Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Someone is looking down on me today.
  • For the first time in 10 days the trains ran without any strikes, faults on the lines or delays
  • My taxi driver this morning wasn't blaring his radio, sniffing, grinding his teeth or shouting into his mobile
  • There were no traffic jams on the way from the station to the office
  • I had very few emails in my inbox
  • I have ticked everything off my to do list for the day
  • I am flying to Copenhagen tonight for meetings tomorrow and the weather forecast says it'll be above zero with no snow
  • I am staying in this fabulous hotel tonight. I will arrive around early evening and snuggle up for the night with a book, my i-pod and room service.

Back to business on Thursday. My birthday has crept up on me this year... I shall be having a fairly low key day that day. My birthday present from Frog will be happening at a rather stunning restaurant which will have a post devoted to after the weekend ....

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Snow Today

Snow Reims
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

This is the view from our street this morning. Frog took the photos on his way to buy supplies at Monoprix.

We have friends from Lille arriving sometime today. They are negotiating their way down the motorway with a 12 month old baby.

The chicken cassoulet is sitting in the oven awaiting their arrival for a late lunch and a glass of wine.

Friday, November 25, 2005


It has been bitterly cold on the early morning train rides to and from Paris. It doesn't help that the train strikes have been dragging out with neither rhyme nor reason. So, I find myself stranded on strange platforms waiting for another train to arrive at 8pm, waiting in the freezing rain, for the last leg of a journey home.

I saw snow out of the carriage windows this morning. It started on the outskirts of Reims and lasted a large way to Paris. But I didn't see flakes actually fall until this afternoon.

I was so excited to see the snow drifting past our large glass office windows, that I called Frog at his desk at the house and burst into exuberant questioning in one of our Franglais conversations:

Frog: Allo?
Oiseau: Is it snowing there?
Frog: Allo?
Oiseau: Is it snowing there?
Frog: Non, c'est G******* (insert Frog's real name)

I've been chortling all afternoon over that one...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Originally uploaded by oiseau.

If you remember this then you'll know I needed to go boot shopping. I've been in and out of the small selection of Reims shops since I wrote that post. Finally yesterday, the replacements were found.

So, somehow, in the weird way shoe shopping can so often go, I went out for a cheap pair of black boots and came back with these wonderful, expensive, tan ones.

They got their first outing this morning. After two days of working from home, I walked to the station to take the train to Paris. Only to discover what I thought was yesterday's 24 hour strike by the SNCF is turning into a rolling strike. Two trains today (next at midday) and no idea if they'll be running tomorrow.

So my boots walked me back home where I'm trying to find the motivation to work. I think I'll go out again at lunchtime just to give the boots another stroll. Seems unfair to keep them cooped up inside.

Last Night

Frog: So how much did you say they cost?
Oiseau: I didn't
Frog: I'm going to stop believing you next time you say "I'm broke"
Oiseau: Think of them as an investment
Frog: Mmmmm

Monday, November 21, 2005


I spent part of this morning with a strange man wrapped around my mostly naked body, as he urged me to aspirez, whilst squeezing me and bending me tightly.

Yes, pretty much your standard Monday morning session with the Osteopath.

The sign that he was going to be good was the fact that I couldn't get an appointment with him for weeks. As I trundled across town this morning, I was mentally preparing the recitation, in French, of my long history of back problems.

I have a huge admiration for ostepaths. Once they've stripped you down to your underwear they watch you for a minute or so as you stand, rather self-consciously, facing a wall. They treat the body as a whole (and quite often have a previous profession in dance before moving into this medical field).

Within 30 seconds he asked me what age I was when I had damaged my ankle - a sprain or fracture? (answer: fourteen years) and then moved around to face me and ask me to open my mouth wide a couple of times as he watched my jaw movements. I have a large tension in the left side of my jaw which is the reason for my headaches and sporadic pain behind my ears, apparently.

Then he moved onto my back. He came to the same conclusion as the chiropractor that I had when I was sixteen: when I was very young I must have had a big fall and landed down hard on my bum. Except no-one in my family can think of where or when this might have been.

The bottom part of my spine is ecrasé (crushed) from the cocyx to the fifth vertabrae up. It twists around, providing a dip and curve in my lower back that shouldn't be there. Meaning there's no vertabrae to work on popping back but long term care and soins to generate a little more suppleness and wellness in the region.

All this means that when I'm tired and stressed and the muscles are knackered from travelling with heavy bags, my back simply and painfully gives up.

The odd part (if you're still reading by this point) was when he looked at my central torso. Apparently, I have a lot of tension and problems here and he started asking about problems with my lungs when I was a child or asthma and allergies, breathing in fumes (no, no and non, unless you can count recent exposure to paint fumes, which apparently I can't).

Continuing in his attempt to track down the potential exposure of my fumes problem... 'What did my parents do as a profession?'... When he asked what Dad did, and I replied "he wasn't there", he followed up by enquiring what age I was when he left. "Ahhh, I think that was difficult and you have a lot of problems here" - pointing at my centre. It was the only time I've felt a bit hokummed by an osteopath. But it's also something to add to my list of reasons that Dad won't be at the wedding! (Aside to my sister - it's a joke, laugh...)

The rest of the session was given to very gentle manipulations of the spine, cocyx, neck and breastbone. I say gentle, but it bloody hurt. Before the final curling and squeezing at the end.

So, I have another séance in a couple of weeks and a few simple daily stretching exercises to keep me busy in the meantime. That's when I miss English carpets, since stretching out on the shiny, hard parquet is not quite as comfortable as the blue swirly carpet of my childhood. Never thought I'd miss the 70's turquoise paisley patterns, but I do now!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


The Frog's verdict the other day was :

Cooking - Excellent
Cleaning - Average

He was referring to my efforts in the house. And the reason he deserves a smack is that it is a long time since he contributed to either. (In his defence, when he was unemployed last year in Paris, I never picked up so much as a bottle of Cif and he always cleaned).

Following a recent couple of incidents, I'm actually a little ashamed. Firstly, we had borrowed Frog parents' vacuum cleaner before my Mum stayed, since our vacuum cleaner had recently died. Secondly, shortly after a visit by his parents to our flat, Frog appeared home from work bearing a brand new snazzy, bagless vacuum cleaner that his mum had selected and bought for us.

So, since we are currently still both working and yes, the flat cleanliness has something to be desired, we are asking Mother Frog's cleaner, Solange, if she can spend a few hours a week on our flat.

She has said she's more than happy to, and suggested to Frog that she could do the ironing as well, "but check with Oiseau first", she said.

When Frog asked me, we were actually both rather stumped as to the last time the iron made an appearance in our flat. In fact, since I destroyed the last iron in Paris (in a rather nasty 'iron shaped hole' in the acrylic blue carpet incident) the only iron we possess is buried somewhere and is an old rather crap one that Frog had hidden away. Nothing like the steam pressured machines that the French are so fond of.

Before Solange arrives I will probably end up on a trip to Darty to buy an iron that (whilst not in the price range of a steam machine) works and looks as if it was manufactured this century. Then I will embark upon the obligatory 'pre-cleaner arrival' mad cleaning spree.

The actual extent of our slovenliness may never be found out...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Girly Hag

Isn't that a pretty bouquet? Yes, the wedding planning is moving ahead. I have large folders of bouquet , room decoration and homemade favours ideas on the computer; stacks of magazines with marked pages; excel spreadsheets with budgets (versions: base case, best case, worst case and 'today's case'), guest lists, addresses; a ringbinder with snazzy dividers including all the supplier estimates and contact details...

Yes, I am in my project management element.

And to top it all, my jaw dropped to the ground when Frog suggested we went to last weekend's Wedding Fair in Reims. Had I heard of it? Yes, of course I had but I hadn't even considered telling him about it as I was sure I'd get a belligerent, 'do we have to' response. Although once we were there, I realised he probably wanted to see the pretty models in the fashion show. And there was the bonus that on the way out, we bumped into his Godfather at the adjacent Food & Wine Fair, selling the snails he farms. (Yes, only in France).

I'm not going to jinx things by putting too much wedding detail here (mainly because we are still arguing over the costs of the details). But I can update you on two current topics:

The Dress
After a day of dress trying on last month, Mum and I reduced the selection to a 'final three'. All very different. My sister is arriving in Reims this Friday night, and she will help me make the final choice. Oooh la la.

The Hag Do
Ahhh yes. I confidently told my sister (as chief and sole bridesmaid) that I didn't want a traditional hen night, but I would love to have a night out in London with my favourite friends - male and female. Half of my good mates are male, and I can't think of anything very exciting about a night out with just girls. No offence to my best girl friends, but it wouldn't be inclusive of everyone.

My favourite London restaurant, bar... I had images of a fun, tipsy night out.

Then this weekend happened.

And so The Boys decided that they wanted to organise a stag weekend. The type that they have organised in the past, that involved meticulous planning; taxis turning up in the middle of the night; random dodgy hotel rooms to stay alone and await 4 am calls on where to find a hidden set of clothes; mystery clown costumed journeys on British Rail to find the group; en route forfeits to be completed in order to get the full set of directions (not of the naughty kind but rather the plain embarassing kind for a shy, retiring lass like myself) and... of course... much drinking.

Somewhere in the drunken haze of that weekend in Lille, I said yes to this. On the proviso that they involved my sister, invited all my girl mates and someone in the group promised to wear the 'let's be a mite sensible about all this' hat.

I had thought that my sister would be the one wearing the aforementioned hat. However, she would now seem to be one of the most enthusiastic member of the organising committee. She's already told me she is rather proud of the fact that she came up with the moniker 'Hag' to describe the event and I have a sinking feeling this may be payback for the years of bullying that she endured as the younger sister.

Should I be worried?!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Quirky Facts

I was tagged by Andrea a couple of weeks ago. This is a bit of a recycle from last January. But I figure a lot of readers weren't around back then!
  • I grew up with my Mum & younger sister in Dorset, my grandma lived just down the road. Quite the female powerhouse...
  • I have a half brother from my Dad's second marriage.
  • My brother is 14 years old and lives in London with his Mum.
  • 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.
  • My mum is 7 1/2 inches shorter than me - I grew up thinking I was a giant freak. I never realised it was her who was the abnormal one.
  • All sides of my family have blue eyes.
  • I can say "My name is Anna", count to ten and manage to order in a market in Hindi.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I used to go the school where my mum teaches. Luckily she only started doing the sex ed classes after I left.
  • I scraped a"C" in A level French because I never concentrated on the grammar. Plus ça change...
  • 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.
  • I learnt to rollerblade in Central Park.
  • I was living in Manhattan on 9/11/01.
  • 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.
  • I later 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.
  • 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.
  • Instead, I now work out new ways to market soap, pasta sauce & washing powder.
  • I tried working out new ways to market software, hardware and business services but it wasn't as much fun.
  • Because I have moved around in the last 13 years most of my friends are around the world.
  • I used to have a nose stud.
  • The first time I went skiing I broke my wrist and the first time I really snowboarded I tore part of my knee.
  • General consensus is that I am rather clumsy.
  • Happily, even though Frog is very sporty he matches me in clumsiness (I am not allowed to mention his rollerblading dark tunnel incident anymore).
  • 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.

I think everybody on this planet has now done this meme, so no tagging, but feel free to play along....

Friday, November 11, 2005


WW1 German Graves
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

So, today is another jour ferié for me. Catching up on correspondance, wedding planning and housework is the order of the day.

The French take Armistice Day as a holiday and I, without thinking, asked the German team I work with, if they have a holiday today too. Clearly not.

However, since the futility of the young Germans' deaths seems as relevant to me as the the allies' young generation, here are some photos of the WW1 cemetries that are scattered through this area of France.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Everybody Loves Those... Stinky Boots

When I was younger I had a slight problem with my feet. The slight problem was that they stank. I used to arrive home in the summer, and mum would instruct me to take my shoes off, put them outside, and then escort me to the bathroom to wash my feet. This procedure had to happen before I was allowed to do anything else.

My housemates at University would agree, they liked me. Hated my feet.

But once I left University, I'm not sure if I could afford a better class of shoe, or my hormones stopped hormoning. But my feet became a lesser issue. Not a hum, not a whiff.

Then last year I bought some knee high black boots. They started off fine, but one year later, cold weather and winter approaching, they've come back out of the wardrobe and it would appear they are starting to hum a little. I noticed it before Frog. And now when he sees me arrive home, wearing the boots, in a echo of my teenage years I am ordered straight to the bathroom.

It's clear I have to buy a new pair of boots. But this week before I've had a chance to get to the shops, I had to travel to Hamburg. Ideal autumn, comfortable, smart boot wearing opportunity. No heels, no back problems, there actually was no choice. It's okay, I thought. I'll get there, check into hotel, no one needs to know.

Charles de Gaulle airport security had a different idea. As I lifted my overnight bag, laptop bag, handbag onto the security belt, I slipped off my scarf and coat and prepared to walk through the scanner. The security woman in charge gestured to my boots and asked me to remove them and place them on the xray belt.

Panic. I screwed my face up. She thought I was unhappy about walking in tights across the airport floor, and in a concilliatory gesture brought out the slip on foot covers. Non, non ça-va, merci, I muttered. 'You never have to see these people again' I thought and bent to remove my boots and act completely ignorant of the odour that was about to hit the air.

Shuffling through, the beeper went off - underwired bra and all that. So, I stood for an interminable time as I was scanned. Avoiding all eye contact I then waited for the curled up boots to pass down the conveyor belt, to a point where I could snatch them quickly and hurriedly slip them back on again.

I walked with a forced nonchalance away from the security area into the business lounge. I didn't look back once.

Boot shopping. Saturday.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


One of the things that has really changed since I left London nearly 5 years ago, is my tolerance for alcohol. In New York, I would have great nights of cocktails with my buddies, but it wasn't cool to get 'fall over drunk'.

Then I moved to Paris, and in Paris, it's just not cool to get anywhere close to drunk. A couple of glasses of wine with a meal, biensûr, but I stuggle to remember times when I was really tipsy.

Well, now, I think it's safe to say I have drunk more in the last two days, then in the last two months combined.

Frog and I have been getting very wound up recently. Long days, early starts, travelling, back pain, wedding budgeting, blah. So, I knew we were both looking forward to a bit of an escape this weekend.

We started with good civillised intentions. Friday night, an apéro at our flat with this lovely lady, followed by dinner. Actually, champagne apéro turned into dinner with a good couple of bottles between three, and then champagne and ratafia bottles drained back at the flat. Fuelled by drink, our poor guest was subjected to Frog's solo dancefloor exhibition. The living room parquet became his piste to convince us that a waltz would be ideal for a first dance at the wedding. Yeah, not really convinced. I think, around the time that Frog moved onto his favourite animal impressions*, it was clearly time to call it a night.

Hungover, the alarm went off at 7:30am and we dragged our sore heads up the motorway to Lille. A bunch of my old friends were descending on the city from London, to join up with the boy who now lives there with his lovely French girlfriend and baby daughter. It was a boys' birthday celebration weekend, wives, girlfriends, children all left behind, and I was only allowed there as honoury (French resident) guest, making the group ten strong.

I will pass over the hazy details of the past two days. They'd already been going 24 hours when we turned up. It was a city that 'charmed us', as Frog put it. But I'm not sure the city was similarily charmed by our drunken bufoonery. Pubs; cafés; restaurants; drinking game forfeits; dodgy, smokey underground bars with UV lighting; sweaty clubs where the married friends egged on the single boys of the group, intent on wooing the local female population with their beery English charm. Final shapes were thrown on the dancefloor and the last crawlers got back to the hotel shortly before breakfast was ready.

But it was fun. Once a year, completely trashed, kind of fun! Frog loved it, and my English boys loved Frog, and so do I. Hungover in exhaustion, we will slob in front of a DVD tonight, weekend escape having been sucessfully completed.

* Can you guess what kind of animal? All national stereotype kind of answers are encouraged.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Melancholia #2

Autumn Vines
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

Yes, still my favourite word, I am suffering from this and other more physical ailments.

After a glorious weekend, of sun, warmth, wedding dress shopping, bistro dining and vineyard ambling, I have dipped a little.

Chronic back pain is almost as much fun for others to hear about, as for the person suffering. So I shan't bore you with the details

The couple of day's respite that I've had were constructive - these photos show why I'm happy to be in Reims, out of the big city.

I'll return now to my heat pad, cushions on the floor and Crosby Stills & Nash on the stereo.