May 2006 Archives

Discussions

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A couple of weeks ago I was having what I considered a lively discussion with a colleague. The conversation finished and we both went back to our respective desks. I noticed another colleague looking at me, a little smile on his face.

"Quoi?" I asked, confused.

"C'est chouette, Katia," he laughed. "Tu rales comme une française." (It's cool, Katia. You grumble like a French woman).

The worst thing is that I totally didn't think I was "grumbling". The various sighs and pouts and pffts and high notes that I hit as I was expressing my thoughts were just natural ways of punctuating my phrases.

I wasn't yelling, I was just articulating. Communicating. Seriously.

Have I really unconsciously adapted the oh-so-French way of conversing that I've complained about numerous times before?

I'm not sure whether to take this as a compliment or not.

But now, considering my colleague was impressed enough to make a comment that I've changed, I wonder how much I really have changed...

Secrets de famille

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Whilst I'm not normally one to pimp other peoples blogs, when they're a blood relative (I actually typed blog relative, heh), I'm really obliged to do so, aren't I? So go and give my mum some blog loving as she celebrates her true début in the blogging world. With her two daughters gallavanting around the world, and between Tshirts of the Day and my own tales of ritual humiliation, she was really obliged to find a way keep us up to date with all the happenings back in the magical land of Oz.

Now I just need to convince my dad that he needs a blog and the whole family will be in on it. Scary. That is, of course, only if I can convince him that a computer can actually be used for things other than sending funny emails and playing Solitaire.

(I am still smoothing some bugs out over there, so forgive me for the odd broken link)

Spag bog

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Despite the hilariousness of recent events, further reflection has reminded me that I can't really criticise the behaviour of others when it comes to fussyness and food.

I remember getting upset, even angry, when my mother even dared consider using minced beef for anything except bolognaise sauce. I even recall tears being involved when I was told that the garlic and onions being sautéed in the pan were not destined to be the base of bolognaise sauce. I also recollect throwing a rather large hissy fit after my sister was slightly heavy-handed with the chilli and ruined (in my opinion) a perfectly good meal.

Without a doubt, spaghetti bolognaise is my favourite dish. I basically lived on the stuff when I was at university. And the menu chez the aussie lass, the frenchman and the burmese tonight includes spaghetti bolognaise. Because when I was little, I swore that I would eat it whenever I damn well pleased.

If Sylvain gets sick of it, thank goodness he knows how to cook.

La musique

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Last Saturday morning, uncharacteristically tired of cartoons, we flicked through the television stations, looking for something to watch whilst eating breakfast. We came across M6 Hit Machine, a long-running Saturday morning music show dedicated to showcasing current trends in music. They were doing a feature on the last ten years of music, from 1996-2006. The first five years had already been discussed in detail, and they were onto the last five years, from 2001-2006. As they started to talk about each song, I hummed along, unconconsciously, as I ate my cereal. Sylvain looked at me with his eyebrows raised and I realised with surprise that I knew all the songs... because I've been here for all that time. We calculated carefully - even with a 6 month sejour in Australia inbetween - all up, it's 4 years and counting that I've been living in this country.

As I read about my sisters experiences in PNG, I am intrigued to read about her experiences, the way everything is strange and new, how things are done.

I realise that, whilst not indifferent about being here, I'm certainly used to it and nothing really surprises me anymore about France, the French and their lifestyle. When I first arrived here, I promised myself that I would always look at this place with the eyes of a foreigner. I was so overwhelmed by all the newness that I thought it would never be possible to tire of it.

Today, whilst I'm not tired of it, per se, I'm getting a little sick of a thing or two. Like the way that people don't seem to give a shit about anyone else on the métro, in the street. When they nestle their umbrellas under their armpit, waving the end around behind them, with nary a backward glance at the people who are being stabbed when they stop suddenly. There are a lot of things I don't like about this country, but there are a lot of things I do like - curiously, I feel torn when asked if I like it here. My positive response is always accompanied by, "but I'd love to return to my homeland".

I feel restless. I want to go back to Australia. I want to go back to Ireland (it's funny, I think, how art reflects life. How creation reflects a moment, a feeling, at a certain point in time). I want to travel. I want to feel the sand between my toes and smell the ozone after the rain. I want to forget about concrete and bitumen and tall buildings.

Yesterday we found ourselves in the outer suburbs of Paris. We both looked at the rolling hills, the tiny towns nestled in the valleys, and sighed with envy.

Don't get me wrong, I love the city lifestyle - the accessibility to restaurants and a vibrant culture, not to mention the shopping. But it strikes me as ironic that I spent most of my early teens desperate to get away from the country, and I may spend most of my adulthood desperate to go back.

A living memory

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A couple of weeks ago I received an unexpected birthday package from my inlaws. I unwrapped it to find a recipe book dating from the early 70s, La véritable cuisine de famille par Tante Marie, covered in old paper and a simple clear plastic slip. I opened the cover, where I found a number of looseleaf pages, each containing a different handwritten recipe.

Recipe book and handwritten recipe

Sylvains grandmother died last year, following complications surrounding her Alzheimers disease. I was lucky to have met her a couple of years ago, when she was only in the early stages of the malady, and she told me delightful stories about what Sylvain and his sister got up to when they came to visit her as children. She was a formidable woman and a queen in her kitchen - the sort of person who could tell whether something needed more salt just by the smell. She deteriorated rapidly after that. Sadly, one of the things that she did in her unsettled state was destroy a lot of memorabilia - photos, journals, recipe books...

We visited her house last year with family, after her death, as we were passing through the region. Sylvain declared that he only wanted one thing - her enormous old jam-making dish, a battered and stained tureen that has seen better days, but which he assures me makes the best jam in the world - and so it was put in the trunk, filled to the brim with golden Mirabelle plums from her garden.

So we were surprised to discover that, as they were sorting through some of her affairs, my inlaws had unearthed this book and some of her personal recipes. After opening it, Sylvain and I both sat there, the book open between us, in silence.

He is in the kitchen right now, making her "Gâteau Tupperware". He had, in fact, tried making this recipe from memory about a month ago, but it didn't turn out right and he was terribly disappointed. I'm so grateful that we now have the secret to making the perfect "Tupperware Cake". Just the way his grandmother made it.

(As an aside, the recipes in this book are fabulous. It even has some colour pictures... although I have to admit I was slightly surprised to see the photo of an unskinned dead rabbit on a red checkered tablecloth, surrounded by mushrooms and bullet shells. Ahem.)

Tie me kangaroo down, sport

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We're discussing French entertainers. Jacques Martin, for example. The subject of the more "daggy" and slightly embarrassing national entertainment treasures comes up - you know the sort, every country has them... the sort of entertainer that everyone knows, because they seem to have been around forever and ever, and seem to have covered the gamut of the entertainment industry.

Whilst talking about this subject I may have accidentally got slightly carried away and brought up Rolf Harris. In a typical demonstration of acting before thinking, his name slipped out of my mouth and, using a large piece of cardboard, I found myself on my feet demonstrating the wobble board, then I actually (unsuccessfully) scoured the internet to find a video to show my bemused (and slightly worried) companions what I was talking about. You can't know Rolf Harris until you've seen and heard the performance yourself.

Not only that, I was horrified to find myself singing Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport for the rest of the day.

It's not that I'm a fan or anything. But everyone knows this song. I just couldn't believe I'd brought it up. Voluntarily.

Someone save me from myself.

(ps. I know I owe a lot of people emails. I promise I will catch up soon)

Autumn in April

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Spring leads to Summer leads to Autumn leads to Winter leads back to Spring and the circle goes on.

My birthday has always been in the Autumn. My sisters birthday can often be celebrated on the tail end of a hot spell. My childhood Christmases were spent wearing cool dresses and eating a hot roast lunch and dinner, every bite followed with long, deep draws from tall glasses of iced water. Many people seek out the beach on New Years Even, not just because it's a wonderful way to see in the New Year, but because of the added bonus of the cool ocean breeze.

Despite living in this hemisphere for 4 years now, I feel out of sorts, unsettled. I sometimes find it difficult to say what season we are in, according to the time of year and the month. I even have trouble saying Spring comes after Winter, because saying these words means Spring is in April, so my birthday is no longer in Autumn, but in Spring. I feel lost without my Autumn in April. I don't know if it is because the change of seasons is so different here or because I rarely get to see the countryside and feel my roots, or a little bit of both.

This year, we look forward to enjoying two summers. As lucky as we are, it's almost enough to make me go mad.

Our recent opportunity to see the Loire Valley in full bloom was magical. I took my shoes off and felt the earth beneath my feet at every single opportunity I had. Even the brief chance to sit in the grass, the sun on our faces, in a simple Paris park this weekend did us both good. There are moments like these - I miss the earth, I miss the fresh air, I miss nature - when I have almost had enough of this city.

Habits and confessions

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Every day, I put crunch in Symphonys food bowl. Every day, at least once or twice a day, I have to remove a rubber band (or hair band, or pipe cleaner) that she has put in it. Over the last week, I've been removing the current favourite toy and putting it in different places around the apartment - and every time I look back in her food bowl, there is something else in there. I'm not entirely sure what's up with that - perhaps she just likes to keep it beside her whilst she snacks.

Sylvain has some curious habits too. Anyone who has spent any time here will know that the water situation is pretty dismal, and the vast majority of people drink bottled water. Sylvain always keeps a bottle of water beside the bed (he can't have a glass of water, because Symphony will drink out of it - but that's another story in itself). The only problem with this is that he doesn't actually put the empty bottles out in the rubbish. And damned if I'm going to do it for him. So he currently has a collection of 9 empty 1.5 litre bottles sitting beside the bed. Close to a record.

Since it's confession time and I'm telling stories about everyone that is near and dear to me, I should probably 'fess up too. Other than the fact that I'm a total klutz and destroy everything in my path, I'm also totally neurotic. I can easily "check" that the freezer and windows are closed and the oven is off three times before I go to bed, or before I leave the apartment. It doesn't stop there, no siree. I also worry about the door being locked, and will happily trot back to the apartment from the street to check. Same thing with the car. I didn't realise how totally neurotic this was until I met my sister and Sylvain at the train station on our way to the Alps last time she was here, and they showed me photos of the oven, fridge and door to prove that things were all off and locked. Hmph.

So. My confession time is over. I want to hear about your neurotic obsessions and dirty habits - just so that I don't feel quite so alone - please blog it and share with me.

A moment

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1pm in Paris... an Aussie Lass, eating her sandwich at lunchtime; sitting on the grass across from Notre Dame; knitting a colourful sock with the hank of purple shaded yarn stretched over her knees; (waving pigeons away with a stick); pointing directions to curious tourists; listening to a sordid histoire d'amour recounted by a nearby Parisian girl as she twirls a lock of her messy hair around her fingers; watching the group of foreign teenagers exclaim over Notre Dame in one breath and exclaim over the cuteness of the closest guy in the next; forgetting about the seconds, the minutes; purring as the soft French sun kisses her face.

I almost pulled out my camera, but it couldn't have captured the pure essence of this scene, this moment. Life is about these moments.

Sheds of Portis

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Most hilarious thing I've heard on tv tonight : the French jury of the Nouvelle Star pronouncing Portishead like "porti-shed". Unless I've been saying it wrong for the last however many years, that is pretty darn funny.

Mini-break goodness

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Mini-breaks are a fabulous invention. Especially when they involve the Loire Valley in May. Picnics and nerf-throwing in the famous Chambord chateau gardens. Strolling around the castle of Cheverny and watching the famous hunting dogs being fed. Cards and Chambord amongst friends. Market day in Amboise, and a tour of the chateau. A glimpse of Sleeping Beautys castle. Insane traffic jams in Tours. Magical, breathtaking moments at the incredible Chenonceau chateau. A drunk but entertaining tour guide at the chateau of Villesavin. An impromptu boat ride on the Loire River under a stormy sky (despite fears, no falling involved). An unexpected and mystery-filled tour of the lovely Talcy castle. Raspberry and white chocolate muffins. Rainshowers and sunbeams. Lots of laughter. Mini-breaks are good for the soul.

(More photos can be found on flickr, and in the slideshow)

Provisions

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It occurs to me that I am consciously packing an extra pair of socks, underwear and tshirt, in case I fall into a river.

I wonder if this stems from some traumatic childhood experience.

Shards and surprises

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I dropped a glass bowl. Shards flew everywhere. Sylvain and I both have cuts on our legs. Symphony fled. We checked her over, and she seemed to be ok, albeit huddling in her basket - shock, we thought.

The next morning we realised that she was limping. A visit to the vet, shaved fur, general anaesthetic, minor surgery and one stitch later, the glass shards have been removed and she is back and gimping around the apartment.

I feel really bad because it's all my fault. I spent the majority of yesterday swinging between feeling terribly guilty and terribly worried.

But there is no better way to be distracted from how bad a cat owner one is than a surprise - the Knots girls outdid themselves and totally pulled one over me by throwing a little surprise birthday party last night. Everyone should be allowed to enjoy the juxtaposition of eating New York cheesecake and an American version of an Australian pavlova in Paris. I am so very lucky to be surrounded by such strong, intelligent, witty women.

Then Sylvain and I came home and gave Symphony cuddles. I still feel bad, but when she sits on my chest, looks into my eyes and purrs, I know she doesn't hold a grudge.

Phone home

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It is a sign of true desperation when one starts to cut up sachets of coffee and tries to percolate them in the coffee machine.

Not only was there no coffee at home, there is no coffee at work this morning either.

I also left my phone at home today. Normally this would not be a total crisis, but I do tend to pick my days well - Sylvain is supposed to be going to Germany for a couple of days and we're supposed to keep in touch in order to organise some stuff. Typical.

So it continues.

But there is mini-break goodness on the weekend horizon, which will hopefully involve hair tied back with white scarves and Bridget-inspired moments, so all is not lost.

Decaf

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Beginning the day without coffee does not bode well.

Woe betide any man (or woman) who dares to cross me this morning.

Dream on

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I dreamed about going back to Australia last night. It was such a vivid dream and I clearly remember being overwhelmed with joy at hugging my sister and my parents. I woke up feeling so happy, so refreshed - it never ceases to amaze me how my dreams, both good and bad, can have such an impact on the way I feel.

The most interesting thing about this dream was that I fell asleep as soon as I got on the plane, and woke up upon our arrival in Australia. Amazing, considering the 25+ hour flight time, not to mention the fact that I managed to sleep through changing planes. Ah, if only it were true...

The most amusing thing about this dream was that, while waiting in line to see a movie, I decided that I needed to get new glasses, despite the fact that I have no medical insurance in Australia (an urgent problem that actually remains to be resolved for me today here in France, mostly because Sylvain and I have been too lazy to fill out the papers). Rapid calculations noted on our movie tickets proved that it was cheaper for me to get glasses in Australia, without insurance, than to get them in France with insurance. We waited in line to get our papers done, and I started talking to the cashier in French. Obviously she couldn't understand me and so I had to switch to English.

In other news, I have drunk nearly 2 litres of orange juice tonight and I am pretty sure that's going to result in my waking up to pee at least two or three times tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if my dreams tonight involve dancing oranges.

We don't have that many friends that every single weekend of the year is filled with weddings and parties. It is just bad luck that shortly, two important events fall on the same weekend in a month where only a couple of other events are planned. One event is for one of my friends, the other is Sylvains cousins wedding.

I pace the apartment, trying to find a solution (Where is that amulet that Hermione had in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when you need it?)

"It's ok, there will be other people there," Sylvain reassures me. "We won't be missed."

I roll my eyes and put my hands on my hips, "with that sort of attitude, I could just as easily say that it's ok, your sister and your parents will be at the wedding, so we won't be missed."

Sylvain shakes his head, "nope, won't work. I'm a witness for the wedding."

Witness? Since when? First I've heard of it. I stare at him, agape.

He hurries to cover himself, "I'm sure I've told you before..."

I shake my head.

He laughs, "ok ok maybe I forgot."

"Forgetting to tell me that you're a witness to a wedding is like..." I grin," oh, that time you forgot to tell me about Ns wife being pregnant and only letting me discover it with the birth announcement."

I slump onto the chair. Unless I get my hands on that amulet, there is no chance of making both events. I decide to get my revenge anyway, "this is being blogged you know."

Sylvain pokes his tongue out at me and goes to play on the computer.

Why oh why does he not tell me such things? I know that I usually tell him far more than is necessary (although I now know to stop when his eyes start to glaze over), but I need to literally interrogate him in order to get any sort of information about anything. I'm sure he would forget to tell me if his father sprouted another arm or if his mother got abducted by aliens, and I'd only find out when I went to visit them. "Oh, you have a new arm? Great! Since when? Last October? Wow..."

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

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