Monday, February 28, 2005

zen, zen

must remain zen
breathe breathe
Today is a day much like any other (except it's a Garfield dreaded Monday), so there's no reason why it should be any more difficult than any other day. But I think it's precisely because it's so much the same that I'm having trouble. I dunno, since that last dose of the flu, something snapped. And something really snapped this weekend when I treated Monsieur and myself to a couple of hot chocolates at 2 Magots (a chic and rather expensive café in Saint Germain, but they make their hot chocolates with real chocolate, rather than the French equivalent of Milo). Upon paying the bill I realised that those 2 hot chocolates cost me more than I make in an hour. Obviously it's not every day that I frequent that sort of cafe..but still...

So this morning I amused myself, between the data entry (no home internet connection for the next couple of weeks or so, boohoo) in composing a letter to my interim agency something along the lines of;
Well, the original terms of my contract were for 6 months, and that time's almost up, and they want to keep me on, and frankly I couldn't be doing my cv any less of a favour by staying in this job. In fact, if anything, it's dequalifying me. A 15 year old could do it. I haven't made this little money since working as a base level lab tech (but in that instance, food and rent were less than half the price I'm paying now)

ok, a lot of that was just me whining, I really just had to paraphrase the first line.

Problem is, I can't afford to quit my job unless I have another job. Already having a job means looking for another job is thus confined to lunchtime, when I really need to get away from my desk (mental sanity, get some sun), and when everyone I want to call (discreetly) goes to lunch. If I quit my current job, I don't know what my chances of getting any sort of unemployment benefit are, and I don't know how long I'd have to wait for my end-of-contract payout. So chucking in my job has to wait until I have a bit more savings behind me. And saving money is tricky when 2 hot chocolates cost you more than you make in an hour. Oh drat!

Had a good weekend though, went to see an exhibition of late 60's band posters from San Francisco at the Museum of Publicity. Discovered that my theory of 'we TECHNICALLY SHOULD be able to see the Eiffel Tower from our building, somehow' (ie by getting up onto the roof, which I think we have access to outside our front door). Nothing so drastic required as I was able to sound out my theory by hopping up on a chair and looking out through a small window in the hallway, and there she was, hurrah! I'm going to mount a parabolic mirror up on a wall opposite as soon as it gets warm enough to leave that window open.

By the way, for my antipodeal readers, it's REALLY FREAKING COLD HERE. Apparently it got down to -10 last night, which would explain why all the water in the gutters was frozen this morning...
Should I mention again how happy I am that the radiators are working at my lovely apartment?

Friday, February 25, 2005


Now I really must mention my first parcel experience at the French post. Anticipate ridiculousness.
So, I have a smallish packet of caramels to send. All they can propose for me is a box at 16 euros (which puts it at roughly three times the price of the actual gift).
'Or you can wrap it yourself for a smaller price'
'You don't have any padded bags for sale? Any smaller boxes'
'No, all we have is this box' (a 2kg box, for my 300g package)

So I go to the newsagent, give THEM my money, and return to the post office, all the while thinking about the enormous difference in merchandise available at an Australian post office as compared to a French one. In Australia, any object you could want to send - cd's, posters, books, bottles, illicit drugs - in the post has a corresponding package, and they come in a bunch of shapes and sizes and choice of speediness. It just surprises me to see the postal service not capitalising on something that could make them a profit. It makes no difference to me, I now know to prepack my parcels before going to the post office. But whack on a la poste logo and a few centimes profit on a bunch of different sized boxes and padded envelopes, and people are likely to do more of their wrapping and packing on site. Aaaand maybe then they could put those profits towards employing enough people to transform your post office travel experience into something that doesn't require a full range of camping equipment.


Having just experienced my first parcel experience at the French post, I must say that those guys really need to wake up to the insane amount of revenue they're passing up in providing absolutely minimal resources to send objects in the mail.

I want to send a box of caramels to my Dad for his birthday (fathers are ridiculously difficult to buy for, besides, I know he likes caramels, they were good caramels ok? Aaaah, forget it). All they can propose for me is a box at 16 euros (which puts it at roughly twice the price of the actual gift).
'Or you can wrap it yourself and send it for 8 euros'
'You don't have any padded bags for sale? Any smaller boxes'
'No, all we have is that box' (a 2kg bog I might add, my caramels weigh in at 300g)


So I go to the newsagent, give THEM my money, and return to the post office, all the while thinking about the enormous difference in merchandise available at an Australian post office as compared to a French one. In Australia, any object you could want to send - cd's, posters, books, bottles - in the post has a corresponding package, and they come in a bunch of shapes and sizes and choice of speediness. It just surprises me to see the postal service not capitalising on something that could make them a profit. It makes no difference to me, I know now to prepack my parcels before going to the post office. But whack a la poste logo and a few centimes profit on a bunch of different sized boxes and padded envelopes, and people are likely to do more of their wrapping and packing on site. Aaaand maybe then they could put those profits towards making it cost a little less to send a parcel :-/

waiting for the harvest

Originally uploaded by Nyx.
It's true that, even with the increase in world food distribution, winter produce is a little on the lean choice-wise. I'm certainly looking forward from a change from apples, bananas, pears and mandarines in the fruit section, and potatoes in the veggie section.

Every month I check the BBC seasonal produce site, to see what I should look out for this month, and sometimes torment myself by skipping a few months ahead, so I know what I'll be enjoying in June! :D

Now, I did actually imagine I'd be jumping into a hotpot of delicious european produce once I had settled in a little, but I have found this process to be slower that I first thought.

Initially there's the problem with time. I'm still getting to grips with Paris life time management ('how do people find the time to get everything DONE?' I constantly ask myself). The pace is slow in Darwin, lethargy reigns supreme in the year round hot climate. It takes 20 minutes to get anywhere.
But the difference is not in the comparisons that could be described forever, it's that I had my routine there. I was actually a lot busier in reality. The upshot is that I buy way too much stuff from a supermarket at 8.30pm, and not nearly enough from markets and specialty shops.

The next problem is a lack of space. Monsieur has a bachelor fridge (think Aussie bar fridge, but smaller) which is a logistical nightmare to arrange every shopping day. This basically means no cooking in bulk. No soups, no stews, no big pasta or curry cookups. But we are awaiting delivery of a BIG FRIDGE this weekend. To be lugged up the stairs by Other People.

Onto problem 3. Monsieur has a bachelor kitchen. No tongs, graters, spices, muffin trays, garlic crushers, blenders, peppermills, pointy psycho knives or casserole dishes. The acquisition of a lot of these articles is a lengthy and costly process. Because I buy good quality kitchen products. I refuse to cook with shitty quality. It breaks in about a year and then you just have to go buy it again. Hate that. And you know what? It's really hard to find spice racks here, I'm looking all over the place (no, I'm talking real spice racks, my kitchen generally resembles the spice section of the supermarket).

My final problem is getting Monsieur to eat his proper portion of fruit and vegetables, that's a work in progress (I have successfully fed him a lentilburger, anything's possible)

Anyway, what triggered todays whimsy was some recent sightings of strawberries in a couple of spots. Generally you don't want to get in the way of me and a bowl of strawberries, but that doesn't mean I'll buy them any old time. Without the atmosphere of warm sunny days, the air full of blossoms and bees, it's just not the same. It's the same idea behind why I haven't been tempted to chow down on a mango or pineapple over winter. There's a certain element at work in the enjoyment of seasonal produce that comes with eating it at the right time...

Thursday, February 24, 2005


As I step out the door of the apartment this morning, the cold air in the stairwell hits me like a slap in the face.
'How did we just survive that?' I murmur to Monsieur
'Oh, we're survivors' he quips.

This week hasn't been much of a week to remember, but things are starting to iron themselves out little by little. So where did I leave this? - after the 'great move' (which I survived), there was the 'great flu' (which I also survived), followed by the 'great cold snap' (see opening sentence). After missing the electricity guy on Thursday, we had no choice but to wait until Monday for the connection. However, as we were both sick to death of sleeping on an inadequate mattress on the grotty floor of our old apartment, we decided to brave the chilliness and sleep at the apartment over the weekend, to be back in a real bed was worth it for the sake of our bones, and it would only be for 2 nights. During the day we busied ourselves with other chores in warmer spots.

Finally it's power day and we're in business, lighting flickers, hot water gushes, appliances whirr and buzz. But heat does not radiate. The apartment is looking its warmest but remains stony cold and clammy. Monsieur thinks its down to something we forgot to turn or press, but gas, pipes and radiators are not rocket science, and eventually it becomes clear that we've turned and connected everything we were meant to - we're going to have to call someone in.

(One more night)

Wake up to the view of a blanket of SNOW covering the roads, cars and, from our new lofty perch,lots of rooftops. Despite being magical, novel (for me) and totally unexpected, this doesn't do much to warm things up.
Anyway, later that night the gas guy comes, pokes around for 18 seconds:
'yup, it's that thing, it's sticking, I can have the parts for you tomorrow, fix it in 15 minutes aaaaaaaand, that's gunna cost you 587 euros' (yeah, you heard me). That includes 130 euros for the 18 seconds of prodding and 25 euros for 'deplacement' (what? no extra charge for climbing excess stairs?)

(One more night)

Snows Again

6pm gas guy not there
7pm gas guy not there
(phonecall, he'll be there soon, don't worry!)
8pm gas guy not there
9pm gas guy not there

ok, he does finally show up, after the longest 4 freaking hours of my life, pipes gurgle, and within 20 minutes those big metal radiators start pumping out their lovely lovely heat. I can finally take my oversized coat off and crawl gradually out of my sleeping bag (I really can't overstate how COLD it was in the apartment).

As a postscript though, that hideous sum I quoted up there is actually the owner's responsibility to pay, we made sure to get a lowdown on reponsibility vis-à-vis owners, tenants and gasheaters.

So other, pleasanter things! A visit to the Musee d'Orsay, Finally! I did this with an Australian (actually German but moved to Australia)friend from Darwin who has spent the last 3 weeks braving the cold in London, Paris and Berlin. Which is why I'd put time aside especially (to explain how I could find the time to do this in the middle of all this chaos). I also needed a break from it all.
The Orsay museum was once an old train station, built in 1900 and the terminus for the Paris-Orleans line. The interior, with it's giant gilt clock, and domed ceiling supported by columns, calls to mind celluloid images of the glamourous 1920's; of steam trains and women in fitted suits with matching luggage and jaunty caps. Anyway, whimsical flights of fancy aside, his building is now a museum devoted to impressionist art - sculptures, paintings and photographs, even furniture (a bit of stuff by Hector Guimard, the guy who designed the art nouveau metro entrances that Paris is famous for). I particularly enjoyed the pieces by Seurat (the founder and only great practitioner of neoimpressionism)and Redon, but my favourite piece had to be the big polar bear sculpture by Francois Pompon.

So my last bit of fun stuff was the film Sideways. Although I had read the rantings of a disgruntled waiter whose restaurant kept running out of pinot noir since the release of this film and associated mutterings about its yuppie popularity, sorry waiter guy but I really liked it. But then I don't model my behaviour on what I see on the big screen either. The characters were well played, real, flawed, it was funny and sad, and a good Sunday evening watch. I was also warm so that probably added to my enjoyment significantly.

Looks like it might snow again...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

dude, where's my brain?

grrr, I will actually post up something here soon, but Paris is not the only the thing snowed under right now.
Apartment changeover is for the most part done, the heating doesn't work (yes, the snow on the rooftops has been a charming view, but the fog breath temperatures inside our apartment have diminished the charm somewhat), heating is being fixed tonight at a cost that I could probably buy a ticket to Thailand with - either solution would warm me up - then we just need to check out the mysterious leak under the sink, sort the key issue out, sort the postbox issue out, then I'll tell you all about my fun adventures at the musée d'orsay and what I thought of the film sideways, and wax a little lyrical about the twinkly snowflakes...soon, promise.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

welcome to the centre for disease control

Well, as my body catalogues and adds to the inventory yet another one of the 15 billion Western European microbes that I have not been exposed to, I would like to take the opportunity to announce what a complete and utter arse my work colleague is. While he has the luxury of sick days, evidently he'd much prefer to play the martyr and come coughing and hacking and wheezing to work so he could be Mr Stoic when I suggested several times that he GO HOME ('no, no, I can manage') but at the same time took great delight in announcing to everyone how absolutely terrible he felt (all the while trying to blame his sickness on me and a trifling cold I had 2 weeks ago, rather than say, his sick-with-the-flu mother with whom he spent the weekend).

So having spent the night with a raging fever, spasms, and a head that felt like it was being crushed by a bulldozer, it was with some difficulty that attempted to stagger my way to apartment number 2 to wait for the electrician, whose visit window was between 10am and 2pm. So I was a fraction (20min) late in getting there, and yup, he'd already passed. So no chance to get another visit before Monday, which we will now also be billed for.
I think a voodoo doll might be in order.
jab jab! jabjabjabjabjab!!!

Speaking of incredibly painful and torturous things, I went to see some experimental cinema at the centre wallonie-bruxelles with a very old Australian buddy who was passing through the city. He's a bit of a globetrotter that one. Now don't get me wrong, I like experimental art as much as the next left-wing utopian-socialist university graduate. But there's limits. And the short series of films I watched passed those limits to the point that I was ready to chew my own head off rather than watch one more minute. And my, can't a minute last a long time...Luckily it was cheap, though not as cheap as looking out my window, and frankly staring out my window for 1 hour straight would have given me about as much satisfaction...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Quick show of hands...

For the expats...
How many of you have encountered some sort of problem with keys in this country?
'How much!?'
'How long!?'
'You need a what?'
'Where can I get this 15th century key copied?'

I'm just curious...

Musical baton relay

1. Total amount of music files on your computer?

Couldn't say, I don't have my own one, I just pilfer the use of my boyfriends (somehow stealing things off near and dear menfolk has avoided me making pretty much any big purchases) - he's got a normal size collection I suppose, about 20 - 30 albums and several dozen miscellaneous songs. I think I have downloaded about 10 of them.

2. The last CD you bought was...

A long time ago! Bought a bunch of black market cd's in Vietnam, so I'll just pick one of them:
Songs for the Deaf, Queens of the Stone Age

3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?

Sister Awake, The Tea Party
My best friend back in Australia is a middle eastern dance teacher and I'd been abusing her talent and generosity for a good few years in getting free lessons. Sister Awake was a piece she was choeographing with us before I left. Listening to this song reminds me of that. And trying to do hip circles and veil twirls in alternate directions at the same time.

4. Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

i.No-One knows my plan by They Might be Giants

I love this band - I've been a dedicated fan for over 10 years. I flew from one end of Australia to another to see them in concert. This is only one of my favourites, its the ambassador song for all of them ;)

ii. Golden Brown - The Stranglers

Always puts a smile on my face

iii. Bach - Brandenberg Concerto

I'm a classical fan, but not to the point of obsession. The levels of complexity and imagination created by certain composers never ceases to amaze me.

iv. Karma Police - Radiohead
Listened to the OK Computer album A LOT when I was travelling, never got sick of it.

v. Saint Vincent - Tetes Raides
A Paris band that my boyfriend introduced me to, I really like them, and it's one of those 'relationship songs' (not that its soppy or romantic, it's just part of our soundtrack)

Can't we pick 10? I've hardly even started! ;p

5. What 3 people are you going to pass this baton to and why?

- an online contact since about 2001 and who I had the happy occasion to finally meet when I was in the south of France. I also want to know how much music he has stored on his computer, I think it will be a scary amount ;)

'Wandering lizard' Because he's far too busy for this sort of thing, but we annoyed frogs together for a year back in Darwin and I'm not sure that we ever discussed music that much. I'm wondering if his time in Israel got him interested in anything new and different

'Rakka' - a flickr friend, cos she'll have fun with it :)

Sunday, February 13, 2005


My muscles and I are not on speaking terms. No, one does not move out of a second floor apartment with a narrow stairwell, and move into a 5 storey apartment with a wide stariwell, but no elevator, and stay on friendly terms with ones calf or bicep muscles. A slight error on the lease agreement (they were off by one number, we didn't notice until Friday) means we don't have water or electricity connected yet, so we're still camping out in the old apartment, with only the essentials (internet access, chocolate and wine among them).

Still, I'm pleaseed to report that no-one collapsed in a pile of broken furniture with issues of blood pressure and heart failure (we had a little invaluable help from the family), the apartment is very lovely and we were pleasantly thrilled to discover that we actually have a clear view across to the sacre coeur. Which we take turns at looking at, just to make sure it's still there.

I've been 'tagged' for a musical quiz, and as soon as I have some thinking power I'll be posting up the answers! ;)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Fun and Games

I found it ! I found it!
Thanks BBC! I always liked you the best!
A while ago, I saw a brief picture montage on the telly, and one small image caught my eye, of a circular object with 4 different colour square panels.
‘Oh!’ I said ‘that reminds me of that thing, that game, the music sound thingy, with the beeps and flashing lights’ (yes, articulation is my strong point, thanks) ‘I used to play that!’ ‘what was it called again?’
So I racked my brains for about a week, tried key word searches on line (round lights flashing game musical), checked out sites for popular 70’s toys, no luck – so I gave up. Today I saw a promotion up on the BBC website for a 'nostaligia toys' article, and I remembered my earlier dilemma, and lo! there it was :)

Long before the 60’s LSD concept of the ‘doors of perception’ ever entered into my little world of popular culture knowledge, I considered the memory and imagination part of my brain like a series of doors. In fact, one of my visualisation techniques to get to sleep (I’ve had trouble nodding off since forever up until moving to Paris) when I was about 12 (apart from the bed spaceship capsule one) was to imagine a series of doors, and that I would open one and behind it would be a certain scene that I would enter, maybe I was an odd child, I don’t know.

Anyway, back to the subject (and this IS all leading somewhere, sort of), is that some of the memory doors, well, they stay closed for a long time. They get all cobwebby, and some grass starts growing at the front, and then one day, you’ll have a memory trigger and it’s like this disused line bursts into action, sparks cracking and the door opens and a whole bunch of memories come tumbling out, like an overstuffed closet. The last time his happen was when a friend of mine sent me a link to some dialogue from a children’s program 'Rainbow'
- full of hilarious sexual innuendo (though some further research on this – turns out it was a parody outtake done by the actors and never actually aired, but soooo funny to watch if you are familiar with the series – outside of the UK or NZ I doubt you would have seen it though). But suddenly I remember the opening titles music the voices, the character, and suddenly I’m saying hi to the 7 year old girl that was once me. And laughing like crazy at the hilariously bawdy dialogue.

Anyway, the toy was called SIMON.
As in Simon says.
Well of COURSE! Duh!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Groundhog day!

Is a funny film, but not a great lifestyle choice. For some reason, the grindstone of daily repetition has this week, more than most, worn away my patience. No, there is a reason actually, its that ^*@!§° Phil Collins remake of Cyndie Laupers 'True Colours'. Phil Collins has a lot to answer for. My mental wellbeing since about 1988 for one. After the second time I heard it today, I launced into this post.

Anyway, generic FM is just adding another layer of repetition to my already exceedingly repetitive workday. There is also my soul-destroyingly repetitious colleague calling his mother at 11.45am on the dot every single day to re-enact the exact same conversation. I could repeat large portions of one half of it, even down to the tonality. Don't get me wrong, it's nice that he calls his mother. I just don't need to hear it.

Anyway, I move this weekend, which equals change. Apparently it's supposed to be good as a holiday. I'm sure it will be after my muscles have recovered. Thank you for listening to me whinge, that was awfully nice of you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

But seriously, I don't know how to ice skate!

Argh! I don't know how to ice skate!
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Like another Australian expat in Paris, I also enjoyed a very fine weekend, which was pleasantly punctuated by the experiencing of New and Interesting Things. Got stuck in early on Friday night with a visit to the gloriously sumptious gourmet section of Galleries Lafayette where like a bee high on nectar I buzzed between the rows of tasty exotic treats, and settled on a box of italian amaretto biscuits (I admit to being quite heavily seduced by the art nouveau decorative tin box they were in) and some maxims chocolates (again, more than a little heavily sucked in by the tin box, I need to address this box fetish!)
Saturday I left my Monsieur to his devices (packing up the apartment into boxes)and met up with Katia, who I had recently 'met' in a sense, through this new involvement I have with expat blogs (a little vortex I stumbled into quite by accident as one bloggers site was somehow linked with mine through a process I don't pretend to understand via the allconsuming book website). A pleasant afternoon was had wandering in and out of dinky shops and cafes (and once again PAST the Musee d'Orsay, rather than INTO it, something I really should have done by now)

musee d'orsay rhino
I managed to talk myself practically hoarse, and Katia tolerated it quite admirably (and my boyfriend was probably glad to see me socialising out on my own at last, as it surely meant that I might be less likely to stangle him in frustration).

Sunday night was Carnevale! in Paris, so we wandered down to the Hotel de Ville to watch the performers, clowns and drummers and jugglers and general revelry. And I got to grizzle and grumble and rant and curse that my camera wouldn't exceed its optic limitations and give me some non-blurry goods - I eschew the flash you see - even the clowns in associated picture quizzed me about it)

clowns clowning around
Hotel de Ville is also currently set up with an iceskating rink (relatively cheap ice skate hire for an unlimited time on the rink) so me, not knowing how to skate AT ALL, flapped my arms about and shrieked and clutched Ben's hand much in the manner of childbirth wide eyed and gasping 'toofasttoofasttoofast!!!!'. Mostly because I don't know how to stop (apart from falling over), and had all sorts of outlandish nightmare scenarios flashing through my brain - while I wasn't enjoying myself thoroughly! :) didn't even fall down (ok, well, I did once but somebody helped me)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Tootle, tootle, peep! Honk, beep, beep!

Sometimes, if the timing is right, I will take the bus instead of the metro for the last section of my daily commute. I much prefer the bus, there's hardly anyone in it, and I can have a nice warm seat, breathe and read whatever book I'm engrossed in (with said book at normal distance from my nose rather than pressed up against my face).
While I wait for the bus, mdway between the hellish stretch of road that links La Defense with L'Arc de Triomphe, I amuse myself watching the morning flow of vehicles where traffic merges at a horrific intersection. When I say 'merges', those cars can get themselves into such a tight crossweave that D&G could probably sew a garment out of it.
There is quite often a couple of traffic police in place to do the work that a set of traffic lights can no longer manage. I love to watch them whistling, pointing, waggling their white-gloved hands at naughty motorists. And I love to watch the motorists who, much in the way of children playing 'freeze', try and creep through unnoticed everytime the white-hands and whistles turn their backs. But they do a great job, considering the stunts drivers try and pull off even with the traffic police in full view (sometimes you've just got to give them points for sheer inventiveness).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Vitrioloic OAPs

Remember how I complain a bit of a lot about the awfulness of being a pedestrian round this part of the world...

VERSAILLES, France, Jan 30 (AFP) - A 70-year-old Frenchman was in custody Sunday after firing a handgun at two pedestrians in a Paris suburb after one of them kicked his car, police said.

The aged motorist missed both pedestrians, who noted his number plate as he sped off and alerted police. He was arrested at his home early Sunday and was due to face court within days.

The incident happened late Saturday in the western suburb of Poissy, when the driver refused to let a man cross the road in front of his car, police said.

After the frustrated pedestrian kicked the vehicle, the driver pulled out a handgun and fired at the man. When a second man approached, he too was fired upon, but the bullets went wide.

Officers said they were searching a river where the driver was believed to have thrown the weapon.

You thought I was exaggerating didn't you?

70! The guy was 70! And I have pretend fantasies about acting deaf and whacking juveniles with my cane when I'm old.