Wednesday, November 29, 2006

High and Low

A couple of years ago, I mentioned my duvet coat. The photo below was taken of me, in said duvet coat, this time last year. It was snowing in Reims, we had friends to stay for the weekend and it was a little parky.Contrast that with the fact that this week, people have been wandering around the city in jumpers or light jackets. A peak of 18°C was reported on Saturday. Madness, I tell you. I love the sun, but this doesn't feel right.

I've had a fairly quiet couple of weeks. The news I shouldn't share, as it's sure to jinx things, is that I have been getting good marks in my Highway Code practice tests. After a shakey start in July, I had a bit of a break over August and September and started to work on it again last month. I've been pencilled in for the exam towards the end of December. The best score I've had this week is 37/40. The worst is 29/40. All on the same day. I think I need to find some consistency.

To continue my high and low theme for this post, I'll share the list of films and books which I've been busy devouring over the last week. Swings of cheese and laughs through to wrist slitting despair:

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Utter utter darkness. Why on earth would I read this when I'm thinking about pregnancy? I have no idea. But it was excellent.
  • Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes. I know, I know. But I'd just finished Kevin and it made me feel better.
  • Babel I don't believe it's out in the US or the UK yet. It won the prize for best director at Cannes this year. It has an all star cast and is set in Calfornia, Mexico, Morocco and Tokyo. If you've seen Amores Perros or 21 Grams, it's the same style of interweaving stories from Alejandro Gonzàlez Inàrritu . And it's very bleak. In retrospect I can see it was a brilliant film with ourstanding performances and brave global themes. However, at the time I just wanted to get out as I sunk further and further into misery.
  • Désaccord Parfait I loved this light comedy starring French favourites Charlotte Rampling and Jean Rochefort. Yes, I know Charlotte Rampling is English but the French adore her. Rochefort hams it up a little (alright, a lot). It was directed by Antoine de Caunes (R..r..r..apiiiidoooo and Eurotrash for those who remember it on UK TV) but he's a member of a French TV industry dynasty and I think (as the film and his UK TV history shows) he understands British humour. Okay, it was very cheesy. But I laughed.
  • Fast Food Nation If you read the book, you'll understand where the film's coming from. It was pas mal, but felt like it was lacking something. Oh, and it's another depressing look at the world picture.

Next weekend we're in Paris. It's my birthday and we have tickets to to a concert on Friday evening. Before returning to Reims on the Saturday, we're going to see James in version originale. Now, that will be a high!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mulling it over

I've been suffering from restless nights for the past week. Any slightly worrying thought that can, seems to pop into my head and refuse to budge, whilst I toss and turn half-way between dreamlike thoughts and consciousness.

Last night I had the most awful realisation that kept me awake for hours but we'll have to jump back two days for the source of the problem.

Tuesday afternoon, I had carried out my good deed for the week, welcoming a young French woman into our flat. Brigitte is a troubled first year Med student. Apparently, despite ending up in the top percentile of her year, she has gotten herself into a nervous wreck and is working herself into a deep depression about being unable to cope with the workload.

Her Mum, a friend of Frog Family, is now very worried about her daughter's health and called me up to ask if I would mind helping her daughter with the obligatory English coursework that she has to complete. Having been in that situation myself (not in the top percentile of Med school, but getting myself into a state and having a great Mum to pull me through), I was more than happy to invite Brigitte to the flat that afternoon.

She had a ten minute oral presentation to prepare and had already written out her notes. The subject was the History of Christmas and we spent a couple of hours going through her papers, correcting some of the grammar, vocab and confirming pronunciation.

Now, my immediate reaction was that she's clearly an overachiever. Whilst her notes had a few standard French speaker's mistakes, it was all in pretty good shape and when she spoke she had a good accent. My second reaction was, my English has gone to pot!

I'm so used to hearing French versions of sentence structure (in French or from Frog's version of English) that I struggled to impose an English structure on her work!

We got through the work, and I hope I encouraged her confidence a little by the time she left. I had no worries that she would do well in her presentation on Thursday.

So, fast forward to last night at 4am. For some reason this was the moment when I suddenly realised that I had not corrected her final sentence. Her humorous conclusion is a comment on drinking during the season. She wrote 'hot wine' and I had neither noticed nor corrected this to 'mulled wine'.

Why it took 48 hours to realise this I don't know. What I do know is that I need to concentrate a little on my English skills. I can't be crap in two languages - one of them has got to give!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Original Version

If you want to see a film in Reims you have three options. You could jump in your car and drive to fifteen minutes to one of the commercial parks and the huge Gaumont multiplex, where every film is shown in French or dubbed into French; you could stroll down the Place d'Erlon and pay to enter the smaller Gaumont, where every film is shown in French or dubbed into French; or you could stop at the top of the Place d'Erlon and hand over €7 to see a film shown in its original language, be it French, English, Italian... with French subtitles.
The Cinéma Odéon is Reim's Cinéma Art & Essai, or what I would call an arthouse cinema. They'll show American blockbusters and French arthouse alongside more exotic programming and series of foreign films. The common thread is that are all shown in version originale (vo). In the last month, Frog and I have seen Flags of Our Fathers, Black Dahlia and Scoop. Nevermind that the last two were very average films, it's our cinema. I'm happy to see a French French film, but don't ask me to watch a film dubbed in French (version français - vf). It's disconcerting to see an old familiar face open their mouth and another person's voice appear.
Our concern is this - the owner of the Opéra cinema (built by architects Thion and Rousseau in 1923) is reported as being open to offers on the lease which runs out next year. He says that its 130,000 visitors per year makes it unprofitable and that the space is not workable. In addition to the smaller salles, there is one huge screening salle (sith a beautiful ceiling) which is either freezing in the winter (we are now used to watching films with our coat and gloves still on) or baking in the summer and there is no central space for exhibitions and a café. The owner has had enough.
The city of Reims has replied by saying that Reims will not lose its Cinéma Art & Essai but that another more suitable, central building needs to be found. There are mutterings that the disused and decaying covered market (built 1927-1928) might be an option. My fear is that even once a decision is made (and decisions are never made quickly) the speed of works here are so snail like, we will be cinema-less for a long time and the Opéra will be turned into another soulless shopping mall inhabited by tatty shoe shops.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


So, there I was last night, getting ready to go out and see this beautiful and majestic performance by Raghunath Manet*, when my instant messanger pinged. I was really happy to see it was my dear friend, who now lives a long, long way away.

We hadn't spoken in ages, so she regaled me with the fact that she's spent the last couple of weeks in bed with a virus. Family members were apparently summoned to come and look after her as she was really knocked out by the lurgey.

so, are you feeling better?
yes... I just found out some news that I am not
supposed to share but I am dying.

Now, what would you think? My stomach flipped, a million thoughts raced through my head... I know she's had a couple of operations in the last year... have they found a tumour?

I thought for several seconds, and just replied with a single question mark. Could I get out and see her soon? I think I could stretch to an airfare if she's really sick.

A seemingly long pause
I don't want to make you feel bad but i am 6 weeks pregnant with TWINS
ahhh - that's fab

Crazy indeed. I could have killed her!

She'll read this and think I'm a big dork for that misunderstanding! But I'm really thrilled for her, she miscarried at the same time as me so it looks like our luck could be turning.

Anyway, my dear, I hope I've hidden your identity well enough until the 12 weeks reveal. Fingers crossed!

* If this guy ever shows up in your town, make an effort to go. He combines an electric interpretation of southern indian classical dance, with dancers and musicians. I loved the fact he took the time out to explain the origins of the movements and music. This dancing Shiva from Pondicherry provided quite a culture shock in Reims!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Occupation

I have a new daily occupation, that of 'boob prodder'. Naturally, there are other things that I can be found doing in and around Reims. You might find me sat in front of the computer, tapping away on the odd freelance project that comes swinging my way; you might see me sat, sulking, in a classroom as I continue to battle with the French highway code; I can also be found pottering around the local library, wondering which annoying person is hogging the DVD volume 4, series 1 of Nip/Tuck that I've been waiting to see for weeks.

However, the one consistent task I seem to have adopted, is the prodding of the boobs. The first pregnancy kind of crept up on me - it was planned but not expected so quickly. So, the boob soreness realisation was pretty much the same day that I was sat in the doctor's surgery, being prescribed a confirmation blood test.

The day the soreness disappeared was also the day that I was stuck in the Early Pregnancy Unit at King's Hospital, London being told by a very sweet, young doctor, that there was no heartbeat to be seen on the scan.

This time of course, the cycles are plotted, and the weeks are dragging out. And so I prod my boobs. I don't think I do it in public. I rather hope not. And there will come a point when I will have to wonder if the soreness is the real early symptom or simply a result of over zealous prodding...