June 2005 Archives

Planning

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My parents are flying in at the beginning of August, and will be staying in the Northern Hemisphere for a month. We've been furiously sending emails back and forth about what we want to do whilst they're here. We knew that we all wanted to do a trip outside of France, and finally, on Monday night, we bought tickets to spend a week in Ireland. Bonny green isle, here we come.

Enter my father-in-law. He came to town today, and called me early in the day to suggest that we organise a "planning" for the French part of the trip. (Say it in French with me - "plaaaann-ing")

So after lunch, we sat down and each pencilled a detailed itinerary into our respective diaries. Bordeaux, Provence, the Loire Valley.

Thus, our summer is "planned". Thank goodness we don't have time to do the run-through. The itinerary didn't go so far as to describe what we were having for breakfast each day, but it was close.

There's something to be said for spontenaiety.

Biting off more than you can chew

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Last night I dreamed that I was sitting in our bedroom, waiting for someone to bring me a bottle of water. It was hot, I was very thirsty. I could hear them moving around the front of the apartment, and I could hear them ripping the plastic off one of our 6-packs of Volvic water bottles. I waited patiently, but they were taking an unusually long time to do it, so I got up.

And as I was getting to my feet, I woke up.

That was when realised the ripping plastic sound was really Symphony chewing on plastic again.

At 5am.

She was hungry.

It's not as if we're starving our cat. She is just being a real bossy britches and wanted some Friskies. Sylvain, of course, just sleeps through the whole thing. I think we'll have to start giving her some wet food when we go to bed instead of first thing in the morning, just so that her tummy stays full during the night. And so I get a decent nights sleep.

Ode to the air conditioning unit

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Humming softly,
Vents moving
from side to side,
You refresh me.

But
Your constant
Drip drip dripping
Makes me want to pee.

I am not invincible

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I handle my alcohol pretty well, as a general rule. My student days are obviously long gone, but my system is still pretty used to the odd drink or five.

But it is very hot today. Therefore 3 glasses of champagne at our lunchtime pot, when I haven't eaten more than a couple of peanuts since 7am, doesn't go down too well.

I'm a little dizzy. My accent gets more pronounced. But surprisingly my French is better.

I wonder if I should drink at work more often.

Share and share alike

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Despite the impromptu thunderstorm this morning (Sylvain : well, we're lucky the picnic wasn't today, huh?), it is hot again here today. By default, the metro and the trains are also hot.

No air-conditioning on the trains means that you basically just have to put mind over matter and put up with it. No mean feat when your back sticks to the vinyl seats, and the air always feels muggy and heavy. I feel like a tinned sardine, being cooked in an oven.

Knowing how to breathe through your mouth is a clever technique for not smelling the inevitable BO that is always lingering in the Parisian public transport system, but even that didn't counter the fact that someone had eaten a bunch of bananas on my train carriage today, leaving all the banana peels to ferment in the heat.

I'm not ok with that.

I guess someone learned to share in kindergarten.

Compte-rendu

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Blogger picnic was fantastic. There are some amazing people blogging in this here corner of the world. Out of everyone, I was most particularly delighted to meet the lovely Ms. Mac, who had taken some time out from yodelling and come all the way from Switzerland to be with us all. Amazing.

There were a lot of highlights, and don't want to forget anyone in my round-up, but if I had to sum it up with a few personal favourites?
1. It's really hard to direct people in large parks. I think my phone battery had practically run out by the end of the day.
2. Kevin and Pauline were well-behaved little angels. Helen must have bribed them with some serious goodies to keep their horns at home for the day.
3. Her husband wants to have babies asap.
4. Tadpole is A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E. That is all there is to say on that matter.
5. Her husband and my husband are happy talking geek-talk for hours together.
6. Meeting lurkers is a pleasant surprise, and not at all weird!
7. Having other Southern Hemisphere-rs around = Safety in numbers. I get less picked on for my funny expressions like "facewasher", "lolly" and "icey-pole". Or at least, I still get picked on, but they provide backup.
8. Nigella, as usual, has the best, failsafe recipes. The brown & white chocolate brownies were a roaring success.
9. Bilingual kids are fantastic. Amazing. So lucky.
10. Sylvain learned a new word today : bog. As in, toilet. Thanks very much Ms. Mac - I don't know how long it's going to take me to make him forget this new favourite word.

Wanna come to the next one?

Lolly love

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One of my colleagues was in England on a work trip this week. He came back this morning, and grinned at me with glee.

"Katia! I have something you will like!" He pulled out a bunch of packets from his briefcase and filled my bonbonière with English lollies.

Unfortunately they're all licorice, which I don't like (and his face fell when I told him), but I reassured him that I was delighted, because just the sight of them reminds me of my wonderful grandmother.

When I was little, and we spent long afternoons playing games around the kitchen table, my gran would always put a lolly jar on the table beside us. I have a beautiful, clear memory of her popping these licorice squares in her mouth, and grinning at me as she pretended to cheat at 500. I used to pull off the coloured bits and eat them, then give the licorice part to my sister.

My colleagues crowded around my desk.

"Ooooh these are good!"

"Wow, I'm surprised!"

"Well that's one food that the English actually know how to make..."

In the air

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Paris is suffering a mini-heatwave, and the heat has not let up for a few days now. Sleeping becomes a little difficult, but I use my mum's tried-and-true technique of placing a damp facewasher on my brow when I go to sleep (I usually end up waking up with a wet stomach or something, to find that I've been sleeping on it a few hours later, but at least it helps me get to sleep in the first place). I just hope that it's not going to turn out like the canicule we had in 2003.

It's not as if I'm not used to heat - Australian summers are far hotter and far longer than those we experience here. But the different thing about this heat is the pollution. I can smell it in the air, I can feel it on my skin, I'm breathing it... it feels like I'm surrounded by it all day, every day. There is no cool breeze coming through to help dissipate it, and so it just hangs in the air, like a veil over the city.

My place of employ isn't air-conditioned either. Paris isn't used to heat on a long-term scale, so there is apparently no real need for it. We have a few stand-alone climes here at my place of employ, but they're a precious commodity, and we don't have one in my office, except for a tiny ventilator that does little more than push the hot air around. It doesn't help my situation that the person who shares my office actually adores this heat (she comes from the South), so I just have to suffer in silence. Except when I complain about it on my blog ;)

It's hard to figure out what sort of weather the French like. I can't declare any sweeping conclusions about the French in general, so I'll stick with what I have seen.

The Parisians I know are not happy unless it's a perfect 25°C. Under that temperature - they're chilly ("je suis frileuse" or "il fait trop frais"). Above that temperature - it's too hot ("ça me fatigue" or "je ne peux pas travailler comme ça"). They spend their time hoping that we get this weather on the weekend - it's only then (and when they're on holidays) that it is acceptable for the temperature to rise above 25°C. I think this is the reason for the mass August exodus, as they all head to the Côte d'Azur for a few weeks - leaving Paris virtually empty, except for the tourists, who walk around wondering why it's so quiet.

Growing up on a farm, I understood that all weather is good weather. Rain was welcome (I especially loved seeing the dry paddocks with that first shade of green, the first hint of Spring on the way) as was heat (I remember my dad talking on the phone and the cb radio with the neighbours, as they compared temperatures and humidity levels, waiting for the perfect time to harvest). It was only upon moving to Melbourne, when I went to Boarding School, that I noticed the difference between country and city weather reports - as I remember it, WinTV (?) never dared to say anything like, "the weather is going to be better tomorrow", for fear of frustrating all the farmers watching. Here in Paris, the weatherwoman (and it's almost always a woman, but that's another topic for another post) is all about, "it's going to be nice all week", or "we're going to have bad weather until Sunday, when the sun will come out again".

I love the rain, I love the sun, I love the snow, and I love the wind. I'm happy in all types of weather. Except when it rises above 30°C in Paris, with too much pollution in the air and no air conditioning in my office. Then it's just time to give in and go and get some ice cream.

All that said, I hope we get some nice weather on Saturday for our Pink Knickered Pick Knickers Bloggers Picnic ;) Are you coming?

4, 5, 6

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Three cheers for me! Today I finally remembered my work phone number! For the first time ever, I didn't have to look it up!

It only took me a year and a half.

Now, I just need to work on remembering our home phone number - this is something I've been working on for a while now. It took me 2 1/2 years to remember my mobile number, and 1 1/2 years to remember my work number. We've had the fixed line installed for a year now - if my brain decides to follow the afore-mentioned improved schedule of remembering numbers, I should be able to pull it out without any umming and ahhing any day now...

It's not as if I'm dumb or anything (no smart arse comments from the monkey gallery, thankyouverymuch), but I am just terrible at remembering phone numbers. My mother has an impressive capacity for remembering such details, but I obviously didn't inherit that skill.

At least I'm off to a good start. I know it starts with 01... Of course, so do all phone numbers in the general Paris area, but it's better than nothing.

Being helpful

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There are two of us here, quiet, doing our own thing, we are sage.

Someone comes in, "how do you spell failli? As in, 'j'ai failli tomber'?"

The other person in the room looks at him thoughtfully, "ah..."

I murmur, "F-A-I-deux-L-I".

The both look at me in surprise.

I look up, "what?"

They both nod, smiles playing on their lips, "that's cool, Katia..."

I smile back.

"It's one thing to say it all the time, another thing to write it," the person who asked the question explains.

Oh, I know all about that.

And I only know how "failli" is spelled because I asked the same question about six months ago.

It used to be demoralising, a couple of years ago, to know that the French are always looking up their dictionaries and are always posing questions about their language. I wondered how I would ever manage to get anywhere if they still have questions.

Now, it's just reassuring.

And it is a bit of an adrenalin rush to help in spelling something before one of them... You have to take your victories where you can, after all. ;)

A surprise visit

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On Sunday morning, we were literally about to walk out the front door to drop a couple of visitors at the station, when the door buzzer rang.

"Oui?" I am closest to the intercom, so it's up to me to play the game of "guess what the person on the other end is trying to say". Not so easy in English, a bugger of a game in French.

"Pshenfet." Completely incomprehensible.

I turn around and shrug at my companions, "it's probably just some kids. They are always doing that."

The door buzzes again.

"Oui?" I yell again into the speaker.

"La police".

We all look at each other and freeze.

Sylvain is the first one to move and he races out the door. I turn to my friends and screw up my face in confusion.

"We weren't that rowdy last night, surely?"

"Noooo," they reassure me.

30 seconds goes by, no sign of Sylvain, no sign of our mysterious visitors.

"That's it, I'm going up to see what's going on." I grab my keys and march upstairs, followed dutifully by my three visitors.

We get outside, and there is not a sign of anyone. No husband. No unexpected visitors. One of my companions races to the other end of the apartment building to see if she can spot anyone. I skip down the stairs on the side of the building - perhaps they've gone around the other side?

Not a sign. Not a peep. We all return to the front of the building and look at each other.

It's not as if we ever do anything wrong... But horrible, paranoid thoughts are running through my mind. What if it's a case of mistaken identity and Sylvain has been accused of something and they've dragged him to the car and are driving him to the station right at this very moment ? The thought that I read too much crime fiction also runs through my mind.

Suddenly a phone chirps.

"âllo?... oui... we're searching for YOU... we're upstairs... ok... we'll be right down..." She turns to me, "they're looking for YOU".

I turn pale as I race inside and practically throw myself down the steps and go inside the apartment. There stands Sylvain, with two police officers. They nod as I enter, then they nod at the one, two, three girls who have followed me through the front door.

"It's you?" they ask me, then look over their shoulders at the three girls who have now installed themselves on the couch to watch the proceedings.

"It's me." I nod. I wonder what I could possibly have done.

Sylvain hurries to explain, "We must have been coming down the elevator whilst you were coming up the stairs to find us..." (ah ha - that explains the lost husband) "They are here to see both of us..."

"It's for the prefecture," one of the police officers speaks up. "We believe you have made a demand for a carte de sejour?"

"Oh yes, yes..." I sigh in relief (thank goodness they haven't decided that buying too many skin care products at Sephora is a crime), then get all nervous again as I see Sylvain pulling out his wallet and his carte d'identité. I paw through my handbag to find my passport and hand it to them, "here you are."

"We're just here to verify the situation," the police officer says again. His partner just watches, lets him talk.

"Oh! and I have a récipissé if you need it!" I pull it out of my little passport pouch and shove it into the hands of the police officer, who is thumbing through the pages of my passport, looking at all my pretty holographic stamps and stickers and murmuring to himself. He flicks through some official-looking papers in his hands as he checks them against the details of my passport and Sylvain's carte d'identité.

"You work here?" he asks.

"Yes yes!" I nod energetically.

"What do you do?" he looks at me, pen in hand.

"I'm... a maquettiste," I watch him scribble it down. "Do you need the address or phone number of my employer? I'm happy to give it to you!"

"No, no," he waves his hand. "We're going to be making a report and you'll receive a convocation soon."

And with that, they wish us a good day and they leave.

Sylvain and I look at each other and sigh.

I didn't see this coming at all. You hear the rumours, but I didn't realise that they actually do such check-ups in reality. I really hope that they found out the right things and that all will go well in my application for a 10 year Carte de Sejour. I guess we're lucky that we were actually at home, and hadn't left five minutes earlier, as we originally planned! Now we'll just have to wait patiently for the convocation to arrive in the mail.

What a lovely way of passing a Sunday morning.

"You were really polite!" my companions giggle from their positions on the couch. I just hope that the police didn't think that we were in the practice of harbouring foreigners or something. heh.

Chewing plastic, it's fantastic

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Things have been extremely busy lately chez the Aussie lass, a Frenchman and a Burmese, and I have so many interesting things to say. But since they've all flown out of my head, I'll start with something banal. heh.

I had some lovely guests stay this weekend, who were all extremely well behaved - they exclaimed with delight over the lasagne, oohed and aahed appropriately over the crystal bowls for the fruit salad (I hold that there's no point in keeping such things for "good" occasions, otherwise they'll only rarely be used), and lathered much-welcomed attention on Symphony.

But Symphony, on the other hand, was extremely ill-behaved. At about 9am (after the rowdy lot had only managed to enjoy 3 precious hours of beauty sleep), she proceeded to engage in her favourite early morning activity - chewing on stuff. Loudly. She sprinted around the room, zooming across bare legs and shoulders, chewing on a number of things - cds, plastic from a dvd that I'd bought the day before, books, a make-up bag... the list goes on...

She's normally very adorable, lathering up attention and purring on command. The night before, she'd done exactly that. I'm not sure what came over her in the morning, but I'm horribly ashamed of her attention-seeking behaviour.

I'm just glad that she didn't do the fake vomiting thing.

All in the same boat

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I was on the bus yesterday, listening to a couple of elderly Italian gentleman gossiping. They gripped each others arms and laughed, long and loud. Their conversation in Italian was interestingly littered with French words.

Thankfully, I no longer experience a daily struggle with this language. It's more like a daily hiccup or two, when I fluff up my genders or my conjugation. But my accent still gives me away on the phone - ah Katia, j'ai reconnu votre voix!, I recognised your voice! - and I am still stumped by the constant cultural references that are scattered within most conversations here.

The two Italian gentlemen reminded me of my own conversations with my various friends here - littered with French words, French phrases clumsily and amusingly translated into English.

My experience here has given me another perspective on the lives of the enormous migrant population in Australia. I'm ashamed to admit that, at sixteen, I nodded in concurrence with friends who wondered why the Japanese boarding students talked Japanese amongst themselves - "why don't they speak English?". I was so naive that it's scary.

Last time I went home, I revelled in those heavy, thick, melodic accents spoken all around the Queen Victoria Market.

Roots are important. No one can, no one should take that away.

I smiled at those two gentlemen when I got off the bus. They smiled back.

Too much

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Can I retire yet?

That would be nice.

Walking on sunshine

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Each morning, at about 10am, the sun peeks over the buildings across our tiny street. Rays of sunshine hit my desk, starting directly in front of me, and moving slowly across my desk - over my hand on the mouse, my telephone, my neat pile of postit notes and my coffee cup - to disappear entirely by about noon.

I talk on the phone, and lean into the rays so that they gently touch my face. Time almost seems to stand still as I feel the warmth on my face. I treasure this sweet morning moment, of being kissed softly by the sun.

Given the fact that the sun is just hitting one side of me, I should, however, be careful about getting a lopsided, albeit light, tan on just one arm.

By (y)our powers combined

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First there was the Expat Blogger Meet in a Dutch Bar where we ate Dutch Meatballs and drank Pink Cosmopolitains - now it's time for the Pick Knickers Expat Blogger Meet Picnic !.

So reserve Saturday 25th June from midday for the Picnic, and a Nighttime Session for those who have the stamina!

This is not just for expats or bloggers or for bloggers who are expats, but anyone who is interested, really. It's just an excuse for a bunch of people to get together and bask in the Parisian sun (here's hoping that we don't jinx the weather).

Put your name on the list over at Antipodéesse's blog (or send her an email at antipodeesse AT yahoo DOT fr) or with Petite Anglaise and you'll get some more details in the next few days.

I stand corrected

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Important grammatical lesson learned today :

Abbreviations in French, when written, do not get pluralised.

eg. les CD
eg. les pub. or les PUB

This is the biggest problem for me - I'm not getting corrected as often as I would like, and my written grammar needs a bit of a polish. I don't have to write very much in my work, although I talk a lot (or at least, I do now!). But when I do write, I generally make a lot of mistakes. I've been writing the above example wrong for the last year and a half : "les CDs" and "les pubs". Pfft. No one has corrected me until now, and only when I asked someone about the exact grammatical rule for abbreviations. Ah well, it's better late than never.

Of course, I complain when they correct me too often, so it's a no-win situation ;)

Carry on

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Every year I go through a phase of absolutely having to buy a New Bag. I'm not talking about just an ordinary bag - because I have plenty of other bags that I use and interchange regularly - I'm talking about a Special Bag. Because the spirit moves me to do so, and the desire to get a New Bag overtakes me, and I end up obsessing about it for weeks. Last year it took me a good month or so to find the right one.

With sunny days and summer sandals, my thoughts again turn to the possibility of a new bag.

I'm always drawn to neat little compact sorts of bags. Sleek designs. I always convince myself that I will be able to fit everything I need in there.

But I have a confession to make.

I'm a bag-abuser.

Outside

A carrier of crap, that is what I am.

Inside

The staple items that must be in my bag are as follows : purse, camera, phone, keys, Moleskin notebook, map of Paris, passport, restaurant tickets, chequebook, Carte Orange, lip balm, pen, mp3 player. I neeeeeeeeed all this stuff with me all the time.

It Can Be No Other Way.

On Sunday, I was flitting around town with a gorgeous summer-fun bright pink Indian silk bag. The handle broke because it was too heavy and I had too much crap in it (thankfully I had a MASSIVE Sephora shopping bag with me, with industrial strength handles, and I was able to dump said crap inside).

I'm going to end up ruining and/or permanently deforming Last Years Bag (pictured above) if I'm not careful.

I think that, given the evidence, I just need to admit defeat. This Years Bag needs to be a little lot bigger than usual. I can't cut down on the amount of stuff I carry with me, so perhaps I need to consider lugging a suitcase around with me. Hmm. I think it's time to go shopping...

Stick it out

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I'm going to show my love for all things Flickr and get some almost-free stickers! It's just the price of posting a letter to the US! I'll be sending them a postcard too, while I'm at it - is the Eiffel Tower enough of a cliché? Everyone loves stickers!

Character Study

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I live in a part of the city which has a real community feeling about it. Just a couple of minutes away, by foot, we have a supermarket, two bakeries, three pharmacies, a market, plus a number of other different commerces. It didn't take long for me to start being able to recognise the cashiers at the supermarket, and for the ladies in our two local bakeries to call me "la fille australienne".

But it's not just about the people in the various shops. There are so many other local people who I don't know personally, but who I've been seeing for the last three years - who I recognise in the street, at the train station, whose eyes flicker with recognition when I stand behind them in the supermarket queue, who nod when I walk by, and some who are a little quirky.

Here is just a wee glimpse into my corner of the world...

The Parisian version of a milk bar is the Arabic corner store ("l'arabe du coin"). Ours is manned by two grinning men who unfailingly greet me, "bonjour madame!". Our relationship evolved not long after Sylvain and I got married, and they spotted the wedding ring on my finger, "ooooh la la, c'est madame maintenant!"

There is The Lady Who Lost Weight. For the last year and a half we have taken the train at the same time in the morning, and occasionally catch the train at the same time in the evening. About 6 months ago, I passed her and a friend talking outside the local supermarket - the friend was exclaiming, "oh, you've lost so much weight!" and she grinned and said, "yes, I have, haven't I?" Since then she has been so named The Lady Who Lost Weight in my head. She also has a tendency to wear black leather pants with a denim jacket, which bothers me slightly.

The Couple That Owns The Bakery Near Us (as opposed to The Couple That Owns The Bakery Near Monoprix) consists of a jolly, round, moustached gentleman and a matchstick-thin lady with a shock of red curly hair. I sometimes bump into them when they go running, and am always surprised, because he has a tendency to wear scary lycra bike shorts and I'm really not used to seeing him without his apron on.

The Slipper Man shuffles around our streets wearing a trench coat and furry slippers. He can be seen sometimes shaking his fist at pigeons. He grins at me when I pass him, and I grin back.

The Fur Lady : think Magda from There's Something About Mary. This lady wears floor-length genuine fur coats and sunglasses all year round. I often see her with an open bottle of wine in her hand, but she always kneels down and says hello to any dog that wanders by.

The Smoking Man and his wife take the train at the same time as me every morning. They always get to the station five minutes before the train is due to arrive - this gives him time to take out his pipe and have a puff. I always giggle to myself as I watch him talking to his wife out of one side of his mouth, teeth firmly clenched around the pipe stem, à la façon de Popeye. I also smile as I think of one my mum's favourite expressions, "put that in your pipe and smoke it".

The DVD Man can be seen mostly at the train station and at the bus stop. He is about 50, has a moustache, and carries a red portable DVD player around with him, listening and watching movies as he walks. The sound is always turned up very loud, and it makes for some good entertainment on the train, as I watch the old ladies huff and puff and mumble and grumble about new-fangled things and a lack of respect from fellow passengers. He obviously likes his gadgets, as I often see him playing with his mp3 player and his phone - both hanging on lanyards around his neck. Last night I crossed his path on my way home - he was getting off a bus and trying to watch a DVD at the same time. He inevitably stumbled as he was getting off.

There's so many more - my quartier is wonderfully colourful - but that will be for another day.

Small things amuse small minds

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Funny n° 1
Scaring the daylights out of someone when you tell her that if she doesn't find the spider that escaped under her bed, it might come out and eat her face during the night. She didn't believe me, but it still freaked her out. And that's always funny.

Funny n° 2
Answering the phone singing Dun Dun Dun Dun Dun Duuun Dun Dun Duuuuun. Star Wars Episode VI is on tonight. They've been showing an episode every Monday night for the last month. Very Interesting, but it's also a Very Good Thing that this is the final episode because I don't think I can take much more. Another one might be just what it takes to tip me over the edge into the côté obscur.

Funny n° 3
Trying to help someone work out how to post photos to their blog, and thinking that the email address you've given them to post photos is a global one. In truth, said email address is a personal one and she ends up posting photos to your blog. Hilarity ensues, but sanity reigns and she eventually figures out how to do it. Unfortunately, despite still possessing the email address which will allow me to post evil photos to her blog, I probably shouldn't do it because she also still possesses the email address which will allow her to post evil photos to my blog. And that could be just plain dangerous.

Funny n°4
Catching this. Teehee!

May the schwartz be with you

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I decided to go to the Champs Elysées yesterday (being the home of the biggest Sephora in Paris), and to my surprise, I found half of Paris had decided to do the same thing. If I had read the newspapers, I would have known they were closing off the street to traffic and doing a big celebration for the Paris 2012 Olympic bid, but since I don't read the newspapers often, I was caught by surprise. It was rather spectacular though, and not something you see every day.

Anyway, I got a little carried away at Sephora ; I was excited to find some mini Australian Womens Weekly cookbooks in WH Smith (although I refuse to pay 5 euros a pop, and have added cookbooks to my list of things to buy next time we head down under) ; I saw Sin City ; and I had a Starbucks Café Caramel Frappucino. This weekend was filled with much goodness.

Then on Sunday night, given that Saturday involved a viewing of Star Wars, it was only natural that Sunday involved a viewing of Space Balls.

Sylvain absolutely loved it, btw. I'm so proud.

Manic Monday

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Someone said to me, in passing, "you don't like Monday mornings do you?"

Does it show that much?

Happy Birthday Sylvain!

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Today is Sylvain's birthday. His first words to me this morning were, "I'm only 12 years away from FORTY!" Nice, positive way of thinking about it. Hmm.

We celebrated by moseying around the town - Paris is just great for moseying, and we always discover new and interesting places when moseying. We started off by eating some Cantonese soup for lunch, spent an hour or two wandering around the specialty manga, comic and dvd shops in the 5th, trotted off to (finally) see Star Wars III (yay! loved it!), wandered around Chatelet for an hour or two, ate dinner at the Louchebem (where my steak came out Blue, not Bloody, and I still ate it), made our way across to the Ile Saint-Louis where we each enjoyed the deliciousness of Berthillon icecream, and then sat on the banks of the Seine for awhile, chatting, before finally heading home.

As we sat beside the river, watching a determined fisherman casting, reeling, casting, reeling, over and over again, Sylvain hugged me - "such a fun birthday".

I was pretty well-behaved all day actually (considering my penchance to do odd things, like putting stickers on my forehead at work), but I did finish the night off well and managed to embarrass him horribly, however, when I threw myself at the railing as we crossed the Petit Pont beside Notre Dame, and waved energetically at the tourist boat travelling along the Seine. As usual (and it is a strange phenomenon, this one), half of the tourists on the boat waved back. Sylvain stopped a few metres away and pretended not to know me.

Ahh, it wouldn't be a birthday if it didn't involve at least one embarrassing moment, would it?

Apology to all Australians

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After one of my colleagues dropped a lolly on the floor, I laughed and jokingly told him that he should eat it anyway, and told everyone about the 7 second rule (for food that has fallen on the floor). I then went on to describe the fact that I recently discovered that other countries have different lengths of time for their "rules", but that I thought the Australian time for this rule was longest.

Now they all think that Australians regularly eat food that's fallen on the floor. And that Australian microbes are slower than those in the rest of the world (cos they're too busy surfing and being "laid back" to hurry when it comes to jumping on food that's fallen on the floor).

I tried desperately to re-explain myself, but they were too busy laughing to listen.

I'm a terrible Ambassador.

Strike it lucky

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The SNCF is striking again today, which means :

a. lots of pushing, shoving and jostling to actually get on the train ;
b. trying to get a hand on the pole in the middle of the train and then not touching anyone elses fingers whilst I hold on for dear life ;
b. holding my bag close in front of me, in case of pickpockets ;
d. breathing through my mouth so that I don't smell the body odour of the inevitable strange man who keeps staring at my chest ;
e. squeezing past people who are reluctant to move when I'm trying to get off the train ;
f. arriving to work late and bitching to my colleagues about the strikes.

It was all fun and games this morning.

And I get to do it again tonight! (all except f. which will involve arriving home late and bitching to Sylvain about the strikes) Hoorah!

Where in the world

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"I can't believe this!" she exclaims, clinging to her boyfriends arm with her left hand, waving her right hand in the air at the buildings, the people around them. "We're in Paris!"

They grin at each other.

I smile too, as I let myself into my office building and walk up the stairs.

My building is old and wonky. Literally wonky - the walls aren't straight at all. I sit down to drink a cup of fresh mint tea. I joke in French with my colleagues. I'm wearing my supercomfy Birkenstocks and jeans. I'm listening to a voilinist play "Let it be" on the street below.

Life is good.

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