Recently in Unchained Thoughts Category

Pink slippers

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When I was younger, several of my girlfriends took ballet classes after school in the town hall. I was absolutely green with envy and was convinced that if only I was given the chance to realise my dream of joining these ballet classes, I would surely become the most amazing ballerina the world had ever seen.

But I wasn't allowed to take ballet classes. And since I was also convinced that if only I was given the chance to realise my dream of joining the netball team, I would surely become the most amazing netballer the world had ever seen, I had to pick my battles. Official ballet lessons were not to be, and I worked hard at learning how to actually catch a ball. A skill which, at 10, I was still trying to master. Hand-eye coordination has never really been my strong point.

I didn't forget about my potential as a ballerina, and I tried to teach myself various moves using the infallible Debbie learns to dance as a reference. I so admired the way that Debbie and her classmates stretched and posed.

Of course, I needed the right equipment. Leotard. Check. (it was the late 80s after all). Leggings. Check. Flowy skirt. Check. Ballet shoes. That was a bit harder... But I was tenacious and wasn't about to let the fact that I had no proper ballet shoes stop me from dancing when I knew this was meant to be.

So I improvised.

I had a pair of pink slippers. They were velvety to the touch, fit firmly around my feet, and featured a practical plastic sole for those moments when I needed to run outside and didn't have time to kick off my slippers. They were the obvious choice for the magnificent dance routines I would make up and practice on for hours on end in the sunroom.

From the moment I put my pink slippers on, I felt like a dancer. A ballerina. In my mind, the practical plastic sole melted away and soft pink ribbons were laced up to my knees. The spotlight shone on me and I could almost hear the crowd roar.

If you were to throw Richard Marx "Right here waiting for you" into an old cassette player and pressed Play, I would be able to show you an entire routine that I worked on for months, and remember, to this day, right down to the very last step.

We should probably count ourselves lucky we don't have any old cassette players lying around.

Samples

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He looked harried, standing there in the middle of the street, with a suitcase at his feet and a laptop bag slung across his shoulders.

He held a dozen little white strips of cardboard, which he was sniffing, one by one. Perfume samples, from a beauty shop just a few steps away.

Was he on a business trip, trying to grab a last minute gift for a loved one - his partner, his secretary, his mistress - back home?

I smiled at him as I walked past. He glanced up at me, then went straight back to sniffing his perfume samples.

Sylvain is heading to Sweden again in a few days. When he comes back from this type of trip, he brings me delicious oatmeal biscuits. Smoked salmon. Cheese. Fluffy blankets.

I prefer to choose my own perfume. Bring me back food and locally made products any day.

Although I suppose if I lived in another time, in another place, perfume from Paris would be pretty darn special. Maybe just as special as smoked salmon from Sweden.

Hairdressers

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Mum used to take us to the hairdresser in one of the big towns, about an hour away from the farm. The hairdresser was always very nice to us, even when I cut my sisters hair for her and tried hiding the evidence under the couch. It must have been quite mangled because I have a hard time cutting paper, let alone hair, in a straight line, even now. The girls working in his salon looked so grown-up, I loved the smell of shampoo and other products, and I was always trying to figure out what the mysterious little room with the bed in it was for. It was only years later that I realised it was for waxing and other grooming. Ah, how naïve I once was.

I think I was the only one in my class (of 8 girls, 4 boys) to get my hair cut in the big town. At a real hairdresser. The rest of them got their hair cut by their mum or a relative or by a local lady, on her verandah.

But I always wanted to get my hair cut by the local lady. My female classmates came to school with crimped hair and (what I thought were) the most fashionable cuts. I was desperately jealous and wished fervently that our hairdresser would propose something like this to me one day. When I was twelve, it took all my courage to tell him I'd like to grow my fringe out. I was tired of having a giant and heavy 70s fringe which I felt started right at the back of my head, when all my classmates had tiny wispy fringes which started just at the top of their foreheads. Despite having a giant cow-lick and the hairdresser's advice against it, I persisted. And he did his best with my sillyness.

I know my parents splurged by taking us to get our hair cut. Even if they couldn't afford to put us in the brands of tracksuit pants we wanted, we always got our hair cut properly.

I am sure that the local lady did her best with the tools she had available. But it is only now, when I look back at photographs of me and my classmates in primary school, that I realise how profoundly grateful I am that mum took us to a proper hairdresser.

Crimped hair. Jagged fringes.

*shudder*

In the sun

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The Australian in me craves the sun after such a long winter, and even if I'm surrounded by noise and cars and people, I just need to be outside.

As much as I really do enjoy their company at lunch (and I do try to eat with them two or three times a week), I am trying to find excuses to escape my colleagues so I can lie on a park bench and read in the sun. It's a pity that I have to come up with excuses, but they simply don't understand that I might occasionally want to be by myself (and I must confess that after 5 years of explaining I just can't be bothered trying any more).

So far, I suspect that they think I meet my friends for lunch almost every day (only about half true), and that I go shopping all the time. Sooner or later they're going to get suspicious when they notice that I come back from lunch without any shopping bags. Not to mention that I'm a terrible liar.

I need to come up with some more alternative (and believable) excuses.

In the sun

With the sun comes...

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With the sun comes...

Two weeks ago there was a lot of sun in Paris. We almost hit the 20°C mark, which after a long and cold winter was very exciting, for a while.

I was delighted to be able to open my windows at work - I love the fresh air and the feeling that I just might be able to skip outside at any moment (even though I feel a little like I'm chained to my desk these days).

The only problem with opening the windows is that I can hear someone in one of these buildings playing "I will always love you" every day. On repeat. At least 20 times a day. Very very very loudly. And the sound echoes around and around around the courtyard.

The grey skies came back last week and I wasn't able to open my windows. I am hoping that this week, as the weather gets nicer again, the mystery person will be over that song and will have moved on to something else. After all, it can't get worse than "I will always love you" over and over again, can it?

Please tell me it can't.

Smoked mussels on toast

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When I was growing up, one of the most wonderful treats we had - birthdays, mothers day, fathers day, at christmas - was smoked mussels on toast.

Mushed, squished, spread on the toast. Munched down as quickly as possible, of course, whilst the toast was still hot.

It's not without its stigma. Lots of people consider it rather gross, especially for breakfast. At the boarding house I was yelled at because they do have a distinct smell. And in my house at uni, the boys were always complaining about finding half-empty tins of the stuff in the fridge.

I have never found smoked mussels in France (although I always look, just in case), and we always bring tins back from Australia with us. Care packages sent from Oz inevitably contain a couple of tins too, nestled amidst bags of Caramello Koalas and Cherry Ripes. We always pick some up when we're in the UK, and Sylvain brought a few tins back from his last trip to Sweden.

I'm so far away, in distance and years, but one single bite and I'm transported back to the farm of my childhood, my sister and I sitting on my parents bed (a backdrop of psychadelic 70's wallpaper), spreading crumbs all over the blankets.

My ultimate comfort food.

Smoked mussels on toast

Who's naughty or nice

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The man sitting next to me on the train today had a diary open on his knees. He was scribbling furiously on a page entitled sites favoris (favourite websites).

Sidelong glances over my copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle revealed that instead of his sites favoris, he was studiously working on his Christmas shopping list.

Joséphine, at the top of the list, is getting lingérie and a ring this year.

Of trips and tides

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Sylvain is in Sweden again and I suspect the in-laws think I'm pining away in our apartment without him, if the type of phone calls I've been getting from them is anything to go by. But I'm hardly at a loss for things to do at the moment. In between missing Sylvain and wishing he was here to take his share of Symphony cuddles at night, I have been drinking juice, watching movies (and OMG there is a musical, how much do I want to see that?), learning lines for a play, shoe shopping, getting my hair cut, podcasting, reading and having adventures for the podcast, learning new expressions, saying goodbye to friends who are leaving France, making plans for the summer, booking concert tickets and scribbling in notebooks.

Oh, and organising a trip to Venice for our upcoming wedding anniversary.

Even though there appears to be a problem with mud. That's going to be fun.

Of podcasts and progress

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I've been a little slack on the blogging front lately, mostly because I've been tremendously occupied with a huge project that has taken up much of my (our) time and energy - the redesign of the katia and kyliemac podcast website, along with the creation of two new podcasts, k&k learn french and k&k tourist tips. A GIGANTIC job, but one that we're really proud of and excited about.

But that was launched today, and apart from the usual podcasting, it can all basically take care of itself from now on. So I can get back to regularly scheduled blogging.

I've been squirrelling away anecdotes and stories for the last few weeks, writing random notes in my agenda, amidst To Do Lists and notes for the podcast, and I can't wait to sit down and record them all properly.

My life here seems to be a whirlwind of microphones, random snapshots, kaffir lime leaves, scribbled notes, kitten hugs, orange juice, yoga poses, dramatic moments, twitter notifications and moments of discovery that I can actually speak French, a little. Even after 6 years of living here, the adventures haven't stopped. They've changed, a little, since the beginning, but they haven't stopped.

Stuff

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I'm not sure where all the time is going, it's slipping through my fingers and past me and around me so quickly that I barely have time to breathe. So much stuff. Exciting plans for exciting projects. Other plans coming to fruition. Things that I've worked for, coming up with good results. First yoga class. Almost exhilerating. Think I'll stick with that. Podcast madness. Can't believe we're almost at 100 episodes. Lots of garlicky goodness. Feel sorry for the people who come in contact with me. Whooping cough is all gone. About bloody time.

But now, we're off to visit friends in England for the weekend. Because we can.

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