April 2006 Archives

Compte Rendu


Last week went past in a blur....
Number of questions fielded about my accent : 2,972
Number of coffees consumed in a six day period : 24 (plus I don't know how many glasses of Coke)
Number of powerpoint presentations launched : 23
Number of Australians met : 5
Number of blisters on feet : 3
Number of scarves stained from being dipped in a cup of coffee : 1
Number of knitted socks completed in the daily 1 1/4 hour voyage each way : 0 (I ripped it out on the second last day)

And today?
Number of cuddles and kisses from husband and cat : 146
Number of games of Freaky Factory : at least 20
Number of episodes of Red Dwarf watched : 2
Number of naps taken : 2
Number of Monty Python movies watched : 1 (Holy Grail)
Number of Tim Tams eaten : none of your business

A little bit of a break does a world of good.

It's all about me (again)


Great things that happened today :
- receiving the lusted-over-for-over-a-year Sequoia bag from my husband, along with a couple of Monty Python and Red Dwarf dvds. He knows me too well.
- emails and smses from my parents (and knowing that an entire series of Angel is winging its way across the world to me).
- well-wishes from my sister (as an aside, it was almost surreal, to be wandering through a Paris suburb, phone to my ear, knowing that my sister was calling me from tropical Papua New Guinea).
- opening my computer tonight to find a flood of well-wishing emails from people all over the world. You're all wonderful. Thankyou.
- receiving an abundance of kisses. The French like to give birthday kisses. it's almost an obligation, even to people that they normally don't kiss, so today I received kisses from all of my colleagues. Luckily I've lived through a few French birthdays, so I knew what I was in for, but what I didn't expect was that a certain colleague would spend the entire day telling everyone he encountered at the expo that it was my birthday. Thus I received a phenomenal amount of kisses from a totally ginormous amount of random and unknown people today... not that I am really complaining, as a couple of them were certainly what I would call beaux gosses (cute guys). I'm sure I could get used to that.

Tonight, unlike last year (as I was reminded by a reader yesterday) there is no bloody steak and tim tams (mostly because I'm too exhausted to consider going out for dinner), but I'm very happy to curl up on the couch and nap whilst my husband cooks. There are some days when it just has to be like that. And I'm going to enjoy it.



"Katia, I need you to translate for us."

I nod, smile graciously and introduce myself to the beaming group of Eastern Europeans, shaking their hands, one by one, as is the custom.

I turn to the last person, who, to my surprise, instead of grasping my hand in the usual handshake, seizes it and raises it to his lips. He looks into my eyes and makes a gesture of kissing my hand.

"I am enchanted."

I laugh. Because what else can I do?

Five minutes later, the conversation is over (an almost hilarious exchange as we juggle between three languages), so I smile and turn to each person to shake hands.

Alas, I've forgotten what happened the first time around and I'm once again taken by surprise as this unusual gentleman grips my fingertips and lowers his lips to hover just above my hand, "Again, I am enchanted".

I almost expected him to bow.

And was almost disappointend when he didn't.

Perhaps I need to get Sylvain to start kissing my hand, à la Gomez Addams. I am sure I could get used to it.

Oy oy oy


I met an Australian this week (I think we're like magnets, as soon as there is one in the vicinity, we tend to radiate towards each other - comes from being so few of us here, I suppose). He's only here very temporarily, for a big expo that both of our organisations are participating in, but he gave me a couple of presents of which I am very proud. The first one is a tiny little badge with a kangaroo and a boomerang on it. It's now stuck on my jacket. The second is this :

Surprise present

It's funny, this phenomenon of becoming more (or less) "nationalistic" when you become an expat. I never felt this way when living there, but being here I almost feel more Australian than before. Perhaps it's simply a way of defining myself, a way of keeping a hold of who I am in such an uncertain situation. I know a lot of expats here from various nationalities who would be happy never to live again in their country of origin, and many who think that life here is a lot better, for a number of reasons. I feel quite different, and would love to one day live again in Australia. It's certainly not a perfect country, but I like it. And that's that.

So the next step is to figure out the best way of sticking this thing on my wall at work. Cos how could I not?

But now, my feet hurt. I'm tired. And rather grumpy. And would very much like to curl up on the couch and have a nap.

A ray of light


There is no doubt, for me, why so many artists were, are, and will be inspired by this city and the surrounding area. All year long, it still amazes me to see the millions of different ways the light falls on the streets, the buildings. There are moments that I am rendered breathless by the way a sunbeam hits a crooked wall, or the way a ray of light brightens up the tiny street ahead of me.

Tonight there are thunderstorms overhead and I am entranced by the brief glimpses of bright pink blossoms and new leaves outside our window, under the soft light of the dark grey sky, occasionally illuminated by lightning.

I am reminded of the way I would watch, with glee, the enormous, billowing thunderheads rolling across the endless, undulating horizon of my childhood. I prefer that sort of thunderstorm, the raw, brutal energy, but I appreciate the chance I have to see it replicated here, albeit on a far smaller scale, with the angry little storm clouds zooming across the horizon of the city.

After a very long day, filled with unusual activity, I am tired and my feet hurt, but something primal stirs in me, pushing me out to bury my bare feet in the mud produced by the downpour and breathe the freshly watered air. To try to capture the essence of The Feeling After The Storm.

A breath of fresh air

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I talked to mum this morning about our plans to come to Australia this summer. I tell her that Sylvain would be happy sitting beside the beach all day and watching the waves lapping against the shore. I hang up the phone, and wonder what I would do. I realise wistfully that I probably couldn't handle an entire day of nothing. I'd have to be armed with my ipod, a book and my knitting. At least.

I don't consider myself to be a high-strung sort of person, but it can be hard for me to "turn off" and unwind, especially if I've had a busy week at work or someone in my entourage is stressed or unhappy.

Being around someone like Sylvain tends to pull me down to earth. He is so laidback that when it's Thursday, he's still on Saturday. Quiet. Zen. This attitude is sometimes frustrating, because he can take twenty minutes to get up from the couch, simply because he's busy giving Symphony cuddles "because she's so cute!", but it's also a good lesson for me - I count myself lucky to be around him, to learn from him, to draw some of that serenity from him.

After a crazy week at work and waking up with a headache this morning, I'm a little tired and jumpy, and need to burn off some of my excess energy. So with spring upon us, we went for a walk today in the forest not far from our apartment.

I am worried about stepping in dog poop or brushing my bare legs against stinging nettles. He is busy noticing that the road through the forest has been closed for the toad migration. He points out ladybugs, bluebells and turtles sunning themselves on logs in the lake.

With each step through the forest, I feel the tension falling away from my shoulders in waves. He is good for me.



My consolation for getting up and going to work early (in an attempt to reduce the amount I'll have to do this weekend) is a detour into the bakery by our apartment, on my way down to the train station. 95 centimes later and I've got a pain au chocolat in my hands. It is still warm, a rare and welcome treat - normally they're cold and the chocolate is hard, still very delicious, but there is nothing quite like the experience of one that is fresh from the oven. I bite into it and the melted chocolate combined with the warm, buttery goodness of the pastry dissolves in my mouth.

This simple pleasure is what living in France is about.

When I sleep


Last night I woke up breathless, shaking, sweating all over, having had such a bad nightmare that I clutched Sylvain's arm to make sure he was still there, still breathing beside me. I didn't want to go back to sleep. When I finally did drift off again, the nightmare continued where it left off. It was so terrifying that I'm surprised I didn't wake up screaming.

For me, there is nothing worse than those nightmares which continue after a period of consciousness. Sometimes it is a dream that continues on where it left off that night, even after I've gotten up to get a drink of water, even after I've made a conscious effort to "change the subject", so to speak, and think of something completely different. Sometimes the dream continues on the next night. There are some dreams that will pick up again where they left off weeks and even months later.

The curious thing is that when I woke up, I felt refreshed.

But other than that, I'm fine. heh.

Anti-fan mail

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dear help4neopians.

you are eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-vil.
i am now addicted to this STOOPID BLOODY SITE because of YOU!
and the fact that i spent over 3 hours yesterday playing NEOQUEST II
i lay the responsibility entirely at your feet.

love, kyliemack

p.s. i totally LOVE your articles in the neopets magazine too!
(when you let me read them)

Show and Tell

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I feel so lucky - I have spent this afternoon playing games on Neopets, all in the name of "research". And I get paid to do it. Whee! So, I've been writing for Neopets : the Official Magazine for over 2 years now, and in all that time I've received a massive amount neomails that I feel embarrassed to call "fan mail", but I don't know what else I could call them. They range from adorable and sweet to hilarious and totally incoherent. I have been meaning to post just a couple of examples of them for a few months now, and, well, given what I've been doing all day, today is as good a time as any.

Subject : Hi!
Message : 1stly, this is my side account, im to lazy to log off before neomailing you my main is X.second, I LOVE YOUR ARTICLES IN THE NEOPETS MAG!!! They are very helpful. my friends, julia and my friend jess find them quite helpful! continue on beeing fantasious!!! neomail me back !! luv~Rachel

Subject : -
Message : I REALLY like your articles in the neopian magazine I subscribed to it! And today I just got my new issue! I read your articel about Painted Pets I loved it! I labbed my Poogle and my Gelert is in labbing and FFQ was my Mynci. That was my 2nd FFQ both times were REALLY cheap items 1st was worth 100 NP the latest one was like 2 days ago for 3.5k. Well I really enjoy your articels and nice meeting you!

Subject :Hi!
Message :Okay, I know you don't have ANY idea who I am, but I read your articles in The Official Neopets Magazine. They're really good. But I have a question about your article on how to make 100,000 neopoints, in issue 16. If you are a fast-paced player, who's on for long periods of time, (like me ), what if you don't have enough NP to restock? Oh wait, I assume you would play games...right. Oh, well, sorry for wasting your time!

Subject : Thank You Soooo Much!
Message : You're great! I just subscribed to the neopets magazine and all of my very favorite articles are written by you! Thanks so much for it! I don't think your username is funny and stupid. It...fits you.

Subject : Hi!
Message : Hi, I'm Kendasa! I absolutely LOVE your articles in the neopets magazine! Those are the FIRST things I read when I get my magazine! I hope to also be a writer for neopets when I am a little bit older and you are my inspiration!

Subject : neopet magazine
Message : you wrote the neopet magazine it is wonderful I bought the new magazine I love poogles!! Bye

Fruit of passion


I press a knife into the skin, slowly, firmly. The purple sphere collapses in my hand and the sweet, slightly acidic scent overwhelms me, and whips me right back to the farm of my childhood... Carolyn and I sitting underneath the passionfruit vine that divided the orchard and the vegetable garden. The soles of our feet purple with fresh mulberry stains. Breaking open the fallen fruit with our bare hands, savouring the soft flesh and burying our noses in the depths of the sweet goodness, pulling out the last strings with our teeth.

The passionfruit is a relatively new, exotic fruit here. My mother-in-law once held one up reverently, and asked me, "have you ever tasted one of these?". I laughed as I remembered the almost ridiculous number of Passionfruit Sponges that would be spread out on the tressle tables at church picnics. The cashier at the Sunday market assured me that I was buying something of quality, "it's not like anything you have tasted". I can only smile, and wonder if he would be envious of my childhood.

The hefty price tag, 1.80 euros (nearly $3 AUD) for a single passionfruit from l'Ile de la Réunion, is worth it, for a taste of home, my childhood.



When one works a normally ordinary Monday to Friday job, the only thing more depressing than working late on a Friday night is having to come in again on Saturday.

Internet, I need me some loving. Leave a message or share some funnies with me and help keep me from falling asleep on my keyboard.

(Of course, the five minutes I've spent writing this blog entry is five minutes earlier I could have gone home this afternoon, but still...)

Paris manifestations


Whilst it is not officially declared a "strike day", the manifestations about the CPE laws are still going strong today, and the students are moving through the streets in their thousands.

The actual manifestations are not violent in and of themselves, but the combination of the CRS (the French riot police) and a crowd of people trying to get through a small space makes it a volatile mix. Thus the view just a few steps away from my work, with a car in the street that was overturned just a few minutes before...

CRS surrounding an overturned car on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris

You have to admit the outfits are impressive.

CRS surrounding an overturned car on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris

Here, the riot police are just standing around protecting the car from any further damage. The main body of the movement has marched on, down the Quai du Seine, as have the majority of the police and other authorities keeping an eye on the protests, but hundreds of people are still milling around, watching, waiting.

[Lire la suite]

Sonnerie connerie


So, Gullible tells me that "the French Parliament recently passed legislation mandating that cell phone ring tones used within France must be of either culturally-neutral tones or of songs either performed by or written by French citizens".

Does that mean I'm not allowed to use my Meepit Juice Break ringtone (from Neopets)? One could argue that it is not culturally neutral. Perhaps I would not, for example, be allowed to put Waltzing Mathilda on my mobile phone.

Could this possibly be true? (Edit: or am I, in fact, being gullible?)



When Sylvain and I got married, my parents and sister came to celebrate the event with us. During their visit, I think it was either my dad or my sister who taught Sylvain an expression that he regularly uses to this day : ball and chain.

Only he calls me his "chain and ball".

"It's not chain and ball," I've explained, patiently, a number of times. "It's ball and chain. It's important to say it in that order. Otherwise it's just not right."

"But first you have the chain attached, then the ball," he insists. "It's chain and ball."

I can't really argue with him on that one, because he does have a point.

So, three years on, he still thinks it's hilarious to say things like, "come on, chain and ball", and chuckles heartily each time he says it. From anyone else, I would consider it a horribly sexist remark (but the negative nuance just isn't there for him so how can I really get offended by it?), and anyway, it's impossible to get annoyed when he's grinning at me like a dork as he says it.

Happy Wedding Anniversary, love. It's been fun, and I'm happy to be your chain and ball. At least that way you can't leave me behind somewhere.



There are people talking, voices raised, at the other end of the building. I can't make out what they're saying, but the tone of their voices makes it clear to me the intent of their discussion.

This makes me uncomfortable, and I say, "I don't think today is going well. People are arguing. I hate that."

My colleague looks at me in surprise, "they're not arguing. They're just trying to make themselves heard."

This sort of comment pretty much sums up every single discussion amongst the French that can ever (and will ever) be had. It covers everything - from the couple discussing their shopping list in the supermarket, to the students striking on the streets of Paris, to the discours between politicians.

It is somewhat unsettling that voices can be raised without it necessarily being an actual argument, and I have to strain to hear the nuances and slight inflections that hint at jokes and teasing versus a real dispute.

I am exposed to such things every day, as the Latin blood of the people around me fires up, and it's sometimes hard not to get caught up in it too. I've always enjoyed adding a dramatic flair to things, but I find that my own behaviour is truly changing because of my exposure to this culture. Sylvain simply laughs at me when I start waving my hands around to explain my point of view, then combining that classic French shrug with a Parisian pout and a nose snort when people don't agree with me.

Like their various Mediterranean counterparts, the French are a passionately expressive people, whether they're talking about Sarko or the price-rise of the pain au chocolat from the bakery on the corner. And I think it's catching.


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We take yet another break in the scheduled programming (aka watching Aussie Lass make a fool of herself across a number of mediums) to discuss the merits of playing pink ukuleles.

Some people enter the blogging world with a reflective, thoughtful post about what they want to acheive with their blog and how they will go about it. Others simply post a series of hyperactive slightly excited entries as they test their new toy. Thus my sister makes her debut in the blogging world - I think it will be a marvellous way for her to record her experiences in Papua New Guinea.

And after her most recent post, as most long-time readers of this blog will agree, there is no doubt about whether we are sisters.

*thinks fondly of the entire suitcase of shoes that she shipped over to France when she first arrived*

Hacked part 2


There you go.
I was Hacked on Triple J.
Super cool.
Even though I sounded like a total dorkus and couldn't actually express myself coherently and who knows what I actually said.
And even though I came across as a complete idiot they asked me to stay on the line and then said, "we sometimes have trouble finding a foreign correspondant in France, would you be interested in helping us out from time to time?" and I said, "heck yeah".
I think that this makes up for the entirely crappy day I had yesterday.


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Aussie listeners might want to listen to Triple J in about 50 minutes or so... Just saying...

More days like this


8.31 : Sunday Night Safran is taking unusually long to download. Can't handle Monday morning without hoochie talk. Miss the 8.37am train and get to work late.
9.42 : Discover green ink stain (from favourite green pen) on left boob. No idea how it got there. Rush to bathroom to try to dab it out. Zip up cardie to cover big wet stain on left boob.
10.50 : Go to bathroom to check on green stain. Delighted to find it has completely disappeared and shirt is dry. Prepare to free the girls from the restraints of the cardie only to discover that right boob now sports a massive red ink stain (from favourite red pen). No idea how it got there.
10.52 : Try to dab out red stain.
10.55 : More water. Keep trying to dab out red stain.
10.59 : Resign to fact that red ink stain won't come out, and has in fact, worsened, considering it is now smeared all over right boob. Zip up cardie to cover big wet stain and red splotches.
13.25 : Almost wreck perfect score by nearly standing in one of the bazillion piles of dog poop in this blasted city. Fall into passerby instead. Apologise profusely.
13.26 : Spend a happy few minutes devising all sorts of horrible things one could do to the irresponsible dog owners in Paris. Wonder if throwing it at them as they walk away or picking it up and leaving it on their doorstep would be going too far.
13.30 : Realise have forgotten to do something really important.
13.31 : Make one of those horrible phone calls where you have to admit you have been a rather large dufus and then spend an hour trying to make up for it.
15.40 : Get stabbed in chin by yet another renegade underwire from favourite bra.
19.51 : Work late (not helped by earlier display of dufus-ness). Decide that the day can only be saved by renting dvds 5 and 6 of the season 1 of Lost.
19.57 : Come home. Trip over bowl of cat food. Croquettes are scattered across the kitchen. Symphony looks confused.
19.58 : Discover that husband has bought (and already cut up) strawberries, pineapple and kiwi fruit. And that he has also bought me the boxed set of season 1 of Lost.
21.05 : Drop strawberry on current knitting pattern.
21.16 : Realise that tomorrow is probably not going to be much better, what with the strikes and all.
21.17 : Pour a nice big glass of Baileys.

Mirror, Mirror


Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and I think, oh, you're not so bad.

Then I put my glasses on.

Oh, the deception.

The world looks so much better when corners and edges are a little fuzzy. There is something to be said for being able to see and appreciate people and situations without looking close enough to see the things that annoy you.

Standing room only


It's very odd to walk up to a table and hear someone say, "you're Aussie Lass" and see everyone nod and say "we read your blog". Of course, at a blogger meetup, that's not as unusual as it would be if it was in an ordinary bar with ordinary people, but it is still slightly disarming.

In other news, we bought a lounge suite yesterday. It was the first really big purchase that we've made together (apart from the car last year, which was really for him) and I felt very grown up and domestic all of a sudden... walking around furniture stores, sitting on couches and discussing the merits of this style and that. Very fun indeed. But as someone once said to me, grown-up land is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there, so I am very happy to spend this morning watching Little Britain and eat an Oreo ;) For one thing, it doesn't cost quite so much.

Our current lounge suite was inherited from Sylvains parents, and is around 30 years old. The couch is a clic-clac*, and is very comfortable to sleep on, but is very uncomfortable to sit on and is, quite frankly, Fugly. It is because of this that I've been pushing for a change of lounge suite for the last four years, but it was only after Sylvain started complaining that his back hurt that I decided to put my foot down and said that we needed to do something about it.

There was quite a bit of drama surrounding the actual choice, because although we agreed on the style and colours, we were very hesitant about what we actually needed - convertible bed in the couch = loss of comfort for the people sitting on it. In the end we decided to go with the comfort factor, especially since we're going to be the ones sitting on it 99% of the time, and we'll just have to get a cheaper little clic-clac and put it in the study for long-term guests. Short term guests can just bunk down on the couch, but for some reason we do have a tendency to welcome overseas visitors for long periods of time. I can't imagine why.

Now we just have to wait 3 months for them to actually make the darn thing and all will be right with the world. And then we'll just have to have a couch party.

Any excuse, really.

*clic-clac = convertible couch / sofa bed. Thus named for the sound that it makes when you pull it out into the bed form - clic then clac. I love this word. Why aren't there more words like that?


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This page is an archive of entries from April 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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