Tuesday, July 31, 2007

School's Out!

Hurrah! At last the sun is out, the sky is blue and work is finished for another three and a half weeks!

In France, the juilletistes are returning from their holidays and the aoûtiens are getting ready to leave. I fall into the ridiculous category of aoûtien as I'm taking my holidays during August this year.

Tomorrow will see me leaving on a jet plane to visit my lovely family in Yorkshire for a good long week of rest, relaxation and nappy-changing probably; although I'm hoping I can still get away with being charge of cuddling rather than wiping. I'm really looking forward to spending some quality time with my parents and sister, and her husband and baby too. Also Harry P may have several hours of my time, I ordered the 7th book to be delivered to England so I would finish the book I'm currently reading Devil in the Details which is a strange collection of memories by a woman who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have to say that while I am very interested in the story, it isn't a patch on Harry's first six books, so unless I manage to whip through it this evening, the devil will have wait a while.

After my visit to England, G and I are heading off to the diving capital of the world : the Red Sea, to do a week long SCUBA extravaganza training course. I've been distracted recently about stories concerning a great white shark which was seen off the coast of Cornwall. Apparently the British stiff upper-lippers are not putting away their swimsuits just yet, there's no official confirmation at all. In any case I'm reassuring myself with the thought that the Red Sea is miles away from the Atlantic coast and according to that article, the water in the Red Sea is too warm for that species....but there are plenty of others.

I have to stop reading Wikipedia or I'll never go into the water! I haven't been nervous about swimming in the sea up to now, but I suppose a whole week's course ups the odds of accidents a little. Most people I have told about the diving course have been more concerned about claustrophobia than any interaction with marine life, but I'm not at all anxious about the mask or the tanks, it's literally the huge toothy monsters in the sea that worry me. In all fairness you have to admit that I have a point....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Finally I got my results after a nail-biting month-long wait. I remember that day one was horrendous and I was convinced that I'd failed after an extremely taxing interpretation exercise on Egyptology... very much representing the challenges of the modern interpretor.

So you can imagine my joy when I huffed and puffed my way up the stairs of the University of London to discover that my name was clearly on the list of people who passed! I'll receive the mark breakdown in the next few days, but just to know that I passed is so relieving. I can now break into what I've wanted to do for a while now, and that is become a real life translator.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lazy Weekend

The weekend has come around again and my lovely G is back for a slice of Paris life. We went shopping yesterday and then to a friend's (parents', borrowed) apartment for a lovely cheese and wine evening.

The conversation veered towards babies and weddings, as it invariably does among a group of thirty-year olds, especially when, like yesterday evening, there is a pregnant woman among the crowd. It seems nearly all of us had some kind of new baby / new niece / new nephew arriving on the scene, or were trying for one. It's incredible how conversation subjects can move so quickly over the space of a year or so from who is getting it on with whom to how often you should give a screaming baby a bottle. As always, there was a little teasing to G to get a move on and produce some bilingual babies. As I have said before, I find it wonderful to be an auntie and it is so great to have a niece in each family, but I just don't feel the urge to put my own body through that just yet.

Today we fought our way through the throngs of screaming children in Decathlon to get some gear for our bikes and bits and bobs for Egypt - our upcoming holiday, and again I thought, why would I want to have that piercing screech in my ear 24 hours a day? Children are very sweet on photos, as the gorgeous pictures of Chloe and Charlie on my facebook page show, but I just don't think I'm ready for that vomit / poo / scream extravaganza just quite yet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Auntie Again, Hong Kong to Paris and Very Vélo

It's been an extremely hectic few weeks, in which my wiltering blog has been wholeheartedly rejected. I am now, however, the proud owner of a beautiful Fujitsu laptop with 2 Giga hard-drive, 15.4" screen, Wi-fi compatibility and most importantly a lovely silver casing. So, now I'll be more able to obsessively check my email while kindling my Starbucks hazelnut latte addiction.

I just spent a great few days with L who was back from Hong Kong for a wedding. We caught up, drank, ate, shopped: what we do best. I had a wonderful time with her back in the city again, and it's good to know that with some friends time passing by doesn't make any difference at all.

More great news is that G's sister has had a gorgeous little bouncing baby. Her name is Charlie (although it's pronounced à la française, more like Sharrr-liee) which is pretty unusual for a girl in France, but the more I say it the more I'm getting to like it. I don't have permission to put up a photo of her yet, but if you're a Facebook friend of mine have a look there....

In order to continue my run of urban queen activities in a bizarre embracing of Paris life when I'm thinking more of how to spend time in the country, I tried out Vélib this evening. Lyon was the first French city to try out this new concept. It involves putting thousands of bicycles out on the streets in locked up docking stations, and giving pedestrians the opportunity to use them for free for half an hour on the condition that you authorise a direct debit of 150€ if you don't return them within 24 hours. I think if you go over 30 mins you also have to pay 1€ or thereabouts, but it's not a big amount.

I got on the silvery monster at Porte d'Ivry and rode her doggy style (i.e. sit up and beg Dutch-fashion) all the way to Porte de Vincennes, going over quite an ugly industrial part of east Paris. The bicycle itself was extremely comfortable to ride, but the facilities for bikes in the city are severly in need of a repair kit. I have to admit that there are far more bike lanes than there were two years ago when I bought my own bike, but occasionally they merge with bus lanes and all hell breaks loose. There is no way a bus driver will slow down or even move to overtake so if you have a bus coming up behind you the only options are to stop on the pavement and wait until it passes or grit your teeth, peddle like mad and hope that the driver a) has seen you and b) doesn't grind over you like a boot to an earthworm.

My Vélib experience passed without catastrophe as I rode on exclusive bike lanes where possible. Since my desire to avoid a sticky end is stronger than my fear of bending highway code rules I rode on the pavement for some parts. I'm a convert and now plan to try to use it at least twice a week on some part of my journey home.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A weekend in the country

Friday night brought a trip to the circus to see the world famous Cirque du Soleil. After watching people fly through the air on pieces of elastic (and really wanting to have a go), other people bouncing and spinning through the air on trampolines and yet more twisting and turning in the air from trapeze to trapeze, I thought it couldn't get any better. Then the Chinese contortionists came out. I'm not joking, you could see bones that I haven't seen out of the pages of a biology textbook. I can just imagine their coach before a performance, "Right girls, get warmed up, stretch those legs and remove those internal organs before you go...."

They did not have stomachs, that I am certain of. As I said to my friend, you know that something isn't quite right when you can sit on your own head. How these girls were doing what they were doing is beyond me. At one point there was one of them balancing on one hand with her body in a ball shape (stomach up) while the other was on top of her in the same ball shape - and both their faces were looking out to the audience. I bet they are fireballs in bed.

So after my exciting evening of acrobatic entertainment, on Saturday morning I took the train to see my winemaker boyfriend in his village. It's always nice to go to Chablis to rest, relax, eat and drink the finest foods in Burgundy. This weekend was no exception and despite the rain and my sore neck from too much staring up at acrobats, we had a lovely time.

A "long-distance" relationship is something I said I'd never do again, but this time it doesn't feel like long distance, and it's so easy to see each other every weekend. It's true that everyday experiences have to be stored up for the nightly phone call, and I don't say my first words of the day until I arrive at the office, but the time we spend together is precious. I don't know how long we'll keep living in different places: I don't feel ready to live in a village full-time yet, but for the moment it's do-able and let's face it, free Chablis on tap is not something to be sniffed at!