November 2005 Archives

Strangers no more


It's rare to communicate with strangers, no matter what city or country you live in. Occasionally, a careless smile or a "pardon" can invite unwelcome attention. I tend to keep to myself, just to be safe.

Strike days, like those last week, offer a change to the routine. When you're packed like sardines in a carriage (one train in seven? peak hour? short train instead of a long train? ouch!), passengers will laugh at the situation with people they wouldn't normally talk to.

Animals change the normal anti-social behaviour too (as I'm sure she can attest to). We were coming home from KNOTs a couple of weeks ago, and a woman and her French Bulldog puppy were sitting in the seats across the aisle. We kept looking over at the dog (how could we not? he was so cute!), and eventually exchanged shy smiles with the lady, who finally grinned at us and unleashed her dog - who immediately sprinted over to us, clambered onto the seats and lavished us with puppy attention. She got off the train, and I spent the next 20 minutes making small talk with this stranger and having my neck licked by a friendly puppy. I learned where she bought her bag (super cute purple one from Kipling), and she learned about KNOTs.

It gave me a lot to think about - how such a small thing can break down the barriers of communication between strangers. Almost as if the barriers were waiting to be broken down.

Last week, I went into my local Columbus Café, to pick up a coffee to take to work. I go there once every week or two, and have been doing so for the last two years, so the staff in there know me on sight, although we never say anything beyond, "would you like a muffin?".

I asked for "the usual", and the barista turned around to make my coffee. I noticed her shirt was inside out.

The internal struggle between me and my shy side went on for a minute as she heated the milk - is it really inside out? are those seams or a fashion statement? is she deliberately wearing it inside out? is it some new fashion that i don't know about? should I say something? is it my place to say anything at all?

In the end, I figured that she would be more embarrassed than I, and that I would end up feeling guilty all day if I didn't say anything.

When she turned around to hand me my coffee, I leaned over and whispered, "your shirt is inside out".

She looked down, blushed and laughed, "oh my, thankyou."

She rang up my coffee and continued talking, "I live in a studio apartment with my husband, and because I have to leave very early in the morning, while my husband is still sleeping, I get dressed in the dark! I must have just put it on backwards."

I smiled at her, "I do the same sorts of things."

She grinned at me, "Thankyou..."

Perhaps those barriers really are just waiting to be broken down.

Time for reflection

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Last week was a disruptive week, hence the lack of blogging. My place of employ is undergoing quite a bit of restructuring, which has involved the clearing out of my office and a temporary space on the big table in the meeting room... along with four other people. This temporary shuffle is going to be interesting, as will the future changes in my workplace - I'm not sure if it will be good or bad in the long run, so we'll see what happens, only time will tell...

It snowed in Paris on Saturday. For about 3 or 4 hours, the snow fell in little flakes, and left an inch or so of snow on the footpath in front of our apartment. We cancelled all plans and hibernated inside - I spoke to my sister on the phone for over an hour and stared out the window at the falling snow, Sylvain played Gameboy and watched bad movies, whilst I launched the Knots website (we're dorks? no... just enthusiastic...) and practiced my crochet. Idem for Sunday - a calm weekend, and actually much welcome, given the disruptions of the week before. I have today off, and so far I've done pretty much the same thing as on the weekend. Quiet, much appreciated, and it has given me time for much reflection.

I dreamed last night about going back to Australia. It was a good dream, relatively coherent, and both Sylvain and I were happy to find ourselves amongst family and friends. It is curious how such dreams give me a sense of peace, they make me feel a little better about not going home for Christmas, because at least I get to go home in my dreams...

Giving Thanks


The usual suspects (minus a couple who were sorely missed, and much thought of). Some very welcome newcomers. Exciting vegetable dishes. Marshmallows. Lots of sweet things, including (but not limited to) three pumpkin pies and two pavlova rolls (a little touch of Southern Hemisphere specialness, just for good measure). A roaring fire. Lots of laughter. And two big turkeys, specially ordered for the occasion.

This was Thanksgiving in Paris. The first for Sylvain and I. For some, it was the opportunity to celebrate an event they grew up with. For others, it was the opportunity to try new things, to enjoy the excuse to get together. For us all, it was the time to be thankful for being able to share this moment, on this day, at this time in our lives, with these people. And I am thankful.

Birthday Bash


I take a sip of Milo, my top lip is covered in frothy, creamy foam, and I'm transported back to Australia, just for a second. Just long enough, I comfort myself, to pretend that I'm there.

Happy Birthday, mum. I love you all!

Passer du coq à l'âne


At noon on Saturday, I was in a shoe shop trying on a pair of shoes. I got a phone call from Aimee, telling me the bad news about her mum.

I literally slammed my credit card down on the counter and said, "I'm taking these shoes, let me pay, now."

The sales lady put my card in the machine, and eyeed me carefully, "do the shoes fit, madame?"

I punched in my numbers and grabbed my bag and the receipt, "I don't know, I don't care," and I ran out of the door. I left my old pair of shoes behind - one of them had a hole, so I'm not too worried about it. The new shoes are ok, not perfect, but they're ok.

It's been a strange few days since that moment. Life seems to have been in limbo, in a way.

But I'm jumping on the wheel again, and I am going to finish what I started - shopping.

I think I'm going to head to Bon Marché in my lunch break today, and I'm going to have to use EVERY SINGLE OUNCE OF MY WILLPOWER NOT TO GO UPSTAIRS TO THE YARN DEPARTMENT.

The problem is that I don't actually have any room for more yarn, and I really should to do something about turning all those skeins in my stash into real life knitted goods, but... all that yarn, sitting in those little cubby holes at Bon Marché... it's just so darn pretty that I can't help myself.

It's all about willpower.

So why am I going? To get some canned pumpkin for her, and some philly cream cheese for her. The things we do... Putting my credit card in mortal danger with all that yarn so close by.

Looking forward, looking back


I'm feeling a little melancholy this week. Understandable, I suppose, after this weekends events. I feel guilty for decompressing, knowing that across the ocean the difficult journey has only just begun, but life does go on, and I can't let the wheel turn without me.

Events like this tend to make you reflect on your own life, your own situation. You take a breath and say a prayer and be thankful for what you have.

I am sad not to be going home for Christmas, and am feeling even sadder in the knowledge that it's my mum's 50th birthday this weekend and I can't be there to celebrate. I missed out on dad's 50th last year, and that was hard too.

I have spent the last year looking forward to things, like my sisters visit in December/January, my parents visit in August, and now that our plans to go back to Australia have been put on the back burner, I'm not quite sure what to look forward to. I mean, there are things happening in our life here, and I know we can't live our lives looking forward, we need to think in the now, but I still miss the people back home, the wide open spaces, the fresh air, and the lifestyle (and yes, even the sight of people walking around barefoot ;)).

So Sylvain and I started talking about what we are going to do this Christmas. I have a week of enforced vacation, and so we'll probably fit in a quick visit to the in-laws, but we're also tossing around the idea of going somewhere between Christmas and the New Year. We desperately want to go back to Ireland, but maybe a few days in Scotland or Italy could be just what we need.

In other news, today I sat down on the toilet seat with my underwear still on. Thankfully I realised before anything happened, but that's a good example of the sort of week I'm having.


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Life is a fragile thing.

When someone leaves us, there is very little to do to help the pain, the shock, except to wait, to live through it, and hopefully grow from it.

A baby's laugh, the squeeze of a hand, the tears glistening in a friends eyes, silly stories that make no sense. These are the small things... they can't fix it, they don't make things any better, but they just make it a fraction easier to live through the now, and hopefully give you a little strength for the hours, days, weeks, months, years to come.

It makes us appreciate what we do have, for the time we have it. Each of us.

Love you, hon.

For info


No one should ever be allowed to wear bright, salmon-coloured jumpers.


Especially when they are 55-year-old men.

And honestly, if these sorts of jumpers had never be produced in the first place, this problem wouldn't exist at all.

I jump, every time it comes near me.

I think I need a little lie down. It's been a long week. And my eyes hurt.

Burning issues

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Whilst everyone talks about the nightly riots and cur burnings that are going on here in France, and we see it on the news and read about it in the papers, things are just turning as usual around me. People make the occasional bad-taste joke, "any cars burned near you last night?", but otherwise I am somewhat removed from it all - it is only happening in very particular areas of France, and I feel like I'm in a protective bubble. It could almost be happening elsewhere in the world, for all the effect it's having on me.

Very curious, indeed.

But I guess that just goes to show how deep the problem really is (thanks Ronica for pointing me to that link).

Tonight we're having stuffed tomatoes and capsicum for dinner (Sylvain made them last night), and we'll watch the news, and we'll shake our heads in wonder that all this uproar is happening so close by, yet so far away.

Hot and cold


Despite the clear, sunny skies, it's gotten very very very cold here, all of a sudden.

Before I leave the apartment, I wrap myself up in additional warm clothes - a scarf and a medium-weight coat, when it gets colder, I'll put on my big winter coat and maybe a little beanie.

It takes me ten minutes to walk from our apartment to the train station. Once I get on the train, herein lies the problem : I have to take all the additional layers off again because it's so damn hot on the trains. If I leave my coat and scarf on for the half-hour train ride, I end up all sweaty and sticky and then I feel gross all day.

So I unwrap myself.

Half an hour goes by. Knit knit, purl purl. Head bopping, toes tapping, to Black Eyed Peas on my Ipod. Receive a few strange looks from other passengers.

I wrap myself up again and get off the train.

I walk for one and a half minutes, arrive at work, then unwrap myself again.

Wrapping and unwrapping. Repeat at lunchtime. Repeat to go home. Wrapping and unwrapping. Getting in some practice before Christmas.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking about putting up the Christmas Tree.

Top of the Top


Can I just say, despite getting used to watching certain things in French without cringing, Top Gun seriously sucks in French.

Of course, I can't say that too often to Sylvain, because he gets cranky. Especially when I whinge about it in critical moments.

Then there's the whole problem with the fact that I've seen Hot Shots far more often than I've actually seen Top Gun itself, so I can't help giggling, thinking of Charlie Sheen, during certain important moments in the film.

I may be ordered to sleep on the couch tonight. hehe.



The most common phrase I hear on a daily basis is the following :

Uh Catcher*, en anglais, comment dit-on [insert phrase/word here] ? (Uh, Katia, in English, how do you say...?)

Today I've been asked how to say, "here is my email address" and "follow these directions".

Sometimes they try talking to me in English, with that over-exaggerated sing-song accent they always do when they're joking about speaking in English :

So, Catcher, can you envoi me zee email? (So, Katia, can you send me the email?)

Such phrases require a working knowledge of English and French, otherwise it might be difficult to decipher.

After a wee misunderstanding with a client, I've been giving impromptu lessons on the importance of the tone of voice when you say something. For example, "what is your problem?", can mean a multitude of things, all depending on how you say it. Very important indeed.

Sometimes I still get confused about certain things in French, the nuances between saying "he is not in the office this week" and "he is not in the office" ("dans le bureau" vs "au bureau"). If I actually stop to think about it, I usually get it right, but when it's on the fly, when I'm speaking or shooting off a quick email, I sometimes get it wrong.

I still also get tricked and will translate things directly, from "I am on the train" to "je suis sur le train". In French, this means you are literally on top of the train. I am sure one day I'll get it right, but at least for now it gives people a little of comedic relief during the working day. Hmph.

I was complaining about this problem with my colleagues this morning, and one of them said, "oh don't worry, these tiny mistakes just go with your accent - it's all part of the charm."

Then one of my other colleagues remarked, "ah yes, but the accent... it just doesn't come across in an email..."


* Catcher : the sound of my name when it is pronounced in French

Paris Riots


The riots are still going. As others have said, it's nothing new, but the length of time they've been going on and the extent of the violence is unusual.

It's all happening in the northern suburbs (with a little in other cities in France), so it hasn't hit central Paris yet, but the area around Chatelet last night (a notoriously dangerous place after dark) was literally crawling with police, and there were at least two big police buses in view.

Apart from the fact that certain trains are not running properly as a result, and the atmosphere in certain areas is quite volatile, I'm not affected by it whatsoever. Sometimes I regret the fact that the nightlife around our apartment is not so lively, but others - thank goodness for living in a snotty suburb.

So cute I want to eat them!


I have totally fallen in love with the adorableness that is Amigurumi. Now I want to learn how to crochet, just so that I can make them. Of course, there is the added problem of not knowing how to read Japanese...

But apparently the patterns are in international crochet code or whateveryawannacallit, so if I knew how to crochet, I would theoretically be able to read the patterns even if I can't read Japanese. Hmm. I'm sure I can get my sister to track the books down cheaper in Australia too. So many projects, so little time. I wish I needed less sleep.

Warm arms


Today is All Saints Day, and is a holiday in France. So like a lot of the people with whom I share this country, I have bridged this weekend - I took yesterday off, making it a 4 day weekend. With the extra hour we gained on Sunday as compensation for losing Daylight Saving (and the days getting shorter and shorter as a result), the entire weekend has felt luxuriously long.

And I've enjoyed every single minute of it.

On Friday afternoon, Sylvain and I went to Ikea and found lots of interesting little goodies, including a couple of air-filled poufs for the lounge room too. Unfortunately I didn't find what I actually wanted - a nice big chest/trunk for my craft goodies - although I did find a couple of baskets that will do for now, at least for my yarn stash.

With my resurging crafty tendencies (and given my recent acquisition of a sewing machine), on Saturday I explored some of the fabric stores in the 18th, at the foot of Sacré Coeur (accompanied by the usual suspects). I found some fabulous fabric that I want to try to make into knitting project bags and knitting needle kits, and some lovely felt scraps. We hit one or two other shops before she and I headed back chez moi to watch the first 7 episodes of Desperate Housewives (thanks Irene!).

It rocks.

So much so that Sylvian stayed up with us until the wee hours watching it on Saturday night (we're such party animals, aren't we), and we spent most of Sunday watching it as well (whilst knitting and chatting and patting the cat), with the exception of a small excursion to see Serenity and eat Indian food. We continued watching on Monday morning (minus one - Sylvain decided that he should go out and do something productive), until we were finally able to admit that our behaviour was pretty pathetic (albeit relaxing, entertaining, and fruitful from the knitting point of view!), and so we headed out with her to do a little shopping and people-watching.

I came home last night and got stuck into my knitting again, which I finished off today : teal armwarmers in the softest aplaca silk? All mine. And I made 'em. Whee!

I have had to rest my foot today, because it's only about 90% operational and walking in Paris can be hard on the feet, but all in all, it's been a nice, peaceful weekend. The only thing is ... today, at home alone, I have managed to break a glass, a chair, the shower rail, and I think Sylvain needs to have a look at the sewing machine. Oops. And there are only three episodes of Desperate Housewives left and I have to wait until we get together again to watch them. Wah!


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