Thursday, November 23, 2006

So, I have this crap job

We all know about it. We have all rolled our eyes as I ceaslessly whine about it. But my crap job is one thing. Finishing my crap job and then having to go on to explain to someone else how to do their crap job is more than I can be bothered with.
Enter the local post office.
I have a package, the slip of paper tells me. And because I'm irresponsable enough to have a crap job during the day and can't dally about waiting to receive packages at home, much as I'd like to, I have to move my butt down to the post office, wait in line with the creepy smelly muttering man and get it myself.
Enter the local post office clerk
'I can't find it today, you'll have to come back tomorrow'
'Well, what's the delay?' Impatient stare
'Delay?' Don't know my arse from my elbow expression
'The delay'. Jabs paper pointedly. 'This says I can pick it up today'
Looks at paper ineffectually 'Well, we don't know if it's over here or' waves absently 'over there'
'Over there' obviously being some vague cosmic dimension where parcels and socks sit about in transit.
Well, here's a clue, it's not over here is it...
'Besides, well, there's no follow on. And a 'postal parcel?', I'm not really sure what that might be...'
'At a guess I'd say it might be a PARCEL. That comes from OVERSEAS (he's actually listening with some interest at this point, almost as if he's learning something. Neurons making connections. Parcels come by the post. Genius.) 'Probably AUSTRALIA' (the mere fact that it could be from Australia and there is any possibility that it might be from my best friend and that some clueless moron is standing between me and a parcel from said best friend is making me ever so homocidal and twitchy)
Australia seems to be a clue of some sort, so I stand, drumming fingers, as waves of smelly muttering come festering through my senses, waiting for the arse and elbow man to figure it out.
But he doesn't.
I can say many positive and negative things about France. But their Post Offices suck, period.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

bookworm gossip

It was with girlish glee that I whipped the latest Susanna Clarke book off the english language section shelf at my local bookstore. And with adult cynicism that I balked at the price and put it right back. For those not in the know, she's the author responsable for the weighty tome Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell, which you've either read, think it might be a good read, heard about or are totally put out by the excessive weightiness and small printy-ness of the project (go on, read it you chicken). Anyway, it's a book I can recommend (this blogs just full of them lately) for anyone who can deal with excessive footnotes. They're good footnotes, though. There's practically another book hidden in them. It's amazing to believe it was her first work, and you get the impression of someone with a mind so ready to explode with ideas that if she doesn't get as many of them out as possible they'll be scraping her cerebellum off the paintwork.

Anyway, her latest work is 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu', and as soon as I get around to my next online shopping spree, I might be able to actually review the story, rather than its potential super-dooper qualities. 23€ for a medium sized paperback, however, is a whole other story.

The wonders of modern technology

So in todays wonderful world of advertising...a deodorant that lasts 48 hours. Either aimed at what my ex professor of botany called the 'unwashed masses' (ie anybody generally not studying science and particularly not studying botany, and more particularly arts students) or technology is getting in early for the day when the water shortage is acute enough to prevent our daily Western world ablutions. Alternate theories, anyone?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Feeling in need of a movie suggestion? Well you've come to the right place. The right place for someone who doesn't mind reading subtitles that is. And if you're one of my regulars (do I have regulars?), I know that you're that sort of person, you dear thing.
The Labyrinth of Pan is yet another amazing film to come out of the studios of Mexico (there must be something in the water over there) but the first I've seen in the fantasy genre. There are two stories happening in parallel, the gruesome reality of wartorn Spain during a civil conflict, and the (also somewhat gruesome) fantasy world of a young girl who must pass three tests to return her soul back to the fantasy world that she has been told she belongs.
The whole package is superb, and it would be a shame if it is just a small blip on the foreign film scene, competing against the schlock out of Hollywood. Check out for more info.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beer and global warming

One Welcome Week Off, and I'm floating happily in my zen bubble, 10 minutes back, and it's 'hand me the spanner Pierre, so that I may beat them all to death'. Aka life in the public service. Except it isn't exactly the public service, it's something vague like 'affiliated public servants'. Only the French could sub categorise government administrative divisions. And be earnest about it.
Did I say I wouldn't rant about work? If so, I must have been on drugs. First day back and I have no desk. Again. I should explain that I have not had a personal desk space since, well, I arrived actually, and have been instead shunted from 'oh (s)he's absent today's ' spot with my sad little intray trailing along behind me every other day. A rubber stamp. A few pens. A stapler. Bear in mind I have a 6 month contract, it's not like they hadn't been warned. Anyway, I almost had a free desk for 6 whole weeks and refused to ever move again. So they waited til I left for a week. And someone nicked Stapley. The Bastards.
So, first day back and not only is my desk gone, but so's all my stuff. No one knows where it is. Typical. But I have a sort of second home, a pseudo work area. It's upstairs. In a draughty corridor. Next to a scan machine. Pressing the green button and scanning hundreds and hundreds of dusty documents. I don't kid myself - there's so many years worth here because I'm the only sucker that they've found to do the job in years. In keeping with job thats only fit for the work experience kid allowances, I've sat by doing the odd puzzle while I wait for the machine to go through periodically painfully long reboots, or sometimes mysteriously short never know actually. Only to be told off. I flat out read a book in sheer desperation. Only to be told off. So I A discrete set of headphones, only my ears are being distracted, I don't have the aura of a person who is avoiding work. But, (and I inhale deep and calming breaths as I think to myself 'only 5 more weeks'), my ears must remain unplugged. I have been categorically informed. To listen to the glorious cacophony that is the workman on the other side of the wall with wailing buzz saws, jack hammers and an idiot who whistles while he work, but doesn't know any tunes.
Anyway, beer.
In the usual time honoured tradion of not planning anything, the day trip to Brussels involved a late start and aimless wandering around some craptacular suburbs to find a particular restaurant listed in some 'a list of good restaurants in Brussels that none of our reviewers have ever actually been to but that look ok from the outside'(that may or may not be open, and may or may not be some covert mafia headquarters). Also went to a brewery - Cantillon, the last brewery in Brussels that still relies on spontaneous fermentation to brew their beer. This was once the standing method before beer production became highly industrialised. As a consequence their beers take years, rather than weeks, to produce. While brewing would normally be underway in late October, the unseasonally mild temperatures meant a delayed start - not only for this year, but many previous years as well. During a month where I've never seen global warming discussed so frequently as a fait accompli, we were witness to yet another small consequence.
Since that warm and balmy heyday of oh, a week ago, winter seems to have recalled who's the boss (and it's not Tony Danza) and temperatures have plummeted to such an extent that Western Europe, as in the entire Western part of Europe, as in - that's a hell of a lot of countries, almost succumbed to an entire power blackout on Saturday night. As in total. I'm having trouble getting my head around that one.
Still, at least you'd have been able to see the stars...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pumpkin head

My very first attempt at carving out a pumpkin head!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


This is actually a composite shot as these statues were further away from each other than this. Part of the Lille 3000 festival at the Tripostal art centre, Lille.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

One for the visitors and expats

I visited a fantastic Mexican restaurant on Friday night, and there must have been something special in that 50 spice sauce that provoked me to write a restaurant critique, and possibly make a habit out of it if I ever figure out how to group posts by theme in the sidebar.

Boulevard Solferino in Lille is one of my favourite areas of the city, and has an abnormally high saturation of neon fronted asian restaurants but, nestled in between and Irish and a Scottish bar, is the kitschy mexican decor that screams central American themed restaurant. Truth be told, I didn't expect much from a resturant called Los Tacos (aye carumba), but the extremely pleasant owner immediately made me kick myself for not having known about this place earlier and reserved beforehand. But, despite the late night Friday crowds, he managed to squeeze us into a free spot. Feeling seriously in the mood to try something completely different to the standard fare, (Mexican or otherwise), I ordered one of their more exotic specialities, the chicken molé (as in olé), a chicken and rice dish drizzled with a serious helping of a 50 spice sauce (to whit, I can't even think of 50 spices). The first bite is kind of a maelstrom in the mouth as one's tastebuds try to go about deciphering something out of the mix. Then the taste mellows out as the mouth gives up on the challenge. Every bite is like this. And topped off with a glass of delicious Chilean merlot (I've a palate more partial to new world wines - especially Chilean) it certainly satisfied my gourmet mood.
The margaritas are a decent size and you can actually distinguish the tequila and lemons (after a recent disappointment in a vieux Lille mexican resto whose margaritas were everything that the Los Tacos version is not - except for the price. They didn't even salt the rim, hello?)But, I rarely make it to the dessert course, generally filling up on entréé and main, so no sweets to add to the mix. As we left the owner, once again making us feel especially privileged, followed us to the front door with well wishes and hopes of seeing us again soon. On the whole, restaurant owners are friendly enough - their business after all depends on a general absence of misanthropic tendencies. But this dear chap had something just a little extra in his smile and in his manner that put me very much in the mood to recommend his restaurant to others
Los Tacos
164 rue Solférino, Lille
Meals range from about 11 - 20€
booking ahead on weekend nights is advisable, we were just lucky

Saturday, October 14, 2006


A young girl sits on her fathers shoulders and watches the Indian inspired opening performance at the newly created Lille 3000 cultural festival


Opening night, Lille 3000

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bollywood comes to town

Bollywood light facade for the Lille 3000 festival

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Horse in a field

Impending storms approaching. Mont Noir, Belgium

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

tea, apples and ginger snap biscuits

Are three things I like to consume together. They also sound rather quaint when you put them all in the same sentence like that. I'm reading a book about the heritage of British food, disappearing regional specialties, canny seaweed eating sheep from Orkney, BSE and chicken tikka masala. There seems to be a certain similarity between certain dishes still current in Europe and what the Brits were eating a few generations ago. Before they got scared of germs. And started feeding meat to their cows. Be that as it may, despite the fact that you can buy a bag of powdered oats here easily enough, I can't say for sure who, aside from me and the odd Scottish expat, is actually eating them.
Monsieur has recently put in an offer for an apartment, I think that constitutes grown up news or something. We're moving in at the end of the year if all goes to plan (i.e the bank generously hands us a ball and chain to cart around). It needs some work doing, but doesn't seem to have any resident mould colonies which is quite high on my list of priorities (not damp, not damp, not frigging damp). We'll be slightly (2-3km) removed from the city centre and living in one of the nearby suburbs (Marcq en Baroeul - a name which is likely to screw up more than one of my english speaking friends when it comes time to write their Christmas cards). It's a pretty nice area with some quite amazing residential architecture. Needles to say, we are not going to be living in any examples of this amazingness. It is a first purchase, after all.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I want a bunny like this one

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm in London still

So, London. I'm still all lurgy but I'll battle through with a bit of hot lemon and honey. Just don't be surprised if the sentence constructs are a bit off.
So, as I was saying, London. I really do have a soft spot for the UK, slowly developed over many short visits. My first impression of London is quite possibly the most entertaining first impression I've ever had of a city. As I hesitantly crept out of the underground system somewhere in Hammersmith the first thing I clap my eyes on is a woman sitting spreadlegged on the footpath, torn stockings, crazy hair, talking loudly and obviously into a mobile phone. The message scrawled on a ripped off piece of cardboard in front of her reads 'I am a psychopath'. Welcome to London (though on later reflection I do wonder if it wasn't a 4 non-blondes comedy sketch)
I've found Londoners to be, on the whole, excessively polite people. With the exception of club bouncers and bus drivers. Willing to go well and truely out of their way so that you should not be put out. But then, that's just my experience. And seeing as my experiences in London include door to door scottish fishmongers, it might be exceptional. Or not.
Now I had great intentions of making it out to Portobello AND Camden Town to tour the secondhand bookstores, but hey, who am I kidding right? 4 hours, one foot cramp, 148 photos and about 4 kilos of books later I emergered hot and flustered from the portobello road markets.
The main reason for my visit this time round was for a friends 30th, but with her living in the south in zone 3 and me staying in the north in zone 6, I got to experience much of all that is truely great about the London underground transport system (seriously, you guys are going to have it fixed for the Olympics, right?). It also meant I had to cut my time at her party a bit short to catch the last tube back up to Stanmore. Remember how I said experiencing everything that is good and great about the underground transport system? (insert complete tube meltdown here). So, the only alternative rapid Plan B was taking the bus up to Westminster and running like mad to catch the last Jubilee train. You know that scene in Doctor Who, whey're they're running happily past Big Ben through the night, on some new exciting adventure quest? Well, replace the characters, replace the TARDIS with the tube and replace the impending doom of the living plastic takeover with the impending doom of having the underground grills shut in my face, and you've pretty much got it. Also replace someone who is capable of running with, well, me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Weekend in London

I have a cold, I'll talk about it later. Here's a good video though

Saturday, September 16, 2006


More bric-a-brac from the Portobello Markets, London

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Donkeys are always fun to photograph. Somewhere along the French/Belgian border.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

court métrage

A little art for the day.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Can I get through this post without saying Crikey?

Looks like not.
So I've been informed by about 17 reliable sources since 9am this morning that the trooper, the little Aussie battler and the all round annoyed the hell out of me for the most part bloke Steve Irwin (aka the Crocodile Hunter) died today. And he allegedly wasn't even physically annoying the animal in question. As you've guessed, this isn't going to be a glowing obituary. Being a bit of an Attenborough freak since the age of 5, I always found Irwins style of 'documentary' to be brash, tawdry and highly invasive for the animals in question. I also thought it sent a very sterotypic and incorrect portrait of the 'aussie bloke' to overseas viewers. And while the 'he who lives by the sword' metaphor is leaking out from my fingertips, I have to at least acknowledge that he was a Dad, and probably a good Dad, and that it's sad for kids to lose a Dad so young. I must be mellowing or something (remembers back to shrieking matches with the television every time she saw his goofy head on screen). Still, my first thought was '60 minutes are going to have a field day with this', Not that mellow.
Well, my first Braderie was an interesting experience - took some groovy pics, got shoved around by a million or so people , about half of whom had crass pseudo ethic African giraffe statues bobbing along with them in the crowd, got hit on, got treated like a no-nothing schmuck who couldn't possibly know the first thing about the fine art of being ripped off by professional secondhand dealers, bought a couple of neat things, 70's plastic orange is the new black in bric a brac land, thought about 6 times 'I should really have bought that', ate a respectable number of plates of 'moules frites' (as you must, by law, consume during a braderie under pain of permanent expulsion), decided I absolutely must own a gramophone at some point in my life, walked about 35km, got sore feet, inspected the car damage this morning (snapped off side view mirror). I think I had what you'd call a very average experience.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Toy cars

Braderie de Lille, France

Sad eyes

Braderie de Lille, France

Flemish dolls

The Braderie de Lille is a city-wide flea market that takes place every year in September. It's said to have started in the Middle ages when servants were allowed to sell their masters unwanted goods to get a little extra cash.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


It's all action in Lille at the moment. This weekend is the nationally famous 'braderie de Lille' (the city basically transforms itself into a giant open air flea market and and about 2 million people show up and expect to be fed)
Its origins lie in tradition - when servants could, once a year, sell their and their masters unwanted belongings on the streets. Nowadays it's a ramshackle mixture of made in TastelessCrap-land, pure bricabrac (ie treasure hunting) and antique dealers (fleecing punters). 200km of random stands means my sneakers and wallet should both get a workout.
And in October kicks off the anticipated 'Lille 3000' festival. A new biannual cultural festival starting this year, sort of like Adelaide Fringe festival, but with a theme - if I'm interpreting things correctly. This years theme is Bollywood and soon, very soon, there will be 12 of these 8 m high elephants to greet me every morning on my way to work.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lille 3000

In 2006, the city of Lille inaugurated a new biannual cultural festival called Lille 3000. The theme of the first year was India, and the city centre was transformed with giant elephant statues, bollywood facades and hindu gods.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

S'il pleut la Sainte Madeleine

Il pleut durant 6 semaines
According to my Almanac, the saying goes, If it rains on Sainte Madeleine (22 July - and it did), it will continue to rain for 6 weeks. Not so catchy in english, but 6 weeks of rain when you were just getting into the summer sales is never a catchy topic. Most people are resigning themselves to the fact that the 3 weeks of heatwave summer we had back in July is the sum total of whatever summer had to offer.
No great changes in the daily routine, I take my blue regional train out to work every morning, passing by the numerous little garden allotments, watching the months crops change - pumpkins are starting to make an appearance, tomatoes are still ripening despite the lack of summer warmth, the markets are full of the small producer stalls and I've been enjoying new potatoes, freshly picked green beans - so fresh that they squeak a little in your mouth when you eat them, I haven't eaten beans that fresh since I was a kid and my grandad would give us his surplus. He always had surplus. I decided to expand my mushroom repertoire last week and bought a healthy handful of girolles, because I thought the price per 100g was the price per kilo. Those mushrooms better add a couple of years onto my life at that kind of price. It's been a busy month, and I haven't had time for blogging or even much photography (bought a new camera and subsequently went into an inspiration slump), my mother visited the north for the first time in mid August, and it rained solidly. We luckily escaped the rain when we visited the very medieval city of Gent in Northern Belgium. Castles, pure Flemish architecture and omnipresent trams, it felt we were further away from France than the short 70km trip it actually is from Lille. We also finally made the effort to visit the museum of art and industry in the nearby suburb of Roubaix. Formerly a municipal pool done in pure art deco decadent style, it has since been transformed into a museum that showcases work from the general period (1920s to 1940s) as well as textiles. Most of the original structure has been left intact, including the old shower cubicles and changing rooms. And the former swimming pool is now dominated by a long shallow basin which shows off the stunning relection of the dual stained glass semicircual windows at each end to great effect.
Otherwise, time is tripping along at an alarming rate. This public servants exam I'd decided to try out back in June is zooming up at speed and I have not even vaguely begun to prepare myself, not even to the extent of figuring out what there even is to be preparing.
In other events, I temporarily inherited a cat. But the part that made it temporary was of my own choosing and I've been battling an awful lot of guilt since making that choice last night. I had offered to take the animal from a friends apartment block as it had been abandoned during the holiday period and essentially left to starve to death. I had it with me about 4 days in total but it was showing a fair amount of aggressiveness and I was having a pronouced allergic reaction to it. So I called the SPCA to come and collect it. And I've felt awful ever since. I can't even remember the last time I've felt so guilty about something. So I've been mentally beating myself up over that one a lot over the last 24 hours. And probably will for some days to come. To try and alleviate my guilt, I sent off an application form to join the Nord Nature group (local ecological group dealing with habitat, flora and fauna issues relevant to the North). Atonement through a chequebook. It's very Catholic of me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fairground ducks

Lille, France

Macro peacock feathers

A slightly different view of a peacock.

White duck in a green pond

Taken at the local zoo in Lille, France

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The museum of art and industry - Roubaix, France.

Once a municipal pool done in extravagant art-deco style, the 'piscine de Roubaix' has since been transformed into a museum although has kept many of the interior features of its former self.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A vulture's stare

A vulture surveys the world around him from atop a turret on Gravensteen castle, Ghent - Belgium.

Dancing on rooftops

Detail on a building in the Belgian city of Ghent

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Close up of the belfry in the Northern French town of Armentieres

Monday, August 07, 2006

fishing cats

fishing cats
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Todays moment of zen brought to you by my new Nikon (oh I am so showing off, but I just love this one, love it, love it love it)
Yeah, I'm kind of ripping off Jon Stewart too - he seems like the sort of guy who wouldn't mind though.

If it were any funnier, I'd be

tweaking the Turkish bunny.

The Euphemism Generator

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Turtle row

It makes for a great cliché nature shot, but these Florida turtles - generally kept as pets - are a nuisance species that have been introduced into the ponds and waterways around the Lille zoo, France

Snowy owl

I'd love to see some owls out in the wild one day.
Lille zoo, France

Red Panda

Lille zoo, France


Lille zoo, France


Lille zoo, France

Fishing cats

At the local zoo, Lille - France

Baby gibbon

Looks like he's laughing. Lille Zoo, France

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Originally uploaded by Nyx.
For anyone who isn't already in the know, I turned another year older over the weekend. For anyone who should be in the know and is staring wide eyed at the screen thinking 'oh shit, I forgot Nats birthday, again' (I threw the 'again' in for good measure, you slackers), then get those little digits moving and start writing grovelling apologetic emails. Now. Though you can finish reading this first if you like. I probably have something terribly important to say.
So, I asked the bf where madame was to be taken to drown her, celebrate the auspicious occasion
'A restaurant - On de game'
'On the Game? What kind of place is that? A sports restaurant?You're taking me to a sports restaurant?' (insert suspicious ready to be pissed off tone here)
'No, not "on the game", on-de-gem' (insert 'what are you, a moron?' look here)
Fast forward to a point in time when I can interrogate someone capable of deciphering this babble into a Flemish village called 'Hondeghem"
Oooh, riiiight...
Just wait until the day he tries to phoenetically translate 'we're going to Coober Pedy'
beur = north african
p.d = fag)

Well, because I got a digital reflex many monthly payment scheme installed to celebrate, nothing short of world war 3 is going to rate a mention. Sucked into the 'Nikon?Canon? Canon?Nikon?' quandry for the past few weeks (just tell me which one's better you bastards!) , I finally settled on a Canon. Until I changed my mind at the last minute and got a Nikon. While waiting the for the unaccountable inordinately long time it takes to get served in this country when there's actually no-one else but you waiting, I encountered another poor lost soul almost on the verge of mental collapse just waiting for someone to definitively tell him which one to buy. He latched onto my 'Well, I was GOING to get the Canon but....' comment like a prophecy from the Oracle. And was no doubt terribly pleased to hear me quote parrot like what he's been reading on countless online reviews for months now. Strangers asking me for advice. I must look grown up.

3 chats

Chocolate shop in Lille, France

Le chat bleu

The first photo I took on the day I got my new digital reflex - a Nikon D50.
Le chat bleu is a very yummy gourmet chocoate shop in Lille, France

Eternal sunshine

Building detail in the Grande Place, Lille - France

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

You know you're in France when...

A certain brand of sparkling water uses a man ironing his own penis to sell the merits of its cool and refreshing qualities.

Friday, July 21, 2006

performance anxiety

Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Hello digital internauts! Been a while, but my lazy ass bone has been playing up again. That and I have performance anxiety. Old school friends from the olden days (when everything was in black and white - just like I used to think when I was 4 - see, see how stupid the television makes you?) have been proclaiming readership, others are proclaiming to want readership, and to that end I was just thinking the other day how many english collective description words and/or titles end in 'ship' - and, y'know, why...? So to any old friends (and a new one, hi the new one) who are tuning into this's been 15 years, I'm still ranting.

So, y'know, it's been hot. And if it's not the heatwave, the hezbollah or Zidane's headbutt it's not news. And heat means a couple of major changes here in France - first is the transformation of old people into sort of geriatric houseplants (have you misted Madame Tartempion yet this morning?), the second being the bone melting epidemic amongst small dogs transforming them into a canine rag mutts. It's disturbing.

This weekend past was July the 14th, which, like most historical celebrations in any society around the world, means a chance to drink more alcohol. I went to some northern beaches in the pas de calais, soaked up the faux tudor and tacky souvenir shops, watched dogs get carried and witnessed some nightmarish toddlers face meets chocolate icecream incidents. I accidently went on a 50km bike ride - mostly because I didn't know how far I was meant to be going (distances on tourist maps with oversized local attraction icons are larger than they appear), went to a bird wetland sanctuary (daydreamed mugging the people with the severely expensive digital cameras and telescopic lenses), and went to Aqualud in Le Touquet (where I spent 3 hours thinking...'I paid HOW MUCH for this??)

Otherwise I just get the train back and forth to work everyday and spent 35 hours a week contributing to that overly complicated administrative system that the expats all violently hate. Bureaucracy is, after all, a French word (not to mention one of the bonus spelling words on the list when I was in whatever year you're in when you're 10 in your country).

Saturday, July 15, 2006


In the Parc de Marquenterre, Baie de Somme - France


In the Parc de Marquenterre, Baie de Somme - France

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fort Mahon

Canche-Authie region of the Pas de Calais, France

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

soccer saturation

Grande Place j-1
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
Y'know, there's a lot going on in this world, but nothing short of a national disater of epic proportions is going shift football/the World cup/why Zizou had a tanty off every real-time broadcast with pseudo-teleintellectuos speculating and surveying and replaying and devoting 96% of a 40 minute news program to one subject (see, I can do some bloody surveys too; 8.00pm - 8.26pm and 8.34pm - 8.40pm entirely football related. It's like they forgot there was a rest of the world out there.) Surrounded as I am, by morons, I too was dragged to a mysteriously-hiked-up-their-drink-prices bar to watch people yelling at a tv screen for over 2 very long hours...on some level, I can still argue that I'm just participating in some kind of cultural field trip, just with more alcohol. Soccer can transform a town like no other sport I've seen - I've seen it turn London into a flag parade, Amsterdam into a ghost town for 90 minutes on a Saturday night, and the Lille grande place into an open air party. So here I am, jotting down pointed observations in my imaginary moleskin as I watched the crowds silently file their way out of the bars to go home and puzzle over why so few euros rested in their pockets, flags refurled, red, white and blue body paint trickling down into their shirt collars. And philosophically ponder to myself...meh, nyer, whatever.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Encore un truc

Just the one. Let's not get carried away. But now that I'm back in the employment fold, I'm reminded how much this habit irks me.
So standard work greetings in this part of the world are either a handshake or a cheek kiss (confound them at your peril). This habit, in itself, I'm quite ok with - having been semi-regularly exposed to the greeting system à la française since my childhood.
No, what does bug me beyond measure (apart from people whose head and legs are not necessarily pointed in the same direction when they're moving into my impact zone vicinity)
What DOES bug me beyond measure is the French version where the hand and the head are not pointed in the same direction during the workplace greeting rounds. So, you guys initiated this custom, right? Follow the damn thing through already and just LOOK at me when you're shaking my hand. A micro-second of acknowledgement is all I'm asking for here.

And if I'd met a carpenter instead?

Go out with an IT type lad, and his version of reality is that his spectacularly lucky girlfriend (or hey, let's be more open minded in honour of gay pride that I recall as having supposed to have happened sometime. Recently. This Year. I think....and call them a - partner) has hot and cold running access to superior computer technology, faster, stronger, better and constantly updated software. Now - there's the key phrase that is the bane of my existence...constant updates.
Constant updates translates to your online password to about a squillion sites being consistently wiped and I can't even begin to count how many bookmarked pages I've lost even AFTER I realised that there's a better way (delicious serving as nothing more than a replacement online toolbar that won't get wiped every other week) , there are still a bunch of temporary 'I'll check back on those later' that get swept under the cyber rug, how many online passwords I lose, then forget, then have to reapply for, then lose, then forget, then...including delicious, now that I think about it.
Constant updates translates to just when you think you've figured out where everything is, it gets moved/reconfigured/uninstalled/or just plain wiped. Unless it's his. It's always reinstalled if it's his.
Constant updates translates to 'whoops I just overwrote all your documents and photos by accident. Sorry'
OK, so I DO back up (hell, I was at uni for 7 years, I'd never have passed if I didn't back up, with 'the computer ate it' replacing 'the dog ate it' as number 1 most frequent excuse. In my case it actually was true. Re the computer, not the dog. I never really had a dog). But I, being a proud and robust techno-peasant, do not back up nearly as often as the meddling cyber geek plots opportunities for my 0101101 numeric destruction.
You know when you were a kid and you got your hands on that first bit of electronic equipment (in my case a portable am radio) and a screwdriver and you went 'hmmm, let's see now', and it was never quite right after?
Need I say more?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

tower and bridge

Two photos stiched together using the most basic software there is. I just got lucky.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Happy Day!

Some British toff (that's Brit slang for scholar type person innit) has calculated that today - the 23rd of June - is the happiest day of the year (based on a bunch of factors including sunlight, and only applicable in the Northern Hemisphere I imagine), but then the reverse 'sad day' wouldn't necessarily apply for every Southern Hemisphere country because it's set at January 23rd, but then January 26th is a public holiday in Australia, so Australia Day could well be put forward as that nations happiest day, right? Anyway, if anyone else comes up with the idea, remember that you heard it here first* and that should give me the right to sue them or something.
And I'll have you know that I spent this allegedly monumentously joyous day on active mould duty as this apartment (told you I'd complain about it eventually) tries to pass itself off as The Best Little Sporehouse in Texas. Ugh.
I have work again, starting in July. So that should keep me out of mischief for the next 6 months or so. It's in the nearby town of Armentières, an interesting little town. Visually. I wouldn't want to live there. It's like a town whose glory days have passed, the grand edifices that marked when it was more vibrant, more active have been boarded up and abandoned, but not torn down. Like they're just waiting for the day they can be opened up, dusted down and live again. In other words, it's a shithole.
But the run-down look is pretty common in the Nord generally I guess. It used to be a mining and textile region, but coal mining went out of style, and - like many areas in France - good quality textiles became a thing of the past. So the factories closed, and the slag heaps grew green and sometimes became little ecological zones of interest.
The Nord has had to branch out in alternative areas to compensate, and health, technology and research have filled in the void to a significant degree. I hope though, that should the region ever rediscover its former prosperity, and a use for some of those old buildings, that they'll be kept as part of the local patrimony.

*Austalia Day, Australia's Happiest Day TM

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

my aches have aches

It's crazy how a really long stretch of sitting around can leave you feeling like you've done a couple of turns in a tumble drier.
So, obviously I'm home. For those of you who didn't twig that I'd left, well, I left, and now I'm home. I had an awful trip back. Awful. I met the Winner of 'My most annoying travel plane seat neighbour. Ever' on the Darwin Bombay/Mumbai section(I was in high school during the fall of the USSR, surely that exempts me from having to learn the changing name of any more cities/countries?). I met the second runner up on the Mumbai-London leg. Karma just never gives me a break. I should probably never go to India.
Introducing our winner - an incessant chatterer with 2 like-minded 6 year olds and overly developed magpie tendencies, collecting as much as possible of every object possible on the plane in the 8 hours available to her. Including a lot of my seat space, not to mention making overt advances towards adding my pillow to her rapidly expanding collection. And consistently breaching my personal taboo of 'never talk to me while I'm watching wildlife documentaries. Ever. Especially David Attenborough. Unless you want me to gind me teeth at you and start twitching'. I mean, the overt wearing of headphones HAS to be a pretty big clue too, right? Well, obviously not, because our runner up - the old fart from hell - didn't quite get that I might not want to be asked questions every 5 minutes after not having slept for about 24hours. Especially when the questions were upwards of 50% in Hindi. Even when I told him. Repeatedly. Including requests that he stop ramming his twice-the-legal-size-limit suitcase pointy legs into my ribs (oh, that might explain some of the aches actually).
God grant me an eject seat button and beware of overhead storage cabins. Maybe he was the most annoying after all. They both managed to get entirely different flight crews on entirely different flights tetchy enough to want to hiff them out the airlock. It's not only that I'm just intolerant.
So I get home to an empty fridge AND one less bottle of champagne. It was the Moët. The bf is, frankly, lucky to be alive. I think he is under the impression that having bought a new car last fortnight absolves him of pretty much everything, somehow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Technology's great

That is, when it's not transforming you into a shrieking banshee of rage and despair, of course...
I got an iPod! Yes, I have finally joined the apple generation thanks to an old dear friend of mine (a lot dearer since he gave me an iPod) who was offloading his iPOd mini since he's upgraded (it has a battery glitch, but it seems to be going ok for the moment). So you've been warned. This is what I have learned. If I support you for a good decade of changing hairstyles, partners, sexual orientation, clothes (which are sometimes mine) and coffee, then I expect a technological offering at some point
Well, my ever shortening stay in the land of Oz is drawing to a close. As always it has made me laugh, made me cringe, made me nostalgic, made me yell at the television a lot (yes, thinking about not pumping raw sewage into the harbour MIGHT be an idea to start thinking about - Hello! Darwin Council? ARE YOU PAYING ANY ATTENTION?!). I've caught up with most all the people I wanted to see, and haven't run into anyone I really didn't. Really. Didn't. I've played tourist, I've played local, I've played outback delivery driver girl. I am - like many politicians up here - wearing many different hats. But now I'll put my beret back on...

Friday, June 09, 2006


A lot of old cars get dumped out in the bush in the remoter areas of Australia. I liked the grass growing through the motor of this one.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Through tourists eyes

Metal flowers
Originally uploaded by Nyx.

Want a tip on how to fix a recurring lens jam problem? Drop your camera onto the street. Really hard. If that didn't work, then what are you stupid? Why would you voluntarily drop your fragile bit of electronics onto tarmac?
Anyway, Temporary Techniques For Startling Your Camera Into Working Properly tips aside, I think I have to face the fact that my camera is getting old and weary, and my constant habit of shoving it into my handbag sans protective covering to let it fight it out with other accesories has taken its toll on the lens mechanism. I hope it'll stand up to the next two weeks as I've been viewing the Darwin and NT landscape with a new 'tourists' eye, where mounted buffalo heads in pubs, beat up 70s Holdens and heck, even Red Rooster fried chicken signs become potential fodder for the lens. I can even understand why people might like to photograph road trains.
One thing I have noticed is the modern architecture in the city centre, having being (mostly) faced with centuries-old buildings for the last couple of years. Posting online is time consuming, I'd forgotten how painfully long everything takes with dial-up.
I'd write more, but I've been forced into slave labour by my father, as usual.

Some local news: they're seriously considering heating up the local pools up here because 'nobody goes' in the dry season (ie now). Heated pools, in the tropics...
If I find out they're thinking of using anything but solar power to do it I may burst a blood vessel
Because all the talk hereabouts is about nuclear...and 'going nuclear' and building nuclear. And why? Because dear George 'nucular' W., clearly having heard some vague rumour about excessive fossil fuel consumption or some rubbish, thinks the solution lies this way. And here, in Australia, despite all this bloody sun just gadding about and sunburning the country, despite having a population 1/10th size of the US, whatever George can do, Australia should do too!

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Taken at a plant nursery. Darwin, Australia

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sunset in Darwin

Darwin, Australia is my home town and I think it has the nicest sunsets in the world.

Monday, May 29, 2006

oh, that's more like it...

oh, that's more like it...
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
I'm eating a Tim Tam, it's pretty good.
I've been back about 4 days now, slowly getting back into the rhythm of the tropical lifestyle and changed time zone. Mostly recovered but still getting up insanely early. But that's also partly because around the equator the sun has pretty much only 2 states - set and up. The intermediate dawn business lasts about 10 minutes.
I had this whole plan sorted out in my head whereby I would notice things, and remark on these fantastic differences that I'd never realised and that I'd be very philosophical and wise about it. Essentially it boils down to; it's not as cheap as I remember, what passes for commercial journalism is worse than I remember and the fashion police need to pay this town a visit. Seriously. Otherwise it's like I left yesterday.
But what I had forgotten are the lovely delicious smells of just about everything - satays cooking at the morning markets, heavy frangipani flower smells at sunset, the sea, bushfires, small animals rotting in the heat... (just thought I'd throw that it because that's exactly what nature did while I was whimsically sniffing down at the foreshore during this mornings bike ride)
But I just missed guava season by about 2 weeks. I'm pretty irked about that.