Thursday, March 31, 2005
Sunset Chemin des Dames
Originally uploaded by oiseau.
We had a fabulous long Easter weekend. Mum was coming to Reims for the first time and since we were all staying with the Frog family this was also the first time that she would meet the other family.
I wasn't actually nervous about this at all - Frog and I knew everybody and knew that (acts of god aside) everything would be fine. However, understandably, my Mum was a little nervous given the language barrier and strange family residence. I had been given strict instructions by my younger sister to "look after Mum". Like I'd do anything else!
Mum surprised me with her level of french - it was pretty good! After the first 24 hours she was having basic long conversations with all the family members. And her French is far more polite and formal than mine has or ever will be!
Frog mum and brother also put some of their English into practice. So my mum got more efforts than I get! But as in all international exchanges there was lots of smiling, sign language and more smiling carrying us through the weekend.
Notably, we spent the weekend eating and drinking. Plus a quick tour of Reims & cathedral and a walk through the local vines where we tried to lose Job. Our longest trip was 45 mins to the Chemin des Dames to visit the WW1 sites. I caught the sunset above whilst Mum was taking photos of tanks to give to her other half whose father had fought on this site in the tank regiment in WW1.
Whilst I knew there wouldn't be any problems over the trip I am so pleased that I also really enjoyed it! It's not often that I get to spend time with Mum away from either of our home environments and she's not only a great mum but great company as a friend.
The additional bonus of the trip for me was that Father Frog and I chatted. He's a lovely man but he tends to avoid direct conversation with me as I think he's nervous that he'll get stuck with a communication problem that he can't resolve. But I was clearly the lesser of two conversation 'evils' compared to my Mum and he cracked jokes and chatted in an almost relaxed way with me!
Next time Mum comes we'll be moved into our own flat in Reims. Four weeks to the Paris departure and counting!
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Originally uploaded by oiseau.
So, you're driving down a small road in the northern region along Chemin des Dames with your mother and boyfriend. Ostensibly you're on your way to the WW1 sites and the Caverne du Dragon, since this was an area of extremely heavy fighting during the Great War.
Suddenly, you glance out the window and you notice, in the middle of fields that sweep for miles, a statue looking very lonely.
Actually, Mum spotted it and we stopped on a dirt track to see what this strange apparation was. And there we found Napoleon in all his splendour viewing the site of what was a large Prussian battlefield. According to a small plaque this used to be the location of a windmill where Napoleon postitioned himself to view and lead the battle.
A rather surreal sight. The statue was placed there in the '60s after the original windmill was destroyed in the WW1 battles.
So here is our hommage to the big little man. And as the frog was reminded, they may have killed Nelson but the English won Waterloo.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
My first day after the long weekend I spend trudging through the rain in London for meetings with people who didn't turn up* Waiting to go home this evening, tired and grumpy at Waterloo I check my blog and notice that my little weather pixie shows the same nasty rain in Paris. Now I'm happy.
My mum once told me that I am always miserable until I notice someone worse off than me and then I seem to perk up.
Selfish but evidently true.
* Okay they were ill with gastro and couldn't help it.
Monday, March 28, 2005
I could blame Blogger or I could explain that I've been in Reims since Thursday evening. We got back to Paris this evening and I will be spending the majority of tomorrow on trains on an aller retour for the day to Crawley (any Americans reading this should just imagine Newark without any of the glamour and excitement).
So I will while away the hours on Eurostar tomorrow summarising the Easter weekend when "Oiseau Mum met Frog Family" .
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
The thing is his English is so good that I really notice when he makes a froggy slip. But I love the froggisms - they always lead to laughing together and some of them now are just habit and delivered with a knowing smirk.
So here are three of my other favourites (since mum is an avid reader not all are listed here due to an attempt to preserve her/my modesty):
- Screaming Ducks
One weekend in the summer house I was awoken very early in the morning by the frog stomping to the window and slamming it shut. "What on earth are you doing" I muttered. "The duck is screaming and woke me up." The screaming duck never returned to the house but the legacy is that ducks will never again quack in our household - they are forever stuck screaming. Mallard meets Munch.
- Palms of my feet
Of course it's logical - if your feet are hurting after being dragged around the shops, it means the palms of your feet are sore. Makes me think of monkeys for some reason.
- Tainted hair
I have never tried to hide the fact that I'm not a natural blonde. (Although since I haven't been near a hairdresser in a while I seem to be reverting to the mousy brown of yore.). However, I and many others are referred to by the frog as having "tainted" hair. Which seems quite fitting really, especially when it is delivered in a disdainful voice.
I recently learnt that an extended member of my (English) family is upset that I refer to the love of my life as the "frog" in the blog. I think it's felt to be offensive. I hope no other frogs are offended. This one loves it and even prior to the days that blogs existed called himself that. And we know how the fairy tale ends when the princess kisses the frog...
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
But in the meantime this morning I have just been offered an extension on my contract (had been due to run out April 30th) to now run until end of 2005 continuing my role here in the world of soap, soup, pasta sauce and ice cream. AND - this is the big part that everything was hanging on - I will télétravail (work from home) for 2 - 3 days a week. The other days will be shared between Paris and London/Hamburg/Brussels (love those northern European cities!)
This means not only will I be moving to Reims (yes we have a view of that cathedral from our new lovely flat!) in five weeks but someone will pay for me to continue working under the conditions I have asked for.
Alright it's still not the job I dreamed of - but now I can be gainfully employed, live in a beautiful small city with the lovely frog, justify the expense of hiring a cleaner and pay the new mortgage.
Hoorah hoorah hoorah!
* By the way what is the French equivalent for "Hooray"?
Monday, March 21, 2005
Frog and I headed off to Bois de Boulogne for an afternoon of skating. I have only skated in Paris once before and the last time we went out it all ended up with a head injury, ambulance and trip to casualty for the Frog. (If you ask nicely he'll show you the scar.)
So we were both a bit wobbly to start with but ended up spending several beautiful sunny hours speeding around the park. I say speeding but I'm not really being very accurate. I prefer to meander.
I pride myself on the fact that I learnt to blade in Central Park. My friend Aaron took me to the top of the Great Hill and listened to me scream as I sped down the incline. We used to pass many afternoons on the path down the West Side of Manhattan, only stopping for refreshment at Chelsea Piers with a bottle of Vitamin Water.
I realised yesterday that Central Park is rather different to Boulogne. In Central Park the cyclists shout at you, the bladers pose and the runners ... well they run. And it's only two years later that I realise there were never any large numbers of children in Central Park "on the road". Unlike in Boulogne. In Bois de Boulogne everybody is part of a family who are roller blading, cycling or scootering. And the anarchic French like to put their little kids on colourful bicycles, helmet securely on head and set them off to learn how they will eventually drive one day. Like maniacs.
I swear the little blighters see you and then aim right at you. I swerved, I braked and yet I never quite hit one. I did witness others' crashes and tears and laughed out loud when a screaming six year old who had just narrowly missed me, once again turned her head to talk to her friends behind her and say "when you look behind you, you lose control". Really. No flies on that one.
But I had a lot of fun. We sat by the water and read and then headed off to find a café for my first citron pressé of the summer. A perfect Sunday afternoon.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers
The strange case of the homosexual necrophiliac duck pushed out the boundaries of knowledge in a rather improbable way when it was recorded by Dutch researcher Kees Moeliker.
Ducks behave pretty badly, it seems. It is not so much that up to one in 10 of mallard couples are homosexual - no one would raise an eyebrow in the liberal Netherlands - but they regularly indulge in "attempted rape flights" when they pursue other ducks with a view to forcible mating.
His findings have provoked a lot of interest - especially in Britain for some reason - but no other recorded cases of duck necrophilia. However, Mr Moeliker was informed of an American case involving a squirrel and a dead partner, although in this case it is not known whether the necrophilia observed was homosexual or not as the victim had been run over by a truck shortly before the incident.
Di da di da di da di da di da di da di da di da dahhh (imagine pounding jumping up and down training music).
No, I still haven't been inside a gym this year, I was listening to this whilst waiting for the train morning. There are many things I hate about travelling on the RER - the train system that links the suburbs of Paris to the centre. They are dark, smelly, if you miss one you have to wait 20 mins and they are usually taking me somewhere I don't want to go (i.e. work).
However, I do love the fact that they pipe music onto the platform. So, this morning I was waiting for the train whilst listening to the hit from Flashdance. Often it's Phil Collins which doesn't quite set my day off in the same way but easy listening classics are quite a lovely start to the day and a chance listen to music you would never usually choose/admit to.
As "Maniac" faded out a French classic started and the woman sat next to me on the dirty plastic seats started to hum loudly along. A great distraction from the grime ridden smelly subterranean and guaranteed to ensure one of the tunes gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I didn't see it on the original list supplied! And so I had NO idea if what I bought (which is on its slow France - NYC post way) was appropriate or not. The good thing is that I don't think she's Jewish (well her husband likes ham according to one post) as iIwas freaking that one of the products I have gifted is rather pork based.
If only I'd found the blog before! I would have been more inspired. I think.
I'm not thrilled since last night I got my tax forms which I have to complete. Easier than the US but tougher than the UK. More expensive than both.
The HR director who I started out on a bad foot with when I arrived (think aggressive NY manager meets uptight French hierarchy) has agreed to help me calculate my reported income. (I'm paid in London it gets horribly complicated). For which help M. HR Director will be paid in the gesture of some champagne (yes, I worked out the show French courtesy and bow down to your superiors thing eventually).
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
- As most bloggers in Paris are today, I am celebrating the fact that spring looks like it's finally here. The sun is shining, birds are singing and even the hole known as St Ouen looks ready to bloom. What a difference a few days makes!
- My mum is buying a flight for Easter and coming to Reims for the long weekend. I haven't seen her since Christmas and am very excited to see her again. We'll be staying with the frog parents - luckily they have a rather large house so there will be no falling over each other in the morning. It's her first time to the region and I can't wait to show her around my 'soon to be' new home city. And of course drink some champagne. I'm also looking forward to witnessing the attempts at Franglais conversation from Frog Mother & Mum (I am an evil daughter).
- I wanted to 'celebrate' Zinnia. I just got her morning post (what a difference an RSS feed makes!) and as usual it reminded me what a great writer she is. Her stories read effortlessly, I can't believe she lost out on the best writing award at the 2005 Bloggies. I very rarely comment on her posts as there's very little left to say except glow, be moved by her work, sensitivity and sometimes appreciate (what I sense) is a rather wicked sense of humour beneath it all.
Guess I ought to get on with my work saving Europe from bad soap marketing.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Armed with the fabric sample (think claret/bordeaux) I went into a fantastic shop in the 9th on Saturday.
In my search I have tended to be rather intimidated by bridal shops - on a Saturday they are usually stuffed with Bridezillas and snooty parisian assistants. But in Cendrine, the assistants were two absolutely charming late middle aged women. They didn't laugh at my french or my request. They tutted a little over the bride's selection of colour but then pulled out a fabulous sample to try on. The dress is perfectly flattering and they are able to have it made up in an almost exact match.
It is also unfortunately way out of my budget. I decided to swap the silk that I tried it in for satin so that I could save 100 euros on the price. But I think I may resell after the wedding and in the meantime try and swallow the cost.
As the two dames admired me in the dress they asked if I was engaged. Upon the negative answer they gasped, "Well by the end of this wedding you'll have at least ten proposals".
When I relayed this to the frog his response was "Are you expecting ten proposals from the same guy or ten different men?".
This of course is the frog who believes that his brother and sister-in-law have the right approach. They had a civil ceremony two years ago (since they wanted to marry quickly before her Colonel father was posted to Bosnia for a long period of time) and now her father is back and retired they are have been able to plan the church blessing, white dress and large reception for this April.
Apparently this is very sensible. How did I find the most unromantic man in France?
Monday, March 14, 2005
Originally uploaded by oiseau.
This is Job.
Job is the frog family dog and he's getting a bit old. Father Frog used to take Job hunting with him but now he can't keep up the pace and he spends most of his time sleeping or looking for attention. He's sweet but also rather smelly.
I included Job in a set of photos I posted on Flickr. Now, I don't put any photos of family & friends public there (just a few of myself) since the world and his wife looks across these posted photos. There's a certain element of privacy I extend to people who wouldn't choose themselves to share their image.
But Job is a dog and I didn't really think about his feelings of privacy.
However, I found the other day that some random Flickr user had selected Smelly Dog as one of their favourite photos.
What? This is not a great photo - it just makes me laugh because it captures an old smelly dog. So, I clicked through to the profile of the person who had selected this photo as a favourite.
I can now see why this guy chose the photo. He has created a portfolio of hundreds of other peoples posts of their dogs.
This is really weird.
I feel a little disturbed by this dog obsession. And that I have put Job in the middle of it. Did anyone ever read John Fowles' The Collector?
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Though that quote is from someone in The Jane Austen Book Club which conjures up images of large skirted Victorian women sat around in a circle discussing books (this would also be where my mother sighs as I have probably got Jane Austen's time period all wrong). The other quote given is "Stephen King meets Ibsen".
Anyway... there were two lines in the book that really made me think "Yes. That's exactly right". Because as a 31 year old I'm not always clear on how to link what my life is now with what I used to think it would be like and what my values were when I was younger. And when did I become a grown up? (And this is not a 'I'm unhappy with my life post' I am more than happy at what I have in my life!)
The two lines I will share are:
"A man who isn't a socialist at 20 has no heart. A man who isn't a capitalist at 30 has no brain"
and talking about having to go through the motions when you are really upset about something:
"One of the things about being a grown-up is... learning how to act right even when you feel wrong"
Quite sad to have finished the book - it was a refreshing change from the usual format (Ibsen meets Stephen King was the giveaway that it would be slightly different!).
Had a lot of fun last night. The surreal world we live in means I knew many of the details of the people's lives I was drinking with last night. But didn't know the people at all.
Some really pleasant surprises and just wish I had spoken to a few more people. Fab venue, great conversation and lovely glow stick cocktails. And even the token male Parisian blogger - may have gained a new fan for his baseball team's new season.
The frog used to think all people who blogged were wierdos. I'm kind of sorry you all proved him wrong last night! My secret blown.
Thanks Petite for organising!
Friday, March 11, 2005
And I get to think about fab tunes I haven't heard but would love to have a dance around to... so I'm going for The Breeder's Canonball.
It's not that I'm worried about the standard of French dentists (I'm English remember, we are not renowned for our great dental care). I was more worried about having my mouth wide open, metal instruments inserted and poking around whilst trying to stay focused on understanding what the dentist is saying to me.
Frog gave me a quick run down on dental vocabulary. Can't spell them (I can't write in French at all) but I can now ask and understand a simple check up, clean, gums, incisors, molars and wisdom teeth.
Of course, as with many of my worries, they were all for nothing. My dentist was charming, noted I had a 'petit' accent anglais (that always amuses me when there is nothing petit about my accent) quizzed me on the fall of America to independence (yes, I could agree, it was because our King George went mad), told me BBC news was easier to follow than CNN because of that nasal accent those Americans have and then he proceeded to inspect my teeth.
Magnificent he said, nobody would know you hadn't been to a dentist in four years (ah, la honte), I have mama and papa to thank for such strong beautiful teeth. I obviously drink tea as I have a little staining on at the back but, hey, that's the English for you.
20 mins later, clean, rinse, spit and I was off.
All for 29 euros. I love this country sometimes.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The eclectic mix included Vanity Fair, Living etc (planning the new home deco), Easy Living* , Fast Company and Heat.
I am a huge Heat fan, I get strange looks when I travel with colleagues as I pull out The Economist Predictions for 2005 & Heat next to each other. Heat is the UK's biggest gossip magazine aimed at 23 year old women who want all the dirt on celebs, it shows their spots and cellulite, who's sleeping with who and tells you how to recreate those same outfits for £20. Love it.
The Frog is also a convert to the magazine. And when I return from the UK (or an indulgent trip to central Paris newsagents) he just as quickly grabs it.
Hence tonight's dinner conversation:
Frog: So what about Jude & Sienna then? I wouldn't be happy
either if she'd been partying whilst I was working. But I could have told him
that's what happens if you go out with a 23 year old. Just asking for
Me: Really. So that's why you're not going out with a beautiful
young actress then?
Frog: U-huh. But I bet Sadie is really happy inside. She won't
show it but she will be.
Me: You know I saw the Sun headline yesterday was Brad & Jen
are back together again.
Frog: No. Can't be. She'd never forgive him. Because Angelina is
higher class than she is.
Me: Right. So you think Brad & Angelina really got it on.
Frog: Of course. And she's got some assets.
*it's a new Condé Nast publication. Call it work research but I was very disappointed all the women in it were clearly taken from the editors' personal address book and it was full of promotional pages masquerading as editorial content.
But I did take advantage of our UK office's company store which sells all of the products this personal care, foods company makes at a very low price.
So, as I sit here shattered after yesterday's trip I just had the bright idea to get the box of herbal tea that I bought in the store. Yes, a mug of mint green tea just might pick me up.
Except for some strange reason I had bought chamomile. Ready to curl up under my desk and drift off anytime now.
Monday, March 07, 2005
The guilt is weighing heavy on me now... and I'm off to London for the day tomorrow (sadly just for work, no play) so no progress expected tomorrow.
Even Frog who used to do the little things I didn't manage to get to (because he had lots of space during his unemployed days) is now focused on a busy mission to sell champagne.
If I publicly announce how awful I am maybe this will motivate me to sort it out.
In my quest to get my bridesmaid dress in the bride's choice of fabric (bride's happiness should be fairly high on the list of dress criteria, I guess) I am going to try and get a copy of a previously worn bridesmaid dress I liked made up.
Do any of the Parisian bloggers know/recommend a decent dressmaker?
Getting a bit stressed about this so all advice much appreciated!
Saturday, March 05, 2005
I love Marmite. Many hate it and for the non-Brits who haven't heard of it it's a savoury, yeasty, salty spread that we grow up with in the UK. It has a very distinct taste & smell. You never grow out of it - if you ever liked it in the first place.
If you saw the last round of TV advertising in the UK, the scenario from this morning may sound familiar:
Oiseau appears in the bedroom carrying a tray of toast (nutella and hot milk for the frog, marmite and coffee for herself):
Frog: I can (h)ug you but no kisses...
Nice to be appreciated.
Today I finally got myself in gear to try and find a dress that matches the fabric sample Gail sent me in the post. No success yet, but hey, that's another post...
So, Frog and I are flying over for a 2 week holiday to Argentina before the nuptials and are very excited about this trip.
Me: You know if you play your cards right you might even get to pull one of the bridesmaids.
Frog: Yeah, but it's always more exciting if you don't know them before.
Friday, March 04, 2005
The format is really for cadres celibataires (single professionals) but I think all of our group are married, living in etc. so this was an opportunity to enjoy a champagne open bar for a couple of hours at Maxim's (very cavernous, belle-epoque 'nightspot') for the price of €12 and have a bit of a boogie. And people watch.
I love watching the french dance at weddings . The french love to rock 'n roll dance - you know the twirling, dipping and swinging style. They are very serious about this. And I take great amusement at watching a young couple earnestly rock 'n roll to latest hits. (Frog and I have been in dispute about taking dancing classes for the last 10 months since I want to salsa and he just wants to rock.)
As the lightweight that I am now, since we started early (7pm) I had my several glasses of champagne, a bit of a boogie (no rock 'n rolling I hasten to add) and headed home, curled up in the duvet by 11pm. Only to be woken up at nearly 2am by a frog who had just returned from an evening playing cards with his friends. Wild living indeed...
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Originally uploaded by oiseau.
On Sunday when I left frog family, frog drove me to the railway station. The snow was beautiful across the vines and apparently the freeze is good as it kills all the "bad" things that can attack vines. So Frog took a few photos on the way back.
Here's a quick peek if you were wondering what the snow on the vineyards in the Massif de Saint Thierry, Champagne - Ardennes looked like.
When I lived in Manhattan and commuted by public transport to Greenwich CT everyday my duvet coat was a lifesaver in the winter. But NY winters are long and whilst trekking on the cross town bus, 6 line subway and Metro North I used to moan about how I wanted to put on a normal coat again that didn't make me look like ten ton tessie. Especially when I went straight from Grand Central to a cool downtown bar and had to lug the duvet with me.
I haven't worn the duvet in 2 years - I haven't needed to. The European winters have been mild so I get to wear a normal coat through the winter, accessorised with hat, glove & scarf as needed.
But these last few days, I just dream of my duvet coat and how warm it would keep me. But alas it is stuffed in a box in storage, not to be seen till May when it wil be too late...
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Good meetings... better time seeing and staying with my good aussie friend Leander. L made me laugh last night when we went for japanese and on hearing the table next to us she complained "I don't come to japanese restaurants to hear kiwis drone on....".
The japanese restaurant was a small family concern with a couple of women fully kitted out in the kimono and flip flops, achieving an amazing running trot/shuffle as they served tables.
The train is delayed but I'm going to make my way back to the bar... and steal the magazines to take home.