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dimanche 30 novembre 2008

Young at heart

Age is a funny old thing. Sometimes, I feel really OLD. As in, I just really can't believe I'm as old as I am - does that make me sound weird? Probably.

Seriously, most of the time I feel like I should probably be somewhere in my late 20s (when in fact I'll be 40 (gah) next May). And then either I see the birthdate of one of my students (I teach postgrads, so I really feel like we're kind of the same generation) and realise I was 17 (17!) when some of them were BORN. Holy guacamole. Or, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realise that not only am I old, but worse, I LOOK old. It can be very depressing.

And then, there are times when I think that maybe I'm just a kid at heart. Like right now. It's past 2 in the morning and I'm seriously considering making myself a bowl of porridge (like I used to do way back when I was a student in Scotland). And, tomorrow, we're taking the girls to see the avant-première of Madagascar 2 and I am so excited at the thought that I can barely think of anything else. Which is ridiculous because it's a film for kids. LITTLE kids. But I just love me those penguins... they really cracked me up in the first one...

Maybe this is what "middle-aged" really means - sometimes you're young, sometimes you're old...

Now, back to that porridge...

samedi 29 novembre 2008


That's how I feel right now. My throat feels like a nutmeg grater every time I swallow, I'm alternating between cold and roasting, my voice is all croaky (a sure-fire sign that I'll lose my voice completely at some point over the next couple of days, much to the hilarity of D and the girls) and I've been blowing my nose ALL DAY. Yup, nothing more than a common cold, but oh, how nasty it is!

Other than that, I've signed up to "make things" for the school Christmas market, and have (perhaps foolishly) promised to make truffles ("about 10 sachets of 5 truffles"), gift tags and a few Christmas tree decorations. When, exactly, I'm going to have the time to do all this is a total mystery...

Had quite a good morning, though, despite less than 4 hours' sleep - took the girls to school and then met up with the very nice mother (with a daughter in C's class) in charge of the Christmas market and two other mothers I already know and we spent almost 2 hours chatting in a café. Not exactly productive, but really very pleasant.

We're new to this school, but I already feel very much involved and that I'm starting to make real connections... It's a nice feeling, and I would be feeling pretty good with myself tonight (even though it's really late yet again, I still have work to do and I'm aching to a) go to bed and b) make myself a bowl of porridge) if I didn't have this horrid cold...

Roll on the holidays, that's all I can say!

vendredi 28 novembre 2008

Giving thanks

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm not American and all that jazz, but surely I can take advantage of the idea to give a little thanks of my own?!

So, what am I thankful for this year?

Well, I'm thankful (despite moaning incessantly) that I have (more than) enough work to keep my family warm and clothed and fed and entertained during these hard, credity-crunchy times.
I'm also thankful that my sweet little girls are bright, beautiful and in (pretty much) good health, heart murmurs and wonky spines aside.
I'm thankful that I live in such a beautiful place, with a pretty good climate (even if it's perishing cold right now).
I'm thankful that my father is such a kind, caring man, though I do wish he'd just open up and be a little less typically British rigid sometimes.
I'm thankful that I have such a special cat - kind, beautiful, sensitive, fun, intelligent, affectionate, everything you could ever wish for in a small furry creature.
And I'm thankful for D, putting up with my many failings and irritated moments.
I often feel dissatisfied about my life. How hard I have to work just to keep us afloat, how crap my lifestyle is, how hard mothering can be, how hard being in a couple can be... But on days like this, when SO MUCH seems to be wrong with the world, I truly realise that I indeed have much to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, and Happy Thursday to the rest of you.

jeudi 27 novembre 2008

The dreaded lurgy

First off, thanks to Mrs C. for confirming what I've found on St Google about heart murmurs - in most cases, it's nothing at all. Of course, being an almost professional pessimist, I won't be happy till C has had the ECG, but I'm feeling less panic-stricken.

So, to take the edge off my recovered serenity (ha! ha!), we've now all come down with our annual dreaded lurgy.

Hacking coughs a-go-go here Chez Nous. Plus croaky voices, stuffed up noses, sneezing (though I do that all the time anyway) and slight feverishness.

Usually, C would quite happily accept a day at home tomorrow. But of course her class is going to our "new" aquarium, Mare Nostrum, tomorrow and she's said she's going whatever she feels like.

That's the spirit!

Now, where did I put my Kleenex...

mercredi 26 novembre 2008

Soooo excited!

After all this time with (let's be honest here) this place being a virtually traffic-free zone, for the very first time, I'VE BEEN TAGGED!

OMG, I'm soooooo excited! It's made my day!

So, thanks to the hilarious-in-the-face-of-adversity-and-other-times-too Cha Cha, here's my first ever tagged meme!

First off, here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So, here we go:

1. I have frequent conversations with myself, often out loud (assuming I'm on my own), recounting parts of my life, kind of as if I was writing an autobiography (as if anyone would be interested).
2. When I have these conversations, for some reason I often use an (unidentified/unidentifiable)American accent. And of course I'm not American.
3. I seemingly have an almost limitless capacity for sneezing. Loudly.
4. I am hopelessly addicted to stationery, art-and-craft supplies and the like, even though I rarely do anything writer-y or arts-and-crafts-y.
4. I love shopping from catalogues and spend hours browsing the many I receive through the mail.
5. I am very often cold - even in summer on the beach here in the South of France - and my feet can stay cold for more than 4 hours in bed in winter.
6. I find many foodstuffs impossible to eat simply because of the way they look.
7. I am a compulsive reader of novels and often read the same novels many, many times.

Now, aren't you glad you read that?

I bet you all think I'm schizophrenic after the first two... But I don't think I am (though I guess they all say that). Never mind or, as my fabulous school Latin teacher used to say, "numquam mens". Ha! Ha!

Now, my 7 random victims:
1. The Cheeky Lotus, coz she probably needs some fun in her life right now
2. Jenn's Journal, coz she has a great blog (and a great cookery blog, too)
3. No Place Like It, another English-speaker in France
4. The Duchess of Earl, yet another English-speaker in France
5. Linda, because she's hilarious and makes me feel more normal
6. Beth, because I've been reading her for ages
and, finally
7. Moreena, because hers is the first blog I started reading

The only problem is that most of these lovely ladies have never heard of me (I'm not big on commenting, just avid reading) and will now probably hate me for tagging them...

But I'm still so excited about being tagged that I don't care!

mardi 25 novembre 2008

Not concerned, but...

Took C to the paediatrician this afternoon for her annual check-up and of course the doctor - who is an excellent doctor who's known her since she was 1 month old - has totally FREAKED ME OUT.

To be fair, he said he's not particularly concerned... BUT.

He heard a heart murmur, so we have to go and get an ECG. He said it's quite common, particularly in growing children (she's almost 7), bla, bla, bla.

But he still said the words "heart murmur".

And that has freaked me out. So I guess I'll be spending the night on Google once again...

He also said she has minor scoliosis, that needs "watching" but that he's not concerned about...bla, bla, bla.

But I am.

She's my baby, my sweet, beautiful baby. And I can't bear that there may be "things wrong".

I know all this is minor compared to others' worries. But I'm still scared for her.

I just want my sweet girls to be healthy and happy!

dimanche 23 novembre 2008

Winter's on its way

I know I shouldn't really complain (but you all know I'm going to anyway) but hell it's cold right now! No, it's nothing like as bad as it is elsewhere in France (not to mention Britain) but for me and my old, cold bones it's quite cold enough, thank you very much.

Or maybe it's just that I'm so bone-crunchingly tired after working all weekend (in between playing Monopoly with the girls, walking in the botanical gardens, having dinner at IKEA last night etc.).

Either way, it's cold and I'm tired, and I've got a headache and I have to be up at 6.30 tomorrow, God help me.

Can't wait for the holidays (assuming we're staying here - still no further forward on that).


Yes, it's late (but that's nothing new) and I'm feeling confessional. I have a new love in my life. Not even all that new, to be honest, but I'm only really opening up to my true feelings now. Don't kill me, I'm a slow starter.

And who is this wonder person, I hear you ask?

Oh, wonder indeed. But not a person (or an animal, for those of you with baser instincts) either.

No, the not-so-new love of my life is IKEA. I know lots of people hate the place, even come out in hives just thinking about having to follow that fiendish Scandinavian floor plan.

But not me.

I just LURVE that place!

And, proof that such things are genetic, both C and L LURVE it too (though not (yet) necessarily for the same reasons).

We got there late this evening, past 6.30 pm (bearing in mind the shop closes at 9 pm here), and started by looking at the gorgeous (and CHEAP!) soft toys. L fell in love with a weird-looking yellow camel thing and had a total meltdown until I convinced her that maybe she could ask Father Christmas for it.

Then we had dinner (no, not the meatballs, though I was tempted), which was good (and CHEAP! - can you see a pattern forming here?).

And then we let the girls loose to go and play, first in the restaurant play area, then in the main kids' section.

Oh, what a trap that place is! Every time we go (and we go there quite often, I have to admit) I see more and more STUFF I would like to buy. It's totally addictive.

I know their furniture comes in kit form (but I don't care about that! I love putting it all together!), and I know some of it probably isn't really designed to last. But it's all just so pretty, so fresh, so modern, so Scandinavian, so what-I-want...

So, I'm pretty much smitten, and I'm already planning my next trip (Trofast for the girls' room, plus wrapping paper, and maybe picture frames, or a mirror or new chairs, or maybe just those yummy, yummy double-chocolate oatmeal cookies...).

Plus, I've enrolled the girls for the IKEA Christmas party on 3 December (a show, tea and surprises!), even if I seem to be more excited about it than they are (why? Well, the party lasts 2 hours and AT LEAST ONE PARENT MUST STAY IN THE SHOP FOR THE ENTIRE TIME. Guess who, out of me or D, will volunteer for that!).

Truly, this is a marriage made in heaven!

samedi 22 novembre 2008

Motivation (bis)

I feel absolutely no motivation vibes coming my way so, guess what, I did nothing of any consequence all day!

OK, I slept all morning (though I was up in time to get the girls ready for school, only to go back to bed an hour later), which is a fantastic achievement (FEEEEEEEL the irony).

And this afternoon, well, I did a couple of invoices, read stuff on the internet (could do that for hours...), did some laundry and that was about it.

Picked up L from school (D took C to her swim class) and we started making Mamie's birthday present - might even be quite nice!

And I worked this evening.

But no tidying, no DIY, no sorting, no furniture-moving. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

What a loser.

vendredi 21 novembre 2008

Motivate me!

I feel like I'm stuck in a total rut. My days (as in "24-hour periods" rather than "day time") are so out of synch with "normal" life that I feel like a freak, I work a lot (but at the wrong time) and am utterly sick of it, I have a mountain of stuff to do (did I mention that our flat is a total tip? And that we have random bits of furniture in unlikely places? And that we still have unpacked boxes from when we moved in in February 2006? Have you noticed that Christmas (and so C's 7th birthday, too) are just around the corner?) and no time to do any of it, my health is definitely suffering in ways I can perceive but not explain (let's just forget about the fugly muffin top and packed of bacon TUC crackers, shall we?) and oh, I just get the impression that I'm not in control, no way, not even close.

It's not that I'm unhappy. No, that's not it. I "enjoy" my job (as in, I don't hate it), I love my family, I adore my daughters, I have a (potentially) lovely home in a beautiful city in the south of France, I have a fabulous cat, my health is - as far as I know - OK, my father's in good shape, and I even have money in the bank for once.

But I just hate my lack of discipline, my inability to stick to schedules, cross things off lists, get things done.

I so badly want to tidy this place up, decorate the girls' room, make it all presentable so we can invite people round. As it is, I'm waaaay too embarrassed to let anyone see the way we live.

D will be going away for the weekend in a couple of weeks, so perhaps I can try and get some stuff done then.

Then all I'll have to do is convince him to put up curtain rails (bought in 2006), kitchen unit doors (bought in 2007), shelves in the kitchen and over my desk (bought in early 2008) and light fixtures (yet to be bought, so I'm not hopeful about this one, given our track record for home improvements), and then help me get C and L's bedroom looking nice at last.

The real problem is knowing where to start; it's all so daunting...

jeudi 20 novembre 2008

So exciting!

Can't believe it! It's not even 1 am and I am really not far away from going to bed! I won't have been to bed this early in weeks, if not months! (Though to be fair, I'm not actually in bed yet...)


And tomorrow is my Tai Chi class. And I weighed myself last night and I've somehow managed to lose 4 kg WITHOUT EVEN TRYING (except wishful thinking as I chow down on yet more crap at 2 am).

Beautiful times, people, these are beautiful times!

mercredi 19 novembre 2008

The best laid plans...

As you've probably guessed, I'm somewhat contradictory - I love lists (viz my love of daft memes), yet I'm hideously disorganised. I'm great at planning things - it might even be one of the things I do best, along with cauliflower cheese and spending money I don't have - yet many of my plans never come to much.

So, today. The plan was to get up in time to take the girls to school, and then follow that up with a round trip to the tax office (to pick up a piece of paper I need to help me get paid for all the teaching I do) and back home, via the two universities I teach at. Good plan.


I went to bed at 3.30 am last night, and only slept 4 and a half hours the night before, and I taught 6 hours of classes yesterday.

Result: I didn't even HEAR the girls getting ready for school (quite an achievement as they're like a pair of marauding elephants ususally), woke up briefly at 10 but couldn't drag my sorry arse out of bed and then finally woke up at the shameful time of 1 pm.

I did manage to get up, dressed and ready by 2 (yeah!), but then started checking my e-mail, so it was 2.30 when I finally left, 3.15 when I got to the tax office, 4.15 when I left, 4.30 when I reached the first university, nearly 5 when I left there. So I didn't go to the other one as I had to pick the girls up at 6 (they had their dance class after school this evening).

Not exactly a wasted afternoon, as the little I did was all useful and had to be done. But I don't have much to show for my "day".

And, whaddya know, it's 2.30 am again.

And tomorrow's Wednesday - which means "no school" here in France. And D has to go out at 9, meaning I'll be on daughter duty tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow could be a tough day.

But I have great, great plans for the morning. And the afternoon. And for lots of other times, too.

All I need is to find the way to put them fully into action, once and for all!

mardi 18 novembre 2008

Another meme!

Don't know why I like these things so much... It's not like I'm ever really stuck for words!

Anyway, I picked this one up via Avitable via Sunday Stealing and it tickled my fancy (though I'm not sure what the connection to woman's work is - maybe I'm just being dense).

Give it a try! PS I know there's no 35, but I've cut-and-paste this as I found it...

The woman's work 45 meme

1. Do you like blue cheese salad dressing? Not much
2. Favorite late night snack? Anything unhealthy I can get my hands on
3. Do you own a gun? Absolutely not (my daughters have water pistols - does that count?)
4. What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks or other specialty coffee shop? I don't really drink coffee, but something really milky and not sweet or strong if I had to choose
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Totally freak out (except for my gynae, who's a sweetheart)
6. What do you think of hot dogs? Not a huge fan
7. Favorite Christmas song? Much as I loathe most of his other stuff, I get really emotional listening to Chris de Burgh's "A spaceman came travelling"
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Nothing
9. Can you do push-ups? You must be joking
10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry? Changes all the time
11. Favorite hobby? Reading
12. Do you have A.D.D.? I seriously doubt it
13. What’s one trait that you hate about yourself? My lack of self-discipline
14. The last disease you contracted? Some hideous "thing" that makes me sneeze ALL.THE.TIME
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment. Why am I up so fucking late AGAIN? Will anyone ever read this? How the hell am I going to get up tomorrow morning?
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Water, Diet Coke, detheinated (is that a word?) tea
17. Current worry right now? Money, always and ever
18. Current hate right now? Always worrying about money
19. Favorite place to be? In bed, asleep
20. How did you ring in the New Year? After an argument with my partner, I sat and watched the fabulous Hairspray DVD with the delectable Zac Efron (yum, yum). I consider it a good New Year's Eve, though probably no one else would
21. Like to travel? Yes
22. Name three people who will complete Sunday Stealing this week: No idea
23. Do you own slippers? No
24. What color shirt are you wearing? I'm wearing an orange polo neck 'cause it's damn cold here!
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Never tried it, but the thought doesn't appeal at all
26. Can you whistle? Very badly
27. Favorite singer/band? This is tough, but if I had to choose - probably Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (that's going to date me!)
28. Could you ever make it 39 days on the show Survivor? I shouldn't think I'd last 39 minutes
29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Madonna
30. Favorite girl’s names? Daisy, Rose, Lily (flower names, in case you hadn't noticed)
31. Favorite boy’s names? Gabriel, Raphael, Adam, Benjamin
32. What’s in your pocket right now? Grotty tissues because I can't stop sneezing
33. Last thing that made you laugh? The film "Madagascar", which I re-watched on DVD last night
34. Like your job? Yeah, pretty much
36. Do you love where you live? Yeah, pretty much too
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? Just one (and I rarely watch anything but news and DVDs)
38. Who is your loudest friend? My partner, I guess
39. Do you drive the speed limit or speed? (Very quietly) I don't actually drive at all - I do have a licence but am WAY too scared to use it
40. Does someone have a crush on you? I shouldn't think so - I consider myself to be pretty uncrushable material
41. What is your favorite book? Wuthering Heights
42. What is your favorite candy? Chocolate
43. Favorite Sports Team? Don't watch sport
44. What were you doing 12 AM last night? Working, I guess, or reading blogs
45. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up today? Fuck, is it really time to get up already?

dimanche 16 novembre 2008


I guess if you're going to fuck up NaBloPoMo, you might as well do it properly...

My excuse for missing yesterday is pretty feeble, but well: party at an International Chapel (not really my kind of place, but the party really was just games, pizza, hot dogs and icecream - not a Bible mentioned, no arm-twisting... and a great occasion for C to see some of her old school friends) on Friday night meant a late night and lazy Saturday morning, then I took the girls out in the afternoon to do some shopping (rubber boots, hair bands... essential stuff, in other words) before we headed out into the country where there was a Bonfire Night celebration (10 days late, but better late than never) with English-speaking friends we don't see very often any more. We had mulled wine, baked potatoes, BBQ sausages... there was a great bonfire and lovely fireworks. Yes, it was pretty cold away from the fire, but we had a good time - except of course C and L are terrified of fireworks and hid in the car for that part. But it also meant another late night for the girls, and after that I was just too exhausted to even contemplate computery stuff and turned the thing off.

But never mind.

I'll do better next time on NaBloPoMo.

And for once that we're having a busy, "social" weekend - I can hardly refuse, can I?!

Happy Sunday!

samedi 15 novembre 2008

First times

As I lay in bed last night, I came up with a great idea for a meme. Of course, as virtually no one reads this (probably for the best, it has to be said), the chances are this will die a quiet death all of its own, but I'm going to go ahead with it anyway (feel free to borrow, just let me know and link back!).

This one is about first times - the first time you did certain things.

Here goes:

1. First time you travelled abroad on your own - 1985, when I was 16. I sailed from Harwich in England to Gothenburg in Sweden (24 hours on a boat!) to go and spend 2 weeks with a Swedish friend who lived there. I felt physically sick with nerves in the days (and, worse, hours) before I set sail, and then, once I had, I felt gloriously free!
2. First time you drank alcohol - 1969, when I was just a few weeks old. My grandfather died very suddenly and my parents had to travel up to the north of England with me. When we arrived, I was fussy and wouldn't settle, so my grandmother (remarkably together given that her husband had just dropped dead) suggested a drop of whisky in my bottle. And of course I fell asleep instantly. And have always loathed whisky.
3. First time a celebrity death affected you - the death of River Phoenix in 1993 really hit me hard. He was just a year younger than me, and shared his birthday with one of my best friends. He moved me to tears in "Stand By Me" and his death was utterly tragic and totally avoidable.
4. First time you spent Christmas without your family - 1999. I spent Christmas in Paris with my partner, his mother and a family friend. Despite somewhat tense relations with my MIL (though those relations are much more tense now than they were then), it was quite a good Christmas. Better than I expected, anyway.
5. First time you watched sunrise - 1988, June. I was a first-year student in St Andrews in Scotland and my grandmother (the one who gave me whisky, the only grandparent I ever knew) had just died after years of heart problems. The night before I was due to travel down to Newcastle for her funeral, 2 friends and I spent the night on the West Sands (the beach used in the opening scene of the film, "Chariots of Fire"). We pulled a small bush up off the golf course (a crime almost certainly punishable by death given that it was the much-hallowed Old Course), built a totally ineffectual fire and sat, huddled together and watched the sun rise slowly. It was a beautiful experience, breathtakingly peaceful, and just perfect for my mood. I wasn't outrageously sad that my grandmother had died - she was so miserable in the last few months of her life, her death was more blessed release than anything - just filled with melancholy. And watching that sunrise brought me - and, I hope, her - peace. Once the sun was up, my two friends and I walked back into town to the "Alnight Bakery" for hot rolls. When we got back to our residence, we discovered that my roommate had lost her keys in the sand so we had to go back and try to find them (by some miracle we did!). We drank tea and then I had to go to catch my train. The memory of that night has never left me.

There you go, all finished. I have ideas, too, for another one, but I'll save that for some other time...

vendredi 14 novembre 2008

Praying Mantis vs Playmobil

Picture this:
The scene: a large, vaulted room with beautiful stone walls, wood floors and one whole wall made of mirrors. Plinky-plonky Oriental-type music (with a hint of "the Bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" at intervals) and a smell of patchouli pervade the room.
The players: Pierre, a young (but thankfully probably not young enough for me to be old enough to be his mother), lithe athletic type - "Teacher" - and Yours Truly, a not very young at all, not lithe at all, Playmobil-rigid type - "Pupil"
The occasion: my Tai Chi class

(Plinky-plonk, plinky-plonk)
We go through our warm-up exercises, and I'm doing OK.
Then we move on to our first (and so far, only) movement.
For the first time (this is only my 5th class) I actually manage to remember about half of the movement. Not that I do it right, but it's more or less there.
Then we complete it and yes, it's all coming back to me now.
Turn your pelvis this way, your back leg that way, put your hand a little lower, breathe in, breathe out... stroke the dragon or whatever.
Yup, I've kind of got it.
Errr... well, no, not quite.
To explain the why and what for of the movement, Pierre (knowing that my only "knowledge" of anything martial-artiform comes from having watched "Kung-Fu Panda" this summer) transforms himself in turn into the Praying Mantis, the Monkey and the Tiger (strangely, he doesn't do the Panda - I guess that's my task). Leaping, light as air yet powerful. Lithe, supple, effortless.
Whilst I remain a slightly-chunky-round-the-middle Playmobil with the grace and agility of... well, Po the Panda I guess.
My only hope: that things turn out as well for me as they do for Po - but I'm not holding my breath.

jeudi 13 novembre 2008

Despite my "new me" gig (which doesn't actually seem to be going very well, it must be said), I feel very much like some kind of fat, ugly blimp right now.
And when I feel like that, all I want to do is eat crap.
I managed to eat my way through a shitload of sweets this afternoon, but have been moderately reasonable this evening (though only because I don't have any more crap to eat).
And, to further complete my wallowing, I've been listening to "my" music - the stuff D mainly thinks of as garbage (though I don't necessarily think much of all his music tastes either). I've played my Neil Diamond Greatest Hits CD, my Cyndi Lauper Greatest Hits CD and would have played Shirley Bassey too if D and the girls hadn't come home...
Don't really know what's brought all this on... Sure, my hair is APPALLING: I truly look like either a witch (hair down) or one of the backing singers from Robert Palmer's famous video (though redhead, not black, and without the fab figure too, of course). I'm muffin-topping like crazy (all that chocolate, natch), I haven't done my legs in weeks, my nails are a mess, my teeth are as hideous as ever...
But the girls were generally well-behaved today, and mostly pretty cute... Not that I did any tidying up to speak of, of course, but the plans are there, oh, yes, the plans... I know exactly what I plan to do!
I guess I should just stop moaning, go and eat the bowl of chocolate cereal I've been fantasising about and get my fat arse to bed!
Tomorrow is another day, as they say, and I'm hoping to get some tidying done!

mercredi 12 novembre 2008

Gratuitous photos

Well, I'm still pissed off that I've fucked up NaBloPoMo - it really isn't a hard thing to do and yet I managed to fuck up after only 9 days... Pathetic.

And I've eaten another shitload of chocolate (not to mention the crackers and marmalade earlier on) this evening so I feel sick all over again. Even more pathetic.

I've sort of started tidying up the crap heaped up behind my desk (haven't got very far, of course, but at least I've started... and the heap has been there for around 2 years, after all!) and intend to take advantage of the rain promised for tomorrow to KEEP GOING and maybe even get things looking presentable in at least 10% of this flat. Woohoo!


As I said to Busted yesterday, here are some gratuitous pictures of my wonderful (but slightly chubby) cat, Tom. He really is an exceptional feline: to start with, he has an exceptional appetite and would/could probably eat his bodyweight in croquettes every day if given the chance. But better than that, he's amazingly affectionate, highly sensitive to mood and state of mind, fun-loving and playful even at the advanced age of 11 and a half and, oh, just an all-round purrfect cat! Not that I'm biased, or anything...

Just look at the intelligent, thoughtful pose...

...and that lean, svelte body...(OK, not so much - but oh, soooo fluffy and soft!)

...and finally, the brooding film star look...!

mardi 11 novembre 2008


It's only 11 November (and then, only just: its 3.23 am) and I've already f*cked up NaBloPoMo... Can't f*cking believe I forgot to post last night (by which I mean the post for 9 November, as the date and time on my posts is totally screwed - they're about 8 hours behind my "real" time).


So I've just eaten a whole 200 g (that's 7 oz to you imperial measurements fans) bar of fruit and nut milk chocolate. And I now feel sick. And I totally deserve it.

Fuck. Fuck asterisks, too.

I'll have to wait a whole month now to try and complete the challenge (and it could be tough over the Christmas holidays). GRRRRRRRR


No, not THAT crisis (I'm ostrichly putting my head in the sand about that - the thought of our mortgage going up brings me out in hives so I prefer to not think about it AT. ALL. and just let D deal with any hassle), the crisis I'm talking about is much more insignificant (though only to you, perhaps).

I'm talking about my OH. MY. GOD. THIS. FLAT'S. A. MESS. crisis. Now, I know lots of people say this kind of thing when really their homes are pretty much Ideal Home material. But when I say "our flat's a mess", I REALLY mean it. The girls leave their stuff (paper, scissors, Barbie dolls, tea set bits, miscellaneous plastic things that MUST NOT BE THROWN OUT, pencils, pens, plastic bags... you get my drift) everywhere, I haven't "organised" my office paperwork properly since, oh, probably 1995 (really) and D is about the same. I start doing stuff, but then get caught up in OTHER stuff and never finish.

Add to that extra furniture (bought from friends who moved back to Madrid) sitting in the middle of the sitting room, boxes and boxes of stuff to go down to the cellar (assuming D ever makes enough space to take them there), boxes of furniture in kits that needs to be assembled, plastic bags of STUFF all over the floor, a dishwasher sitting in the middle of the kitchen because it won't fit in the space used for a dishwasher by the previous owners... I could go on, but fortunately for you I won't. I'm sure you get the picture.

I swear, I'm going insane! And I don't know where to start - which room? They're all as bad as each other (though different, too).

Really, this has reached epic, crisis proportions and I've now got to the stage where I'm praying for rain so that I don't have to go out, meaning I might get the chance to get started on something.

But it all feels so hopeless... Whatever I do will be nothing more than a drop in the ocean...

My "plans" were for it "all" to be done (including my somewhat over-optimistic plans to decorate the girls' bedroom) by Christmas. This is starting to seem like cloud-cuckoo-land.

But I have to do something because I'm hoping (assuming we're not obliged to go to Paris) to have a small party for C's 7th birthday here on 27 December... And there's NO WAY I'm letting the posh kids (and their parents) from the girls' new school come here and see what a f*cking tip we live in...

I'm embarrassed enough when the neighbours see the place...

I know, I shouldn't care what other people think, but I do, I can't help it.

So, part of the New Me is to seriously get my a*se in gear and get going on Mission Tidy-Up.

Mantra: This flat will be presentable by Christmas.

Repeat 1,000 times.

dimanche 9 novembre 2008

Christmas is coming!

No progress as yet on the "staying at home"/"visiting my dreaded MIL in her tiny flat in Paris" saga - D is actually just not phoning her at all - but we did something today that is truly Christmassy...

We checked out (potential) presents!

We went to our local Décathlon (a huge sports chain) and sussed out which bikes the girls would like - a bright pink "Princess" 16" job for L and a purpley-pink 20" version for C, which is a little awkward as C (despite being nearly 7) can't actually ride a bike without stabilisers and of course the 20" versions don't come with stabilisers. But we're hopeful the motivation will carry her through...

And we are seriously thinking about buying an exercise bike (all electronic and flash) for ourselves. I admit that it's not quite the present I would have thought of for myself, but D's really keen and suggested we get it for each other from each other. So I'm seeing it as part of the "new me": if I do the recommended minimum of 30 minutes twice a week, I'll be doing 2 hours of sport a week (I have a one-hour Tai Chi class too), which is more than I've done since high school.

And I've even stuck to NaBloPoMo, too (so far, anyway, though I doubt anyone's keeping tabs).

A New Me, indeed.

Now I just need to cut back on the crap I eat (oh, those midnight munchies!), which could be tough with CHRISTMAS just around the corner... But I'm just going to keep up my mantra "New Me", "New Me", "New Me"...

samedi 8 novembre 2008

Little girls

Oh, it's so tough being a maman! All you want to do is protect your babies from hurt and pain and sadness and disappointment and suffering and illness and badness and...

But of course you can't do it; and, truth be told, it's probably a good thing.

But when I arrived at school to collect C, she came out of the playground and immediately started sobbing. And crack - my heart broke.

When I asked her what was wrong, she gave me the absolutely classic "A and P say they aren't my friends, and that no one wants to be my friend any more". It's so hard to explain that little girls just really aren't always very nice to each other (not just little girls, for that matter, but I'll not mention that to her for now).

As I said before, C and L have started at a new school this year. Last year, and all the years before that, they were at a very, very small bilingual (English-French) private school. It cost us a fortune, but was great, really great. Except that the classes were TOO small. By which I mean that last year, C was one of a class of 4 children. And one of those has moved back to his native Romania. If she'd stayed, she would have been one of just 3. The whole primary part of the school probably doesn't have more than 25 kids. It's too small.

So, we decided to move her now (when she's still young - she'll only be 7 on 27 December), to another private (but not bilingual, Catholic instead) school with a very good reputation (because my sweet babies are good at their schoolwork!).

C is now in a class of 25, and her year (CE 1, the equivalent of 2nd grade I guess) is composed of 3 such classes, meaning 75 kids in her year alone. A huge change, obviously.

She has settled in; remarkably well, in fact. But she's also pathologically shy and, being one of the youngest (here in France, classes are by calendar year so obviously, with her birthday at the end of December, she's nearly always the "baby" of the class), she often seems to be somewhat in awe of the others. Until today, her "best" friend was A, a girl bursting with self-confidence who will be 8 in January. She's almost a year older, but is already aware that my sweet C is (probably, for the moment and of course it may change) a better student. This causes tension already. And then C is still very much a little girl - but she HATES being called a baby. I can see where the hurt comes in: she wants so badly to fit in, but she lacks confidence, lacks maturity, lacks what most of these other kids seem to have in spades.

And I hate to see her so unhappy. I know in all probability the whole thing will be forgotten by Monday. But this evening she just seemed so small, such a very little girl. And my heart aches because not only can I not do anything to help, but - worse - I mustn't do anything to help other than explain how things are. She has to learn to fight these battles on her own.

But she's my baby, my sweet little girl... This is so hard!

Why are (little) girls always so mean to each other?

vendredi 7 novembre 2008

First foray into the PTA

My daughters started at a new school this year (I won't go into why they changed school, or at least not today) and, as is my reasoning for so many things in life, I decided to act in a way that would be the exact opposite of what my mother did when I was a child.

So I joined the PTA. When I met the President, I mentioned that I'd be interested in "taking part". The next thing I knew, I'd been made secretary... which wasn't quite what I meant, but at least the former secretary has said she'll work with me for this first year, so I'm not too bothered.

I missed the first PTA meeting because it's when D was in England, but I did go this evening.


This is serious stuff, people!

The current President (and only male) resigned in the middle of the meeting, got up, put on his coat, and left. Leaving the otherwise hyperactive chinwaggers momentarily speechless.

The current Vice-President flat-out refuses to be made President, and a former President has said she will do no more than Vice-President. And no-one else wants anything to do with it. So we remain President-less for the moment (although there was talk of electing someone not present - in jest, of course).

I have volunteered to help out with Christmas Market and the School Newspaper, and possibly one or two other things, and I suspect this will be sufficient. Especially as I don't really know what's involved (so I could really regret all this by the end of the year!).

But there are so many activities, and they all require such serious implication... and also, in many cases, some serious knowledge of the Catholic faith (which I absolutely don't have - and no, it's not hypocritical for an unbeliever like me to have her daugthers in a Catholic school: D is a practising Protestant, and there are no Protestant schools here, plus it's a really good (much sought-after) school, and it's literally a 5 minute walk from where we live).

So I didn't opt to take part in the St Barbe Wheat event (no, I'd never heard of it either), or the Lent Solidarity whatever, or the Communion thing. I'm willing to take part, but pretending to be religious is beyond me.

After the previous school, this PTA really is the business.

In some ways, I like that. Although in others, I feel a little overwhelmed. But I guess I just need to find my feet. And I do love being part of my daughters' school life (my mother never participated in anything unless she could do it on her own, and from home), I love just being involved, even though I'm essentially a deeply antisocial person.

I'm proud of being on the PTA and hope my daughters will be proud of me, too.

I hope one day they'll understand that I did all this for them.

jeudi 6 novembre 2008

This is a post that is NOT about Obama!

Yes, I know, I should be writing about the momentous events of yesterday in the States... but really, it's all been said (and better) by others... Suffice it to say that I am WELL PLEASED.

So, instead, here's another meme - feel free to steal it and use it, but let me know so I can come and see your answers. By the way, I picked it up from Pardon the Egg Salad, whom I found whilst reading I am doing the best I can. This is an Alphabet case you didn't get it!

A. Attached or Single? Attached
B. Best Friend? The godmothers to my daughters, Marie and Jenn
C. Cake or pie? Well, I love both, but if I had to choose, would probably choose cake
D. Day of choice? Saturday
E. Essential item? A good book
F. Favorite color? Yellow
G. Gummy bears or worms? Don't know what worms are (apart from the wriggly things you find in gardens), so I'll have to say gummy bears
H. Hometown? Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England (though I only lived there for about 6 months or so)
I. Favorite indulgence? Nestlé Onouga chocolate - absolutely fabulous
J. January or July? Easy. I hate being cold, so this has to be July
K. Kids? Two living daughters, C aged almost 7 (27/12) and L, who was 4 and a half on 27/10. Plus one daughter stillborn on 13/07/2000, the WORST day of my entire life
L. Life isn’t complete without? Love
M. Marriage date? Not married, no plans ever to be so
N. Number of brothers and sisters? None
O. Oranges or Apples? Much as I love orange-flavoured things, or orange-based things, I don't much like eating the things themselves, so apples it has to be
P. Phobias? Spiders, without a doubt
Q. Quotes? "Un homme seul est en mauvaise compagnie." -- Paul Valéry
R. Reasons to smile? My two beautiful, bright little girls, my overweight but otherwise purrfect cat, a beautiful sunset and, of course, D, the man who manages to put up with me and has done so since 1996...
S. Season of choice? Spring - everything comes to life and summer is still to come
T. Truth or dare? I'm far too much of a coward to choose anything other than truth!
U. Unknown fact about me? I have a pretty phenomenal memory for trivia, like the dates of everyone's birthday - even people I barely know. If you tell my your birthday, I'll remember it!
V. Vegetable? I adoooorrree roast parsnips, but parsnips are almost impossible to find here in France, unfortunately
W. Worst habit? Going to bed way, way too late. Every damn night
X. X-ray or Ultrasound? I've only ever had X-Rays for nasty things, whereas the Ultrasounds allowed me to see my babies before they were born, so Ultrasounds
Y. Your favorite food? Chocolate
Z. Zodiac sign? Taurus. This means I supposedly love the earth, the country, all things rural... Have to say that that is wildly, wildly untrue - me, I love cities first and foremost, and the sea second!

mercredi 5 novembre 2008

Holding my breathe

I'm not American, and I don't live in the States, and in fact I've only been there once (a fabulous week in New York in April 2001 - maybe I'll tell you all about it some time)...


I'm on tenterhooks, and I'm obsessively checking American news websites (plus we've got CNN on in the background) for latest results, even if almost nothing serious has come in yet.

Guys, the suspense is just killing me!

Go Obama!

mardi 4 novembre 2008

The other side

We are not rich people. I work like a slave and earn an OK amount of money, but really, nothing to write home about (I suspect my father would be very disappointed to see the state of my bank accounts). But we're OK. Our flat will (one day, I hope) be nice and tidy and presentable, we have a car, our daughters go to a private school (though here in France that's not really very expensive) and we've had several trips this year (London in February, Arles in April, Italy in August, D to England for work and me to Lisbon for work in October). We have a good life, and I'm pretty much satisfied with it (though healthier bank accounts would be nice, and not having to spend 6,000 Euros in January to get the roof fixed would help, too).
But today, we were invited to go and spend the afternoon with a schoolfriend of C's, 15 minutes out of Montpellier.
We are talking serious money.
Serious, serious money.
The house, people, you should have seen the house! And garden! And swimming pool! And furnishings! And the two big cars! And the amount of toys in A's room! And the souvenirs from all the wildly exotic places they've visited.
Really, another world.
No, I'm not jealous (well, maybe just a little bit), because the style of the house and stuff really isn't my choice (quibbling, quibbling. Utterly pathetic.). But I am jealous of their security - I always feel like D and I are living on the edge - almost always overdrawn, no savings to speak of, living pretty much (comfortable) hand to (comfortable) mouth. It must be nice to have real money in the bank, to have a house worth 1.5 million Euros (7.5 times the value of ours!), to know you can do things without having to calculate whether or not you can afford it.
And I know we'll never have that security.
And I would so love to be able to give my lovely daughters the security they deserve.
It's on afternoons like this that I really do feel like some kind of serious failure.
Everyone always told me I had such potential (at school, at university), and I feel pretty sure that I haven't lived up to it at all.
Where did it all go wrong?
Or am I over-exaggerating?
Perhaps - because my little girls are bright, beautiful, kind, generous, fun-loving, intelligent and healthy. They have great potential, and I will do all I can to help them fulfill it.

dimanche 2 novembre 2008

'Twas a dark and stormy night

Yikes, I've morphed into Snoopy...

No, not really, but it is dark and has been unbelievably stormy most of the day (the "big 'un" this afternoon had the wind whipping up tidal waves of water across the carpark outside our window...).

No further forward with our Christmas plans, either.

But the girls are getting very excited about the US Presidential Election - they've both decided they're for Obama because "John McCain won't help poor people" (C's remark) and "John McCain doesn't like sharing" (L's version). Can't say much to disagree with them, to be honest, though rest assured: I have no intention of going political here. Besides, I don't have the right to vote anywhere - I've lived outside of Britain for more than 15 years, thus forfeiting my right to vote there, and I've never taken on French citizenship, so can't vote here - so maybe I should just shut up and tune in to CNN on Tuesday night...

The wind's still howling and it feels very wintry here in Montpellier tonight. The girls have even started singing Christmas songs.

The end of the year is nigh, and I'm hoping all will be well with the world.

Jet lag

Hmmm... It seems that the clock on this blog is running on Californian time or something... My "first post for NaBloPoMo" was, I promise, written in the (very) early hours of 1 November... Yet once posted, the clock/calendar thing says 31 October at 6.15 pm...
Yet another of life's mysteries, I suspect.
But there's no doubt - today is definitely November! And with grey, heavy skies, imminent rain and lightning all evening, you can't mistake the season.
Matching my mood today, actually.
The likelihood of us having to go and spend Christmas (and C's 7th birthday, which is on 27/12) up in Paris with my mother-in-law is growing daily. I don't want to go, for a whole slew of reasons, the main one being "spending 5 days (or more, God help me) with my mother-in-law in Paris, all four of us (me, D, C and L) having to sleep in what was once D's childhood bedroom". Jean-Paul Sartre's "Huis clos" leaps to mind...
Plus, we've travelled quite a bit this year (which is good, I don't regret any of the trips we've had) and I was hoping to not have to spend 500 Euros on train tickets.
But my MIL's getting snarky on the phone, and D seems to be gradually caving in, and that's left me distinctly peeved, to put it mildly.
We were in Scotland last Christmas (costing 500 Euros, too) and it was OK, but tough too as my father and D don't always see eye to eye.
And I almost never see eye to eye with my MIL.
I know this sounds mean and pathetic - I should want my daughters to spend Christmas with their Mamie. But in the past, she's always come here. Not perfect, and usually pretty tense it has to be said, but at least we're at home and not stuck in Paris with no respite from the tension.
Plus, I remember my childhood Christmases - we were always either at my grandmother's house or at my aunt's. Never at home. My one, recurring Christmas wish was to wake up in my own bed on Christmas morning. And I had to wait till I was 19 to have it come true! I want my daughters to have their Christmas at home, I want C to be able to see friends for her birthday, I want to be with my beautiful cat... Not great reasons, I know, and I'll have to come up with something because I can't tell my MIL the real reason (I can't stand her and don't want to be stuck on her territory). Oh yes - we have a huge roof repair bill due to be paid in January... Hmmm. This might need working on...
And I'm quite willing for my MIL to come here - I've always done my best to prevent her coming at other times of year (she's pretty much impossible to live with), but this time, for once, I'd even be willing to pay for her ticket...
Yup, it's the dark season, and storms are brewing, in more ways than one.

samedi 1 novembre 2008

NaBloPoMo starts here!

Hallowe'en's over for another year and this is officially my first post for NaBloPoMo! And of course I can't think of a single thing to say...(unusual for me, many would say).

That said, I have great hopes for this month: I'm hoping the discipline I'll need to write something every day will rub off in other areas too... Like not going to bed at ridiculous times (screwed that one up already - it's 2.15 am right now), working more "productively", you get my drift.

But it's not going to be easy, that's for sure - and discipline has never been one of my strong points.


Had quite a fun Hallowe'en down at the "French-American Center" where C and L were both dressed as green-faced witches and looked horribly cute rather than plain horrible. That said, C won 2nd prize in her age group for her costume, which was cool (shame for L, who was actually dressed exactly the same - but she took it like a trooper!).

And the school half term holiday is coming to a close (4 days to go), and has actually been quite fun (did I really say that?).

So, here's to the rest of November - discipline, discipline... and a new me at the end!