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.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tropical coastline

Along the foreshore in Darwin, Australia


This was taken when I was still using a 2meg 3x optical point and shoot, back before I got myself a digital reflex, so I was lucky that the dragonfly wasn't interested in moving from his spot. Darwin, Australia

Sunday, May 21, 2006

of broken glasses and, well, more broken glasses

Thats it, next big party everyone gets spillproof plastic baby trainer cups. And maybe bibs. And maybe straitjackets as well.
Aside from that severe dent into our beer glass collection, and a couple of bloodstained teatowels, everything went quite well for the housewarming. No emergency trips to ER (tough if that cut had been about half a centimetre deeper and a bit to the left, there might well have been), no complaints from our neighbours and no police turning up in response to noise complaints and confiscation of various illicit substances. So, quite tame in comparison to a lot of parties I've participated in really...Of course, there's a large gap between being 20 and at someones parents house and being 30 and being at your own place trying to protect the wrestling apes from knocking over your crockery cupboard. More is represented in that time that just 10 years. Though though those 10 years might have passed by the unnamed invité who made a total nuisance of himself while we're trying to patch up someones injured hand, dropped the beer bottle he was waving around in an attempt to create a few more glass related accidents (note - dropped the bottle NEXT to the people who were performing a little home ER), and then swiped a bottle of vodka that someone else had left for us before leaving. A certain someone really needs a refresher course on party etiquette.

Friday, May 19, 2006

At a Dresden Dolls concert

At a Dresden Dolls concert
Originally uploaded by Nyx.
This is one of the few pictures that actually worked out from the concert. I was limited to using my boyfriends digital camera, whose settings still remain a mystery. My own camera was confiscated at the door for collection after the show, but luckily they didn't suspect that I might have TWO, yes twoooo, cameras in my bag. I took the Monsieurs as a spare as mine's been on some pretty shaky legs for a while now, noise distorted images and recurring lens jams. The non use of cameras at concerts seems to be a standard fnac (ticketing agent and media department store over here) policy rather than anything requested by the groups themselves. And considering the number of mobile phones that can take a fairly decent picture these days, I don't actually see the point.
Anyway, the concert was great, the support act was Devotchka, whose music I really appreciated. Bought one of their albums at the end and had a chat with the singer - nice guy. The Dresden Dolls themselves put on a good show, energetic, laid back. The gig was pretty small and cosy.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to get an equivalence for my Masters all typed up in French with a happy friendly letter from the Ministry of Education all before Tuesday. Because I'm curious to see how badly I could muck up a public servants entrance exam later this year. That is, if they accept my candidature. If you've been paying attention re France and anything paperwork related, you should come up with a decent guess about how many phonecalls to different services I've had to make up till now...My Mum, after practically half her life in an english speaking country, still does not like to communicate over the phone in english. If only I had that luxury. Phone numbers, especially, can be tricky. The bulk of my french generally doesn't require much active thought. I still muck up the odd gender, but unless its a particularly complex verb conjugation or any number between 70 and 99, it generally trickles through the language centre ok.
For anyone not familiar with the french numerical system, almost all the groups of tens get their own name up until 69. Then the compounding begins. So 70 becomes, literally, sixty-ten, sixty eleven etc, 80 becomes "four-twenty", 90 becomes "four twenty ten", and considering the teens are already compound number names to start with, 99 becomes "four twenty ten nine". I should just pretend to be Belgian...septante, nonante...(though curiously no 'octante')

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Current view of our internal courtyard - it's coming along gradually, and has finally evolved beyind the the three primary colours of green, putty and cement by some orange marigolds and an ornamental kumquat given to us as a housewarming present by the pseudo sister in law. Crossing fingers that it doesn't turn up its leaves and die within the first month. Considering my criminal track record with nursery plants that are any older than 6 months and retail for anything over 20 euros (just ask my recently departed ficus). It's only because they load them up with chemicals and grow them in perfect hermetically sealed greenhouses (ie their 'ideal growing environment' or some such rubbish), so that the minute you put them into the real growing world (where they might get too over or under enthusiastically watered, the pollution diluted stuff filtering through the dirty window doesn't actually count as light, and there's dust clogging up their stomatas), they just go and die ungratefully on you.
Anyway, phase two will be some hanging wall mosaics. I've even come up with a preliminary sketch and colour design. Now all I need is to learn how to do mosaics. It's called prioritising. Watch and learn. MOstly I'm just looking forward to smashing crockery with intent.
Going to a Dresden Dolls concert tomorrow night Seeing as I think they're pretty good. And seeing as they've very courteously decided to play in a nearby town (well, technically it's another town, but it still considered as part of the Greater Lille Metropolitan Region). In fact this entire region seems to spend most of its time trying to be part another region at all levels. First you've got the very finite defined borders of the town, which seems to melt into the Lille Metropole, whilch in turn melts into the nord - but not just the nord, because they tack on the 'pas de calais' as well. And then Picardie likes to get in on the act. And then there's the whole Flanders business extending off to the north east. And THEN it's part of the larger Belgian-English-French Euroregion. I'll leave it there. Mostly because I was talking about a concert.
This upcoming weekend will also be a much delayed housewarming party (mostly delayed because we had to wait until we had a decent number of chairs to offer people and a kitchen set up to provide for ther culinary entertainment). Speaking of culinary entertainment - despite my 'how do I cook for 6 people in a mini stove' misgivings, a 2kg chicken CAN be made to squeeze into a 12L oven, accompaniments including my dear grans delicious coquille st jacques recipe (which I actually made into food, I didn't just hand them picture cards and ask them all to imagine real hard), steamed beans, new potatoes, strawberry parfaits and a cheese and cherry platter. Because it's cherry season now. Happy joyful cherry season.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday, I'm in Lille

and definitely not in love with anyone or anything, not even the weather which I am braving (stupidly) without sunglasses, and wearing totally the wrong shoes which I need to unlace, take off, put back on, relace, idem the pants, unzip, peel off, sob at pasty white wobbly legs in mirror, put on, rezip as I desperately lurch from one stretch cotton mecca to another, and dying of heatstoke and ignoring a rapidly increasing thirst in search of A Pair of Jeans that Fits and Does Not look Like it's from the 80's. And try not to get distrac - ooo, that's a pretty top - by the fashion pitfalls along the way. Mission:Impossible is finding a pair of jeans, and if I get dehydrated and faint from lack of food and too much walking along the way, well, that just might make the difference between the zipper closing and not.
Hell, no, who am I kidding?
Some French woman wrote a book for Fat Anglo-Saxons a while back called 'French women Don't get Fat*' (which is obviously a patent lie, but she did get away with it, so kudos to her I say). A more correct title would have of course been 'Fewer French Women Get Fat, Would you like to know Why?' Or more recently revised in my head as of today , 'French Women aren't Allowed to Get Fat because the Average Dress Size in the Fashion Stores Doesn't Allow for it'.
While the average dress size in most Australian Stores is somewhere around a 14 (Which is supposed to be a UK 12, or a French 44, but in France dimensions a 44 frankly seems more like a AUS 12, which would be a UK 10, and don't ask me to convert that into American because I'm not even sure that what I've said so far is correct), in France (still with me?) the average seems to be about a 40, which is not, as direct conversion would lead you to believe a size 10 but more resembles a size 8. On a good day. And if I hear one more overly tanned womans(How, already? How?) airy 'no, the 38 is too large, get a 36' I will smother them with the pile of jeans I'm heaving round the shop.**
If you are a boy, and can read, you probably didn't find this post very interesting. But then the fact that I can't get a decent pair of jeans is somehow your fault I'll bet anyway, and if it's not then it should be. Because I need some scapegoats. And I'm not getting chocolate involved in this, we go back a long way, me and chocolate.

* Actually, I've got nothing really much to say against the book, it's all about joie de vivre and drinking water and not stuffing yourself and not eating junk, and all that standard boring common sense.

** I did finally find a pair. Don't fret. They are too big. But I am well beyond caring.
Whatever puny literary talent I have has been squished into the verbal mud by about a third of a bottle of 50 proof rum.
Don't drink a third of a bottle of 50 proof rum on an empty stomach boys and girls, it can lead to loss of all temporal bearings. Yesterday I thought it was Tuesday, though I have since been reliably informed that tomorrow is in fact the weekend, and that we have planned a dinner party and everything. Still, at least I didn't drink and blog, that could've been messy.
As a side note, I don't know how I'm going to prepare a meal for 6 people using the micro-oven and 2 hotplate setup we've got. But I'll think of something.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


He answered back! The incompetent jerk answered back! 'taking issue' with my complaint (mind you I'm willing to wager he spend more time on the email than he did on the actual phone call). Not only was he an incompetent jerk, but it turns out he never even gave me the right information, because I DON'T need an emergency Australian passport (mine's sort of expired) but I CAN get an online travel visa - at half the price - using my French passport (my parents found some more competent people to speak with in Australia). The incompetent jerk told me I couldn't get a visa using my French passport. What an incompetent jerk!
(You know, part of me wants to answer back again, but partly I'm worried that it will degenerate into some immature slander match, and partly I'm afraid that they can get me blacklisted or something. My email address doesn't exactly do much to hide my identity. And it's not like I can take my business elsewhere - except maybe to the New Zealand embassy)

stupid things you do to fill in the slow bits of your life

Like downloading 'what star do I look like' software.
We got a bit excited at first, it seemed to pretty much set on me looking most like Gillian Anderson (every thinking male cyber geek sci fi buff fantasy girl, I should be so lucky right..?) and the Monsieur came up looking like Liam Neeson. Could be worse.
So then we plugged in a portrait of his dog. Because this is logically what you're going to do next, of course. And it thought his dog looked like Liam too. Now I've often noted a slight resemblence between them (my boyfriend and his dog, I can't say the Liam-boyfriend connection had ever struck me much). So Liam is possibly the missing link between them. (Now there's a dinner party I'd like to be at). So we're starting to lose confidence in this fantastic new e-toy riddled with adware, especially when one of our friends came out looking like Stephen Dorff. What with the friend being originally from Benin and all...

Moving along - before I go and attempt to actually try and get some sleep tonight (after last nights washout). I'm picking up my continuing saga here - the one where I use this blog to list every single incompetent person/group/mail correspondance I've ever received. Next, is one of the temping agencies I’m registered with. Have I done a temping agency yet? Not only have they stopped calling me about anything work related, (since I refused a placement for a permanent contract for a logistics company a couple of months back, not sure if that’s cause and effect or if I’m just paranoid) but they’re incessantly bugging me about what my exact personal details and situation are while maintaining the employment telephone silence. It started about a month back when they absolutely urgently needed a copy of my last work contract - the one that they had sent me to start with. So I decide to take a copy of my updated cv with me at the same time. And grovel a little. About how I REALLLLLY need a job right now. Expand the search. Get out the radar. Cross reference. Ignore salary pretentions. Just give me something here...Except, obviously, a permanent contract working for a logistics company. And the girl said she make a note of it on my profile. Whether this means she wrote ‘Desperate, Do not call under any circumstances’, in big red felt pen, or she just utterly forgot about it is not mine to guess. But I got a call about 3 weeks later, asking if I was still available.
Yes, totally!
Ok, well, that’s all we need to know
(Update, wrote ‘Desperate, Do not call under any circumstances unless to torment for some Friday afternoon amusement’ in big red felt pen)
And then they did not have my new address. Even though it’s on the updated CV I gave them. And even though I’d already advised them of my change of address about 6 weeks before.
And today I am being pestered by repeated sms' to get my email details. Which I refuse to answer. Because they have it. Written just underneath my address. On the CV I gave them. Possibly the red marker is obscuring everything.

But I felt much better after writing a haughty email of complaint to the embassy.
You see, for the next 2 weeks, I really am not going to have very much to do. Except blog and complain. Not necessarily in that order. Not necessarily separately either. There's also maybe that project of training flying killer monkeys to attack all annoying incompetents. They couldn’t get it done in a 35 hour working week though.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

hang on - hung up

I called the Australian embassy today.
My query was redirected to someone who in turn redirected me to a webpage and gave me a bunch of instructions to follow in 3 seconds flat.
I typed in the webpage while he was still on the line and told him the address was giving me an error message.
He told me to visit the page and fill in the form and he had to see someone else and hung up.
'But the address isn't w...'

The French phrase for 'to be hung up on' is 'il m'a raccroché'
But - in French - you can take it one step further and say 'il m'a raccroché au nez'
This is the telephone equivalent of having someone slam the door in your face. We don't have this distinction in English - which is funny because this guy, this Australian guy, il m'a raccroché au nez.


I'm going to Darwin in 2 weeks!
Kind of a whirlwind booking, was meant to possibly be sometime in August but departure date has been severely bumped forward (and via London, and Singapore and Bombay and London again)
Though I have a bit of a crush on my new hometown, it'll be good to go back home again.

Monday, May 08, 2006


The rain let up for one or two hours yesterday - long enough to grab our bikes and go randomly round some of Lille's adjoining suburbs and marvel once again at the extreme abundance of cycle paths (many of which leave the road system entirely and take you through green groves with wild flowering forget-me-nots). Golden sunlight filtering through the freshly rainwashed green leaves in the eternally gorgeous citadelle park/forest prompted me to mention for the 680th time that we really should picnic there. Earlier that morning I braved the tropical style downpour to visit the Vieux Lille markets (classed as one of the 100 prettiest markets in France). New seasons treats included fresh peas (which remind me of being a kid, my grandma always made me shell them), gariguette strawberries (a French variety I think, longer, sweeter and somehow 'silkier' than your standard strawberry - the best come from Plougastel in Brittany*). An unplanned 'treat' was the sweet talking cheese seller who skilfully bombarded me with a tasting a range of sheep milk cheese from the Alps, unpasturised gruyere from Savoie and before I knew it had wrapped up a modest block in some waxed paper before I had asked the price. I shouldn't have asked the price. In these situations it's just best to hand over 20 euros and be happy if you get some change out of it.

*As an aside, the French apparently consume 2.5kg per person per year of strawberries. Considering I buy about 1/2 kilo a week for the entire season, I must be taking up the slack for a lot of people.

Friday, May 05, 2006

With last nights free open air concert in the Grande Place, and the ambient temperature still hovering around 20°C at 10.30pm, it felt like the start of the European summer music festival season. The 2 DJ line up, which included David Guetta was part of a clever marketing ploy for the local newspaper 'la voix du nord' to celebrate the introduction of a new look format (ie the sort you can read on public transport without needing a triply extendible fold out tray table) and boost its reader numbers - and especially young readers (because, like, no-one reads the NEWSPAPER anymore, do they?)
Anyway, as far as newspapers go, it's actually quite a respectable rag. And Lille is one of only 2 provincial cities in Lille to have 2 local papers (the other is Nantes)
Because it's practically summer, and I've been gripped by some sort of culinary fever, I'll leave you with a recipe for cold spiced tea. It's pretty yummy
1/2 c sugar
1C water
1 stick cinammon
6 cloves
3 cardamom pods

2T tea leaves
4c boiling water
juice of 1 large lemon
juice of 2 oranges
soda water/mineral water

Boil 1c water, sugar and spices for 5 min, remove from heat.
Add brewed tea with this spiced liquid and leave to cool
Stir in orange and lemon juice once cool
To serve, dilute to taste with mineral water (for me it's about 50/50)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

oh yeah

ok, so, one more bee. I lied. What is it with all this fun and sun and good times weather during the week and the total shit that they come up with for the long weekends? Something should really be done about it. I should speak to the management.

food issues

No, I'm not going to talk about stuffing myself like the proverbial turkey, but rather an issue which has been bugging me more than a little for quite a while.
The bee being plucked out of the bonnet today is the price of food in this country. I don't know what the other expats think about it, but I'm finding the end of the conveyer belt price tag makes me raise my eyebrows in shock more often than not.
Let me clarify than I'm not a big meat consumer, and the meat I buy is generally not too expensive. I don't buy much in the way of alcohol (and nothing over the 4 euros a bottle mark because, hey, I'm not kidding myself, I have bugger all in the way of a wine palate. I'm from Darwin. We drink wine out of 2 litre casks over there).
Spirits I buy about once a year, no soft drinks,no premade meals, no premade get the picture.
Anyway, the cash register rings up a lot. Around 90 euros worth of groceries won't even last us a week - ok, so we're both eating lunch at home these days, but still, that's 150 AUD. For not even a week. For 2 people. Blows me away. I got by very well on about 60AUD a week just for myself back in Australia. And even doing a bunch of fancy currency conversion wage:living expenses calculation, it still comes out as what I perceive to be about 1/3 more.
Ok, so that's one bee out of the way - but my next bee is not just against the inflated prices but where a lot of the fruit and veg is sourced at my habitual supermarket (which I won't name because a) they don't need the publicity and b)their bonus miles system sucks. After spending thousands I probably have earned enough to trade in for a carrot on a stick). Potatoes from Israel (potatoes, seriously...), plums from South Africa, capsicum from Chile.
All hail the global market that makes this kind of idiocy possible.
Ok, that's enough bees for now, if I keep going there won't be anyone left to make the honey.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Old houses in Old Lille

Behind the Notre Dame de la Treille, Lille - France


Originally uploaded by Nyx.
oh and about time too...
First official dine outdoors day
First official open shoes day
And finally broke though the 20°C barrier. Before you know it we'll be sleeping with the window open.