Monday, December 29, 2008

A look back

In a blatant act of plagiarism I would like to take a look back over a year in the life of Paris lights, and I'm sure Lola won't mind too much...

The new year gets off to a great start in NYC, with a St Sylvester spent on a Hell's Kitchen rooftop, amid much champagne and fireworks.
A 31st birthday follows, still on the NYC theme, with a cocktail evening. G's birthday also falls this month, and a surprise trip to see him in Chablis is thwarted by his unexpected return to Paris, and a fantastic meal at Le Trou Gascon rounds off the day.

Return to normal working days with a vengeance, and I apply to begin working part-time in March. Application is successful and I begin researching independent business law in France - crazy wild child that I am. Valentine's goes by unnoticed.
Bonnie our choir director announces that she's leaving us in September for a year in Cambodia. Panic ensues then new directors climb aboard.

Spring brings with it work, work, work, but for no money as yet. Lots of paperwork, no invoices made as yet... Officially begin 3-day teaching week and love the extra time to do my own thing, even if it does involve trips to the URSSAF.
My sister asks me to be Chloe's godmother for her christening in May, I accept very gladly and begin to wonder about the responsibilities that go with it. Trip to Lyon to visit friends from Paris, cold and rainy in Lyon but the quenelles were delicious.

The Mumblers' drummer decides that enough is enough and I agree wholeheartedly. Secretly quite glad of a chance to stop the group while things are going well.
Make internal promise to self to go to Chablis more often.

Trip to Ile de Ré and Bordeaux with G, five tranquil days together away from hustle and bustle of city. Hire bikes, go wine tasting, spend really lovely holiday.
Day trip on train and coach to one of France's dullest cities, Clermont Ferrand, for 1 day of practice and a concert.
Another short trip to the UK for my niece's christening where I play the only slightly demanding but highly prized role of Godmother.
High excitement as first two translation jobs come in.
Second holiday of the month; a week in Provence with niece, sister, brother-in-law, auntie, uncle, mum, dad, grandma, and brother-in-law's parents. Stay in beautiful house owned by an ex-student of mine, and current friend of my parents.

Work begins coming in thick and fast and I can't quite believe that my first client payment comes through. Great joy in seeing those first figures appear in my brand new professional bank account.
Mumblers gig for a wedding celebration that seemed to fall rather flat; hesitant guests attempting to eat their foie gras while we rock on to Tina Turner and the Beatles... We do our final gig for the Fête de la musique 2008, with a 100-strong street audience and I feel glad to put down the mic for a few months at least.
A visit from the parents is much enjoyed, with a vélib experience and dinner at the fabulous Hélène Darroze restaurant.

Highlight of the year is a trip to Anguilla for an epicurean week of gastronomic delights. Six chefs and six wine producers (including G) are invited for a week of cooking and drinking for overly wealthy Brits and Americans. We spend an incredible week in lap of luxury enjoying 5-course meals by candlelight in the company of entrepreneurs, business directors, horse-owners and New York lawyers. We enjoy 4 days of diving on wrecks, reefs and in currents, I come home with an ear infection and a burning desire for plain pasta with grated cheese.

3 weeks vacation is imposed on me in August, that I use to spend time in our new house in Chablis. Restoration and building works are finished and we concentrate on picking out rugs, curtains and coffee tables. Translation business booms and I try to balance that and spending time with G in our country enclave. A visit from my sister and her family is blessed with beautiful sunshine and a memorable sun-soaked dip in G's uncle's pool.
Spoiled again with a trip to the UK for a great friend's wedding, and a trip to Warsaw with my parents. Very interesting city with a beautiful old town and fascinating communist bloc-style architecture in the new town.

After a brief but extremely enjoyable trip to Stockholm for a wine fair, it's back to work with a vengeance in the autumn as the rentrée takes up all my energy.

Lots of jetting about this month as there are two weddings to go to. One in London that requires a simple Eurostar trip, but another in Boston. I have a highly lucky and much appreciated business-class flight to the States on standby, that is (again, very luckily) repeated for the return journey. Both weddings absolutely stunning, with beautiful brides and colourful confetti all round.

Work goes into overdrive and spend many evenings burning the midnight oil to meet translation deadlines and still get up to go teaching three days a week.
Two bank holidays whizz by and I take a short trip to the UK to visit family in Yorkshire.
G takes a trip to Singapore, Australia and India, dodging the bullets at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai by 7 days. His 3-week trip is cut down to 2 weeks and he plans to return in early December rather than mid-December. I spend inappropriate amounts of time watching the news for any information that might make him come back sooner.

The first real winter month arrives with a cold bite and swallows up all my time and before I know it, I'm finishing work for Christmas. Credit crunch begins to be old news and there is a severe lack of festivities in Paris. No office Christmas party this year, and everyone is highly concerned about the recession that is sure to arrive in 2009.
Christmas is spent with G for the first time, and in Doncaster with my parents and grandma. Regular visits to see my little niece, who is now talking in word groups of 2 or 3, and is cuter than ever.

Then on 1st Jan 2009 I set off for Hong Kong to visit the lovely Lola....

Monday, December 15, 2008


Well, it came upon me later than I expected. Usually it hits me around December 4th or 5th with an obligatory carol concert or some mince-pie extravaganza at work.
This year it hit me this evening as I was walking home from the métro. In the very far off distance, I noticed the Eiffel tower flashing, (3 seconds is enough, that's all it does...) then I noticed the fairy lights at my local café, and then snowballs and santa claus lights that had been strung up around Vincennes. It was really beautiful, and something in the crisp, cold, late evening air made me feel really Christmassy.

I actually only have two more official working days left in 2008, and I wasn't feeling particularly festive, but now I am, and the desire to put up baubles and tinsel is overwhelming. I definitely have to embrace my Englishness tomorrow and go out and buy Christmas cards. Just to push the planet into even more danger, but ensure the avoidance of family wrath...

Better get off to the post office and bulk buy some timbres...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I was walking through the incredibly busy St Lazare métro station today and I noticed something about Parisian women. If they are aged between about 40 and 50, they carry two handbags. I have no idea why. Neither of these two bags are ever large or practical and I'm not talking about laptop cases.

They carry one in one hand, and one over the shoulder, but neither of them contain enough stuff to warrant actually carrying two bags. They could simply take a medium-sized bag, I just don't understand it. Could it be that they need one black bag and one coloured bag to match their outfit? I don't know.

Unfortunately these bags are never very discreet either, and more than once I have been jolted in the chest by a Lancel monstrosity whilst trying to keep my balance on an over-loaded métro.

I'm definitely more of a stuff-it-all-in kind of girl, and try to carry as little as possible.

Or maybe it's because I can't afford Louis Vuitton...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting the cleaners in

Well my dusty back-shelf projects are still rather dusty, and not just the projects but actually the shelves themselves. To that end, I've decided to get the industrial cleaners in.

A few weeks ago, our landlord (who owns the entire building) decided it would be a good idea to get a company in to sand down the stairs and landings in our building. All fine so far. What he didn't take into account was the importance of including the people who actually live in the building in his decision. Now, I'm all for having the landing sanded and varnished, it looks great, but what I didn't particularly appreciate was the inch of dust that had settled on every single surface of my apartment when I got home that night. On books, clothes, pillows, chairs, plates, food boxes... it was horrendous.
When I had finished coughing and sneezing and had removed the dust from the sofa and most of the floor, I decided it was time to get the professionals in. So on Friday, 3 men armed with brushes, hoovers, cloths, bleach and polish are going to come into my home and make it spic and span again, probably cleaner than it has ever been before.

As far as G is concerned, his trip to Mumbai has been cancelled for obvious reasons, especially as his wine show and accommodation were both going to be at the Oberoi hotel, where the hostages were held for several days. He missed the disaster by just under a week.

His trip to Delhi is taking place however, and while I'm still rather concerned for his safety, he has promised that the organisers of the events are being very cautious about security and won't take any chances. Let's hope so.

He's now due back on Friday 5th, in the morning. As (bad) luck would have it, I have to go to the north of France that day for work and won't therefore see him until that evening.

Still, we'll both come to a lovely clean, shiny apartment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

G first day

G left for Singapore this evening, for the first leg of his Asian tour. We do usually live apart a lot of the time (3-4 days a week) but we always see each other at least once a week. This trip means he'll be away for just under 3 weeks; the longest time we've ever actually spent apart since we started seeing each other in 2002.
Of course compared to what some people live through, this is nothing. I can't imagine how the wives and girlfriends of army personnel manage, with their husbands and partners leaving for months at a time to danger zones around the world.
So now it's time to plunge into work and get ahead on those dusty back-shelf projects...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Singapore, Australia, New Dehli and Mumbai

Unfortunately, not my travel plan for the coming months, but G's breakneck 2-week wine tour schedule. He's off to the Far East to try and sell some high quality wine to those who still have enough money to buy it.
He's off on Saturday, so until then I'm trying to get as much G-time as possible, and will be back with a vengeance next week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A First Class adventure

Two lovely friends of mine tied the knot this weekend in a beautiful setting, in Boston, USA. Audrey and Chris met at Camp Lakota in Wurtsboro, in New York state, which is where I also met them both. Along with around 100 others, we were counselors (obligatory single "l" as we are talking about the USA here) on a summer camp which lasted two months. The friendships we made during the camp have lasted seven years and counting, and Audrey and Chris are two of the most genuine, kind and loving people I have ever met.

The whole experience for me was a real adventure. To begin with, I was flying standby from Paris (a buddy pass courtesy of another great friend) and I had to take a connecting flight in Cincinatti on the way, and in Atlanta on the way home. None of these flights would be guaranteed for me, but I would get an above average shot of being put in Business Class.

As luck would have it, I was put in BC from Paris to Cincinatti, which was really a fantastic experience. The seats reclined to 160°, there was free-flowing champagne (that I didn't sample until the way home actually), and food of better quality than some restaurants. I was clearly travelling business class for the first time (my yelps of pleasure on finding free toothpaste in my little flight gift bag were pretty telling), but I didn't care, I was comfortable and relaxed, and the seat was mine all the way to Cincinatti.

On the next flight, it was totally full and I wondered if I was going to get on. Luckily I got the very last seat, on the back row next to the toilet and a rather silent old lady.

I'd like to say that I arrived in Boston as fresh as a daisy, having slept in my luxurious business class seat, but even though I enjoyed every minute of the flight, (minus a few bumps during turbulence) I still didn't manage to sleep at all, and arrived with grey circles under my eyes and my hair in a cloud of frizz.

I do recommend business class though. And do you know, you don't get your food served on a plastic tray?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

All is safely gathered in

It's the harvest in Chablis at the moment, and all is safely gathered in, as the song would have it. Much like a Playtex cross-your-heart bra.

I was there for some of last week and the weekend, and it was quite fascinating to watch it all happen. There are three enormous machines to press the grapes as they come in, and these machines (pneumatic pressure - no feet unfortunately) are used on just 8 days each year. They must take up the space of a small two-bedroom terraced house, but are really only useful for 1/52nd of the year. Amazing really, but without them we'd all have been pulling off our shoes and socks and contaminating the year's vintage with skin particles and the odd fungal infection.

Work-wise things are shimmying along wonderfully, I'm busier than ever with my translation/ interpreting business and aside from a rather hair-raising interpreting job that was way out of my league, I've been bumbling on quite well. It's a bit frustrating to know that the tax man is going to cream off a rather large slice of it all pretty soon, but that's France, and things could be worse than guaranteed health care, cheap public transport and free professional training.

It's pouring down now for the first time in weeks, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the harvest, just over 100 miles away. Rainwater in wine is apparently even worse than the odd athlete's foot breakout...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Goodbye Mumblers

Our band said its final goodbye last weekend, at a rather chilly but very friendly and enjoyable wedding in Poland. Krakow is a beautiful town, relatively unspoilt by the WWII destruction that went on in Warsaw and many other places. It has beautiful sculpted rooftops and shady squares with fountains...

Of course we didn't see any of that because we went straight from the airport to Nowy Sosz, which is neither sculpted nor fountainous.

The weekend began with a rather dramatic event. Our lead guitarist turned up at the airport with only an out-dated ID card; outdated by 6 years! Of course, not even Transavia, the budget airline we used, would allow him to travel with that, so he had to go back to the city and take a train, chuffing through Europe by way of Cologne and Warsaw. It wasn't a disaster in the end, because he arrived ten minutes into the wedding ceremony and managed to play the song he'd been supposed to play. Still, we were all a bit fraught and worried that he might not make it at all, and our repertoire really relies on his playing to sound anything at all like how it's supposed to.

Why he thought he could travel with an ID card that expired in 2002 is beyond me, but all credit to him, he braved the Eastern European train network and managed to get there in time, so that's the main thing. Of course he had to take the train on the way back too, so he spent 40 hours out of his weekend sitting on a train. I think he started to understand why there was a murder on the Orient Express.

So now it's time to hang up our microphones, stay in one more night a week, and leave the world of rock'n'roll behind us. Well, for now anyway. All bands have their life cycle, and this is the end of ours for the moment.

This weekend is a lot calmer, too. I'm in Chablis today and it's nice and quiet. I'm working on my website for my translation business, but it's much harder than I expected. I have new respect for designers.

Next trip, Boston...

Monday, September 08, 2008


As my only and very right commenter put it, yes, I'm off to Krakow this weekend to sing for my band's final gig - my friend S's brother's wedding. So my journeys are not at an end just yet. In fact it'll be followed rather closely by a trip to the States for yet another wedding in Boston in mid-October then hopefully the last trip of the year will be to London for, yes, another wedding.

It seems to be all change at the moment. I have one friend getting promoted to the dizzy heights of business in Hong Kong, another leaving Dubai for Hanoi, another getting knocked up with twins no less, and yet others getting married left right and centre. With childish moans I'm crouched in the corner whining "when is it my turn?"

Paris is lurching back to life after the August population penury, which I have to say I always love. We missed most of it because we were busy cleaning up and decorating the tower in Chablis, but I caught the last week and it was so nice to not have to share your metro seat with a flabby thigh or laptop corner. People occasionally half-smiled at each other instead of the grumpy, "come near me and I'll bite you" looks that are usually so generously shared among Parisien metro-users. But now we're all back and even grumpier than ever because we're no longer on holiday and it's a good eight weeks before the toussaint holiday on November 1st.

One rather spritely metro driver came on the PA the other day while I was on the line 13 at 8am and said "Right ladies and gentlemen, we're off again, next stop, Tahiti. Not really, but you can always dream...". It wasn't particularly funny, but I smiled up at whoever was there and I swear no-one else even blinked an eyelid. If he had said that in any other place on earth I'm sure people would at least have smiled, but in Paris we're so engrossed in not socialising that I think sometimes we forget to live.

Anyway, the train didn't end up in Tahiti or anywhere remotely similar. It regurgitated me in Clichy which is somewhat less enthralling, but at least I didn't get sunburnt.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

...and before you know it, it's back to school

My month of frenetic jet-setting around Europe is at its end now; I got back from Stockholm yesterday night and now it's back to the grindstone again (well before a trip to the States in October...but that's for a wedding).
I'm realising that the reason I feel so frazzled when I'm working is that I'm trying to squeeze in a full month's worth of work into just a few weeks, all the time.
Stockholm was fantastic, I loved the city, the people and most of all, the way you say "hej" - pronounced like "hey" - whenever you go into a shop or get on a bus. It just feels so cool and laid back. I was ready for a bit of Parisian sun though, but looking out my window this morning there doesn't seem to be an optimistic outlook; grey and heavy clouds ready to drop their loads.
So after a summer of Chablis, Warsaw and Stockholm I'm feeling very European and also very guilty about my huge carbon footprint. No more European flights in 2008.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Country Living

Things are going quite nicely in the countryside. Last night I invited G's family over for dinner and made a traditionally English dinner:

Deep fried breaded mushrooms with garlic mayonnaise


Roast leg of lamb with mint sauce and honey cider gravy


Apple crumble with ice cream

I was in the kitchen all afternoon, especially for the breaded mushrooms which took ages, but it was worth it because they all loved it! I was quite surprised because the lamb and mint sauce was quite sweet (the recipe I found had a honey cider gravy with it) and the French aren't usually big fans of the sucré/salé (sweet/savoury) combination.

Anyway, even G's grandmother was impressed, which was nice, because her cooking is simply fabulous. It took much less time to stack the dishwasher than in did to make the meal, but G's help in that area was greatly appreciated!

So today we're winding down and getting ready for our trip to Warsaw on Tuesday with my parents. We're going for five days and it should be really nice to discover a new city again. It won't be long when we get back before we're off again, this time to Stockholm. But that's a whole other smorgasbord.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the French delight at Alain Bernard's gold medal in swimming. Let's see if Laure Manoudou can match it....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Escape to the Country

I'm currently ensconced in my tower -literally. G and I are in Chablis for most of August, trying to set up our new home in the countryside. The "tower" is attached to his grandmother's house, but is still independent, so we have our privacy as well as being conveniently placed to go around for nourishing meals twice a day...

Chablis is extremely quiet during August, give or take a few passing tourists, but with a bit of sunshine and a few lengths in the pool it's really the relaxing time that I needed after a rather hectic spring and early summer in Paris, setting up my business and trying to hold down two jobs.

I'm still living in Paris too, but from now on will be spending much more time here in Chablis. Not only to see G a little more often (he's here Mon - Fri) but to try to establish a life for myself here too. Make friends, join some clubs, find a band maybe, and perhaps a diving centre.

For the moment it's nice just to relax and concentrate on decorating our house, while keeping my translation business afloat, which is much easier away from Paris.

Right, it's dinner time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A wreck!

No, I'm not describing the most fantastic week that I've just spent in Anguilla, but the next kind of dive that I've been able to notch up on my (rather short) list of diving experience.

Anguilla was truly amazing. The whole experience. Sunshine everyday, fabulous food every night, amazing wine, interesting people, turquoise seas and azure skies. Truly, it was an experience I will never forget. On the photo I took (above) you can see the hotel's private beach, the main house and the Michel Rostang restaurant (circular) which overlooks the bay on both sides.

The only obligation we had during the week was to be present at dinner each night, to talk to the eight other people on our table about whatever they wished to know about the wine, the pairings with food and all the other things that rich people care to ask about. I discovered an enormous capacity for making up ludicrously inaccurate descriptions for wine and food and nodding sagely while people gave their own (also wildly creative) opinions on the pairings. By the end of the week our world had reduced to whatever would be on the table that night, and during the meal on the fourth night, the criticisms began to creep into the conversation (not ours, we were like kids at Christmas every night!)

One particularly pompous Englishman let it be known that "the food and wine pairing in the starter was a disaster" - please! Nothing about spending a relaxing seven days on a tropical island (short of a shark sampling the way your leg tastes when paired with salt water) could be described as a "disaster." Losing your house, falling ill, getting fired; these are disasters. We took the light view and just rolled our eyes and changed the subject when comments like these threatened to spoil the incredible efforts that the six chefs had made.

There really was no need for criticism. The six chefs were really incredible and the food was consistently wonderful. It was like eating at a high-class restaurant every night, without the hefty bill.

The highlight of the days in Anguilla was the diving. We did 8 dives in total, over four days, and we did several different diving spots:

The Sarah
The Oosterdiep
Frenchman's Reef
Frenchman's Reef (west)

Crystal Reef
Shoal Bay Reef
Blowing Rock

They were all fantastic experiences. We did our Open Water diver certification in Egypt last year, and I thought I would have forgotten everything, but apart from a few water-in-the-noses panicky moments, it came slowly back and we enjoyed every minute of the dives.

G was especially proud to have seen a nurse shark, the first shark he has seen while diving. Unfortunately I was in front and didn't see it, and no sooner did it appear than it had left. He has another witness though, so I have to believe him.

So on Monday morning last week it was extremely hard to get back into the swing of real life. I did overtime at work and translations were coming in thick and fast, plus the jetlag really didn't subside until Thursday.

I can't complain though, only two more working days and it's holiday time again, this time low-key, in England and at home in Chablis and Paris.

Right, time to get that ironing done!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lucky Girl

I have just had a wonderful two days, I went to a hammam to get my skin buffed up ready for the sunshine, had dinner with friends, went to the beauty salon for a pre-holiday manicure and basically enjoyed a relaxing couple of days, with a bit of translating here and there.

Tomorrow, G and I are going to a wedding, a friend of his from school is tying the knot in the rather beautiful Pavillon Dauphine, in the Bois de Boulogne. I have never been there before, but from the website it looks really stunning.

Then, on Sunday our dream holiday begins. We're flying to Anguilla, a small island off St Martin, for a week of gastronomy and relaxation. G's Chablis wine estate exports to the US, and his US importer has organised a week where master wine producers and master chefs come together to blend their talents, with a dinner each night created by a different chef, using wines from the producers. The Malliouhana, where we're staying and where the event is organised, is well-known for its food (apparently) and so it's a safe bet that we'll eat well.

I'm very excited about the whole event, not least because I'll get to spend a whole week with my lovely G, but also because this kind of opportunity does not come up very often and it's vital to enjoy it to the full.

Our friends from New York are also coming to the island at the same time as us, so we'll be able to catch up with them and perhaps go diving together, sip cocktails on the beach and leave our busy working lives behind us.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go and sit on my suitcase.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hélène Darroze

On Friday evening I enjoyed one of the most delicious, luxurious and expensive meals I have ever had. Perhaps simply the best.

Hélène Darroze is a young chef who recently received her second Michelin star. I may be wrong, but I think Pic in Valence is the only other woman who has received this accolade. OK, she is now a trendy name in the gastronomical world, and she has prices to match, but I really believe it is worth it.

We decided to go for the tasting menu with a delectable selection of 7 courses. After our scrumptious pink champagne apéritif, we started with small lobster slices and vegetables, drizzled with almond gazpacho. The second starter was foie gras with asparagus and crispy artichoke. This was followed by an aubergine caviar ravioli with sheep's cheese, with tomato and basil. Then came the fish course, which was a fantastic tuna fillet which melted in the mouth, surrounded with a duet of piperade and balsamic vinegar sauces. The meat came in the form of a stuffed tomato, but here the stuffing was duck confit and foie gras. The cheese trolley came next with a selection from the south west and then the grand finale began with a panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and strawberries and a final chocolate grenache with raspberries. Coffee and delicious truffles followed, as well as macaroons and nougat of all kinds.

The experience of this dining extravaganza will stay with me for a long, long time. I did wonder if it would be worth the price tag, and of course there is an argument which says that a month's rent should be spent on housing and not splashing out, but it was such a pleasure to treat my parents to this experience that I think it's worth the pasta and butter meals I'll be eating for the next two months...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Keep on Rockin'

35 guests, a room rather too much like a church hall, and a very unclear "client" meant that the Mumblers' latest gig did not go as swimmingly as we would have liked.

We spend on average 6 hours a month in rehearsal, practising chord sequences, backing harmonies and rhythms, to get the songs up to a performable standard. We were feeling quite confident that we would play well. What we weren't expecting was the atmosphere of absolute calm which settled in among the party guests.

First of all it wasn't a wedding, but a one-year after party to celebrate the wedding that happened twelve months ago. So there was no real post-wedding cheer in the air. Secondly we'd been told to play "whatever" we liked, and thirdly, we began playing and dinner was served.

Our repertoire contains gems such as "Hot Stuff", "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" and "I Will Survive"; hardly dinner music to say the least. The guests gave us half-hearted applause with a glass of wine in one hand and prawns in the other.

There was a brief twenty-minute interlude which got people on their feet, and we were able to put our usual energy and bounce into singing, but "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" - as well as we played it, unfortunately put them back into their chairs, and there they stayed for the rest of the evening.

Several people thanked us (not the groom though...) and despite a few rather irritating requests for salsa, polka and tango (what are we - a juke box?) the whole thing was wrapped up nicely.

I'm really looking forward to Saturday 21st June, when we do a gig outside at the Café d'Orléans in Paris. We've been to that same bar every year for the Fête de la Musique, and the audience is always large, cheerful and willing to dance. Here's hoping!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Concert Fever

It's that time again. It doesn't feel like five minutes since I was complaining about not getting enough sleep and two years later here I am again, using that as an excuse for why my little blog has been neglected like an old shoe for the last few weeks.

The month of June is always so packed with work (the French realising that it's about time they got on with something before the holidays start again) and concerts (everything comes grinding to a halt in July and August so June's calendar is always jam-packed). This month I have three concerts to do, last month there were two and I'm trying to run a business and hold down my day job as well. The old biological clock doesn't even get a look-in.

It's all change in September though. Our choir director Bonnie has decided to leave for a year to go to Cambodia to help people; a brave and daring venture for anyone. So we're getting a new director who seems to be extremely gifted musically, but I haven't got to know him yet. Anyway, that's all to be discovered.

The band is also 'disbanding'. We're shutting shop for a variety of reasons and I'm quite relieved that I don't have to make the decision myself. Concerts are lots of fun and practices are usually pretty enjoyable, but our opinions on repertoire, direction and organisation are fairly disparate to say the least.

We have a private gig tomorrow and then the last gig ever of all time on June 21st. So, come down to the Café d'Orléans at Mouton Duvernet (line 4) from 8.30pm to see the Mumblers' finale concert.

OK, I'm going back to dreaming about my "Epicurean" week in the Caribbean planned for July.... watch this space.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Speaking too soon

Well, as my lovely Aunty J pointed out to me at my lovely niece Chloe's christening last week, "You don't keep your blog updated anymore!"

She is of course right, and hopefully will be happy to see this my first post in over a month.

I spoke, as we often do, too soon, and now my business has sprouted wings and is off like a shot. I've had four quite major projects to complete and everything is going rather swimmingly. I've almost made back the salary cut I took when I started working part-time, so it's actually a pretty satisfactory state of affairs.

The only problem I have now is trying to juggle the two things. If I get a translation project on a Monday to be handed in on a Wednesday I end up working in the evenings, because I do my other job at the beginning of the week. It's much more complicated than it is interesting so I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say that I have work and I'm rather pleased about it.

The last two Thursdays (1st and 8th) have been public holidays here in France, so we visited my family last weekend (and for little Chloe's christening), but the weekend before we went to the Ile de Ré and the Bordeaux region.

The Ile de Ré is brilliant for several reasons. The first is that everyone is absolutely charming and friendly to you, the place is totally devoid of Parisian gruffness. A breath of fresh sea air.
Another reason is that you can go anywhere on the island by bicycle, and you can hire a bicycle in practically any village or hamlet on the island. There are bike lanes all over the place with their own signposts and they are all protected from the traffic.

We also went to Sauternes, Pauillac, Pomerol and Saint Emilion. No, not for the scenery or the museums, but to taste the wine there. Bordeaux wine is truly delicious, but the amount of pomp and circumstance given to the fermentation process in some of the big haut-médoc chateaux is just ridiculous. Of course they have to do something to justify the three-figure price tag, but I really struggled to understand how 75cl of fermented grape juice can end up costing the same as a holiday for two in Greece.

The holiday was short but very relaxing, away from the hum of the city, and it was just what we needed.

Now go and read L's recent post about finding weevils in her pasta - she spins a much funnier yarn than I do!

Friday, March 28, 2008


I'm currently in the process of setting up my own business, as I've mentioned here before. The hard part has not been the French bureaucracy, which I honestly thought would be the real nightmare, but the confidence that I need to take a job and just get on with it.

I've done hundreds of translations inside businesses, advising people on how to word their correspondence, their presentations, their reports, but I just can't seem to find that same confidence to work alone.

Admittedly, it has only been three weeks since I got my auspicious numero de SIRET, but I can't help thinking there are stacks of other translators tapping away more quickly, more effectively and more confidently than I can.

I'm also using the two days a week I have supposedly to concentrate on my business to see family, friends and take short trips. I'm in England at the moment visiting my family and it's so lovely not to be flying in late on a Friday to leave two short days later.

I've been playing with Chloe today at "hidey-boo," her 11-month old charm sweeping away any thoughts I had of applying to more agencies, catching up with old clients and generally networking.

Blood is thicker than water, but I've a feeling my bank balance is going to be getting thinner if I keep this up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fairy Godmother

My gorgeous little niece Chloe is being christened in May, and my sister has asked me to be her godmother. I'm really honoured that she asked me, especially since I'm already the Auntie.

Not being entirely sure what the role of a godmother entailed, apart from wearing a big blue cape and brandishing a starry wand, I did some research on my good friend wikipedia. Wiki told me that traditionally, the godparents provide the religious education for the child and that legally I don't have any more right than the next person to take care of the child, should anything happen to her parents.

So, up to now, I'm responsible only for the religious education of the child. Well, not being entirely clueless Bible-wise, I don't mind that. The only thing I'm wondering about is when all of this religious instruction will take place? As I live in France and Chloe lives in the UK, it's not like I can pop over for a Sunday school class once a week.

Anyway, my sister considers all this as symbolic, so there's no real pressure on me to interpret what the Bible may or may not say about sugary chewing gum before bedtime or roller-blading without a helmet.

Now all I have to do is find a god-mothery hat.


Friday, February 29, 2008

A poisson out of water

I've done it. My very last week of working full-time for my current employer.

As from Monday, I am officially a 3 days-a-week part-timer / slacker / lazy girl. But not really. Because what I'm doing from next week is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember: to be my very own boss (at least for 2 days a week).

Last year I spent long hours studying for a translation diploma at the University of London in Paris. I did this diploma thinking it would be good to have translation as a back up to teaching and it has been something I always enjoyed at school and at university. As I was doing the work for the diploma I realised that I was enjoying it much more than I had expected; the craft of putting together sentences and transferring one language into another not just with words but with tone and style became something not just useful but enjoyable too.

So, my fledgling company is just poking its beak out of the nest for the moment. There are days and weeks of URSSAF (French independent workers' authority) documentation to file, bank accounts to open, accountants to see, and of course clients to canvas. All this will have to fit into my newly freed-up Thursday and Fridays, the rest of the week is still dedicated to tutoring.

It's a risk, but it's a risk I have to take now, while I don't have a family to support or a mortgage to pay!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I'm a true pc girl. In truth because I've never had the opportunity of trying a mac of any other kind than that which comes big and with fries; I have never ventured out into the crispy world of apple.

But, all that changed last week when I ordered a shiny 8G iPod nano. I have since discovered how iTunes works (it's very easy) and have ordered and sorted my music into albums with proper track titles, rather than trying to decipher whatever has been assigned to the file by whoever or wherever I picked it up.

So now I am the proud owner of a very sexy little iPod, which never leaves my person. I'm having a little difficulty knowing where to put it though. My first mp3 player had an attachment which you could put around your neck, but the iPod doesn't have that. At the moment it's being zipped away inside my bag with the tell-tale wire hanging out and leading up to my ears. Not sure how much of a good idea that is.

One thing that I hate about it is the excuse for earphones that they put with the iPod. White, plastic ridiculous objects that fall from your ears the moment you put them in. I was ready to throw them out after only 10 minutes of using them. I have another (non-fall out) pair, so no harm done.

So now I'm discovering tracks on albums I never knew I had. It's fantastic to rediscover your music collection. The memories some of the songs bring back are Proustian in their power and I have found myself dreaming away on the metro several times .

Now I'm starting to save up for an Air Macbook, for the moment I have about enough for the paper envelope it comes in...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A day in the life of Paris Lights

I've just read a great blog-book (more and more of these around nowadays) called Queen of Sky - Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant, and I found it amazing that someone can actually make money from writing a blog. I know she's not the first, and she won't be the last, but it really shows how a news story (she was fired for posting photos of herself in company uniform) can boost readership and make celebrities out of regular Joannes.

I don't plan to be a celebrity, or get fired for that matter, but reading that book did make me want to make my own blog more interesting. I don't have a huge readership and obviously I hide rather a lot of things to protect myself from instances such as the above. Anyway, one of the Queen of Sky's good ideas was to post a 'day in the life' style entry, to explain to her readers how she passes her time. I know that a flight attendant's life is probably much more interesting than an English tutor's, but you never know, so here goes.

7am - telephone alarm clock goes off to a (now annoying) gentle ring tone

7.04am - force self out of bed and stare at gradually forming eye-bags in mirror

7.10am - shower to wake up - decide whether or not to wash hair (curly day / straight day decision time)

7.20am - do make-up trying to look sophisticated but businesslike (usually manage neither)

7.30am - eat bowl of Country Store / Country Crisp - or any sugary cereal masquerading as healthy muesli - and drink glass of red fruits fruit juice while checking Facebook.

7.59am - panic and run around flat packing phone, metro card, purse, keys, work badge and USB keys into handbag

8.02am - realise am wearing brown boots and have taken black bag. Unpack black handbag and repack into brown one

8.09am - steel self for metro horror hell. Fight with grown men for non-flip-down seats to avoid standing later

8.20am - find self inexplicably jammed into someone's armpit. Notch up fever of 39.5°C and begin dizzy spell.

8.40am - burst out of hellish metro onto street and make way to office (variable locations).

9am to 6.30pm - nose to grindstone

7pm - see 8.09am

8pm - partake in musical activity of the day (choir, band). Yawn and moan during other singer's rehearsal sections.

11pm - arrive home, cook measly bowl of spaghetti and eat with parmesan cheese while checking Facebook.

1am - spend twenty minutes panicking and worrying about what I didn't do during the day.

4am - wake up in a cold sweat and write down list of 5 things to do for next day, knock over glass of water onto new parquet floor.

So you can see that my life is full of interesting and enjoyable activities. Definitely time for a breath of fresh air now...!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes

I think it's time for a change. This new year has brought several truths to the forefront of my mind:

1. I'm not getting any younger
2. A good night out always precedes a bad day in
3. Women want babies
4. When you get a knot in your stomach on a weekday morning it's time to do something about it
5. I'm not getting any younger

The last one was so important I thought it deserved a curtain call.

It's not that I'm hearing ticking clocks with baby faces on them in my head or anything, it's just that I'm starting to understand the passage of time and how things just inexorably continue until they die and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Someone I've worked with is retiring soon and just speaking to her made me realise that a life can whizz by and suddenly your at the end of your career and you feel like you just got your teeth into it. Unless you're a dentist in which case you're taking their teeth out of it.

Anyway there's only so much I can write on here, so suffice to say that things will be moving in my professional life pretty soon if I get myself organised.

On the plus side, and to move away from naval-gazing, last night I made rabbit in mustard sauce for some friends and we had a very lovely evening laughing and eating and I don't even have a headache today. There's nothing like a nice dinner with good friends to put things in perspective.

Monday, January 21, 2008


New Year, new style of blog and I've added one of those lists 'about me' which I enjoy reading when other people write them.

That's about all really.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Still breathing!

It's been a while since I've sat down and put finger to key to update this virtual diary. Not because I've been too busy, but because I've been thinking that what I'm doing is not actually all that interesting. My lovely friend L is having such a blast in Hong Kong, working like a dog, but grabbing life with both hands and squeezing out all it has to offer. Her blog is hilarious, sad, touching and inspiring reading, so go and visit it!

One thing I've done recently that certainly was not dull was visiting Manhattan - the antithesis of boring. It was truly amazing. We didn't stop discovering, walking, exploring for the whole week we were there. The city of New York is one of those intoxicating places where you leave with the feeling that you still have so much more to learn and discover. We went to museums (the Met, the MoMA, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim), restaurants (One If By Land, Uno, Vinyle, Joe Allen), shops (Century 21, DKNY, Barney's, Bloomingdale's) and countless other places.

New York is a sizzling mix of cultures, so you can not only eat Chinese but you can choose from Szechuan or Catonese; the choice of restaurants alone is dazzling. Chinatown itself is spreading out from its original location around Canal Street and is swallowing up Little Italy, which is now just a street or two of Italian restaurants. The map of the city is dotted with Little Ukraine, Little Korea and is only becoming more and more diversified as time goes on.

One threat to this diversification is the gentrification of most of Manhattan. The West Village is no longer gay and bohemian but rich and bourgeois. Harlem is no longer a no-go zone where drivers jump the red lights to avoid stopping in the area, it has an H+M, a Starbucks and a Body Shop. You can even see on the photo above that a Caviar and Champagne Emporium is opening soon in the middle of Harlem. For New Yorkers, the soul of their gritty city will soon be lost forever and they are seriously against most of the sterilisation of their beloved neighbourhoods.

So now I'm back in Paris, back in my real life routine and back at work. My 31st birthday has just gone by and we marked it in style with a New York cocktail party. Lots of fun and lots of cosmopolitans, but somehow the rainy Paris evening outside didn't quite match up to the brisk, cold NY skies.