Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Single Life

Last night, in order to soften the blow of G's departure to Chablis, I decided to have some friends over for dinner. I spent most of Tuesday evening cooking with various pots and pans bubbling on the stove and onto the work surface. Turkey in creamy mustard sauce with rice was on the menu and I think it was pretty ok, though obviously due to the fact that I'd invited eight people, it was more about quantity than quality.

The French contingent stayed until the respectable time of 11.30pm, then politely went on their way. My English and American friends - and 1 Italian friend - stayed on amongst much merriment, giggles and empties until 1.30am. It was the best evening I've had in a long while with friends, just laughing and telling stories. S, my Italian friend, always has hilarious anecdotes about the various scrapes and situations she gets into. Also A, one of my American friends was over in Europe from Dubai, and we hadn't seen her for several months.

I do miss G, but this evening I realised that girlfriends are such a tonic. Glancing round and checking glasses and filling them up with Chablis, Champagne and pinot noir, I saw how precious these people are to me. There were of course plenty of gaps, especially an L-shaped one, I miss her often, and especially on occasions like last night.

But life goes on, people leave and people return, and we still plod along. Friends just make the plod fun.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I visited England this weekend for what seemed like 24 hours, but what was in reality all weekend.

I also lived through quite a horrendous airport experience, although thankfully without any terrorist links. I arrived in Roissy on Friday at 6.45pm, all ready to check in to my bmibaby flight to East Midlands at 7.25pm - cutting it a little fine I'll admit, but that was mainly due to the wasted 15 minutes spent at the now non-existent bus stop to get from terminal to terminal, it's now the CDGVAL and very nice it is too - and I was greeted with a huge long queue of people waiting to check into the same flight. Now, I know that Roissy is not famous for its lightening check-in times, but there was practically a whole aeroplane full of people waiting.

It turned out that the reason was a THREE HOUR DELAY! I think I've never in my life been delayed three hours for a plane. Perhaps once in winter when the plane was re-routed to Birmingham due to snow, but at least that wasn't all in one go. So, making the best of a bad lot I took Glamour magazine and the Guardian and settled down to a nice Italian salad in one of the airport restaurants. I think the staff of Roissy must all be middle-aged English women but the temperature in there was below freezing for sure. Thankfully again I hadn't put my case in the hold, so I layered on all the tops I had in there to prevent the icy air-con from giving me pneumonia on June 22nd.

Finally we landed in East Midlands at around 11.30pm, three hours later than scheduled, and I was exhausted. A 90 minute drive up the motorway with mum, dad and grandma took the final wind out of my sails (and theirs too quite probably), but it was all worth it when I saw the gorgeous smiling face of my little niece Chloe the next morning.

All this, and I haven't even mentioned the Mumblers FĂȘte de la Musique performance; watch this space.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nerves of Steel

Tomorrow I have my day 1 of three days of final exams for the Certificate in Translation that I've been doing all year. I'm not confident, because in the mock exam I failed one of the papers. Fingers crossed and blog off now. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Prague Progress

This weekend I visited Prague with G and his parents, supposedly for his mum's 60th birthday, but in fact we had a great time too and felt more like a present to us than to her.
Prague is a truly extraordinary city. I visited it ten years ago during my student days on the obligatory month long trip around Europe on interail. I know I have grown up a lot since then, but Prague has changed beyond all recognition. The only things I recognised were the old town square and the Charles Bridge.

Otherwise, the city has had a total facelift. The one thing that struck me most is how much the Czech people have understood about tourism. At the hotel the service was top quality, in restaurants the wait staff were polite, smily and efficient, and overall everyone we met was totally open to new ideas, new people, new ways of doing things.
I love France very much, and I wouldn't change it, but when I think about the arrogance there is for all things French: wine, cheese, sauces, monuments, I can't help but think that the French are going to get a harsh wake-up call sometime soon.
Service in France is pretty chilly to say the least. Occasionally there are exceptions, but generally speaking people working in the service industry will do as little as possible to help if it means extra work for them.

The city of Prague is blossoming with new restaurants, bars, museums and parks all over the place. There are fusion restaurants sprouting up with glossy menus, crisp white table cloths and huge crystal wine glasses. Our hotel was modern, gorgeous, designed by Eva Jiricna and with a Philip Starke bathtub in one of the suites. No poky dark rooms there, and a far cry from the gloomy £6 a night apartment I rented for three days the last time I visited. It's a city with a sparkling future for sure.
On a personal note it was lovely to spend some quality time with G, he's been living in Chablis for two weeks now, and I miss him a great deal. He's back again tomorrow and I'm trying to think of something nice to do. It seems we've both been running around so much, perhaps I'll treat him to a little English fusion cooking at home.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Butter wouldn't melt...

How cute is this little bundle? Chloe is almost two months old now, I can't believe how quickly time is flying by. My sister assured me about two weeks ago that her offspring was smiling on command - or at least in reaction to tickles, smiles and songs - and that it was unbelievably cute. Having said that there was no photographic evidence. Now there is, and here you can see my gorgeous niece performing for her close-up.

Life in Paris is extremely busy at the moment. Tonight I just returned from a concert with Voices in Boutigny-sur-Essonne, a delightful little village with a post office, a restaurant, a bar and a church. We sang in the church which was packed to the back, and even the Mayor was there; he sat behind the alto section, so I'm not entirely sure he enjoyed the whole concert.

Yesterday we had a gig with the Mumblers, my band. This time the action was in Gif-sur-Yvette, another small place with the claim to fame of being home to the CAES, which as far as I understood is the playground of the nuclear scientists from the CRNS who spend their days working with nuclear reactors and complicated theories. The CAES seems to be an organisation which takes care of the scientists leisure time. The Mumblers are made up of several employees from the CRNS, and whenever work is mentioned it goes completely over my head.

The gig went pretty well, it was freezing cold and we had to dance like maniacs to warm up, but overall the people liked it. I was quite surprised by the way that they knew line-dancing, rock'n'roll steps and what looked suspiciously like a quick-step. It's always a great pleasure to play for an appreciative audience, and even though they were probably dancing only to keep warm, there was a great atmosphere and they seemed to be having a good time.

So now there are two more concerts to go before the end of the "year" - of course in France the year finishes in June and the new one starts in September. We have one more with Voices - in Magny en Vexin (can a place never have just one word in its name?) and one on the 21st June with Mumblers for the FĂȘte de la Musique, as we did last year. Lovely Lola is no longer a part of Mumblers - the weekly commute from Hong Kong for rehearsals would be a real pain - and so we have to go on without her. Her replacement Angela is doing a great job, but I really miss practicing with L. A January Hong Kong trip is in the pipeline and an Asian karaoke experience is definitely in the top five of my to-do list.