vendredi 27 février 2009

Do you NEVER shut up?

With brother here, the entertainment options are somewhat limited. Sitting at home and watching television is out, for language reasons. Watching DVDs would be fine, but my collection and his tastes are poles apart. So we're left with going out and finding entertainment 'on the town'.

This means either sitting opposite each other à la Smith and Jones whilst speed drinking beers and finding things to talk about, or going to the cinema and not having to talk to each other too much...well, you can guess which option we went for last night.

We went to see Gran Torino, the Clint Eastwood film. It took me a leap of faith to agree to see it - I'm not usually a big fan of Clint. I'm glad I did though. Truly an amazing film. Ironic, humourous and sad, sad, sad. Go see it.

Anyway, I'm not here to give two thumbs up. I'm here to bitch about the girl stood behind us in the queue for the movie.

Because this was the opening night for the film, plus it being a Thursday (big cinema night) the place was jammed. They'd set up a temporary 'zig zag queue' for the entry to the movie and we were herded in to the queuing pen like sheep - then left waiting for fifteen minutes.

Whilst we were waiting, I became increasingly aware of a girl stood behind us.

"...and anyway, they said don't bring chocolates, but I thought, well, everyone brings chocolates, and what's a party without chocolates, and so I took chocolates, and you know what, turns out he's allergic to chocolates, and so I spent the whole evening sat eating the chocolates, the ones that I had brought with me, and they were good, they were Leonidas, have you ever had Leonidas? they're good, they're, like, really expensive but they're really good..."

And so it went on. A monologue. A one-woman show straight from hell.

"...and it was terrible finding somewhere to leave my bike, have you ever had to leave your bike near Les Halles? there's always someone waiting to steal it, it's not like it's a good bike, my dad bought it for me, it's, like, twenty years old or something, but maybe that's why they want to steal it, maybe it's, like, an antique, do you think it's an antique? it could be worth hundreds, maybe I should get it valued, but maybe it's just, like, junk..."

Shocking. And on it went.

I was about to ask her to speak quieter when her friend took the situation into her own hands.

"You never shut up do you?", said Chatty Cathy's friend. "You wonder why we only ever come to the cinema? It's because it's the only way to keep you quiet".

"But....", started Chatty Cathy. But it was too late, the queue was moving and her friend told her to shush.

And I realised that me and friend both had one thing in common. We'd both chosen the cinema to avoid sitting in a bar with our companions.

I thanked my lucky stars that my brother is the silent type.

I do worry that I'm the Chatty Cathy though...

mercredi 25 février 2009

Brotherly love

My brother arrives tomorrow.  Alone.

Usually he comes with an entourage of wife and kids.  Not this time.  Usually the kids fill awkward silences.  Not this time.  Usually the sister in law provides a buffer for his opinions and odd ideas of how life should be lived (by other people).  Not this time.

Yep, just me and my bro, hanging like homies.

So, what to do?  Luckily, he's already spotted a couple of exhibitions he wants to see, and there's always the fall back position of the cinema.  

Eating out is a bit problematic because a) he has a limited palate and b) I refuse to pander to it.  We'll see how that one works out, eh?

In a 'greater-love-hath-no-man' moment I went above and beyond the call of brotherly duty and bought tickets for the football on Sunday.  Brother loves a bit of footie and so he's absolutely made up with this 'gift' as he keeps calling it (I was thinking he'd pay for his own ticket, but apparently not).

The football match is between Paris Saint Germain and Nancy.

Brother has already informed me that he's going to buy me a 'Nancy' supporters scarf.  Apparently he thinks this is hilarious.  He seems to have told everyone, so funny it is.

My Mother called me earlier to say 'have a lovely time with your brother' and 'don't fall out with each other'.  Then she said:

"...enjoy the football match.  Your brother tells me he's going to buy you a scarf".

"So he told you too, then?"

"Yes.  He said it's a scarf with 'Nancy Boy' written on it"

Nancy Boy.


I don't stand a chance.

Glad tidings

Lord Rufus of Wainwright is coming to Paris.

I have a ticket.

I may be sick, that's how excited I am.

Cirque de soleil

I've been away for a couple of days, working.  It's been a lot of driving and a lot of miles, with a cunning little flight thrown in for good measure, but it hasn't been so bad.

I'd been dreading the return trip to Brest for ages, ever since the last trip out here.  We all know how well that went.

Luckily, after a marathon seven-hour drive, I was greeted by a friendly face (the employee of the vile-guy-who-wants-me-sacked) and a message to 'just get on with it, because the boss won't be coming'.  Class.  I don't know if I scare him or he just hates me - either way, the meeting went so much better without him.

Such was the happy atmosphere of the meeting that we over-ran and I had to mince very quickly indeed in order to get my plane to Marseille.

And that's when my job became worth it.

I woke up this morning, opened the shutters onto the balcony (oh yes, even cheap hotels can be cool sometimes) and stepped out into mediterranean sunshine and blue sky.  I had a view over the old port of Marseille and could see the fort in the distance, resplendent in the early morning sun. 

Dodging the free 'breakfast' on offer at the hotel, I skipped out of the hotel and down to the port.

I sat, at seven thirty this morning, on a terrasse, drinking a café crème, an orange juice (pressé, bien sûr) and tucking into a tartine and pain au choc.  As the sun warmed me through I wondered if life gets any better.  Really, it's the choice between this and a job at Birmingham HQ?  I know which I'll take, thanks.

After breakfast, I jumped in the car for a drive down the coast before my mid morning meeting.  I stood on the beach, I watched the surfers and I breathed sea air.

Meeting over, I headed to Lyon in the car for meeting number two.  Driving through Lyon made me think about my days there, but I didn't get all nostalgic.  How did I manage to live somewhere for two years and not get attached to the place?  Maybe I wasn't really 'living' there...deep, eh?

Once I'd finished in Lyon, I hit the autoroute back to Paris.

Did I mention that Debbie was with me all the way?  She'd turned out to be good company and a pleasure to have along.  For so long I've done this travelling on my own that I'd forgotten how nice it can be to have someone else there.  Especially someone who had never really left the Île de France before.

Debbie drove much of the way back to Paris from Lyon, and I learnt one thing about her.  She drives fast.  Real fast.

I closed my eyes as the clock went past 180 kmh (110 mph-ish).  I feigned sleep when she overtook trucks at this speed.  I very nearly passed out when she raced the Maserati that had been 'annoying' her for the last few kilometres.

The radio started to play Britney 'Circus' as we rolled down the last hill and onto the Peripherique.  Debbie started to sing along...

"There's only two types of people in the world
The ones that entertain and the ones that observe.
Well baby I'm a put-on-a-show kinda girl
Don't like the backseat, gotta be first..."

She's not wrong.

We have so much in common.....

dimanche 22 février 2009

A chacun son disco...

I'm back from Cork, and just about to run out of the house and get a head start on the five hour drive to Britanny.  If I can get out of the RP (Région Parisienne) tonight, then it'll save me a lot of grumpiness tomorrow morning on the road, ha ha.

Anyway, I had a great weekend in Cork, with two lovely friends and I got to finally meet up with the beautiful Hangar Queen - although there was so much going on that we didn't really get more than a quick lunchtime drink and a quick hello in the evening.  I had so much to ask her and to catch up about that I'd have loved for us to have sat all night in the bar gossiping.  One day, eh HQ?

As I'm literally running out of the door, I'm just going to give you some of the highlights and happenings. 

  • Spending time, both sober and not, with lovely friends.  Always the best basis for any weekend away.
  • The lovely souvenirs that we came away with - the 'tiki' glass that my Lovely Irish Friend made me steal (yes, steal) and my lovely Dutch-Irish Friend's questionable calendar.  Luckily, I found the hotel crockery, cushions and general detritus that had been hidden in my luggage whilst my back was turned.  Thanks for that boys.
  • Your Disco Needs You.  A Kylie classic that I haven't heard in a club for years.  Literally.  A great end of the night tune.
  • Body popping.  Or at least, my Lovely Irish Friend's version of body popping.  A certain someone would be very proud....
  • Having to remind myself that the Irish pub wasn't a gay bar.  So STOP SMILING AT THAT GUY.  He's likely to come over and hit you.
  • The crane.  Oh boy.
  • The Cork accent.  What one earth is that all about?  Surely no-one takes it seriously?
  • My Lovely Irish-Dutch Friend holding a fairly decent football conversation with the cab driver who mistook us for 'boys in town for the match'....he he.  I never knew he had it in him.
  • Hangar Queen.  What more need I say?
  • Free drinks at the Blog Awards.  Helped lubricate the process.  They know what people are after, I'll give em that.
  • Finally, the lovely, fey Italian boy on the bus who was exasperated (in a very camp way) that none of his friends were taking his forthcoming wedding to a homely Irish girl seriously.  I can't imagine why they wouldn't.
And that's my weekend in Cork.  I reckon if you were to describe it in liquid terms it'd be something like - a dozen bottles of Heineken, a dozen or so pints of same; a large handful of JD cokes and a slightly smaller handful of gin tonics; a full fat coke to pick me up; two lattes and a couple of lunchtime 'fancy colas'.  

The weekend would be far easier to sum up in musical terms.  Super easy in fact.  

I give you two words.  Lady GaGa.  

Really.  It's little wonder that I feel like hell, is it?

vendredi 20 février 2009

Terminal stupidity

I'm stood in the queue for security at CDG, on my way to Cork, Ireland.

The woman behind me is a big girl. A big, Irish girl travelling with three kids, two elderly parents and an arse the size of County Kildare. She had a voice and a half on her, and everyone in the line was party to her musings.

"Why is it always the fuzzy-wuzzies who do the security?", she said, to no-one in particular.

Her father grunted and nodded in agreement.

"I bet they put drugs into people's luggage".

Luckily, I was next through the scanner and managed to escape the woman's nasty racism and obvious lack of class.

Getting through security, I find a waiting area that is crowded. really crowded.

There are four flights - Dublin, Cork, Yerevan and Jeddah. The Saudi bunch are keeping themselves to themselves and the Armenians are busy re-packing their hand luggage. Over at the Armenian flight desk there's a guy arguing with the airline rep who says his bag can't go in the cabin.

"Why not?", he said in pigeon French. "I use this bag every day".

"But not to go on aeroplanes, Sir", the representative replied.

"I use it to do my shopping", he said. "It's a perfectly good bag".

He has a point. It is a perfectly good bag for supermarket shopping. But likewise, I can understand why the airline wouldn't want people bringing shopping caddies - for that is what it was - on the plane.

The 'bag' stood four feet high and included a handle that was fixed upright and four wheels, each a good six inches in diameter. The wheels were so big that they had tyres on them.

How he'd managed to get this far with it would be my question, but hey, maybe he'd hidden it from the check-in agents. Maybe they'd just given up trying. Maybe they realised that sometimes it's best to 'pick your battles'.

As I sit and ponder the stupidness of the situation, my reverie is broken. The big Irish girl had arrived and, with her entourage, taken the remaining seats in the area.

"Have you seen all the fucking Paki's here", she announced, again to no-one in particular. "Place smells of fucking curry".

And with one swell foop she'd convinced anyone who still needed convincing that some people should never, ever leave their trailer parks.

jeudi 19 février 2009

Shut up and let me go

I know that I'm going to sound like an old man with this post. But I kind of don't care. The thing is, I'm kind of sick of all the fecking noise everywhere I go.

These last couple of weeks I've spent a fair amount of time on trains and planes and every trip has been, well, noisy.

I took the train to Lyon, and the guy across from me was shouting - things that I imagine he wouldn't want his competitors to know about his business - into his mobile phone. Not at all sotto voce. Not at all subtile. Just loud. Until I asked him to stop, that is.

On the train back from Strasbourg, the men at the table across from mine were heading to Paris to take their TGV driver exams. They were excitable, to say the least. The volume increased and they got steadily louder. Until I asked them to be quiet, that is.

And on the métro into work this morning, the young girl sat next to me had her ipod so loud that I could hear the words of the songs - Sheryfa Luna, not my favourite...she sings a bit flat if you ask me. It was loud, tinny, someone-else's-headphones music...until I asked her to turn it down, that is.

Luckily, everytime I ask someone to turn it down they look incredibly embarassed and shocked that they were disturbing me. Every time, they have reduced their volume and got on with it. I appreciate that this could easily go the other way.

Equally, everytime I ask someone to turn it down, there are other passengers who look at me and smile, or who mouth 'merci' to me. Jeez folks, glad to be of service, but how about you ask next time?

As much as I'd like someone else to get involved once in a while, I'm quite happy to be the one doing the asking - it can work wonders sometimes. Back in the Lyon days, I once asked the guy sat next to me if he'd mind taking his phone call to the special area that SNCF have put on the trains (complete with sofa style seating) for such purposes.

When he came back, he apologised and we got talking. The conversation had been about a posting to the UK and we chatted a lot about how that might go - about the differences between English and French working styles and living conditions. By the end of the journey he had my number and we had a plan to meet the following night for a drink.

I'm not saying that a beautiful romance started when I asked him to shut up, but it certainly turned out to be, erm, interesting.

And I'm not saying that asking someone to be quiet on public transport will always get you laid - it's equally as likely to get you punched I guess.

But what I am saying is this...

"keep the noise down you bunch of freaks, there's people trying to sleep here!"

mardi 17 février 2009

The Tahitian on the train

The train was the international TGV from Paris to Zürich. I was only going as far as Strasbourg today, but nonetheless the train felt quite exotic. And, as is often the case on these international trains, the clientèle was fairly exotic too. In the bar could be heard accents German, Swiss, French, American and English.

But the guy stood opposite me in the train bar was more exotic than that. He was some kind of Pacific Islander - by his looks, I'd guess Tahitian (of which there are more than you'd imagine in Paris). Anyway, he was beautiful...and he got me thinking about a mad few days I had years ago.

I was 22 and I'd been working in a fish factory in the Bay of Islands in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand for a couple of months. Fed up with the life in the small town where I was living, I'd headed, with a couple of friends, to Auckland for a weekend of partying.

We started drinking fairly early, and as the Friday night progressed, so did our excitement at being in the 'big' 'city'. We must have been misbehaving as, after we had downed more than a few drinks, the doorman came over to us and warned us to calm down or face being thrown out of the bar. Naturally, we didn't calm down. Naturally, we got thrown out.

However, as the doorman was ushering us out of the bar he told me of a different bar where we should go to next.

"I'll be there myself when I finish here", he said to me. "Will I see you there?"

"Erm, maybe," said I, wondering if there was a subtext or if I had imagined it. And off we traipsed into the antipodean evening.

As you can imagine, I managed to convince the rest of the group to follow his advice and go the bar he had suggested. When we got there, we were a little surprised. It was a small dive bar, in the basement of an old row of shops in the CBD. To say it was rough would be putting it lightly. To say it suited our mood would be absolutely spot on.

We stayed a while and drank. We danced along to James, to Dee-Lite and to the Waterboys, such was the music of the time. It was like being back in a Birmingham student bar and we loved it.

A couple of hours after arriving there, the doorman from the other bar turned up. He was with a friend and they were both well-built, handsome guys, both Pacific Islanders - Raratongans, it turned out.

By this point there were only a couple of our group left - me and a girlfriend - and we sat with the doorman and his friend and started to drink whisky from the bottle that he had brought over from the bar. The doorman's friend rolled a joint and so it got passed around. After a while, my friend and the other guy got up to dance.

The doorman, I think his name was Pete (it'll do, anyway) asked me if I'd ever smoked shotgun before. I hadn't, and I didn't really know what he meant.

It turns out that it's a technique for smoking a joint whereby one person smokes and inhales, then breathes the fumes into the other person's mouth - thus getting a two for one on every toke.

He took a lungful of the joint. He moved closer to me. He pulled my mouth towards his and he breathed the smoke out. I took in the smoke and felt giddy - mainly from the sexual tension that the situation created.

He repeated the exercise. Except this time, as he breathed the smoke into my lungs, he placed his lips on mine. That was it. The deal was sealed.

We kissed in the corner of that dirty downstairs bar for what seemed like an eternity. Each time, I came up for air unsure of whether it was the long-gone joint that was making me giddy, or if it was just Pete, the Raratongan doorman.

In the wee hours, we left the bar and headed to his place. We stayed there all weekend, enjoying the heady mix of marijuana, whisky and sex. When I think back to that weekend, I remember colours, smells and a few cloudy, cloudy memories of great sex.

When Monday morning came, I was nowhere to be seen at the fish factory. Tuesday likewise.

Wednesday morning found me once again stood at my counter, de-scaling fish. Four hours north and a million miles away from the last few days. My head was in the clouds, my heart was pounding with the madness of it all.

It would never be more than what it was - we both knew that - but what it was was beautiful.

I've had a thing for Pacific Islanders ever since.

If only the Tahitian on the train today had met my eye...

lundi 16 février 2009

I'm calling this one 'Bridget'

Now, if any of you are previously unadvertised dwarves, then please stop reading here - this blog post may offend you.  Likewise if you have a thing for the little people.  Stop reading now.  You'll only walk away upset.

I've been struggling for a post for a couple of days now, my trip to the UK being singularly, uninspiringly dull.  Truly, nothing at all happened.  Shocking.  I felt like I was living in a fun vacuum.  Anyway, I was lamenting my lack of inspiration to my lovely 'world's favourite' friend who I'll call CToM (short for 'coffee, tea or me?') and this little nugget popped out.

And what a little nugget she was.  

Standing no more than 2 feet tall, she proudly marched her way out of Lyon Part Dieu station this afternoon, dragging behind her a trolley suitcase that was bigger than she was.  It was one of those that fit easily under the seat in front of you.  The bag, that is.  Although she'd have fit down there nicely too, if I'm to be frank.

And what a beauty she was too.

She had the hair and face of a mini Zena, Warrior Princess, and she carried herself like a proper little Boadicea too.  She wasn't one of those with stumpy arms and a big head (excuse the medical terms here), you know the 'small hands, smells of cabbage' variety.  Oh no.  She was a perfectly proportioned person.  But tiny.  Teeny tiny.  Teeny weeny tiny.

Normally I have to look away when it comes to the wee folk.  It's all down to the time at work when I accused a tiny man of pissing on the toilet seat (it WAS him, I know it was).  

Having overheard me accusing him to a colleague in the staff canteen one lunchtime, he came and confronted me at my desk.  That's how - in an open plan office, in front of 150 colleagues - I found myself having a stand up row about personal daintiness with a man less than half my height.  Awful.  And traumatic.  The kind of thing you never recover from.

But I digress.  As I was sat on the train home, I was thinking how lovely it would be to be so little.  She'd never have to pay much to travel anywhere.  She could just throw a couple of blankets and a Balisto or two into a box, label herself up and post herself to her destination.

And don't forget the wonders of FedEx.  No matter where she was going in the world, she'd always arrive before 9am.

She may have missed her gig on the Yellow Brick Road, but what's being a friend of Dorothy compared to travel perks like that?

Lucky little lady.

samedi 14 février 2009

Look into my eyes

My 6 year-old nephew has had his name on the 'naughty board' at school for much of last week.

As a good uncle, I figured it was part of my role to ask him about it and see if I could point him towards the straight and narrow.

"So, what's going on? Why are you on the naughty board?" said I, the concerned uncle.

"It's not my fault" said Nephew. I wasn't surprised by this answer. It's my usual, knee-jerk response to my boss/mother/anyone about to tell me off.

"I know," said I. "But you have to try and behave. You know, school is for learning as well as for fun."

"Yeah, but really wasn't my fault"

"How come?"

"It was Cameron."

"So Cameron told you to draw pictures of your teacher's bottom when you should have been doing joined up writing practise?", said I. Really, that's what he'd been doing. Drawing pictures of Miss's naked, fat bottom.

"No, he didn't tell me to do it"

"Good. So what happened then?"

"Cameron hypnotised me". Said Nephew, stifling a grin. "I told the teacher that that was why I was drawing and not writing, but she didn't believe me. She said Cameron couldn't have hypnotised me and that I was just being naughty".

"And what did you say?"

"I said that she didn't understand the power of magic".

How am I meant to not laugh?

I love that boy so much.

vendredi 13 février 2009

Blown out of bed

Never let someone else make your travel arrangements.

This is a lesson I learned a long, long time ago. However, this week I needed a hotel in the UK for one night and didn’t have time to trawl the net for something decent. As time ran out, I called my head office and asked the travel desk to book me a room somewhere.

Now, I should have found time to do this myself, I should have created time to do this. I have enough experience of what the girls at the travel desk consider to be ‘quality accommodation’ to realise that this would be a shit hotel.

After all, these were the same people who had booked me into the Glasgow hotel that rented my room out by the hour during the day. That had booked me into the Newcastle hotel where the toilet in the en-suite overlooked, and was looked in at by the passengers on platform number 1 at Central Station.

They have booked me a flight to one airport with a car waiting for me at a different airport. Instead of a hotel in Charleroi, they booked a hotel on the rue de Charleroi in Brussels.

And their pièce de résistance? Well, once a colleague and I were travelling on the same day, but to different destinations. They managed to book us aeroplane tickets, car rental and hotel rooms for the right places, but all in the wrong names. I had been booked on his trip and he on mine. At the airport, when the error became evident, we simply shrugged, swapped work files and went off and did each others’ work for the day. Ridiculous.

So all this brings me to last night’s hotel. I’ll say this about the hotel – it embodied everything that is wrong about the British hospitality industry. The people were friendly, but the hotel was dirty, poorly maintained and decorated horribly.

I had to take down one of the pictures on the bedroom wall and turn it round, so offensively ugly was it.

And then, this morning, I was woken by my next door neighbour coughing. I say coughing, but it sounded like a tuberculosis ward from back in the days of Florence Nightingale. He stopped coughing and he walked to the bathroom. Yes, I could hear this amount of detail.

And then he farted. It was a long, loud, low, clatter of a fart. But it wasn’t just one. Over the course of the next few minutes, the farts next door came and went with alarming regularity. Each as loud as the last. Each as thunderously rumbling as the last.

A single match, and the hotel would have gone up in flames.

Fearing for my life (and my lungs) I jumped out of bed, raced through my morning beauty routine and got out of the room as quickly as humanly possible.

As I shut the door behind me, I heard the click of the next door neighbour’s key in the lock. We were both leaving at the same time. I would get to see the source of the coughing, the farting and the elephant steps.

I turned and there she was. Yes, ‘she’.

A petite blonde with a tailored suit and a fancy trolley bag.

I mean really. She didn’t look like she had it in her.

"Cold morning, isn't it?" she said, in a way-too-cheery-for-the-hour-of-the-day voice.

"Yes, very cold," I replied. "And a bit on the windy side too..."

mardi 10 février 2009

What lies ahead

I'm going back to England tomorrow.  

Panic not, it's only for five days, but nonetheless it feels like it's more than that.  I don't know why.

England means various things to me.  It's the past but it's also the future.  As much as I love Paris, I imagine that I'll end up back in the UK at some point.  The thought makes me feel a little sick.

In fact the whole thought of the future makes me feel a little nauseous.  I'm definitely a man who lives in the moment.  And, as far as I'm concerned, I have good reason to.

I'm the fourth generation in a line of men who died before their sixtieth birthdays.  My Dad died at 59, my grandfather at 58, my great-grandfather at 59.  I've never really paid much attention to my pension fund.  I wonder why?

True, I'm a lot healthier than any of these men before me.  I don't smoke and, although I'm in desperate need of dropping 'quelques' kilos, I have an active life that keeps my heart going.  I make sure that I get regular aerobic workouts, but you know that if you read this regularly (wink, wink).

Despite all this, I still find the future a strange place and it's not somewhere I ever really want to think about.

Maybe it's the lack of someone by my side.  Maybe that's what makes people think about the future; plan, dream, anticipate.  Maybe.  

I'm not saying that I don't want a future - far from it - but I can never look too far ahead.  I get anxious, nervous, unsteady if I think about next year, five years' time.

I'm happy to think about the things I want to achieve in my life.  I want to go to Easter Island.  I want to live in Tokyo.  I want to see the grown-ups that my nieces and nephew become.  I want to wake up next to someone and think 'this is it, this is love'.

But make me think about these things in terms of 'when' and 'how', and I'll just turn and run.

Of all the things I want for myself, mostly, I want to be happy to think about the future.

For the time being, I'll occasionally give what lies ahead a passing thought or a glance, but I won't dwell.  

The future is for other people.  I just want now, thanks.

lundi 9 février 2009

Erotica, exotica and good cheese

After Friday night's debacle, I was unsure as to where the weekend was heading. I figured that the offers could only get better, but I was equally prepared for them to get worse.

Saturday, I had a really lovely day, managing to get to see the François Rousseau expo at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. I've always loved his advertising shots - Lacoste, D&G, etc - and to see his works in such large format was amazing. Recommended, if you find yourself in Paris in the next few weeks.

Saturday evening, the Italian postman was heading over 'to collect his watch' that he had 'forgotten' last week. Hmm. I fear this may have been a ruse to get me in the sack again. A ruse which worked, obviously. Ha.

Once he had gone, I got myself dolled up for a night on the town.

At my favourite bar, the music was as loud as usual and the boys were all in town. I had a great evening, chatting with friends and dancing along to the usual suspects. At the risk of sounding like a slut who ends up sleeping with two different men in the same evening...well, let's not go there. I don't want you to think badly of me.

Sunday saw a sore head and a grumpy boy waking up. I wasn't happy. There's not much that can bring me out of this mood, but a sure fire way to try is to head down to les Artisans (my local bar) and see if a pain au chocolat dipped in a steaming chocolat chaud, in the fresh air of the terrasse helps. It kind of helped. A little. I was less grumpy.

After a couple of hours of wandering in the fresh air I took my purchases of 'special treats' (the cremerie on the Île St. Louis being responsible for the cheese based treats which make me fat and slow me down, he he) and headed home for a bit of a snooze.

I managed to get a bit of sleep before the treat that was Sunday evening.

Sunday sees one of the best nights in town as one of the boy bars holds a special 'mediterranean' evening. They say mediterranean, but it's pretty much music from the Lebanon and the middle east, with a clientèle to match. Possibly the most exotic night on the weekly calendar and a great way to finish the weekend.

As I stood there, enjoying the sight of the lebanese guys really letting go on the dancefloor, I figured that this had been a good weekend.

Erotica, exotica and good cheese.

What more does a boy need?

samedi 7 février 2009

Don't rain on my parade

I'm stood at the edge of the dancefloor last night, taking a wee break from dancing myself dizzy, when this guy comes over to talk to me.

He'd been smiling at me while dancing, so I kind of figured that if I stopped he'd soon follow.  Not that that's why I stopped dancing - nothing so planned chez me after a beer or two.  I'd stopped because there's only so much Katie Perry a boy can dance to in a lifetime and I think I reached my limit.

So he introduces himself and we head to the bar to get a drink.  He buys me a beer and we chat.  Seems we both do similar(ish) jobs and we both live in the same neighbourhood.  Both of us are fairly new to the area, and so we spent a whole load of time chatting about the best places to buy vegetables, and so on.

He was charming, interesting and attractive.

He touched my arm a lot as he spoke, and gave off very flirty vibes.  I can't say that I was innocent either - I was more than happy to flirt along with this local lovely.  

I had visions of us skiping off to the marché d'Aligré on a Sunday morning together, doing the rounds of the stalls and going home to settle in to good food and a movie.

In my mind I was thinking 'this is good, this could be great'.

He leaned in to say something.  I didn't hear him.

"What did you say?" said I.

"I want to take you back to mine", he said.

"Oh, really?" said I, giving a very cheeky grin.

"I want you to piss on me", he said.

Jesus wept.

"Yeah, well, good luck with that" I said, as I turned and headed back to the safety of Katie Perry and her chums.

Is it too much to ask for someone to just say "I like you - can we go out for a drink sometime?"

I mean, REALLY?

vendredi 6 février 2009

Hey Britney!

Ok, so it's not hey Britney!, but hey Brittany! Similar, but not quite the same thing.

Brittany is wild, detached from everyday life, a bit redneck and tends to smell of the sea in hot weather. And Britney is....hmm. More similar than I thought.

So, as I sit here this morning, I'm thinking how it seems that life goes in cycles. How, people that I know or meet have something in common and how that something keeps coming up, over and over again.

For example, for a while in the 90's I was surrounded by gemini's. Everywhere I turned there'd be someone born under the sign of the twins.

Now despite what the folks over at 'Astrology Fun' have to say -

"This is a great match and fun for both parties. Gemini’s roving eye doesn’t bother confident Leo. However, Leo probably wants more adoration than Gemini is willing to give. Both love to laugh and cause sparks in the bedroom"

- this was never a good match for me. The sparks were never in the bedroom, trust me.

After the gemini's came the Americans.

For a long time, everyone I knew (myself included) was dating an American, working for an American or moving to America. And this is in the UK, where there are surprisingly fewer Americans than you'd think - it's not the 51st state just yet, you know.

Once the American's quit town, it became Toyotas. You know - the cars.

I couldn't go on a date with someone without them turning up in a Toyota. A rental car would always turn out to be a Toyota. If I ordered a taxi, it'd be a Toyota. My best friend got a new company car - yep, you guessed it....

And then, the last couple of weeks, it seems that my world has been invaded by Bretons.

Reader, the lovely folk from Brittany have truly taken over Tbnilsville. Be afraid.

I've spoken with random men in bars this week (as you do) and most have been from Brittany. Benodet, Plougastel, Perros Guirec, Guingamp and Fouesnant. To name but a few. It's kind of funny, but also kind of weird. Even the guy from the toilets - who lives in Montréal - was a Breton originally.

And the stalker? From Vannes.

Last night, I was minding my own business, sat on a bar stool waiting for my friends to arrive when someone approached me from the side and planted a kiss on my cheek.

"Sorry, couldn't help myself. I had to do that". Said a very handsome, if a little late-forties Frenchman. He had a stubbly face, which made for quite a pleasant surprise peck on the cheek.

"Well, erm, thanks?" Said I.

"Are you French?" he asked. I told him no. I'm English, I said.

Politeness then demands that I ask where he is from.

"Vous êtes Parisien d'origine?" I asked.

"Non", he answered. "Je suis breton" - I'm from Brittany.

"Of course you are", said I. "Of course you are...."

jeudi 5 février 2009

It's difficult to talk - I've got my hands full

I've mentioned this before, but it drives me crazy. And it's happened to me twice during the last couple of days.

"What is it that tests the patience of the ever-patient and saintly TBNIL?", I hear you cry.

It's simple. It's this:

French people who insist on speaking to me in English despite the fact that a) they can't string a sentence together and b) I can speak perfectly good French thank you very much for not asking.

This morning, I bumped into my neighbour as we both left for the Métro station at the same time (i.e. late). She's a lovely lady, a certain age, college lecturer, teaches accounting to 18 year olds.

"I study English in Oxford" she announced.

"That's good. At the university or at a language school?"

"Huh?" she looked at me quizzingly. I asked her the question in French.

"Ah! I do language school. It was Oxford"

And so the conversation went. I spoke in English, then in French and she answered me in something vaguely resembling English.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday night in fact, I was getting ready to leave the bar (I was in the toilette having a strategic wee).

As I stood there pee-ing, a guy came over 'to chat', as one does in Paris, apparently.

"Where from you?" he said, in a charming French accent.

"Angleterre. Je suis Anglais", I replied. With my charming English accent.

"What you do Paris, here? Me, from Montréal".

I finished my business and moved to the basin to wash my hands.

As he was obviously French and not Québecois, I asked him where he was from originally. He said Britanny. In fact he said "I am Bretagne. How you say een eengleesh I am Bretagne".

Every time, I spoke to him in French (and good French, even though I say so myself) he answered in dog-English. Turns out that he was actually from the small village in southern Britanny where I had spent childhood holidays.

The conversation could have been funny, interesting and nostalgic for both of us, had I been able to continue listening to him massacre the English language. Alas, I couldn't and had to cut it short.

I don't really mind helping people to practice their English but, to be frank, it's all a bit too much at the end of the night or first thing in the morning.

And especially when I'm taking a leak.

mardi 3 février 2009

Just another manic Monday

I was lying in bed at 6h30 yesterday morning, listening to the radio and dozing.  The weather person announced that 'quelques flocons' had fallen on the Région Parisienne.  This got my attention.

I jumped out of bed to look out of the window and, lo and behold, more than 'a few flakes' had fallen - the street was all white, all pristine and all silent.  Now, unlike the wusses across the channel, we Parisiens still managed to make it into work.  Our buses still ran, the trains were still on time and everyone just dressed up a little warmer.  Amazing really.  It's not like the French to turn down a day off.

Anyway, I felt a little bad looking at the snow, knowing that the lovely Alan was on his way over to Paris with a Certain Someone for a couple of days of romantic strolls around the city.

Luckily for them, the snow disappeared pretty quickly.  Unluckily for them, it was replaced with rain - and nasty rain, the fine sort, the kind that really gets you wet.  It seems they had a good day though, and I met up with them at their hotel for a couple of drinks.

Now, let's not forget that it's Monday evening, the start of a busy week and I'd already had one 'nuit blanche' at the weekend to slow me down.  But DID any of this slow us down?  Alas, no.

The Irish boys were in fine form and full of holiday spirit.  And what lovely boys they are too, and we have so much in common - turns out that we all appreciate a finely turned waiter, especially when he is shirtless and bringing us drink after drink.  And especially when his catchphrase turns out to be 'you can touch, but not too much'....

And how nice to find that they also appreciate the sight of a strapping young man, dancing naked in a shower next to the bar.  And my, how international boundaries were broken down as we discussed the friendliness of said showering boy with a Kiwi guy and his Peruvian boyfriend (he actually was very friendly).

Alas, all of this fun, frolics and general ridiculousness led to me getting home after 3 o'clock in the morning - and me with a train to catch to Lyon but hours later.

I'm not usually so badly behaved on a school night, but Alan and his Certain Someone seemed to have encouraged me.  And you know how little encouragement I need.  I'm pretty easy to convince when it comes to nights on the town.

So easy, it seems, that tonight we're doing it all again.  I'm meeting them at 10 o'clock.  

What kind of fool meets people for drinks at 10 o'clock on a school night, I hear you ask?

Oh yeah, that be me.

dimanche 1 février 2009

Studio Cinquante Quatre

Really, last night was like a trip back in time.  As I walked into the club, it was just like being hurled straight back to the seventies/eighties.

Donna Summer was telling me that enough is enough (is it ever?) and Amii Stewart was extolling the virtues of knocking on wood.  Marvellous.  

It's fair to say that at least half of the clientele remembered the eighties and a good quarter the seventies too.  The room was full of handsome, hot, manly men, all lip-synching along to La Summer as she sings 'goodbye Mister...goodbye'.  

The disco classics continued for at least two hours.  Hilarious.  We ran the gauntlet of the camp, kitsch and classy - everything from 'I'm coming out' to 'Young hearts, run free'.  I haven't seen a place as happy and as alive as that club last night - it was hot, sweaty and a whole lot of fun.  It's amazing, the fun that men can have when they leave their wives at home, he he.

Going out on a Saturday night here in Paris is a late affair - there's not much point leaving the house before 11pm, so I had some time to cook, eat and watch some TV.  It's not something I ever really watch, but I caught an episode of the Sopranos before heading out.

This morning, as I said goodbye to the Italian guy from last night, I wondered if Tony Soprano had influenced my choice of, ahem, entertainment.  

To be fair, he was no James Gandolfini but that's not all bad.  He was handsome, funny and, erm, 'adventurous'.  And he did have more than a little of the gangster about him.

I fully expect to be waking up with a horses head in bed with me very very soon....