June 2006 Archives

Just like a dog

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Symphony has "fetched" ever since she arrived here at five months of age. It's a trait amongst Burmese cats to "fetch", and it makes playing with her an easy task, because she just brings her toys to us and we throw them over and over again whilst she keeps on bringing them back.

The only problem is when she brings her toys to us, in bed, in the middle of the night. The natural instinct is to throw them to get rid of them. Of course, she thinks we're starting to play with her and so she bounds off the bed and is back with her toy in a flash, ready for the next round. At 3am.

Watch "Symphony the big brave hunter" in action

The toy in question is a yellow bird with tail feathers, which makes a tiny but distinctive ringing sound when you shake it. If you watch closely enough (amidst all the shaking and bad light and terrible camera movements), you'll see that the first time around, she drops the bird right at Sylvains bare feet. The second time she overshoots the mark (as usual) and has quite a bit of turnaround time to recover and go back to her toy.

Forgive the bad quality, I'm certainly no movie-maker, and I hope that I can catch her doing it when the light is actually decent and I'm not shaking the camera because I'm laughing. But she is pretty funny.

Vive l'australie

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The flames of the candles on the coffee table are waving in the breeze from the open window. We're having a nice evening in, and all is quiet.

Until the silence is shattered, at 10.10pm, by an enormous roar bouncing and reverberating around the various buildings around our complex. We hear the cry "Allez les bleus!" coming from a number of apartments.

Sylvain looks at me, and I say, "France got a goal, I suppose".

I perch on the edge of our couch and peer into the darkness, where I can see a large number of dimly lit apartments, and silhouettes of people dancing around in excitement.

Not long after, another goal is scored and the roar comes again. Not long after that, a final roar explodes across our suburb as various parties celebrate the French passage into the second round of the World Cup.

It's hard not to get caught up in the excitement. But I'm not that excited that I'm going to sit down and watch every game from here on in. Unless we get further than the French and then I'll be all over it. Cos the provocation factor amongst my French entourage will be too much to resist.

I might just have to dig up that little Australian flag scarf to wrap around my head, doorag style. I am nothing if not a smart arse.

National pride

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Won't someone bring me a bandwagon so I can jump on it?

I normally don't give a flying fruitcake about soccer (being from country Victoria, I'm an Aussie rules girl, through and through), but since the Socceroos have made it through to the next stage, well, I'm all about joining in on the cheers. Even though we're going to be crushed by the Italians in the second round, at least we made it there.

Of doodads and nincompoops

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There are only two options, On or Off, and I try them both several times, each time flicking the switch more furiously than the last.

Then he comes in and says, in his infinite wisdom, "did you turn it On?"

"Of course I did," I snap. "Several times."

With a dramatic flourish, I flick the switch from Off to On, in an attempt to demonstrate how silly this non-functioning doodad is.

And of course, it turns On. In other words, it works.

He smirks.

I try, fruitlessly, to defend myself, "but it didn't work when I did that before."

His smirk widens into a smug grin.

And of course, now he thinks that I am an incompetent nincompoop who can't switch on a doodad.

Another step backwards for the gentle gender. Sorry, ladies.

People kept asking me, "where are you going?" when I told them we were taking a few days off. I shrugged and murmured something about wanting to do a few things at home and relax rather than run around being a tourist. Despite the raised eyebrows and doubtful looks I received, I'm glad we made the decision to spend some time at home. And had a few adventures as well... because even the most mundane events always seem to turn into adventures for us.

Just your standard visit to Ikea
- Locate furniture we already decided to purchase, having been terribly organised and looked it all up on line (after much umming and ahhing and trips to various other furniture stores).
- Stand in queue for 20 minutes, waiting for a customer service representative to tap a few keys and print a piece of paper.
- Find some pretty smelling candles.
- Decide some baskets might be nice to put in aforementioned furniture, so backtrack through the store.
- Get distracted for a moment and lose husband.
- Spend 45 minutes sprinting around the store trying to find husband.
- Find husband, move through the checkout (without desired baskets) and out of the store without saying a word.
- Retrieve four (4) packages.
- Start putting packages in the car.
- Realise that only three (3) packages of the four (4)fit in the car.
- Sit in boiling hot car park with the last package (30°C with no shade) for 30 minutes whilst husband races back home, dumps three (3) packages off and comes back to rescue his wife.
- Take last package home.
- Remove package from car.
- Drop one of the smelly candles and break it.
- Start dissembling old furniture, making piles of things to be rearranged and building new furniture.
- Wonder why we decided to do this in such heat and marvel at the number of dust bunnies that inhabit our apartment.
- Receive phone call from crazy generous friends who, upon discovering the days activities, volunteer to help. In such heat. It's a miracle.
A few hours later, and it's midnight on Sunday night : almost all my books are still all over the floor and waiting to be dusted, there are bags of rubbish lining the walls and cardboard boxes distributed creatively in all the most inconvenient places, but the majority of the work is done. And we are happy.

Despite all these adventures, or perhaps because of them, it's been a good "break". We have felt like we have gotten things done. Improved our environment. Enjoyed the company of good friends. Thrown a party. Rearranged our main living space to accomodate the new couch that will be arriving soon. Breathed. Spent a lot of time together.

It does a lot of good to take some time off from everything. Even if you're covered in dust and exhausted at the end of it all. And now we just might need to take a holiday from our holiday.

Bah euh

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Someone cuts us off in the street. Sylvain breaks hard. "Asshole", he mutters.

The only problem? He says it à la américaine, all nasal-like as he pronounces "ass".

I look at him in surprise, "why are you saying it like that?"

He shrugs.

"It's pronounced arrrrrrsehole," I grumble. "There's certainly nothing wrong with saying it like that. It's just that you're married to an Australian. Ergo, you speak Australian English."

He shrugs again.

I think carefully about where he might have picked it up. Beyond the standard vocabulary you learn in school, the only way you learn new words in another language is from being exposed to them over and over again. I don't use this word very often at all, so he must have adopted the American way of saying this one particular word from somewhere. My American friends here? No, they don't use such a word often enough for him to pick up on it. The movies, I conclude.

I decide that the only solution is to expose him to the Australian pronounciation and tell him so. We continue driving down the road. Someone else cuts us off. "Arrrrsehole," I throw the word out, carefully over-enunciating each syllable, looking sideways at Sylvain. He rolls his eyes. I use it a few more times, randomly, sometimes inappropriately.

Finally, Sylvain growls at me, "ok ok, look, you want me to say it properly?" I nod. "Then use it several times over the next few weeks. Not 30 times in the next 30 seconds."

I cross my arms and begin brooding.

He looks at me, "well at least I don't bah euh all the time when I speak French. My parents would have killed me if I had talked like that."

"What?" I'm confused. "Bah euh? How can I do something all the time when I don't even know what it is?"

Sylvain smirks, "bah oui, bah dis donc, bah voilà, bah mince alors."

I am stumped. I mutter a few phrases to myself and suddenly realise that, not only do I constantly add a superfluous bah at the beginning of my affirmations, but I really do add way too many euhs to the ends of my sentences. I knew I euh-ed every now and again, but this often? The worst thing is that I didn't even notice I was bah-ing, far less that it was considered Very Bad Slang. As I wonder if Sylvains very proper father has been making comments about my horribly argotic French, I hurry to cover myself, "I never say mince alors so I don't know why you used that example."

Sylvain looks very self-righteous, "it's the Parisians you hang around with. Just like the American movies make me say asshole, so the Parisians are influencing you to bah euh."

I drop my shoulders in defeat. I decide that I must concentrate on not bah euh-ing from now on.

And I mumble "arrrrrrrsehole" as yet another driver cuts us off.

Of memory lanes and obsessions

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A girlfriend asked me what she should ask her travelling husband to bring her back from Australia. Food. Lollies. Biscuits.

"Tim Tams," I spit out, before she's even finished her question. "You've GOT to try Tim Tams."

"Ok," she stammers.

I wonder if I've frightened her with my enthusiasm, so I add, "they're really good. Seriously. Ask the others. They've tried them." I pause, and mutter, "even if it only because my mother guilted me into sharing them."

It's been a while since I've been to Australia. A while since I've been exposed to more Australian goodies than those my family and friends send over in their care packages - Cadbury chocolate, Caramello Koalas, and, of course, Tim Tams.

I'm a little rusty, and am not sure what else to advise her, so I get online and ask Google to help jog my memory.

And oh, how my memory is jogged. The mere glimpse of a certain packaging is enough to make me smile or laugh out loud.

Tic Tocs remind me of a night spent in a tent on the Primary School oval, staying up late, gossiping with one of my oldest friends and biscuit crumbs having to be shaken out of our sleeping bags the next morning.

Barley Sugar reminds me of doing the 40 Hour Famine in High School, sitting around and waiting for the time to be up so that we can eat something substantial, forgetting all too easily why we were doing it in the first place.

Mint Slice, Caramel Crowns, Licorice Allsorts and Columbines make me think of my Gran, and long afternoons of playing Scrabble or endless games of 500 with her and my sister.

I'm reminded of how we would break Saladas into four pieces, spreading them with margarine and vegemite, then jamming them together hard so that the margarine and vegemite mix would be squeezed, worm-like, out of the little holes in the crackers.

Saxa salt makes me think of the corner cupboard in my Grans kitchen. It always smelled of interesting things, but for some reason, I was always loathe to touch the jar of mint jelly, and would prefer to push it out of the way with another jar in order to avoid coming into actualcontact with it.

Cottees jam snaps me back to the Primary School playground where we would sing the song from the Cottees cordial ad, "my dad picks the fruit, to make the cordial, that I like best..." and then transform it, as kids are wont to do, "my dad picks his nose..."

For some reason, the Bushells Coffee tin reminds me of the church kitchen. I'm glad I didn't drink coffee back then because it might have scarred me for life. Likewise, Mint Patties bring me back to stops at the Milk Bar on the way home from church, to pick up the newspaper and the occasional treat.

Barbecue Shapes remind me of lying on the lounge room floor watching Monkey Magic with my sister, and licking the little red and green spicy flakes off our fingers.

Wrigleys Juicey Fruit reminds me of the glovebox of my dads ute, crammed with different bits and pieces that he would use on the farm, his breath fruity and cheeks bristly whenever he hugged me and my sister.

I'm not sure why Choc Ripple makes me think of cheesecake and, curiously, the kitchen windows over the sink on the farm, or why Marie biscuits remind me of baking and my mums reliable old Kenwood, but Peppermint Crisp reminds me of Grandma and yet another version of pavlova.

I'm still not decided about what to recommend, but I think at least this has given me a vague direction. Not to mention a sweet moment of reflection.

And is it too early for me to start writing a list of things I want to eat in Australia at the end of the year? Is that weird? heh.

Another Sunday

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Yesterday was a day of pure indulgence - sitting cross-legged in the grass and talking about everything and nothing with some of my favourite girls and knitting andweaving in ends and munching on carrots and taking photos and laughing and kissing babies.

I came home, refreshed and slightly sun-kissed, to find my husband had cleaned the entire apartment from top to bottom. I think he's a keeper.

We went to the market this morning, stocking up on watermelon, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and some early figs - all the goodness of summer. The temperature over the last couple of days has jumped by ten degrees and it's clear that my constitution has become slightly more delicate since I have been living in this climate for the last few years, and so we have decided to hibernate in our lovely, cool apartment for the rest of the day.

I considered spending the day folding washing and doing other minor odd jobs around the apartment... but who am I kidding? Instead, I've spread my various tools of the trade out on the lounge room floor. Crochet and knitting, watching Woody Allen, purring cat curled up nearby, drinking tall glasses of water, filled with crushed ice and lemons. The perfect lazy summer Sunday afternoon. I am lucky in this simplicity.

Knitting in Public

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We're celebrating the 2nd annual World Wide Knitting in Public day on Saturday! (Any excuse to get together and gossip, really) There's already a francophone one going on, but we've decided to just get together informally and enjoy the sun. Knitters from all over this lovely city are welcome to join us - we'll be spreading ourselves out in a Paris park and finally enjoying the arrival of summer :)

Leave a comment or send me a note if you're interested in coming along.

Time for some fun. What is with the inflatable kangaroo? What the heck, for example, am I doing with my finger?
Find me a caption for this photo.

KT03

Delurkers welcome ;) Comment away!

Rebel with a cause

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I am currently staging a rebellion against the stupidity that is the custom of shaking hands with my various counterparts at my place of employ. I've been complaining about this for a long time, and recent events have enabled me to be more comfortable in my decision to rebel. I simply do not see the utility of shaking hands with EVERY person EVERY morning AND EVERY evening. There are some people with whom I am happy to continue shaking hands, and in fact, I consider it normal, but otherwise I'm putting my foot down.

One person, yesterday, was so flustered at my refusal to participate in the usual method of greeting, and instead came around and kissed me - it is clear that the French need for physical contact when greeting people is far greater than I thought. I have been in workplaces here where kissing colleagues is the norm, and since this actually bothers me less than the formal handshake, I say, "bring it on"!

At the same time, I still have the whole "she's Australian, she's weird" thing on my side (sorry to all the other Australians out there whose reputations I'm tarnishing), so I may just get away with it. Let the rebellion commence.

Beyond language

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When I was growing up, my parents accused me of "reading too much into what we're saying". I think perhaps the problem was not that I read too much into things, but the fact that my responses to what I saw were not the most appropriate, ie. my mother is scowling because I am complaining that her chow mein is crap and she should have made bolognaise instead. The ideal response would have been to keep my mouth closed, but no, of course, being an obnoxious teenager, I'm going to say "why are you looking like that? what's your problem, mum?".

I'm glad I didn't entirely give up on this tendency to read things into what people are saying. Battling through life here in the early days - and it has been a battle, far from any romantic ideal - when my French totally sucked arse, taught me a lot about the human character. Personalities. Characters. For the first time in my life, I couldn't depend on understanding what people were trying to say from the words coming out of their mouths, so I had to rely on their body language, their expressions, their gestures.

It is simply a honed ability to "observe". Comprehension beyond language. The positive side effects of being thrown into a country where I barely spoke the language and I had to deal with it.

It also means that I'm a now master at deciphering the frustrating French art of sarcasm and knowing when to laugh rather than be offended. A gift, indeed.

Of globalisation and onions

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In the last month, two new shops have sprung up in a two-block radius around my work - Subway and Starbucks. I work in one of the most touristy quartiers in Paris, and if the lines outside both of these places are anything to go by, it's what the tourists want.

I feel sorry for the visitors to this beautiful country that go to McDonalds and other such places when they are in a culture that is as gastronomically rich as France, but you can't use that argument with me - four years and counting of total immersion gives me more than the right to truly enjoy a Sub and a Frappucino every now and again. All debates of evil empires aside, it is nice to be able to pick up a big cup of coffee on my way in to work.

I relished the onion on my Sub sandwich today, when I met my girlfriends for lunch in the park, but it was probably not the most sociable thing to have eaten when I need to work in close contact with other people all afternoon. Where are the Minties when I need them?

Balance

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I work on a French computer. Instead of the "start" button in the bottom left corner of my windows screen, I have "démarrer". Almost all of the programs I use on a daily basis are in French. When I'm tired, instinct and years of using computers still take over when using Word - I press Control-B to turn my text bold (instead of Control-G) and up pops the Search and Replace window. I stare at the screen, and it always takes me a few moments for me to figure out what I've done.

Through the extensive use of such programs, I've learned many technical terms in French. After such exposure, it's only natural that I, in turn, employ them in my everyday language.

So don't growl at me for using a word that is "not French", then go and look it up in the dictionary and declare with glee that "it's not in the dictionary", if I am obliged to click on that word every day whilst working. It's not my fault. Blame Adobe. Or Microsoft. Or Any Other Powers That Be. Yes, the French language might be undergoing a total bastardisation thanks to globalisation. But it's not my fault. I just repeat what I see and hear. Like a parrot.

The word in question? Antihoraire = counterclockwise, anticlockwise. Apparently the way I'm supposed to say it is exactly as follows : dans le sense inverse des aiguilles d'une montre = in the opposite direction of the hands of a clock. Hmph. Why make it simple when you can complicate things?

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