dimanche 31 août 2008

Dry-weave top sheet

Spending time around the family is having many effects on me. Largely it is making me desperate to get home, back to Paris.

It's also making me realise how much I'm missing - the niece and nephew growing up is pretty sad to be missing; my mother's behaviour I'm less keen to see regularly.

So, I'm playing with my niece - aged 4 and three weeks - and she declares that she needs a diaper for her dolly (the imaginatively named 'baby boy'). Grandma is called out of the kitchen where my brother was 'advising' her on various decisions that he feels she is unable to make for herself.

"Grandma, can I have a nappy for baby boy?" says Niece.

"Er, er, I'm not sure Grandma has got any at the moment sweetheart" said Grandma, with a look on her face that said 'once again they're all going to think I'm crazy'.

"I know where they are" said Niece. "I'll go get them". And off she runs, faster than Grandma can stop her.

Two minutes later and Niece re-appears in the living room with a packet of Grandma's panty liners in her hand.

"Here they are, Grandma".

I honestly thought my brother was going to choke - he's never been one for ladies 'events'.

So it seems that my Mother has been giving her Grand-daughter panty liners to use as diapers for her dolls. And it seems it's been going on for a while. Closer inspection revealed many of the dolls that Niece keeps at Gran's house to be thus 'padded out'.

Now, I'm trying to be enlightened about this, but the sight of my 4 year-old Niece taking the backing tape off of a sanitary device and wrapping the towel, wings and all, around baby boy's plastic arse was a little weird, to say the least.

Will someone please just get me out of here.

vendredi 29 août 2008

Say you, say me

The queue at Tesco had a TV to entertain the punters. Sky News was on and they were showing a 'tribute' to Michael Jackson at fifty.

"He's done some terrible things to himself hasn't he?" said the old girl in front of me, talking to her husband.

"Well, he's got a screw loose", said ageing hubbie.

"Look at him though - he's unrecognisable isn't he?", said wife.

To be honest, she had a point. You'd be hard-pressed to recognise the man talking on TV as Michael Jackson.

Especially so, given that the man on the screen was Lionel Richie...

mercredi 27 août 2008

Doggy style

Lord. My stay in the UK is quickly turning into a visit to a theme park of British-ness.

Last night I went dog racing. Greyhounds, to be precise. A £10 ticket gets you entry to the ‘stadium’, two pints of beer and a traditional serving of fish and chips. You’d think that with a bargain like that it’d be hard to go wrong.

The point is that the real profit is made on the betting that goes on at the races, so the food and drink offer is kind of a ruse to get new punters through the doors. It worked with us. Besides, what else would I be doing on a wet and windy Tuesday evening (the answer is obviously sleeping and saving money).

In fact, so bracing was the weather that even the trackside bookies had moved indoors – in a bid, I’m guessing, not to lose their deerstalkers to the elements. So, all business was done indoors, but it was still outside where all the action was to be found.

Slotting ourselves in behind a curious collection of middle-aged women, we settled in for the first race of the evening. Now, it seems that it is common practice to sponsor a race for a special occasion, and name the race accordingly. This would explain why the 7.35 race was entitled ‘The Denise is looking good at 50 Stakes’.

I saw Denise later. She was having a cuddle with the winner. Denise wasn’t looking good at 50, trust me. But maybe it was the fake snakeskin ‘blouse’ that aged her.

In fact, when it came to outfits it has to be said that we were as far away from Royal Ascot, sartorially speaking, as is humanly possible. Not for us the Chanel suit and Philip Treacy fascinator. Oh no, it was poorly fitting leopard skin tops for the ‘ladies’ and anything that is good for fighting in for the lads. Hair (both male and female) was uniformly dyed the traditional shade of ‘barmaid blonde’, and the air was thick with the scent of Cool Water and the latest J-Lo offering.

So there we were, two Brit’s, a German boy and a French girl. Each as bewildered as the next. But once we got over the initial shock and the ‘have we gone back in time?’ questioning we had a marvellous evening.

Not for us the study of form or parentage – we placed our bets on the dogs with the fanciest names (‘Juniper Julip’ was my favourite in this category), the names with double entendres (we all love a ‘Midnight Tickle’, surely?), and the names that sounded like slutty teenagers (every school had a ‘Sucky Kim’, I’m certain).

I bet a grand total of £21 (hey, big spender) and won a massive 60 pence. I’m no Stephen Hawkings, but I know that that’s not a good return on my money. But what price a good time? Fifty quid always seems to be the going rate, but I’m talking about a good time, out with friends, enjoying a pleasant evening together. Laughing at the badly dressed locals and wondering why we’re not getting drunk on the cheap watery beer.

Surely £21 is a price worth paying?

lundi 25 août 2008

Two inches of heaven

I’m not sure what is going on, but since I’ve been back in the UK my time has been sucked in all sorts of directions. I don’t seem to get much time to myself and I certainly don’t get the time to blog – both read and write – that I usually get in France.

This may be down to me having more of a social life here than there – but actually it’s down to me trying to fit a year’s worth of ‘time with friends’ into a month. Knackering is what it is. And expensive.

Anyway, life is going by at an alarming place and remembering things to share with you all is hard. I was sat in a Vietnamese restaurant in London at the weekend and thought “must remember this for the blog”. Do you think I can remember what it was? Can I buggery.

That said, in the Vietnamese restaurant with friends, we talked lots about the time we went to Vietnam. It was the first time that we had travelled as a foursome – London Girl Friend’s boyfriend was new at the time and neither myself nor Best Girl Friend knew him very well. We both bonded with him in Hanoi over our mutual love of giddy drinks and strange cities.

Vietnam was a great trip and we went from Hanoi (fabulous) in the north to the Mekong Delta (hot, hot, hot) in the south, stopping at lots of great places along the way.

We had some hilarious moments along the way, including me falling out of a coracle into the South China Sea and being ‘saved’ by a tiny Vietnamese lady; BGF falling foul of an over-zealous Saigon traffic cop and being made to re-cross the street and cross again where it was less dangerous; ordering enough food to feed a village at most meals and LGF getting stuck in one of the Cu Chi tunnels.

But the number one memory of Vietnam? The nems.

For those of you not familiar with the nem, it is a mini ‘spring roll’ – a square of filo pastry, filled with a range of unidentifiable items, rolled and deep fried until caramelised, sticky and crunchy. Heaven truly does come in two-inch lengths, contrary to popular belief...

We were eating so many that we had to introduce a ‘nem quotient’ in order to push ourselves to eat something else. The quotient was pretty high (a dozen per day, per person) but we usually exceeded it.

The highlight of the trip should have been the evening we arranged with a restaurant to show us how to make them. Five minutes in and we knew we were better suited to eating them than to making them. My ‘pork sausage fingers’ really aren’t made for rolling delicate sheets of pastry into neat and tidy tubes of deliciousness. It didn't take long before the chef had taken my tools of me and told me to sit down and eat. I happily obliged, unsurprisingly.

So as you’d expect, the trip to the Vietnamese restaurant this weekend saw us exceeding our quotient once again. It was all washed down with amazing Hue Beer, flown in from Vietnam, for our pleasure (we chose to ignore the food miles issue for one day).

If ever you’re in London and looking for a good Vietnamese restaurant, head for Kingsland Road in Shoreditch/Hackney. There are at least 20 restaurants all in a row, all offering amazing cuisine that won’t break the bank.

But if you do, be sure to have a nem for me.

vendredi 22 août 2008

Suck it up

So, this one is for Conortje and appeared recently as a comment on his marvellous, funny and sometimes sartorially tragic blog. Tee hee.

Well, Conortje was talking about how he is not coping since he sacked his cleaner for putting up her prices. Mean-spirited as this may have been, it did make a funny story for us readers. Again, tee hee.

Anyway, one of the results of this sacking was that our 'hero' managed to cover his house in vacuum dust, only minutes after finishing a top-to-bottom hoovering.

This is how I ended up sharing with him my tale of rescuing five hamsters from a vacuum cleaner at 3 am.

So, the tale goes that I was staying with a friend in Cardiff - a friend who, a few months previously, had bought a pet hamster which turned out to be pregnant.

We'd had a lovely night of drinking in beautiful downtown Cardiff, followed by a bag of chips and a narrowly avoided fight in Caroline Street (those were the days). I went to bed and didn't fall asleep, so much as pass out.

I was woken at three am by the noise of the vacuum cleaner and a lot of drunken shouting, nay screaming.

Whilst we were painting the town red, the hamster and her four now-almost-fully-grown children had escaped. My drunk friend had got up for a middle of the night wee, and spotted said hamster family running down the hallway towards the kitchen, the back door and freedom….

I'm guessing that at the time this all seemed like a good idea to her. It possibly wasn't such a good move. Drunkenly, she rooted out the vaccuum cleaner (it was a model with a long hose) and cornered the hamsters.

One by one, she sucked them up.

And all this time she was berating the poor little critters (loudly and not in language that would be suitable for children) for having the audacity to escape the confines of their rotastak space station.

I awoke to find her sat on the hall floor, shouting at a vacuum cleaner, and puzzling on how to get hamsters from vacuum bag to cage…

I fished around in the dusty bag and out they popped, one after the other. Little dusty heads happy to once again be out in the fresh air. Shaken and more than slightly stirred.

The hamsters were duly returned to their plastic prison by yours truly and I went back to bed, dusty and bewildered.

I found friend the next morning, draped across the bottom stairs, hoover hose in hand. Suffice to say that there were seven hangovers in the house that day.

jeudi 21 août 2008

Karaoke killers

Pulled up at my mother's house last night to the sounds of some dreadful party. At least I thought it was a party.

It turns out that her neighbours were singing karaoke in their front room, and they had their windows open - in a bid to share the love with the whole street.

Now, each to their own, but these neighbours are a married couple in their late fifties who look fairly unassuming and not the sort you'd imagine to be belting out disco classics off-key on a wednesday night.

That said, there's always been something not quite right about them. They're friendly enough, but I wouldn't leave them my house keys while I went on holiday - if you see what I mean.

Anyway, as I walk up my mom's driveway I can see the neighbour stood in front of the TV, microphone in hand, and she's belting out 'Dance yourself dizzy' and missing every other note.

I rang the bell and my mother answered the door.

"I see that Captain and Tennille are in residence again" she said. "Come in, the kettle's on".

mercredi 20 août 2008


So, in a bid to motivate myself to achieve more, I’m officially announcing that the book is now being written. I’m working on the basis that if I tell people I’m doing it, then I’ll be more likely to actually get on and do it.

Time is the biggest problem though. I planned to get a whole swathe taken care of when I was on holiday, but instead I got drunk and spent my days chasing the locals and climbing waterfalls. All good experience though, which has no doubt helped crank up the creative juice machine. Two chapters did get written and they’re currently being ‘touched up’ by yours truly.

Blogging is great for finding a writing style, for getting into the habit of writing regularly and for finding out if what you write is read (and enjoyed) by others. But it also encourages me to write in short sharp bursts – and in a language and style more suited to newspaper columnists than to Booker prize-winning novelists. It’s taking me some time – and not inconsiderable effort - to get out of this ‘habit’.

But, as I say, time is the biggest problem – and the question is where to fit writing next years award-winning novel into my already hectic schedule? There’s going to have to be a big old shuffle of priorities, me thinks.

I’m heading back to Paris in less than three weeks time. Back to a bit more time to myself and a bit more space for thinking. I hope I’m also heading back to big creative moments, to clarity of thought and to a newly found confidence of style.

Only time will tell how the whole thing goes.

Don’t go asking your local bookseller to reserve you a copy just yet.

mardi 19 août 2008

Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head

"Do you know how many coconut shys I've managed in my life?" squawked colleague X as I passed her office.

She was talking to (at) her boss, who had had the cheek to suggest a coconut shy (throwing balls at coconuts that represent our main competitors) as one of the 'fairground attractions' at our upcoming company conference. It turns out she has managed many, and doesn't want to do it again. Apparently it's more expensive than you could possibly imagine.

The woman is a disaster - and ranks as my least favourite co-worker. Really, someone has to be pretty awful for me to not find something charming about them, but this one is truly charmless.

She's one of those people who likes to have an opinion that is the polar opposite of the rest of the room. I say black, she says white, I say stripes, she says spots - that kind of thing.

Obtuse, some might say.

Yesterday she spent an age pulling apart a piece of direct mail that my team had posted out last month. Apparently the postcard was poorly designed, ill-conceived, off-message and spiritually defunct.

After she had ranted for a good ten minutes one of my team pointed out that it was colleague X herself who had signed off the artwork and the content, as well as the design and the message.

"Well" she said "I must have been having an off day. But let me look again. Oh, well, it's not so bad. The photo's are very well chosen...."

Heaven help me. Please.

Now, where can I order some coconuts....

dimanche 17 août 2008

It's been a long time

The month in the UK is going well - not too much stress, wardrobe functioning properly, etc. - and this weekend I managed to get out of family obligations and had time to catch up with some old friends.

On Friday I went out with a really old friend - we went to infant and junior school together, then we were split up, going to boys and girls schools respectively, and then we finally found ourselves on the same college course aged 16.

We spent some time travelling together during our late teens and shared a fondness for strange times in strange cities, a drink, a pill and a smoke, and the music of the Smiths. It was an odd old time in both of our lives.

Anyway, we last saw each other last year, which was the first time in 18 years. Eek. This time we met up in a cool pub, and made a big dent in the pub's gin stocks. We chatted about old times, recent times and times ahead of us and slotted in to each others lives as if there had never been a time delay. Towards the end of the night we caught up with her boyfriend (who I last saw 20 years ago) and headed into the city centre.

We drank late into the night and it was like we were back in 1987, in the days when we all used to work behind the bar of the same pub - serving drinks to our friends and largely ignoring all the other customers.

The great thing about good friends is the way you can not see each other for a while (or for 18 years) and then pick up as if no time had ever passed. Beautiful, and to be valued highly, in my books.

Saturday night had me driving to the wilds of Derbyshire where I caught up with my Male Model friend. Truly, he's a male model. Hilarious. He does a lot of adverts for third world airlines and the like. He moves in weird circles - circles that even I find strange. You can imagine, I'm sure.

Anyway, we sat at his kitchen table and drank our way through five and a half bottles of Cloudy Bay pinot noir. Fabulous wine, fabulous company and a fabulous hangover this morning. Again, it had been a couple of years since we last saw each other and, even though we exchanged emails pretty regularly, there was a whole load to catch up on.

I went to bed feeling blessed to have such great friends. Perhaps the alcohol was also contributing to my mood - it certainly contributed to me falling down his staircase on my way back from the bathroom....

I woke up this morning with a tongue in my ear and thought my luck had changed. Although, whoever it was had the breath of the devil. Alas, it was only the dog. The very same dog who had spent much of the previous evening humping my leg under the table. Far from ideal, but I guess there was something about my leg that put him in mind of a labrador bitch. Maybe it was my shoes?

Anyway, the point of all this meandering is to say that I love my friends. I feel lucky to have them, and grateful that there are still people in this world willing to talk to me and buy me a beer.

Truly, my friends are what hold my life together. They inspire me and humour me. They give me encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. They tell me I'm cool and don't laugh at my yellow trainers. And they are always up for a beer or two.

Does it get any better? Not for me it doesn't.

vendredi 15 août 2008

Sapphic styling

I walked into the finance office at lunchtime today. The two young women who were covering the phones quickly shuffled things and pretended to be working on something together at one of their desks.

"Phew, it's only you" said one of the girls.

"What were you up to?"

"She was showing me photo's of real life lesbians online", said girl number 2.


"I've never met a real lesbian. She was showing me what they look like".

"So you can avoid them?" said I, confused.

"No. I just wanted to know what they looked like. They have bad hair".


Then she piped up again. "I asked her to become a lesbian when her boyfriend ditched her last month" she said, motioning towards girl number one.

"Right. I see". I didn't.

"It's not that I fancy her. But I thought she could find out what they do and that. I mean, they don't have a, well, you know, to do, erm well, you know..."

I felt I understood what she was getting at.

"I wouldn't mind the bad clothes". Said the proposed sapphic sacrifice. "And I was up for it, but my feet don't get on with cheap shoes".

So. Lesbians. It's all about bad hair, bad clothes and cheap shoes.

I think that Portia de Rossi missed that memo.

mardi 12 août 2008

La Parisienne

Now, I'm not one to sing the sartorial praises of the French too often - frankly, considering they are the 'most stylish nation on earth' (according to the French national publicity office) I find that they are more likely to be badly dressed and out of date than their contemporaries in less 'stylish' nations.

Outside of the fashionable areas of the big cities, the French continue to dress like the provincial 'paysans' that their forefathers were.

Why am I harping on about this, I hear you ask? Well, it's simple. My new assistant is in the UK with me for a month. She's a 25 year-old Parisienne and, amongst her fellow Paris-dwellers she'd be considered 'ok' - not too stylish, not too elegant, not too beautiful, just 'ok'.

However, ever since she arrived at HQ I've been bombarded by people asking me who the glamourous french girl is. By people telling me how she is so elegant, so chic, so very very.

The boys in the office are all dumbstruck, in awe, unable to string sentences together. The girls in the office have upped their game and the high heels have been dug out from the back of the wardrobe and called up for service as day wear.

It's becoming obvious that several of my female colleagues are spending more time on their morning 'beauty routines'.

My boss, when I asked her to spend some time with new assistant said "sure...but what will I wear?". And that's from a woman who asks the local 'boutique' to lock their doors twice a year so that she can update her wardrobe in private...

The truth is that new assistant has got something going on. She carries herself well, she could wear a sack and it would look like it was Dior couture, she has a head of long, glossy black hair and it all seems so effortless. In Paris she looks like a normal girl. Here she's positively a goddess.

On top of all of this she is smart, intelligent, capable and has a great personality.

The stylishness is obviously the effect of living in a body-conscious city where appearances count more than anything else. I guess it would be hard to grow up in Paris and not be affected by the images of beauty and elegance that fill the streets - from billboards to shop-window dummies, from nipped and tucked dowagers to real-life supermodels.

It's all well and good, but I have one question. How long do you think it will be before some of it rubs off on me?

dimanche 10 août 2008

United colours of hangover

In the last 24 hours I've had text messages from four friends in three countries, all complaining of Sunday morning hangovers.

First to arrive was the Australian contingent. It seems Sydney on a Saturday can do as much damage as ever. That said, if you have to do the walk of shame, then you may as well do it in style - and crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in last night's clothes is pretty classy. For an Australian.

Amsterdam delivered a night of rock karaoke, and a level of alcohol appropriate for someone who got up on stage and sang 'School's Out'....

God bless London, bringing as it did for my Southern Softy friend an evening of genteel conversation at a dinner party that lasted into the wee small hours. A classy dinner party that apparently involved tequila slammers in the host's kitchen at 3am.

Finally, to Antwerp where a family wedding for my Belgian colleague turned into an all night affair. Apparently the soiree ended with some amazing weed in the bridesmaid's room. You couldn't make it up. My colleague wishes he had - I think waking up chez the bridesmaid wasn't what he had in mind....

As for me, well it was my first Saturday night in Birmingham for a while. I hit a couple of bars with some friends and then went on to a club. I arrived at the club with two friends. I'm not saying who I left with.

Suffice to say, every one of us thinks we suffered the most.

Hangovers used to just pass me by when I was a youth. With each passing year the hangover gets worse and worse. This morning I woke up with a head that felt like it had been used by the Ukrainian basketball team for hoop practice. My body ached all over and my mouth felt like I'd been chewing on a cigar in my sleep. Luckily I didn't have far to walk home ;-)

Having spent the morning watching the BBC coverage of the Olympics I'm starting to feel a little more human.

How was it for you?

jeudi 7 août 2008

What not to wear

I'm in the middle of a crisis. It's a clothing crisis.

Normally, as you know, my commute to work (on 'office' days) involves getting out of bed, showering and walking to my desk in the corner of my living room. This type of working allows, nay demands, a very casual approach to clothing. I'm not saying I work bare nekkid, but I do veer towards the t-shirt and shorts end of the market.

So now, I'm in the UK head office for a month, sat behind a desk and surrounded by colleagues and I'm expected to wear office-type clothes. Not a suit and tie (oh no, that'd be too easy), but a decent shirt, freshly pressed, and a pair of trousers, preferably not denim.

I've done two days of this so far, and I'm already starting to panic. What to wear? Is a polo shirt acceptable in a 'business casual' workplace? Is it more or less acceptable because it's a Ralph Lauren polo shirt? Are 'trousers' really that much smarter than a pair of nice, clean dark-dye denim jeans?

And it's not like my colleagues are the most elegant of people. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that most of them are 'sartorially challenged'. But just because it doesn't matter to them doesn't mean that it doesn't matter to me.

Oddly enough, the best-dressed of my colleagues is the german guy in the office next to me. He looks like a mini Tom Cruise (if Tom Cruise could be miniaturised) and was resplendent yesterday in a black linen shirt (swoon). Today he's working a very good look in diesel jeans and a crisp white shirt. Meanwhile, the english guy in the next office along is wearing what can only be described as a 'dad fleece' and 'slacks'. Dreadful.

My Belgian colleague (age 28) was also in the office yesterday. He was wearing a shirt with four open buttons (two too many, in my humble opinion) revealing a curious celtic medallion nestling amongst a hairy chest. He had teamed this with a pair of incredibly tight bleached jeans. Amazing. And not in a good way.

And then that leaves the ladies. They are sporting a mixture of looks, ranging from middle aged housewife, through elegant and business-like, to the one who looks like a Russian prostitute working the bar at the Vladivostok Hilton. Quaint, really.

So, being well-dressed amongst this lot is not too much of a challenge to rise to, admittedly, but it's causing me some pain and consternation.

You'd think that amongst the 28 kilos of luggage that I brought with me I'd be able to find something to wear, wouldn't you?

lundi 4 août 2008

A fleeting glance of normality

I'm back in Paris. I landed at four o'clock this morning, having trekked across the globe. As there was no public transport running into town at that time of day (well, none that was a> useful or b> up to my standards) I decided to get a cab.

It's not that bad really - 50 euros for the schlep from CDG to my front door was absolutely worth it, as it meant I was home and in my bed for 5.15. Perfect. Except, of course, that my body has no idea what time it is any more and do you think I could sleep?

The taxi driver was a good old boy. "Where have you come from?" he asked.

"Noumea" said I.

"Ah, lovely" he said "I always wanted to go to New Zealand"

"It's New Caledonia"

"The same thing, really though, isn't it?" said the cabbie. "After all, they both speak French"

"They speak English in New Zealand" said I, usefully.

"No,no, no. You're confusing it with Australia" insisted the taxi driver.

"Zzzzz" said I, as I feigned sleep and wished for higher IQs for everyone I have to deal with.

Anyway, I have the briefest of stopovers at my apartment as I'm off to the UK tomorrow - for a month. A month of working at a desk in HQ, rather than at a desk in the corner of my living room. That's tough.

I have a new assistant starting here in France and this time in the UK is part of her training programme. Suffice to say, it all seemed like a good idea at the time.

The company have rented me a nice city centre apartment, so I'll be living the highlife. Apparently.

Things I am looking forward to:

1. Having family and friends just down the road, but not in the same building.
2. British delicacies, including good old pork sausages (behave yourselves, I mean bangers)
3. Getting to spend time with my nephew and niece, the world's loveliest children (ask me if I still think that in a month's time)
4. XXL. It's the funniest club in the world, although I'm guessing August isn't the best month for bear hunting.
5. Catching up with friends in London, Birmingham and the North West. Much excitement there - and much beer budget needed.

And the list could go on forever really. It makes me wonder why I don't still live there.

But then I remember that I live in Paris and that makes up for it all. I really do love it here and I'm not really looking forward to closing the door tomorrow for a month.

But hey, a job's a job. When I come back in September, I have all sorts to look forward to - friends are already booking their weekends in the spare room. The opera season starts. I get to go to night school and meet new people.

I'm really hoping (and I'm pretty confident) that this month in the UK will be the end of this mad, tail-chasing (my own tail, before you get any ideas Lewis) life that I have had for the last few years. September sees a new beginning, with feet firmly planted on the ground.

The Parisian ground, that is. Can't bloody wait.

dimanche 3 août 2008

Two hours in Tokyo

Does anyone need more?

I do.

I'm sat in the Air France lounge which, might I point out, is like being on the set of Barbarella - it's a very sixties-inspired, space age, minimalist spot which serves good coffee, bad beer and things you would never put near your mouth (although I probably would). Anyway, I'm seeking refuge from the shops at the airport which are driving me mad, being as full as they are of things that I want. No, not want, things that I NEED!

I've already got three more bags than I started with and in the last 45 minutes I've managed to buy three t-shirts for various nephews, nieces and hangers-on, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, a bottle of Suntory single malt (it's my birthday treat to me), a Hello Kitty biscuit barrel (ditto) and various foodstuffs for people at home who deserve better.

Jeepers, it's out of control. Or I am. I think it's me.

Anyway, having left Wives Nambawan and Nambatu to head back to the delights of Canberra (current high 12 degrees) on Friday, I got all day Saturday in Noumea, to sit on the beach, get some sun and generally wish my holiday wasn't about to end. And boy did Noumea deliver me a great day. I took the water taxi out to the ile aux canards (yes, duck island) and sat on the beach, contemplating my navel, my fate and my general good luck. The sun was belting down, the sea was clear and the little fishes came and nibbled at my toes whenever I went for a cooling paddle. Paradise.

I left Noumea this morning, travelling via the emergency room at the hospital to see if they could give me something to 'settle my stomach' for the flight. I seem to have picked up some kind of tummy bug in Vanuatu and the thought of 22 hours in the air was starting to worry me. Anyway, the lovely doctor (who I'd sign up for as my GP any day of the week) sorted me out. At least he did once I'd explained to him the consistency, frequency, content, etc. I'm guessing he was less enthralled by me than I was by him.

With the first 8 hours behind me, I can confirm that all is well and good in the stomach department. Just a small hop of thirteen hours and I'll be back in Paris and holidays will be but a memory.

I'll try not to cry. But I can't promise anything.

samedi 2 août 2008

Pick me up. Put me down.

Today is Saturday, and I'm finally getting over Thursday's birthday celebrations. I'm not sure it should be this much hard work.

It all started with a taxi to the Melé cascades - amazingly beautiful waterfalls coming off a lush green mountainside into pools of cool, clear water. perfect for swimming, soaking and generally lounging around.

"I'll be back for you in an hour" threatened our taxi driver.

"Make that two hours" said we. We were still late arriving back, such was the luxury of the rainforest pools.

Back to the hotel for a few drinks too many, poolside. We were joined by the lovely kiwis, who happily showed me the naked photo's they had taken at the waterfalls the day before. Seems I was there a day too late....

The afternoon soon became evening and, after a coconut shell or two of Kava (makes your tongue curiously numb) we headed out to the hot spots of Port Vila.

Waking up yesterday with a raging hangover was bad enough. Having to fly to Nouméa was even harder. That said, I had a little ego boost at the airport.

I was stood on the roof of the airport at Port Vila (Bauerfield International, flight fans) waiting for the incoming plane from Nouméa before I went through security (once bitten, and all that). A young Melanesian guy, early twenties, approached me.

After tales of his island (where, it would seem, everyone is largely naked but the men wear just penis gourds) he popped the question:

"You married sir?"

"No, not me"

"Me either". I was getting an idea of where this was heading.

"I have been reading about Europe. I like European men."

"Do you?". I'm now wishing my flight would land so that I can leave....

"I like all European men. But not Hitler. I think he is crazy"

"You may have a point there"

"You going to Nouméa tonight?"


"Shame. We could have had some fun. I like fat European men".

Nice. Strangely enough, I left at this point.

vendredi 1 août 2008

Pidgin post

Here in Vanuatu they speak Pidgin. It's a great language that is spoken here, in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in various forms. Some of it is very funny indeed - here's some of my favourites:

Basket blong titi - a brassiere

Kustom dance blong white fella - aerobics

Big Fella - Boss

Bia blong me - that's my beer

These are just the ones I can remember, I'm afraid. You see, the problem is I'm fighting back the waves of Nausea that are crashing against my (perfectly formed) shores.

Last night we celebrated my birthday. It was just me, the Australian girls and a pair of lovely kiwi boys (who quickly became Nambawan husband and Nambatu husband, tee hee). Anyway, we set the town alight, cut a rug, threw some shapes and generally embarrassed ourselves dancing to what we call 'vintage Kylie'. You can imagine.

Our average age (41) was about 16 years above the average age in the bar - the Voodoo Bar, Vila's number one hotspot. But hey, we matched them drink for drink if not move for move.

I seem to remember people stopping to watch my 'crazy in love'. Beyoncé'd better watch out.

Anyway, this morning I woke up with a big fella hedek and a need for a capati.

Where's the bar?