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samedi 31 janvier 2009

Spouting forth

I've never been one to turn down the opportunity to air my opinions (especially in writing!), so I jumped at the chance to be interviewed by Sheri...

We had a few minor technological problems (I really have to work on my geek status), but never mind. Here we go:

What campaign promise of Obama's do you hope to see come true?
OK, have to admit lack of knowledge here: I'm not 100% sure exactly what he did promise, but the pulling the troops out of Iraq thing sounds like quite a good move to me.

What are the best and worst things about your town?
I live in Montpellier in the south of France. It's a beautiful city, and I think it's just about perfect in terms of size (about 250,000 inhabitants). I live just outside the city centre (about 10-15 minutes' walk) in a much-sought after part of the city where everything you need is just on the doorstep. We're also just 10 km from the sea, 3 hours from Barcelona, 4 hours by train from Paris and surrounded by amazing countryside.
On the down side, I find the dirtiness (as in dog dirt) of the streets of this beautiful city totally appalling and a downright scandal.

What is your favorite possession and why?
This is tough. But right now, I guess I really love my camera - it's a FujiFilm A900 FinePix and it's the first camera that's actually succeeded in getting me to take good pictures. And it makes videos with sound. Love it. (Plus: I bought it on special offer!)

If you could interview one person, living or dead, who would it be and what is the number one question you would ask?
Ah, this one's easier. I would choose Jean Cocteau, without a hesitation. I studied French literature at university in Scotland and my favourite course - by far - was the 20th century theatre module I took in my final year. Cocteau was the ultimate all-rounder: a writer, a poet, a film director, an artist, a musician... and a cat lover! He knew great suffering (death of his young lover, Raymond Radiguet...), was scorned by the pretentious homophobes (hypocrites one and all) of the Surrealist movement, was brave in his own way in the Second World War and has a legacy that lives on. If I could only ask one question, it would be "Where do you get your inspiration from (apart from opium that is)?".

What is the stupidest question a professional journalist would ask during an interview?
I know this has already been said, but the "How do you feel?" type question, asked of someone who's just suffered some kind of major traumatic event, really makes me mad.

What are the major issues in your country and how do you think they should be solved?
First, what do you mean by "my country"? I was born and raised in Britain, but haven't lived there since 1992 (God, that makes me sound ooooold. Who'm I kidding? I AM old), and have lived in France since 1992. My partner is French (though his origins include Russian), my daughters are more French than British. I guess I should stick with France.
So, the major issues right now are social unrest. Yesterday (29 Jan) there was a general strike here in France, with 2.5 million demonstrators on the streets nationwide (that's in a country with 60 million inhabitants). The "credit crunch" is hitting hard (though less hard here than in Britain or the US, for now), the right-wing government doesn't seem to give a shit and people have had enough. If I were President (God forbid) of France, I would try and even out the share of wealth (totally agree with Obama's anger at the 20 billion $ bonuses bankers gave themselves in the US), and I would change the higher education system and its ridiculous refusal to accept any type of selection process for entry into first year. This would give degrees some value (they don't have any right now - just about anyone can go to university) and might help even out the job market. I would legislate to give freelance workers (like I am in real life) a fairer deal and I would try and encourage schools to teach modern languages (ideally English, but other languages could be useful too of course) from kindergarten onwards (kids are most receptive in the 4-5 year old age group).
I guess most of this wouldn't change a thing in social terms, but maybe it would help a little. It would make me feel good anyway!

Many thanks to Sheri for her questions!

Now, it's my turn: if any of you out there feel like being interviewed, leave me a comment and I'll post some questions on your blog (haven't quite figured out the e-mail thing - I don't want my address visible, I guess you guys don't either... I warned you, my geekdom needs serious work).

mardi 27 janvier 2009

Grotty but pleased

I really feel like I'm slacking off with this blog, and that's a bummer because I have so many posts floating around in my brain, but just never seem to get around to writing any...

Maybe I should go on a course on time management, or something.

Anyway. D came down with a monstruous cold the other day, so of course I now have it too and feel suitably craptastic. CANNOT. STOP. SNEEZING. FEEL. LIKE. MY. HEAD. WILL. EXPLODE. (Would actually quite like it to explode at the moment, might make me feel better.) And although I can most definitely sympathise with the "stop whining, think of all those people who have it so much worse than you" argument, I can't help but counteract with my own "yes, but think about all those who have it so much better...".

But this too shall pass, as they say.

And I'm actually feeling quite pleased: Mrs C. has tagged me, and there's nothing more likely to bring a smile to my face than having concrete proof that I'm not writing this merely for my own pleasure... I love it all - comments, being tagged, winning prizes...

So, here's the deal:

1. Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.

2. Pick the 4th picture in that folder.

3. Explain the picture.

4. Tag 4 people to do the same.

And here's my picture:

This is a picture of L, taken by the doing-the-rounds photographer at the clinic where she was born at the end of April 2004. She's probably about 2 days old in this, and is already well on her way to the full-blown jaundice attack that got her put in a sort of incubator thing under a whacky blue light for a day or so. And of course, I only had yellow clothes...
It's hard to imagine that she's actually pretty pale-skinned (though not aspirin-white like I am).
She was born at 36 weeks, 5 days and weighed a mighty 2.4 kg (a whole 200 g more than her big sister) for 45 cm. A shrimp, in other words. But a pretty healthy one (again, compared to her sister who had hypoglycaemia, wouldn't eat, didn't gain weight...).
True to form, she slept all day and was awake all night (her sleeping patterns have always shall I put this?...erratic), didn't like milk (of any kind) and cried and vomited a lot. She's often been incredibly difficult (about eating, about sleeping, about just about anything in fact) but can also be perfectly adorable, the cutest little pumpkin you ever did see. She's now 4 and 3/4 (as of today, 27 Jan!), tall and skinny, bright as a button and feisty as hell. And I love her to bits.
Now, on to the tagging:
First off, my dear bloggy friend, Cha Cha; then, Betsy who's moving to France (welcome!); then, the Jenn (check out her recipe blog, too, it's great) and, finally, Busted, who probably needs to be tagged to help her fill in her days! Can't wait to see your photos, guys!

mercredi 21 janvier 2009

History in the making

I guess I'm supposed to write something deep and profound about what a momentous day in history this was or whatever. But, pleased as I am that Barack Obama is now the President of the USA (and yes, really, I am extraordinarily pleased), I have to confess to not seeing any of his inauguration. It was at an awkward time here to watch live, I was getting the girls their supper when the first news programme we sometimes watch came on and I fell asleep on the sofa in the late evening, thus missing the last news bulletin. And when I woke up, it was back to the horrors of Gaza as usual.

So, I guess I fucked that up good and proper.

One thing though - I do wish the media would stop going on about him being black all the time. They seem to show mainly black people clapping and crying with joy, they essentially interview "African-American" families. I, personally, find that horribly reductionist. (Is that a word?)

Barack Obama isn't just "the first black president". At least I hope not. I hope that the American public voted for him for more than just the colour of his skin. He's an intelligent man, he has the qualities necessary to be a good president (though the job is going to be tough, thanks to a certain GWBush). He's not just a symbol of racial harmony.

He's the President of the USA. That's what he is. He's no more "the black president" than Dubya was "the white president". I'm not denying that his election was momentous in racial terms - it most certainly was, and I can't imagine when there'll ever be a black, or Arab, president here in France - but he is, most definitely, more than just the colour of his skin.

For one thing, he's pretty damn sexy for an "older man"...

Congratulations to Mr Obama, may his presidency be as full of hope, peace and change as everyone is dreaming.
May his time in the White House be a time of happiness and prosperity for us all (I'm finding this hard to imagine, I have to admit).

lundi 12 janvier 2009

Where to start?

Wow. Since I dropped off the NaBloPoMo radar at the end of December, I've really let this blog dwindle to nothing...
Which is totally crap given that we had a hectic weekend (C's 7th birthday party with her school friends! Meaning 9 rampaging little girls for a verrrrry long 2-hour bash in our flat! Meaning hours of tidying up and preparation! Also meaning baking 2 more birthday cakes! And oh, the fatigue once it was all over!).
But well.
It's late (though that's hardly a scoop, is it?), and I still have a shitload of work to do (and I won't have much time tomorrow - want to hit the sales again in the morning, then I'm in a meeting all afternoon for the school newspaper), and I haven't made porridge for weeeeeeks now and I'm in withdrawal.
So, instead, I'm letting you all in on this: Delurking Day! Now yes, I know, there are probably thousands of you checking out my fascinating blog on a daily basis (daily? Who'm I kidding? HOURLY basis) without ever leaving a comment... BUT TODAY IS DIFFERENT. This is your chance, people, to make my little lonely heart light up with delight...
So come on down, say hello!

Where to start?

vendredi 9 janvier 2009

Over the top

Maybe I was a little over-dramatic in my last post... I'm not in such a funk today, partly because the tidying up is actually starting to show signs of success, partly because I'm just in a better frame of mind. And D and I have been getting on pretty much fine in the last few days. And the story about him I mentioned the other day happened in 1998 and hasn't been repeated. He's a great father, a kind and considerate man. He's generous and funny. And I'm pretty sure I'm no picnic to live with either.

Moving on, then.

A commenter asked why people (meaning me, I guess) are so willing to put such private information on the net for complete strangers to read... It's a tough question. I spent a long time reading blogs (many, many blogs) before I started writing one. Firstly because I never really thought I'd have that much to say, but mainly because if D found out (or read what I write), I suspect we'd end up having the mother of all rows. You see, D is one of the most profoundly suspicious people I've ever met - he's all about giving out minimal amounts of information, using codes, false names (not for anything serious, just for ordinary stuff like restaurant reservations or what have you)... If he read some of the private, personal stuff I've written on here (about me, a tiny bit about him (though what a story to blast over the web!), a lot about his mother...), even though it's pretty anonymous, he'd have a fit. A real fit. He might never talk to me again.

But it's not some suicidal mission of mine to do this. It's loneliness.

I've lived in France since July 1992. Over the years, I've made friends, lost contact with friends, made new ones. I have some very good friends here. But they're not J and M, my two best friends, both back in England and whom I've known since I was 18 (more than half my life...). I miss them more than anything else about Britain (OK, them and Cadbury's chocolate, particularly Crunchie). I miss the hysterical laughter that bubbles out whenever we talk. I miss our shared youth. I miss our common memories, legends, myths. I miss our shared traumas, dramas and sadness.

We hardly ever see each other, rarely e-mail, almost never phone. But we celebrate each others' birthdays, we celebrate those of our kids. I am the godmother to J's daughter, she is godmother to L, and M is godmother to C. Our lives are linked, we are a group. Friends.

And I have no one like that here. Absolutely no one.

So, I keep a written diary (written by hand, with a pen, like the old-fashioned girl that I am), but I'm always wary of other people reading it. And now I have this blog. It's my outlet, it's where I bare my soul, get what's bothering me off my chest.

And the fact that it's strangers who read what I write (albeit very few strangers - I got three comments to my last post and was elated!) is comforting in its own way. What I have to say is often deeply embarrassing (to me, at least), or the kind of thing liable to make me cry (I cry pathetically easily), and that's not easy to accept when you're face-to-face with someone you know well.

When I write here, you can't see if I'm crying (I'm not tonight, but I was for certain posts), I won't feel embarrassed bumping into you because I almost certainly never WILL bump into you, I'm anonymous, lost in a crowd. It's not for nothing that I'm a city girl (who grew up in all manner of God-forsaken villages and swore she'd get out) - it's in cities that you can be the most anonymous. That said, Montpellier is a small city, so maybe I'm not so anonymous here after all.

I've often flirted with depression. I went through "bad spells" in my younger days, and probably went through another bout after my first daughter died. I may even still be suffering - I don't know, as I never go to the doctor, never really talk about my feelings with anyone (hence D's accusations, I guess). But I'm basically OK. And reasonably content with my life. Not fully, of course - lots of wasted opportunities, lots of poor decision-making, lots of spinelessness - but reasonably.

Forgive me if I let myself go on occasion - sometimes, you guys are all I've got for this kind of thing. I'll try to lighten up from time to time (I can be fun sometimes, too!)...

mardi 6 janvier 2009

Not quite as planned

But new years never are, are they?

I always, somewhat naively, assume that the start of a new year is going to make me change some, if not all, of my many bad habits. That things will change around me, that I'll suddenly find the happiness I've always seen as being strangely elusive.

But of course it's not true.

The weather - by south of France standards - is crap, I've been up late every night, up late every morning (except today, as it was back-to-school day so I had to get up for that, but of course I was back in bed by 9.30), I've gone back to my eating too much junk all night (chocolate porridge yesterday, crisps and cake tonight) and I feel lousy.

To cap it all, D and I have now had 2 very disturbing conversations - one yesterday, in which he went back to one of his favourite themes: my "lacking something". He claims it's because I'm "the most truly atheist person he's ever met", but then completed that with insinuations that I have no imagination, lack emotion, lack feeling... That I'm a fucking robot, in other words. I was really angry (though we've had this conversation many times before, usually with me ending in tears), but held back from crying and held back from making all the criticisms of him I could make (and there are many - the main one being his total incapacity to hold down any kind of money-earning activity). Bastard.

Then we had another conversation this evening, starting with C's upcoming birthday party. One of the little girls coming has a name I hate. I told D that this girl's mother had confirmed her daughter was coming and he said how he really liked the name. I then said "yes, it's great, if you're into Eastern European hookers or something", which in turn got him on to the subject of one of the times (in our first couple of years together) he was unfaithful to me. And how! It was 1998 and we were on holiday in Bulgaria. He (in my company) got talking to a group of Ukrainian women (all sluts, is my guess, but I could be wrong) and then basically told me to bugger off back to our hotel on my own. He spent the night (so he told me) with one of them (the one with the same name as the girl C has invited), came back, vaguely apologised and then, later on, laid into me for spoiling the holiday and being a bitch. I know I was spineless and pathetic and should have told him to go shove it, but I was getting desperate for a baby, had never met anyone who wanted to stay with me (what's wrong with me?!) and was terrified, at nearly 30, of never getting a chance again. So I took it on the chin and "forgave" him. Except of course I've never really forgiven him for humiliating and insulting me like that. And that means that nearly every time we argue, this hideous incident rears its ugly head.

Yeah, I have a pretty fucked up relationship with D. Sometimes I really don't think he knows me (or cares) at all. And I'm pretty sure he only stays with me because I'm the breadwinner (and always have been). And I only stay with him because I'm more or less sure I'll never find anyone else. Hardly healthy, I admit.

That said, we do seem to get along pretty well, and don't actually fight that often, despite the fact that we spend most of our time together (both working from home (though he doesn't actually work very much)). Maybe I'm just being blind, stupid and naive. But it's all I've got right now. And we have our sweet girls to think of, too.

But those two conversations have really shaken me up, thrown me down and left me in a total funk. It's nearly 3 am and I'm cold as hell, but I'm too wound up to sleep.

And, final nail in the coffin of this new year, money worries continue - many clients are just not paying me what they owe, I'm overdrawn in both my private and professional accounts and, because I'm in a funk, all I can think of is BURNING PLASTIC. Especially as the sales start here on Wednesday.

What a crap start to 2009!

I hope your new year is going better (and that mine improves!).

samedi 3 janvier 2009

Plus ça change...

So, here we are at the end of the second day of the new year already...

It's a good job I didn't really make any resolutions, as all the things that would probably have been on the list have already gone down the toilet...

Viz: it's 2.44 am, I'm not in bed, I'm still working, I got up at midday today and I am, as I type, eating my way through a pack of sweets I don't really like just because they're there. I've done nothing even remotely resembling exercise (and am unlikely to do anthing about that till my Tai chi class starts up again on Thursday) and have eaten vast amounts of food over the holidays.

Oh, and I've been pretty snarky and impatient with the girls on occasion, too.

"Wife"* and Mother of the Year and it's only 3 January.

Don't know how I do it, I really don't.

But tomorrow we're going to Mare Nostrum, Montpellier's funky new aquarium (complete with simulated boat-in-a-storm, plus real sharks and penguins!), and on Sunday friends (one of whom is the girls' godfather) are coming round to celebrate C's birthday a week late because they've been away. So I'm not down in the dumps or anything, just somewhat disgusted that I can't even take advantage of the new year to change my stupid ways.

Oh, and the text I'm translating right now is so hard, so dull and so obscure (something to do with safety testing in a nuclear power plant, but I'll be damned if I've understood any more than that) that I just want to send it back to my client and say "sorry, I can't be arsed to do this one, hope you find someone else to translate your 12,000 words by 7 January!", even though I know I won't do that and will stay up till dawn trying to finish the damn thing.

It also looks like the new year hasn't brought an end to my hopelessly long and complex sentences either!

Anyway, I hope your 2009 has got off to a rocking good start and that it continues in the same fashion till 31 December!

* Of course, D and I aren't married, though we've been "together" (including during a very rough first year) since April 1996, which is so long it's kind of scary. Especially when you compute in what my "love life" was like before that (a scarce few, mostly depressing, one-night-stands, lots of unrequited love), but that's a whole different story!

jeudi 1 janvier 2009

The moment you've all been waiting for...

No, not midnight on 31 December... the answers to Linda's questionnaire, of course! Too late to be included in her list of links, too, but hey, I like to be fashionably (cough, cough) late... Which is actually a total lie, I'm much more likely to arrive hopelessly early but well. Where was I?

As yes. The questionnaire. Here we go:

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Started writing a blog instead of just reading other people's

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Never really make any serious resolutions because I seem to be pathologically devoid of any self-discipline

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not really close, but yes, I know a few people who had babies this year

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not really, but people I know (and have known all my life) died unexpectedly, it's just that they weren't particularly close to me

5. What countries did you visit?
England, Italy, Portugal

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Less money worries

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August, when we went to Italy, September, when my daughters started at their new school, mid-October (my first business trip away from my daughters for longer than just 24 hours)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Taking up a physical activity (Tai Chi)

9. What was your biggest failure?
Putting on so much weight from eating so much crap

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not really (thankfully)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new camera (FujiFilm FinePix A900) because despite being cheap, it helps me take pretty good pictures, plus also does videos with sound

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
C and L, my daughters, who've been better behaved than last year

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My MIL on occasion (not all the time, I swear)

14. Where did most of your money go?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Lake Como - so beautiful!

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Rihanna's Please don't stop the music, C's first ever favourite pop song (played endlessly, even now, one year later)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder?b) thinner or fatter?c) richer or poorer?
a) About the same,
b) Fatter (unfortunately),
c) About the same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eating crap

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Quietly at home, D with chronic back ache, L with chicken pox, but it was quite good all the same

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Don't really watch TV

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?
Jodi Picoult, "Nineteen minutes" - funny and moving

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I think I'm too old for this question!

26. What did you want and get?
The new Largo Winch episode (sorry, the link's in French as there's no English version of this French "comic book" series starring the delectable Largo)

27. What did you want and not get?
Body Shop eau de toilette, Nigella Lawson cook book

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Madagascar 2

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
We had a picnic tea in a nearby park with friends. I turned 39

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not having to worry about money all the time

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
I think I look pretty cool but no one else sees it that way

32. What kept you sane?
Blogging, writing my diary and my fantasies

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Johnny Depp, always and ever

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Obama's election (even if I'm not American)

35. Who did you miss?
My friends, J and M in England

36. Who was the best new person you met?
One of the mothers in the PTA at the girls' new school

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
I'm getting older (and old, as far as most people are concerned) and should try and embrace it rather than just freak out

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Can't quite remember the lyrics, but probably most of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls just wanna have fun"

Oh, and I would just like to take this opportunity to give myself a huge pat on the back for SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETING THE DECEMBER NABLOPOMO CHALLENGE. Yeah me!

Happy 2009!

OK, I know none of you got any sleep last night in anticipation of my answers to Linda's questionnaire, but I'm sorry. It's now technically 2009 here in the south of France (2.35 am to be precise), and I've just finished watching the fabulous "Mamma Mia!" (if you haven't seen it, GO SEE IT!) and I'm too dead beat to start getting serious about what I did or didn't do in 2008. So that might be for tomorrow instead (but you WILL get those answers, I promise!).

Just so that those of you who spent NYE alone under a mountain of Minnesotan snow (or whatever) don't feel left out of all the fun and games going on everywhere - D and I toasted in the New Year with (wait for it - and remember, I'm a total WILD CHILD)... suspense, suspense... CUPS OF TEA and a shitload of chocolate. Hardly the stuff dreams are made of, but hey, I quite enjoyed it! Though I do feel kind of sick right now from too many After Eights.

So I'm off to my bed to dream about romance on a Greek island* (as if), and wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009!

Happy New Year!

* It has to be said, Pierce Brosnan may be old enough to be my father (good to know there are still people that fit THAT category), but he's remarkably sexy!