Sunday, July 31, 2005

Au secours j'ai 30 ans!

Au secours j'ai 30 ans!
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Yup, that's it. The big three oh. Had to happen eventually right? Well for me, it happened on Friday the 29th. Monsieur decided I should start my new decade half dead and with a severely sore butt, and took me horseriding in a forest by Fontainebleau. I was rather inexperienced, the horse was admirably tolerant (thanks Bill!!) and despite storm warnings, the rain held off long enough for a dry days riding. In the evening there was another surprise in store as I was treated to a dinner at Le Procope. A very stylist café with a very long history, first founded in 1686, and reported to be the oldest café in the world still operating. Originally a literary café with patrons such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Balzac,Hugo, La Fontaine, Diderot, and Benjamin Franklin. During the revolution, Robespierre, Danton and Marat used the cafe as a meeting place. This history does nothing to decrease the price of menu items, let me assure you...

Next week I shall be taking yet another mini-break and heading off to trek the Verdon in Provence, plus a quick visit to the Luberon, Camargues and Mediterranean coast. Leaving a few days after the great holiday changeover weekend should hopefully subject us to less traffic hassles. This weekend is regarded as 'black' on the colour scheme of how bad things can get on the roads, as it is known as the crossover period for the 'Julyists' (juilletistes) and the Augustians (aoûtians) - ie people who holiday in July returning, and people who holiday in August leaving. Only in France would they come up with such a naming concept!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Gold shoes, Silver Dior

High fashion in the Madeleine district of Paris.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ye Olde France

castle and clouds
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
OK, I've done a few things lately, I haven't just been slouching around like an unemployed down and out in Paris type bohemian wannabe.
Ever present on the list was the continuing visits of potential apartments to buy, ever present were the themes of good bad and ugly. Having had to reconsider his upper credit limit after visiting his bank, the Monsieur is looking at a different class of apartment now (ie the 'needs work' sort). My general feeling on this is that he's better to buy a rattier, smaller apartment in a good area (and renovate) rather than a larger, nicer apartment in the middle of WhereTheHellAmI-Ville.
Anyway, we saw a great little place that just screamed extreme bo-ho chic potential. When visiting apartments I've found I not only pay attention to the view, placement, noise (and reasons for selling), but just the unquantifiable vibe that the place gives me. Well, this place certainly needs a fair bit of renovating, but it had all the karma of an early 20th century traveller-writer den. We'll need to do some follow up analysis, so it's another wait and see situation.

Cinema-wise, we decided to take in the latest Tim Burton work - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Obviously the childhood version was an integral part of my youth cinema memory, but as I'm much more of a fan of Roald Dahl than any interpretations of his work, I wasn't feeling too leery about seeing it. Overall I liked it, I think they developed the family structure much better than the first film, there was a dash of postmodern irony, a critique on society, a healthy serving of cliché, also - the Oompa-Loopas were cool. Though they didn't really need to be as small as they were. The resultantly obvious bluescreening just detracted from the flow. There were also a few unneccesary add-in to the literary storyline, but nothing drastic.
Oh, and still on cinema talk, they've done the Hitch-Hikers Guide Film. The preview looks really good. It always makes me nervous when the preview looks good. It'd better be good dammit. I can live with Star Wars additions being crappy, but the Hitch-Hikers Guide were defining adolescent books. So I'll be most put out if they've not done them justice.

So finally, this weekend, in between the showers (don't get me started on the weather), we popped over to Burgundy (Bourgogne) to check out the chateau of Guédelon, a project that already 8 years in the making to build a 13th century castle using only the skills and technology available in the era. Already feeling like we'd taken a step back in time while trundling through the rural backwaters of the Yonne region, this just added a little extra flavour of medieval authenticity. Being as I am, in such a densely populated area now, I forget how sweet the country air smells. And despite the showers being slightly inconvenient, the smell of damp woodsmoke, damp leaf litter and clean air was worth it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

belgian beer bubble

belgian beer bubble
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Ahhhh, back from the mini break, refreshed, suffering insomnia due to 4 days of broken sleep patterns, missing 9am appointments etc...

So our little jaunt took us up to a tiny town in the Pas de Calais called Bonningues (Bonningues! C'est dingue!)
where we stayed at a friends
mothers place. Quiet (except for the roosters, kill all roosters), bucolic verdant, we set about trying to add some dischord into the harmonious countryside by a series of sun soaked party days, late night bbqs and drinking fests.
Aside from the bbqs and badminton, we also indulged in a little beach jaunt up to Wissant (does the wind EVER stop blowing on the northern coast?!?)
Wissant, as an historical aside, was the beach from where Julius Caesar launched his attack on England. The English, however, can be said to be getting their own back these days.

So in the end, though I was a bit loathe to leave, we had planned a drive up to visit some friends in Brussels - mostly to pick up a tent that we'd left at a friends house last year.

This group of people we know by a different set of circumstances, specifically via a web community. Online encounters make up a small percentage of the people I know, but I have met quite a few cool peple this way. This guy I know in Brussels constructed a Bulletin Board System Web community for francophones, which I joined up on last year a few months before leaving on my travels. My idea was that a) I'd practice french with people my own age, and b) I might also make some contacts and get some free floor space to sleep on during my backpacking (how mercenary). Both of which happened. But in constructing this website, what this guy had done was also create something of a game within it - which one wasn't necessarily obliged to play along with however. So the community actually has a system of hierarchy and power play interwoven within it. Which some people Take.Very.Seriously.

In itself it is an interesting study of human behaviour and the psychology of power, but every time I visit, my friend has a new group of young power hungry hangers on loitering around - the same story with different faces. People who will profess to be 'above' all the banal power hungry psychology, but who - in their very next breath - will extol some virtue of their individual line of online hierarchy. That said, this web community does actually have a lot of positive and interesting aspects, which is why I continue to participate...albeit sporadically.

And in the end, the tent had been commandeered by the Gods of Lost Objects, so it was a bit of a wasted trip.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

House and home

Monsieur is back on his idea of property buying in the greater Paris region. So we've done a short round of the good, the bad and the ugly these last few days. First was worst - we took a train to a very faraway suburb (Poissy) to look at a 3 bedroom unit that needed to be demolished from the floor up. Part of a system of HLM buildings (low cost housing residences), the guys mother-in-law had recently died - and no disrespect intended - looking around the state of the place, I wasn't surprised by the news. He was obviously desperate to offload the place onto a poor sucker as quickly as possible. After making the right 'hmmm, yes, interesting' noises, we immediately beat a hasty retreat and marched briskly back up the industrial scenery highway, choking on the dust thrown up by all the passing trucks. Number two was in a high rise village - round Meudon le Foret. The sheer density of high rise apartments was a bit off-putting, though the apartment itself was ok.
'So how about, instead of travelling an hour in every random direction, we concentrate on apartments in our immediate area that we can visit on foot? After all, we quite like it here, and the next door suburb is essentially devoid of high density apartments, and is quite leafy and tranquil' I suggest.

So the last apartment, less than 1km away, utterly utterly charming. I don't think you're meant to find the perfect apartment after the third try though are you?
Anyway, monsieur has 2 job interviews and two financing interviews before Wednesday, so we've decided to take it easy this weekend so he can quietly panic in peace. A proposed trip to Belgium has been postponed till next weekend and I'm just applying for jobs and planning some 'oh crap I'm turning 30!' activities for the end of this month. Thanks to Aussie Lass who put me onto a language school in Paris. There's a possibility that, if I'm still on the jobsearch in September, I may have work with them. Never underestimate the power of female networking!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Sight bites

Funny thing I saw today down in Ye Olde Red Light Districte (Pigalle). I go there every couple of weeks to have a friendly chat with the lady taking charge of my unemployment situation. When you sign up for the dole, you actually have to sign up at two places - one is the Assedic, who are responsible for the payments, the recorded telephone messages to tell you no-one is available to take your call, and the curiously lengthy delays in processing your monthly payment. The other is the ANPE, who are responsable for training, advertising work placement and personal job searching assistance (which is in turn outsourced to another service provider). Are you following? Good.
So I had the option of signing up for personal assistance, which I decided I might as well do than not, especially as the monsieur gets fidgety when I ask him to look over my application letters.

'No, you can't say that', 'What are you trying to say there? I don't understand'
'Oh I don't know, write this instead' (writes some terrifically convoluted passage)
Me: 'er, could you make it shorter and less complex?'
'I give up! I don't know, I can't tell you why you can't write it the way you did, you just can't, can I go now?'
Me: 'Can we at least finish the first paragraph?'

Anyway, I figured someone who was being paid to look at my cv wouldn't develop a sudden need to go and buy a loaf of bread in the middle of our discourse, and the meetings are actually quite cool and laid-back. Today's session, for example, was about 85% chitchat and 15% brass tacks.

Anyway, it was on my way to the red light post office that I saw this amusing transaction. I don't know why this couple caught my eye - maybe because they were speaking English. At first I thought this guy was being led around by a friend who knew the area. Then;
Lady: 'Let's just stop at this club for a minute'
Gent: 'Ummm, well, I'm not really sure'
Lady: 'Don't worry, just for a minute ok?' *Handshake* Look I guarantee you it's fine, we'll just quickly stop here'
Gent: (famous last words) 'ok, but I'm not spending any money'
(Look up: Peep show/ Live Acts/ Kiss your cash goodbye)
Yeah, you show her who's boss tough guy! Ha! I laughed so loud I inadvertently caught the attention of a magnet (you know, the ones that try and draw you into their establishment) - and had to quickly readjust my 'do not mess with me or I will poke you in the eye' makeup.

So this other strange thing I saw, I was walking past a shop on one of my local street when I spied with my little eye, something beginning with 'that's one of my photographs'
The local Kodak guy, doing a bit of 'get your digital camera shots developed here' advertisment had 'borrowed' FOUR

of my pictures (out of a total of five) for his flyer. First off it caught me by surprise, seeing my pictures unexpectedly like that, and I popped in to say 'hey, these are my pictures!'. Though after getting home I did ponder more over the fact that each of those pictures is copyrighted on Flickr, and technically he's taken these pictures without permission and is using them for commercial purposes. But on the other hand it's only a small business and I get my pictures developed there.

So I'm not totally sure about what to do about it - I decided perhaps the next time I go in that I'll let him know that he's used copyrighted images, and to ask permission next time - and to get his assurance not to distribute the images either.

Speaking of disregarding legal responsibility, some moron broke my mobile phone - not actually mine, a friends that was loaned to me that I had intended to return this weekend. It was a Saint Ouen flea market salesmen (I was buying a battery) who dropped it on the pavers, and it's been acting up ever since (and the markets are only open on weekends, and a full of notorious ripoff merchants and 'fell off the truck' salesmen). Between people ripping off my photos, breaking my phone, and the next door cybercafé sleaze who tried to get my phone number when I went to print up my cv, made me wait 20 minutes for a free computer and didn't bother to inform me that his printer had no ink....I'm staring to wear my molars out. Fixed the printer problem buy yelling at my boyfriend ('How am I expected to work under these conditions?!?' ....'er, let's go buy a printer shall we?'), the phone by switching batteries (ingenius), and I'll book a dental appointement next week...