Friday, April 28, 2006

Pear blossoms

In the Jardins du Vauban they cultivate a lot of heritage varieties of apples and pears. Lille, France

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

random humdrum

I had an interview for english teaching work (unusually, in English!) but didn't give me much scope for optimism. Best case scenario is that I wouldn't get any steady work before September. I have like, 1 euro in my bank account. Waiting till September isn't really an option.
But at least we did have an interesting chat about the French job market (verdict - it sucks). One big problem here is that they're really big on you being exactly qualified to do what job it is you're applying for (even to the level of admin assistant or secretary). Which is all well and good. Except for what you're qualified for doesn't have anything on offer. So you try and diversify, 'polyvalence' is the big catch-word in these parts - though I'm not convinced that employers appreciate the true meaning of the word as they seem reluctant to apply the idea of 'diverse range of experience' to 'broad range of skills'. My CV is that of a typical Australian post-grad; diverse, patchy in a couple of spots, and not a 'CDI' to show for myself. CDIs - unlimited term contracts - are the employment pot of gold in France. Those protests a while back? They were a lot of students getting scared that when they graduated there wouldn't be CDIs waiting there for them with open job security arms. I personally had some trouble wrapping my head around the concept that under 25s were clamouring for long term job security. Before even entering into the job market. Before they had families. Before they do the mid 20's finding themselves experience in India - or whatever the new India for 20 somethings to find themselves in is these days. But at the same time - finding a place to rent without a nice little CDI contract in your pocket? Not so easy...Getting a loan - for a car, for a house, idem. And what kind of place do you think the guy whose surname is Ngalo is living in? Its a nasty vicious circle that doubles as a downwards spiral when France frustratingly doesn't seem willing to adapt its labour practices to a changing job market. Dangle a 'CDI' in front of the average young Australian and their mind may start to fill with visions of '40 years of loyal service, gold watch as a retirement present and a heart attack the year after' visions. 'Course working all these issues into your average job interview isn't always so easy...

Monday, April 24, 2006


Mont Cassel
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
I remember we drove through the rather pretty town of Cassel about a year ago, and I commented that I'd like to visit again. So this Sunday we did - pity the weather didn't hold out on the 45km drive to this town on the hill (Flanders is pretty flat, the hills are few and far between - they call them 'mounts', it's cute, and optimistic) and it's well known for its 17th century windmill perched on the very hilly top of the hill. Mostly, though, we just rode around on our bikes the departemental roads getting hopelessly lost, going 'where the fuck is zeemersteenvordebrouck?'
I thought I was outta shape, but you should've heard this pug dog that some woman was dragging up the hill. I spent about 30 seconds trying to identify where the duck noises were coming from.
Oh, and I'm listening to the Shins - they're a good band. If your brain thrills to indie pop (that sort of sounds like revival 60s folk), you should give them a go.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

One of the great television mysteries of the 21st century has to be 'why was this TV series cancelled?'. Everywhere you look, same constant high DVD sales ratings, same 'WHY was this tv series cancelled? Why oh why dickhead executives?' comments from reviewers. I will add my voice to the choir - and check it out if you haven't seen it yet and you're trawling around looking for something good to watch.

Still jobhunting. Oh how it rankles. Stupid country. And what is with this mentality that english speaking people are obviously only good for teaching english...? I can't ever imagine someone in Australia saying to a qualified Chinese architect 'oh, well you could always teach Chinese'. Still, being victim to this stupid brainset, and being penniless, I have an interview with the local school of languages next week. Couldn't turn out worse than my last experience. You know what would generate employment in this country? Recruiting a few more people at the dole office who actually HELP place people in a work environment - be it training, volunteer, work experience - ANYTHING even vaguely relevant to what they want to do. To get people actually out of their house and feeling like they're contributing somehow, and making contacts and having something more interesting on their cv than blank spaces between employment periods. The local dole office - the ANPE - is the Agence Nationale Pour l'Emploi. Note that there is no 'A' that stands for 'Assistance', no matter what their happy smiling faces website may like to portray. To date I have had simply NO help from the ANPE. And I have asked. I have asked repeatedly. What they do, in essentials, is record your information on file. And this is all they really want to do. The entire appointment is highly centered on filling as many boxes on the computer file as possible, no matter how often you try and steer the conversation to subjects such as 'What I really need help with is...' And to give you a printout. How is a printout of what I already know about myself actually going to help me in my job seeking efforts? It's not like they even have dole payments to worry about - the employment and payment branches are split into 2 distinct divisions. Talk about getting your moneys worth...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

un hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps

And again
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
the saying goes - one swallow doesn't make it Spring.
But I think the one I saw really did :)
Last minute plans on Thursday
'Is it easter? This weekend? Oh, so not next weekend...Right. So what are we doing then?'


This long hoped for suggestion from my dear Monsieur (who has meant to have taken me to Etretat about 60 times since about November 2004) was more than welcome.

But I have this philosophy:

It always rains at Easter
(seriously - if you spent your life being me, it really does) -AND we're going to the coast - near Normandy (tempting fate much?)...BUT we're going to Etretat. I'll bring a brolley and see it in the rainclouds if I have to. Still, the weatherman wasn't giving me much cause for hope.

But lo and behold - last minute bookings were fruitful (a friend of a friend told us about this little place, in this little village - and no, I'm not telling - if I tell, the next time we make a last minute reservation we WON'T get that cute little room with the balcony and ocean views...) and the weather turned on some spring charm. No traffic jams (the Lille-Normandy traffic is much more reasonable) and a weekend of fresh ocean air, wandering around spectacular scenery and hanging out in the most peaceful, quaint authentic villages that France could offer. As far as minibreaks go - it was just....perfect.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Normandy, France


Normandy, France

Dieppe Marina

Beautiful light on an early spring day in Dieppe, Seine Maritime - France

Sunday, April 16, 2006

La Salamandre

A restaurant in the village of Etretat. Normandy, France

Monday, April 10, 2006

clang clang clang went the trolley...di 'holy crap where'd my bell go?'

I mean seriously who would steal a bike bell?
Now that spring is (allegedly) on it's way (though they had a giant snowflake where my town should be on tonights weather report. I'm hoping it'll be just the one) I've pulled the bike (and my ever expanding butt) out of winter hibernation and found it's had little banlieue rats nibbling away at it while it was stored at in the Asnieres communal courtyard. For one, someone tried to have a little chomp away at the bike lock and being too totally lame to properly steal a girls bike (with a little panier attached in front (damn, whats the english word?) they figure they'll just steal the bell). How much street cred does that get you these days? Times can't have changed that much. I knew a funky rebel German exchange student once back when I was at a more appropriate age to read Harry Potter - they stole Mercedes hood ornaments and wore them as bling bling, back when bling bling had a better name (did it ever?). But what do you do with a bike bell? Except injure a few unsuspecting pedestrians further down the line who never got to hear the 'dring dring' of the approaching bike as the rider was going 'hmm, better warn these folk I'm com - hey, where's my bike bell gone? *crash*'
Ok, no, that didn't happen.

Some things I learnt about living in Paris is that whatever it is, if it's not nailed down, someone WILL steal it. The other thing about Paris - is that even if it is nailed down, they will steal the nails. And then they will steal it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New life, enjoying following;
- I can practically leave the pot on the boil during the time it takes me to pop out and run an errand (I also frequently do this when I go for a run around the block with scissors)
- The car is currently parked about 3m from our front door.
- Residents parking fees are actually very reasonable - for any country where a garden/carpark/garage is not some kind of automatic birthright
- Bike paths, everywhere bike paths
- A very spacious UNESCO classed heritage site just a short stroll away
- The fact that I hear more birds than cars, despite being in the city centre.
- Ground floor versus 5 flights no elevator (my lazy arse is happy)
- Art nouveau architecture
- Private internal's inside, but outside
- Boyfriend cwork close by enough to come home for lunch
- People actually doing recently forgotten polite things (holding open doors, stopping at pedestrian crossings, smiling)

New life, appreciating less;
- Broke, flat broke
- Surveys
- The barrage of charity collectors - tip: avoid eye contact
(Look, it's not that I don't care about AIDS/Starvation/Cancer/Lymes disease/The clap whatever, but I've picked my charities. I give either money, my time or both. I'm sick of feeling like a heel because I can't give to EVERYBODY. Because I CAN'T GIVE TO EVERYBODY. Give me a t-shirt that says this.)

So that's it then, we're both finally 100% here in Lille.But I knew, just KNEW I could not trust him to pack the last of the stuff into the car and get himself here without some incident...apparently it wouldn't all fit. So it got left. Which is no so much an issue until you find out what got left (useful stuff) and what got brought (broken cups).

Right, I'm 30 now and I haven't figured out how what guys do when they are imitating a bit of thinking passes off as logic. Now before you xy chromosomes all start howling and baying and 'bloody woman driver'ing in my comments field, that I am not talking about male intelligence nor disparaging your very useful can opening skills and telephone inventing skills and such. I'm just talking about your day to day capacity to be incredibly thick and annoying (I bet even Einstein left his dirty socks just generally around the basket, but not IN the basket, and bellowed 'where's the butter?' at his wife, forcing her to stop whatever 13 things at once she was doing to tell him 'right in front of you dear')

Now I'm inclined to think that part of the reason it wouldn't all fit is because he packs like a monkey on crack (hmmmm, and what's in this box? A keyboard, a dirty cup, 3 spoons, a glass, socks, an empty bottle of vinegar, honey....)
And what was left? The lamp, a (slightly pricy) oil radiator, the broom, the mop, the special mop bucket, vacuum cleaner bags (really, convince me that they wouldn't fit anywhere), the new bottle of adhesive paste I'd just GIVEN him just the week before to put up a hook (and hide a paint hole in the wall...) - didn't even put the hook up AND threw away my bloody tube of paste. What's all that about eh? I remember a time a couple of years ago when I used to miss all this.