Thursday, July 28, 2005

Vroom Vroom Vroom

The cicadas are singing and the evening is blowing us a warm breeze to accompany the dinner of lemon and basil chicken with a chilled glass of rose. Sounds pretty idyllic doesn't it? Well it is!

Having finished dinner I just waved goodbye to Frog who is off to get his arse kicked by his sister on a tennis court and I'm about to sit out on the terrace with my mum.

Yes, my mum is on holiday with us for a week and we've had our first summer escapade this afternoon. Gone are the days of mum dragging her whining children (alright whiny child, my sister's pretty easygoing) around the Normandy peninsula on a bike with just two panniers each and a task to find a 1* hotel or Youth Hostel each night. Now, I get to to drag her around the Provencal villages and ports. Actually, we've spent most of our time so far reading by the pool but we went for an afternoon trip today to visit a nearby port and chateau.

Frog and I had agreed that it made sense to insure my mum on the rusty old Renault Super 5 that lives down at the summer house. I have no licence and I didn't want Frog to feel obliged to chauffeur us for the week. So, mum jumped into the little car this afternoon and had to add some new life skills to her already long list - driving an automatic.

I have promised Mum that I won't recount to Frog some of the events of our trip on the road today. As she says, she was driving like a little old lady (which reminds me that tomorrow I need to grab a cushion for her so that she can see above the steering wheel). I will not tell about the riding up the kerb, the near misses of a wall or the inability to get from "drive" to "neutral" as we crawled through the Provencal countryside. But it did make me laugh and nothing more so than the yellow lambourghini behind us on his way to St Tropez (or perhaps Ramatuelle) who was forced to join us in our crawling speed as Mum refused to drive over 40 kmph with no overtaking allowed.

We'll be hitting the bars in the port tonight!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lookin' Good # 2

We've arrived on the balmy south coast this evening. A drive split up by stopping in Lyon last night to stay with friends and spend this morning discovering the old city of Lyon before finishing the final leg of the journey.

But of course since I last posted we've been to a Frog cousin wedding in Picardie just 40 minutes north from home. It was a beautiful simple affair with elements of the bride's Breton home brought along, dancing by her relatives, dinner to Breton music (think Irish pipes) and seashells and sea motifs throughout. The bride's mum died a couple of years ago so it was a fairly emotional day for her and her family.

Whilst I thought those were going to be the highlights of the event, Frog had other ideas. Whilst we stepped outside part way through the five hour dinner for some fresh air and a chat with family, several balloons floated out past us from the village hall. Frog started to hit them into the air and I believe he was going for a slam dunk when instead of smacking the balloon he smacked me straight in the eye. Call it the result of emotion, a couple of glasses of wine too many or fatigue induced clumsiness, I am now the proud bearer of half an eyeball that is crimson bloodshot. Shortly after arriving home - as I was in a little discomfort by this point - I took my contact lens out to discover it had been practically torn in half with the force of his finger in said eye.

However, I'm not sure whose been feeling worse, him or me. Whilst I've been parading the disfigured eye around for the last 48 hours (thank goodness there's an excuse for sunglasses) Frog has been displaying strong signs of guilt. Happily for me, those signs manifest themseslves as flowers, pastries and constant gestures of affection.

Even more luckily my vision is clear and I haven't had any bright lights. But I think now we've stopped we're heading for the doctors tomorrow morning just to doublecheck that the red should be turning a yellowy orange. Because that colour doesn't match the new red bikini I packed.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Turning Into My Mother

Firstly, let me celebrate the first day of my three week holidays. Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah!

The plan is to go to the Frog Cousin wedding tonight and then drive down to Lyon tomorrow to see one of Frog's best friends. I've never been to Lyon so I'm quite excited about that prospect. Then from Lyon we'll drive down to Cavalaire and the Frog Family house for a couple of weeks slobbing in the sun.

Mum is joining us for one week followed by Frog Friends. I'm currently uploading more tunes to the iPod, I stocked up on books in London this week and have just returned from having my bits waxed. Bring it on, I say.

Our original plan had been to do nothing for three weeks in the south. Except looking around we still have a lot of work in the flat to do, boxes to unpack, lights to buy and install and furniture to shop around for. The more we've been thinking about this the more it makes sense to come back to Reims for the third week and really focus on getting these tasks done.

But there's a little voice inside my head that says "Stay in the sun. You'll be in Reims all autumn and winter and have all the weekends you need to get the domestic stuff done". Which is exactly what my mum has been doing for the past eight years since she moved into her new home. Everytime I see her she complains that there's so much work to do on the house and I point out that if she actually stayed at home one holiday and focused on the projects they might get completed a little more easily. "Yes, I know" she sighs "But I want to go and do other things with my holiday time".

Suddenly her point of view is much clearer to me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Sensitive Spot

I'd say my French language skills are okay. But they're not great - I work in English and speak English with Frog at home (his English is fluent and otherwise he wouldn't get to keep it).

However, I can follow a movie, read a magazine and watch the news. I can keep up with most of the conversation at the Family Frog dinner table, although I have to be pretty sure of myself - or have drunk enough - to really join in a group conversation. One on one I can more than get by. Dermatologist, Dentist, Doctors, Minor Surgery I've done them all and survived.

I do get terribly self-conscious and I guess it's a sign of progress but I hear the mistakes all the time. For example - the gender mistakes - if - it's la bière - it must be une Leffe I request or the waiter will just look puzzled at "un Leffe" (the important stuff you know).

But as my job prospects for next year have an even larger question mark than before hanging over them I am really starting to panic. Discuss integrated brand planning & marketing 100% in French? Write in French? That's a whole other ballgame.

Maybe it was just the result of a tired and emotional state of mind the other week, but when we decided to treat ourselves to a lunch of steak, frites and a lovely glass of red wine as reward for having survived the latest in the moving sage, the fact that the waiter didn't understand me reduced me to tears. It took three times of my repetition to get the plat du jour understood, he then asked me my drink order in terrible English, refused to understand a request for a Brouilly and brought me the worst house wine. End result was a rather watery Oiseau at the table.

It's not like I didn't have similar problems in NYC with waiters - an English accent with a hard "t" in water will not get results and a handy Spanish phrase could work wonders. But this really naffs me off.

Frog is not a great one in dealing with me in tears, but he almost boosted my confidence by later (oh so kindly!) recounting the tale to his parents ("you didn't tell them, I cried did you?" , "Um, no. Well, um, yes") who said they were surprised and how much they thought my French had improved since they met me last year.

So, progress will continue andI hope there will be a real boost after spending the summer break with several of Frog's French friends. Although I'm not entirely sure that'll be the type of language to help with the CV and Letter of Motivation that look likely in the autumn, quoi!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


These were recounted to me recently by friends who were at the largest UK literary festival last month and staying in the VIP's hotel:

Sting in the hotel bar as Bob Geldof walked away after a quick chat:

"Everytime I see him he looks more and more like the Ghost of Christmas Past."

Friend who saw Jane Fonda walking earlier in the day into her hotel room on the same floor as his own, later that evening walked past the same room to hear enough nocturnal activity noise for him to ascertain that the lady is quite the screamer.

Not quite as great as her Jon Bon Jovi story last night, but these made me chuckle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lookin' Good

I'm just on the return leg of a trip to London (important frozen pea business to attend - don't knock the frozen food business it paid for this little excursion) kicking back in the Eurostar lounge.

I arrived last night to be introduced to my sister's boyfriend over a drink and a curry(the boy is not 'new new' but I haven't been allowed to meet him before. I'm not sure if that reflects worse on him or me). Before I arrived I sent a couple of little texts to explain that I would be arriving looking a little worse for wear. And that was before the train from Reims to Paris sped through the middle of a storm and I discovered there was a hole in the train roof right above my seat.

I had spent the morning at the dermatologist with a list of things to be done. This was my first trip to a French dermatologist and only second after the top Manhattan specialist a few years ago who tried to decipher what element was causing my face to be red, swollen and itchy to the extent that I couldn't open my eyes any more. My skin has a habit of behaving like a spoilt child, and this time I had a large cluster of white spots which had appeared all over my cheeks and eyelids over the last couple of years.

As I lay down on the treatment bed the charming French lady smiled and held aloft a couple of sterile metal implements and asked me to close my eyes. Ten minutes later she had squeezed all white impurities out of my face. The cheeks were fine, it was when she applied what felt like full body weight on my closed eye as she struggled to push out the nasties, and I felt my contact lens and eyeball sinking under the pressure that I began to panic.

One squeezed face, one frozen wart and examination of itchy legs later and I had a bill for €45. Total. Take that expensive Mr Manhattan. That's full priced service French style. If I'd done it real French style with a special government card it would have cost even less.

So this is why I warned my sister I was turning up in London displaying a makeup-less, red, bumpy monging face. And I'm sure she was so proud to finally introduce her elder sister to the boy.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bad bad bird

Over two weeks and no post from me... it was Ben's fault. When I saw him he said "I'm so amazed how you manage to post regularly". "Oh, it doesn't really seem like an effort" I replied.

Well, blogging has been more effort than I could stretch to recently. Having moved into the flat, we had to repack bags and move out again. Nearly two weeks living back with the Frog parents in the spare room, a couple of overseas trips for work, half my team resigning and 2006 budget not being given for work next year and the result is my sanity (which naturally has a domino effect on the Frog's own patience with me) has been stretched. In addition we've had plumbers breaking the bidet and the builders wrecked the parquet in the lounge/dining room. BUT...

...the bloody builders finally left and the next day whilst I was in Paris working Frog Mum and her friend volunteered to make a first cleaning attack on the flat. Now after spending the long holiday weekend working hard (including poor worn down Frog covering for me whilst I collapsed one morning with a migraine level headache) and visiting Castorama* to the extent that the shop workers greet us as we rewalk the aisles, the result is we have a working and clean bathroom and kitchen. The new sofa has been delivered courtesy of Father Frog and van, clothes are in wardrobes and I just finished putting the books on the bookshelves. Just a lounge full of boxes and a parquet floor to restore left!

Semi-normal blogging service might be resumed soon.

* Like B&Q