whilst I, and the rest of my Humanities brethren, don’t need to. This Greg was thus commissioned for them, in celebration of all their hard work during the year and when revising for exams in the summer!

Well, that’s all for now: keep your eyes peeled and ears pricked for the final installment of the entire series! I also have one more trick up my sleeve involving a (specially commissioned) Greg, but that will be uploaded onto this blog once I find a photocopier/scanner big enough to accommodate its mammoth size..

H&G x

A Fresh Scoop of Gregs: a further dose of the highly addictive grizzly


Suitably chastened by my months and months of silence in regards to my books reviews and Greg illustrations, I return to the blogging sphere, determined in my efforts to post at least a couple of blogging efforts in the final weeks of my summer vacation. Unswerving in my resolve, and eager to share my illustrations with the World Wide Web (this collection contains some of my all-time favourites in the series), I now present to you the next five Gregs in the now infamous Fifty Shades of Greg animated series. I hope you enjoy reading and looking at it; I certainly enjoyed creating them.


36. A greater lover of whimsy since young, I have been long exposed to the magic that is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and have often traipsed along the walkways that accompany the River Cherwell’s lonely journey to the sea. As a big fan of the nonsense genre, and of Alice Adventures in Wonderland, I thought that an Alice Greg would be perfect for my wonderful grizzly. The fact that my mother ADORES Alice also encouraged me to create this in her honour…


37. I adore the Ian Fleming James Bond series (especially Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice), and I fancied that my little inky creation fancied himself a dapper and debonair man of mystery as well. The decision to make my Greg a mild alcoholic and incorrigible womaniser was thus irresistible.


38. I am not sure if I had mentioned it in the blog previously, but I used to take both Latin and Ancient Greek when I was in secondary school. The Classics, and Ancient Languages, still holds its sway over me, especially its plays and its epic literature, even if I moved away from it to pursue an undergraduate degree in Oriental languages. I wanted Greg to have a little something that would represent my constant fascination and worship of the Classical Subjects, and I thought that nothing would be more suitable than a 300-esque Cosplay attempt at being a Spartan.


39. I’m not quite sure what inspired me to do this particular piece, but I do know one thing: I felt that Greg had been far too sober in the last two sketches in his attempts to be a Spartan and a spy (!). So, in the spirit of trying to be as outlandish as possible, I thought to myself – what would Greg La Souflurre dress up as at a college bop? I knew the answer right away: a beautiful mermaid. And thus a new diva-ish costume was born. I love this especially because I was pleased by the effect I managed to create with the scales of the fishtail.


40. I absolutely love fairy tales, and I knew that Greg would too (after all, Greg is definitely the more outlandish, more outrageous, but more wonderful part of my personality that has been locked up within the tower of my soul. Apologies for the attempt at poetry and fancy prose). What would be better than Greg with an excuse to sport a fabulous head of hair. Admittedly, it was partially inspired by a bop costume I had seen in the past, but I thought Greg’s hair was far more lovely than any rushed dye job ever could be…

That is all for now! I hope that you liked this collection as much as I have, and please watch out for the last 10 in the series that will be published in the next couple of months or so 🙂

Hectorella and Greg x

The Germination of Genius: an examination of Zola’s Masterpiece


Book: Germinal

Author: Émile Zola

Date of Publication: 1885

Type: Novel (592 pages)

Though it may seem a coincidence that I am doing a review on one of the gems of French literature after my diatribe on Freedom of Speech and on Multiculturalism, I have to admit that this move to review Germinal is in no way planned to coincide with my ranting on the tragic occurrences at Charlie Hebdo. My determination to wax lyrical on the power and beauty of this novel has long been in the deepest depths of my mind, though it lay useless and dormant for a while, choosing to make way to literature essays, innumerable translations, and the occasional running around for the sake of college interviews. However, now that it is the vacation, and I have pledged to write at least one review per month, I am screwing my creativity to the sticking place, and writing a review before the furore that is college life takes over all over again.

Now, it is with some trepidation that I sit down to write this book review. This is not necessarily because I dread the task; quite to the contrary, in fact. I am looking forward to exploring and analysing the different nuances which make up this incredibly complex and wonderfully detailed book. My trepidation mainly derives from the inability to ascertain whether I shall be able to stem the flow of my ‘eloquence’ once I get started, thus flinging the virtues of clarity and succinctness out of the metaphorical window. I say this from the outset to warn my dear readers, to tell them to beware of waffle and all-round babble.

Anyway, I had already approached this book with great thoughts of positivity and optimism. Out of all the French authors I have read so far (and I’ll admit that there are not that many), Zola is by far my favourite. According to my more erudite friends, this is a distinctly pedestrian and unintellectual choice, but, as I had never made any pretensions towards intellectualism, I don’t mind not being considered ‘intellectual’. I had read other classics by Zola in the Rougon-Macquart series, namely, L’Assommoir and Nana, and had especially enjoyed the dedication to explicit detail and the tentative exploration of nature versus nurture. Looking forward to more of the same in Germinal, I was certainly not disappointed; the savage power and beauty of the novel left me speechless, and profoundly move. This power derives from its skilful exploration of key themes; its gritty realism and vividness of description; its complex use of imagery; as well as its incredible emotional appeal.

Germinal is so named after the seventh month in the French Republican Calendar, and roughly follows the same dates as the star sign Aries in the zodiac. The month was named after the Latin word germen, meaning “germination”. Though it is a reference to the springtime phenomenon of growth and regeneration that is often associated with the month of April, and with Spring in general, the title is also an allusion to a growth, or germination, if you like, of rebellion and change that was becoming increasingly stronger both in the story, and in the large political and economic situation of Zola’s France. Following the story of Etienne Lantier, the son of Gervaise (the ‘heroine’ of L’Assommoir), and the brother of Claude (the protagonist of L’Oeuvre) and Anna, or “Nana” (character in the eponymous Nana), its traces his trials and tribulations as a miner in the mining town Montsou, as he battles with antagonism, politics, and the societal, economic, and political pressures that were so integral in contemporary France. Living a miserable and destitute life as a poorly paid and ill-treated miner, and an increasingly angry member of what we would now call “the 99%”, Etienne manipulates the growing discontent of the mining community in order to go on strike, thus rebelling against the Establishment, and wreaking absolute havoc in his own life, and in the lives of all those around him.

The book is thematically strong, and these themes are beautifully woven into an equally excellent plot. Zola makes light work of what could have been overly heavy material, seamlessly combining all of the elements that make a Zola novel so memorable; namely, its exploration of nature versus nurture in human personality, its examination of the limits of human rapacity, desperation, and willpower, as well as its examination into the social issues and ethical problems of the day. The themes of optimism in change; despair through absolute penury; rebellion; and cyclical regeneration, are carefully explored in this classic tale of conflict between two sets of individuals that widely differ in education, social class, and ideology, and mind-set, each, to a certain extent, yearning for what the other has, without precisely understanding or caring to appreciate the other’s situation or circumstances. This misunderstanding and resentment is especially well sketched when contrasting Etienne Lantier and Monsieur Hennebeau; the former of whom desires the latter’s better financial standing and possession of worldly luxuries, without understanding the social pressures that accompany such an individual in the circles he moves in, whereas the other craves the lack of inhibition and raw animal sensuality which allows Etienne and those of his ‘ilk’ to pursue whatever they desire freely; yet Hennebeau too does not appreciate the sheer destitution and lack of opportunities that has resulted in this fairly fatalistic and almost hedonistic approach to life and its pleasures. Thus, by carefully constructing different situations and different characters to mirror and reflect one another, Zola has been successful in interlacing these disparate themes into one coherent and cohesive narrative of human tragedy and emotion.

This is further enhanced by the realism of Zola’s narrative, a characteristic of Zola’s authorial voice that has always been remarkably good in all his novels, and has always been, in my opinion, worthy of praise. However, Zola’s skill in creating a series of tableaux through the written word in order to recreate everything as realistically as possible for the detached and ignorant reader is especially marvellous in Germinal. His depictions of the sexual relations of all the characters; the way he narrates the ebb and tide of human emotion in reaction to a series of political speeches made by Etienne and other politically active characters; his descriptions of the disgusting circumstances in which all the miners live, whilst cleverly contrasting this with the almost repellent opulence and excess of the “1%” who benefit from the almost-slavery of their miner employees; the conditions of the underground network within the mines themselves; the almost savage power and ferocity of the angry mob as they pillaged and burned their way from one village to the next, leaving ruins and destruction in their wake; and, most importantly of all, the relentless and unsparingly grim narrative on the abject hunger and deprivation of all the miners and their families as they tried to endure the strike, and the subsequent hunger and poverty; all of these little scenes are described in such vivid and gruesome detail as to leave the reader drained and sickened by the unrelenting grittiness of the plot. There is not one splash of sunshine in the dark and grim painting created by Zola, and Zola, skilful as he is, ensures that he makes his monochrome shades of his black and grey narrative utterly stark and without solace.

Though I have described scenes and themes in my praise of Zola’s skill of realistic narration, his ability to create realistic and brutally stark text is no more evident than in his characterisation. From what I understand, Zola’s large and ambitious RougonMacquart cycle of books was both a social and a psychological commentary: not only did he want to offer to his readers an education of sorts concerning the state in which many different sorts of people lived, he was also profoundly interested in understanding the human psyche, and the capacity for madness and crime within an individual. Darwinism and Natural Sciences had been taking an increasing hold on polite intellectual society, and the concept of hereditary tendencies versus societal pressures and upbringing. The Nature vs. Nurture question has never been so thoroughly, or so adeptly, explored by a novelist than it was by Zola, who used the sprawling family tree of the fictional Rougon-Macquart to investigate, through literature, the perennial genes vs environment question. Zola’s almost obsessive examination of this has enabled him to create characters so raw, so real, and so fundamentally human, and yet so utterly bestial, that their actions and thoughts both shock and enlighten. Chaval’s bestiality, Zacharie’ flippancy, Etienne’s temperamental nature, Catherine’s utter resignation, Jeanlin’s cunning and resourcefulness, the Gregoires almost irritating sangfroid and blissful ignorance, even Hennebeau’s frustration and sexual impotency, these are conveyed by Zola with such feeling, such passion, and with such skill, that though no character within his narratives are ever eminently likeable, they are too uncomfortably close to being utterly realistic for us to hate them. For, to hate them for their flaws and mistakes would be to condemn and dislike the entire human race; thus is Zola’s skill in creating such beautifully human fictional creatures.

All of this is all expressed through Zola’s incredible prose, as well as his ability to take metaphors and allegories, and transform them into something absolutely incredible. Though I read this in translation (and therefore the potency of the original French would be lost through the translation), I could, even then, feel the absolute power and potency of Zola’s written word. By describing the mine as a living, breathing entity, with ‘veins’, and ‘arteries’, which ‘devours hordes of miners continually’ and which seems to be ‘always hungry for more’, he thus blurs the lines between man and machine, making the mining industry come alive on the page, and thus using the metaphor of the mine to caution future generations of people to be wary of greed and excessive consumption, as it leads to disastrous consequences. Zola furthers weakens the boundaries between different objects and beings by constantly describing the miners as beasts or animals, using his prose to strip them of anyone remotely ‘human’ and ‘civilised’, degrading them to the status of animals, and thus questioning moral and biological boundaries that apparently separate humans from animals. In a similar way, he almost elevates the mine to being a sentient being through his language. This makes for beautiful and effective literature, and Zola’s mastery and manipulation of language is no clearer than here.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the book, despite its technical brilliance, is also a book of incredible motive power. The emotions that it evokes are so real and ever so powerful. This is what makes it a truly good book; it may be uncomfortable and painful to read, as it forces us to confront certain realities about the human condition, and about the lives of others, but it is truly educational, and truly inspiring. I am not usually an emotional or sensitive person, but there were several points in this book when I was close to tears, moved by the pain and destitution and frustration felt by all the characters as they struggled on with their poverty-stricken lives. Its realism and wonderful prose thus enables the reader to live, through words, the lives of all these individuals, and therefore to empathise and to grow with them. Thus, Germinal is truly a book of great power and resonance.

In conclusion, Germinal is an absolute must-read. Magical in its skilful combination of thematically strong material, gritty realism, excellent characterisation, eloquent prose, and emotive text, Zola has created nothing short of a masterpiece. Well deserving of being his most celebrated of his works, Germinal is such a thing of beauty that I would hesitate not a bit to recommend this book to any person I meet in the future.

I am well aware that the structure and style of this review is not as good as it should be. I apologise for that, and I hope that whatever I offer up on this blog in the future. Hectorella.

Decline and Fall: A New Offering of Gregs as I Grovel Suitably For My Continued Negligence


I am a terrible person. There, I’ve admitted it. I promised myself that I would have lots of time to write at least one review per month, and have a parade of Gregs to boot – however, life has simply not panned out that way. Ever since taking on my role at The Culture Trip (which I love), I have been so busy that I have barely had the time to breathe, let alone think. Combined with the mountains of schoolwork, paid work, domestic chores, etc. etc…well, needless to say that one thing led to another, six months rolled by, and I’ve done nothing constructive on this blog except look at it every now and then and say to myself “Oops”. So, as a sort of recompense. A review will be forthcoming (it’s been six months in the writing), I just need to get my act together and finish it off, as well as finish editting it, before publishing it to my ever-patient and ever-kind audience. In the meanwhile though, may I present the next five in the “Fifty Shades of Greg” series, some of which are probably my favourite in the entire series (though I completely understand if it is getting boring for everyone else)…

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30. This was “commissioned” as a birthday present for my dear friend, A, who was one of the very first people I met during Freshers’ Week. He has remained a supportive and encouraging friend ever since, and I wanted to do something to demonstrate my deep gratitude for all he has done for me. I chose the Iggy Stardust costume as Greg’s grab for one very obvious reason – simply that, at a Bop (a college get-together) with the theme “When I Grow Up”, A chose to dress in the infamous Iggy Stardust outfit, as he had wanted to become David Bowie when he ‘grew up’. Now grown up, he has become an ace Mathematician at university, but still retains that sass and energy that made the outfit suit him so well. And thus this star-spangled diva was born..

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32. My good friend D is part of my college family. Describing herself as an “angry vegan lefty feminist” (so true, except she’s much much nicer than the use of the adjective ‘angry’ may imply!), she instantly fell in love with the sass and charm of our ever-effervescent Greg, and asked if she could have one. And who was I to refuse? A Taylor Swift mega-fan and a HUGE lover of cats (she came to a themed-party as the cat-lady once), it was both easy and enjoyable to create her special Greg (especially as I adore cats as well).


33. This wasn’t at all a request from the person to whom it was given, but it was more a sort of votive offering to my “college ancestor” as a thank you for all the support he had given me for my first year examinations. As his mother is Korean, and I have a love for Korean period costume and fashion (spawned from many years of watching historical K-drama), I decided that this would be a fitting way of drawing something I liked that also represented half of what my ancestor is….


34. This wasn’t dedicated to anyone, though many people absolutely loved the wingtip eyeliner! As can be seen from the many costumes, Greg has something of a penchant for dressing in exotic and feminine clothing – what better way of trying to encapsulate that than Greg trying to look mysterious and seductive in a Nefertiti-style diaphanous dress? I think little can top the heights of ridiculousness after this particular stint of Greg’s…or perhaps not.


35. After my mother commented that I dressed Greg in femal clothing far too much, I hit back with a suitably ‘masculine’ rendering of Greg. One of her favourite periods of literature is the early Georgian, with its many lotharios and casanovas. Given that this was so, I thought that dressing Greg as a Lovelace-Valmont-Tom Jones-esque rapscalion was the perfect way to neutralise the acidic sarcasm of my ever laconic mother. And I was right – Greg in a fleur-de-lis waistcoat was indeed enough to ‘placate’ her – for a while 😉

That’s all – for now! Once again, I apologise for being so horribly neglectful of this wonderful little space, and, this holiday, I shall endeavour not to let the entire enterprise slide into ignominy. Come Finals Year, however, I’m afraid I will not hold myself responsible for anything I say, or do, or, more importantly, don’t do….

Hectorella and Greg xx

Grégoire Among the Ruins: an apologia about my lack of creativity, and more Gregs


It is a truth universally acknowledged (according to moi), that all intentions, no matter how good, pure, or sincere, mostly and inevitably get tarnished and eventually chucked. This, at any rate, applies to me: there I was, secure in my own supercilious pomposity, intent on writing and posting exactly how much I wanted to. After all, isn’t time simply what one makes of it. Four essays, piles of translations, and a few panic attacks later, I humbly concede that I am absolutely rubbish at managing my own personal time, and thus it is unlikely that I’ll even be able to produce on critical review per month. Mon Dieu. With a humility that is uncharacteristically French (haha), I present to his adoring fans five more pieces from the Grégoire the Grizzly Comics. Please enjoy. It’ll make me feel marginally less bad about being such an appalling time manager.


26. I am very melodramatic. I am also very good at making a mountain out of a molehill. It is reasonably fair to say that I overreact. In light of this, I decided to make my little creation as ridiculous as me. And, seeing as he is French, and a great aficionado of all things over-the-top and frilly, what better guise could I put him in, than a musketeer’s outfit? The Riot Club mention was merely a throwaway comment to commemorate the awkwardness and stiltedness of the entire film.


27. If it wasn’t already apparent from the previous pictures, I have a great interest in Art and Fashion through the ages. This Greg was partially inspired by the Princess in Braveheart. Despite the lack of historical accuracy in the epic itself, I thought that the film was a nice tribute to epic cinematography in general, and especially liked the costume and the soundtrack. This Greg is an attempt to commemorate this.


28. My good friend J is an awful hack. Truly awful. He was also absolutely insistent on getting a Greg, as he feels ‘he is a little bit of a big deal’ (really now J?). This Greg encapsulates all that is J, and, despite grumbling, secretly, he very much loves the tongue-in-cheek nature of the comic.


29. My college mother L is a Japanologist (as you can probably tell from the Greg). I wanted to thank her for her amazing parental skills (she gave me cookies!), so I drew her this Greg. She approves, she definitely approves 🙂

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30. My friend P is absolutely mad. He is obsessed (and I really mean obsessed) with lingusitics and languages, so much so that sarcasm etc goes completely over his head. His enthusiasm was infectious, and so I gave him a Greg comic as a wry tribute and satirical take on his all-consuming passions. Surprisingly, he quite liked it, and said “it was quite accurate” (you don’t say). Watch out for an upcoming review soon, and new installments of Greg next month! I only have seven slots left until I finish off the entire series, and whilst I am excited about the prospect of finishing off a project on such a successful high, I am also sad that the end is drawing near. Oh well, there’s always time for future projects! Best wishes, Hectorella and Grégoire.

Thoughts on a 21st Century Tragedy


Trigger Warning: Racism, Freedom of Press, Religious Discrimination.

Though I promised that I would never lower the tone of this blog through the posting of any irrelevant or egotistical musings, as a journalist and wannabe cartoonist, I feel it is almost a duty to  do this for those who choose to listen my thoughts on the tragedy that is the Charlie Hebdo Shootings. In doing this, I hope to do honour to the journalists who died yesterday, and also show my stance – how, though the thoughts and opinions expressed by others may be distasteful, bigoted, or outright outrageous, expressed they must be, and expressed they shall be; I occasionally deplore the intelligence of Man, yet I feel we have very little to look forward to as a species if we cannot even trust the intelligence of our fellow man enough to know what is and isn’t a disgusting opinion.

So, in writing this article, I know I am breaking my own cardinal rule of keeping Greeneland Revisited purely for book reviews and (occasional spurts of) creativity. However, Greeneland Revisited, and the opinions it expresses, only exists because of la liberté d’expression (or freedom of speech) is a fundamental right, or should be such in a Utopian world.

I am also recycling an old Grégoire sketch of mine, one which was done with a happy mind and a mischievous mood – in choosing to write antonyms on Gregoire’s Les Misérables banner, a mockery of the fervour and fanaticism that has often been the reception for the classic musical, I didn’t realise that I was reflecting the thoughts of many people in France at the moment, morbid and self-centred though it may sound. I hope you enjoy the sketch, even if the experience is somewhat bittersweet and (for those of you who’ve seen it before) boring.

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I by no means want to be one of those teenage hipsters who jump onto a political bandwagon, espousing values of liberalism and sentiments of horror over the recent events in Paris, but, as a French nationale who identifies as a devout Roman Catholic, and who also identifies as a minority race (as my mother is from Hong Kong), I feel this has to be said. I’m sure many others of my ilk shall express the same sentiments as me.

I don’t think anyone who’s alive and breathing and/or active on social media could possibly be unaware of the horrific events that occurred yesterday in Paris. That such an event should occur only a day after the optimistic and festive Epiphany festival strikes my morbid and somewhat overactive imagination as well. My condolences go to the friends, family, and any other people who may have been severely affected by such a catastrophe. The sheer violence and horror of the occurrence made my blood go cold when I heard it, and I immediately felt at one with all the protesters and mourners all over Europe who gathered together to remember the dead. Though nationalism can be divisive and ultimately destructive, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more French – or sadder at a public disaster – than I did at that moment, embarrassing though the sentiment may be. And I certainly condemn any actions of violence that is done in the name of anything whatsoever, be it Religion, or money, or for the ‘lolz’.

I am also sad that the expression of one’s opinions and beliefs, no matter how distasteful, should have resulted in tragedy. As an amateur cartoonist and satirist myself, I have seen fit through my Gregoire Le Souflurre comics (which, in a sad twist of fate, was a French bear meant to represent the freedom with which the French supposedly expressed themselves, as the Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité motto implied, or at least suggested), both to mock myself, my circle of friends, and the environment I live in, from the insular issues such as the pettiness of college rivalries, to the more major problems stemming from perpetuated rape culture and trans-hate. It sounds silly, but I use my Gregoires as an expression of my creativity (what little of it there is), and of my sarcasm, a tool which, though may be the lowest form of wit, is also an extremely useful way of expressing disgust or resignation over certain situations and events. It pains me that others, like myself (how egotistical of me!) should pay the price for that freedom of expression, and for the inclination to express what they believe.

However, this doesn’t make the current backlash right. I don’t care whether the shooting was barbaric or violent (though it was), and I don’t care who did it, or for what reason. The core point that should be remembered is that innocent blood has been shed, and freedom of speech has been violated through that. Blaming a particular race, or religion for the crimes of a very small minority is counter-productive, and will only serve to worsen the situation and continue the vicious cycle of mistrust and racism. I, as a Catholic, am frankly outraged that there are people who are using this as an excuse to commit hate crimes against institutions of religion, as well as against people of certain racial and religious denominations. I may be bad at arithmetic, and also a bit cliched, but, in all honesty, two wrongs do not make something right.

So please, mourn the dead, and deplore the logic that resulted in such a catastrophe. But, if we really want this world to be liberal, open-minded, and multiculturalist in nature (and I mean truly liberal), please be a little more considerate in the thoughts expressed in reaction to this event. Not, to be fair, that I’m condemning anyone on here, but I just needed to have the whinge. Thank you. I apologise if any of the sentiments that I have expressed has been in any way distasteful.

Hectorella, Creator of Grégoire.

When the Going was Greg: My Final Post of 2014


Despite my promises that I would post more Gregs (and, slightly more importantly, more book reviews), I’m afraid I simply hadn’t got around to it. I’ve had an absolutely crazy December, what with end of term essays (two surprise ones in the last week!), helping out with department interviews, and doing the college telethon (again!), I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone rest. So, as a humble offering to all my “fans”, I present to you my last post of 2014, the next five pictures in my ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek “Fifty Shades of Greg comics.

21 - Theatrical Greg

21. I love musicals. I absolutely love them. I love them so much that I have a collection of soundtracks on my music player. As little Gregoire is essentially just the ursine male version of meself, I decided to project that love onto the more flamboyant…and crazier Greg.


22. My mother is quite enamoured with Scotland. I’m not quite sure why, she just is. She’s also quite a fan of the film “Highlander” (to be fair), so I am. This Greg is dedicated to her.


23. Greg has a bit of a sweet tooth. Evidently. This picture is evidence of this, and also proof that, despite being a rubbish cook, he’s not a half-bad baker (thank god for that).


24. My College Sister L turned 20 in October. As well as a present, I gave her a Greg, a Greg in which Monsieur Le Souflurre meets Barnabus, Jedi extraordinaire, and darling teddy bear of L. She loved her Greg.


25. Greg is a little (very) pretentious. As you have seen before, he also loves the theatre. The result? A lot of Shakespeare, a lot of strutting, and not much solid work going on. Oh dear, I guess it’s any excuse to be a Titania, isn’t it?

I’m afraid to say that, that’s all for now! Believe it or not, we are now half-way through the projected series, with several simultaneous projects running all at the same time. How exciting (for me anyway).

At any rate, I hope all the readers of this blog have had a fantastic Christmas, and an equally propitious New Year! I am hoping to write one review a month in 2015, a target that I hope I can keep…it’s been absolutely wonderful to write and to improve (hopefully) as a person, and I really appreciate the fact that those who read this blog is here to share the journey with me. So, a big thank you, and Happy New Year.

Best, Hectorella (and little Gregoire)

A Ride On the Greeneland Express: examining Greene’s “first true success”


Book: Stamboul Train (republished as Orient Express)

Author: Graham Greene

Date of Publication: 1932

Type: Novel (226 Pages)

Before continuing with this review of mine, I will have to admit (albeit sheepishly) that this took far too long to complete and publish. It is sad truth that an inevitable by-product of attending university is having an upsurge of on-topic and course-related work, all of which serves as an excellent preventative measure against the completion of Other Things. Therefore, actual Sanskrit shall impede the progress of supposed Creativity, and thus shall my writings be temporarily halted.

I was hoping to complete one review on a fortnightly basis, and if I could, on a weekly basis, but the latter occurrence is only likely to happen when all the stars come crashing down to Earth with a resounding “thwack” (and a lot of smoky debris), so I am not going to be so sanguine in the estimation of my own ability to manage time. My estimation was proven correct, and not only did I not manage to complete one on a fortnightly basis, I didn’t even manage to complete one during the first half of the term at all. So, in recompense I now present to you my latest review on Greene’s Stamboul Train, with the greatest happiness and enthusiasm, and I genuinely hope that all those interested in reading my ranting have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Truly, I have. Even if it meant a lot of angst and the occasional frantic scramble for a copy of the book I was reviewing (for referencing and memory reinforcing).

It is time to progress onto the actual review of Greene’s Stamboul Train (about time, I know some will say). Regrettably, there is only one word that can describe my feelings towards this book: lukewarm. It’s not necessarily a bad book, but to me, it’s not great either, and only has value in the fact that firstly, it was his first true success after the repudiated novels The Name of Action (which, I preferred in some ways, to Stamboul Train) and Rumour at Nightfall, and after his debut The Man Within, and secondly, because it exhibits the qualities (in a less developed form, naturally), that have made his later works truly stand out as quality literature. Before I proceed, I only have one small confession to declare: I personally think that my disappointment with this particular book is greater because of the extent to which I loved The Man Within. I had read The Man Within during the summer before I went up to Oxford, and I can truly say that it is one of those books that simply made the time fly. I remember feeling genuinely resentful that my lunch break at work was over, because I knew that I couldn’t finish the book because of that, and I raced home after work just so that I could spare the time to finish it properly.

Thus, after my surprisingly enthusiastic response to Greene’s (bloody amazing) debut, I continued onwards to Stamboul Train, genuinely expecting more of the same quality, but with more thrills and suspense and surprising plot-twists that would make the world of espionage more exciting and glamorous than it probably is. So, it was with genuine frustration that I finished this book, acknowledging the fact that it does indeed have its good points, but focusing more on the negatives that made my reaction to this book lukewarm, at best. In this review, I will attempt to justify this opinion of one of Greene’s more celebrated works, and explain why the skilfully created tension in the action scenes, and the clever interweaving of all the passengers’ lives and fates, do not outweigh the occasional clumsiness in the style, the scattered nature of the plot, and the lack of emotional depth and power, in comparison to some of his more ‘serious’ (and perhaps even less technically brilliant) works.

The novel focuses on the journey of a cross-continental train known as the ‘Orient Express’, a journey which will start in Ostend and end in Istanbul. The passengers of this train are a wonderfully eclectic assortment of people, all with different backgrounds and different motives, but their lives will be both tragically and farcically linked in unimaginable ways as the train journey continues. This includes entanglements in political rebellion, theft, homosexual relationships, and the unspoken problems of racial and social divides.

The scenes of “suspense” (or action thrills, as I like to call them) are actually very good, and definitely show promising signs of future greatness Greene’s stellar espionage sequences in his later classics, such as The Confidential Agent and The Human Factor. The scene of the escaping thief Grünlich at the beginning of the book is a masterly example of Greene experimenting with and honing the fine art that is skilfully creating tension. Another notable example of this successful evocation of edgy thrills is the car escape scene in Subotica, a scene filled with such incredible tension that the reader almost feels as stressed and anxious as Myatt as the decrepit and temperamental car slowly edges its way further and further eastwards. This is heightened by the sense of anti-climax that the reader feels when Grünlich escapes in the car with Myatt instead of Musker, ensuring that the reader feels great frustration and resignation at the unfortunate and tragic turn of events. However, though that scene is both exciting and frightening to the more timid reader, it is the episode of Dr Czinner’s court martial that really stands out as a scene of exceptional power and pathos. There is something poignant and tragic in the way Czinner stands up for himself and his convictions, fully knowing that there is no possible way he can escape alive, and yet still needing to prove to himself and to his captors that he is no coward, and certainly no turn-coat. The power and effect of this incredible passage is deeply felt, and is certainly one of the high points in what is otherwise an arguably bland and occasionally incoherent narrative.

This abruptness is especially felt in the final part of the Musker adventure, in which she is whisked away by the jilted journalist Warren in her car, and her fate is left unknown as the scene closes with Musker suffering from a heart bypass. I felt this turn of events was arbitrary, and almost completely superfluous to the plot; it added nothing to the general flow of the story other than to create a sense of bewilderment and perturbation in the mind of the reader. However, despite this, the creativity and tension that fuels many of the hair-raising episodes of the novel ought to be credit with the praise it deserves, and it would not be biased to claim that some of these great scenes display the great potential which Greene later fulfils in his next ‘entertainments’.

Another aspect of Stamboul Train which I, as a reader, definitely thought acted as an asset to the plot, was the way in which Greene successfully managed to create The disparate characters on the train all lead unique and strange lives (in a good way), and Greene does a relatively good job of tying it all together in plausible and tragic ways (the escape in the car, for example). From the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the irritable lesbian journalist Warren; to the cunning and resourcefulness of Grünlich; the passivity and resignation of Musker; the fluctuating tendencies towards both idealistic bravado and self-serving despair in Czinner, and the alternations of mercenary pride and ethnic insecurities in Myatt, Greene has managed to create a wide range of characters, whose interactions and relationships enmesh together in a clever web of deceit, gratitude, condescension, and reluctant good will, to name but a few. In presenting so many characters of so many different sorts, Greene has been successful in recreating a train full of passengers, all of whom are completely different and yet are bound together by the curious coincidence of heading in the same direction, with the same means of conveyance. Thus, Greene has managed to make his character sketches colourful but realistic, showcasing a wide panoply of characters and lives.

This effective characterisation was accompanied by the clever use of train stops as chapter markers. This deceptively simple, yet efficacious method allowed the plot to be divided into episodes and phases that were neatly divided according to the location in which the train itself was situated, thus constantly reminding the reader of the artificiality and temporal nature of the environment. It was also clever in that it almost literally kept the plot moving, and gave the subsequent action a sense of inevitability that was heightened by Musker’s detainment (and thus her separation from Musker), as well as the similar car escape back eastwards, in which again much of the tension was based on whether passengers to get back to the train on time or not. This therefore allowed Greene to increase an already tense and highly charged atmosphere.

On the other hand, any effect that Stamboul Train may have had was partially ruined by the clumsy style of writing which was almost an inevitable by-product of constant shifts in narrative and environments. There was some good scenes, as I have explained above, and there were also some characters with great potential (such as the noble and altruistic Czinner), but it seemed as if Greene had a series of unconnected tableaus, with powerful writing and effect within these scenes themselves, , and no means by which he could connect them all together. If one were to visualise the plot as a tangible object, it would be comparable to having a collection of beautifully polished and glistening pearls, all of which are valuable and beautiful in and of themselves – until they are strung together in a necklace made of a ball of twine. There was little smoothness in the transition from one scene to another, and this made the plot occasionally seem stilted, and, in the transitional passages, outright dull. The profound effect that the advent of cinema had on the works of Greene and contemporary authors is apparent here, as the plot is more like a whole series of montages rather than one continuous narrative.

Furthermore, though the ‘action episodes’ show great potential, the monologue, at this stage of Greene’s development as a first-class writer, does not. The characters, with their constant stream of inane, and frankly irritating, consciousness begins to grate on the nerves and, in my opinion, wears the patience of the reader thin. I feel that this is especially applicable to the narrative focusing in Myatt; whilst it is important to understand the anxiety and insecurities that underlie his character, in part due to his personality, and in part due to the persecution that his race has continually received in mediaeval and modern Europe, this theme was belaboured and over-emphasized, and any power it had was lost. Whilst I am not critic of the concept of introspective experimentation, there can occasionally be too much, and, if the introspection does not yield anything of interest, either stylistically or thematically, then the technique is ineffectual. This inner-monologue technique, and its effect in displaying, in glorious details, the angst and dilemmas of the everyday Greeneland protagonist, is one will thankfully improve with time, but, at this stage, it is merely a fledgling in its quality and efficacy.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Greene failed in extracting any sentiments from me. The characters were interesting and diverse, and were certainly skilfully drawn up, but, with the possible exception of Czinner, I could not emotionally invest with the characters. I neither passionately hated nor loved them, and I found myself ambivalent to their plight. Despite my previous statement about Czinner, even then I discovered that, though slightly disturbed by the court-martial and subsequent execution, I did not genuinely feel pain, or loss at the death of the character. This stands in stark contrast to my emotions concerning Greene’s debut, The Man Within, which wildly vacillated from anguish, to despair, to frustration, ultimately to sadness in the closing scenes; there was a great sense of loss, and a even deeper sense of regret. The emotion which a book can evoke from its reader is, in my opinion, supposed to be one of its primary powers, and in this respect, Stamboul Train fails sadly.

In conclusion, I think that Stamboul Train is a book of very mixed parts. The scenes of action, of tension, with suspense and thrills, are very good. Their interlinking scenes and everything else is not. The writing and structure is occasionally stilted, and sometimes the scenes of actions are connected with each other like a very awkward string of wonky beads. However, what I do value in the Stamboul Train is the amount of untapped potential it has; it is a book with a very good concept, and really is the “entertainment” that Greene wanted it to be. Even now it does not fully realise its own potential, it definitely shows the glints of Greeneland genius that will flourish with a magnificent vengeance in his later works, be they serious or “entertaining”. For this, Stamboul Train is a useful and valuable link in showing the evolution of Greene’s career as a writer, even if, as a stand-a-lone, it lacks that emotional appeal and power that would make it a tour-de-force in the Greene canon.

Put Out More Gregs: a fresh batch of Greg sketches.


I immensely enjoyed completing these series of Gregs: partly because of the overwhelmingly positive response I have been getting from these sketches, and partly because researching the little details that complete a Greg is so fun! Please find below the next four in the Fifty Shades of Greg series, which this humble illustrator very much hopes that you enjoy!

17 - Sherlock Greg

17. I am one of those annoying Sherlockians. Yes, yes I know. Now you probably think I’m one of those crazy fans that scream every time the letter “B” pops up anywhere (I’m not, by the way). In commemoration of the wonder that is Sherlock Holmes, (modern or otherwise), I drew this cosplay Greg.

18 - Flyte-y Greg

18. I met my friend D in the Trinity term, and we got very close very quickly. Sadly, she was an exchange student abroad, so once her year finished, she had to go back home 😦 I miss her a lot, but we manage to communicate via facebook fairly often, so that’s alright. She’s a HUGE fan of Greg (self-proclaimed), and she’s also one of Brideshead Revisited’s No. 1 fans (a love we have in common). This Greg was done to celebrate her (and Waugh).

19. My father is obsessed with Star Wars. Truly, madly obsessed. He really likes Greg too, and kept badgering me to do a Darth Vader Greg. I kept insisting that that would be quite difficult to do; he began to whine some more. As a compromise, I made him a Princess Leia Greg instead. I’m not sure what his reaction to it is, he hasn’t seen it yet.


20. I used to practise ballet when I was little. I wasn’t very good. However, my Greg combines my enthusiasm and a dancer’s talent in dancing, and so Ballerina Greg was born. I think he looks really sweet in a tutu, but that’s just my opinion.

That’s all in the series thus far! Please keep your eyes peeled for the next lot (there’s always something being drawn), and again, I really hope you like them!