Tuesday, June 28, 2005

tripe and trivialities

Lille Horloge
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
It's been at least a week since I've had a decent nights sleep, the heat had been oppressive, and I have not stopped missing my precious overhead fans. As another Australian has been quick to clarify, it's not the HEAT that we are having trouble tolerating, it's the pollution, the reflected heat off the cement, the stale air that doesn't move. The only thing that makes air circulate in the greater Parisien region is the fumes coming out of exhausts.

So when I woke up on Thursday morning, to the sight of a pinkish brown haze out of my kitchen window, I figured a long weekend out of town might be in the best interests of my lungs.
With the heat and humidity becoming heavier, and a thickening dark cloud covering the sky in a very Mordor like fashion, we got a taste of the flipside of the heatwaves....storms. A decent tropical style storm. Except this isn't the tropics...and the water conduits are not designed for a months rainfall in 40 minutes. Roads flooded, cars became immersed up to their headlights. We were already on the way out of town when all hell broke loose. A combination of peak rainfall and peak hour. Water cascaded down stairs into metro stations. Traffic was blocked in every sense.

Well, onto the North. Where - can you believe it - it was even hotter. 41°C on Saturday. But cleaner at least.
Stayed once again at the pseudo inlaws. Lovely people, really. But Flemish down to their little meat and potato-toes. Call me finicky, but when its 36°C, give me a tomato and a carrot.Do not drown me beneath a barrage of creamy sauces, meat, potatoes and various other stodge.
One night at a restaurant - perfect occasion to order a salad, finally. Now I was the only person at the table that seemed to consider vegetables as a food group - but how did they foil my perfect enjoyment of my luscious salad? They ordered tripe that's what. THREE.OF.THEM.
Really, I'm fairly open minded when it comes to food, but I draw the line at fried pigs intestines. Well, nothing to do but smile weakly, discreetely cover my nose against the wafting sewer odours, and chomp down on my lettuce.

In pursuit of more tasteful cultural activities, we went to see the 'festival of the Giants' in Lille. Enormous wickerwork creations - every town or village has their local giant personnage, and it's a tradition dating back to the middle ages. Several times a year, they dust themselves down, and participate in any one of several regional cultural events.

But for now, back to repairing the nutritional damage of this past weekend, wait for the next set of storms (later today), and track down a nearby swimming pool.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A mind field

It was really great to switch back to speaking english for a bit. Kind of like a vacation for the brain. Rattling on at 100 miles an hour, not wondering when I'd stumble across a missing adjective, awkward sentence construction, whether that was meant to be a feminine or masculine plural (more difficult to disguise than my generic gender 'leh', which, if you say it quick enough and softly enough, can pass for either). Once you get into plural adjectives though, there's less room for bluffing.

While all of that stuff is a bit stressful for the language centre, every now and then it provides a great source of amusement - for others (it's character building to be laughed at right?) This mostly happens with words that SOUND similar, or have an english equivalent which SEEMS logical (faux amis - false friends)

Which has resulted in the following examples:

orteil - toe
ortie - nettle
As in 'toe tea is a good blood purifier'

preservatif - condom
conservateur - preservative
As in 'The amount of condoms in food is really worrying'
(note, said during a date...)

une ride - wrinkle
un rideau - curtain
As in 'we need to buy some wrinkles'

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

London Calling

Funky ride
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
So in an effort to get away from my partner for a few days, blow some cash and hang out with a girlfriend (all for the sake of boy-girl diplomatic relations...what with this heat and both of us now loitering round the apartment *teeth grinding*), I decided to take a quick jaunt over the channel and spend the weekend in London.

Ahhh, London. Where people apologise for the mere possibility that they might have almost got in your way, where drivers stop to let you cross the road even if you don't have right of way...Makes a nice change from getting perpetually whacked in the solar plexus by enormous briefcases carried by completely oblivious businessmen, and run down on pedestrian crossings when the walking man is green.

(This could be a gripey post, someone downstairs is renovating an apartment, and I've had a constant whack whack whack whack background noise all day)

London was great though, we had brilliant weather (the start of the latest heatwave), got a sunburn, burnt a hole in my wallet, visited the markets, went to Kew gardens, watched BBC, went 'how much?!' a lot, spoke nothing but english for 2 and a bit days. Lovely.

Got back, happily exhausted, only to find Ben had locked us out of the apartment (we only have one 'uncopiable' key, and the inevitable 'locking it in the apartment' finally occurred). Ideally I'd have preferred this didn't have to happen after I'd spent 8 hours on a bus though...(post travel serotonin wearing off as need for shower and bathroom facilities becomes more and more pressing).

So after a call to a locksmith, an industrial strength grinder, an annoying downstairs neighbour looking up at us through her door, window, window, door, clutching her child like WWIII was about to start (call it revenge for the number of times the little person has woken us up at 3am), a conversation with the across the hall neighbour whose boyfriend wanted to scale the wall over to our open kitchen window (ie kill himself), and about 2 hours, we finally got inside. Luckily we were able to do the standard 'the burglars tried to get in' declaration and claim it on insurance, because I don't want to scare non francophile readers into knowing how much that sort of business costs. But it's at least as much as a plane ticket to the other side of the world (always a viable plan B if you couldn't face the cost I guess).

The only other major news is that there isn't any. We're still in major indecisiveness territory about where we're going and what we're doing. Toulouse is still an idea, but so are a few other locations - including Bens hometown of Lille (which I also quite like, though the weather isn't exactly south of France). In the end, I probably will refrain from discussing anything more on the subject until we have made a firm decision.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

And finally

London Big Ben
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Off to Londonium this weekend


How many MORE of my favourite things can possibly be combined in one event? Roald Dahl, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp! Oh the torture of impending release dates.

Don't touch that, you never know where it's been

I caught a shrew!
I just thought I'd share that with everybody.
Actually, someone's pet cat caught it first. I just swooshed in to do some rescuing and exclaim over it's extreme cuteness and pointy noseness and such.

This is about as exciting for French countryside residents as saying you caught a mouse, but it was a shrew, and I'd never seen a real live shrew before.

That is all.

Monday, June 13, 2005

June in the Dunes

Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Feels like I haven't blogged for a while, nothing much to discuss recently. But this past weekend was a fun trip up to the northern coast to hang out at the seaside(ish) apartment in Merlimont (if you can't find it on a map, it's near Touquet - or Boulogne if you can't find Touquet)

After the always-fun exercise of getting Ben out of the apartment and into the car, and removing yet another parking ticket from under the windscreen wiper, and getting onto the highway, getting lost, and after the unfailing interrogation of 'did I pack this and that and the toothbrushes' (and after inevitably turning back because he's forgotten something), and geting lost again, we arrived several hours later at the little town of Merlimont
Merlimont church

(which, for all future reference, is where his parents have bought a holiday unit - in one of those detestable model village home affairs that always has an artificial lake in the middle)

We spent a large part of the time in the neighbouring town of Touquet,

a resort town that was once particularly fashionable with the English upper crust (post WWI) and has the dubious honour of being the place where PG Wodehouse was arrested by ze Germans in WWII. Nowadays it's an overpriced tourist resort whose highrise beachside apartments and nighttime flashing neon signs drown out the charming belle epoque style buildings. But it's worth a tour nevertheless.
Our night was spent enjoying a sunset
sunset from the dunes
trek along the dunes, a drink at an overpriced pub playing bad 80's music, and a meal at an overpriced restaurant serving bad italian table wine (which we sent back after failing to find any alcohol content in it whatsoever - the waiter placated us by saying it was a hit with English tourists. Lesson 1 in how to placate French diners; insult the English).

Sunday was more of the same - with more beach and dune exploring and less time in town - oh, and another parking ticket (!!) because contrary to pretty much everywhere else in the Western world, Touquet (who have decided they're not quite rich enough yet), only charge for parking ON THE WEEKENDS, and not on weekdays. And how many people - lured by icecreams and carousel music - get caught out, do you think...?

The doors

Oh, and in very mundane yet exiting news, I drove back. My first time behind the wheel in a year (!), and my first time driving on the opposite side of the road. Ben was quite calm (despite being a bit driving instructor-ish, ahem, I have been driving for longer than him, nyarnyanyar) - though driving though Paris' outer districts was a little nerve-racking, I must admit. Still, it's another step towards integration - once I start using my hasard lights as a method to override any illegal double parking manoeuvre and honking my horn at anyone who dares execute a left hand turn into a side road in front of me - even if they're indicating, then, then I'll be the real deal

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Not a lot really

It's actually been a slow few days, and I must shamefully admit I have not been profiting at all from the sunshine nor life in Paris. The thing about living so close to such a famous city is that there's something of a self-imposed 'pressure' to be constantly taking advantage of that fact. Especially when one decides to blog their adventures online...call it performance anxiety.
Even though I have been a hermit, there have been some developments in the works. To answer the Toulouse question (in case you're wondering), Monsieurs job interview didn't bear fruit - pity.
While I don't want to go too much into detail regarding his work and personal life, I will say that here in Paris he works for an IT outsourcing business (ie they post IT professionals to work on temporary projects with other companies). Lately (for the last year), he's been getting the run around - from having no work for quite a long while last year (though he still got his salary) to being posted to a real bitch of a project since January - long hours, stressful workload, no payrise, and not exactly his field of specialty either. The job was starting to have consequences with our relationship also, as the stress of the job had caused changes in his personality - changes that I was having trouble absorbing as I have my own particular issues and worries - those that come with a change of country, lifestyle and language (and limited financial freedom).
Last week he found out he was being taken off the project and replaced with someone else (as was his senior associate, who actually suffered a nervous depression during his 6 months on the job) - which has actually been a great relief for both of us. We're taking the opportunity to make a break with our life here and move to a more regional area - probably Toulouse after all, as we both liked it a lot. Monsieur might go back to studying, and as for me - I'll figure something out.

In the meantime I'm working on my 20th reiteration of my motivation letter...migrainus merdum.

Went to see Star Wars last weekend, here's what I learned;
* Wookies are from Vietnam
* The effects of the incredible instant vacuum caused by a window breaking in a spacecraft can be negated by hanging on real tight
* Darth Vader is actually a cultural metaphor for George Bush ('if you're not with me, you're against me')
* It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Disposable Society

One thing that gets on my nerves even more than those stupid appliances that are designed so that if one tiny very breakable piece actually breaks then the whole contraption is buggered and not worth or able to be repaired, is that fact that once this inevitably happens, there is often no way to 'ecologically' dispose of it.

By comparison - yesterday, on my way to do the volunteering thing, I came across a couple of shock value posters of strangled dolphins and slaughted leopards as part of a publicity campaign recently started by the Nicolas Hulot Foundation (ecologist) - to startle people into being a little less energy hungry round the house, switching off lights and fixing leaking taps and the like. So I get to stare at an an artists rendition of a dolphin on a living room floor strangled to death by an electrical cord of a light that's not been switched off, while I am crammed into an overcrowded method of public transport, which is taking me to the WWF headquarters to do volunteer work, (where I get to see one of their PAID employees casually flicking her cigarette butt onto the street), and unable to block out the sounds of the squawling baby behind me because a tiny little plastic tab off my walkman which used rechargeable batteries has snapped off, and I have to now chuck it in the bin because big business is unwilling to take responsibility for disposing of the waste it helps create.

So I damn well hope you took the effort to recycle your rubbish today. Grumble grumble. ;p

ps; June 6 is World Environment Day, Be nice!