Monday, May 30, 2005

And about time too!

Cemetery City
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

Yes the photos are posted here! You asked for photos and there are probably more than anyone wanted...

It's been a little crazy since I got back and this week I'm off to London & Hamburg in the same 4 days that we're moving out of the in-laws and into the new flat.

Actually Frog is doing the moving whilst I shuttle around. He's being stellar again :)

I want to write about Argentina but will have to do some vignettes when life takes on a more regular rhythm!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Life's Independant Thinker

I have survived. Three days, two nights in a country hotel with my team.

I tend not to blog about work (other than the ‘I’m on a train/plane again” type of comments). But in this case I may touch on a few areas.

It’s fair to say and would be no to surprise to anyone who is in or around my team that we are pretty dysfunctional. We’re six people on a fairly flat hierarchy with one boss. And we’re all very different. In so many ways.

The brief to the coach who came for two of three days was to help us understand our personalities and working styles so that in future we can begin to avoid the tensions and clashes that typically characterise our team’s working day. We’re currently in a situation where me and one other guy refuse to talk directly unless absolutely necessary, usually using another team member to convey information between the two of us. We’re also pretty culturally diverse with Dutch, French, English, Belgian and Iranian representation in the team!

The woman who spent time with us was a very perceptive, smart lady who used the Myers Briggs theories to frame our discussions.

In the “type” analysis I came out as a I, N, T, J* or as the tag line says ‘Life’s Independent Thinker’.

* (Introversion – iNtuition - Thinking – Judging)

What was deduced - as expected - is our team are all completely different types. Now we understand who we and others are, the challenge will to take this insight back to the workplace to communicate and work more effectively. I have a fear that people will use this as an excuse (e.g. oops I’m 30 minutes late for the meeting ha ha that’s because I’m a Perceiver ha ha). I was amazed when one person in the team (the opposite of my organisational ‘judging’) did not even understand or conceive how being twenty minutes late for a meeting was ‘disrespectful’. He had not even placed a value on it!

The other part of the meeting that highly amused me was being able to apply this model to other people to understand their behaviour and how you might interact in future. I think the idea was that you applied this to workplace and other teams. I just sat there quietly analysing my family. I understand why when going on holiday my mum and sister drove me absolutely mad because they would be incapable of booking or getting ready until the last minute– usually losing and forgetting something on the way (as opposed to me having an excel spreadsheet that planned the Argentinean trip –importantly including scheduled, free, spontaneous periods). But my mum, sister and I on holiday would all always be in seventh heaven to sit together quietly and bury our noses in a book for the whole day (and sometimes evening) without saying a word to each other.

Oh and by the way, Frog and I are very similar. Except for the Sensor/iNutition part. (detail vs big ideas). That’ll be the ex-accountant thing then.

I have oversimplified terms below so you can get an idea:

Energy Source
  • Extroversion

    Do you get your energy from being around others and find it draining to be on your own. Like to think out loud in meetings to get ideas going?


  • Introversion

    Do you like space and quiet to recharge your batteries. Find pause and reflection before speaking ideas. Prefer to spend time with a couple of close friends than a room full of people.


  • Sensing

    Like specific answers to specific things. Like to hear things sequentially rather than randomally. Like jobs with tangible outcomes rather than theories and concepts.


  • iNtuition

    Usually more excited about where you’re going than the detail of where you are. Always asking “but what does that mean?”. Believe that “boring details” are a redundancy.


  • Thinking

    Pride yourself on your objectivity – even if people describe you as cold hearted you know that’s not true. Enjoy proving a point for the sake of clarity – you’re very happy to play devil’s advocate.


  • Feeling

    Consider a “good decision” the one that takes everyone’s feelings into account. Try to smooth over conflicts (let’s all shake hands and be friends). Feel that love cannot be defined and find offence at people who try to do so.


  • Judging

    Are always waiting for others who never seem to be on time. Are accused of being angry even when you’re not – you’re just stating an opinion. Keep lists and use them ; if you do something that’s not on the list you may add it just so you can cross it off.


  • Perceiving

    Don’t plan a task but wait and see what it demands; don’t like to be pinned down to things but keep options open. Are easily distracted. Often lose car keys and mobile phones.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Iguazu Falls
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

We finally got back to Reims this afternoon.

The end of our northern Argentina trip saw us travel back to Buenos Aires via Paraguay (!). Once back in BA we were all about shopping and wedding celebrations. Both tasks were well accomplished.

I will write a proper post about the wedding when I have had a proper night's sleep. But as a preview, having started the wedding service at 7:30pm, 200 guests enjoyed dinner, tango demonstrations, disco, 'mini' carnival, dessert tables at 2am and pizza & beer served at 5am. Frog and I crawled to bed at 7:30am and the alarm went off at 9am for our flight home. An overnight flight and nearly 24 hours later we are back!

I am off for 3 days "team building" in a hotel north of paris first thing tomorrow. (The team doesn't need rebuilding it needs a psychologist). And then I'll post (a selection of) the 300 + photos from the trip!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I had written an interesting account of the last couple of days - sun, Brazil, waterfalls, 12 hour storms and a journey to this small town San Ignacio where we have been based for 2 nights to visit the ruins of the Jesuit Missions in the jungle.

Then the electricity went out and I lost the post.

So that was my shortened version!

We´re heading back to Buenos Aires tomorrow night via a flight from Posadas and we´re thinking about popping over the border to Paraguay during the day. No reason really except we have time to kill before a flight and then we can say we´ve been there too!

Off for an early night now after a couple of local beers and Frog thrashing me at cards. I have to write that since he´s sat next to me as I write ;)

In reply to previous comments:
Yes, there will be photos. Lots of them - current count of just the waterfalls is 100 plus! Be careful what you wish for!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Falls

We`re currently in Iguazu Falls in the north of Argentina. We have splashed out and are staying at the Sheraton which is the only hotel allowed in this subtropical natural park. The falls are incredible - as Frog said we`ve had what will be the highlight of the trip on just the 2nd day!

So here`s the short summary of highlights so far:

  • Dinner in Buenos Aires with best mate and her fiance who she told me over dinner she had secretly married in a civil service in NY 6 months ago. That was a bit of a shocker.
  • Fabulous piece of beef steak and glass of red wine that I had anticipated were as wonderful as expected.
  • Already bought my first fabulous handbag and belt in matching green.
  • Discovering the view of the tropical forest and falls from our room.
  • Boat ride through the rapids of the waterfalls this afternoon that drove us under the strongest falls section - we shrieked and got absolutely soaked but a real thrill.
  • Sunset drinks on the terrace overlooking the Falls tonight after all the park guests had left.
  • Toucans, monkeys, racoons, hummingbirds and tropical butterflies. Frog is still holding out for a puma sighting...

Off to the Brazil side of the Falls tomorrow and then down to S Ignacio to see the deserted missions (as in the De Niro and Jeremy Irons film).

But first some more cow for dinner!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

In Transit

Writing from Madrid airport waiting for our flight to Buenos Aires tonight.
But it's important to say:

¡Happy Birthday Frog!

Whilst in Reims this morning I went to get my 'bits' waxed and Frog headed off for a celebratory hot chocolate and paper reading session. Looking for a sunny terrace he spied the Latina Cafe with suitably groovy music playing on the terrace. All comfortable and lapping up the latino vibes in preparation for the trip he had to swiftly hurry away after a group of pensioners from the Ardennes region sat next to him and in thick rural accents discussed their incontinence problems of late. The mood was quite shattered!

We`ll celebrate the birthday in proper style tomorrow night...

¡Hasta luego!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Yesterday I had spent the morning sat hunched over my desk. A couple of colleagues came to chat and I grunted in response before returning my focus to the screen. I was focused on The List.

The List is the piece of paper of all the things I have to do before I can leave the office at 5:30pm this afternoon for 10 days vacation.

The List is long. The List is full of all the things that need to be done so that when I return I can jump straight into 2 overseas trips and a bunch of meetings. When my mobile rang, I picked it up and grunted, fearful that this would be someone adding to The List.

But on the other end of the phone was my best friend in New York, Gail. She who is getting married in Buenos Aires. The grunt soon turned into shrieks as the realisation - yes I was going on holiday - struck me.

That's why I'm so focused on The List. And suddenly it felt okay to be stressed out - because in 48 hours I'll be in Argentina! Friday night I'm having dinner with my best friend and her husband-to-be and I'll be munching on the best meat that the world can offer accompanied by a fine glass of wine. That's before Frog & I fly to the rainforest and then back again and I will be bridesmaid wearing a fancy dress and shoes in a large basilica followed by partying till dawn.

As I came off the phone I realised that's why I hunch over my desk and exhaust myself with silly 5am work trips. So I can do these fabulous things. And that makes The List okay by me.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Walk in the Woods

Walk in the woods
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

We set off on Sunday afternoon for a walk. I had spent the majority of the 4 day holiday being tired, ill and then tired again. This was the first time I perked up and declared it was time to get some fresh air.

We bounded off with this smelly dog and entered the woods next to the Frog Family Home. True to form, the dog disappeared and we got lost.

But it was a good kind of lost. We found WW1 craters, possible trenches and this magnificent memorial. Set up at the end of the 19th century it pays tribute to a young 18 year old hunter, accidentally shot dead. "Hunters Pray For Him".

This is still hunting territory and Frog Father and his pals still bound around here. Luckily we're out of season as Frog and I completely lost our way and ended up by the miramars set up high for hunters to look out for wild boar and the like. Hunting season is not so far away as the husks of corn that are scattered to lure the wild beasts can still be found on the ground.

Finding our way home again, we waited for the dog to come back a few hours later, as is his habit. Darkness fell, we went to bed and the next morning there was still no sign of the hound. As he's so old we had all been waiting for this day when he didn't come back.

I called from a meeting in Brussels this afternoon to check with Frog if there was still no sign. A negative reply and I consoled myself with the fact he must have run himself out, exhausted doing the one thing he loves. The 3 hour train ride was spent mentally composing a fitting blog obituary.

Back tonight from the station, 24 hours later and there as an apparition is an absolutely knackered, wheezing wreck of a dog. Curled up on his "sofa" in the yard, his little eyes peering out before snoozing off again.

It could be a couple of days before he raises his head again. Apparently that wouldn't be a first for him either. Rest well, Job.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Victory in Europe

VE Day Reims
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

I wasn't aware until meeting Frog that the Germans had signed their unconditional surrender in Reims. The document was signed in Eisenhower's base which was a recquisitioned high school. Whilst the room of the signing has been preserved as a part of the Surrender Museum the school continues albeit renamed the Roosevelt Lycée.

Apparently, this year is the first year that Reims has celebrated its role in the end of WW II - with a three day programme that began on Friday. We missed the ceremonies yesterday morning with the French Prime Minister Raffarin (I've been tired and sick this weekend). However, we went into the city in the afternoon to enjoy the rest of the celebrations. Unfortunately the North Eastern French weather was not kind to us or the veterans with sporadic heavy rain showers and a cold wind all day.

The city was decked out in bunting showing flags from the UK, US, France & Russia accompanied by strings of the European Union flag. Interestingly, the bunting showed the USSR's hammer & sickle whereas the large flags near the War Memorial had the new Russian flag. There were jazz bands playing around the main streets and cars parked on the main place from the war period (plus some bizzarely placed 1960's models) and the French Army was out and about showing off a couple of veteran tanks, allowing kids to climb in one by one.

The Reims celebrations were infact promoted around two events, the surrender and then the 1962 reconcillation agreement between De Gaulle & the German Chancellor Adenauer. However, there was very little evidence of the Germans in the city this weekend except for the unruly German child with his father sat next to us at lunch.

We met up for dinner with Frog brother and his wife and had planned on watching the Big Band show out by the Mairie at 10pm. However, the rain was pouring down and the temperature had dropped so I suspect that was cancelled. We drove home ending up in front of a TV documentary about the events.

One of the day's conversations between the Frog and I was how much my nose resembles De Gaulle's.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Action Star

As promised, Frog and I went out last night for a film and dinner. Firstly, I don't recommend Kingdom of Heaven. Our joint critique was - Didn't appreciate Brad Pitt as Hercules? You surely won't be keen on Orlando Bloom as Defender of Jerusalem. Shocking I know but there's only so far that good looks will go to support an epic character.

Later over dinner we moved away from the film discussion and onto how Frog himself had been involved in these types of village antics as a youngster:

Frog: I'm a bit of a maverick as I've got so many influences on my character: the village, my family, London, Marseilles....

Oiseau: What? A maverick like Tom Cruise in Top Gun?

Frog: No. More like Mel Gibson. In that film, Maverick.

Oiseau falls off her chair with laughter

Frog laughs and then thinks

Frog: That was a stupid answer... For a stupid question

Truce is called as the main course arrives.

Damn, he's starting to notice my traps...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ode to Frog

It's a day off for Pentecost and I am just surfacing from the week that was.

And what a monster of a week. Having moved at the weekend it's our first days in the village staying with Frog parents. And I've been commuting to Paris Monday, Tuesday and to Hamburg yesterday.

Of course when we're in our new flat I will be 5 mins from the station but for now we're in a tiny village 20 mins from Reims.

Step to the plate, Frog. He has been an absolute star.

  • Monday and Tuesday at 6am the alarm went off and he drove me to the SNCF.

  • Yesterday, the alarm went off at 5am to signal the start of a day driving me that involved two round trips of 3 hours each to the airport.
He hasn't once complained, is still singing (albeit to Ronan Keating which would normally be absolute grounds for an ironic comment from me) and when I pointed out on the return trip from Charles de Gaulle yesterday that the European Semis (it's a football thing) had started he said, "But your safety and return home is more important for me". And it almost sounded sincere!

To cap it all I got breakfast in bed this morning!

After 45 hours working in three days, I say, hoorah for four days off now and just three days next week before we fly to Argentina for a much needed break. And hoorah for Frog.

We're off for an evening of cinema and dinner on me to say thank you.

I will write a proper ode one day and a post soon that doesn't talk about how tired I am!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Last night I took the 7pm train back from Gare de l’Est to Reims. It was my first journey “home” and it felt pretty good. Once the train passed Epernay I looked out across the vines that stretched as far as the eye could see. Frog’s village and their vines surround the three neighbouring small villages but are ‘plot like’ in comparison. From the train you could really see how big this industry is to the region.

I managed to catch up on a little blog reading yesterday and read several posts about Sunday’s Fete du Travail. If you read any of these explanations you’ll see that the lilly of the valley (muguet) is one of the central traditions of the day. What nobody else mentioned (and makes me wonder if this is some weird inbred village tradition) is what happens in the little Frog village...

Having finished up a family dinner late Sunday evening we left Brother Frog’s house in the village and could hear “youthful” noise from further up the small street. Brother Frog said he was going to go over to their hangar where various paraphernalia is kept and make sure it was okay. What I didn’t realise is he went over and stayed there till 2am to ensure that nothing was taken out. The next morning as we drove past the small Mairie the significance of the conversation became clear.

Scattered across the front of the Mairie were farming implements, carts, traffic signs and posts. Apparently, it’s a tradition on May 1st for things to be moved and “redistributed” around the village.

Which really is like any morning following a drunken student’s night out in the UK. There were certainly several of my housemates who saw collecting traffic cones and signs in our living room as a standard nocturnal activity and their own contribution to interior design.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Shock to the System

Yes, it has happened. We have finally moved.

Sunday lunchtime we were sat out with Frog family in the sun. Reeling from the tiredness of working in the office and running around packing, cleaning, moving on Friday/Saturday this was the first time I was sat still and not thinking of the tasks ahead - and that's when it hit me.

I don't live in Paris anymore.

  • We are staying in a village of 500 people until the flat is ready at the end of the month.
  • I have to commute for over an hour and half each way to the office
  • I am in the provinces.

Wahhhhhhhhhhh! *

(* In a good way of course)