October 2005 Archives



Last night after KNOTs, I met Sylvain and a work colleague of his for drinks at a bar near Chatelet. His colleague is French and is married to an English girl, and is working for an English company near Birmingham. Our conversation was that funny mix of French and English that always happens with people who are comfortable in both languages (why pick one or the other when you can have both?), and it was really interesting to hear his perspective on the cultural differences and things as a Frenchman going into an anglo society. The experiences are different, but the fundamentals are the same - it can be really hard to integrate into another culture, even if you're fluent in the language.

Things have certainly been easier for me since I've met my group of anglo gals. It's hard to make friends with Parisians. I have got a few, but I wouldn't do the same "social" things with them that I do with my anglo girlfriends - knit in Starbucks, for example. ;) (Edit : with the exception of one or two lovely young French ladies who are enthusiastic about knitting in public. hehehe)

Some of the French people around me are confused and almost offended by the fact that most of my group of friends is made up of anglos, but it's so hard to explain why. It's not just about having a shared cultural background - because I only know a few precious people from the Southern Hemisphere here, most of my friends are American or English - it's the shared experience of being a foreigner that binds us too. The roar of laughter when we say translate French phrases into English, "she has reason". Then there is that whole thing about French couples who tend to do everything together (our French friends think it's strange that I don't get upset when Sylvain spends the weekend playing mechanic in a friends barn, and they also think it's strange that I dare to have an all-girl slumber party in our lounge room), but that's another subject altogether.

The bottom line is that this year, things have changed for me, for us. We were happy before, but I didn't realise how much I missed that cultural connection until my sister spent a month with us last New Year. When she left, I knew that I had to do something about that little part that was missing - real friends. I joined the library, I started chatting to other bloggers online and meeting them in person, and then there was the blogger meetup at the start of the year - and the rest is history ;)

This experience has been interesting for me, as a person. It was hard at the beginning, and there is nothing more humbling than being taken out of ones comfort zone, in a place where you know no one, you don't know the language - but unless you let it overcome you, there is no doubt that you'll come out of it at the end a better person, with a greater tolerance, more patience, and a better understanding of the world.

Anyone who has ever lived in or visited this city, even for a short period of time, will attest to the fact that it smells like pee. It's not overwhelming, but it's there. The train stations, little alleyways, sidewalks - pee pee pee.

Big puddle of suspicious-looking yellow fluid on the pavement? Not necessarily Fifi's fault. French men seem to like to pee anywhere. It's a strange phenomenon, and a newcomer recently told me that she was surprised and somewhat disgusted to see a well-dressed businessman just stopping in the middle of a busy street and peeing against a building. I shrugged. It's revolting, but you eventually start ignoring it. And you get used to dodging the puddles.

On the way home tonight, I noticed a rather frazzled mother helping her young son (3 or 4 years old?) pee against a potplant right in front of Monoprix, whilst her daughter (around same age) looked on. I wondered whether I should tell her that there were toilets right inside the entrance to the store, but I knew that I probably wasn't going to be helping matters, since she was probably at her last resort anyway.

I just sighed, and walked on. Another mini-Frenchman, getting used to peeing in the street. It's a lost cause.

Teaching an old dog new tricks


Katia : I wish our apartment building had a cardboard and plastic bottle bin. I feel like it's such a waste to just throw it all out with the regular rubbish.

Sylvain : It does. I mean. We do.

Katia : What?

Sylvain : We have a plastic bottle and cardboard recycling bin. It's downstairs. With the regular bin. Right beside it.

Katia : And exactly how long have I been living here? Why am I only just finding out about this now?

Sylvain coughs : it's written right on the front of the bin. In big letters.

Katia : Oh...

Sylvain picks up Symphony and pretends to whisper in her ear : Psst psst psst.

He looks at her, pretending to listen to something she says, then nods : Yes... yes... jail... maybe...

He walks off, holding Symphony, giggling at himself, and at me.

I feel like a real fork dork.

Still tied up in KNOTs


Knitting last night was great - it just keeps getting more and more interesting. The girl who asked us whether we were an organised group last week rocked up and joined us for half an hour this week. And the funny thing? Turns out that she's doing the same course as Andie and they share classes! In a city as big as Paris, such a coincidence is mind-boggling.

And the most random thing ever? Some chick came up to us and asked if she could take our photo. Not then and there, but she wants to set up a time with us so that she can take our photo. Very inte-mer-esting.

Knitting? in Public? in Paris? I was once admonished by an elderly lady here who said, "we don't do that sort of thing in public, dear." Well, there are certainly people other than us who do it, but perhaps they don't do it in such an obvious spot. Or they're not quite as cool as us. One or the other. hehe. We do get a lot of stares, I admit. But perhaps this is the start of a revolution in this country, who knows?

I've been making major progress on Squarey, but when I measured the circumfrence last night I realised that it's way wider (like, nearly 10cm) than it's supposed to be. I have NO idea how that happened - must be my horrible tension on these circulars combined with my dodgy mathematical skills that have deceived me yet again. *shakes fist*

Little pill


Sylvains dad mentioned to me not long ago that he loves listening to my sister and I talk to each other. Apparently it's not what we say, but how we say it. He has a relatively good grasp of English, but admits that he can't understand a thing we say because we have our own way of talking with each other, we know what the other one is about to say so we don't even need to finish sentences. A conversation between Charlie and I is filled with so many undercurrents that anyone else would be pulled under and out to sea. I guess that's what a shared history does to sisters.

We have a funny relationship. I think she's fabulous and I love her to bits and I know I could count on her for anything, but we can fight like nothing else. We are two very different people and it can make for interesting conversations.

She also enjoys picking on me. A lot. Sylvain thinks it's hilarious and when they join forces to team up against me, I have no hope at all.

She rang me this morning to talk about some yarn she saw on sale and given the current sales going on here in France, we decided we're going to do a yarn exchange. We also discussed my recent purchase of some Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk yarn, and she was concerned that it would wear too much for the project that I had in mind.

I sent her an email a few minutes later, which contained a few questions about knitting. She knits WAY better than I do, so I thought I'd defer to her greater knowledge :

Me : So silk wears? This stuff is 80% baby alpaca and 20% silk. It would be best to make proper wrist warmers with them then - rather than something that goes over my palm. I'm also going to make leg warmers with it, and a cowl, and maybe a scarf. i'm not at the sweater stage yet.

Her : you are australian. you wear and knit jumpers, not sweaters.
Despite being an email, I know EXACTLY how she is saying this. I can practically HEAR the tone in her voice. I can SEE her rolling her eyes.

Me : temporary loss of sanity. that is all.
so. answers to my questions instead of nitpicking?

Her : it doesn't 'wear' per se, but any damage done to it is generally un-doable. it should be drycleaned, it shouldn't get wet, etc. thus it is not normally used on high-traffic garments.

Me : Thankyou kindly for your enlightening response. I feel informed enough now to make a decision about how I shall use it.
(you are aware this is going to be blogged you little monkey bottom)

I sent her another email this morning :

Me : what are we going to do about mum's birthday present? any ideas?

Her : fart.
maybe burp.

Me : buttmuncher

I'm not sure we'll ever grow up, really.



Pencil tins : why don't people store their pens "nib-down"? It's logical. The ink runs to the nib and you can write with the pen straight away. Keeping them nib-up means that you have to shake it like a Polaroid picture (shake it, shake, shake) whilst you're wait for the ink to run up to the nib. Wasting time, people.

Hair : cutest hair cut ever on Friday. Fabulous hair all weekend. Of course I can't do my hair like the hairdresser does (and who has the time, really, when there is knitting to be done and neopets to be played?) and now I look like something the cat dragged in. I knew I shouldn't have gotten it layered. Again.

Knitting projects : I've bitten off more than I can chew. Two months until Christmas. In order to finish all these Christmas projects, I will need to grow at least two extra hands. Perhaps a swim in the murky waters of the Seine will fix that.

Knitting technique : I knit Continental. It's the way my sister taught me. I like knitting on long needles, tucking the left needle under my arm for balance. But knitting on circulars is providing a whole new challenge. Since the needles are far shorter, I cannot tuck the needle under my arm, hence the needles and yarn end up flying everywhere and my tension is shot to pieces.

Autumn : the seasons seem to have really changed rapidly this year (although I may have a skewed perspective, since I was shut up for two weeks with my foot, then for another week with the Congrès). I normally love Autumn, as in the Southern Hemisphere it is the season of my birthday and birthdays are all about huzzah-ness, but in the Northern Hemisphere, Autumn is leaves, leaves and more leaves. I love the changing colours - since there are so many more deciduous trees here, it is so much more pronounced than down under. The only thing negative about leaves is that they hide dog poop. A Very Bad Thing. No stomping happily in the leaves for me. It's also getting colder, which doesn't bother me, since I love the cold weather. I just want to hurry up and finish all the aforementioned projects so I can knit some fabulously cute wrist warmers and gloves and scarves and hats.

Foot : Still wearing the aircast. Very wobbly without. Ankle looks a little yellow, and hurts a lot at night. Slightly worried that it's taking so long to get better. Descent into paranoia imminent.

Waiting in line : Getting cranky and Pffting the cashier is only going to make them go slower. Standing right next to me (this is my dance space, this is your dance space) and glaring at me whilst you're waiting for me to finish packing my groceries is only going to make me go slower. Learn some manners. Take the time smell the roses. Maybe a bug will come out and bite your nose while you're at it.

I think I also have about seven gazillion emails to catch up on. I think I really do need those two extra hands. A swim in the Seine it is!

Dog eat dog


I had heard the rumours, but I didn't realise how true they were - it's a dog eat dog world when there is a sale involved.

On Saturday a girlfriend and I ventured into Bon Marché - Day 3 of a mid-season Sale. I found a lovely ball of soft pink yarn on a tressle table stuffed with yarn (Debbie Bliss alpaca silk), and was contemplating whether the colour would suit me or not, when a lady beside me started pawing through the the tressle table beside me.

She bumped into me several times, and I looked at her incredulously, whilst making that oh-so-French pfft noise (takes a bit of practice - it involves pushing air out of your nose and your mouth and pursing your lips and pouting all at the same time).

"Excusez-moi," she muttered, looking at me, then switching to heavily-accented English. "Excuse me." She must have heard my girlfriend and I chattering in English.

She grabbed one bag of the pink yarn, then the second bag, and another ball that was lying alone in the tressle table. She counted them with her friend, who told her, "there is 21 balls here. You need 22."

The lady turned to look at me, looked at the ball of yarn in my hand, then literally grabbed it right out of my hand, and raced off to see the salesperson.

My girlfriend and I stood frozen to the spot, open-mouthed. I've never encountered such brazen behaviour before.

We turned back to the tressle table, where I consoled myself with the fact that the colour wasn't really right for me anyway, and we spent a few minutes discussing the merits of the other colours on offer.

Whiz! Plop!

The yarn stealer was back again, this time throwing the yarn back into the tressle table, then racing off to the salesperson again, where she proceeded to order some yarn in a different colour. A short time later, the cheeky thing then had the nerve to come back over to me and strike up a conversation about whether she could get the yarn cheaper in England.

Of course, I can't really complain, especially since I've been known to do a bit of brazen strawberry stealing myself.

Foie gras, wine, pâté, eau de vie des marmottes (amongst others), dried duck fillets, cheese, ostrich sausage - what does that all have in common? It's all edible/drinkable and it was all to be found at the Salon Fermier today in Paris! A few of us anglo expats (including a newcomer to the henhouse, the lovely Mrs B) and various husbands were to be found at the expo this afternoon, where we partook in the many delights of French fruits of the earth.

I'm pretty sure that today I mixed more drinks in the first half an hour than I have since my uni days.

The most embarrassing moment of my day (whenever I am involved, there is usually at least one embarrassing moment) was an incident involving strawberries - all day long, stall owners had been passing around plates and bowls of their produce to passersby, so when a lady standing next to the strawberry stand was passing around a punnet of strawberries to the people standing near her, I simply assumed it was the same sort of thing and grabbed myself a strawberry to try. It was only when I noticed that they were talking to each other in the most familiar way, and everyone in the group was standing there, frozen, staring at me and my strawberry, that I realised that the lady had, in fact, bought a punnet of strawberries from the stand and was just sharing them with her friends. I darted away down the aisle in horror, not even pausing to apologise, and dropped my strawberry on the floor in panic. I spent the rest of the day fearful that I would bump into the strawberry lady and her bunch of friends. Of course, my companions all thought it was hilarious. I am officially a strawberry-stealer. Shame on me.

I would just like to point out that I don't think the strawberry incident was anything to do with the amount of beverages consumed. Nonetheless, it was a highly entertaining afternoon. We walked away with wee pots of pâté and foie gras, various bottles of wine and liqueur, saucisson and cheese. A highly profitable afternoon.

On the way home, we were joking about the size of our liquor cabinet, which is starting to bulge with different flavours - whenever we go somewhere, we like to try things and tend to pick up a bottle or two of the special regional liqueurs or wines. We still have a couple of cases of white wine from our last trip to Alsace, pommeau, calvados and cider from our trip to Bretagne at New Year, myrtille flavoured liqueur from Puy, and Pineau from Charentes - the list goes on.

Sylvain was not joking, however, when he suggested that we actually write out a list of the bottles and stick it on the inside of the cabinet door, just so that we know what to offer visitors. Hmmm.

No fanfare, indeed

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It's taken 2 1/2 years of marriage, billions of photocopies, irritating fonctionnaires, frustrating meetings with more questions than answers, long waiting times between appointments and a visit from the police - but it's done.

I have my ten-year Carte de Sejour.

I have summed up most of my experiences with French administration and applications for a visa already, but we've been waiting since April for the papers to be processed for our final application.

I received the convocation in the mail, and rocked up at the Prefecture on Friday afternoon. After wandering around in circles for 10 minutes trying to find out how to purchase an official stamp (something that they request I buy in order to attach it to my dossier), I waited, patiently, for my number to be called. I read 50 pages, 100 pages, 120 pages - the red light flashed : #614.

I slid my convocation letter through the hole in the fiberglass window to the lady behind the desk, along with my passport, the stamp, and my provisionary residence permit. She nodded, told me to wait a few moments, and trotted off to another room. She was back in 30 seconds, holding a bright orange dossier and primly asked me to sign a form. I handed her back the pen and the form, and in exchange, she handed me my passport and a shiny laminated card.

"Et voilà."

No fanfare, no handing-over ceremony - 2 1/2+ years of red tape, and all I get is a voilà. I would've liked a few banging drums or something. Anything.

But at least I have this little identity card in my hot little hands and I will not have to go through this rigamarole for another 10 years.

Of course, I'm still planning on embarking on the adventure of getting double nationality, so the paper pushing isn't finished there, but I hear this is far less painful. It shouldn't involve a surprise visit from the police, anyway. Although I am an expert in these things now.

Tied in knots

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Thursday nights KNOTs session found us in a spacious café , drinking different varieties of tea and coffee, and knitting up a storm.

I had made a quick trip to Bon Marché in my lunch break and picked up some yarn for a Christmas present that I want to make for my sister-in-law - a soft wrap in two different shades of purple. I rocked up to KNOTS, armed wiht my beautiful yarn and set about knitting. Alas, after I swatched the yarn, I discovered that the yarn just didn't want to be molded into the pattern I planned to make, and I spent the entire evening fighting with the yarn and trying to figure out how to make the damn wrap. I went home in a very grumpy state of mind, having gained very little except a headache.

I have vowed that I will turn up to our next KNOTs session with a project that is already started, or with something incredibly simple, in order to save everyone else the headache of having to listen to me whinge about not being able to start my project the way I want.

Our group of knitters is dynamic, energetic, enthusiastic. Our excitement was obviously catching, as a young French girl approached us late in the evening and asked if we were an organised group, did we know each other before this, and were we here often? It was only a matter of time, I suppose!

My dexterous fingers are obviously also fascinating to others, because at one point in the evening I looked up to see my fellow knitters all chuckling at me. Apparently an employee of the café where we were sitting had been standing behind me for the last five minutes, staring over my shoulder at my flying needles.

I have found the solution to my wrap problem - I'm tackling an interesting (and slightly modified) pattern from Wrap Style. The yarn seems to have agreed with this state of affairs also. Let's hope it takes me in the right direction and I get it done by Christmas.

In other, yarn-related news, I went a bit crazy at Bon Marché again yesterday. Hello? Surprise Sales? How can I say no? I foresee leg warmers, scarves, fingerless mittens and cowls on the horizon.

Guilty as charged


Exhibit 1.
A photo of Katia, almost-full glass of Sangria in hand.
Time on photo : 22:43:40

Exhibit 2.
A photo of Katia, almost-empty glass of Sangria in hand.
Time on photo : 22:44:02

Ok, so last week wasn't all work and no play. But I'm really not ok with threatening to print out these photos and stick them on my wall.



The Parisian public transport is not easy to navigate when you are using crutches. This is why I stayed home from work for two weeks. But yesterday my time had come, and I had to return to work.

I wanted to make it easier on myself, and knowing that I would be moving around all day, I decided to take one of my crutches with me to help ease the pressure on my foot. I had used a crutch all last week to do the same thing.

But nay, even with just one crutch, getting up and down those stairs to get to the trains and metro here is not an easy task. Even getting on and off the train and the bus is no mean feat.

I rarely criticise Parisians here on my blog, but they were in fine form yesterday. I found myself getting shoved and pushed, despite the crutch. They must be forgiven though - it was Monday, after all.

There are exceptions to the rule, however, and I was impressed when, on the way home last night, a lady standing beside me yelled at the other people trying to cram themselves onto the bus, "Eh! Let her on!"

She pushed her way to the front of the queue and waved me to the door. I responded, "No, no, let them go, it doesn't matter, I'm just using the crutch for balance."

She looked at me in the eyes and said, "It doesn't matter, it's the principle - look at them all, just barging on without caring about anyone else."

This morning I abandoned the crutch. It's really not worth the hassle, and I can walk, albeit a little slower than usual. But at least I know my foot will get better in time, and eventually I'll be moving around the city, going up and down the stairs without a care.

I can only imagine what it is like for people with permanent problems of limited mobility, or for parents with young children and prams/pushchairs. I've often seen strangers helping others get on and off the train, and up and down stairs, but you can't depend on the kindness of a stranger all the time. This city is not for those people who can't move around like the rest of us. And it's a pity, because it's a beautiful one.



I have to wear this stupid aircast around my ankle for the next couple of weeks. In order to accommodate the aircast, I have to wear a pair of six-year old Vans, the left shoe of which is now, sadly, impossibly stretched. I'll never be able to wear them again.

I was on the train this morning, gazing wistfully at girl wearing a cute pair of green flats, and her friend, wearing a fun pair of purple heels. Thankfully I caught myself before she noticed that I was staring and thought I was trying to crack on to her or something.

As soon as I'm out of this darn aircast, I'm going shoe shopping for a new pair of runners and some autumn flats. I think I deserve it.

Home grown

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I really should be dealing with the mountains of work on my desk, but no. I just did a quick tour of blogs and feel like writing again. hehe.

Despite my best intentions, I didn't end up going out yesterday. I stayed at home, napped on the couch, kept my foot up and knitted. My belle star shawl wasn't working so I frogged it and am making a simple diagonal rib scarf with the yarn. I'm going to buy some more appropriate yarn to make the shawl, because I really love the way it looks (a mohair blend was really a stupid idea). I also spent a couple of hours looking at knitting books on Amazon, so I'm looking forward to receiving some packages in the mail really soon. Whee! We also watched Oceans Twelve and The Day After Tomorrow, and finished off the day by cooking a roast pork with delicious roast potatoes, so it was a true homebody day yesterday. I think, after last weeks adventures, I needed that.

Uh oh

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First day back after effectively three weeks off. My desk is caving in from the amount of things To Do piled on top of it. And somehow this magazine has to be published within the month. And some sleep would be good in there too.

I can do this.
I CAN do this.
I just have to put on my SuperWoman hat.
That is, if I can find it.
*paws carefully through the pile of things on her desk*


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Congrès has come and gone. I spent the week on very little sleep, with extremely long working hours, hobbling around on one crutch like a mad thing (the other hand free to carry stuff), and chugging down coffee. Good times. The highlight of the week was probably when one of our congressistes walked off with another congressistes bag and coat without realising it - the hilarious thing was that the coat was a completely different colour and length. Hmm.

I fell asleep on the couch when we got back to Sylvain's parents house on Friday afternoon, after packing up everything and waving the colleagues off on the TGV back to Paris, only to wake up to my parents-in-law thinking it was hilarious to take photos of a sleeping Aussie Lass. Hmmm.

In total, I slept about 18 hours over the period of Friday afternoon/Saturday morning, then I had another nap of a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. That's saying something for me, who normally can't sleep more than 8 hours.

Anyway, it's over for another year. We'll see where I am this time next year - who knows what the future will bring.

Sylvain, on the other hand, spent the entire week lazing around his parents house and eating mushrooms. It was a veritable nightmare to come home at 1am every night to a house that reeked of mushrooms. Eurgh.

Ipod hooked up to the car stereo = very cool. That is all I have to say on the matter.

My ankle is much improved. Running around on it this week hasn't really been the best thing for it, although using my crutch to keep the pressure off did help a bit. It's still sore, and I'll have to wear the air cast for a week or two yet, but at least I can walk around now without wincing in pain. Always a good thing.

As well as going to see the Physio to work on my foot muscles, I'm thinking of participating in some Aquagym classes at my local pool, which might help my foot strengthen a little quicker, and I'm keen to take up Yoga as soon as my foot is flexible enough to handle it. I am on my way to finding my Zen. Not an easy thing in a city that is as fast-paced as Paris.

In other news, I've been given a sewing machine by my mother-in-law. It's old - about 40 years old - and it smells a little musty, but it's servicable. It had been broken for years, but Sylvain decided to put himself to work and fixed it. He was so excited that he actually lifted the hem of his jeans himself. I am still in a state of shock about this development. Hmm. I'm actually not much of a sewer, even more so because fabric costs an arm and a leg here in France, but at least this gives me the option of trying my hand at it anyway.

I have currently got two knitting projects on at the moment - one is the never-ending scarf that I've frogged and restarted a gazillion times, the other is a slightly different version of the Belle Star mini-poncho from Knitty. I'm not sure how the latter will turn out, but it's an adventure anyway. But I really must stop making things for myself and start looking for yarn for Christmas projects. Ahhh the possibilities. I'm very much looking forward to our knitting group this week.

And now, I must think about getting ready for brunch with girlfriends. After two weeks of being housebound with a foot in the air and a week of Congrès, I'm back to the land of the living!

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed


There is a French expression that I come across quite often : "à la bonne heure". This literally translates to "the good hour", but basically means "very early morning".

This is an expression that my dear father-in-law employs very often, generally as we head up to bed late during the holidays, "on vous verra à la bonne heure demain matin! on a beaucoup de choses à faire!" This translates to, "see you bright and early! we've got heaps of things to do!"

So when I spoke to him on the phone last night, organising our plans for the upcoming week, I was not surprised to hear him exclaim, "we'll see you at lunchtime on Sunday then, right?". With a five-hour drive ahead of us, we'll certainly have to leave à la bonne heure to be there on time.

So... Congrès here I come. It runs all week in the town where Sylvains parents live, so we're going up a day early, and he's taking a week off to relax (I believe there will be mushroom-hunting involved) whilst I slave away doing 18 hour days. My boss kindly suggested that I stay at home and rest my poor little footsie, but my conscience decided to play the martyr and I'm going anyway. I will just have to be careful and keep the aircast tight and secure, and I've filled my handbag with emergency pain meds, although if I do hurt myself again, I'll probably be too sleep-deprived to care. hehe.

à vendredi!


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This page is an archive of entries from October 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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