mardi 31 mars 2009

Riviera Royalty

Lord help us all, we're far too lacking in style/money/yachts/gold/class to be here. When I say 'we', I mean everyone else in my family group. When I say 'here', I mean Monte Carlo.

These were my thoughts as I wandered the streets of Monaco en famille, looking through my expensive sunglasses at the beautiful, rich and beautifully rich people of the prinicipality.

Oh yes folks, the 'tribu de travelling' has been hitting the Riviera these last few days - hence the lack of posting and commenting. I'm writing this from the Air France lounge at Nice airport, looking out over the med and the Nice beachfront. It's kind of exclusive, which is how I like it. It's also kind of classy, which is kind of the opposite of my family....

What can I tell you? I'm sure you can imagine the worst.

In an Alan kind of way, let's just do highlights and lowlights.

Highlight? The Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence. Lowlight? The rain that fell by the bucketload all through that particular day, causing us to seek refuge in the museum café (which had a leaking roof).

Highlight? The views over Monaco from the terrasse by the Casino. Lowlight? The American tourist who took a shine to my Mother on said terrasse and who invited her to 'see his cabin' when they got 'back on board'. My Mother had no idea what he was on about. She smiled, said "ooh that'd be lovely" and walked off.

Highlight? The lovely apartment that we rented. Very lovely, big balcony, comfy beds. Lowlight? Having my snoring Aunt in the room to the left of mine and my shagging cousin and husband in the room to the right. I bought earplugs on day two.

Highlight? The amazing food that we ate at every mealtime. Lowlight? The fact that my Mother ate chicken and chips every single time. Without fail. Even if it wasn't on the menu. Truly, these fine restaurants were wasted on her.

You get the picture, I'm sure.

The Riviera is a truly special place and we had some great times - we got to Cannes, Grasse, St Paul de Vence, Nice, Monaco and even over the border into Italy. I had a lovely time, but after a while I became desperate for a moment of my own company. To be tout seul. Just for five minutes. I kind of got bored of being the one who ordered every single meal, who had to ask everyy question in every shop, who decided where we went and where we ate every day. But then I know that everyone else appreciated this. At least, I hope they did...

Despite this moaning, it was a great trip. A trip with lots and lots going on and that, after a while, became like one of those long car journeys where you just look out of the window, enjoy the view and ignore everyone else in the know what I mean, I'm sure.

So now I'm Paris-bound. Taking the jet back to Orly and heading to my little apartment and to my own bed. I can't wait. A big sleep surely awaits.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm seeing the boy tonight?

lundi 30 mars 2009

We are family

I was relaying the latest news on the family visit situation over the phone to a friend this afternoon.

She took me by surprise when she said "yeah, but really, your family is quite normal isn't it?"

Now, maybe it is. We all - pretty much - have jobs, houses, cars, etc. We all look normal to an unsuspecting world. We're all pretty liberal thinkers, no looney right dragging us down.

But then I thought I'd do a little analysis. this is what I came up with (some family members are mentioned more than once as they fall into several categories...) :

We are:
1 manic depressive
1 schizophrenic
1 person with terminal cancer
1 person with uncurable but not life threatening cancer
1 diabetic
3 attempted suicides
1 bulimic
1 anorexic
1 compulsive over-eater
1 gastric band
1 woman in a wig
1 formerly battered husband
1 lottery scratch card addict
1 epileptic
3 obsessive compulsives
2 Baptists
4 Buddhists
8 former Christadelphians
1 person who has voted tory
1 policeman
1 ex policewoman
1 topless model
1 extra marital affair that we don't talk about
2 excommunicated sisters
0 women with natural hair colour
1 soldier in Iraq
1 blogger
4 facebook addicts

And many, many big drinkers.

Is this what makes up a normal British family in the 21st century? Probably.

I'd like to think that we're nothing special.

Except for me of course.

I know that I'm special.

vendredi 27 mars 2009

Auntie Mick

Older people like to talk about people even older than themselves.  A lot.  Often these people are dead.

This is my main observation from three evenings with my Mom and her sister.

Sometimes this can be tedious as you try and keep track of names (who was Doris again?) and try not to fall asleep because you've been at work since 7am.  Sometimes, however, this can lead to some real gems.

"Do you remember Auntie Ethel?" said my Mother to the gathered crowd (i.e. me, Aunt and Cousin).

"Yes, I do," said Aunt.  "She was a hard woman.  Always difficult to please.  But she was nicer when Bette was alive."

"Who was Bette?" - this is me asking.  I knew Auntie Ethel from my very early years as a child - she scared the bejeesus out of me.

"She was Ethel's friend," said Aunt.  "They shared a house until Bette died.  They used to go everywhere together.  They had that lovely ironmongery stall in the market."

"Were they lesbians?" - me again, asking the un-askable question, as per usual.

"No," said Mother.  "They just shared a house."

"Although, they did share a bedroom too," said Aunt.

"Yes, but times were hard, and neither of them ever married," said Mother.

"Wasn't it funny how Bette used to call Ethel 'Mick' ?"

At this point me and Cousin fall about giggling.  They used to go everywhere together, sold ironmongery, shared a bedroom, they never married and one gave the other one a man's name - I mean really, how were these women not lesbians?  

Plus, I distinctly remember sensible shoes being part of Ethel's get up.

My Mother looked at my Aunt and you could see that the pieces were falling into place.

"Oh my ..." said Mother.

"... sweet Lord" said Aunt.

"Sweet Jesus," said I, "how did you never work that one out?"

"We don't all have your 'gaydar radar' thing, darling" said my Mother, acidly...

jeudi 26 mars 2009

Say it isn't so

Tonight, we've been eating Moroccan.  I love Moroccan food.  Give me a lamb tagine and I'll pretty much do whatever you ask of me.

Anyway, you'll note that I'm only sharing evenings with the family so far - I've done a good job of not taking time off work for the Paris part of their trip.  Let's face it, there's only so many times a boy can go up the Eiffel Tower and pretend to be excited.

The menu at the Moroccan was a bit of a challenge for the ladies.  They were intrigued by the 'pigeon pastilla'. 

"I'm going to have that", said my normally-unadventurous-in-the-food-department Mother.

"But it's Pigeon", said I, the helpful son.

'They say that.  But it'll be chicken".

"It won't.  It'll be pigeon".

"I bet you 10 euros that it's chicken".  This was her way of closing the argument.

Lo and behold, said dish appears and it's very obviously not chicken.  It very obviously is pigeon.

"Well, I can't eat that," said Mother.  "It's pigeon."

"Durr," said I.

And so she left it.  Untouched.  Apart from the minor 'post mortem' that she'd performed on it to test the origin of the species.

The waiter wasn't impressed.  But he seemed to warm to my Mother as she started to show him, through the power of mime and birdsong impressions that she thought it'd be chicken and in fact it was pigeon.

As she sat there, cockadoodledoo-ing, pecking at imaginary grain on the table and coo-ing like a common or garden street pigeon, I once again questioned my birth certificate.

Surely we can't be related.

Surely this can't be my Mother.

Surely someone was supposed to have rescued me by now.

mercredi 25 mars 2009

The old rugged cross

So, the dinner went smoothly enough.

The four of us sat down to lovely souris d'agneau and confit de canard, generally chowing down on some pretty fine food.  We were at the Café Crème on rue de Birague - a favourite of mine for ages now, most visitors end up there with me at some point.

The dinner went smoothly enough until we started to talk about dead people that we knew.  Well, they started to talk about dead people that we knew.  I was happy talking about how handsome the waiter was, to be frank.  

At the change in conversation, my cousin scuttled off for a crafty fag.  I wished that I smoked.

My Mother produced a whole series of things from her handbag and started to get all teary-eyed.  "Now these things," she started, "these things all need to be buried with me.  They're always in my handbag and they need to be buried with me."  At which point she started to cry.

She handed me the last photograph she'd had taken with my father.  The last note he'd ever left her.  The last card he'd ever bought her.  Apparently these things are always with her.

Not wanting to be outdone, my Aunt chimed in with "well, I want to be buried with my cross".  And she proceeded to produce a cross from her handbag that she also carries everywhere with her.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You're thinking that this is a small cross, that hangs on a necklace.  Maybe gold or silver? Maybe decorated with a stone or two?


This is a wooden cross.  

It is a good five inches high with a pointed end.  

It looks like something you'd use if you were a Victorian gent who'd been sent to Transylvania to save your sweetheart from the clutches of an evil Count.

I waited for her to produce a vial of holy water and a clove of garlic.  She didn't.

"Where did you get that from?" me and my Mom both blurted out at the same time.

"From off Grandma's grave," she said.  Apparently, it had been the grave marker before the stone was in place.

I leaned back in my chair and looked at these two women.  I marvelled at the fact that we are living on the same planet, let alone that we are from the same family.

My cousin came back inside from the terrace.

"Did I miss anything?"

Please.  Someone.  Send in the troops and get me out of here.

mardi 24 mars 2009

Packing a punch

My mother arrives today, Tuesday.  She's coming with her posse, her entourage.

She'll arrive at 5pm with her sister (who is 72 years old and who showed me her tits last time she visited) and my cousin (50 years old, very important job, very little common sense).  Between the three of them they will cause mayhem, chaos and disaster.

Please don't start to rub your hands together with glee at the fact that my 'holiday en famille' will deliver blog posts extraordinaires.  Please think about me, my mental health, my lack of 'amour' for a week and the fact that I have to sleep on the sofa.  

Anyway, the madness has already begun.

"Hello Bab, it's me.  Your Mom",  she said, calling me earlier yesterday evening.  "Can you help me pack?"

"Hello Mom, yes I can help you pack.  It's very easy, given that I'm in France and you're the other side of the channel".  Obviously I only said the first of these two sentences.  "What's up?"

"Well, your Aunt is bringing no t-shirts and you know she suffers with the heat.  And your cousin isn't bringing a coat.  She says she'll buy one if she needs one,"  she took a breath. "So what do I do?"

"You worry about your packing and ignore them", said I, helpfully.

We decided this was the best thing to do and off she went to pack.  I continued my journey home.

Within ten minutes the phone rang again.

"How many pairs of trousers is too many?"

"Erm, twelve? seventeen? thirty two?"

"Don't be facetious", she said, pronouncing it with a hard 'c', like it should be spelt facketious.  "Is four too many?"

"No Mom, four is fine".

"And I have fourteen tops.  Is that too many?"

"Yes Mom, that's officially too many".  And at this point, dearest reader of mine, I gave in.  I gave her what she wanted. 

"Listen Mom, do you have a pen?  Good.  Why don't you bring four pairs of trousers - two jeans two fairly smart.  One skirt.  One light jacket or cardigan, one warm jumper.  Bring a different top for every day and one that's good for a fancy dinner.  And a waterproof coat.  Pack a pair of underwear for each day and three spare, and don't forget your toothbrush".

"Perfect", she said.  "I knew you'd know what to do.  Your brother just told me not to be so stupid and to get on with it".

Sometimes I think my brother has got it right.

lundi 23 mars 2009

The chemistry between us

When I was a younger man – let’s say a fair few years ago – a good weekend with friends would mean beers, dancing, laughing and partaking of some kind of illegal substance.

I’m not saying I was a drug fiend, or even an addict, but we did always like it when someone would turn up with a bit of speed, some ecstasy or a bit of dancing powder. Writing this down makes it sound far worse than it was, but actually, we were just kids having fun, enjoying our downtime.

We all worked pretty hard – most of us were saving like crazy, doing two or three jobs, to make sure we had enough money to go travelling for a while – and we all liked to party pretty hard too. Being together, high, drunk, whatever – loving the music, dancing like fools and chasing tail – was the best release from our McJobs that we knew.

We’d go to gigs and not remember who we’d seen. We’d do the ‘silent witness’ thing the following morning, pulling the sheet back to see who we’d slept with. We’d laugh and laugh and laugh at each other’s disasters.

Times haven’t changed so much. I still love a good night on the town – the buzz from dancing, drinking with friends, laughing and staying out all night has never really left me. I don’t do the drugs these days, but I still like to have a good time.

Whereas, back in the day, I’d be sure that we had all the cheap booze and chemistry in place for a good weekend, these days it’s more about making sure there’s champagne in the chiller and a good restaurant booked to start the night properly.

We used to be sorted for E’s and whizz.

These days, I’m still sorted.

Sorted for cheese and fizz.

Reasons to be cheerful

So, le Parisien called again last night and we talked for an hour on the phone.

Seems he was in the launderette waiting for his washing to finish (v. cute).  Anyway, his reason for not wanting to come over last night?  He had tons to do and only had Sunday to get it done - this is a big week at work apparently.

He said he could have come over late in the evening, but we'd have chatted for ten minutes then we'd have gone to bed - and he said he wants this to not just be about the sex.  I'm with him on that one.

So, it seems his thoughts are in the right place, even if he is a canceller of dates.

Anyway, I'm working really late today and then my Mom arrives tomorrow for a week.  She's going to be in Paris until the weekend, then we're going to Antibes for four days of sun and sightseeing.  

All this means that I'm going to be unavailable to see him for the next week or so.  I think this is a good thing.  

Let's see what happens when I get back to town.

I'm not holding my breath.  

Well, maybe just a little bit...

dimanche 22 mars 2009

Paris plaisirs

I love Paris, and it seems that Paris loves me too.

The city cares about my sexual health and my personal happiness.  It cares enough to be giving out these marvellous little sex kits at bars around town.  Included in each is a serving of lube and a condom.  

In an age where the pope is in Africa, irresponsibly telling people not to use condoms, I thank the lord that I live in an educated and liberal society.

All I need now is more opportunity to use the damn things.  Alas, it seems that if any of you bought a hat based on my posts about the Parisien boy, then I'm afraid we've all peaked too soon.  Or so it seems.

Thing is, I actually don't know where I stand with him.  You see, we had a date planned for Friday night.  He called and cancelled.  His reason was valid, but still, he cancelled.

We chatted on the phone yesterday for a while and it was easy and good.  We agreed to do something this afternoon/evening.  He's just cancelled again.  Admittedly, he does yet again have a valid reason, but I think there's a message in it all.  I think that it's not to be.  

Dear reader, I think it's going nowhere fast, this one.

Oh well, be still my broken heart and all that.  

Not that it's broken.  Just a little bruised.

Pass the gin.

vendredi 20 mars 2009

I got soul, but I'm not a soldier

I just got back from the Killers gig.  

Shit, they rocked.  Whose killin 'em in the 20th arrondissement?  That'd be Mr Brandon Flowers, king of the stage and showman extraordinaire.   

The great thing about this show was the fact that it's a big old stadium gig coming from super-size venues in the UK, that has been transferred to a smaller French venue.  The Paris Zénith isn't massive by any stretch, but the Killers show was as big as if it was Wembley Stadium.  Excellent.

The bad thing about the concert?  Well, it's the same thing with every anglophone band who play in France.  I always end up with a frenchie singing his own version of the words in my ear. 

To me there's a simple rule that applies to concerts, radio, ipods, the works.  If you don't know the words, don't sing.  Learn them in the privacy of your own homes, and then share them with the public.

I mean difficult can it be?  The tone-deaf Spanish girl on my right hand side knew all of the words to 'All These Things That I've Done'.  Alas, she did it very little justice.

Oh well, at least she'd learned the words.  Unlike the bouncy French boy on my left.

Come on everybody....sing along....

"I got soul, but I'm not the shoulder...."

Somebody save me.

jeudi 19 mars 2009

A bit on the side

Last night I went to the cinema - I saw Loin de la Terre Brulée (the Burning Plain) with Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron. I didn't actually go to see it with them, they were in the film. But I guess that me, Charlie and Kimmy would make up quite a cinema-going threesome.

The girls would have to be prepared to take a backseat while I got all the attention from the man-candy, but hey, they'd cope.

Anyway, enough of this ridiculousness. The film was pretty much about adultery and how, at the time, it can be beautiful and fulfilling, yet the life wrecking and devastating consequences can linger for far longer than the affair itself.

It was beautifully filmed and set in the very photogenic New Mexican desert, with forays into the Port of Portland, Oregan.

But you know me, I don't do movie reviews. If I'm talking about how someone got 'two thumbs up' you can be pretty sure it's not movie-talk, he he. So why am I telling you about this?

Well, it seems that recently I discovered an illicit affair in the midst of some business associates of mine. I worry that I have business associates, but hey, these folk aren't colleagues and they aren't friends, so what else are they? Anyway, this movie made me think of them.

I have used both of their services (one of them is financial, the other legal) at different times over the past couple of years and have gotten to know them very well. He's a louche, mid-fifties, well put together guy with - I imagine - the equivalent of French blue blood. She's a stunning - if severe - lady of the same age, with a tightly pinned chignon, a Chanel suit and shoes to die for.

Both are married. Both to other people.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to bump into them both at the same event. Firstly, I happened upon each of them separately. This is how it went.

"Hey there, how are you?" said I to the Gent of the pair.

"Yeah, great thanks. Just back from a lovely weekend in Venice", he replied.

"Nice", said I. "Did you do much sightseeing?"

"Well", he said and winked, "does the hotel bedroom count as sightseeing?"

Hmm. So it was a dirty weekend then.

A short while later, I happened upon Madame.

"I'm just back from Italy. I was in Venice you know", she said.

"Ah Monsieur 'X' told me he's just back from Venice too", said I, not very diplomatically.

I've never seen a woman blush so quickly and so deeply.

Having realised my error, I made my excuses and skipped off in search of another coupe de champagne.

But then dinner was served and I was able to observe their interaction with one another. They pretty much danced around each other, taking great care to not end up near each other at table, and to avoid eye contact. To the unsuspecting eye, they were acting normally - but to me they seemed to be overacting their parts somewhat.

I happened to be near the entrance to the venue when the carriages arrived to take everyone home (I mean taxis, natch). I went over to shake his hand as Monsieur headed out to find his cab. He looked uncomfortable and I soon realised why - waiting for me to disappear was Madame. As I left him and went back inside, she joined him and they hopped into a cab, heading off together into the Paris evening.

To be honest, I don't care what they get up to. I hope that no-one is getting hurt, but equally I hope the sex is fantastic - I imagine it would be, knowing them both as I do.

I have a meeting with him next week.

The big worry is that he'll give me details. The bigger worry is that I'll say something completely and utterly inappropriate.

I've never really been the queen of tact....maybe I should take Debbie with me to 'curb my enthusiasm'?

mercredi 18 mars 2009


What's with the world today?

The sun is shining, the sky is blue.  Everyone is fucking miserable.

I called up my Brother to see how he is.  He's miserable.  True, he did have a camera up his old jap-eye today, but hey, he could at least put a brave face on it.

My Mother rang to let me know she was feeling sad.  She's a bit downhearted and needed cheering up.  So she thought she'd call me.  Thanks for that.

English Friend is in the Netherlands on business.  "Too busy to chat, stuck in awful conference for two days - it's a load of boring, dull, rubbish", was her reply.

Assistante Debbie had a face on her all day too.  God knows what that was all about, but she struggled to crack a smile.

And colleague from UK, visiting for the day, was equally miserable.  Apparently the hour's time difference has 'played hell with her system'.  By which I think she means that she couldn't take a crap at her usual time.  Lord knows.

The boys on the front desk at the gym could barely manage a grunt as a greeting.  And there was no jovial banter to be had in the weights room.

To end the day, I went to the cinema.  And, yep, you guessed it - a film about miserable people.  A great film (the burning plain), but miserable, nonetheless.

So, to all of you miserable people, I say "suck it up".  I say "get on with it".  I say "get over it".

But most of all, I say "don't go sharing it with me".

I want happy.  I want clappy.  I want little rayons de soleil.

Can't smile?  Don't bother knocking.

But hey - at least all of your miserabilism has given me something to moan about.

Again, I thank you.

mardi 17 mars 2009

3 girls, 1 cup (that brimmeth over)

Oh yes, my cup doth indeed brimmeth over.  Forsooth and hey nonny nonny.  It brimmeth over with encounters with fair maidens of this parish.

Why the Shakespearean tongue, I doth heareth you cry.  No reason, just that I'm trying to be whimsical.  OK, you can all stop moaning and read.

The last 24 hours have led to an encounter with three 'lovely' 'ladies' of a certain age.  By which I mean that I'd peg them all between 50 and 60.  Give or take.

Now, I know some real head-turners that do this category of lady a huge favour by remaining as young, as beautiful and as vixen-like as ever.  These three ladies were not cut from the same mould and would appear to be spending their lives on different planets to the rest of us.

First encounter was yesterday afternoon.  I was walking, laundry in hand, to my local blanchisserie - where the lady does remarkable things with my big laundry (bedding, etc, being too much of a ball ache to try and dry in my mignon apartment).  My hands were full.  Literally.

I approached the laundry and a friendly older lady smiled at me.  Being well brought up and respectful of my elders, I said a friendly 'bonjour Madame' to her.

She gave me a rather lascivious smile and asked if I wanted to 'have some fun'.  Now, if ever there was a hooker who didn't know her target market, this was her.  God bless her.  I smiled sweetly and minced off, sheets in hand.

Then today, I ended up in Valenciennes of all places.  Shit, this place was horrible.  We searched in vain for a decent place to eat (that didn't sell kebabs or pizza slices) and ended up in what appeared to be a cute little brasserie.

In fact it turned out to be the local equivalent of the Darby and Joan club, with elderly people sucking away on boiled vegetables.  

The waitress came over.  She was a jaunty little number, no taller than five feet and wearing a black mini-dress - which flattered her plump little legs - and a pair of high top reeboks straight from Flashdance.  She was at least 60 years old.

I asked her for the menu.  

"I am the menu" she said.  I panicked.  Was I going to have to choose which part of her I wanted served up?  None thanks, she looked a bit tough.  Chewy, even.

But before I could get too het up, she started to list the dishes.

"Blanquette de veau.  Escalope milanaise.  Salade composée.  Bavette à l'échalote...."

Fifteen dishes later she'd finished.  My Escalope milanaise was served pronto - in as much time as it took to take it from the freezer and plunge it into hot fat.  Gorgeous, it wasn't.  Cheap, it was.

Our host repeated the exercise for desserts but stumbled on the tarte selection.  After a few seconds of cogitation, she ended up by saying "..ah oui, il y a aussi quelques tartes..." - oh yeah, there are some tarts too.  Classy, like.

Having luncheoned and then spent the afternoon interviewing in a local hotel, it was time to head back to the bright lights and sanity of Paris.

On the TGV, Debbie and me ended up sat in a group of four seats with another special lady and her cat.  The cat was in a box, but this didn't save me from having a lovely allergic reaction.  However, no matter how much sneezing I did, this girl was not waking up.  The cat owner had fallen asleep upon sitting down, and was happily snoring.

I say snoring - it actually sounded like the farmer was driving cattle home down a long and echoe-y tunnel.  Lord.  

As we started to enter the Paris suburbs, she stirred.  She rolled to one side, pointed her ass clearly at Debbie and farted.

Yep, she let rip.

Good old girl pushed one out all over my dearest Debbie.  And boy did we know about it.

The smell disturbed the cat, who started meow-ing like there was a horny tom in the area looking to steal her cat cherry.  The commotion woke up the woman, who turned to Debbie, smiled sweetly, and said "my cat doesn't like you".

"I think you'll find," said Debbie, "that it was your breaking wind that woke her up".

The old girl looked startled.

Jeez, Debbie is good value.  I'm so glad I gave her a pay rise last week.

lundi 16 mars 2009

Deeper and deeper

So, the boy had night school tonight, but we managed to squeeze in a third date between work and class.  

I'm saying date, but is that really the case?  You tell me.

We met after work, went to a bar and had a couple of drinks together.  We chatted about our weekends and we talked about seeing each other later in the week.  

I'm guessing that's kind of date-ish?  No?

Problem is the whole thing only lasted an hour and a half and there was no sex.  But he did tell me that he 'liked' me.  

Is that a good sign or a bad sign?  And before you answer that one, please think about my delicate mental state where this whole thing is concerned.  Positive comments are working much better for me this week.

Reader, you know me by now.  I rarely do second dates.  I never do third dates.  

My whole world is turning on its head a little and I feel largely sick whenever I think about it.

I'm faced with a boy who is enthusiastic when we meet (boy is he) and who tells me he 'likes' me.  But then he's equally hard to pin down to a next 'date'.  Even though he refers to seeing me again throughout the conversation.

What have I got myself into?  Why have I turned into Carrie Bradshaw?  

Will someone please just tell me to calm down.  That everything will be OK.  That this is how it's supposed to be.

That it is all going to be worth it in the end.

dimanche 15 mars 2009

Being taken up Lickey End

It's been one of those weekends. You know the kind. Ridiculous verging on, erm, even more ridiculous (?).

So it started with the brother and his diagnosis, which soon turned into a wound-licking extravaganza that would have benefitted from a Celine Dion soundtrack (God help us all), such was the level of drama and self-indulgence. I'm sympathetic to his cause, but really - there are other topics for discussion this weekend too you know!

'Such as?', I hear you ask. Well, such as the Christmas party.

No naked factory boys this year (we all breathe a huge sigh of relief). Instead the powers that be decided that a horse racing theme was the way forward. So, I'm sat sandwiched between two devoutly Muslim colleagues, drinking myself into a big old gay stupour, whilst gambling imaginary money on imaginary horseraces. In how many ways did all that insult them?

Luckily, the horse racing fell at a very early hurdle, as most people stopped playing and started serious drinking. I think the company giving everyone £20 of drinks vouchers was possibly a mistake. The dancefloor became a hotbed of slurry banter, inappropriate touching and dancing that can only be described as 'regrettable'.

Two thirty a.m. and I find myself leading a group of colleagues to a local gay bar where we dance ourselves dizzy to a rather fetching Spice Girls medley and an unfortunate remix of American Boy. I'm not sure how many of these colleagues really knew where they were - several asked me afterwards if I'd seen the boys kissing. Erm, yeah....that'd have been me then, ha ha.

Suffice to say that Saturday was a bit of a write off. I woke up in the hotel room surrounded by the detritis of my life - empty chip papers, cans of pre-mix gin and tonic and a half smoked spliff. There may well have been a colleague in there somewhere, but I'm not really supposed to say. Ask me and I'll deny it.

Sunday saw me waking up at my Mom's house. She does like to see me when I'm in the country.

She woke me up with the usual 'breakfast platter' - a glass of chocolate milk and three biscuits. Truly, this is her idea of a good way to start the day. Is it any wonder that I, well, everything really?

"I've got a great idea", she said, talking ten to the dozen, trying to get everything out before I fell back asleep.

And that's how, at nine a.m. on a Sunday morning, I found myself - having climbed a not inconsiderable hill - stood in the sunshine, looking out over a glorious, blue sky-ed view of the City of Birmingham.

The name of the local beauty spot? Lickey End.

I kid ye not.

vendredi 13 mars 2009

Christmas time, miserableness and whine

So, I'm in the UK for our company Christmas party. Yes, I know it's March.

See, we were given a choice - either have the party at Christmas when the drinks budget would be less because venues cost more, or wait until March when venues become cheaper and have more free alcohol on offer. I'm proud to say that my colleagues chose the latter option.

The main event is tonight. I'm not dreading it - by any stretch - but would I rather be elsewhere? You betcha.

Last year's party saw the factory boys getting naked (yep, bare nekkid) on stage and the wife of one of the sales team taking her underwear off and draping it over the table centrepiece. As a group, we're truly not classy. I'm usually amongst the classiest, although I did end up wearing a pair of red stiletto heels last year, so I'm not really in a position to judge. Lord.

I got to Birmingham on wednesday afternoon and was greeted by a text message from my brother.

"Can we go for a drink later?" it said. "I need to talk".

Panic set in. What on earth? He never, ever wants to go to the pub. So, I do the obvious thing. I call my Mom to find out what's going on.

Turns out he's been diagnosed with depression, signed off work for weeks on end, prescribed pills and generally feeling like hell.

As you can imagine, it wasn't the most fun I've ever had at the pub. To say it was difficult is putting it mildly. Although, at least I have more understanding of why he was so fed up when he was in Paris.....

I have a real good friend who's a counsellor - an NLP Master in fact. I put my brother in touch with him.

Before calling him to make the apppointment, he called his doctor for advice. It seems the doctor told him that counselling was a bad idea and a waste of money. What on earth? How crazy can that be?

And if that wasn't enough to make this into the craziest visit ever, I had a Facebook friend request yesterday. From the boy who tried to kill me.

Seems to me like it's high time I was back in Paris...

mercredi 11 mars 2009

Baby steps

So, last night with le Parisien was great.  Real great.

We met after his evening college class (some kind of advanced math slash programming thing, yep, he's clever) and went for a drink at the Freedj

The Freedj is a funny bar, busy every night of the week, and with a nice mix of customers.  It also has a quiet seating area right round the back that no-one seems to use - dark, moodily lit, comfortable seats....what more does a second date need?

So we chatted and chatted.  We like the same films, the same cheesy TV series, the same books.  We chatted about our friends, our families.  He told me all about his bad back (not a high point, but hey, it's worth noting).

And then we came back to mine.  Sorry to disappoint those of you who said 'wait', but hey, there was action.  Serious action.

And it was all great.  

Be.  Still.  My.  Beating.  Heart.  

You know what I mean?

So, he's just gone off to work and I'm packing to go to the UK for a few days.  We made plans to see each other 'when I get back'.  Lord knows, I don't want to go.

Anyway, maybe it's a big thing, maybe it's a pleasant interlude.  I refuse to worry about my potential future broken heart.  Well, maybe just a little, eh?  I'm only human.

For the moment, I'm enjoying it.  

But how to proceed?  With caution, I guess.

Reader, I'm taking baby steps.

mardi 10 mars 2009

Travelling, but, erm....?

I met someone.

And the thing is, I really like him.

I'm going on that difficult second date with him tonight and I'm so nervous I could be sick.

How do I NOT fuck this up?

samedi 7 mars 2009


I had my haircut today.  

As you know, I hate doing this.  Today was no exception.  I was hungover and sleepy, but I knew that I needed to avoid queueing if this was going to be anywhere near painless.  So I jumped out of bed, ran through the shower and arrived at the coiffeurs bright and early.  At, ahem, 11am.

Apart from the guy with downs syndrome who wanted to practice his limited English on me, there was no-one else waiting.  But it's surprising how long ten minutes can be when you keep getting asked "do you have any brothers and sisters" over and over again.  He's a lovely guy, but next time I'm in the queue with him, I'm going to pretend to be French.

Anyway, it's my turn to step up to the big chair.  The barber is chirpy, as per fecking usual, and wants to chat.  I don't.

"How old are you then?" he asks.  I tell him.

"No way!" he exclaims.  "I thought you were at least five years younger than that".

I thank him for the compliment.

"But you know," he says, "it's harder to see the wrinkles on fat people."

For fuck's sake.  

Even for a Frenchman that's just plain rude.  

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

I'd been looking forward to a big Paris night out for ages.  Seems the last few weekends, I've either been away or, if I've been here, then it's been with my brother visiting.  None of which makes for an ideal big night out in Gay Paree.

So last night, I hit the town.  

To prepare, I had a couple of pre-night out gin and tonics in the house, I took a long soak in the tub and I even tidied the house - just in case.

I'd gotten all dressed up (well, I'd got dressed) and headed out to the usual haunts.

Now, I really do appreciate that I'm not the answer to every young man's dreams, but Lord, I'd hope for better than was being offered last night.  For some reason, I had turned into some kind of freak magnet.  And it wasn't good.

Within minutes of arriving at the bar, I was standing, beer in hand looking at the guys throwing clumsy shapes on the dancefloor. Trust me, the gay gene doesn't necessarily come with rhythm included.

Anyway, there I'm standing, minding my own business and I feel it happening.  It's the pincer movement.

To my left, a strange, staring-and-not-in-a-good-way North African guy.  To my right, a burly old fella, with a bleached goatee and a leather waistcoat and trousers combo.

Neither of them would be my cup of Lapsang Souchong, but they were moving in.  Both of them.

As they reached me I slipped away, pretending that I'd just seen someone on the other side of the bar.  And so the games began.  To be fair, the old guy gave up pretty easily, but the Algerian?  No way.  He was persistent.  And a fucking nuisance.  

No matter where I stood, he was there next to me, staring.  He leant in with the customary 'ça va?'.  I ignored him.  He carried on talking to me.  Well, to my back anyway, as I'd turned away from him.  I walked away.  He followed.

"Why are you being aggressive with me?" he asked, having cornered me at the bottom of the stairs.

"Because you're following me, staring at me and generally freaking me out".  I replied.

"You don't like me?"

"erm, that'd be a big old NO".

"I don't believe you.  I know you want me," and he leaned in to kiss me.

A swift 'fuck off asshole' later and he'd got the message, leaving me to dance the rest of the night away.  

I had a great time afterwards, but it seemed he'd set a trend and the only guys I ended up speaking to seemed weird.  I'm not sure if it's me - whether I'm just more selective/cautious after the stalker business, or if it was just one of those nights.  

Either way, I ended up having a good old dance and chatting to some friends, so all was not lost.

But I'm kind of hoping tonight will be better....

vendredi 6 mars 2009

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis

Twenty six hours. That's how much driving I did between Monday and Thursday of this week. No matter how you look at it, that's a long time behind the wheel.

Now, admittedly, Debbie did share the driving but, nonetheless, that's a lot of car time.

All that, plus meetings in St Etienne, Avignon, Lyon, Paris, le Havre, Valenciennes. Yes, a ridiculous week.

But anyway, I'll stop moaning now.

Actually much of the week was pretty funny and we rocked along in the car, discovering that although, musically speaking, me and Debs don't have much in common, we do share a love of trashy pop. Girls Aloud got us singing, as did Britney and the inevitable Katy Perry.

But the real stars of the show were the Ting Tings. On Monday morning, as Debbie sang "eemajeen all ze gurls, ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba", I knew the journey would be ok.

Last night was our final gig on the tour and we had a late afternoon meeting at a customer's house near Valenciennes, deep into the Ch'ti heartland.

The client welcomed us and with a display of true Northern hospitality, offered neither a drink nor a seat. As we stood talking in his dining room, a woman of a certain age appeared.

"Ah, you must be Madame (enter surname here)", I said, offering my hand. "How lovely to meet you".

"This is my daughter, Michelle", said the client. "She's sixteen tomorrow".

Well, all I can say is that this was one kid who'd had a hard life. Maybe growing up between France's largest coalmine (now closed), the Peugeot factory and the North's biggest abbatoir does that to your skin. I can only imagine. Truly, dearest reader, she looked forty.

As you can no doubt guess, the meeting went downhill from there. But at least it led me to think 'what the hell' and I sat down (uninvited, the shame) and asked if a cup of coffee was possible. Sometimes when you're in a hole, you just have to keep digging.

After the meeting, we stood at the dining room window 'admiring' the 'landscaping' that the client had recently finished in his back 'garden'. He'd basically tarmacced the lot and added a bird table.

"I love standing here and looking at the birds," he said. "But this one here," he said pointing at what was obviously a goldfinch "it eludes me. I don't know what it is".

"That's easy." said Debbie. My heart sank.


"Yes." She said. "It's a canary."

The customer looked at her in amazement. He obviously knew the same thing that I knew. Canaries come from Africa, not from near the Belgian border.

He pulled the most sarcastic of faces.

"Are you REALLY that stupid?" he said, incredulously.

Debbie started to answer, but I decided enough was enough.

Time to get our coats and head back to Paris.

Ah Paris. Where there are few bird tables, no wild canaries and certainly no 40-year-old teenagers.

mercredi 4 mars 2009

Slow down, you move too fast

So, maybe it's me. Maybe I'm, like, the fastest person on the planet. Built for speed. Racing snake. Speedy Gonzales. But I doubt it.

No matter where I went with brother at the weekend, it was always at half speed. Half speed and accompanied by constant cries of 'slow down, for fuck's sake'. Nice.

I was almost constantly ten feet ahead of him, then stopping, waiting for him to catch up, then immediately ten feet ahead again. He told me to stop running at one stage.

And I'd tried really hard. Not only had I walked really slowly, but I'd also caught the métro when I'd normally walk, and I'd thought about where we were going and planned things near to métro stations. We'd changed trains at the smaller métro stations to avoid long walks between trains and I'd even offered a taxi at one point.

I always sought out the station exits with escalators rather than stairs and I made sure that, once in the Louvre, we took the shortest route possible to the Mona Lisa.

There were regular coffee stops, and plenty of cake shops along the route. I made sure blood sugar levels remained constant, and that toilet breaks were possible.

I was a good host.

I was in the kitchen and could hear my brother in the guest bedroom. He was talking on the phone to his wife.

"You might not recognise me when I get home", he said to her. "He's walked me so far that I've lost five kilos and I'm four inches shorter than when I left. I'm sure he's just doing it to show me how unfit I am".

If only.

Next time, we'll do it at my pace.

We'll soon see how that goes down.

mardi 3 mars 2009

Is that a gun in your pocket?

"You sound like you have your head down the toilet", said Lovely Paris Friend, calling from his southern idyll in Castres on Friday evening.

"I do", said I. "I'm changing the seat."

"Good God."

"I know. They call me Homo-Brico".

And so began the weekend of manly activities.

Within hours of arriving, my super-sized brother had broken the toilet seat, leading me to a late, last-minute dash to buy another and get it fitted before we went out 'on the town'.

Out on the town largely involved a beer or two before returning home to a dvd and an early night. In fact, every night this last weekend saw me in bed before midnight. I would lie there thinking 'surely this isn't Saturday night' and imagining what my friends were all up to.

To be honest, I started to worry that I'd turn straight, what with all the early nights, Clint Eastwood movies, DIY escapades and manly chatter. That was until the football match on Sunday.

Now, I agree, football matches aren't the puffiest of activities, but this weekend I had to take what I could get. Seek out the gayness. Look for the sparkle in the dullest of environments.

The match was Paris Saint Germain versus Nancy, and I'd planned to cheer 'Nancy' all the way. However, this wasn't a good idea. PSG have a reputation for being the roughest team in the league, with the Boulogne Boys being their extreme right-wing supporters. Naturally I had managed to buy a pair of seats just by their 'enclave' in the Boulogne stand.

My brother loved this though, and kept saying how he wished his home team (for whom he has a season ticket) had such animated fans. The filthy dirty chants were funny. The flag waving and drum beating was rather cool. But when they started throwing flares (the fireworks, not the jeans) into other parts of the stand I started to worry.

Anyway, it seems this behaviour is all pretty much part of the show and the police dealt with it all effectively and swiftly. Which leads me to the reason I was happy to find myself at the football on a Sunday afternoon.

Just in front of our stand were a group of policemen, who were apparently employed to watch the crowd and keep an eye out for anything untoward. As it was a sporting event they were wearing their standard issue police tracksuits. Royal blue, and tight, tight, tight. I'm sure you can see where this is going.

In a bid to keep warm, the policemen would jog up and down in front of the stand. They must have been drinking Pepsi, because they certainly had 'more bounce to the ounce'. It was a sight to behold and certainly held my interest.

The thing is, I know that Paris cops carry guns, but boy were these guys packing. And they looked like they were ready to fire at any moment.

As the crowd jumped up to cheer the first of the four PSG goals, I found myself looking the other way, away from the goal to where the policemen stood. My brother looked at me and raised his eyebrows.

"See something you like down there?" He asked.

How to tell him that finally, I'd found a sporting activity that I could enjoy?