Friday, October 28, 2005

It took how long??

Oh yeah, I saw this last week. Hi-freaking-larious. Seriously. It's crazy how much they make me laugh. Remember, during the giggles, that they shot an average of about 10 seconds a day in the making of this film.

It was a toss up between the Japanese and the Russian publicity poster. Russia won.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

queue DNA

I'd love to know what's lacking in the DNA sequence of the average Parisien (yes, I'm complaining again, call it a hobby)that renders them totally incapable of possibly, just once, waiting for their turn. If one more person pushes in front of me in a line, especially when they get between a starving me and a tasty hot waffle (actually, it might've been bland and disgusting, in my experience they lose any capacity to make a good waffle otside of the country formerly known as Flanders)then my grinding teeth might finally crack, that throbbing vein in my temple might finally burst. And, dammit, I might just actually say something. Gosh darn it. I might just say 'excuse me, but I was next in line'. I'm warning you. Look out. Just, look out.

The heatings on the blink again, so thank god for global warming eh? And I think our hot water time has been shortened by another minute. Frankly I don't think they'll be satisfied until we've forked out at least 5 000 euros just so they can leave us with a gas heating system that no longer actually supplies hot water or heat.

I'll deal with it when I get back from Bretagne, I presently lack the mental strength to deal with it messieurs-dames.

Monday, October 24, 2005

All I want for Christmas

Is a cattleprod.
I know, I’m getting in early on my Christmas wishlist, but a cattleprod – used as it is currently and indiscriminately on zapping poor cows, instead of as it should be ; on zapping pesky humans – is just what I need.
I could go on at some length about the number of people that need a bit of zaaaap !ing at this moment in time. I expect I shall. First on today’s candidate list is my boyfriend – who I don’t grizzle about much (even though he deserves no less). But today he’s getting grizzled about. And my aren’t I happy that he’s not particularly capable of reading this blog. But frankly, unless he gets back to doing more productive things with his weekend (namely, entertaining ME), and stops whittling away the entire two days glued to whatever bloody goddamn computer game he absolutely must finish honest-I’ll-only-be-a-little-bit-longer before he can concentrate on the real world long enough to say, do the dishes or something, then he’s going to feel the zappy steel pretty soon. One thing I would like him to be honestly-finished-with-soon is the damn ferret cage he started on about 2 months ago. Yes you read me right, a ferret cage. Because one day he decided that he absolutely must get a pet ferret. Which would have been fine as far as half-arsed ideas go if he hadn’t got around to building a cage shell before he got distracted by another half arsed idea. Consequently, we have sacrificed a half metre square out of our not so very grand total of 44m2 for an imaginary pet. That’s a little more than I’m willing to share.

Second on the list of he-who-should-be-prodded is the gas heater repair guy (who, during the process of robbing us blind decided to have a dig at those sneaky embezzling Jews, but managed to annoyingly stay just within the borders of actual racist slur, so the best one could do was to sit and wait to pounce saying ‘hmmm, really ?...riiiight’ until that very moment – which he craftily avoided – that one toe goes over the racist slur line). Anyway, if you haven’t been reading this blog like, since, forever (and why haven’t you ?) you’d know we have an on-again, off-again love affair with a lousy gas heater and a lousy gas heater repair guy. Well, we had a quote to get mud shifted out of the pipes, and an appointment was made. Within about 3 minutes he was trying, once again, to get us to buy a new radiator rather than repair this one. The main problem here is that a) new radiators cost about 2,000 euros, b) the landlord is in South Africa. And c) I’m not willing to make that kind of decision for anybody. What ensued was a totally unnecessary telephone triangle while we sorted this out. Eventually the repairman’s boss yelled at him over the phone to just do the bloody work he’d quoted for and stop pissing about. Which was better than paying 2,000 euros, not to mention much more fun to listen to. Because my stupid boyfriend decided to take the quote WITH him to work, and accidentally on purpose delayed coming home so he wouldn’t have to speak to the repair guy, we got overcharged. The heating is sort of working now, but it’s still being quite temperamental. Much like me.

Third on my list is everyone who frequents my local post office. Without actual lane markings the French, it seems, are totally incapable of forming an orderly queue to save themselves. This, coupled with the fact that our local post office is only ever staffed by a maximum of one an a half people at any one time, means I have already managed to lose 3 years of my life waiting in a post office melee - especially interesting when I've only lived in the area for 7 months. The whole crowd dynamic in our post office seems to go like this;

*Only two out of the maximum 3 booths are ever open. No matter how large the customer crowd is

*Both booths are filled, one seems to move along relatively quickly, the other seems to always have a person with some unimaginably long problem to sort out. The staff member doing the sorting is generally on the point of having a nervous breakdown

* The rapidly moving booth closes temporarily for no apparent reason. The sign thanks us for our understanding.
(This is a fundamental difference between English and French cultures. English culture apologises for the inconvenience - French culture thanks you for your understanding. Which assumes a lot.)

*The "queue" starts well back from the booths, and works for about 4 or 5 people before degenerating into a rugby scrum that looks something like a herd of sheep bunched up at the back of a paddock (I think my Kiwi genes just showed through there).

*As slices of my existence are consumed whole, individuals advance to be served, but the queue doesn't. You see, the new front of the line person never seems to think that MOVING FORWARD might be a good idea. This continues until you have a vast empty expanse of floor space in front of the booths, the herd of sheep are still bleating at the back, and the crowd extends out onto the footpath.

In case you were ever thinking that I don't write to you often enough...

The final prodding candidates are, of course, everybody else (except for you, I probably like you a lot) - the pushy public transport users, maniac drivers, diagonal pavement walkers (you know the ones, walking slightly slower than you, so you're gearing up to do a pavement overtake but during the time you've been catching up to pass them on the empty side of the pavement, they've managed to sneakily veer across to your side just in time to totally block your path as you're about to pass, old people are spectaclarly good at it), people who rant incessantly on their blogs, administration etc etc etc....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Originally uploaded by Nyx.
One good thing about shrinking daylight hours, you don't have to get up at a horrific time to appreciate a good sunrise. And I certainly wasn't the only one to appreciate this one today.

Every season has its advantages, and a 4 season lifestyle is something I missed in the two season monotony of Darwin (though never experiencing cold has its good points too). The late summer transition into autumn - especially when it's a dry, sunny, mild indian summer kind of changeover, is one of my favourite parts of the year. The slight chill in the air, the smell of woodsmoke and leaves in early decomposition, chestnuts, pumpkin, figs, grapes and name but a few of the seasons ingredients. Yesterdays trip to the supermarket turned into one of those extreme overindulgence sprees faced with the enormity of choice in the fruit and veg dept. Normally I'm more prudent - no least of all because I live on the 5th floor and we have no elevator. A slight overindulgence can mean the difference between a good workout and putting your back out as you haul the caddy up the stairs

Brilliantly stupid short headline on todays Yahoo home page in the Entertainment Section regarding a possible return of that brainless series 'The Simple Life' starring the girl who shares a name with a hotel:
'Life not Dead'

Stunning sunrise

in the suburbs of Paris.

Monday, October 17, 2005

spooky old bones

Originally uploaded by Nyx.
I did fully intend to go to the markets, visit the catacombs AND take a little trip outside of ile de France this weekend. Oh well, one outta three ain't bad.
Visiting damp tunnels full of centuries old skeletons is probably not everyones idea of a great day out, but there's something I rather like about roaming about in tunnels. And if there's one thing that Paris has got a lot of, it's tunnels.
These particular tunnels were originally limestone quarries - some dating back to Roman occupation (of what was then Lutece). During the late 1700s, there were severe problems with overflowing graveyards and poor burials - especially in the region of Les Halles (once a famous marketplace, now a tragically designed commercial district). To combat the disease caused by these unsanitary conditions (becoming even more problematic during the revolution), it was decided to transfer the bodies to the former quarry sites and create mass graves.
I'm not overly squeamish when it comes to bones, skeletons, slimy toads, slithery snakes, dissections, blood and all that sort of stuff - probably my biology training shining through. There's something very anonymous about this sort of experience though. Graveyrads at least give you an indication of who each person was. Lots of plaques with short prose throughout the tour to remind you that this is the fate that awaits us all (cheerful!), and you find yourself wondering, as you looks at the rows and rows of skulls, who they were, how they lived, how they died. Though its sure that these old bones get no rest with all us tourists wandering through day after day.

Here's some other fun info about the catacombs (from Wikipedia)

* The chamber walls are full of graffiti from the 18th century onwards. In the 19th century some families even lived there.

* Victor Hugo used his knowledge about the tunnel system in his novel Les Misérables.

* During World War II, some Parisian cells of French Resistance used the tunnel system.

* The arrangement of the bones, as well as the ominous signs placed here and there, were made specifically for visitors in the 19th century.

* Burial chambers are only a small part of the full amount of galleries under Paris. The total amount of underground tunnels is more than 300 km.

* In theory, entrance to catacombs is restricted. However, enterprising souls can enter the tunnels through certain places in the sewers or the subway system, as well as through manholes in some streets.

* On rare occasions drug dealers, addicts, eccentrics and those who want to keep clandestine meetings or unusual parties frequent catacombs. Most of the explorers who visit the catacombs today are adventurers or urban explorers.

* Legally speaking, going into catacombs has been illegal since November 2, 1955. There is a 100 € fine and a special tunnel police. Some of the most dangerous places, especially in the center of the city, have been closed.

* While most unofficial visits to the quarry are safe, there are still hazards in such activities. The map of the tunnel is complex; while some of them have plaques indicated the name of the streets above, this is not the case of most, and the complexity of their layout can be perplexing. It is thus necessary to have a good map of the tunnels, and possibly the company of people who have made such trips before.

* In September 2004, a hidden chamber with a movie theater run by the Mexican Perforation group (a French artistic movement that seeks to convey their ideas in underground places) was found by the French police in the Catacombs of Paris.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I had my first real proper French job interview today. When I got my temp job I sort of had one, but I had already been referred by the recruiting agency so it was just for show really (though a lot more nerveracking than this one despite that). It's been a very tough slog through the job market this time around compared to when I first arrived here - peppered with (ahem) tempting offers to work on calldesks or doing data entry (I settled for the data entry).
I have sent cvs off to every environmental organisation I can come up with. Part B has involved sending off my resume to quite a few temping agencies, my cv looks in 100% better shape than it did a year ago and my cover letters reek professionalism and reliability. And I haven't heard a single word from anyone.
I almost had a job, a couple of weeks ago, teaching english. That fell through in the most catastrophic way possible. Which was a real shock - and a very stressful period. I could sort of see the entire thing imploding around me since the woman in charge did a 180 in her attitude towards me and NOTHING I could do was capable of changing it. Every phrase I uttered was wrong and subsequently criticised, and saying nothing was equally incorrect. By the end of 10 days my nerves were shattered and I still hadn't seen a work contract. Asking about it, and wanting to know how many hours she was thinking of giving me, only convinced her of my apparent lack of interest in the job and only in the money, and so she fired me. As it were. It was pretty much a no-win situation.
At the moment I feel like I'm existing in a void, and I'm becoming less and less sure where to turn next, what other avenues I could try, who I could speak with. I've canvassed about everyone I can possibly canvass, and I'm missing a crucial support network - the one that's there when you're totally fed up and out of ideas. In about 6 weeks I have no more unemployment benefits and I have no idea what this will mean for my daily life and my relationship if I'm still jobless. If I am even able to stay in Paris. It's not even a question of putting career-relationship in any particular order. But it's true that there is a certain element of pride involved. I have been working fairly average uninspiring jobs since I was 18 (and earlier), all with a view to 'when I finish my studies'. And I have. And I did pretty damn well at them too. If the only job that's ever going to be offered to me in this city is data entry, then there's really not much point.
I won't hear about the outcome of this interview until next week. I'm up against a lot of other applicants, and even if I am selected, there will still be a second interview to get through. But at least its nice to know that someone, somewhere, noticed my CV.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Glass Act

Chihuly at Kew - Sun
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Right, I have a confession to make. I have, in the last year or so since being in France, become a world class glass breaker. It's a nasty little secret I've been keeping to myself for a while, but after tonights latest mishap (er, and the one from two days ago) I thought it was time to come clean.
This condition has changed my life in various subtle ways. Choice of foodstuffs in glass containers is now more frequently based on the becomes-a-glass-when-its-empty factor than actual quality of product (to tell the truth, those nutella and mustard glasses are actually pretty sturdy), I find myself not minding so much that glass sets are sold in threes rather than twos or fours - I know a break will come along soon enough to even things out, I gaze longingly though shop windows at exquisite sets of coloured designer glasses, sigh sadly and move on. Whats worse is that I've had to face the fact that my disease is contagious, my boyfriend also has minor symptoms - which brings our combined average up to 2 or 3 casualties a month. I've tried alterantives - a couple of ceramic goblets, and more recently some wooden ones. The wood makes the wine taste a little strange, and one of them has tiny flaws in the grain which cause the wine to seep through, but I am content in the knowledge, as I tip the funny smelling wine to my lips and drip red wine all over my lap, that THEY WILL NOT CRACK IN THE SINK. Or maybe they will. My disease may cross all material groups for all I know. This never used to happen. I have lovely glass sets back in my stuff-in-boxes in Australia. But the longer this progresses, the more I wonder about the sense in unpacking them at all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

pigeons attacked my roses

Strange but true.
Now on the hunt for a psycho pigeon-killing cat.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Customer relations

While the French are very good at…well, let’s take ‘making stuff’ as one example (pastries, alcohol, atomic bombs), they’re not really so good at, well, selling it. Adding to the paradox are the gleeful tourists who will nevertheless fork over wads of euros for some genuine bought in France articles (often made in Taiwan though). It’s no wonder they havent’t learned their lesson yet. My most recent experience came from todays’ shopping expedition (yes, even almost broke, I can still manage to shop – probably because I never have to buy petrol or cigarettes). Laden down with an armful of fun new autumn wardrobe articles, I politely asked the lady at the cash desk if I could lay them down on an unused side of the counter and keep browsing.
‘No. You can’t. You’ll need to hang onto them. Sorry’
(Personally I think the tacked on ‘sorry’ came in response to the ‘what reality did I just step into ?’ look I gave her).
Normally I’m used to being chased about the store with offers to liberate my puchasing hands if they spot me not weeping profusely and still actually clutching to a saleable article after exiting the change rooms. Once the hands are free, more unbought goods will magically be attracted to them. It’s one of the first basic principles of female shopping. Paris is the fashion capital of the world. EVERY SHOP SHOULD KNOW THIS RULE. Still, stopped me overspending, so I guess I can only be grateful. It’s very difficult to pick things off clothes racks when you’re already drowning under your current selection.

Which brings me to this mornings twilight zone event. My boyfriend decided to start hopping about at around 7am insisting I call our local Tribunal Office today to get an update on my French Nationality dossier, which I’d handed in sometime back in April. I don’t know what put this particular bee in his bonnet, but he was all set to call them himself if I didn’t. Not being able to adequately convince him (because I hadn't had coffee yet) of the sheer futility of attempting to converse with these people (who are not from Earth) I assured him I’d do it myself. I'm perverse like that.

Me : ‘Hi, I’m calling about my French Nationality certificate. I know you can’t transfer me to the person in that office, but I thought you might be able to give me a general idea of how long they might take to process. It’s been quite a while now’
TO : Oh, yes, they can take a long time, up to a year sometimes !
Me : ‘Gee, that IS a long time. Still, thanks for letting me know. Bye !’

Ok, sorry. This is only my fantasy daydream of how this conversation SHOULD have gone if I was not swallowed into the alternate hell-reality that is French administration (note, what follows is a very condensed version)

Me : ‘Hi, I was wondering if you could help, it’s about an application for French nationality I made a while back, I was just wondering how long it usually takes,’
TO : No, sorry, I can’t help you. You’ll need to come in and speak to the person responsable
Me : Um, yes, I realise you can’t put me through to that person by phone, but I only have the one small question – I just wanted to know how long the process generally takes.
TO : I can't put you through to that person by phone. I can’t help you, you’ll need to come in yourself.
Me : Ok, the thing is, it’s quite a long way for me to go there, and to then have to take a number and wait 45 minutes just so I can ask ONE question seems a little bit stupid to me. No offense. Do you know anyone ELSE who can help me ?
TO : Possibly xxxx. You can reach them at xxxx
Me : Right, and they’ll be able to tell me how long I can expect to wait for my paperwork
TO : (what ? Are you stupid ? tone) oh, no way. They have absolutely no idea about that sort of thing. They don’t deal with that stuff at all.
Me : o-kaaaay
TO : (pause) Was that your question ?
Me ; Well, yes.
TO : Well the length of time it takes is HUGELY variable, where you’re from etc, any delay is quite normal
Me : Is longer than 6 months normal ?
TO : Sure, it can even take up to a year.

Woohoo ! I tricked an admin helpdesk person into GIVING ME INFORMATION. Within 5 minutes too. I must be getting the hang of things !!

Note: If anyone is asking naively...'Hey, I thought she was French? What's all this about?'
a) so am I
b) Because I am only a half blood creature born outside of France, and even though I have a passport, and can work here, and pay taxes, and get social security and unemployment, I can't get a simple ID card without going through several thousand hoops. And even though a passport is just as good, you can bet that one day someone will make my life difficult because I don't have an ID card. I'm also fed up with carrying my passport around in my wallet, mostly because it'd be a pain to have to pay for a replacement if it got stolen.