samedi 31 janvier 2009

Sushi, darling

Well, there I was, just minding my own business.  I was at Matsuri, the lovely sushi bar, happily enjoying a midday beer and watching the beautiful, delicious food slide past on the conveyor.

Truly, this is one of the best lunches in the world.  An Asahi beer and all the sushi you can eat (or can afford, it's not the cheapest place in the world).  And the food just keeps on coming.  Sailing past your nose on the conveyor belt of earthly temptations.  I don't know how but it seems I only ever choose one or two things and end up with six empty plates in front of me.

Anyway, I'm sat watching the unagi conga it's way round the tables and my trancelike state is disturbed by a group of Brits coming to sit opposite me.

Anywhere else in Paris and the Brits would be fine - tourists, inoffensive largely, as long as you close your ears when they massacre the local lingo.  But this is the rue du Bac.  Home to English folk what work here.  Posh English folk what work here.  Folk with nannies called Yasmeena and who 'do lunch' at the drugstore. Yuk.

So I'm bracing myself for much nuisance conversation.  Discreetly I put away my English book and pull out a French magazine.

"So, how was the Bon March" said first posh girl.  She pronounced it Bon March - not Bon Marché, as it is spelt.  I'm cringeing already.

"Well", said Posh boy, "you know how she is".  He points at second posh girl.  "Looks lovely in everything but refuses to wear anything that's not a sack".  He gives her a squeeze and she looks at him like he's just the most impossibly dreamy darling boy this side of Sloane Square.

" - " said second posh girl.  Actually, I think it was a word, but it might just have been so posh that it was beyond the hearing capacity of normal folk.

"Really, darling, are you still doing that?" asked FPG.  "I haven't done that since school.  But we were all at it then.  Used to hold each others hair out of the way and everything."

"Actually, I'm eating healthily these days", said SPG, "but I just can't keep the weight on".

And so the conversation went on.  They chatted about nothing.  About awful people that they knew and how daddy's business was doing so well despite, well, everything, darling.

The second posh girl stuffed her face.  Stuffed it.  Ate more than me.

As I was at the cash desk paying my bill, I noticed her coming back from the bathroom.  She looked a little green and dishevelled, but doing a good job of pretending that she hadn't spent the last ten minutes being reunited with her lunch.

Lovely to see that she's living the dream of posh girls everywhere - flat in Paris, fancy lunch with darling friends, a good old spew and the promise of a shag from a chinless wonder.

Diana would be proud.

jeudi 29 janvier 2009

Freak magnet

Getting back early from Belgium this afternoon, I decided to profit from the situation by going to the gym and using the machines that are never available when I want to use them.   Needless to say, the gym was packed and the machines were all full, with people waiting.

So, I sat on the bike and rode for a while, watching a couple of episodes of the Sarah Silverman show on the old i-pod.  The fact that all of the machines were full meant that I left the gym early and - I'm getting to the point here - I found myself at a loose end, and so went to buy a bin for the kitchen.

A bin.  For the kitchen.  A bin, poubelle, rubbish bin, you know the kind - big, metal, keeps smells in and mice out.  This is what I was after.  I've needed one for ages, ever since I threw the last one out as it had started to smell like an old folks' home. 

So, I'm standing in the local branch of 'Casa' - a council house Crate and Barrel, if you will - and I'm looking at, well, I'm not looking at the bins.

I'm looking at the customers.  I'm not doing this in a perverted way, just in a 'sweet jesus where did this lot come from' kind of way.  It was like the home for the bewitched, bothered and befabuloused had closed its doors and thrown everyone out on the street.

I'm telling you - two low-rent Jackie O's checking out the pillowslips, a six foot transvestite buying up an ugly old mirror, a woman on rollerblades with three french bulldogs browsing the cutlery, a pair of fabulous boyz giggling amongst the voile curtains, a lesbian with a chopping board and a tramp sucking his jacket sleeve.  It was like the devil's version of the 12 days of christmas.   

Distracted as I was, I couldn't focus and so decided the bin was a project for the weekend.  

Stepping out of the shop, I couldn't help but notice a rather handsome man in a business suit.  He was mid forties, good looking, with expensive shoes and a well cut coat.  He'd put his briefcase down on the floor and was taking a piss between two parked cars.

He gave the old fella a shake, tucked it back into his pants, zipped up and walked off.  

The fact that nobody else gave this a second glance made me wonder if I was hallucinating.  I was soon catapulted out of my reverie by something hitting my leg, hard.

I turned round and there was an old lady - I'd say at least 80 years old - and she had hit me with her walking stick.  

"Allez", she mumbled, "p'tit con" (a not so polite way of saying 'you appear to be in my way kind sir, would you please move')

I moved out of her way - not that I was in her way, there was a clear metre of pavement either side of me.  I watched her continue on down the street.  She maintained a dead-straight line and walloped anyone in her way.  You could hear the yelps of the innocent as she passed by with the stick.

Thankfully, sanity was waiting for me at home, in the shape of a lovely gin and tonic.  I poured myself a large one and sat down.

The phone rang.

It was my Mother.

"Do you know how to turn my TV on?". 

Tonight, it seems, is just one of those nights.

mercredi 28 janvier 2009

Radio gaga

What is it about French radio stations? In fact, I don't think it's so much French radio stations as commercial stations.

For anyone who is used to the BBC, foreign commercial radio can come as a surprise. Not just because of the quality, but also because of the repetition.

No matter which station we choose - and we vary our listening in the office between RTL2, NRJ and Paris' very own Voltage - we get the same songs over and over again.

RTL2 will give us a guaranteed five Phil Collins songs and at least two from the Police during the day (heaven help us). NRJ plays current pop, while Voltage promises 'Don't Speak' at least once an hour. God bless Gwen Stefani, I do love her little Harajuku self, but it's a bit much.

All three have playlists that seem to be no more than 20 songs long.

It makes for real groundhog day listening, but it does have its advantages...

For example, I can sing you the full verse and chorus of at least three Pussycat Dolls songs. Not something I'd have been able to do without having them drummed into my head every hour, on the hour. Now I just need to work on the moves.

Also, between me and Debbie, we've invented new words (dirty ones, natch) to 'If I was a boy' from Beyoncé - a song that needed cheering up, if ever I heard one. We can also do the uh-huh bits in the chorus of Womanizer, which is nice.

And don't even get me started on Lady Gaga and her Poker Face. All I'll say is 'words and moves, baby'.

BBC Radio 2, the UK's number one, does indeed have a playlist. But it's a pretty big playlist and there's rarely more than a handful of songs that you'll hear more than a couple of times a day.

But then, French radio does have things in common with the Beeb. Whilst it's not in the same league as her royal holiness Sally Traffic, here in Paris Voltage radio do manage to keep us informed every 30 minutes of the kilometrage of traffic jams currently in the Île de France.

They also tell us when someone has hurled themselves under a métro train - which throws the network into chaos and which disrupts the journey home for millions of people. Unfortunately this happens all too often.

And at the moment, they are providing us with regular updates on what to expect from tomorrow's national strike, thus making sure that at least half the workforce have an excuse for not bothering to come into work tomorrow.

Now that's what I call public service broadcasting!

mardi 27 janvier 2009

I didn't sleep so good last night

It's all down to the stalker.

Now, having a stalker and all. It's no fun. I can confirm.

One evening of hell doesn't a stalker make, I do appreciate that. And I appreciate that it was much harder for Kevin Bacon when the fabulous Jack MacFarland was stalking him. Although that did seem to turn out quite well.

But my stalker started out as a nice guy. The first time I met him, he was charming, funny and eager to please, if you know what I mean.

Finding him stood on my doorstep on Sunday afternoon was a little odd, but I just thought "aw bless him, he's keen".

He phoned last night just after I got home from work. I didn't answer - I was tired, needed to cook and wasn't in the mood for chit chat. Almost as soon as the phone stopped ringing, it started again. And again after that.

On the fourth ring he left a message.

He told me that he loved me, he missed me and that he wanted me to come meet his parents at the weekend. We could sleep at his brother's house as he and the sister-in-law had heard all about me and were keen to meet me. The message was so long that the messagerie cut him off at the end...we're talking a full five minutes of message here.

I turned my phone to silent and walked away from it.

Next time I looked he'd called 11 more times. I checked the number and it wasn't a mobile. I had the bright idea of googling the number to see where it was - I wish I hadn't. The number belonged to the public phone outside my building. He'd been out there all night - it was now nearly ten p.m.

As I was marvelling at this, the intercom phone rang. It could only be him. I ignored it, officially a bit scared now.

A few minutes later he called again.

Then the intercom phone rang again. The scary thing is that, in order to get to my building's intercom, you have to be in the building - i.e. the person has already got past the code-protected front door. How had he done that?

I heard my neighbours turn off their tv, walk about and then my front door rang. I presumed it was the neighbour, coming to ask me to please answer the door bell when it rings. I flung the door open expecting to see my friendly neighbour. It wasn't the man next door.

It was him. The stalker.

How had he got through the second bit of security in the building? He'd got past the coded front door and then past the internal door that is locked with a key.

I mumbled something about leaving me alone, stopping ringing, and fucking off and slammed the door. I didn't want a crazy man pushing past me into the house.

I watched through the spyhole in the door as he waited a couple of minutes and then left.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang. I picked it up and said "leave me the fuck alone. Stop ringing, stop waiting outside my house".

"Put the phone down," he said. "I don't want to talk to you, I want to leave a message".

I hung up.

He left me a message. I still have it.

He says that only me and God have the right to judge his 'inexcusable' behaviour this evening. That he still wants to hear my lovely British accent again and he hopes that I will still come with him to see his family. That he misses me and that he is sorry, but that he only wants to talk to me.

Again the message is so long that the voicemail cuts it off at the end.

I presume he'll call tonight. I'm calmer and less scared. I'll deal with it and put an end to it. Either that, or I'll call the police.

It's ridiculous and madness at the same time.

I don't really understand it.

As my LPF said "you're fat, old and English - why would someone want to stalk you?"....

lundi 26 janvier 2009

Walk on by

These people I see on my way to work. Every day.

They are a part of my routine - when I'm on time. If I leave my house at 07h25, I will most likely see all of them.

In order, they are:

Myself in the hallway mirror. One final look to make sure there's no food on my chin.

The woman who runs the cafe downstairs, opening up and counting down to the day she sells the place. Not long now, she's had an offer, I hear.

The muslim taxi driver, praying on the pavement next to his cab. His prayer mat is beautiful - black, turquoise, orange.

The guy who loads and unloads the bags on the airport bus. He smiles at me, and says 'no airport today, monsieur?'

The man who looks exhausted as he opens up the post office. He looks even worse in the evening.

The old lady who begs in the subway leading to the RER station. She has her regulars that she gossips with. Always has her hair in an alice band.

The two friends who chat every morning at the coffee bar deep in the bowels of the métro station. Why meet there and not upstairs in the real world?

The woman who sits in my carriage reading romantic novels that she covers with wallpaper.

The wet, cold, miserable guy who gives out the free newspapers at Nanterre Préfecture.

The cheery lady at the boulangerie who sells the best pains au chocolat in the area, and who acts like she knows it.

The guy in the mailroom at AXA insurance. I walk past his window everyday. Why does he have a map of Greece on the wall next to his desk?

The students from the 'special school' stopping off at McDo for their breakfast.

The girls smoking outside the American Embassy stores next door.

Debbie. But by the time I see her, I'm sat at my desk, coffee in hand. She's the first person I speak to.

This is my world, my morning journey.

In a city of 10 million people, seeing the same faces over and over again is both comforting and strange.

We're all creatures of habit, every last one of us.

dimanche 25 janvier 2009

HOW much?

I went for a bit of a toot round the shops yesterday.  For ages now I've been looking for some new glasses.

I'm kind of picky, difficult to please where glasses are concerned.  I'm sure that this doesn't surprise you in the slightest.

Anyway, it took me almost a year to find the pair that I wear daily now - the same pair that I've worn for five years now.  Well, not the same pair - I'm so difficult that last time I needed new specs I just bought identical ones again.  So that's two pairs of this model in five years.  It"s really time for a change.

As I was walking down the rue des Rosiers (the heart of Jewish Paris, with the best falafel sellers in Europe) I remembered that the manufacturer of my current glasses has a flagship store on the corner of this street.  Too good an opportunity to miss, I dragged a jet-lagged LPF (just back from New York)  into the Mikli store for some spectacle porn.

And what porn it is.  The most beautiful glasses in the world, parading themselves in front of you, begging you to touch them, stroke them, try them on for size.  

Naturally, I succumbed to temptation.  I tried on one pair.


Possibly even better than my current model.  Fitted just right, a great colour, lightweight, cool, stylish, designed by Philippe Starck no less.

These are my new glasses, I thought to myself.

"Can I help you?" offered the alarmingly chic assistante.

"Would you be able to do these frames with the same lenses as these" said I, pointing at my 'old' glasses.

"Sure" she said.  And she proceeded to detail the price.

Ok.  Now I can usually be convinced to pay a little extra for quality.  But sometimes....

The glasses would work out at €905,00.  Eek.  That's $1100,00.  £820,00.  For a pair of specs.

I calmly and quietly stepped away from the glasses.  

I thanked the assistante and left the shop.

And since then, all I've been able to think about is the beautiful glasses.  Truly beautiful, but they are horribly expensive for a bit of glass and aluminium.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be back tomorrow to buy them.

vendredi 23 janvier 2009

Behold my naked shame

So, last night I was feeling brave. Finally, I have reached a point with this flu where I don't feel like coughing up a lung every time I walk up the stairs and so, pumped up with much bravado, I headed to the gym.

I did my usual tour of the machines, building myself up into the usual lovely, sweaty, exhausted, somewhat over-gymmed mess. It wasn't pretty.

Now I'm a guy who showers at the gym. In the UK, this is considered normal behaviour - you work out, you get sweaty, you shower, you go home. In France it's not always the case, and probably 50% of people just change out of their gym clothes back into their street clothes - with a bit of a towel down to remove excess sweat in between. Vile.

Thus, post workout finds me getting ready to take a shower. The gym is fairly basic and the lockers require that you bring your own padlock (cadenas in French, for anyone interested). The lockers are battered, bruised but, having been built in the 1950's, are incredibly strong. This fact didn't help me last night.

So, I undress and pack my things away, ready to shower. I have my 'gel douche' at the ready, and I'm covering my decency with the smallest of small gym-issued towels. It's tiny.

It's at this point that I realise my error - stupidly I still have my glasses on, and obviously don't want to be showering in my specs.

Turning to put them in my locker, I realise the true, real, massive, horrible mistake that I have made.

I've locked everything that I own inside the locker - including the key to the padlock.

I'm stuck, naked but for a facecloth-sized-towel, with no access to my clothes.

I try not to panic. I try not to laugh hysterically. I try to keep breathing.

What to do? It's not like I can march through the gym, downstairs to the reception desk and ask for assistance. I need to involve someone else. Someone dressed.

I ask the guy next to me - who has just walked in and is in street clothing - if he'd go back downstairs and ask reception for help. He laughs (a lot) but agrees. Trust me, when I was learning French all those years ago, never, ever did I think I'd be so grateful for it as I was last night.

The boy from reception arrives, with the biggest pair of metal cutters you've ever seen. Obviously this draws considerable attention, and a crowd soon gathers to see the small boy use his big tool.

Two clips later and I have a broken padlock, but an open locker. I shake his hand to thank him and realise that, to all intents and purposes, I am completely starkers.

It's been a long time since I was the naked centre of attention in a room of sweaty men.

I'd like to say it was enjoyable. It wasn't.

jeudi 22 janvier 2009

Hi-yo Silver, away!

This morning saw a very late TBNIL rise from his bed. It was a very difficult birth, the doctors thought a c-section may be needed. But as they were about to start cutting I sprang from the womb-like bed, casting aside the comfort of the life-giving duvet and moving out into the harsh reality of THE NEW DAY.

Well, nothing so dramatic really, but it was indeed a difficult birth, so much I can confirm. I'd woken with my usual alarm at 06h30, turned it off, rolled over and gone straight back to sleep.

I woke with a start at 8h18. My usual train leaves at 7h45. I was late. Seriously late.

Clothes on, teeth clean, head under tap. Face washed, shoes done up, mobile found. Bag on shoulder, out the door, back for a wee. Remember watch, turn off radio, lock the door.

And so, at 8h34 I found myself sat on a train, stunned, feeling like I'd been teleported from one world to another. The journey from bed to train was 16 minutes. No time for coffee. No time for breakfast. No time to sit on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands going "why me, Lord, why me?" whilst rocking from side to side. In fact, no time whatsoever for my usual morning rituals.

Now, I'm at my desk and I want to cry.

It can't be right that work happens every single day for five days in a row, can it? How is this possible?

Is this really the great plan for human beings? What happened to hunter-gathering? What happened to the life you see in movies?

In movies, even if they have to go to work it looks like fun. Apart from in Schindlers list, maybe. That factory didn't look like fun. But better than the alternatives, I suppose.

And that's the crux of the problem. Is this life better than the alternatives? Well, if the alternative is no life then sure, it's much, much better. But that's not what I'm getting at.

Is this way of life better than the alternatives? Is this the best life I could have for myself?

Maybe it's the fact that I'm overwhelmingly tired. Maybe it's the fact that this year is the big birthday. But whatever it is, I want off of this treadmill.

I want to be the Lone Ranger, riding off into the sunset with Tonto by my side.

For the Lone Ranger, tomorrow was a new start, a new adventure, a ride on a horse and a gunfight.

It was never, ever, the 07h45 to Nanterre.

mercredi 21 janvier 2009

The death of a career

I'd been at HQ for a series of meetings, that culminated in a large group meeting. At this meeting, the big boss - a lady of a certain age - presented how the company stands in relation to the current 'crise economique'.

So, it was an important meeting, covering serious issues and delicate subject matter. At the end, the big boss asked if there were any questions.

"So that's everything from the agenda covered, does anyone have any other questions?"

Silence all round.

"Well", said the boss, "they don't have to be questions about things we've discussed today - they can be about anything. Anything at all".

"I've got a question", said my lovely, if somewhat misguided colleague.

"Marvellous", said the boss, "what is it?"

"Do you dye your hair?"

Once again, silence descended as everyone looked at the floor.

mardi 20 janvier 2009

It's going to be one of those years

I have things to organise this year. Official things, important things.

Well, I have a stag weekend to arrange for my Lovely London Friend - LLF has misguidedly selected me to be his best man, and so it falls upon these beautiful shoulders to organise his stag do.

And I also have a birthday party to organise this year. For myself. It's a landmark year, and I'm so not sure about how to celebrate it.

The stag weekend seems to be easy enough - we have dates, we have commitment from attendees, I just need to to organise accommodation, strippers, cocaine, etc. Or maybe just book a table in a fancy restaurant. That sounds more like it.

The birthday is something else, however. This morning I realised that I've double booked myself already - I agreed to celebrate separately with two groups of friends. One of them we had booked concert tickets and planned a weekend of drunken debauchery; with the others I'm heading off for two weeks of sun and sun. I totally screwed up on my dates and booked the weekend away for slap bang in the middle of the two week holiday. Stupid.

So, this morning I've cancelled the weekend trip and I'm waiting to hear back as to whether I'm forgiven or not. I feel so stupid - I never double book.

Anyway, my major dilemma is what to do about the official party. Family want a big event, in the UK, with everyone present - family and friends. I'm kind of ok with this, but it'll be expensive and I'd rather spend the money on champagne at a nice Paris bar with my friends.

It's all a bit much really - and I feel like I'll end up doing what other people want to do to celebrate my birthday. It'll end up being just another event that I go to. This is how I feel about all family parties, so the fact that this one is for me will make little or no difference.

My mother told me she didn't mind what I did as long as the family were all (and she means ALL) invited. This means the lumpen Aunt, the cousin with the gastric band and the topless model. The sailor, the anorexic and the perpetually drunk.

My brother said he didn't mind what I did as long as his kids could go and as long as they could get a taxi home afterwards (thus limiting the geographic zone).

And then the thought of the various groups of friends and family all meeting just sends me into a tailspin.

So, no pressure then....I feel a little bit sick just writing this.

God help me, I think I'm going to run away.

Oh, I already did that....

dimanche 18 janvier 2009

Friday the 13th beckons

So, I got back to Paris yesterday evening - tired, full of flu yet happy, having spent a few days with my Lovely Paris Friend at his new residence in the south west of France, in Castres.

He moved to Castres for work - a really good opportunity, but I have to admit I was sad to see him go.  I've missed having a friend to call on for drinks at the last minute, or someone to come see obscure films with me.  Having an opportunity to catch up has been great.  And a legitimate reason too - I had to travel down to the south west for work.

So, as you'd expect, we caught up over some bottles of good (no, great) wine and worked our way through a few bottles of champagne too.  We got drunk and went and stood in his garden, looking at stars and naming constellations.  I'm pretty certain that part of this flu that I'm feeling must be a hangover!  

We giggled like schoolgirls over ridiculous things and talked about the great times we'll share in the future - when I 'settle down' and he, finally, is living in the same country as his lovely boyfriend.  

We had some very welcome sunshine too, and did some touristy things.  All in all, it was really special.

Spending time with LPF made the email I came home to even more, erm, crappy.  Crappy isn't really the word.  I'm not sure what the word is.

See, the thing is, the email confirmed that the event which I've been really hoping wouldn't happen is actually taking place - recession or no recession.

Yes folks, it's the company 'christmas' party.  

Officially it's not a christmas party, being in March and all - but it really is instead of a christmas party...thus it's known as the christmas party.  Anyway, it's on March 13th.

Why, I hear you ask, am I so bothered about the company party?  

Well, it's like this.  The company party is a 'with partners' event.  Everybody brings their husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and significant others.  

Every single year - even during the crazy boyfriend years - I've been to this event alone.  On my own.  Single.  Without partner.  Unattached.  Strange.

I'm not sure I can do that again.

Anyone got any smart ideas?

mardi 13 janvier 2009

World's end

There's a reason why Finistère is known as the end of the world. Really. If you head due west, the next time you touch solid ground will be in Newfoundland, Canada. Heading east, you won't hit either sea or ocean until you get to the Siberian coast, due east of Khabarovsk (no, you can't see Sarah Palin's house from there).

Anyway, I'm here for work, in the city that was ugly before the RAF bombed it (something to do with not trusting the French navy) but that is now the ugliest place on earth in a fabulously beautiful setting - Brest. Surprising how the 1950's concrete can detract from the scenery.

So, I digress. This isn't meant to be a geography lesson. You remember the customer who wanted to get me sacked? Well, I've been paying him a visit with one of the big bosses from work. It's been classy.

I got up at five o'clock this morning, travelled four and a half hours on a train and didn't even get offered a cup of coffee. Instead, I got shouted at for 30 minutes. I remained calm, diplomatic and stopped myself from dragging his sorry ass over the table and beating him to a fine french pulp. But only just.

"He's got quite a temper, hasn't he?" said my colleague, in a useful-after-the-fact kind of way.

"Oh yes" said I. "Is he like this with everyone?"

"No", said colleague. "He told me before you arrived that he just doesn't like you. It's completely personal. Don't worry".


Anyway, the truly great thing about today was that I've pissed him off to the point where he is selling his business and quitting for good. Thank. The. Lord. One less thing to worry about.

Although, as my lovely colleague pointed out, "There'll always be someone who doesn't like you - you're that kind of personailty"....

Hmm. Seems everyone in my German class likes me though. Last night was Deutschkurs, and I'm still unsure about why I'm taking three hours of language lessons on a monday after work. It truly is too hard.

Last night the badly-dressed-even-for-a-German teacher was telling the class how you have to be careful when introducing your friends. If you say someone is 'my friend' as opposed to 'a friend' then you are claiming boyfriend/girlfriend status for that person. So, she pointed out, to the incredibly cute, but ridiculously posh French boy that he may want to remember this when introducing his male friends to his family.

He said that he had already introduced his 'friend' to his family and that they loved him like the son-in-law that he is. Kudos. And one in the eye for the German teacher's amazing lack of tact.

But it doesn't surprise me that she thought he was straight. There's something about the building that we have courses in that screws with your gaydar. It's like it has a blocking signal on it or something.

The older guy who I'm convinced has been smiling at me more since my outing, and who regularly checks out the younger male students, spent the whole of breaktime telling me about his wife. The married guy sat next to me seems to have made a new year's resolution to be as camp as possible and to flirt with men and the aforementioned posh boy has a previously undisclosed and totally surprising boyfriend. And it's all too confusing for me.

At least the Korean guy is the same as ever. Last night he had to tell me what he likes to eat - information that I then had to present to the whole group. I wasn't even close to understanding what he was trying to tell me. So I just said 'kimchi and rice'.

I hope that doesn't make me a racist....

lundi 12 janvier 2009

Revolving doors

No sooner had I got rid of the date from Saturday night - nice guy, funny, interesting, lives on my street, not potential husband material - than the Homer Simpson Socks guy called.

Well, I say 'no sooner' but in reality there was at least four hours sleep between one leaving and the other calling. Needless to say, I wasn't particularly chirpy, nor was I thinking straight when he called.

"What are you up to?" said HSS.

"Sleeping" said I, "just sleeping".

"You want company?"

"Huh? You want to come over for a sleep?" said I. "Why would you do that?"

"No." Said HSS, "I wasn't planning on sleeping. I'll be there in ten minutes". And with that he hung up. It seemed the decision had been taken out of my hands.

That afternoon, after HSS had left, I went for a stroll on the Ile St. Louis. It's a good place for a Sunday afternoon 'blow the cobwebs away' kind of walk.

The Ile St. Louis was the place where the rich lived in ye olde Paris. Where the advisors to the king, his money-counters and architects lived and where they built their 'hôtels particuliers' - mini mansions that are today inhabited by lawyers, bankers and local celebrities. Plus ça change, eh?

I stopped for a beer at a local hostelry and took stock.

My goal of finding me a husband and settling down isn't happening. I don't know why. I'm working on the basis that it's a numbers game - the more dates I go on, the more likely I am to hit the jackpot. But I currently feel like I'm whoring my ass round town and getting lots of fun, but no happiness from the process. Maybe I have the wrong approach. Maybe I should be more selective.

This 'one-out-one-in' approach has its benefits but is it helping me to achieve my goal? I look at my coupled friends and I'm jealous. I see happy twosomes walking down the street and I get envious. Paris is so full of romantic couples that it's not a great place to be single.

But maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe I just need to relax and recognise that things take time. And just enjoy myself in the meantime.

Who knows. Either way, it looks like HSS is planning on becoming a regular bedroom fixture so at least I won't die of desperation...

samedi 10 janvier 2009

It's normally such a quiet street...

This isn't the view you want to see when you casually cast a 'coup d'oeuil' out of the window, mid housework, is it?

I think the best way to describe it is a 'considerable' police presence, creating a road block at the end of my street.  Now I know that sometimes I play my music loud, but is this really necessary?

Anyway, it turns out that my moaning neighbour hadn't made her complaint official - as she keeps anonymously threatening - the police were just setting up shop, preparing for a protest march.  

In one of those 'it's amazing what you can get used to' moments, I figured I'd best get out of the house and do my grocery shopping....after all, the police blocking the street isn't a sign that getting in and out is going to be easier as the day progresses.  And I've been here before.  Seems my street is on the traditional 'manifestation' route.

So I go do some shopping and come back to the house.  Alas, getting to my house is a pipe dream.  The police presence has been multiplied and the protest is in full swing.  

The protest is for a worthy enough cause - Palestine for Palestinians, stop bombing Gaza, etc.  Anyone who has read my blog for a while will know of my treatment at the hands of the Israelis - so it won't surprise you that I'm kind of with the Palestinians on the Gaza thing.  Anyway, the problem du jour is that I can see my house, but can't cross the street to get to it.

Luckily I had my camera, so here's a shot of the mob in front of TBNIL Towers.  Classy, non?

So I stood and watched, but didn't join in with the singing.  The mix of people was surprising - all ages, colours and walks of life were there.  Seems there's nothing like a good cause to bring out the solidarity; the spirit of '68 and all that.  

Finally I got home, but as I type this, the protest continues.  It's been three hours now and doesn't look like it's coming to an end. They've even set up a prayer station outside the HSBC.

On a lighter note - I'm pretty certain that Debbie is sleeping with her German counterpart.  More on this as the tale progresses, but suffice to say that being in the office with them last week was painful.  Ah, young love...

mercredi 7 janvier 2009

Has it come to this?

So, the lovely Debbie said to me today that she has a new year's resolution.

I guessed it would be to sleep around a little less (pot, kettle, black, I know) or maybe to eat food that smells less at lunchtime in our small and poorly ventilated office. Maybe it would be to wear something other than black. Alas it is none of these.

She wants to learn to dance the Madison.

Ye Gods. In France, they insist on dancing this, even in the coolest of cool nightclubs. I guess that this is why Debbie wants to learn how to do it. Comes in handy for the occasional friday night at les Bains Douches, I guess.

It always makes me think of holidays on French campsites. You know the big campsites - the ones with dodgy disco's where they'd play cheesy pop classics and where you'd be certain to get your sixteen-year-old arse pinched by a rogue bartender? Hmm. I always liked those places.

Which is probably why one of my favourite nights out in Paris is a nightclub that recreates this atmosphere perfectly.

Le Tango (aka la Boîte à Frissons, rather cheesily) offers a good night out to anyone willing to arrive after midnight. Prior to that it's a tea dance popular with lesbians. I have nothing against lesbians - even though I do wish they'd work on their shoes a little - but I don't need to see a great crowd of them dry humping their butch selves on the dancefloor to "love is in the air". I mean, really.

The bar bills itself as thus : "On se voit, on s'entend, on se sourit. Y'a des filles, des garçons, des travs, des trans, des folles, des butchs, des jeunes, des vieux, des beaux, des moches. Machos, hétéros-flics, sexistes, trop-beaux-pour-être-aimable, VIP s'abstenir."

Not sure where I fit into that list, but I'm sure you can see how this makes for a funny, fun night out. Dancing to Dalida, Spice Girls, Mylène and Bananarama - and they always play American Boy.

If you want to see a spectacular Madison (and it is truly spectacular - largely because all the boyz know all the moves and the über-competitive lesbians try to keep up) then they have one every Friday at half past midnight.

So I started this post with a "why does she want to do something like that?" and appear to be ending it thinking that this is something I should be learning myself.

Is there any hope for me at all?

One can sometimes be a little too integrated, non?

mardi 6 janvier 2009

Don't make me laugh

You are lucky enough to end up in a bedroom-clinch-type-situation.

The other person involved, for reasons best kept to himself, has decided to accept your presence in his 'chamber', despite your strange hair and lack of conversational ability. In fact, the other person is 'putting up' with you purely because you have a 'bod to die for'.

Now, if you should ever find yourself in this situation, you may decide that keeping your socks on while we 'do the dirty' is a good idea.

If you do, can I please ask that you don't wear Homer Simpson socks. They really put me off my stroke.

Well, they did last night anyway...


samedi 3 janvier 2009

First class f*ckwits

On the Thalys north to Amsterdam there was an almighty panic. The train was no longer going to be stopping at Den Haag, nor would it stop at Schipol Airport. The announcement telling us this was made in French, Dutch, German and English. I understood it in all four languages, such was the clarity of the message.

Apparently, I was the only one.

Immediately there was panic amongst my fellow passengers. Especially the French.

"Is the train no longer going to Amsterdam?"

"But I am being met at Schiphol!"

"Did he say the train will terminate in The Hague?"

God help me. A more hapless bunch of travellers I’ve never met. Even my Mother would have worked out what was going on. But, as usually happens in such circumstances, people who would normally ignore their fellow travellers started to talk to each other.

The Australian girl behind me was chatting with the French woman across the aisle from me about how they would get to their respective friends/families if the train was going no further. Neither of them spoke each other’s language, yet despite this, they still managed to give each other completely incorrect information that the other one then believed.

"Anglaise?" said the old French lady to the Australian.

"No", she said. "Australia".

The old girl looked confused.

The Aussie girl picked up on this (remarkably) and jumped up out of her seat. Quick as a flash she was hopping down the aisle doing a kangaroo impression and shouting "Australia, Australia".

"Ah", said the old French lady. "Skeeepy".

"Yes", screamed the Australian, "Like Skippy, exactly!!!" And they both fell about, crying with laughter.

Sometimes I think it would be better if they didn’t give out free alcoholic drinks on the train.