Friday, January 21, 2005


I did some sleuthing and found a promising second hand english book source by the quaint name of 'tea and tattered pages'. So I went investigating last night, everything about this shop is quaint; from the red shop front, to the name,the cluttered shelves, the book dust (at-choo!) and the charming american couple who own it, the friendly yellow cat and the dinky little seating area where you can have a cuppa and leisurely peruse your book choices (so many descriptions I lost track of my punctuation). Amongst my choices was 'the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes', and then 'the curious incident of the dog in the night-time', which is a mystery tale told from the point of view of a young boy with autism (who, in addition to being obsessed with detail at a whole other level, is also fixated on Sherlock Holmes).

Still, the upshot is, my literary friends can rest easy (yes, I know you've been having sleepless nights) as I now have a source of affordable books! Having recently finished 'Almost French' - story of an Australian woman settling in Paris, I have to admit to being a little disappointed,and even mildly irritated by it (possibly describing herself and boyfriend cutting across footpaths on his motorbike got me a little offside). I'm not sure what kind of 'petit bourgeois' crowd she was hanging out with, but they didn't strike me as particularly typical, and she portayed an intially very naive view of France, followed by a very superficial one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

When is a public holiday not a public holiday?

when the trains are on strike.
I have a choice of 3 different ways to get to work (outside of walking 6 km) using the public transport system. I like to mix it up a bit, to keep my brain mildly occupied with the thought that each time I probably should've chosen one of the OTHER two that morning. My most common is the RER, an interregional rail system that extends a good distance to the surrounding ile-de-france areas. I can generally get a seat (though, sometimes it's puzzlingly packed to the doors, and I have not yet identified the causes of these random fluctuations) and its a lot nicer than the bus or metro which are generally like a tin of sardines - packed to the brim, and funny smelling.
Yesterday they announced there would be strikes today with only 1 in 4 trains running (though sometimes I suspect that's all they have even when they're not on strike)so I decided to take the bus, of which there were 3 lined up at the stop when I arrived (preparedness, good!) but there was practically nobody on the bus, on any of them. I arrived at work 10 minutes early altogether puzzled at how my little imagined nightmare turned out to be one of the more tranquil commutes I've experienced. It turns out that most people, when a strike is announced, just take a day off (everyone seems to have a luxurious amount of time in lieu because most people work more than what is now the standard 35 hour week). Vive la France.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Pedestrian, cross

I just can't help it. There's an inner rage that rises uncontrollably to the surface every time I see a motorbike avoiding lights/congestion or simply actual traffic by using that most tempting of conduits - the footpath. Unfortunately this rage has a lot of time to seethe and bubble because I see it a lot. Paris can be a tricky as a lowly pedestrian; crossings that don't have lights are strictly ornamental (and never put all your faith in the little green man even when he is there), public transport is crowded, so when you're actually somewhere that you can move with some degree of freedom its like what little is left for the foot power people is also being invaded by traffic. I know a lot of people use motorcycles because it means avoiding traffic jams and makes find a parking space a lot easier. But I think this has lead to an assumption that motorcycle travel MUST always be faster and easier, whatever the conditions. If, God forbid, its not then they'll find a way to make sure it is. I'd prefer that this was an annoying behaviour of cyclists, but there's hardly any cyclists because there are hardly any cycle paths. And if there were more cycle paths? I think they'd probably be invaded by motorcycles.