Friday, March 31, 2006

Happy Sigh!

Today I finished my job in Paris. What began as a two month contract in September 2004 ended up becoming an 18 month position. I had a lovely lunch with the people I like and then I hoofed it out of there!

I already have a freelance project beginning on Monday. It will be a fairly intensive 12 day delivery but I (for once) negotiated a fee that I'm happy with and can do the majority of the work from home. I just need to find out who to talk to set up a TVA number. Any help appreciated!

After that ... well, the wedding will be on the horizon and then... who knows what!

I feel like I'm on the edge of something very exciting, a new start, the next phase in my life. I think I'm going to take a nap and then enjoy a coupe or two when my man comes home.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


When people have asked me about the CPE demonstrations in Reims, I've joked that this is a very bourgeoisie city and there are no burning cars here.

Well, I still don't think there are any burning cars yet but Mother Frog was stuck in a rather scary situation this morning.

I'd been sat waiting for her to drop by the flat, in order to hand over something that Frog had forgotten when he left this morning. She was popping into the city to run a couple of errands and I sat tapping my heels as I waited. And waited.

Finally, this afternoon I got a call from Frog to tell me that his Mum had returned about half an hour earlier in tears. She'd driven around a corner just as today's manifestation was starting up. The crowds surrounded her in the car and began to shake it. Frog family suspect she was a target of the group as she was driving their rather large shiny Mercedes.

I don't know anybody who has sympathies for the CPE demonstrators anymore. There's a large national strike today and I find a certain irony to the fact that I can't get to a Government office in order to learn about I need to begin work as an independent freelancer in this country.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


One of my favourite bloggers is this guy. His link to Google Idol today has gotten me addicted to new global lipsynching talents.

Genius. Sheer Genius.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Spring View

Spring View
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

Just one week until spring officially arrives but this weekend already felt like a huge heavy weight was being lifted from our shoulders.

Blue skies, cafés, people watching, long lunch, walking, snowdrops, photos, vines, museum, viticulteur plans and lamb dinner.

The set of photos from this afternoon's drive out to Verzenay can be found here...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sign of the Times

I confess that I haven't been endlessly practicing my new married signature. I did however check that I could "upgrade" from my account if the was available.

I should probably make sure I'm not like a friend of mine who had a mild panic when she went to sign her new married name at the bank. She couldn't remember how to spell it.

I also have to work on the pronounciation and not hacking up a large amount of phlegm when I roll the 'r' in the the "gr" of the name. That could be embarassing.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Originally uploaded by oiseau.

I was at home yesterday in the back of the flat, attempting (and failing) to focus on a piece of work I've been avoiding for days when I heard noises from a crowd coming from the front of the flat.

I had actually been thinking over the weekend that now the weather is more tolerable it must mean the beginning of manifestation season. We're situated slap bang opposite the Palais Justice which means that every time there's a demonstration it passes by chez nous.

Then yesterday, as you may have read in the news, more and more students have been taking to the streets to protest against a new employment law, the CPE:

  • This is a good source to understand what is happening.
  • This is The Guardian's Leader piece today.
  • She writes about her experiences as a student in Le Havre.

So, as I watched the students file past the flat I grabbed my camera to capture today's events to show Frog when he came home.

The photo is technically pretty poor but I did capture the mysterious smoke that appeared as they all clustered in the centre of one of the main thoroughfares. It looks more dramatic than I think it was. The police were already around and everyone dispersed very quickly.

I got an email this morning from NowPublic, a public news service that uses stories and footage from non news sources. My bad photo has been published by them (on my permission) to accompany a story about the CPE and riots in Paris.

Things clearly were a little more volatile in the French capital.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pill Popping

My new morning ritual is to stand in the kitchen and slowly count out an array of tablets whilst I wait for my coffee to brew.

Frog stood watching me and exclaimed, "Ahhh, now you're becoming a real French woman".

The French take more medicines than anyone else on earth. To be fair the larger part of the tablets are vitamins and supplements. These are a combination of wedding vanity (please will my nails stop breaking!) and trying to promote joint health without resorting to aggressive anti-inflammatories every day.

I now know my way blindfolded around the local medical centre and they say hello to me in the pharmacy. My physiotherapist is now 'tutoying' me* (as is my hairdresser but that's more an intimacy that he obviously feels has been created by his far more regular and original client, my gossiping mother-in-law to be).

As much as my back's health is a source of frustration it has proved to be my first real recce into the local community.

* Read her explanation about this French formality rule...

Monday, March 13, 2006


I'm feeling rather pleased with myself. I have not only survived the journée de préparation au mariage with the priest but I rather enjoyed it!

Frog and I trooped off to the new parish centre at 10 am yesterday. Frog and been sent to buy a baguette and we had a carrier bag with food that I'd been cooking till midnight the night before. The invitation had said that we needed to bring something savoury and something sweet to share as a picnic with the other young couples who would be gathering to spend the day together.

My first fear had been that during this day with the Catholic priest, older married couples from the church and other engaged couples, I would stick out as the non-Catholic (and foreigner). My second fear was that we would have to bear our souls about our faith and our relationships. My final fear was that I was going to have to do all of this in French.

So. Working backwards ... I am extremely proud of overcoming my final fear. I spoke in French all day, I participated fully (and as Frog said, 'If you spoke that much in French, I can only be glad that it wasn't in English. You'd have never shut up'). It helped that we were a smallish group of seven young couples and two older married couples. The only time I really found difficult was right at the end, when we were asked to sum up our thoughts on the day. This meant I had to, on the spot, pull together some fairly complicated thoughts into French. I don't think I've gone so red in the face since my A-Level French oral exams.

Second fear - that we would have to bear our souls. Well, yes ... compared to stories of fairly muted preparation days in the UK (both Anglican and Catholic) we did have to talk about how we met, explore our fears and worries about the endurance of marriage. But that was okay, and even Frog 'fessed up. The matter of our personal faith was left very relaxed - the line given was 'we are all on our own separate paths, some in different places than others'. The role and importance of the Christian church in our marriage was discussed - and that is something Frog and I already knew we were both in agreement about.


So, finally, I wasn't the only non-Catholic. There was another Protestant, originally from Strasbourg who confessed that he was also terrified about a day with Catholic doctrine. And I wasn't the only foreigner. There was a Lebanese guy and a woman who was half American, half French and had only moved to France, from her life in Connecticut, when she was 20 years old.

We finished up by going to the evening Mass and then almost all of us went for a drink afterwards. There I discovered there are others who are new to Reims and don't know many people (of the whole group only Frog and one other guy were originally Rémois, the other, an arrogant lawyer type, of whom I may write a story another day when I'm feeling a little evil again).

So, we're all meeting up again next Sunday evening at Mass.

Who would have thought it, eh?

And finally - my chicken dish was the hit of the picnic. Thanks to Nigel, I overturned at least one stereotype about the English!

Friday, March 10, 2006


"The Greyhound"
Originally uploaded by oiseau.

I'm so very excited this afternoon. I got the call on Monday. The call to say my dress has arrived and when did I want to schedule my first fitting?

As soon as possible! I almost screamed back at the poor lady.

A, usually curvy, friend told me that she lost so much weight that by the morning of the wedding, as she slipped her lingerie on, she felt svelte like a 'whippet'.

Well, it's fair to say that won't be me!

So, off I'll toddle this afternoon to the boutique where I expect the lovely mesdames will, in equal measure, tut and coo at me.

The thing is, I think I've put weight on since I ordered the dress. I never wanted to lose much weight for the wedding. I am what I am and fairly happy with what I've got (and that state took some years to achieve!). If I lose weight now, it'll come off my face and then my features gets big and pointy. Which is no good.

So I thought I'd planned to exercise and tone instead. But my back had other plans... and then it got cold in North-Eastern France... and insulation was needed. You see where this is going?

So, I guess I've got to start being sensible for the next couple of months. I'll begin to cut out the sugary stuff and the butter that I love.

I didn't think I'd turn into this kind of bride - but I am sooo excited. The veil, shoes and necklace are ready in a bag by the door and I'm clockwatching till the big hand reaches the 11 and the little hand reaches the five... and then I'll tear around the corner, down the straight to the shop.

Monday, March 06, 2006


This time five years ago, I remember lying out across the bed, digging into an especially bought tub of Ben & Jerry's and watching the Oscars from start to finish. I had just arrived in New York and was installed in a small, temporary corporate apartment up on 82nd and Amsterdam. This was America and it didn't matter (yet) that I had no friends, I was watching the Oscars in civillised hours from my bedroom.

Frog and I love films. At the moment all conversations that touch on work or families are best avoided, and you simply cannot talk 100% of the time about the wedding - without risking going completely bananas - so more likely than not we end up either watching or talking about films.

I often forget that Frog is... a Frog... but during moments like last night's dinner the pure and utter Frenchness of the man jumps up and smacks me in the face. We'd been to see Syriana on Friday and Frog began to warm to his topic: "George Clooney is a hypocrite for becoming rich and famous in America and then turning to attack the leaders of his country". A quite rubbish premise but he was intent on following this line in argument with me.

As I sat, laughing and countering him to pull apart all attempts he made to prove his point, I suddenly saw the French in the Frenchman. Like a guest on the myriad of TV shows that broadcast every evening in this country, he was debating for pleasure, as if sat around the table with other celebrities discussing tonight's theme. He had found his flow and was thoroughly enjoying the sound of his voice and the exercise of working through an argument.

Naturally his point was rubbish and (I think) I won with 'political art is an important part of any culture; a country is served best when freedom is given to artists at the highest level to criticise a country's leadership'. But I don't think he really cared about the point - more the pleasure of debating.

Besides, I think we have just earnt our own little Oscar. We registered our dossier at the Mairie this morning and the publication of the banns will be made next week. 132 euros of production costs, services provided by the British Consulate, Official Translators, UK Birth Registry and photocopiers across the regions. The leading actor and actress will be accompanied by their supporting artists on 10am on Friday 19th May to accept the award. The award party will be held the following day.

So, I'll be working on my acceptance speech then...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Temper, Temper

I found myself last night reverting to behaviour that, upon reflection this morning, takes me right back to my childhood.

We'd had a good Saturday. The honeymoon, now into extended saga status, has been requoted. We're going to give the disease carrying mozzies in the Indian Occean a miss and head out to Quebec to spend two weeks driving around the rivers, fjords and lakes. We've swapped beaches and tropical volcanos for cool, bleak landscapes and whale watching.

Second stop of the day was to the jeweller to choose our wedding bands. Frog has never worn jewellery, so seeing a ring on his finger was a totally new experience for him. He took a liking to one plain design and we agreed on the inscriptions to be engraved inside. Mine in French, his in English - a simple date so that there is no excuse of forgetting our future anniversaries.

And then it all went a little pear shaped. The argument was nothing wedding related. More an issue of a suddenly remembered piece of correspondance from the lovely French tax office that had been sat in the bottom of a bag for months and now had hefty fines attached to it.

Given our French/Anglo combination, and the imagined stereotypes, it's actually me who displays the hot headedness. I have written about these convictions before. (Although I have been assured that this streak of hot temper runs through both sides of my family.)

So, I lost my temper last night. Objects that were never designed to be projectile were suddenly launched across the table. I don't think it was just the forgotten missive but a combination of different stresses that have been rising over the last week from various sources.

And as the pieces landed and I had said what I wanted to 'say', I took myself off to the bedroom, slammed the door behind me and opened my book.

We still, politely, made it to the cinema last night. It's only this morning, as the full final apologies were made on both sides, that I realised - this is exactly what I used to do. There was always a moment when I realised that lines had been crossed, before Mum could respond and I would place my hands to cover my backside and announce, "I'm going to my room".

Do we ever grow up?

Friday, March 03, 2006


It feels rather odd planning a warm (I'm being the optimist) May wedding when you look outside your window and this is what stares back:

The florist's estimate, crammed full of roses and peonies, has been agreed; my sister's pretty tea dress has been chosen; I've ordered white and floral bunting to decorate the courtyard and the music for the service of blessing just needs to be approved by the priest. A lovely friend is sending selected tunes, for our approval, that will play in the background whilst our guests sip champagne before dinner and dancing; overseas friends and family are all booking up travel and flights and I'm a regular visitor at the Post Office, sending off another photocopied map or railway timetable.

So, as I look outside the window today, I'm trying to imagine myself back to the time when this was more like the view:

Roll on spring!