February 2005 Archives

No share !

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Someone recently emailed me to gloat over share some good news about a package she received from a friend in Australia - a package which contained about seventeen million packets of Tim Tams.

I lasted about a week, and then I caved. I decided to dip into my reserve and pulled out a packet that my sister had brought over.

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But... there must be some mistake.

Since when are Tim Tams supposed to be shared?

"Tim Tams" and "share" are two words which should not go together in the same sentence.

There is no way Sylvain is going to miss those big letters. He may get insistent about partaking of said TimTams.

Perhaps I could get out a big red texta and change it to "Value Scare Pack".

How cold is it?

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The sky is a pale blue. If I use my imagination, and focus on the trees and the wee little fluffy white clouds out of the window (conveniently pretending not to see the 70s style apartment buildings that are also part of the view), I could almost be in Australia.

But I have been here long enough to know that the sky is deceiving. It is not a spring afternoon in Australia where I can go outside in sandals and a tshirt.

I wrap myself up.

Bright blue socks, a fluffy pink scarf, a big black jacket and fluffy black gloves.

Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Oooh look at the birdie. Slip. Slide. Ouch.

Even in practical shoes, I slip on the snow-that-has-turned-into-ice.

There are workmen doing things in a hole in the sidewalk. I skip around their fenced-off enclosure, perversely noting the lack of a "builders crack". It's too cold even for that.

I duck into the supermarket, unwrap myself a little as I make my rounds, then duck out again.

My ears are cold. I should have put on a beanie. The digital weather gauge at the Pharmacie tells me that it is -2°C outside.

I'm pretty sure the snot in my nose is frozen. At least I'm not sniffing anymore.

My hands start to sweat in my gloves.

I manage to acheive a personal record : I do the five minute walk home without slipping in the snow-that-has-turned-into-ice.

I don't necessarily want winter to go home. But if it's going to be this cold, it should at the very least be snowing. Make the cold worthwhile.

Now my plan is coffee, cat cuddles and a book (I chose my rostered day off well).

I'm grateful for heating that works.

Just for Spinach (and Carolyn)

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Pamplemousse the purple mouse is my friend.

Now. Tell me! And stop spamming my blog!

Sniffing the camera

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Sniffing the camera

Little Miss Curiosity thinks that whatever is going on in this apartment (and this country, this world, this universe) concerns her.

And doesn't it?

Mars Attacks !

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Last night, at about 3am, I wandered out to the kitchen to get some water, blurry-eyed and sleepy.

I jumped in surprise, and, dare I admit it, a little bit of fear.

Two long thin glowing things were lying on the kitchen bench. My fuddled, sleepy mind was running through the possibilities - alien glow-worms coming to attack, light sabres for killer spiders, some strange new radioactive form of cat vomit.

I broke through the daze and realised that they were just the swizzle sticks from my Blue Lagoons, still glowing happily in the dark.

I went back to bed and dreamed about alien glow-worms coming to attack, attracted to the planet earth by a strange new radioactive form of cat vomit, and aided in their invasion by killer spiders wielding glowing light sabres.

Second Blue Lagoon

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The Second Blue Lagoon was also deceptively easy to drink.
It was only upon standing that I realised how strong it really was.
*blinks*
Oh yes. It shames my True Blue Fair Dinkum Aussie side to admit it, but I think I am a lightweight. I'd like to blame it on the wine I drank before that, or the fact that the beverages were HUGE, but I really think that's grasping at straws.
The bright purple glow-in-the-dark swizzle stick can now be located in my handbag.

Thanks for the company this evening, Miss Ugg Boots!

First Blue Lagoon

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The first Blue Lagoon was deceptively easy to drink.
I did enjoy the novelty of damp turf on a bar floor (Oh My Gosh That's Really Real Grass - I Nearly Put My Handbag On It!). Sure beats wood shavings. (Want to feel some grass between your toes when you go out for a drink or two? Check out the Caveau des Oubliettes in the 5th).
The bright yellow glow-in-the-dark swizzle stick is now residing in my handbag.

GISBE - done !

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In between finishing work last night and going to the book signing, I decided to add the finishing touches to my GISBE gift. I already had the primary part of the gift, but wanted to add a couple of little things to polish it off.

So I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and stepped into one of the millions of tourist shops here in the 5th.

Given that I live here and all, I don't normally have a lot of reason to enter the tourist shops here. In fact, I generally avoid them like the plague. The plastic ashtrays, miniature eiffel towers and bright red berets surely have their place in the world, although they do not grace my mantlepiece, but I think I managed to pull together a few extra things that were not totally tacky.

I wrapped it all up and chatted happily to the man at La Poste (who was the complete opposite of the stereotypical postal service employee, and actually made jokes and laughed with me), and the package should now be on its merry way to the United States of America. I can't wait for my giftee to get it! I really think that the Giving is the most exciting part of this whole exchange thing.

Book signing

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Margaret Atwood signing a book in the Abbey Bookshop, Paris

Margaret Atwood, sitting cross-legged on a table, signing a book in the Abbey Bookshop, Paris.

Whilst there, I bumped into the absolutely adorable Oiseau Anglais, and the super sweet Sierra. Both very nice lassies who didn't look horribly embarrassed when I kept bumping over piles of books ;) I'm such a klutz. I would have loved to have drinks with either or both of them, but the tiny little bits of snow were seeping and creeping and sneaking underneath the collar of my coat, so I ducked into the RER and came home. It'll just have to wait another couple of weeks ;)

Margaret Atwood? I told her that The Handmaids Tale was one of the definitive, defining works for me in my early teens. She nodded, smiled - I'm sure she hears it all the time, but it made me feel good. We went over to the hall beside l'église Saint-Sévérin and listened to her talk a little about her book. Sharp, sharp lady. Very interesting to hear her theories on the world.

An excellent little outing, I was REALLY very excited to find a copy of Where the Wild Things Are (the book that was MOST borrowed when I was in primary school) as I chatted to the girls in the bookshop. I might have to go back tomorrow to buy it. heh.

Rolling

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With the possibility of a serious move to England in the next year or two (and maybe one day to Australia), Sylvain is starting to get worried about certain things.

"If we move to England," he murmurs. "Are you prepared to live on Indian food? Cos you know the English can't cook."

You can take a Frenchman out of France, but you can't take France out of the Frenchman.

He's mostly worried about the bread factor, so the last few weekends, he's been trying his hand at some breadmaking (no breadmaker, by hand, all fait maison). His first efforts were slightly ... erm... crunchy. But last weekend he really outdid himself - tiny little perfect bread rolls, each no bigger than the size of my fist.

So we stuffed them with garlic prawns, baked them for 2 minutes more in the oven, and ate some as an éntrée.

Made for it.

Whee! I'm in! I've been waiting for weeks for Petite to organise this.

Bloggers Meet

Hoorah for Expats in France!

Snow at the Fontaine Saint Michel

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It's snowing in Paris and I'm a happy happy girl. Sylvain and I had our noses pressed against the apartment windows this morning, staring in delight at the winter wonderland outside. Unfortunately, the Parisians I know are rather put out by the whole thing, as it causes a great deal of inconveniences. Not to mention that it messes up ones hair.

Sensibility

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Since I'm not used to this white stuff and all, I've been oh-so-elegantly slipping and sliding in the snow this morning, on my way to work.

Practical shoes? Heck no!

Letter to the green cat

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I would like to make an official statement to a certain "Spinach", who keeps leaving comments on my blog.

I sent Carolyn's photos two weeks ago. The entire thing is out of my hands. You should be nagging La Poste and Australia Post, not me! And anyway, I am not the numbuts who didn't bring the right cd of photos back to Australia in the first place.

*coughs*

That will be all.

Although I am very impressed that you have given up chasing mice and have decided to dedicate your time to mastering a keyboard.

White as snow!

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Coming from a country where it only snows in the furtherest highlands, having grown up having only seen snow from afar or on the television, when it snows here, you can imagine what my reaction is like. I have a childlike appreciation of this white stuff - right down to the squeals of delight.

This morning, I opened the curtains to discover a thin white sheet of snow covering my little corner of the city. It doesn't snow seriously in Paris very often, just little showers of snowflakes that melt as soon as they hit the ground, but occasionally we get enough to cover the ground. I love this unexpected taste of winter.

Right now, there are tiny little snowflakes falling past my window. It is almost exciting enough for me to forget that I miss the salty kiss of the ocean breeze and the feel of golden australian sand between my toes.

The candyman can

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The Bonbonnière? The fantabulous jar where all the lollies live? On my desk?

This is sooooooooooooo not the best place for it to be. Because I'm not exactly what you'd call the thinnest girl on the planet. More cuddly, than anything else, in fact.

But apparently my colleagues have delegated it the logical place where the Bonbonnière must reside, and who am I to argue?

This is because my office is the place where people come to talk. To chat. Pour papoter. I have always had a reputation in Australia to be a bit of a talker (third grade? I got moved to the desk at the front of the class so many times, not because I was naughty, but because I couldn't stop talking), so I'm really not surprised to see this happening in French too, now that I'm able to get by in this crazy language now and all.

After all, if that's all you've got, you learn to live with it.

That's not to say I'm not still missing English conversation. Last Tuesday nights meetup was a perfect example of that. I came home at the end of the night with a furry tongue - not because of the amount of beverages consumed, but because I'd talked so much.

Now I just have a furry tongue because of all the lollies I've been eating.

Happy snapper

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Apart from eating muffins and sniffing and sneezing and snuffling (I have a cold - boohoo), this weekend I've also set up my photolog. At the moment, it mostly contains happy snaps from when Charlie was here in France, but I'll keep snapping and keep uploading, so hopefully I'll improve.

Muffin Magic

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Muffin Magic

My Muffin Man Makes Marvellous Muffins

(shown [in a very bad phonecam photo to the left] is an example of a dark chocolate muffin with chunks of white chocolate and raspberries)

Just what a girl needs on a cold winter weekend ! A husband who makes her muffins!

Pen(wo)manship

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Newsflash just in my email inbox :

Thursday 24 February, 7:00pm-8:00pm Exceptional Event!!
Jeudi le 24 février, 19h-20h Evénement exceptionnel !!
The Abbey Bookshop/La Librairie Canadienne
29, rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris,
M St Michel, Cluny la Sorbonne

The Abbey Bookshop welcomes Internationally acclaimed author Margaret Atwood for the launch of the French Edition of her latest novel Oryx and Crake (French title : Le dernier homme (Editions Laffont).

Wow Wow Wow. I'm so there.

Split Personality

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Sometimes the people around me here think that I'm a little weird, as a French woman wouldn't necessarily wave her hands vigorously in the air and bounce from one foot to the other as she talks enthusiastically about random things.

I've often heard my boss say, "don't worry, she's Australian", by means of explaining my slightly strange behaviour. I'm not sure whether to feel insulted or coddled.

Katia, "I don't feel like I express myself the same way in French as I do in English."

Collegue, "hmm..."

Katia, "I mean, I sometimes feel like I'm a different person in French than in English."

Collegue, "ooooh, you mean, like Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde?"

Katia, "erm..."

Collegue, narrowing his eyes and regarding me suspiciously, asks, "so which one are you today? Dr. Jekkyl or Mr. Hyde?"

L'heure du petit dej'

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Dire State of Emergency.

No Caffeine left in the house (we're waiting impatiently for my delivery from Auchan online tonight).

I resort to drinking hot Milo (well spotted Sierra - the same tin I found last month in an obscure Indian grocery store in the 10th Arrondissement), whilst eating my Bio Fraise (well spotted Aimee - although I prefer Figue. You can also see Sylvain's Bio Mangue is in the background), and drinking my juice.

I never used to like eating breakfast, but I've learned that I have to have breakfast in the morning, otherwise my stomach decides to speak up mid-morning - not the most elegant of situations when one is in a meeting. heh.

The morning milo wasn't the same as a morning coffee, but it did have enough energy in it to give me a kick start to the day. Of course, I hit the coffee machine pretty hard when I eventually arrived at work ;)

I sent this image to my blog while eating breakfast, honestly intending to update the text this morning from work, but I got bogged down in things and didn't get around to it until now...

Tangy

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I really like lemony soft drinks.

When I go out for dinner (in Australia) and am not drinking "hard stuff", I'll always order a "lemon squash".

Intellectually, I know that the lemon squash is, in fact, Lift or some sort of standard lemon-y soft drink. It's just the name, "lemon squash", that conjures up mental images of freshly squeezed lemons and bits of pulp in a drink that fizzes in my nose as I bring the glass to my lips. Even though the reality is something different, something standard, the words, "lemon squash", are magical.

When I order a "lemon squash", I always ask them to put slices of lemon in it too. It just adds something extra.

That will be all.

Legless

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Today I lost the top button on my pants. The zip on these pants is not all that great, so the pants just kept on wanting to obey the rules of gravity all day.

I wanted to go and buy some new pants at lunchtime (or at least a little sewing kit, so that I could do some emergency repairs), but my plans were thwarted when my boss invited us all out for lunch.

So, I walked around for the entire day with my hand on my stomach, trying discretely to keep my pants from falling down. This is no mean feat when you are someone who talks vigorously with their hands. I kept on forgetting that I was button-less, waving my hands in the air to make a point, then clutching at my pants in horror to stop them from slipping down.

Pure elegance.

Italian mama

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There is a story behind our pizza from the other night.

The thing is, it didn't start off as a pizza with spinach and goats cheese. It started off as a pizza with spinach and feta, and we bought some feta at the supermarket to crumble on top of the pizza. But when it came to the making of the pizza, we searched high and low, through the refrigerator, the cupboards, and even the bin - the feta was nowhere to be found. I don't know what happened to it, and three days later, there have still been no feta sightings. I'm sure it'll turn up behind the microwave or something in a few weeks. Lovely.

*runs to check behind the microwave* Ok, it's not there.

I stomped around the kitchen, "if this bloody country had 24 hour supermarkets I could go out and buy some more feta".

Sylvain started foraging in the fridge, trying to find something that would go with the spinach, and eventually he pulled out our cheese box.

Now... our cheese box LOOKS sweet and innocent. It even smells ok from the outside.

But open it up and you can smell its contents from the other side of the apartment. We're not talking about pussy and wussy those weaker cheeses, like those which Kim is patiently exposing her delicate tastebuds to in her "I'm just learning to like cheese blog".

No, baby, these cheeses make your toes curl and will put hairs on your chest.

When I first came to France, I ate cheddar and some brie. The more fade it tasted, the more likely I was to eat it.

My parents-in-law were horrified, and decided to take the matter in hand. Each time I visited them, the more I discovered, the more I learned, the more I appreciated cheese. I started off with Kiri and St Moret, went on to some of the softer but tastier cheeses like Chaumes (still a favourite), and eventually started enjoying stronger and stronger flavours. I still don't eat much blue cheese - not because of the taste, but because I can't bear the idea of eating something greeny-blue and mouldy - but I am really getting into some of serious cheeses.

Last time we saw my in-laws, Sylvain told his parents about the last cheese we had bought from the market - a strong cheese, the type that you don't touch with your fingers, because you'll never get the odour off. Sylvains mother looked at me in surprise, but his father patted me on the shoulder and told me he was proud.

Anyway. Back to the pizza.

Sylvain opened our cheese box and pulled out a goat cheese that we'd bought over two months ago. It probably should have been thrown out, and delicate-little-Katia-of-five-years-ago would never have even considered eating it, but he put it on the bench and slowly peeled the paper away.

We examined it carefully. We didn't need to sniff, as the smell was well and truly there. Sylvain looked at me, "you reckon?"

I poked it with my finger, "yup, let's do it".

And that was one of the best darn pizzas that has ever passed my lips.

Now, I just need to hit the market and get some more goats cheese, then give it some time to settle. Rendez-vous in two months for pizza? ;)

Meetup Moment

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So last night I did the whole expat meetup thing. I was surprised to find myself feeling really nervous before I got there, as I'm not good with meeting lots of people that I don't know, but the organiser was really nice and there were literally a heap of "first-timers" like me. There were nearly 30 people there (apparently a really big turnout), and it was excellent. Although I was disappointed not to be able to catch up with Aimee (I hope you're getting over your flu!), there were heaps of really nice people, all in the same boat.

There is something really interesting and special about meeting people who come from all these different backgrounds, but have one important thing in common - we're all foreigners. With so many people there, I only got the chance to talk to some of them, so I'm looking forward to meeting more next time. I really enjoyed myself, and will definitely participate in the next one. Apparently they run some picnics in the summer, which sounds like fun.

If you're an Expat in Paris (or in the surrounding regions) looking to meet like-minded people, I would highly recommend this group.

Kitten Kisses

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Pizza Time

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The fruits of our his labour.

It should be noted that if one has forgotten to open a bottle of red wine to go with the pizza (and if one is married to a Frenchman who refuses to consider drinking from a bottle of red wine that has not breathed for a certain period of time and thus opening a bottle at the last minute is out of the question), a good alternative for a beverage-related pizza accompaniment is vodka and orange juice. Mmmm...

Edited to note : on top of that pizza (other than the requisite tomato sauce) is a mixture of spinach, goats cheese and cheddar. MMMMMMMM! There is no smooshed kiwi in sight, sorry to say, Kim ;)

Tag! You're it!

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I don't know how it happened, but I've somehow been tagged in the Lets All Share Our Musical Taste Race (for want of a better name) by the charming Vivi. Now, I'm not normally a meme-r, but since this is a little different, I thought I'd play along ;)

1. Total amount of music files on your computer?

546. Not much compared to some!

2. The last CD you bought was...

U2s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. I'm getting all psyched up for their concert, although it's months away and I really should calm down before I hurt myself ;)

3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?

Ma Philosophie by Amel Bent. It's catchy. A great song. She has a beautiful voice. Now it's spinning around and around in my head, and I'm singing the same line to myself over and over again. How do I get it out of there!!!?

4. Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

This is really hard, as my listening list changes really regularly... But these are some of my all-time favourites :
- Bruce Springsteen, Walking in Memphis
- Van Morisson, Days Like This
- Jeff Buckley, Hallelujah
- Shining Happy People, REM
- Under the Bridge, Red Hot Chilli Peppers
- With or Without You, U2
ok, ok, I know that's six, but I couldn't narrow it down ;) I'd throw anything by Dan Ar Braz in there too. All these songs make me feel good, and I love that music can make me feel that way.
I have a really eclectic taste in music, and I guess that shows it ;)

5. What 3 people are you going to pass this baton to and why?

It was really hard to make a choice... I have nearly 100 people on my blogfeeds list, then there is my blogroll... So after umming and ahhing, I decided to pass the baton onto some expats.

I tag...

Nyx of Microcosmos. I'd love to see what a fellow Aussie in Paris is listening to. That is, if she can get her nose out of her moving boxes....

Kim of francophony. She has an eclectic taste too (and not just for different varieties of spinach), and I just want to know if she'll sneak some Breton tunes in there ;)

Aimee of putyourflareon. She's a busy lass, but I'd like to find out what she's listening to. Anyone who dedicated entire posts to shoe shopping is a kindred spirit for me ;)

Dough-girl

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And moblogging works too! Of course, it totally sucks that my provider adds about ten lines of text to every message, and I need to come in here and edit it out. I wonder if there is something I can do about that.

So... anyway... I totally cursed myself the other day when I mentioned that the weather was getting nice...

Because today has been the weirdest day of weather I've ever seen. One minute it's bright and sunny (albeit fresh), the next minute it's hailing, then the next minute it's snowing. It's been doing this all day now. Crazy times. Right now I can see big snowflakes falling past the window, although I'm sure it won't last long. Who knows what could be next?

So what's with the dough shot? Sylvain decided that the best thing to do on a crazy winters day was to cook, and he thought he'd try his hand at a new pizza dough recipe. Little did we know how much it would actually rise, and now we've got enough to feed an army.

Anyone for pizza?

Towering Awfully

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DSC01008

DSC01008,
originally uploaded by cutestmidget.

I'm just testing out the post-to-blog feature from flickr (which finally worked, thanks to a full reinstall of MT - eek!), with a photo that I took on my way back from the ALiP last week.

My dad loves to call the Eiffel Tower the "Awful Tower". This is probably the sort of thing that every dad says - and it has nothing to do with the tower itself being "awful", just a play on words... typical dad stuff... Where DO they learn to be so dorky ? ;)

(hehe, you know I'm kidding on you, dad :))

Accentuated

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The following is a real conversation that I had on the phone this morning... (in French, of course)

"Hi! I'm Katia from XYZ and I'm calling you because..."

"Ooooh, hold on, you have a nice little accent there!"

"Thanks... hmm. ok, so I'm calling because..."

"Where are you from?"

"Erm..."

"England? America? Canada?"

"None of those..."

"Hmm... It's definitely an anglo accent... New Zealand? Australia?"

"Australia... so, yep, right, I was calling you because..."

"Really? You really come from Australia? Wow!"

"Yep, really. So..."

"So what's an Australian girl doing so far away from home?"

"Well..."

"Hold on, I have to ask - have you ever seen a kangaroo?"

"Well..."

"Oh! Oh! Oh! or a koala?"

"Erm..."

"OOooh and is it true that it gets really hot there? And you have all those lovely beaches!"

"Right. Ok. Well actually, I really need to chat to you about a certain..."

"Oh, right, of course, excuse me for getting carried away. But if you don't mind me being so forward, I'd really like to hear more about your country..."

The French are not normally so nosy, and they tend to hold back and get to know you better before launching into such questions. But occasionally you fall upon the odd one who doesn't have any qualms about posing every question that pops into his head. I did wonder if he wasn't one of those gentleman that Petite was talking about yesterday, so I managed to steer the conversation onto the right track and got through the discussion without too many more distractions. I just hope he doesn't call me back. heh.

A case of the crankies

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I get up and get myself ready for work. I really need to do some washing, and am down to my last work-appropriate sweater. I appraise myself in the mirror and even though I feel like I'm having a bad hair day, a fat day and a I-can't-keep-my-eyes-open day all rolled in to one, I pass the test. Barely.

Grr.

I walk into the kitchen and fluff around for a minute or two. In that short period of time, I knock my head on a cupboard door, bump my butt on the kitchen bench, and accidentally kick the cats food bowl, spilling croquettes all over the floor. My mood does not improve.

I walk back to the bathroom. I check myself in the mirror again, and lo and behold, there are not one, not two, but THREE stains on my jumper.

How do I do this?! I hadn't eaten anything yet, I hadn't really even done anything, yet I still managed to get three stains on myself already.

I rip off my sweater, and storm into the bedroom. Tops of all different shapes and colours start piling up on the bed.

Sylvain comes into the bedroom and watches the proceedings in silence. Symphony is on his lap, staring at me with wide eyes.

I finally decide on a blue top, put it on, and look at myself in the mirror.

"You look so nice in blue", Sylvain says helpfully.

I snarl, rip off the top and begin pawing through the drawers again.

I finally decide on a red top, put it on, and look at myself in the mirror.

"Oh, but you do look nice in red," he begins again.

I shoot him a look, and he closes his mouth.

I smooth down the top, decide that it'll have to do because I haven't got anything else, and storm into the kitchen.

Sylvain and Symphony both follow me, quietly.

"You do look nice," he says, attempting to appease my anger.

I clear my throat, and we both proceed to eat breakfast in silence. Symphony jumps on my lap and stares at me. I accidentally knock my brioche off the bench, drop my spoon, spill the coffee and rip a hole in my socks. Impressive.

Five minutes later, I put on my shoes and my coat, then I look outside. It's raining.

"Bloody rain," I grumble.

"It's not raining much, it's just a bit grey outside," Sylvain tries to make me feel better.

"What world are you living in?" I snap. Sylvain looks hurt, and I decide that I should probably make amends. "Can I come and live in your world? Where there is no rain?"

Sylvain looks at me thoughtfully, "I don't think so - crankies aren't allowed to live in my world."

I narrow my eyes and poke out my tongue.

He grins.

"I love you..." he pauses, and hands me his umbrella, "... sweetie."

I don't have such cases of the crankies very often, but when I do, they're pretty bad. I'm just glad that Sylvain can still call me sweetie at the end of it.

I think some shopping therapy after work might help this mood. heh.

The search for the new star!

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Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

And it's that time of the year again for "A la recherche de la nouvelle star" (aka Australian Idol, American Idol, Pop Idol etc.).

I'm not a huge television watcher, but I have to say that I'm such a sucker for any sort of reality tv show.

Throw 'em at me. "Le Chantier" (The Block), "Oui, chef!" (that Jamie Oliver show that I can't remember the name of), even the oh-so-pathetic-but-I-can't-help-watching "On a échangé nos mamans" (Wife Swap). I haven't really gotten into tar Ac', but that's because I am only just getting home from work when it's on, and I don't really feel like installing myself in front of the television so quickly. But otherwise, the remote gets surrendered to moi and my posterior is firmly planted on the couch.

Reality tv was the first sort of tv that I really understood here in France (back with the first series of Popstars), and it was a good start for me trtying to figure out what was going on with this weird new language (no to mention that it was a goo replacement when I was getting cranky about dubbed voices on Buffy and the like), so I guess that is why these shows have a special place in my little heart.

And I have to admit it - I harbour a secret dream that one day my voice will turn into that of an angel and I'll be "discovered" and I could really turn into a star too.

*coughs*

So, anyway, "a la recherche" once again takes priority.

Dinner on Thursday night? Sorry, kids, we're booked up for a few months.

It has to be noted that Benjamin Castaldi, being the little cutie that he is, makes the show worth watching too ;)

Vous et tu : you and you - Volume 2

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The entire vous vs. tu thing in the workplace has really got me thinking. When I first arrived in France, I didn't have to worry too much about whether to use the formal or the informal with my in-laws, because almost immediately, Sylvain's dad pulled me aside and said, "in my family, you must use the formal when speaking to me. But I use the informal when speaking to you. This is just the way it is."

Sylvains mum pulled me aside later, "Now, I'm not quite so ridiculous. You must always use the informal when speaking to me, just as I use the informal when speaking to you. This is just the way it is, and I won't hear a word to the contrary."

I "vousvoied" her a few times after that, but was quickly shot down with, "no, no, no, you must use the informal with me!" My brother-in-law follows the same rules with them, and we wink conspirationally to each other as we use the formal with the master of the house.

Conversations with colleagues and friends have revealed that this tradition differs according to the family, and sometimes according to the region.

English is so simple, in comparison!

Anyway...

*wipes brow*

So I did it.

Heart beating fast, palms sweaty, I took Anna's advice. "Peut-être...", I hesitated for a second, took a deep breath, then rushed into it, "on peut se tutoyer, non?"

My colleague looked at me with surprise, then grinned and said, "pourquoi pas?"

Then we spent 20 minutes talking about my being a foreigner and not being sure of the rules, and all day we've been fluffing between "vous" and "tu" and laughing a lot. I am glad I bit the bullet and just asked if I could do it. I'm not sure if I could do it with other people, but that's probably a sure sign that those relationships need to stay "formal".

Yes, it's certain. English is so simple, in comparison!

Spring is coming!

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... and it's not fair that I'm stuck inside.

Blue skies, shining on me!

Since there is virtually no more chance of getting snow for another 10 months or so, I've had enough of winter. Bring on the sun!

I've literally been hanging out my window all afternoon (hence the dodgy, crooked phonecam shot) trying to get some precious rays of sun to hit my winter-pale visage. Basking in the glow of my pinkuter screen doesn't quite have the same effect.

One of the restauranteurs underneath my place of employ spotted me leaning over the windowsill and shouted out, "don't throw yourself from the window, my dear! It's bad for my business!"

I poked my tongue out at him and he laughed.

Edited to note : dang, it's just clouded over again. One of my colleagues came in, sighing, and said, "it's not ice cream weather yet". Whilst I think that any weather is ice cream weather, it's probably still a bit early to put away my coat and pull out the sandals.

*sigh*

Vous et tu : you and you

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I have a little dilemma.

It's the age-old problem for anglo foreigners in the French workplace : the formal vs. the informal, vousvoyer vs. tutoyer.

In everyday life, with friends and family and new people and stuff, I can get by on the whole formal and informal thing, and generally just go with the flow. But here at my place of employ, things are a little different. I think part of the problem is that I've let it go for so long that to change it now would be awkward.

Anyway. To the nitty gritty.

There are only nine permanent staff here, 5 of which have cadre ("manager") status, 4 of which have normal employee status (yep you noticed that the manager / employee ratio is totally out of whack? *sigh*).

I obviously use the formal version of addressing people with my boss, as all the staff members do. But everyone else (managers, employees) all use the informal with each other. Manager to employee to manager - it's all the informal.

Except for me.

I use the informal with my fellow employees, and the formal with everyone else (these people vary in ages between 8 and 30 years older than I).

It wouldn't bother me so much, only that it feels really awkward for me to use the formal with some of these people, only to have two of my fellow employees (who are the same age as me) use the informal with them two seconds later.

I want to use the informal. But I don't know how to go about it. I've been working here for over a year now, and to change now would seem really awkward.

What the hell are the rules in this situation? I just don't know what to do. Such rules don't exist in English, and no matter how many grammar lessons we have, nothing can prepare you for the workplace. So many times over the last year the words, "vous pouvez me tutoyer, si vous voulez", have been on the tip of my tongue, but I've hesitated, because I think the general rule is that it is their perogative to decide if I am permitted to use the informal or not.

So should I just let it drop? Continue using the formal with certain people, even though I feel like an idiot? Wait for them to say something? If so, why haven't they said something before now? It's been more than a year. Has it got something to do with me? Do I come across as someone aloof or something? TUTOIE me!!!!
I'm so darn confused.

What's a girl to do?

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I hereby promise that I will not be distracted by pretty, glittery, flittery things in the shops during my lunch break, and will do all that is in my power to return within the alloted time... instead of being distracted by pretty, glittery, flittery things in the shops and running half an hour late to get back to work.

*ahem*

That will be all.

(Honestly? What do they expect? My place of employ is right smack bang in the middle of one of the most fantabulously fun shopping districts in Paris for goodness sake. I AM ONLY HUMAN!)

Boardies

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While my sister was here in December/January, we spent a few evenings at home, mostly watching DVDs, tv, and playing Canasta. She complained, "why don't you have any board games?"

Apart from a chessboard, UNO and about seventy million packs of cards, we don't have any board games at all.

When we have friends over, we generally sit around talking in a very civilised manner. When we go over to friends houses, it's the same. We eat dinner, maybe watch a movie, talk. It's all very civilised. (I don't think it's a French thing, I think this is just our Parisian circle of friends, because with Sylvains family and friends where he comes from, we have been known to pull out the cards and board games.)

Anyway. There is no playing of Risk into the early hours of the morning and shouting "VeneZUELa" at the top of ones voice (as if anyone would do that). No playing of Monopoly and bursting into tears and stomping off in a huff because one is losing horribly (as if I would ever do that).

It's all very civilised, but it's also a bit boring, really.

I think that, not only do I have to get myself an English Scrabble board, but we may have to make a serious trip to Toys R Us and find some board games.

I'll force people into playing with us. Either that, or I'll whack them over their heads with a baguette or something.

Oh... and just as long as they let me win at Monopoly. Otherwise there could be tears involved. heh.

The end of the week

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I actually had a really nice weekend.

On Saturday morning we took Symphony to the vet. She was angelic. On Saturday afternoon I met up with the lovely and uber-chatty Nathalie of Microcosmic, and we had coffee, walked through Saint Germain, then finished with tea and red fruit crumble. On Saturday night I curled up on the couch next to Sylvain and finished my first library book (Mr Commitment by Mike Gayle). On Sunday morning we went to the market. On Sunday afternoon I played Neopets and worked on a new layout for TNC and knitted (although I have a cut on my left forefinger which is hindering the knittage) and watched Dead Like Me in English and started reading my second library book and watched Scrubs in English and put a pork roast in the oven and watched There's Something About Mary in French whilst eating the aforementioned pork roast with plenty of roast potatoes and brussel sprouts. I went to bed happy, and woke up refreshed.

That's my idea of a good weekend. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Everybody needs good neighbors

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It's 9:01am. My colleague comes into my office, and starts to make small talk.

"So..." he says. "This weekend I saw a documentary about New Zealand."

"Ahhh..." I say. "Right."

"It was really interesting!" he exclaims. "It seems like a really interesting country!" He sees the confused expression on my face, "I thought you might be interested... cos... you know... you live right next door and all..." he trails off.

"Mm-hmm," I reply. "It does seem like a nice country. But... is that all you have to say to me on a Monday morning?"

He looks sheepish.

"So next time I see a documentary about Belgium, I'll come and tell you... because you know, you live right next door and all..." I wink at him.

He looks at me strangely, "but Belgium isn't France!"

"But New Zealand isn't Australia!" I shoot back.

He laughs.

This is a typical start to the week. My colleagues are somewhat obsessed about Australia and everything to do with it. They are constantly bombarding me with questions about the animals, the climate, the environment, the lifestyle. Although sometimes I feel like a curiosity, a subject under a microscope, it is actually quite flattering, and it surprises me that despite the fact that I've been working here for more than a year now, they've still got more questions to ask.

I have to admit that I like to terrify them with exaggerated stories of venemous snakes and spiders and other creepy crawlies.

Sylvain and I are amused to see so many documentaries on the cable networks about Australia and its wildlife - I think it's seen as somewhere politically harmless, as well as exotic and exciting.

So many people here say, "oh, you're Australian? Wow, I've always dreamed of going to Australia..."

They look at me with surprise (followed by relief) when I tell them that not everyone drinks Fosters. And that, in fact, we have lots of beer that taste a LOT better than that.

Oh, and that the beaches are not infested by sharks. And that kangaroos don't generally hop down the main streets of Melbourne and Sydney. And that you can't ride a kangaroo... And that New Zealand is, in fact, an independent nation, and not just another state of Australia. heh.

Vet visit

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This morning Symphony had a vet visit.

She really is very good about travelling (even though it's only ten minutes by foot), and happily got into her carry-cage all by herself as soon as I got it out. She sat in there, overseeing general proceedings, for half an hour before we left.

Going to the vet

Symphony charms pretty much any animal-lover she comes across, and our vet is no exception. The vet literally cooed over her for five minutes... then stuffed a thermometer in her butt. hehe. I think it was all part of the strategy, because Symphony went back to cuddling her again straight afterwards ;)

The main reason we went there, other than for her vaccination updates, was to enquire about getting an identification microchip put in. Just in case we make an international sort of move, this will make things easier. So we have an appointment for a chip insertion in a month, as well as a thorough teeth clean. I don't think that the Little Miss Wriggles is going to be particularly impressed with that visit, as it's going to require a general anaesthetic.

I don't know what we're going to be doing or where we're going to be in a years time, or in two, five, ten years time, but at least Symphony will be prepared to move if the opportunity comes up.

Another door opens

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This afternoon I did it. I finally did it.

American Library in Paris

I joined the American Library in Paris.

After forking over a whopping 96 euros for a yearly membership, I was permitted to enter the wonderful domain that is the library filled to the brim with books in English...

Books!

I admit that I did choke a little when I wrote the cheque - 96 euros is a LOT for a library membership (especially since all other libraries I've been a member of have been free), but I think it will be worth it. I will be able to read a lot more than I could when I was buying books, and can go back to devouring instead of making the book last as long as I could.

It scared me a little to know that I was getting a year membership as well. It seems so concrete. Like... we're going to be here for at least another year... hmm.

There were a few women of different ages floating around the library, a few students, a few children curled up in the reading room. It generally felt like a warm, friendly place, and I got a good vibe.

Anyway, I picked up about 6 books - a stack of crime fiction, then considering I was feeling a little guilty at being a Lit major and reading exclusively popular fiction, I got one for my "culture", The Sound of One Hand Clapping. That lot should keep me going for a couple of weeks.

I enquired about activity groups, but unfortunately they don't run anything of the sort (at least, not like the BCWA). I expressed my disappointment, and the lady behind the loans counter said, "why? What are you interested in?"

I mentioned my penchance for the occasional friendly game of Scrabble, and her eyes lit up - "what a good idea!" she said. "You should put a notice up for players on our bulletin board!"

So in a most uncharacteristic move for me (I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that despite my big mouth and tendency to put myself forward in large groups of people I know, I may actually be shy about going out and meeting new people), I wrote a little ad and put it on their bulletin board.

"Scrabble in English!"

We'll see if that leads anywhere. Who knows?

So I guess that I need to procure an English Scrabble set from somewhere, and vite.

Then I decided to walk over to the Eiffel Tower and catch the RER at Champ de Mars instead of Pont de l'Alma (both pretty much the same distance from the library), and spotted a group of Scotsmen.

Image225.jpg

There was no wind, so I didn't see up their kilts. hehe. There were heaps of kilted Scots around the Eiffel Tower today. (as an aside, my shadow on that photo looks mammoth! I was standing beside a bin. And carrying three bags. One filled to the brim with books! Really! I'm not that chubby! eek! who knew that shadows could be so unflattering! *coughs* anyway... moving right along...)

Then, of course, à la façon de la Coquette, I had to do a "don't hate me because I live in Paris" shot ;)

Image233.jpg

It's not easy being green

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I sometimes have a problem with getting fresh fruit and vegies here without burning a hole in my pocket - good quality stuff that isn't treated with millions of chemicals is not cheap. I can't get lots of the wonderful asian vegetables that I love throwing in stirfries, so we make special trips into the 13th every couple of months and fill our freezer with bok choy ;)

I obviously don't have the time during the week to go to the local market, but we do manage to go occasionally on the weekends. (And I really really REALLY love going to here!)

During the week, I do admit buying packaged lettuce and greens, and find that it can actually be a fairly good substitute - so this is for Kim (and the entire reason behind this vegetable-related entry)...

Spinach

It's not quite as good as the fresh thing, but it is pretty tasty, and suitable for a salad when one is really craving it - and even better, it's available in my local supermarket!

Potty mouth

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A certain phrase - "to see a man about a dog" - in a post by a Displaced Kiwi reminded me of something that happened yesterday.

One of my colleagues was in the toilet. I knew he was in the toilet because I saw him go in there. When asked where said colleague was, I tried to think of a discreet way of saying that he was using the facilities.

For some completely illogical reason, I consciously decided against the oft-used French phrase "dans le petit coin", (in the little corner(?)), and instead translated "off to see a man about a dog" directly into French.

Such a thing makes no sense in French. At all. It has as much sense as replying, "pink cow grass hat clock". I'm surprised my colleagues don't just tell me to keep my mouth shut, what with all the rubbish that floats out of there.

So, being in fine form, I did it again this morning, directly translating an English phrase into French, "the world is my oyster". I received a round of shaking heads and "no, Katia, this does not work."

This afternoon I came out with, "you're not just a pretty face" - a cheeky way of saying someone surprised me by doing something clever (I blame my father for this saying). I'm pretty sure they all think I'm a total fruit cake now. Either that, or I'm trying to crack on to the secretary. heh.

I'm at a point in my French where I just go with the flow. I manage to get around certain grammatical situations that I'm not sure how to deal with (the subjunctive is still sometimes tricky for me) by saying things in a different way, so I guess it's normal that I fill in the blanks in my mental dictionary of French sayings with translated English versions.

There are quite a few English sayings that exist in a French equivalent, but the vast majority really are directly untranslatable (just as the vast majority of French sayings should not be translated word for word into English).

You'd think I would have learned that by now, but such things are so important to the way we speak and interact with others, that it's hard to drop the habit.

I guess I don't mind just going with the flow and letting people thinking I'm a fruit cake.

Hmmm... I probably shouldn't translate that last little saying directly into French either... ;)

I did a little research about such things as I was writing this entry, and whilst this book looks very good, here is a short list of some of the funniest and most commonly used french idioms.

Pretty bird

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Aimee wondered what my commute looks like... (ok, she didn't wonder what MY personal commute looks like, but, in fact, the respective commutes of the different members of the blogosphere, but I wasn't sure how to word that).

So tonight I took up the challenge - and here is the RER C at 6pm on a Thursday night...

rer1.jpg

There are a few different types of trains that come through, and some are actually quite comfortable, but this time I was unlucky and got the one with the poo-brown seats.

But then I got lucky and a cute girl sat in front of me...

rer2.jpg

The phone-cam photo doesn't do her justice, but she had incredible bone structure. And look at that hair! It looks incredible, but imagine having to take care of it every day?

rer3.jpg

Then I decided to pick up my book again (you can see it sneaking into the picture) and put the phone-cam away, because despite my efforts to be discreet, I was pretty sure that I was beginning to look suss.

After all, what is a 25yo married aussie lass doing taking photos of girls on the train anyway?

The luck of the Irish

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I left work today and popped into a nearby store. As I was waiting in line, a tourist-y looking couple (they both had cameras around their necks) approached the cashier, who said in rapid French, "the line is over there".

The man looked at me, the nearest person, in confusion, "did she say the line is over here?"

I nodded, "yep".

That single word, of course, was the cue for the usual onslaught of questions as we all waited in line for the cashier to painstakingly process the transactions before us - how does a young lady like yourself speak such good French, do you really live here, rah rah rah...

They were an Irish couple on their way to the 6:15 mass at Notre Dame, holidaying in Paris for a few days before heading back home via England.

"I hear there are a lot of Irish in Australia," the gentleman said.

"Yeah, there are a few..." I nodded. "We love the Irish accents!"

"Is that how you knew we were Irish?" he asked. "Because of our accents?"

I paused, thinking about how it took me a good twenty seconds to process his reference to "supper" - he was not referring to "super", as I first thought.

"Well, yes, that..." I grinned. "And the red hair."

The couple laughed good-naturedly and they both took turns to shake my hand, "it was a pleasure meeting you!"

Then they went off to Mass, and I descended into the depths of the Parisian train system.

This is one of the things that I have been enjoying for the last three years - the frequent random encounters with nice tourists, who just want a reassuring chat and a point in the right direction.

When I'm in a hurry, I sometimes get frustrated that they always walk so darn slowly, but then I remember where I am, and look around at those magnificent sights, then I feel a little less frustrated and walk a little slower too...

Activation

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In an attempt to live up to my New Years Resolution, yesterday I did some more searching on the net for groups and activities and things for anglo speakers around Paris. There seem to be a few different things available, depending on your income and your tastes and stuff.

I had initially discounted the British and Commonwealth Women's Association Library, because it was not as convenient for me to get to as the American Library in Paris. But I visited their site yesterday, and noticed an "activities" link, which I clicked on with glee.

My eyes immediately fell upon the "Scrabble" link (I fully embrace my inner nerd!), but I was disappointed to note that their group meets on Fridays. With each link I clicked (needlecraft, to nourish my newfound knitting pasttime), the more disappointed I got. Most of their groups meet during the week, which is fine for a retiree or a lady of leisure (considering most of the people in the photos on those pages seem to fall in these categories, a fact which did scare me off a little), but not so fine for a young lassie who needs to earn a living and works during the week.

Of course, I could be a Cool & Young Professional Expat, but there is something about the whole "cool group" feeling of that club that makes my skin crawl. I don't think I quite fit their profile, and anyway, I'm not in high school any more, and I don't feel like getting rejected because I'm not cool enough. hehe.

So yep, my internet searches didn't pull up too many interesting things, so I will check out the American Library when I go on Friday afternoon. I have heard rumours they run classes or have bulletin boards which advertise different things, so I'll see what sort of stuff I can turn up there. And I'm doing this meetup thing, so that should be interesting.

Joiner. My new middle name. I'm obviously just desperate to speak English more often. hehe.

Randomly random

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Lots of random things, today, before I think of an intelligent post.

- We've got tickets to see U2 in July! They're not in our hot little hands quite yet, but the seats have been pre-reserved through Sylvain's comité d'entreprise, and they'll call us as soon as they're delivered. And we got 30% off. Hoorah!

- I've joined a meetup group for expats living in Paris. Hopefully that will be a nice way to meet other like-minded people. There are a few other meetup groups that run here that might be interesting to participate in, but we'll see how this goes to start.

- After over a year of talking about it, I'm joining the library on Friday. It's not cheap, but it should end up being cheaper than me buying books all the time.

- The Powerpuff Girls are my current superheroes. Bubbles rocks my socks and I want to be her. Right now.

- Knitting is going well and I'm learning a lot, but the two projects I am working on are pretty tricky for my beginner fingers, and hence they look like crap (I promise to post pictures soon, Kelly!). When they're out of the way, I'm going to try my hand at a few of the projects in Stitch'n'Bitch.

- Symphony was a bit cranky for a few days after Carolyn went back to Australia, but she seems to be back to normal now. Except for the fact that she is far more possessive of her scratching post than she used to be - mostly because Carolyn spent quite a bit of time scratching it and terrorising the cat about it while she was here.

- We watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on Sunday. Sylvain was totally lost on the accents. Time to stop watching American films and start renting some British ones.

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