January 2007 Archives

Balls

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I've talked about our psycho upstairs neighbours before. The saga continues, and last Wednesday at 6am, we were regaled by the little girl screaming her head off about getting out of bed. By 6.15, her mother joined in on the screams. We are normally treated to such shenanigans, but not usually before 6.45am. Then on Friday, at 7am, the mother decided that she needed to do some vacuuming. Delightful.

Some people have said, "oh you'll see what it's like, if you have kids," but such comments make me want to stick my foot up their proud posteriors. I seriously think that when a child is throwing a fit every single day at the same time, with the mother following afterwards, this is something beyond "capricious".

And every time we have people over, they look at the ceiling as the little girl is screaming/the mother is screaming/the mother is vacuuming psychotically, and they look at us incredulously and say, "but why don't you say anything?"

The problem is that Sylvain is too darned polite and doesn't like rocking the boat. I'm not the confrontational type either, and people who know me well will acknowledge that I like to sweep things under the carpet and pretend they're not happening rather than deal with something negative. So, every time I see the mother from upstairs, I bite my tongue and force a polite smile.

Except this morning.

After overhearing a particularly loud screaming match between the mother-and-five-year-old-daughter between the jolly hours of 6.30-8am, I couldn't help myself when I saw her locking the door as I came out of the stairwell.

"Bonjour madame," I blurted out. "I live downstairs from you, and I'm horribly embarrassed to say this, but I've got to tell you, we hear everything."

She looked at me wide-eyed for a second, then turned to her daughter and snapped, "you see?"

I interrupted, because I simply couldn't let this go past - she couldn't blame her daughter for everything, "no, madame. We hear BOTH of you."

She blinked at me and replied, "oh.... well, thankyou."

I felt really bad, and my heart beat fiercely as I walked all the way down to the station, because I'm sure that she really didn't know we could hear what was going on, and simply needed to be told.

But it had to be done.

---

I thought hard all day, trying to find something funny to write about (one of those "Oh Katia" moments that my close family and friends know so well), to bring a smile to the face of someone who is very dear to me who is going through a hard time back in Australia.

But then I thought a little more, and knew that she'd appreciate much more an example of me finally growing some balls and actually doing something about a bad situation rather than just sitting back and whinging about it.

Oh, and just in case you actually wanted some typical "Oh Katia" moments? Check out episode 17 of the podcast :)

An earful

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I've been complaining for a number of years about my struggle to find headphones that fit.

Over the years, I have spent ridiculous amounts of money on headphones that slipped out of my ears over and over again, that were horribly uncomfortable, or, quite simply, broke. I tried about 4 different brands of earplugs, and a bunch of different ones that clipped over my ears. But it was to no avail. I just couldn't find the right pair that would stay put in my little earholes, had a decent enough sound quality that I could comfortably listen to (without being obnoxiously loud to fellow passengers on the train), and which looked good at the same time.

A few weeks ago, I finally succumbed to headphones that wrap over my head, and stay firmly in place. Pride be damned. I can hear properly, and the darn things don't fall out of my ears.

And as Sylvain said, who am I worried about looking good for? He wears the same headphones, and he loves me even more when I look like a dork.

Dorky headphones

Trinkets

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I have lived here for about five years now. Every Epiphany I watched the slices of the galette des rois (the traditional cake that gets served at this time of the year) being shared around, and every time I poked around in my portion, in the hopes of getting la fève (a small trinket that is baked inside the cake, and which designates the finder as being the King or Queen).

Last weekend (after my nephew crawled under the table and sang out the names of each person as they received their portion of cake, according to tradition), for the first time ever, I got the fève. I was terribly excited about wearing the paper crown.

I feel like I've achieved something special. Even if it was only the fact that I noticed it before I broke my teeth on the thing.

Sylvain simply patted my hand.

My first fève

Crotte

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Last weekend we spent a lovely weekend with Sylvain's sister and her family. We have two rambunctious nephews, aged 8 and 6, and an adorable 3 year old neice.

She's going through that pipi-caca/pee-poop phase, and she enjoys tremendously to talk about bodily functions. Of humans and animals alike. She also enjoys repeating her favourite phrases, oh, at least thirty thousand times in half an hour.

Two of her favourites this weekend were "crotte de nez"/boogers and "crotte de bique"/nanny goat poop.

They're not exactly vulgar sayings, but fall under the typical pipi-caca category, and the latter - basically the equivalent of saying, "oh poopy" - quickly became my favourite. Of course, after hearing her repeat it incessantly over the course of the weekend, it was inevitable that I pick it up. And thus it inadvertently popped out a couple of times this week at work, much to the amusement of the people around me.

It's much funner to swear in English at work (simply for what I like to call "the stare factor"), but "crotte de bique" has earned itself a permanent place in my vocabulary.

It just has a nice ring to it.

No go

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It's really not worth all the hassle of it being so cold if it doesn't snow.

I feel gypped.

Minds eye

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We had so much fun taking photos in Australia that we realised we had a slight problem.

We BOTH wanted to hold the camera.

I've been heavily into photography for the last six years, and was so thrilled to work my way up to a digital reflex last year. Sylvain had used a traditional reflex for quite some time, but had relegated it to the shelf a few years ago, and picking up the digital camera refuelled his enthusiasm. He's very technically minded, and the challenges posed by photography from a technical perspective really intrigue him - and on top of that, the creative possibilities offer just another exciting challenge.

So we simply had to find a solution. An economic plan and a few weeks of searching online through second hand listings later, and we now have another camera body. Hopefully it will stop us arguing ;)

I find photography fascinating from a creative perspective - capturing moments in time, looking at things in an unusual light. I am lucky to have a job that requires a lot of visual creativity, and relish activities that continue to encourage this. My writing still has a big priority in my life, and I'm lucky to be paid to do it for fun too, but the path that I have taken surprises me. I remember totally rejecting the possibility of the visual arts as a career relatively early on because I was not encouraged to do so at school... yet here I am. So I am relishing the opportunity to explore this further.

I think we will spend much of this year learning to see things in a different light, looking for excuses to go out together and explore.

Challenging each other and ourselves. Wondering if I prefer miniscule reflections of life in just one drop or the starry effects that explode on paper. And deciding that I like both.

Miniscule reflections of life in just one drop

Explosion of stars in a spider web

The weather

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All anyone can talk about is the weather.

In Australia, almost every conversation was punctuated by a comment about "the drought". Quite normal, really, given that everyone is affected - from not being allowed to wash their cars or only being able to water the garden on certain days and at certain times, and in some places, to the length of showers. Here in France, where we have been spotting flowers and leaves on plants and trees that normally don't bloom for another couple of months yet, everyone is constantly talking about the fact that it isn't really cold, and how unusual it is for January.

Of course, when it does get cold, everyone complains. And I secretly hope for snow.

But the consequences of a mild winter are far less dramatic than the consequences of yet another month of no rain.

Of what we are doing to this planet... I worry.

Shoeless

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I sprint down the stairs, trying desperately to catch the train (why do I rush? I ask myself. God forbid that I miss it and have to wait another 7 minutes for the next one).

I make it down the steps without tripping over myself and race towards the open doors.

Time slows down to a standstill as I stumble slightly, and watch in horror as my shoe flies off my foot ...

... and under the train, onto the rails.

Time speeds up again, the train pulls away, and as I stand on the platform with one shoe on, and one shoe lying in the middle of the train tracks, I consider my options. There is little left for me to do but laugh.

It's quite a jump down to the rails and - with potential headlines running through my mind, "BAREFOOT AUSSIE LASS SQUISHED BY TRAIN"- I know I can't even consider climbing down there. I could just go to work, with one bare foot, and buy myself a new pair of shoes once I'm in the city. But the prospect of a train ride with a naked foot doesn't tempt me, so instead I hobble over to the escalator, and go up to the entrance of the station and put on my most charming smile for the ticket seller.

"I'm so sorry to bother you," I rub my cold foot. "I know this is going to sound really stupid..." He raises his eyebrows at me expectantly. "But as I was running to catch the train, I lost my shoe on the train tracks and I really really really need it."

He looks at me for a few moments, heaves an enormous sigh and admonishes me, "you know, I can't get your shoe, because that would mean I would have to get on the tracks and that would mean disrupting the entire circulation of the trains."

"I know, I know," I nod rapidly. "I know it is so silly. I just... my foot is cold... I didn't mean to... I'm on my way to work... and I really need my shoe. Is there no other way?"

He sighs audibly again and stares at me briefly, then rummages around in his various cupboards for a few minutes. He grabs a broom, and stomps out of the ticket area (not worrying, obviously, about leaving it unattended - I shrug apologetically at everyone waiting in line). He practically bounces down and waits for me on the platform as I pick my way slowly around the various puddles on the stairs.

"Where is it?" He looks at me sternly, then sighs again. Loudly.

The next train is only a few minutes away and there are quite a number of commuters waiting on the platform, watching the strange girl with only one shoe and the ticket collector waving his broom. I point at a lonely black shoe, lying forlornly in the middle of the tracks.

With a deft manoeuver, he reaches the broom down and flicks the shoe up onto the platform. I gush, "thankyouthankyouthankyou", as I race over to rescue my shoe, and as he says, "no problem" and climbs back on the escalator, I'm sure I hear him chuckle.

Snapshots

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I've been shooting digital photos for the last five years, and out of thousands of photos, I have probably printed less than 20, to put in frames or to send to people.

This weekend, as we thought about the literally hundreds of photos that we took during our time in Australia, we realised it was such a pity not to have photo albums of all our adventures.

So we spent hours umming and ahhing over the photos we've taken during our trip, and finally managing to make a reasonable choice, we trundled off to the Photography Shop for the first time in years and got them all printed.

It was so satisfying to hold those little packets in our hands, to thumb through some of our favourite photos that look even more amazing, happy, smiling and radiant on paper than they do on the computer screen.

So begins our project for this year : to review, record and remember. For now, for tomorrow, for the future. I can't wait to sort through and compile the story of our life so far together.

Cheating

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I still feel like I want to curl up for a nap at 4pm in the afternoon, and shudder at the darkness when I open the curtains at 7.30am, but we are slowly getting back into the rhythm of things.

Symphony is taking our return in her stride. Not that she missed us.

When we arrived home on Tuesday morning, I opened the door, expecting to see Symphony bounding towards me in excitement. But there was nothing, not a peep.

I suffered a mild panic attack as I raced around the apartment trying to find her, but Sylvain reassured me, "perhaps she's at the neighbours house". Hearing the radio through the door (it was 7.30am after all), we knocked on their front door, waited a few moments, and watched it open slowly - and there were our neighbours in their pajamas, and Symphony walking out of their bedroom, blinking.

She's been cheating on us.

Before we left for Australia, we gave our keys to the neighbours. We had hired a petsitter to drop in every few days to feed and play with Symphony, but the neighbours offered to supplement this by dropping in to see her from time to time, and taking her over to their apartment occasionally to play with her. They did mention something about letting her sleep at their place too, if we wanted, but we quickly put a stop to that idea by telling them that Symphony had rather bad sleeping habits (she sleeps between legs, and snores) - but it seems it was to no avail. According to our neighbour, she's spent the last month sleeping over at their place, and they've been delighted to have her.

She does seem quite happy to be back in the same old routine, however. I'm just thankful that they haven't taught her any bad habits, like feeding her at the table or something like that.

It's just slightly destabilising to think she's been sleeping between the legs of others. She already did it to every guest who has ever slept here, but now she's apartment-hopping to boot!

Lagging

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The darkness sucks most of all. It's dark in the morning, and dark at 5pm. After weeks of long daylight hours, this is the biggest shock to my system.

Then, of course, there is the jet lag. After a day of napping on Tuesday, we managed Wednesday fairly well, with only one little siesta each, but this morning we were both ridiculously wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4am (2pm in Australia). The trick to getting over jetlag is simply forcing yourself to adjust - especially important if you've got to get back into the swing of a proper working week. Knowing that it would be only adding fuel to the fire if we got up, we stayed in bed but tossed and turned for a couple of hours until we finally got out of bed at 6am.

This meant that I was in at work, my first day back, at a stupidly early time - but those hours before everyone else arrives are great for sorting through a months worth of spam. I am nothing if not efficient.

It's amazing how much good it really does to take time off. It's interesting, now, to see things with a bit of perspective. This doesn't mean that the situation has resolved itself, oh no, but it's so much easier to deal with stuff when you've got a tan and everyone else looks like they're auditioning for Snow White. Really.

Red

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I rummage through my jewellery box to find something that goes with my red top. In triumph, I find a lovely pair of danglies that I haven't worn in, oh, nearly four years.

I walk into the lounge room and flick my hair behind my shoulders, "look what I found!"

He looks up at me, and smiles, "they're the earrings you wore at our wedding!"

I'm impressed.

I think he's a keeper.

Landing

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We arrived in Paris early yesterday morning, and reluctantly pulled our jumpers and coats out of our hand luggage. Our light-hearted joking about this particular part of the voyage, more than 24 hours before, made my stomach churn now that the moment had actually arrived.

"Be careful of the dog poop," I shuddered, as the taxi driver wheeled my suitcase dangerously close to a couple of smooshed orangey-brown piles. Two minutes later we were almost crushed by a truck as our taxi weaved in and out of the various lanes, and our driver gave a self-satisfied sigh as he informed us we would be happily stuck in traffic jams all the way home.

Sylvain and I looked at each other, "we're back..."

Thank goodness for the purring Symphony, the silver lining on the heavy clouds that are hovering over this city, who keeps us warm as we nap our jet lag away.

In transit

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I sit cross-legged on a big blue chair in Hong Kong airport, the computer open on my lap, because if I close my eyes, I will fall asleep and suffer from a cricked neck in no time. The next leg of our journey back, a 12 hour flight back to Paris from here will give me plenty of time to get a cricked neck, so there's no need to hurry on that side of things.

It was hard putting the socks back on our feet today for the first time in almost a month, smelling the gum trees on the street in front of my parents house, enjoying our last few moments of fresh air and open spaces.

I felt short of breath a few times this morning as I poked fun at my mum or grinned at my dad conspiratorially (I do these things well, just as a dutiful daughter should) - and it's hard saying goodbye. Being the typical blubbering mess that I always am, I went through tissue after tissue on the plane. I know it will get easier once we get back into the swing of daily life, but it's just so hard being so far away from these people and places and things we care about. Effectively, we feel that we're split between two places, culturally, emotionally and physically. We are lucky to be able to experience the adventure of living in France, and we are trying to embrace every moment that we have, but I don't think it will be forever. Australia just has too many things going for it.

Not least of all, the sun. Metéo france is telling me that it's going to be 13°C when we arrive on Tuesday morning - a far cry from the 37°C we had on Saturday. But it's not as bad as it could be, and at least as the temperatures drop, I can always hope for snow.

I just wonder how quickly it will take my tan to fade (acquired despite constant latherings of sunscreen, thus is the effect of the Australian sun), once I'm back in the artificial glow of my computer screen. Bets, anyone?

On the way back

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I had the best of intentions when I arrived in Australia - I was going to blog often, recording all of our adventures. But as usual, we were far too busy doing things. Even when I was sitting down having some quiet time, I preferred to play with my mum's cat or laugh with my dad or just watch the Lifestyle channel rather than open my computer and blog.

I can't even begin to describe the last week. We spent a wonderful New Years Eve with some very good friends and their two adorable kids (and a day or two on either side) and laughed so hard I hiccuped (always a good sign). We gallavanted around the city with my mum, and had a day trip in Point Lonsdale with my dad. We enjoyed dinner with my future brother-in-law and his family. We scooted down to the Great Ocean Road for a few glorious days in the Otways, in the country, under the sun and on some of the most amazing beaches in the world. And we had a lovely day today, eating way too much and playing Scrabble with old family friends.

It's been an amazing few weeks, revelling in the things I love (I must confess that I have overdosed slightly on the Salt'n'Vinegar chips), and spending time with the people we care about.

One of the things that I've really enjoyed is sharing the Australia I know with Sylvain, but more importantly, thanks to Sylvain, it has been really exciting to discover things about Australia that I didn't know.

Snubaing*, for example. We first did it with our good friends down at the Sorrento rock pools on New Years Eve - Sylvain jumped in first, and was having so much fun that Phil and I couldn't resist following him, despite the cold water. Then, overflowing with enthusiasm for this new-found activity, we went with my dad to Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff earlier this week, then took every opportunity we could to snuba at a few different places as we went along the Great Ocean Road. We saw bright yellow triangle fish with black stripes (the sort you'd imagine to see on the Great Barrier Reef), silver fish with bright yellow eyes, grey striped fish with red tails, bright red starfish, all sorts of different underwater plant life, anemones, crabs (one was as big as two of my hands, which scurried across a stretch of sand then hurriedly buried himself in front of us), and even two stingrays. I feel humbled and priveledged to get a glimpse into this foreign, underwater world. Amazing. I would never have thought to do something like this in Victoria, but thanks to Sylvain, we have discovered something simply incredible. We are determined to go to the Great Barrier Reef as soon as we can. (Note to those in the know : All hangers on are welcome to join us).

But all good things come to an end. Tomorrow we board a plane to go back to France. We have been on the go for the last three weeks, and we are exhausted with excitement, but I am sure this excitement will buoy us both up for months to come. Goodbyes are very hard, but we'll be back in Australia soon, and I feel very comforted knowing that my sister is getting married to one of the most loveliest men on earth this year. It's a challenge to manage my emotions and figure out how I feel about leaving, about going back. But go back to France we will (with suitcases filled with goodies), and we'll just see what 2007 brings.

*A mix of snorkelling and tuba-ing. I am aware there is a sport called snuba, but for all intents and purposes, in the context of my little world, let's just pretend that it doesn't exist.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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