April 2007 Archives

Birthday wishes


It is my own fault for leaving the phone on overnight and beside the bed. My own fault. But I like to have it there, just in case something happens. So it's my own fault, really.

This morning I got my come-uppance for once calling my father at an unearthly hour without thinking about the time difference. Today I was woken at 4am by someone singing a stirring rendition of "Happy Birthday". When I mumbled a response to her excited, "how has your birthday been!", she launched into another song. I eventually managed to get a word in edgewise and mentioned something about the fact that it was, actually, 4am, and she went silent for a second, then said, "oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh...".

The worst thing? Symphony thought it was time to get up and started playing on the bed and wouldn't stop purring for half an hour.

That sister of mine, she is a shit.

Again, it's my comeuppance (althgouh I do have to give kudos to my dad for managing to sound coherent for five minutes on the phone that time, before telling me that I had called him at 4am), and really my own fault for actually answering the darn phone. Still, it's nice to know the folks back home haven't forgotten me... I just would have liked to sleep a bit longer.

Of foreign bloggers and noicety


One of the exciting things about living in a place like Paris (or at least a suburb of) is that there are always lots of people visiting. I love it when family or friends from Australia come to visit, but the second best thing is when I get to meet other bloggers who are passing through the city. It's always an interesting experience - sometimes these are people whose blogs I've been reading for years, and in some cases, depending on what the purpose of their blog is, I've watched them go through both the good and bad things in life.

Tonight I had the priveledge of meeting a blogger I've been reading for quite some time, along with two of his lovely daughters. It felt like talking to an old friend, and was like watching the blog come alive, and en plus, it is always interesting to watch people experiencing France and the French for the first time. For some reason, I donned a virtual Tour Guide hat, pointing out Wallace Fountains and the Pont Neuf and places where markets where held 100 years ago and where you can buy Berthillon. I have no idea why I suddenly felt the need to share my enthusiasm for this city, but I couldn't help myself. The company I kept was very courteous about it, nodding and smiling politely whenever I waved my hands enthusiastically.

There was also a pesky New Zealander hanging around like a bad smell for quite some time, who kept telling bad jokes in dodgy American accents and saying strange things like "unique", "different" and "noice". Strange, don't you think?

This is a powerful medium, and so exciting to be part of this world that becomes smaller and smaller and smaller every day, where territory lines become blurred and nationality has no importance (although Pavlova is Australian. Point finale).

But it gets really scary when I get told that the girls knew who I was already because of the podcast. Scary indeed.

Of butterflies and bugs

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This weekend we headed to a Butterfly House not far from our apartment, for some concrete experiments in macro photography. We learn more every time we take a photo, and it's so exciting to see what comes out of every shot.



Wanting to stretch our legs, we then found ourselves in Rambouillet, a small town on the outskirts of greater Paris, where we went for a leisurely walk around a couple of small lakes and through the forest.

These sorts of French forests seem so tame in comparison to the Australian bush. Sylvain has no qualms about heading off the track here, because it's hardly as if you can get lost in a forest like that, but it's hard to shake off old habits : I've been so conditioned to keeping to the trail, because it's so dangerous to do otherwise in Australia. Not to mention that I wouldn't dream of wearing thongs in the bush, for fear of standing on a snake (although at the end of every walk here, the paranoid in me now automatically checks for ticks, just in case). But here, it's all about bare legs and thongs, although this means I do get covered in scratches when my adventurous husband coaxes me into the underbrush to look at a bug.

So as usual, we threw ourselves to the ground every few minutes to take a photo of a flower or a bird or a butterfly. That's also when I hit myself in the head with a tripod. Thankfully there is no enormous bruise, although there is a lovely little bump that appears to be gradually diminishing in size.

where the forest meets the canola fields

lady bug


The wish has been made

And I searched for that darn cuckoo again, but they're evasive critters. I am determined to see one, one day.

Of whiskers and winding roads

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The weather has been unbelievable lately, with Spring arriving much earlier than usual, so by the time the weekend comes around, the country girl inside me has been busting to get out of the city. So we've been having lots of different adventures over the last few weeks.

Last weekend Sylvain borrowed a super L lens from the photo club at his work, so we headed out of town to the Parc des Félins near Nesles in Brie (of the cheese fame, yes). Being cat lovers, this was the ideal excursion for us. I got a couple of shots of lions and tigers (but no bears, oh my), but he really enjoyed himself with the powerful lens and managed to get some great pictures.

The beautiful weather beckoned us afterwards and, ignoring the GPS lady who kept telling us that we were not going the right way, we trundled down a bunch of tiny little country roads, amidst fields of exploding canola, to see what we could see.

Fields of canola

We ended up wandering around a forest, searching madly for the cuckoo that kept calling out and mocking us in the late afternoon sun.

A walk in the forest

The muffin man trying out an L lens

Taking unknown roads is such an adventure. Even if the GPS lady gets cranky and you have to turn around in a tight circle at the end of the road because you can't go any further.

the French countryside


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If you want to hear this aussie lass making a fool of herself on national radio (again), tune into triple j's hack today. For some reason, they want to have my opinion on something!

That is all.

Edit : On second thoughts, don't. I forgot everything that I was supposed to say and sounded like a complete numbnuts. I'm classy, there's no doubt about it.

Left or right, right or left


The results of the first round of the presidential elections are in, and France, evidently, is divided (despite living here legally and paying taxes just like anyone else, I cannot vote - but with the current climate in mind, we are going to do what we can to start my application process for double nationality. Next time, my voice will be heard, too). More than 80% of voters turned out today, the biggest number for fifty years, and impressive for a non-compulsory vote. Will France veer towards the right or the left? Will it have its first female president (la France présidente)?

Whatever happens in two weeks time, right or left, the consequences of the next round of voting will have a massive impact on France, and on the world. It could also have big repercussions for people like me, foreigners living in this country.

I hope that France makes the right decision.

On verra...

Of provocations and bumps

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The following is a typical sms conversation between the Aussie Lass and Pink Ukulele.

AL : It really is amazing that I am such a lovely person.
PU : I am lovely, too!
AL : Only when the stars are aligned and the moon is in Jupiter and when Spinach farts in the right direction.
PU : To the left, the fart.
AL : Yes, to the left. But no silent farting, there must be squeakage. Then, and only then, are you lovely.
PU : Lucky she does it often.

Really a typical conversation between sisters. Statements uniquely designed to provoke a reaction, spiralling into delirium. She is usually the instigator of such exchanges, mind you, and always has been. Right back to the times when declarations where made that baby alligators were making noise in the house dam at night, in such a convincing manner that the utterly sweet and innocent Katia believed every word. Not that alligators exist in Australia, let alone in country Victoria, but still. I'm still trying to get my revenge for that.

I do have to say, however, that I was surprised to note that my phone didn't know the word "fart" until today. But it's only a month old and with a little quick manipulating of the dictionary, all is right with the world. (It also didn't know another four letter word starting with F, but let's just say that's been rectified, and... well... we won't go there...)

In other news, I hit myself in the head with my tripod today. I have a lovely little bump and I think I might get a bruise. Hmm. This might explain the random blogging.

For more delirium, check out the podcast. You don't even need an ipod or an mp3 player to listen - you just need a set of speakers on your computer! It's super-fantastic, this new-fangled technology business! Now, where's the Any key?

Of magic and oranges


Unlike many expats here, I'm not in a job which has anything to do with teaching English. Lucky thing, really, because as many of my friends will confirm, I am a terrible teacher and I have no patience whatsoever.

I spend a lot of time working on ways to communicate visually via print media. I can still hardly believe that this is really my job - 10 years ago, having been strongly dissuaded by a number of people in pursuing anything in the visual arts, I would never have imagined that I would be doing what I do today.

Some days it all flows, almost like magic. But there are days when the muse doesn't come, and I spend hours looking at the same problem and working it three hundred different ways and not come up with anything that satisfies me. It happens when I write too, and although ideally you would just let it go, move on with something else and come back later, when there is a deadline looming on the horizon (and it's what you are paid to do), you have to learn ways to force the muse to come.

Sticker time

Sometimes it's just a matter of taking a step back and looking at things from a different angle. Concentrating. Breathing. Throwing a pen across the room. Followed by another pen. And a stapler. Going outside, eating an orange, sticking a sticker on your forehead, coming back and it all falls into place.

Of antipodeans and evolution


I was delighted to receive a message on my phone last Monday from my favourite Kiwi, telling me that she was heading into Paris with both of her (unimaginary) offspring, and asking if we would possibly deign to meet up with her for a fish and chip lunch. Given that I like to have a good dose of southern hemisphere-ness whenever I can, the Muffin Man and I managed to rearrange our hectic schedule and squeezed them in. Only just, of course. We wouldn't like them to think we had nothing else to do that day.

Fish and chips is always a marvellous affair, and Monday was no exception (despite the slightly incongruous location - a restaurant in Paris rather than on the beach in Australia), and the company was extremely well behaved and most elegant.

Fish and chips

The glamorously gorgeous Antipo and Pauline

Kevin attacking a brownie

I, on the other hand, managed to corrupt the little darlings in the best way I know how - by teaching them a catchy little ditty that I hope will remain in their minds until the end of their days (and if not, I am willing to recite it for them over and over again so that they DO remember it) :

Apple crumble
Makes you rumble
Apple tart
Makes you... hiccup!

(Side note : any Australian worth his (or her) weight in Fosters (or should that be Cascade?) should recognise this marvellous little snippet from that fantastic series of books by June Factor, all which feature names like "Far Out, Brussel Sprout" and "All Right, Vegemite". The soundtrack of my childhood. Now, of course, I want to get my hands on them all.)

So after a delightful lunch, we tripped off to the Zoo de Vincennes - even though it feels a bit dated and I wasn't too sure about the tiny cages, it was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Sylvain was in raptures over the photographic opportunities and Kevin and Pauline's enthusiasm was infectious. As we are wont to do, Helen and I just hung back and gabbed. She also asked me to make sure I took photos of the kids, so I pulled out my wee lens and managed to get a few shots of all the kids, big and small, looking extremely sweet and innocent.

The muffin man and his big lens...

A ridiculous amount of fairy floss


Although, when I spotted some grooming happening in the late afternoon sun, it was interesting to see that we haven't really evolved at all...

Grooming in the late afternoon sun

The one hundred euro photo
The one hundred euro shot : Antipo said that if I managed to get a photo of her with her mouth closed (apparently she talks a lot, who knew?), she'd give me a hundred euros. Being the lovely sport that I am, I'll settle for a cup of coffee with a splash of baileys when we drop in on her unexpectedly one day.

A walk in the woods


This weekend I was thrilled to see my first real bluebell. Accompanied by a thousand other bluebells, growing in the dappled sunlight, the forest floor was covered in them - as if a faerie had danced through the woods, scattering blue confetti around her. I felt like I had jumped into a page of an Enid Blyton book.


As much as I adore the Australian bush (Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have a special place in my heart), European woods have a little something special that makes me want to curl up quietly at the foot of a big tree and wait for the elves to come out and play.

The forest floor

The middle of the afternoon not being conducive to elven shenanigans, we did get treated to the sight of a couple of lizards sitting in the sun, which was a reasonable compromise.

This little guy was only about 10cm long, which gives you an idea of the strength of my beloved 100mm macro lens and how much fun I'm having with it

In particular parts of the Australian bush, it is possible to see traces of a rich Aboriginal heritage if you know where to look, but one of the things that I love most about Australia is the untouched natural beauty of the land, stretching for kilometres on end. Here, it's practically impossible to go for a simple walk in the woods without the history of our european ancestors jumping out at you. Of course, that's one of the things I love about France too.

Allée couverte du Bois-Couturier

We spent much of the afternoon skipping through the forest, and stopping every ten minutes to throw ourselves to the ground to photograph a flower or a leaf or a bug...

White flower

Yellow flower

Purple flower

A long walk in the woods

Needless to say, we slept well...

Mario in Paris


Whilst I don't want to begrudge anyone their holiday time here, it's really hard not to feel an eensy weensy teensy bit bitter when I spend all afternoon at work listening to the over-excited babble of tourists just outside my window.

And (through no fault of their own, I really can't blame them) they walk impossibly and excruciatingly slowly as they gawk at the wonders of the city. It appears that they don't realise that, despite the beauty of these buildings and famous monuments, some of us have places to be. So if I want to catch my train on time, I have to employ ingenious strategies of dodging and weaving and jumping into the street (right in the line of traffic) and ducking and hopping and balancing on the gutter edge and hurdling kiosk stands and swinging on tree branches to get past them.

Add a bit of random dog poop on the footpath and it turns into a real Mario-like adventure at the end of my work day.


Oh, and check out the latest episode of the podcast. Sillyness.

Oh, and of course now I want hot cross buns too. I'd even eat smoked cod with gross white sauce, just for the chance to have one in my little hands, hot and buttery and oh-so-delicious.

I might have to throw some flour around today and see what I can do. This is a recipe that I've been drooling over for months, and seems to be a good compromise, given, of course, that I can find some buttermilk. *sigh*

Of creepy crawlies and cod

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There are a lot of things I miss about Australia. My list of things to bring back on our next visit continues to grow according to whim and fancy.

But there are two things in particular that I do not miss. At all.

1. Spiders. Particularly huntsmen. Everyone says that they're innocent and can't hurt you, but try growing up finding those critters staring at you from the toilet wall in the middle of the night. Or experiencing hundreds of them fall on you after a nest hatched. Evil.
2. My mum's smoked cod with gross white sauce on Good Friday. My mum is a great cook, but this dish is really not to my taste, and she knows it. Blah. I'm sure Sylvain would like it, but this is one day of the year that I'm glad I'm not in Oz.

And yes, they both belong on the same level. I love my mum, but I really really really don't like smoked cod in white sauce.

The sounds of summer

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The quartier where I work is vibrant and full of life. People live in the top floors of most of the buildings, there are hotels and restaurants and cafés and shops and all sorts of things here that make it a wonderful place to visit.

As romantic as it sounds, all this makes for a slightly turbulent work environment. Although the temperatures are still relatively low and spring has only just sprung, the sun is out and there are signs that summer is on the way. With the sun reflecting off the windows across the courtyard, I opened our window to get some fresh air.

And was assaulted by treated to the following sounds of Paris :
- the babble of hundreds of tourists - they're truly out in force now. Someone burst into hysterical, hyena-like laughter and I giggled myself.
- a busker, playing Edith Piaf. Over and over again.
- police sirens. The Conciergerie is not far away, and we are often treated to corteges going past.
- someone living on the top floor of the building next to ours practicing the violin. Badly.

Such a poetic city...

4 years


I love that you take the bins downstairs.
I love that you have found a way to combine your technical knowledge with your creative passion - embracing your inner geek. And that even though we have started this for different reasons, we can share this passion together.
I love the fact that I'm always discovering new things with you, about France, about Australia, about the world.
I love the way you talk to Symphony as if she's really listening (because she is, and we both know that).
I love that you drive my friends home, even when it's really late and we've spent hours being obnoxious.
I love that you teach me things - which sorts of animals live where and why a certain cheese tastes the way it does.
I love the way we talk as we make dinner every night. These are truly precious moments for me.
I love feeling your wedding ring when I hold your hand.
I love your hundreds of different sorts of smiles. And the dimples that accompany every one.
I love the way that you'll do my counting for me. And multiplication. And division. And everything else to do with sums.
I love that for every day we spend together, we multiply our memories by one hundred.
I love that you put up with my crankiness, my moods, my capriciousness.
I love that I can fart in front of you. And that all you'll do is fart back.
I love that you keep sugar cubes in the car, "for dogs and horses". Even though we live in the city.
I love the way you make me want to be a better person.
I love that you know that a baby kangaroo is called a Joey.
I love your accent when you're tired, "look at zis tummeeee on zis leetle kitten!".
I love the way that your qualities compliment my own - your strengths are my weaknesses, and we are just right together.

I have done it before, and would travel the world a thousand times over to be with you.
I'm lucky to have you in my life.
Happy anniversary, my love.

Coming out of the Mairie : rice being thrown!

Katia & Sylvain wedding 2003

Of water and socks


Over the last few months there have been a number of changes around us, and as a result, we've both been working longer hours. With less time in the evenings, there are a few things around us that have been suffering (which basically translates to the crappy things that neither of us like doing, ie. washing the floors and vacuuming). By the time we get to the weekend, there are other things we'd rather be doing than chasing dustbunnies, and there is nothing worse than coming home after a twelve hour day to realise that you are having guests over and you haven't washed the kitchen floor for three months. Or more. So given the current circumstances, we admitted that we simply can't do it all for the time being, and found ourselves a haus meri. Or a cleaning lady. And she is adorable. I would marry her if I could.

I wasn't going to talk about it on here, for fear that some might think I was being a snob, and that since we have no kids or any real responsibilities beyond our jobs, we should have time to do this sort of stuff. But I've never claimed to enjoy cleaning. I'm certainly no wonderwoman, and I never will be. She comes in for an hour or two a week, magically things just look better, and what's more, we feel better. For us, at this point in time, that is worth every centime.

So things have been running very smoothly. When we come home on the days that she has passed by, we discover things have been cleaned that we'd never imagined could be cleaned before. We gleefully make place in the wardrobes for clothes that have never seen a coathanger and have always lived on clotheshorse. She collects all of Symphony's toys and puts them in one place. And manages to find things that have been lost for months.

Our life, it seems, is starting to see some order.

The only problem is that we are only just realising the full consequences of someone coming into our home and smoothing out the creases of our life.

Tonight we came home to find a little bowl of water on the floor beside Symphony's food bowl. Our adorable lady (who has been completely charmed by Symphony), has clearly seen her drinking from the glass of water by the bed and thinks we're bad owners for not giving her a real bowl of water. Since we not going to see her for awhile to explain the situation, now we're going to have to put a bowl of water out for Symphony when our dear lady comes in, even though we know full well that Symphony will not drink out of it.

And in the laundry basket I found a couple of odd socks that, given my predilection to tear my socks off as soon as humanly possible, I undoubtedly shoved under the couch at some point in the last few weeks. The only problem was that they were entirely covered in dust. So much so that you could hardly see the colour.

We're really just playing at being grown-ups. Who are we kidding?

My sisters suspected case of Dengue Fever has led to the usual fluff-ups as I try to explain the situation to my in-laws and curious colleagues who have followed the case from afar.

Of course, I'm going way too fast when I tell the story, and my "fièvre dengue" comes out as "fièvre dingue", which translates as "mad/crazy/kooky fever".

Upon reflection, this is somewhat appropriate, actually.

Of markets and flamingos


A few weeks ago we made our way down to our local Sunday market. We live in quite a posh suburb, and are willing to pay a little more on the rent for the tree view from our apartment and the nearby forest access. But we're not willing to pay the hefty and ridiculous prices that have recently been hiked up in the market.

When we were down there, Sylvain took one look over our usual fruit and vegetable stall with its shrivelled avocados and splotchy capsicums, and literally threw a hissy fit (for those who don't know him, that's certainly saying something). We're really making an effort to eat as many different sorts of fruits and vegetables as we can, but when they're as unappetising as they looked there, it's hard to get the motivation. So he declared that we were not going to be spending one centime in our market and we marched back home. Stuff supporting local commerce - I just shrugged and we jumped in the car and headed down to the Versailles market.

We've been going to this market on and off for a few years now, but we were more than happy to alternate visits there with a visit to our local market, with the occasional trip to the supermarket if we were desperate. But that was then and this is now... although it means 20 minutes in the car for us each way, it is worth every extra minute and centime it requires for us to go there - the quality of the produce is outstanding and the prices are excellent in comparison to what we would get normally get in our corner of the city.

Call us fruit and vegetable snobs if you wish. I guess there are worse things to be.

Versailles Sunday market

And it actually seems to be giving us an excuse to get out more. Since we're actually out in the first place, it's easy for us to travel a little further and explore. Today saw us burying our fingers in our newly bought fresh bread, cheese and strawberries whilst sitting beside a country stream. I felt that burst of happiness in my heart when we left the outskirts of the Paris sprawl and hit the countryside, and was so happy sitting there that I suggested we pitch a tent and live there permanently, but Sylvain managed to convince me otherwise by saying that I'd have trouble getting a wifi connection out there. Then we spent an afternoon wandering amongst a random selection of animals - flamingos, peacocks, antelope and wallabies (!!) - and through the grounds of the Chateau de Sauvage.

Indeed, this is a very civilised way of spending a Sunday afternoon.

Bread and strawberries

Picturesque stream in the French countryside

Chateau de Sauvage

The eye, the eye...


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