Friday, February 25, 2005

Literary Awakening

Well, I almost had a literary awakening. More like I realised how lazy my brain is nowadays and how I used to enjoy being a student, sitting in circles discussing books at length. (Not that I did much discussing of books last night, but I got to laugh at stupid questions other people asked, which I recall is an echo of my behaviour in student seminars too).

Margaret Atwood last night was great. She's very small but you get the impression that behind her physique is a great power ready to unleash. It really surprised me when I arrived in the tiny bookshop to turn around and find she was right behind me in the corner sat crosslegged on top of a table surrounded by piles and towers of books.

I also got to meet Katia and Sierra which was great. I hadn't discovered Sierra's blog before and Katia has already posted a super photo of Margaret esconced on her table. Learnt that Katia's discussed fear of moving to the UK is more specifically about the prospects of Leamington Spa. As coincidences go I lived there for 2 years in my student years and tried to allay some of her fears. I also forgot to tell her the park there is fantastic - I will tell the story of the snorkelling duck one day.

Having already lined up a dinner date with the frog (to give him my free marketing consultancy on his champagne communication plans) I didn't get to spend more time with the girls, which I would have liked to have done. So will have to save those conversations for March 11th.

Will be offline for the next few days as we're back to Reims to sign papers and then Sunday I'm travelling to London for work Monday, Tuesday. No chance of escaping the cold there either!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

10 things I noticed...

... when flat hunting in Reims.

  1. Someone once told me you know you're getting older when doctors seem young. Let me say the same about estate agents... the majority were under 25 I'm sure of it.
  2. There is an unofficial estate agent dress code of pinstripe trousers.
  3. Flat hunting can lead to loud and emotional arguments with other half. Leading frog to realise that the mostly phlegmatic anglosaxon is not always so.
  4. Estate agents don't half like to blather on about nonsense they know nothing about. I don't believe that's an exclusively French habit.
  5. Even houses with completely gutted interiors are expensive.
  6. French people with Italian origin win the prize for most ostentatiously ugly interior decoration.
  7. It should be illegal for people to burn sweet vanilla candles and oils in their home.
  8. Paris and Reims apartments have very small bathrooms. Leading me to make many comments about the smelly French which make only me laugh. And no matter how many times the frog refers to "la douche anglaise" (quick spray with deo) will he make up for that.
  9. Flat hunting with Mother Frog in tow has its benefits - when she loves the same flat as you do, Frog has very little chance to get a word in edgeways.
  10. Flat hunting with Mother Frog has its downsides - like when she announces to Frog "well, you'll be spending most your time at home with us anyway".

I should seek clarification on that last point, right?

Putting all thoughts of green soup aside...

Katia is a star because she posted last week that Margaret Atwood is going to be at The Abbey Bookshop tonight. I will be leaving prompt tonight on the RER C to be there!

I guess her book signing machine is being put back in the box for tonight and lucky us get her live in Paris.

Having just come out of meetings talking about how to sell lots of soup I will have to put on a slightly more literary mindset today. Hmmmm....

Number geek

The frog is a numbers geek. This is probably a good thing since I am absolutely inummerate to the point of embarassment. I struggled with maths all through school and still have friends I call up for secret help when I have problems at work managing my budget and marketing calculations...

As I said to the frog last night - you do the numbers and i'll do the smart ideas and we'll be fine.

So - we are looking for a mortgage for the new flat. Most people go and meet the bank to do this and ask the man behind the desk for a quote then compare around different mortgage offerers.

Not the frog. The frog sends me this email today:
I've just finished my excel spreadsheet showing a simulation table regarding our loan. Just a few instructions to use it properly:

1.fill in the assumptions boxes in above table
2.type in 0 on the Ech n°1 (cell with blue font)
3. go to the far right cell of the line whose Ech n° corresponds to the one you put in in the assumptions table.
4. Make a goal seek on that cell (menu "Option", "valeur cible" in French). It must equal 0 by changing the cell in 1. (the one with the blue font)
5.look at the column saying "Montant Echeance" to know what we'll pay per month.
In the file atached, my assumptions are: we borrow xk euros at 3.75%pa and to be paid back in 20 years. The result is x euros per month roughly.

Call me if you need assistance to use the table.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I just almost fell of my chair.

But the really scary thing? The mortgage calculations that he has shown for each year of the loan take us to 2025. I guess that's what they call commitment...

Instruction to frog when he reads this post - don't freak. Bisous xxx

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


So I am still jumping around at the excitement of our new flat. The funny thing is I came to Reims on a weekend with a group of girl friends 18 months ago (era pre-frog) and had a great time... and now I'm going to live there.

Reims is about one and a half hour's drive (if the traffic is okay) north east of Paris in the region Champagne Ardennes. The region is of course famous for its Champagne and that is what the Frog will be spending his time working in the family business.

Frog family live in a village 20 mins north west of Reims.... the village has 558 habitants and we felt we weren't quite ready for that big a move. Reims itself is a lovely city with a large cathedral including windows designed by Chagall and is the location where the Kings of France were crowned. Oh, and it's also where the Nazi's surrendered to Eisenhower 60 years ago.

Our flat is right in the centre of Reims on a little side street opposite the Palais Justice & Theatre. I spent last night moving into the flat in my head.

Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah. I expect that the next couple of month's dealing with the notaire may quash my excitement somewhat but I cannot wait till May when we move!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Haven't written in a few days as I have been otherwise occupied - househunting in Reims (fact : all estate agents in Reims wear pin striped trousers).

And - hoorah!! - I just got the call to say that the offer me and the frog put on a gorgous flat in central Reims has been accepted. I am so excited!!

But quickly brought down to earth by the fact that I have to present my employment status and financial plans on Saturday when we sign our contract of exclusivité.

Hoorah for a new provincial home in May! No more grotty apartment in Paris...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Another great film post...

... but I have to since I went to see Sideways last night.

The best film and evening at the movies I've had in a long time. And I have to say sorry today to the Frog who I disbelieved when he told me that Virginia Masden was Michael Masden's (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill 2) sister.

Despite the fact I spent most of the film desiring a large glass of wine, we didn't quite follow through by going to Quick and having a Supreme Cheese meal ... although if if I'd had a bottle of the Cheval Blanc I would have happily swapped that for the diet coke.

Shame on me indeed.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


The frog beat me again at Scrabble last night.

Scrabble Game Results to Date
Frog 3 Games vs. Bird 2 Games

The only consolation is that he beat me by just 10 points and did not give me the "thrashing" he had promised.

Plus he had wormed his way into my favour, since Carrefour had sold out of Ginger Nuts he bought me a packet of Jacob's Chocolate Teacakes. So I almost forgive him.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Paris v France

So, the IOC is visiting the two cities as part of their process to decide who will host the 2012 Olympics.

This piece in The Guardian made me chuckly on 40 reasons why London trounces Paris. Gems include:

London SE18 features a Ha Ha Road. There was once a ditch there.
When Londoners fell in, other Londoners would shout "Ha! Ha!" Even better, this
is actually true.

Londoners can still drive geese and swine through Dulwich, if they pay the correct tolls. Parisians, doubtless, would kidnap, force-feed and eat the ducks.

Unfortunately, they gave the piece on why Paris is great to a French rugby player to write.
I tell you, Paris is a lovely city; the city of love and lovers.
London is nice too...

Rugby players are of course known for their powers of literary persuasion.

Diner de Cons

No I'm not talking about Valentine's night (which was a very chilled evening à deux on the sofa with DVD, paté on toast and cup of tea!), nor the dinner I have tonight with the visiting Mother & Father Frog...

... I'm talking about the fab film I watched last night.

The "con" of the film, Jacques Villeret, died last month and reading press about him I realised I had still not seen this classic comedy. So since con is also one of my favourite words - in this context the meaning is just a little stronger than 'idiot' - last night I settled down to watch.

The context of Diner de Cons is that a group of bourgeois parisiens every Wednesday night each invite a con to a group dinner. The goal is that by the end of the night there is an unsuspecting 'winnning con'. Of course, one night it all goes wrong and the fabulous Thierry L'hermitte (Monsieur Brochant) ends up stuck with his con, Jacques Villeret's character, François Pignon.

M. Pignon works for the tax department and has a personal hobby of recreating monuments of great engineering in matchsticks. Quickly into the film it becomes apparent that this con holds M Brochant's only chance of getting his recently exited wife back.

I spent last night really belly laughing and may have to buy the DVD for repeat viewing.

In no way does this encourage me to go and see Villeret's final film with the awful Michael Youn.

Ahhh le con!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Two Saucy Devils

Two Devils
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

Frog & Bird taken early in the evening at the "Saints & Sinners" party on Saturday. That'll be about 7 hours before I ended up sprawled along Prinsengracht...

I think the Frog wears make up quite well!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Monday Mood

Found this test through Fidgety Budgie's website (linked via the Blog Exchange):

I am 50% Asshole/Bitch.
Sort of Assholy or Bitchy!
I am abrasive, some people really hate me, but there may be a group of other tight knit assholes and bitches that I can hang out with and get me. Everybody else? Fuck ‘em.

So I am 50% of a bitch. That seems quite high but I guess it's reflecting my Monday mood....

Devillish Fun

I was a little chilly today coming to work.

The reason for this is that I am unable to wear my one winter coat because said coat is on its way to the tailors to be mended.

The coat is suffering because it had much too much fun at Aaron's fantastic party in Amsterdam.
Having partied like Saints & Sinners (as the party was themed), I tottered out at 3am on my 3 inch "bad angel" heels, supported by an equally squiffy french devil.

Since this bad angel was feeling 'tired & emotional' the devil offered to carry me on his back along the canal as we made our way back to the hotel.

I'm sure there is some moral to this story about never accepting a ride from the devil because when he decided that I was too heavy to go any further I was unceremoniously dropped to the floor. Wobbly bad angel couldn't control, balance, heels or cobbles so went arse over tit. End result, a grazed knee, ripped coat and giggling me on the floor.

Recovery from my hangover will be quicker and cheaper than mending the coat and broken heel!

Blog Exchange is On!!

ViVi & Tracey have created a fantastic gift exchange. I'm very excited as I'm paired up with someone from the Upper East Side in NY, just a few blocks from where I used to freeze my arse off waiting for the cross town bus every night!

What can I expect in my little gift package I don't know... but I do know that I miss Reese's peanut cups, cinammon flavoured gum and 'smores. I'm upset that i'm missing the Christo work in Central Park this month, however, I guess a Knish Dog or pastrami & chopped liver sandwich on rye from Artie's wouldn't travel so well...

Anyone would think i'm food obsessed!

Friday, February 11, 2005


Last night...

Frog: What's the name of your blog thing again?

Bird: L'Oiseau Anglais

Frog: Oiseau or Oiseuse?

Bird: Oiseau. We've been through that conversation before

Frog: You know Bird doesn't translate

Bird: No, really Einstein? I wasn't exactly going to call it Nana Anglaise

Frog: Or Meuf Anglaise ha ha ha

The reason Frog thought that Meuf was funny is that it is not Standard French or even just slang but Verlan.

Verlan is a type of slang that came from the suburbs... and it can have a rather "low'" connotation.

Its form is interesting though because it's a bit like pig Latin. Except that the French actively use it. I discovered it through MTV (one of my prime language resources).

The following has been taken from one of my favourite resources, - it also has an "essential" Verlan vocab section*.

To "verlan" a word, simply separate it into syllables, reverse them, and put the word back together. In order to maintain the correct pronunciation, the verlaned word often undergoes some spelling adjustments. Unnecessary letters are dropped, while other letters are added to make pronunciation logical. There are no real rules for this; it's just something to be aware of. Note that not every word can or should be verlaned; verlan is used essentially to emphasize or hide the meaning of the main word(s) in a sentence.

Let's start with the word l'envers, which means the reverse. Separate l'envers into its two syllables l'en and vers. Invert them, put them together into a single word, and then adjust the spelling:
l'envers... l'en vers... vers l'en... versl'en... verslen... verlen... verlan
Thus, you can see that verlan is l'envers pronounced à l'envers (reverse pronounced in reverse).
Let's try another example: pourri... pou rri... rri pou... rripou... ripou

Most single-syllable words are just pronounced backwards.
Fou... ouf
Cool (from English)... looc

The above examples are pretty simple, but verlan gets more complicated when it comes to the e muet, which is a very important sound in verlan. Words that end in e muet (like femme) and words which end in a pronounced consonant and which usually have an e muet sound tacked onto the end (like flic, which is usually pronounced flique) retain the sound of the e muet when they are verlaned. In addition, when the syllables are reversed, the resulting final vowel sound is sometimes dropped.

Flic... fli keu... keu fli... keufli... keuf
Femme... fa meu... meu fa... meufa... meuf
Arabe... a ra beu... beu ra a... beura... beur

Verlan was invented as a secret language, a way for people (notably youths, drug users, and criminals) to communicate freely in front of authority figures (parents, police). Because much of verlan has become incorporated into French, verlan continues to evolve - sometimes words are "re-verlaned." Beur, commonly heard in the 1980's, has been reversed again to reub. Keuf has been re-verlaned to feuk, with a bonus - it now resembles a vulgar word in English.

*Remember that verlan is a form of slang, so use caution when talking to someone you vouvoie.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tracking my travels

I love this map idea that I stole from Ian H. Courtesy of world66 you can see on a map all the countries you have visited...

I would seem to benefit from my week trip to Russia in 1992.

Shameful that I have visited most Western European countries except for Portugal, Ireland, Finland & Switzerland. Well, maybe not so shameful about missing Switzerland...

You can do it too!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


We are going to see France play Sweden tonight.

Myself, the Frog & 4 Swedish friends will be freezing our bottoms off at the Stade de France.

But what should I do?

  • Support my country of residence
    Keep the Frog happy and show my true integration

  • Demonstrate Northern European allegiance with the Swedes
    I'm sure there must be more Viking DNA in me than French

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

There is nothing like a Dame

Ellen MacArthur a 28 year old Englishwoman has just broken the solo sailing round-the-world record. She beat the previous record (by a frenchman) by one day, eight hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds.

What an incredible feat. And I truly mean incredible - 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds alone on the seas.

The news came that she will be made a Dame. And as she sailed into port to crowds of wellwishers, the British press began what we do best.

Extract from The Guardian today where they listed everybody queuing up to knock her.

Just one example :

Bob Fisher, the Guardian's sailing correspondent

Ellen is a difficult person to empathise with. She moans and whinges the whole bloody time, so many people, quite understandably, are of the opinion that, given that she knew what was in store for her, she should just shut up and get on with it. There's also the fact that she's such a lone operator. I don't think she has "friends" as such, although she does have admirers - most of them French. There's never been a thought in her mind about sailing with a crew. She's always gone solo. That's just the kind of person she is. There are a lot of people in the professional sailing contingent who wouldn't sail across the Solent with her. They feel what she does is sailing by numbers - it's a mechanical achievement rather than a skilful one.

Although, I do like the line "she does have her admirers - most of them French"...

More things about me

  1. I am 31 years old
  2. I grew up with my Mum & younger sister in Dorset, my grandma lived just down the road
  3. I have a half brother from my Dad's second marriage
  4. My brother is 14 years old and lives in London with his Mum
  5. My brother and I look more like each other than my sister and I. That's because we both have large noses. He hasn't developed the complex yet.
  6. My mum is 7 inches shorter than me - I grew up thinking I was a giant freak. I never realised it was her who was the abnormal one ;)
  7. All sides of my family have blue eyes
  8. I can say "My name is Anna", count to ten and manage to order in a market in Hindi
  9. I used to play the oboe and the cor anglais. I became quite good but my mum said listening to me learn was like listening to a cow in pain.
  10. I played in the Dorset Youth Orchestra and spent weekends and holidays on residential courses at a very expensive boarding school which had the biggest cockroaches I have still ever seen. That put a seal on my opinion of private education.
  11. My Mum is a teacher in a comprehensive.
  12. I used to go the school where my mum teaches. Luckily she only started doing the sex ed classes after I left.
  13. My sister works in publishing and I am not allowed to write in my blog all the reasons why I think she resembles Bridget Jones.
  14. Her current "boy" is the editor of one of my favourite authors. I am not allowed to tell her I think this is one of her greatest accomplishments yet ;)
  15. I scraped a"C" in A level French because I never concentrated on the grammar. Plus ça change...
  16. I moved to New York to work for 2 years when I was 27 years old, I lived on the Upper West Side and discovered the joys of Jewish Delis
  17. I learnt to rollerblade in Central Park
  18. I was living in Manhattan on 9/11/01
  19. After working in India when I was 18 years old, I travelled on my own for 2 months and freaked my mother out. She said she has vowed never to worry so much over me again.
  20. I since travelled on my own to Egypt & Thailand. I liked travelling alone and meeting new people but am happy now I've found a frog as travelling companion.
  21. I used to think I wanted to work in the theatre as a producer until I decided that I couldn't bear to spend my life around actor types
  22. Instead, I now work out new ways to market soap, pasta sauce & washing powder
  23. I tried working out new ways to market software, hardware and business services but it wasn't as much fun
  24. Because I have moved around in the last 13 years most of my friends are around the world.
  25. I have some good friends in Paris but miss my girl friends in NY & London
  26. I used to have a nose stud
  27. The first time I went skiing I broke my wrist and the first time I really snowboarded I tore part of my knee
  28. General consensus is that I am rather clumsy
  29. Happily, even though the frog is very sporty he matches me in clumsiness (I am not allowed to mention his rollerblading dark tunnel incident anymore)
  30. When the ambulance came to pick up the frog at exit of the dark tunnel, even though we'd been seeing each other for 3 months I didn't know his address to tell the ambulancemen. I got a distinct 'you English floozy' look from the men.
  31. The frog and I plan to move to Reims in May this year. My biggest worry is having to see films dubbed in French.

Latest News...

I have equalised!!

Scrabble Game Results to Date
Frog 2 Games vs. Bird 2 Games

Monday, February 07, 2005

Fair to middling...

So how did the weekend go? ...

  • Tarot game at frog's friend's appartment with dinner

Beat the frenchmen at their own game again. I may be a poor loser but I'm a very smug winner..

  • Lie in

Could have been better. Woke up early thinking about the 'impending' move and never got back to sleep again. This meant that no-one else was allowed to sleep in either.

  • Eyebrow waxing

The silly bint burnt my eyelids with hot wax... she was concentrating too hard on selling me an abonnement... My red eye lids now look as if I've just walked out of a toyah concert.

A ha - this was a success - one devilish angel & priest will be prowling the streets next weekend... I already have the red eye make up.

  • Drink with an old Dutch colleague from my NY days who is in town for the weekend

She never called - well, Andrea's reliability was always questionnable.

  • Big shop at Carrefour

Read how successful that was...

  • Cooking in our new funky oven

Made a marvellous lasagne for 6 people. Except we are only 2. So I know what's for dinner every night for the rest of the week!

  • Take my lovely skinny Paul & Joe jeans that I got in the Sales to the tailor

Dropped them off... forgot to pick them up

  • Finishing the fantastic Small Island by Andrea Levy.

Am now experiencing "end of book" grief... Have now just started my first french book. No, it's not a children's book.

This leaves me very little new news to tell my mum tonight on the phone... except that the film Closer is rubbish.


I had a very embarrassing incident at Carrefour on Saturday when my card was refused for €60 of groceries and I had no other method of payment - even the ATM spat it back at me.

Called Barclays this morning to find out why - when my account was in healthy credit - the card was being refused.

Barclays informed me that multiple payments on the card overseas triggered a security safeguard and the card had been stopped.

I would call this a remarkably proactive move on the bank's behalf. Except I haven't lived in the UK for the last four years.

Friday, February 04, 2005

It's the weekend!

Oh how wonderful... tomorrow is a lie in!

I stretched and zenned myself at yoga last night then screwed up all those hithertoo relaxed shoulders when I was told to rewrite a "point of view" document for the 4th time today. (How can it be called a point of view if I keep being asked to change it?)

Plans for the weekend include (starting 17h30 tonight):

  • Tarot game at frog's friend's appartment with dinner
  • Lie in (I love the french for this that literally translates as "fat morning")
  • Eyebrow waxing (the brow is spreading horizontally)
  • Costume Planning
  • Drink with an old Dutch colleague from my NY days who is in town for the weekend
  • Big shop at Carrefour (I work in packaged consumer goods and will spend my time rearranging our brands neatly on the shelf). I was excited last week to find in their "foreign food" shelves that they have packets of Ginger Nuts . My 'no biscuits at home' rule has been thrown out the window.
  • Cooking in our new funky oven (the Jamie Oliver Lemon & Garlic Roast Chicken with potatoes last week was a winner)
  • Take my lovely skinny Paul & Joe jeans that I got in the Sales to the tailor to take up the 10 ft long legs (I'm 5'8"... just think if I was a petite française) Once the jeans go on though I have to refrain from eating. Which is why they may not be my smartest purchase.
  • Finishing the fantastic Small Island by Andrea Levy.

In precisely 50 mins I can be found running for freedom across the St Ouen streets...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

White Van Man

I discovered last night that White Van Man is not just a British phenomenon following a narrow escape when I was nearly hit by a speeding mini van.

Exiting the office in St Ouen I waited patiently by the pedestrian crossing that links our office and the RER station. Miraculously, the approaching car slowed down to allow me to cross. Another car slowed down behind him and I made my way across the small street. However, a few seconds later approaching White Van Man decided to swing out from behind the the two waiting cars, move into the opposite lane and accelerate towards me.

Coming face to face (or rather windscreen to face) my adrenaline rush was such that - and I am sooo proud of this - I naturally swore at him in French! Yay for Putains! He sat in his van waving his hands and shouting silent obscenities at me, I waved my arms back, glared and then carried on my way home.

A true step forwards in language and cultural integration.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Help Required

I know I have a few friends and family who lurk around here. So now I'm asking for help.

Firstly this is a little test to see if any of you will leave a comment on the site rather than sending me your comments in an email!

Secondly, I do need help:

Aaron is having one of his parties in Amsterdam the weekend after next. Aaron's parties are always awesome. But they also require fancy dress (translation for the yanks: costume party).

I am useless at fancy dress ideas. His last 2 parties I coped (Pimps & Prostitutes and Hollywood Red Carpet). This time it is Saints & Sinners and I'm a little stumped.

So, the Frog and I have to dress to impress. Criteria are:
  1. Minimal investment (max. €20 each)
  2. Minimal sewing involved (no machine & general lack of ability)

This is now in your hands...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I beat the Frog at Scrabble on Saturday. No, let me say, I thrashed the Frog.

Game Results to Date
Frog 2 Games vs. Bird 1 Game

I agree that:
  • I should be ashamed that I am still one game behind in my native language
  • I shouldn't admit that in the beginning part of the 3rd game when I started badly I stormed off and threatened to stop playing

It is however progress in my general gaming and personal development that I resisted throwing the board at my opponent. Only people who have seen me losing before will appreciate that comment.

Round Robins

We're now exiting that time of year when people sent their "round robins" to all the people in their address books. This is the annual letter from friends and family that updates you on them and their nearest and dearests' achievements and news.

(Simon Hoggart has written in The Guardian about the worst kind of letter this can generate.)

However, with the advent of Blogs and the fact that in the US

Blog readership jumped 58 percent between February and November, and comprised 32 million U.S. citizens in 2004. More than 8 million U.S. citizens have created a Web-based diary, and one in 10, or around 14 million U.S. Internet users, has contributed thoughts or comments to a blog. PC World (and we know that Europe is only a few steps behind the US on technology uptake)

does this mean that Round Robin letters are going to be a thing of the past?

I choose to now update my family via the blog. Does this mean that there will be fewer round robins? I know I'm already writing less emails to my closest family as I just expect them to point to this address and get the weekend update.

Another custom lost I suspect. More blogs with torrid family updates anticipated.