Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pantomime Dame

No, I haven't decided to pack up my suitcase, don my colbalt blue eyeshadow and run off to join the circus. The picture is what I'm looking at to inspire my new 'hobby'. I'm quite a considerable geek when it comes down to it, and since I thought I was not quite busy enough with the choir and the band I decided to start a course.

I did a degree in French Studies at the University of Warwick, and I thought that would be sufficient to hold down a career and a decent lifestyle in the country of eau de toilette instead of soap and water, and wine at every meal. Of course things are bumbling along quite nicely, but I decided to aim at something new and I just started a translation course at the University of London in Paris. The first translation I had to do was about Aristotle (not the most fun) but the second is about pantomime. I don't know how much French you speak, but pantomime is not the easiest subject for which to find French words. For one thing the concept of pantomime doesn't exist here. Pantomime in French is the closest thing and it is basically a play without words.

So that's what taking my time at the moment. For now, it's translating text but in a few weeks I have to go to a seminar on interpreting which I'm very much looking forward to as I've never done it before. It really is geek central here.

Right now I'm planning an early bath, bed and a long sleep. This week has been very busy and it's time for downtime. Chablis is on the agenda for tomorrow to visit G's family so it's time to get out my stretch trousers and get ready for a slap up weekend.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Home Improvement

There used to be a programme on British tv, and no doubt on US tv too, called Home Improvement. I was never a fan, but one of my university housemates was, and now I wish I had joined her on the couch instead of prancing about dressed as a pirate singing Gilbert and Sullivan or belting out jazzy numbers in Bugsy Malone.

Last weekend, G and I went to a certain Swedish furniture shop near Roissy airport. It's not even interesting for me to tell you just how packed it was in there, with young couples fighting, hugely disproportionate numbers of pregnant women lumbering around, children scarily whizzing around the place like wasps and us trying to decide what kind of wardrobe doors we wanted.

We moved in together a year ago, and at that time we painted almost the whole apartment, bought a dining room table, chairs, a desk, a wardrobe (minus doors), a sofa, shelves and units over a period of three weeks. It was a pretty, let's say, hectic time, but I don't have memories of insurmountable stress or panic attacks. And yet, last Sunday with a 5cm pencil tucked behind my ear and a burning sensation between my eyes, we waited to pay for our measly two wardrobe doors - one white, one mirrored (to enjoy the sensation of living in a larger place than we do, and while admitting that two mirrored doors are perhaps a little too Boogie Nights).

As you can see from this extremely artistic photo, the doors are not level. G is an able; can put up shelves like the best of them, and not only drills like a dream but has saintly stocks of patience. So I wasn't concerned when the doors seemed a little tricky to deal with. I was soon proved to be naively mistaken. The doors were uneven by around 2 cm, they looked like something out of a Harry Potter film and definitely not what we had had in mind.

G has spent probably a total of 5 hours trying to fix the doors on properly and they still look like they're a little drunk. Next time we'll have to try a different furniture shop which doesn't whore out cheap planks of wood that won't even screw together.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hippy Chick

I don't know if you've ever found, picked and eaten cep mushrooms, but it's a wonderful experience. These funghi grow in woods without anyone planting a seed. You can cut them away without damaging the future produce and they grow literally in just a few hours. All that, and they taste incredible. When we went to the Dordogne region recently, we were lucky enough to be given a whole bag full of ceps and we cooked them with garlic and parsley - they were delicious.

Fishing is another delight, when you can hook your dinner and prepare it within an hour, it is fresher than any fishmonger's supplies.

Yesterday a few friends came over for dinner, one brought with them a large bag full of ceps and other kinds of mushrooms, wrapped in bracken to keep them from being damaged. The other carried a little black bucket with four perch and one other whose name escapes me.

We decided that after my chicken, avacado and parmesan salad we'd cook the ceps and eat them separately from the fish to enjoy their flavours.

Clearly an evil brand of mushroom was lurking in the bag, because they ALL tasted terrible. Ceps have a soft luxurious taste not far from the taste of truffles, but these ones tasted like nothing I've ever willingly consumed. Needless to say, the pan remained full and we didn't eat more than the first bite. I thought of how dangerous eating poisonous mushrooms could be, but our friend assured me he knows what they look like, and here I am 20 hours later with no symptoms, so all turned out well.

The fish was not a lot better, bland and tasting like river, but my cherry tart and home-made yoghurt went down a treat. I think next time I'll stick to the market.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Small Packages

We had some baby news from inside our family recently, no details as it's not official with her work yet, but it has certainly got me thinking about babies and children. It's true that at 29, motherhood is a concept never far from my mind and while I truly do not want a baby at the moment, I am beginning to feel the onset of maternal instinct.

Walking home from the station this evening in 30°C heat, I noticed a young child probably around 18 months or 2 years at the most, walking with his mother, with his baby brother in a push-chair. In the distance, around 50 metres away, his father approached in the opposite direction, coming towards the little party, and the child's face lit up. His mouth made an 'O' in shock, his eyes shone as recognition set in then, giggling hysterically, his chubby little legs sprung into action and he raced towards his briefcase-carrying father with unconditional love beaming in his face.

I have no idea what that particular man had been doing all day, maybe he was a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher or an accountant; he could have just closed a million euro deal, he could have lost a million, but I can say with absolute certainty that the look in that father's eyes seeing his small son scurrying up to him, arms outstretched, was worth more than any business deal.

Of course when they arrived home the father realised his son had done a number two in his dungarees, spilt his favourite aftershave all over the bathroom and broken his treasured laptop.

I do want children, but maybe not yet.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Beautiful Packaging

As I picked my way through the Japanese tourists and ex-pats milling around rue St Anne, the Japanese quarter of Paris, I looked up at the sky and realised that we are in summer again. I say again because August was a (delightfully mosquito-free) cold month and I was convinced my yellow halter top had had its last airing. But no! It seems that there's someone somewhere playing a trick on all those (us) evil Parisians who took 4 weeks vacation and after an obscenely cold August, now everyone is glumly traipsing back to work, the sun has his hat, sunglasses and swimsuit on!

I don't normally work in the 2nd arrondissement but I was working there today and it really is a beautiful area. Having lived in Montmartre, and now living just outside the east of Paris, I never really got to know the area around the Louvre, the Palais Royal and the rue St Honoré.

Looking up at the buildings on my extended walk to a métro stop on my line, I was plunged into an architectural bran tub of history. On my right strolling up the rue St Honoré was the luxurious Hotel du Louvre, on the left the Comédie Française theatre. Further along the road and back towards the river I looked up and saw the sculpted glory of the Louvre museum itself adorned with images never to be seen by any but the most attentive of passers-by.

As I came closer the stairs to lead me down into the entrails of Paris I passed a homeless man with feet as dirty as the step he was lying on. A plastic bottle of red wine, uncapped, stood next to his sleeping form. On the other side of the road I saw a building covered with a kind of metallic lace. I paused to look more carefully but I neither understood what purpose that building served nor why the lacey metal was needed.

Perhaps a small part of the building budget for the 2nd arrondissement could find itself providing shelter, a square meal and skills training for those obliged to sleep barefoot on its streets, rather than dressing up buildings to look like wedding cakes. Paris is beautiful, but she comes as a whole package. We need to think about the safety of the heart of the package before giving all our money and attention to the wrapping paper.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to the Front Line

8am line 1, approaching Châtelet. The humid intense heat of the métro only briefly marrs my enjoyment of Ben Elton's new release The First Casualty but a sense of impending horror is settling around me as I approach my stop. Jostling myself out of the train with my thumb wedged in page 25, I try to whisk through the corridor at my normal pace and realise that my knee and back are throbbing more than is strictly desirable at this early hour. Being a newly recovered invalid is unnerving because I'm fine now, almost totally recovered, but the very first day back to work is not a time for skipping down public transport halls at 8am.

Line 4 is no better and if you know Paris you'll know it's even hotter; a damp quilt of hot air pressing down on all the unfortunate passengers. I try to imagine how Elton's semi-fictional characters must have felt during the First World War, as they, coughing like hags, knock-kneed, cursed through sludge. Obviously I'm a 29 year-old English girl living in the 21st Century on her way to her decent job and not a nineteen year-old Tommie with lice-ridden fatigues and a future of gas attacks and bullets. What I'm trying to say is that the métro was damn hot this morning.

The first rehearsal of my choir after our summer recess followed my first day back to work today, which was a double whammy of effort. I hadn't realised how easy it was to get used to relaxation. So now it's back to the old routine and there are hundreds of things I now realise I could have been doing instead of feeding my 24 habit, but sometimes you need to stop turning and get off the merry-go-round.