Rechercher dans ce blog

dimanche 31 juillet 2011

Virtual friends

The Internet has been, almost literally, a lifesaver for me. I first started "surfing" way back in 1998 and have to admit to being rather disappointed. There was no Google, the search engines in existence back then were slow and incomplete, there were very few "services" available.

Gradually, of course, the Internet has taken over my life. I'm totally addicted. As someone who is, most likely, profoundly anti-social, it has allowed me to become a virtual recluse. If I can avoid going out of the house, I do, and the Internet makes that so much easier. I can buy just about anything I want or need on line, I get my food shopping delivered and almost all my work is conducted via e-mail (I've never met most of my clients; in fact, there are a number I've never even spoken to on the phone).

Since D left me 15 months ago, the online community has been my support system. First, through my real life best friends, the ones in Britain and the US, people I've known since I was 18... I'm not a phone person (I'm sure that doesn't come as any kind of surprise) and e-mail and Facebook have allowed me to keep in touch with these great friends. Their support in those dark, initial days was what kept me going.

And then there are the "virtuals" - people whose work I have read for many years, people who seem to think the way I do, people I like to think I could be friends with in real life if geography were not such an obstacle. I read a great many blogs (though not as much as I used to - Facebook and Twitter have snapped up a lot of minutes in my day!), comment from time to time and take great pleasure in the writing of these people.

To my utter amazement, several of these "big name" bloggers have commented on my blog, or via Twitter, or e-mail and have provided me with support and advice and encouragement, above and beyond the call of duty given that they've never met me. This kind of support touches me in ways you would not believe. Receiving e-mails from people who are, to me, the blogging community's A-listers boosts me, makes me realise that maybe I'm not as worthless and insignificant as I've been led to believe. It bolsters my fragile ego to think of these wonderful writers reading my drivel, putting up with all my ranting, hearing my voice.

So, down to the nitty-gritty. I'm starting to sense that there might, indeed, be light at the end of this tunnel. Yes, I'm still hopelessly broke, despairingly single, heartbreakingly lonely... but I don't actually think I'm unhappy any more. I know I'm stronger than I was, I know I can face just about anything now. I'm getting there.

And it's thanks to you. All of you. I know in most cases we've never met, but I sincerely hope to make it to BlogHer one day and, when I do, I would love to thank each and every one of you, individually, face-to-face, drink in hand, for being here for me in these dark, dark days.

The Internet has saved my life and has given me hope. There's still a long way to go, but I truly feel that I'm on the right road at last.

My "circle of Internet friends" may be virtual, and I may attach more importance to it than I should, but seriously, guys. Thank you. Truly, truly thank you. You guys are the best.

samedi 30 juillet 2011


Is it really nearly midnight already? This day just... sort of... didn't really happen for me today. I went to bed too late, got up too late, made lunch, faffed, napped, did a little shopping and then watched crap on TV. And now it's nearly midnight.


It's amazing how much you can non-achieve when you set your mind to it. I haven't been bored all day, I haven't done anything either.

This must be what "holiday" means!


Can it really be?

Can it really be that I've had a second FUN-DAY this week? Really? Me, the eternal whinger and whiner? Good lord, what's happening to me?!

Seriously, today was nice. Of course, I got very little sleep last night, but I didn't let that bother me till we were home and I could pass out on the sofa once the girls were in bed.

We got to the station at about 10, picked up our pre-paid tickets, bought a couple of drinks and waited for the train. It arrived more or less on time, we set off and trundled through the pretty landscapes of Frontignan, Sète, Agde and all points in between before arriving in Béziers at 11.10. M and his daughter E arrived not long after and we set off back to their rented house in Cruzy.

What a beautiful place! Their house is outside the village (or appears to be - you can't see anything resembling a village anywhere near it) and has an amazing view over vineyards and the Canal du Midi. The house itself if small but lovely, very homely and comfortable, and the pool/deck area is stunning.

The children spent most of the day in the pool - before lunch for over an hour, then after lunch and an obligatory "it's-too-hot-you've-just-eaten-go-play-with-Lego" break, for another 3 hours or so in the afternoon. They had so much fun!

And my sweet little L, she who refuses to take swimming lessons, TAUGHT HERSELF TO SWIM! By the time we left, she was leaping in, doing widths underwater, doing handstands... I'm sooooo proud of her! And so, so happy that my girls get along so well with W and E.

Truly, today was idyllic!

We caught the train at 6.45, arrived in Montpellier at 7.30 and had McDonald's for dinner (is there no end to the gloriousness of this day?!). We came home and, after the girls had showered and tooth-brushed, we then played 2 games of Uno in a wholly good-humoured atmosphere: no fighting, no sulking, no poor losing (despite the fact they were both exhausted).

As I said, an idyllic day. I can't thank J and her husband enough for coming here this summer. I know they're having a great time, so it's obviously no chore for them, but them being here, being so sane, so normal, so familiar, has been wonderful for the girls and has made me feel human again for the first time in months. I miss them enormously and would love to have the means to go and see them more often, but as that's not a possibility, this, this amazing year of a trip to their place in late October followed by them coming here in late July is pretty much perfect.

I actually feel happy for the first time since I can remember. Yes, I'm tired and I'm still worried about money. Yes, the imminent "discussion" with D about "the girls' future" is still kind of freaking me out, and I'm stressing about arrangements for next week (I have to try and fit two more days with J and 2 days with a friend in the Cévennes, both currently scheduled for more or less the same days) but I'm still feeling that it's all manageable, doable, within my range. Because I feel happy.

Feeling happy is such a novelty for me right now, I'm positively wallowing in it!

And, of course, I am technically on holiday myself right now (not officially till Monday, but no work will come in this weekend so...). Yes, I still have invoices to do/send, and student work to mark, but... I AM ON HOLIDAY!

I think August is going to be a good month!

jeudi 28 juillet 2011


Why can't I just be allowed to enjoy the (very brief) presence of one of my best friends in the world? Is that really so very much to ask?

Why do I have to have an ex who manages to screw up all my plans (or as many as he can) and make me feel like shit?

You guessed it: my ex phoned today. And he had a rather strange request. He asked me to set up a meeting - "an hour or two, though two would be best" - between my friend J and her husband, him and me, so we can talk "about the girls' future". He claims that I'll "most likely agree with what he has to say", but I can't help but think he's up to something. And freaking the shit out of me.

You have to remember (even though I don't think I've ever mentioned this here before) that he actually phoned J before he walked out on me and TOLD HER, putting her in a horrible, horrible position. Luckily (if that's the right word) he did the deed a very short amount of time later, but still.

I just can't understand him any more (if I ever have, in fact). This is one of my best friends, and I rarely see her - usually no more than 3 or 4 days a year. By some kind of miracle, this year I might actually see her a couple of days more thanks to this holiday. And he wants to come and ruin it by forcing us into some weird, deep, religious (I'm guessing) discussion about how to bring the girls up.

I'm freaking out, possibly unnecessarily, and I'm angry and seriously pissed off.

The fact that the girls were uncooperative today and screwed up my plans to get things done didn't help.

We're off to see J and her family tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to it, but I'm not looking forward to bringing this strange request from D up, and I'm looking forward even less to whatever arrangement we come to with D to meet up for this "hour or two".

Why does he interfere in my life in this way?


mercredi 27 juillet 2011


Today was, quite simply, a fun-day. Seriously. All of it, from start to finish.

I woke up at a ridiculously early time (having gone to bed somewhere not far from dawn) and was TOO EXCITED to go back to sleep. This, from someone capable of sleeping more or less round the clock when excitement levels go sub-zero.

I eventually got up, leaving C still sleeping in my bed (I'd found her there when I went to bed, and her flailing arms and legs were another reason for my sleeplessness. Yet another being a large, furry feline who sandwiched me between him and C, making me feel like I was in a sauna. A fluffy, flailing sauna) and found L already up and glued to the TV as usual.

We got ready and headed out, on foot, to the station. We arrived just in time to see them emerge on to the main concourse - my dearest friend, J, her husband M, and their two children, W and E.

There was squealing with joy! And more excitement! And so. many. things. to say, all at once, right away.


The day was a touristy bliss. Lunch at a pasta place (not very "typical" of Montpellier, but quite typical of our lives in Montpellier), a wander around the old town, a couple of hours of tea and Lego at our place, a stroll around the beautiful Botanical Gardens, a tram ride, an icecream and then the promise of a return visit either tomorrow or Friday.

It was leisurely, unstressed, unstressful, good-humoured and - dare I say it? - FUN! All four of them seemed to like Montpellier, and I tried to show them the nicest bits. The weather was a little uncooperative (it RAINED. AGAIN) but nice enough when we needed it. Oh, how I miss these wonderful people! And oh, how happy I am that my girls get on so well with W and E (they're all perfectly spaced: right now, they are aged 7 (L), 8 (E), 9 (C) and 10 (W)).

I've already said this people, but I'm going to say it again: today was a FUN day! The girls are, of course, exhausted, so I decided it would be best for us to go to them (45 mins by train, then 20 by car each way) on Friday rather than tomorrow. Also, the weather might well be better and I'll have time to do a few things here first.

And I'm already excited about it! It will be another fun day, I'm sure of it. Also, the last day of "work" for me (and THAT is why I like working from home - such fluidity in the concept of "work day" and "holi-day"), so obviously a great way to start the my real holiday!

Fun in the sun, indeed.


They didn't set out till almost 1 pm (they were over 700 km away). The road was long, the weather was bad (as it has been much of July in most of France).

But. But, oh but.

Just after 11 pm, whilst I was in the middle of a rather epic slanging match on the phone with my ex-MIL (I told her a few choice stories about her precious son that she had never heard before; I think I succeeded (at least a little) in understanding what a fucking SAINT I was with her son for longer than she realised):


My babies, my sweet baby girls, home, safe and sound, looking so tall and grown up.

Holding them in my arms, covering them with kisses, listening to the stories they tell of their 8 days away, listening to them 'ooh' and 'aah' over all the tidying up I managed to get done (they're easily impressed, clearly).

A sigh of relief, a feeling of well-being, a sense that summer might - just might - be about to start for me, now.

Way back when I said I wished it were 26 July already. Well, it's now, technically, 27 July. And I'll be "on holiday" on Friday night, till 16 August.

Let the good times roll!

mardi 26 juillet 2011


If all goes to plan, the girls will be home in less (much less, hopefully) than 24 hours. I can't wait. I can't wait to hold them, kiss them, hear their voices, even hear them whine about something (though that latter part will probably not last very long).

I got some stuff done today, too. Not much, admittedly, but some all the same. I threw out 7 huge bags of rubbish - a huge chunk of it was recycling rubbish that's been piling up in the kitchen for weeks because the recycling bin is rarely out and, when it is, always full - and tidied up a fair amount of the sitting room. To me, it looks pretty tidy; there are still a few things to do, and I need to vacuum like crazy, but it's basically done. The only problem is the fact that to the untrained eye, the place still looks like a tip because there's still so much else to do. And I won't get a huge amount done "tomorrow" as it's already 5 am. But well. Baby steps, as they say, baby steps.

On the down side, though, is my uncontrollable tears this evening as I watched "Belle toute nue" on M6 (can't believe I actually watch this kind of crap now). It's a programme that gets a very camp stylist guy to help two women come to terms with their bodies by relooking them. Oh boy. The things the two women were saying could have come from my own mouth:

- can't bear to look at myself in a mirror;
- hate my stomach/hips/bust;
- never want to be seen in a swimsuit;
- don't feel attractive;
- can't be bothered to make any effort because I'm so convinced that I'm not attractive;
- etc.

I was crying before the end of the first "make-over", sobbing by the end of the second one.

I'm not (I don't think) as "curvaceous" as either of the women, mainly because I'm taller. But I am undoubtedly overweight, muffin-topping and repulsed by my stomach/hips/thighs. I don't make much effort any more because I'm chronically single, likely to remain so and virtually a recluse.

I know it's up to me to make the effort, to get out there and meet people (easier said than done: I'm utterly broke, remember?), reclaim my life. But I don't have the courage, I don't have the guts for that kind of thing.

And oh, how I hate being alone! How I long to feel a man's arms around me, holding me tight, whispering into my ear that I'm beautiful, that everything will be OK, that everything really will be OK.

But it ain't happ'nin' people, not at all.

lundi 25 juillet 2011


I'm so excited! In just a few days, I'll be able to see one of my very best friends! Yeah!

J and her husband and their two children are renting a house with a pool sort of near here (about 40 minutes away). They left their home in the south of England yesterday, spent the night somewhere in northern France and drove down today. I got an SMS from them this evening to say they've arrived safely.

J is going to phone tomorrow morning and we'll sort out when we can meet up, though most likely the four of them will come to Montpellier by train on Wednesday, the day after the girls get home. They can't stay with us, unfortunately, because their son is horribly, horribly allergic to cats. But they'll be spending the day here, and then we'll go over to them and oh, I'm just so excited!

I miss J and M so much; seeing them is such a treat - and I've been looking forward to this since last October, when J first started telling me about their plans to come down to this part of France for a change.

I can't wait for Wednesday!

samedi 23 juillet 2011


I was never a huge fan of Amy Winehouse as a singer - those who praised her "unique" gift and talent struck me as people who had forgotten that Dusty Springfield ever existed. There was, in my mind, nothing particularly original about Amy Winehouse's voice (in fact, for a long time, I believed that I'd never heard her sing because I thought her earliest hits, like Rehab, were actually by someone of the Dusty-ilk). But I can't deny that she brought a certain type of voice back to the forefront of attention, and that that certain type of voice is one that I like (big fan of Dusty, me).

Even more difficult for me to adhere to was the person. Her evident lack of guidance, her lack of self-control and her compulsive behaviour all seemed unreal. Countless stints in rehab (of course) had no effect. She was, as so many people so frequently pointed out, a total trainwreck of a person for many years and I can't believe it comes as a surprise to anyone that she was found dead this afternoon in her flat in London. Officially, her death (so far) remains "unexplained" but I shouldn't think the actual cause will come as any surprise. I'm sure drugs and/or alcohol were involved.

She was 27 years old, and already she's been linked in to the "Forever 27" group of artists who died at that age (Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrisson, Brian Jones...). It is undoubtedly sad - tragic, even - for a young women to die. And you don't have to be a fan of an artist to feel sadness at such news and sympathy for those who loved her.

I've been on my own now for 5 days. I'm not under any kind of spotlight, I'm not being pressured by agents or publicists or record labels or hangers-on or journalists or what have you. I'm not a slave to a musical talent (of any kind, believe me) that pushes me to create, to perform. I'm not addicted to drugs or alcohol.

And yet, during these 5 days, I've realised how very hard it can be to exert self-discipline. I have achieved absolutely nothing. I haven't left the house since Tuesday afternoon. I've been going to bed at dawn, getting up in the afternoon, watching all kinds of crap on TV, eating little. I've done the bare minimum in terms of work, almost nothing in terms of cleaning or tidying. And I can't seem to pull myself out of it, pull myself together, get my arse in gear. I just can't do it.

It's easy to blame someone like Amy Winehouse for her outrageously self-destructive behaviour. "Why couldn't she just stop drinking?" is easy to say. Rehab may have helped temporarily, but she was clearly surrounded by temptation (including - at least at a certain period of her life - her dreadful ex-husband), she was just as clearly under pressure and even more clearly not receiving the help and support she needed.

Her death may have seemed inevitable for a while now. And perhaps it was. But there are almost certainly a not insignificant number of people out there who should be feeling pretty damn guilty. People who pushed her down the wrong paths, who didn't provide her with the support she needed. People who are, to varying degrees, responsible for the death of a young woman who should have been entering the prime of her life.

I am no particular Amy Winehouse fan, but her death saddens me because it is, undoubtedly, a huge waste. A waste of a life, a future.

RIP Amy.

vendredi 22 juillet 2011


I know there are few things more tedious than having to listen to someone banging on about the amazing dream they had the night before.

I know that.

But I'm going to do it anyway, because it's so rare that I actually remember anything at all (nowadays - I used to have vivid and unbelievably memorable dreams when I was younger). Plus, it's short, rather odd and quite funny. Oh, and it wasn't wholly disagreeable, either.

Last night I dreamt that this man

(taken from

and I were in bed together. And it felt really, really nice. It felt right, normal and just... mmmmmm. You know?

Even more weird was the fact that it wasn't this man as he was in the picture above (yummy as he was), but as he actually is now (obviously much older, but still not without a certain charm):
Lloyd Cole

(taken from

If you have no idea who this is, let me enlighten you: it's the amazing Lloyd Cole, one of the pin-ups of my youth and the genius behind such marvels as Lost Weekend, Perfect Skin, Are you ready to be heartbroken? and many, many more.

Oh, how I have listened to the album Rattlesnakes! I know all the songs by heart and I just adore his voice, his simplicity, his openness, his normalness (I know, that's not a word. So bite me).

I have no idea why I dreamed I was in bed with him (and why it seemed such a natural turn of events). I haven't even listened to my CDs of his recently (yes, I still listen to CDs because I don't have an iPod or anything even remotely resembling one). Though I might have to tonight...

I do remember being devastated that my abject poverty prevented me from going to see him in concert in Lyon back in 1993 (depressingly, I am currently just as abjectly poor and incapable of contemplating a concert ticket, but at least Lloyd Cole isn't touring here right now so I don't think I'm missing much of anything at that level).

Dreams are strange. I can understand that I would dream about being in bed with a man: at best, right now I share my bed with my cat and, until the girls get back, two of the soft toys they left behind (Eeyore and a stuffed cat). And there hasn't been a man there (a real, live man) since April 2010 (holy shit). So yeah, a dream about a man, for sure.

But Lloyd Cole? Why? I mean, I'm not complaining - he would do very nicely, in fact. But it is rather strange.

The only downer in this whole thing (apart from the obvious fact that IT DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAPPEN FOR REAL) is that I woke up before anything truly interesting happened. We were just lying there, staring at each other with desire, about to make that all-important first move and BAM! I woke up.


(Oh, and Lloyd, if you ever read this? You'll always be welcome round here! Just call me!)

jeudi 21 juillet 2011


I don't know where I go wrong. I'm not an extravagant person, I don't have expensive habits (hairdresser once every 6 months maximum, and 18 months most recently, no beauty salons, no nail salons, no expensive clothes or shoes, no nights out, no restaurants... you get my drift) and I'm not - contrary to what D once accused me of - a gambler.


Here I am, once again, so overdrawn and broke and freaked out that I don't know what to do. I work hard, I pay my bills, I do my best to find bargains, to not overspend. But it doesn't work. And I don't have a clue what to do about it.

Right now, checks are bouncing, direct debits are being refused and I'm up shit's creek. People owe me money, for sure (54 hours' teaching from September to December 2010 supposedly paid in March will only be paid at the end of this month (if I'm lucky), the remaining 76 hours, for teaching from January to April, supposedly paid at the end of this month will now only be paid in September/October, the whole adding up to about €4,500, plus a few clients here and there, but nothing major), but it always feels so hand-to-mouth. I have no savings, no "equity" (apart from my flat, but I don't even own that outright at the moment - still another 6.5 years to go), just loans, debts and obligations.

I find the whole thing unbelievably depressing. I can't afford to go anywhere, do anything. Checking my bank account on line every morning is an ordeal and an exercise in damage control, transferring sums from my private account to my professional account (or the opposite) just to avoid more bank charges.

There isn't much more I can cut from my life - I can't take the girls out of their school and where else does the money go? Taxes, social contributions, loan repayments, bills, food shopping...

I try to be positive, to believe in myself and my ability to pull myself out of this hole, but I'm 42, I'm still not solvent, I'm alone, I work a lot and earn nothing, I have no savings so my "retirement" will be a nightmare, I have no social life and couldn't afford one even if it were possible.

Where did I go so badly wrong? And what the fuck can I do about it?

mercredi 20 juillet 2011


Yup, that's what I achieved today. Nothing. A big, fat nothing.

I stayed up listening to music till a-time-I'm-not-willing-to-admit-to last "night", got up at 11 this morning when my shopping arrived, faffed about on the internet for a little while, went back to bed, got up at 4.30 pm (soooo embarrassed), had some junk food, watched crap on TV AND THAT IS IT.

So much for my "big plans" this week...

Seriously, I have to pull myself together, get to bed at a reasonable time tonight and actually get some stuff done. I have student translations to correct, invoices to do and the FLAT, OMG, the FLAT to tidy/clean.

Oh, and I guess I should leave the house on occasion, too.


I'm so badly equipped for living alone. If this were to become permanent, I'd probably turn into a total hermit. You know, the kind of person that lies dead in their home for 6 weeks before anyone even notices...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not wallowing in self-pity or sadness. I'm not crying or even feeling miserable. I've just been taken over by an all-engulfing tsunami of inertia.

Must. Pull. Myself. Together.

mardi 19 juillet 2011


He said he'd be here between 9 and 10 this morning, but he actually arrived at 11.15, by which time the girls (who'd been ready since 9.45) were a frenzied mess of anticipation and impatience. They left at 11.30 and arrived at their destination around 9 pm.

They'll be eating their supper right now, and then they'll take their pyjamas from their little red suitcases and, hopefully, find the surprises I packed without them knowing: a postcard telling them how much I love them, a magazine to read during rainy afternoons (of which there are set to be many, if the weather forecasts are to be believed).

I've achieved nothing today because I screwed up yesterday and forgot to post my quarterly VAT bill, meaning I had to trek right out of town to deliver it by hand so as not to face penalty charges this afternoon. But tomorrow will be better.

I'm just relieved they've arrived safe and sound.

I miss them so much already.

lundi 18 juillet 2011


The suitcases are packed, the postcards from me (to be found at bedtime, to remind them of me) have been written and hidden under the pyjamas, the picnic is ready in the fridge. Tomorrow morning, D will turn up, supposedly "between 9 and 10" (ha!) and take my girls, my sweet, sweet girls away from here, far away, all the way to the Loire Valley for a whole week.

My heart aches and tears well up in my eyes way too easily.

We fight all the time, they're bored at home and so far July-with-Maman has been pretty crap, so I totally understand why they're so excited. And I know, once I've been reassured that they've arrived safely and that my god-awful MIL hasn't done anything ridiculous, that I will probably have a pretty good week. But it's still hard. It still tears me apart, this not-going-on-holiday-together thing. I can't bear to think of them so far away.

That said, I do have great plans for this week (they'll be home next Tuesday night). Admittedly, these plans seem to focus heavily on watching-crap-on-TV and eating-crap and sleeping, but plans are plans, after all. I also have work to do and a shitload of tidying, sorting, throwing out, cleaning and rearranging. I will have to force myself to leave the house (I realised this afternoon, when I was out running a few errands, that I hadn't actually left the house since Wednesday...), but I fully intend to make the most of this week.

I'm quite looking forward to being able to get things done without feeling guilty, to being able to listen to whatever music I like, watch whatever I like... I have plans, and I hope to make the most of this time.

But that doesn't mean I don't hate it, hate that it has to be like this, hate that holidays will always be like this from now on.

And nothing will ever stop me having minor panic attacks about the safety of my girls - it's a long drive, bad weather is planned and, whilst D is a good and responsible driver, you can't always guarantee that others are, and that freaks me out.

I won't rest tomorrow till I know they've arrived, then next Tuesday will be the same, until they get home.

I know this is utterly pathetic, that millions of kids go on holiday without their parents every year, but it's not just that they're going on holiday without me. It's the why and how of it all, the pain that I'm still feeling, the anger I'm still feeling towards D and his behaviour, the hatred of my crappy life.

dimanche 17 juillet 2011

Not proud

I'm not proud of how I'm feeling right now. Not at all. But I can't help it. I'm feeling angry and hurt and, most of all, damn fucking jealous - and I'm not a jealous person by nature.

I'm jealous because D had a fucking birthday party - a real party, with guests and food and drink and music and staying-up-late (3 am!). HE had a real fucking birthday party, whilst I had nothing, just a slice of fruit tart mid-afternoon with the girls and my ex. Hardly what you'd call a party.

I know it's pathetic to be so jealous, but I am. I know it's pathetic to be jealous of a birthday party now that I'm not a kid any more, but I am.

I know I could have organised a party for myself just as easily but that I was too lazy to be bothered.

I'm jealous that he has a goddamn social life, a social life that includes parties. I'm jealous that he has the time on his hands to prepare such things.

And I hate myself for being like this.

When things get bad, I retreat into myself, spending my time in bed or at the computer, and certainly never talking to actual, real people. I become a hermit. So it's hardly surprising that my birthday was a non-event. D has always been a social creature, seeking out friends and events (it's a wonder we managed 14 years together given how different we are...), phoning friends just for the hell of it. Me, not at all. I never phone someone without a reason (and even when I have a reason, I generally put it off till the last possible minute, such is my loathing of the phone), I avoid talking to people when I'm out, I always kind of dread invitations (and this probably plays a part in why I don't get many).

But it hurts, it really hurts.

The people I would most like to spend my birthday with are all in a different country - I really do believe that if I lived nearer to J, M and H we would do things, be in touch, speak. But they're not here, and my friends here just aren't the same.

I'm jealous of D's social success and angry at myself for being so apathetic, so ridiculous and such a goddamn loser.

The girls came home this evening, after more than 24 hours away, happy and pleased with their fun weekend. They walked through the door, took off their shoes and immediately sat on the sofa to watch TV. Such a stark contrast hit me really hard: going with D means fun and seeing people and doing things and going places, being with me means getting yelled at, having to do chores and being so bored the only way out is to watch TV.

I think that the crux of the matter is that I feel like I'm losing them. D and I are in a sort of "good-cop-bad-cop" routine, but I'm always the bad cop. By refusing shared custody, I seem to have dug myself into a hole of mammoth proportions, where I'm always the shouting, yelling, complaining one and he's always the fun one. I still believe shared custody would be a mistake for the girls, but I do now concede that it might have been good for me (though I'm not sure: D is pathologically incapable of being organised so I'm not sure how he would have managed with all the little details I take care of).

My feelings of jealousy and self-pity disgust me this evening, and no amount of Ben & Jerry's will make me feel better (though I plan to give it a try). I hate myself for being such a failure at every goddamn level - no wonder my Dad has little respect for me! Everyone at school thought I had a brilliant future ahead of me, and yet, here I am, 42 years old and an abject failure in every aspect of my life.

Sorry for the moaning and ranting.  Tomorrow can only be a better day (though it's due to rain apparently).

samedi 16 juillet 2011

Being positive

As yesterday was D's birthday (no, don't panic, I'm not going to go back over all that again), the plan was that he would come and pick them up around 4 (perhaps 4.30... I bet you can see where this is going), take them somewhere, then take them somewhere else for his birthday party before leaving them with his "friend" M for a sleepover.

I hate these sleepovers, but have never refused, so certainly couldn't yesterday.

The girls made their cake (well, C did - L was too ingrossed in fucking Phineas and Ferb, though I can't for the life of me understand what she sees in it as it's essentially the same story every time with a weird platypus bit stuck on at the end), then they decorated it with blue (Smurf blue) icing and a shit ton of sprinkles because L was little heavy-handed with the jar, they packed up their things (forgetting to take their pyjamas, of course), and waited.

D phoned to say there was no way he'd be here at 4, though of course I never actually thought he would be. It was, naturally, past 5 when he finally arrived, and off they went.

I finished up a little work and then... made a strategic decision.

I hate these sleepover things, because much as I can appreciate being alone for an afternoon, say, or during a school day, I hate being here alone at night. And, with the girls potentially going to D's mother's place for 8 days next week, this extra night away just seems like overkill.

But, in a totally uncharacteristic manner, I decided to give myself a night off. To make the most of this night alone. Yeah, positivism!

Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't go out to dinner, or catch up with friends, or go to the cinema, or hit the clubs or anything even remotely like that.

BUT: I had a pizza and Diet Coke for dinner (nothing says "wild Friday night" like junk food on your own!), followed it up with icecream, and spent the entire evening watching TV.

That might well sound like the lamest Friday night ever (and was certainly no match for Kathy Beth Terry's) but you know what? I enjoyed it! I didn't do any of the work I have to do, I didn't do anything "responsible" at all (you know, like handwash the dishes that have been festering in the dishwasher for a week because the water won't drain out of it and I don't know what to do and so now it's all mouldy and foul-smelling), I didn't "do" anything. And I enjoyed it!

I'm not an optimist by nature, so this is a new experience for me!

Baby steps, people, baby steps...

vendredi 15 juillet 2011

July is the cruellest month

July is a tough month for me.

It's always (as in, "since I started working and had kids") been difficult trying to juggle a phenomenal amount of work and the holiday season. For some reason, every client I have (or so it seems) has a megashit ton of work to be translated, all, of course, as soon as possible. Plus there's no school, and friends are away and there are two small girls to occupy, preferably with something other than a millionth episode of Phineas and Ferb.

Since 2000, this month has also been my bête noire, the one with that date in it, the one that pulls me back in time to that wretched day that changed my life forever. Since then, there has always been a "before" (that date) and an "after" (things start to look up).

And now, added into this heady mix of overwork, school-less children and bad, bad memories, we can add today. This day is D's birthday, and to say that I have mixed feelings is the understatement of the year.

My current feelings for D are pretty well-known if you've read any posts I've written here since May 2010. There is now no love lost between us, and his presence in my life is a huge pain in the butt. I'm uncomfortable when he comes here, I'm awkward with him on the phone, I'm wary of everything he says and does because of the threat of ulterior motives. I loathe having to have contact with him, and distrust him now at every level because I know him to be capable of the worst, the very worst. Thoughts and words (and perhaps actions, I'm not sure) of such injustice, such evil (no, the word isn't too strong) that I can't believe we were ever actually together any more.

On the other hand, he is the father of my girls, and he is, without doubt, a good father. Caring, loving, present. He clearly loves them, and they love him. And that is right and good, I'm not saying anything else. But it's hard to bear.

So, today is his birthday. And I have to participate in this event, even though I have NO DESIRE to do so, but because my girls want to and can't without my help. We went out on Monday and bought him presents from them, to him. The girls received money from a friend of his (a "friend" perhaps, I don't know what relationship he has with this woman, and I'm not sure I want to know) and I paid the (very small) difference. This morning, the girls will be baking a cake, with my assistance. And I will have to wrap L's present because she's not really able to do that by herself just yet (C's already done hers).

What I'm saying is that this day is tough: preparing birthday surprises for a man I can no longer bear but whom I once loved and yearned for more than anything in the world is hard enough. That he has treated me so fucking badly to boot is just the icing on the cake (so to speak). Even more, knowing that doing this is both necessary and right makes it even harder.

Once today is over, there will be just 2 weeks or so of this nasty month to go. My babies will be going away with D for a week (8 days, in fact), probably next Tuesday, possibly as early as Monday, leaving me alone and miserable. My dear friend J and her family will be arriving in the region on the 23rd and I may go and see them, just me, either the next day or the Monday, depending on when my babies come home. And after that, life will pick up. The girls and I will spend time with J and her family - here in Montpellier, as well as at their rented holiday home. We will go on holiday ourselves, another friend will be arriving as we get back, there will be a circus and trampoline course, my father may be coming... All good stuff to come.

I just have to get past today (difficult day, difficult day) and then the wretched week without my babies. And then I'll be free to enjoy the summer at last!

jeudi 14 juillet 2011

The day after

Today is the "biggie" in the French calendar - the French national holiday, in honour of the storming of the Bastille that kicked off the revolution in 1789 (the legend doesn't quite have the story right, of course, but the gist of it is more or less correct). The whole country more or less shuts down, there are firework displays everywhere - though smaller towns just outside bigger cities tend to do their displays on the 13th so as not to be in competition - and, traditionally, there are military parades during the day, parties (often organised by the fire brigade, for some reason) after the fireworks. A jolly day all round.

Obviously, as I'm not actually French (despite living here since 1992...), 14 July has never had a huge amount of significance for me. I've been to firework displays, and have enjoyed them, but it's not part of my culture, it doesn't mean anything.

Last night, D picked the girls up at 9 and took them to a firework display held by a small town just outside Montpellier, which does a wonderful job at a manmade lake in a former quarry. D and I went together, without the girls (who refused to go for years because they found fireworks too noisy and too scary), a few years ago and it was wonderful, one of the best displays I've seen. The girls said they enjoyed it last night.

That meant that there was absolutely no motivation to trek out to wherever Montpellier does its display - way out of town, meaning tramways and shuttle buses and crowds and gaaaaaah - and, whilst I enjoy a good firework display as much as anyone, I'm not particularly distraught, I have to say. As there are no barracks here in Montpellier either, the "parade" is kind of half-hearted too, so we skipped that and D took the girls swimming at the lake (the same one as last night's display, in fact) this afternoon instead.

14 July is also the birthday of our neighbours' little boy, who was 3 today, and one of my best friends in England's daughter turned 1. Oh, and my grandmother would have been 106 today if she hadn't died way back in 1988.

But most of all, 14 July is the day AFTER the anniversary of the worst day of my life, and will always be a good day for that reason alone. It means it's a whole year till the next wretched anniversary.

Happy Bastille Day!

mercredi 13 juillet 2011


12 July: I am just about 5 months pregnant with my first child, conceived after a long struggle filled with tests and appointments and inconclusive diagnoses. In a few days (on the 17th) I will have the ultrasound that will tell us if our baby is a boy or a girl. We don't care, but do want to know. My back is hurting, like bad period pains, and my stomach is hard. I panic, D calls the doctor. There is some spotting, nothing major.

A short while later, the doctor arrives, examines me and says I need to go to hospital to make sure everything's OK. He says the baby is fine.

At the hospital, we've arrived just before a shift change. The first doctor - a woman - barely speaks to me, so keen is she to get off her shift and go home. I overhear her (or the midwife, I don't know) tell the person coming on shift, "OK, this one here, you'll just have to wait till she expulses the corpse" (or words to that effect). That's how D and I discover that our baby is dead. The tears - which have been copious already - start flowing again.

I don't remember the details of all that happens next. I do know that a young nurse, a trainee nurse, stays with me, doesn't go off shift, because she feels so bad about the way we are being treated. The hospital is understaffed because it's July, just before a long weekend (14 July is a public holiday here in France, everything shuts down. It's also the start of the main holiday season).

I'm in pain, and scared, and not sure at all about what's happening. A midwife comes in and seems annoyed with me - "Why aren't you putting those birthing classes into practice?" she asks, unaware (or uncaring) that I haven't got that far in my pregnancy yet and don't know how to "give birth".

Eventually, at I don't know what time, my baby is born, dropped into a blue, plastic basin and spirited away. My tears are unstoppable. D is exhausted and distraught, as emotionally drained as I am.

After a certain time, the midwife returns, my beautiful little girl wrapped in a blanket, looking like she's asleep. I take her in my arms, totally overwhelmed at how perfect she is. Yes, she's too small (waaaay too small - 475 g, just over 1 lb), but she looks perfect. And oh, so beautiful!

I hug her, I kiss her, I tell her how much I love her. D takes her in his arms (my heart cracks open to see this tall, strong man, totally overwhelmed by the tiny child in his arms) and takes her over to the window to show her the world. He is crying and that touches me more than anything I have ever seen.

The midwife comes back and says she must take our baby away. And that is the moment I relive. If only, at that split second, I had just let her do that. But no. I had to ask the question. I had to ask, "What will happen to her now?"

Oh, cursed question! Your answer will haunt my nightmares for all eternity. I've never forgotten what that bitch said, never.

"Well, after the autopsy, the corpse will be incinerated with all the other abortion waste."

And BANG! I die a little more.

I never, never forget that horrible phrase.

I am too distraught, too foreign to realise how wrong it all is. My baby died at 22 weeks and 5 days of amenorrhoea, and in France the "cut-off" point for "abortions" vs "stillbirths" is 23 weeks. Another 2 days and my baby would have existed administratively, would have been given a funeral, would have been given a name. Just 2 days. If I had known, I would have fought for her, fought with all my might. But I didn't know, and I didn't have the strength to think about this kind of thing. I have no mementos of my baby, no photo (that's a lie: about 3 years later I finally recovered photos taken of her before the autopsy, but THOSE won't be shared with anyone; she'd been dead for 4 days and looked... forgive me for saying this, sweet girl... terrible, terrifying), no tiny footprints, no tiny handprints, nothing. Just my memories.

My eldest daughter turned 11 today. Can you imagine that? I have an 11-year-old daughter, a little girl about to go into secondary school, start a new chapter in her life. A little girl on the brink of adolescence, edging her way towards womanhood and a life of independence.



No new chapter, no secondary school, no emerging adolesence. No daughter.

I don't "have" an 11-year-old daughter, I "had" a daughter, 11 years ago. But she was already gone, before I even met her, before I held her perfectly formed, utterly beautiful, tiny, tiny body in my arms for the first and last time.

The doctor "caring" for me never touched me, never examined me, considered me a hysterical liability. The hospital couldn't get rid of me quick enough and I was discharged on 14 July (Happy Bastille Day! Yeah!), no medication (except to stop my milk - oh, the irony! For this little girl, I had milk leaking out all over the place, for my two living daughters, it never came in and... well. That's another story, for another day), no counselling, nothing. Just me and D, back home, alone.

I saw the doctor again, but he never spoke to me, and wrote in my records that I was "hysterical" (and not in the "funny" sense). He addressed all his conversation to D. For consultations, I had to go to the maternity hospital, walk past the goddamn nursery and face the "how far along are you?" question every time I checked in. He never knew what happened, and cared even less.

My baby girl died in the greatest indifference possible. D, one week later when we were in Spain on holiday (as planned beforehand - I'd wanted to cancel, he convinced me to go), told me to "pull myself together" because I couldn't stop crying and was "ruining his holiday" (this makes him seem like a monster, but it's not true; I know he was deeply affected by this too - just didn't show it like I did); my father said "I hope you aren't going to get all weepy about this...". No one cared, except my friends, my dear, sweet friends back in England. And one of them, M, still remembers, even now: she sends me a pick-me-up message every year and I love her for it.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl. I love you with all my heart, and you will always have a place there, for as long as I live. You are remembered, and loved, and missed more than anyone will ever know.

mardi 12 juillet 2011

Cold shower

Last night was the first night this summer that it's actually felt hot - really hot, as in muggy and sticky and not really very comfortable. All night. I even slept with nothing to cover me other than my pyjamas (I'm notoriously susceptible to cold so this is a pretty big deal). And Tom? Well, he's a miserable pile of long fur sprawled over the parquet flooring in a desperate attempt to keep cool. (This, despite the fact that he's the coolest cat in the world, of course.)

We live in the centre (more or less) of a large city. We also live in a flat with no greenery around it, other than plane trees (damn them! hiss! curse their nose-itching pollen!) out front and a totally out-of-control wisteria bush crawling over the balcony, threatening to take us over (fuck that, take over the WORLD) by growing, like, 15 cm a DAY.

What I mean is that it is HOT here in the south of France and coolness is both much sought-after and hard to find. The one place that feels really good right now is the shower - cool water pouring off your shoulders, streaming down your back... Delicious!

So guess what broke this morning as I was finishing up my shower! Yup, you guessed it, the COLD TAP. I suppose I should be grateful that it broke as I was finishing - rinsing off shower gel with scalding hot water would have been... er... interesting? And yes, I know I could have used the sink, but it's not practical AT ALL.

"No problem!", you cry. "You go buy a new tap, install it and Bob's your uncle", as they say (except no one in my family WOULD say that as I don't have an uncle called Bob - don't have any uncles at all, in fact).

I'm no handywoman, but I did, indeed, go out and turn off the mains water, find some kind of pincer-y tool thing and remove the tap and go to my nearby (and possibly only) plumbing supplies shop. Felt right proud of myself, too.

Of course, they didn't have the right tap for me. OF COURSE they didn't. That would be too easy, right?

But they will be getting new ones tomorrow morning. And they had screw-on cap thingies to block the taps so I could turn the mains water back on and at least use OTHER taps. Wonderful! Perfect!

"One last thing," I stupidly ask the saleswoman. "How much will the new tap be?"


€149 excluding tax.


Yup, €149 excluding tax.

Now, I'm sure you can find cheaper ones in the DIY stores out of town. But I don't have a car and can't fucking get to them, can I? And Thursday is the damn national holiday so it will all be shut anyway.


I can't believe I might have to suck it up and pay €149 excluding tax for a TAP for fuck's sake.

And of course, it's so hot and muggy tonight the only thing that I can think of is standing under a nice, cool shower (OK, the only thing apart from Johnny Depp lying naked on my bed offering me a glass of Banyuls or perhaps some Pimm's n°1...).

This could be a looooooong night.

lundi 11 juillet 2011


Hello. My name is Magic27 and I'm a stationery addict.

I know I've mentioned this before, but what the fuck is it about stationery shops? They suck me in and the next thing I know, plastic is being burned and I have a whole slew of new supplies...

Of course, today was "allowed" because today was the day the three of us went and got all the supplies we needed for the new school year. Which doesn't start till 5 September. But seriously? You think I could wait till then? Besides, there were no crowds and plenty of choice. Nah!

I spent a small fortune, and I'm not entirely sure how I managed that. The girls will be reusing a fair amount of stuff from last year (we only needed one school bag, for example) and yet it still came to about €100. That's extortionate, no?

But never mind. It was glorious, and I resisted temptation and only bought one thing for me - a new school-year diary - and even that was something I actually need. Fortunately, we didn't go upstairs to the arts and crafts supplies (that's my total, total weakness).

There's just something so deliciously yummy about a new notebook - empty pages of silky paper, waiting to be covered in scribbles and notes and ideas. Or a new pen, with all that ink at the ready. And there's so much beautiful stationery out there nowadays... I could spend a fortune on notebooks alone (even though I rarely actually need notebooks for anything and even the ones I buy tend to lie unused in a pile next to my desk...).

As addictions go, I'm pretty sure it's harmless. It's legal, for one thing, and much cheaper than drugs, alcohol and gambling. It's also potentially useful (up to a point).

I'm not ashamed of my addiction. Au contraire, même.


dimanche 10 juillet 2011

A hop and a skip and a jump

Today was better.

OK, when I finally dragged my lazy arse out of bed, the bottle of milk was still sitting on the table, in glorious not-put-back-in-the-fridgeness, and neither C nor L was dressed, and they had been bickering.

BUT - they weren't actively trying to kill each other, no one was crying or whining and they didn't seem to be in horribly bad moods.

Hey, round here, you take what you can get when it comes to positives.

We had lunch - all together, sitting at the same table, with C laying the whole table (and not forgetting anything) and L (eventually) clearing the table. D called to say he wasn't available, I said I would take the girls somewhere.

They wanted to go and see Kung Fu Panda 2, but unfortunately it was too late and we'd never have made the cinema on time (and, given how hot it was today, there was no way I was running up 104 steps to get there quicker). So, I suggested Hop. I know, it got terrible reviews, but the girls watched the trailer and pronounced that yes, they wanted to see it. (They're not stupid: I think they would have agreed to any film at all, to be honest because I don't take them very often and they probably figured if they kicked up a fuss I'd have gone crazy, called them ungrateful and refused to do anything interesting at all. So there is that.)

We saw Hop. No, it wasn't the best film of all time, but it was cute, it was funny, it WASN'T IN 3D (making it worth the price of the ticket for that reason alone) and we all enjoyed it. Maybe we (or I, anyway) just have crap taste in films but I don't know, it wasn't as cringeworthy as some kids' films I've seen and I probably liked it better than, say, Tangled, which still got way better reviews. Make of that what you will.

After that, we went to the nearby park for a while, and then I caved and took the girls for fast food (quite a relief, actually, as I have HAD IT with cooking all the time!).

Once home, they got ready for bed and we played board games for a little while before they went off to bed, reasonably good-humoured for once.

So, the day cost me €40, but we had a good time and they both said "thank you" for taking them out and there weren't too many tears in the course of the day and I consider the day a SUCCESS!


samedi 9 juillet 2011


I don't consider myself to be an unreasonable person. Not at all, in fact. Most of the time, I'm a deeply logical, rational kind of person (this was even one of the many things D reproached me of: lack of "emotion" (fuck that!) and too much "logic").

And yet. And yet.

I ask the girls to do certain things around the house. They're 9 and a half and just over 7 now, so perfectly capable of doing these "certain things". And Lord knows it's not exactly slave labour I'm asking of them.

And yet. And yet.

I feel like I have to spend my entire life shouting at them. Nothing gets done without me asking (nicely) a few times, then barking orders and/or getting stroppy a couple of times.

Is it really so unreasonable of me to ask them to put the milk back in the fridge when they've finished using it? I mean, it's around 30°C at the moment and milk needs to be cold, right?

Is it really so unreasonable of me to ask them to pick up used tissues and throw them away, rather than leave them on the floor of the sitting room?

Is it really so unreasonable of me to ask them to lay the table, or clear the table, or put their clothes away?

I don't know, but I do know that they don't do any of these things, or at least, not without a lot of effort on my part.

I had a massive sulk-fest (which was very childish, I admit, but it seems to be the only kind of reaction they understand) at lunchtime today. They did NOTHING to help, hadn't put their breakfast stuff away (so - bottle of milk, carton of orange juice, both on the table), stared idiotically at the TV, squabbled, left clothes strewn all over the sofa and floor, left dirty used tissues on the floor, etc. And I just lost it. I made lunch and then set the table just for the two of them, saying I wouldn't be eating with them because slaves and servants don't eat with their masters. I ate my lunch alone, on a stool on the balcony with the cat at my feet (it wasn't wholly unpleasant, I admit). I felt like shit, but you know what? They cleared the table, they didn't squabble.

The trouble is, I don't want to miserable them (yes, to miserable is a verb) into submission. I just want them to take some responsibility, to cut me some slack, to give me a break from DOING EVERYTHING. I'm tired, people, I mean, seriously tired. Because I do EVERYTHING. I have a full-time freelance translation job, part-time teaching job, plus I do all the shopping, cooking, dish washing, laundry, clothes folding, housework (such as it is), organising and various miscellaneous stuff (presents for parties they're invited to, school stuff, homework supervision...), admin stuff (personal and professional), leisure stuff (booking holidays, organising activities)... I do it all, I tell you, and I have HAD ENOUGH.

I have no life of my own - when the girls aren't here, I either sleep, work or hang out on the internet. I never see friends (no money to go out anywhere, not much motivation either), have no love interest (ha!), few leisure activities.

All I'm asking is that they participate a little in our life together. Is that so very unreasonable?

vendredi 8 juillet 2011

Total decadence

So, yesterday was the Tour de France (today, too, actually, though I was reading a magazine at the same time - and, technically, translating a text about bicycle tyres). And today? "Secret Story" for fuck's sake.

The girls and I sat up and watched the entire first episode - all the "candidates" going into the "house of secrets", all the secrets, all the mysteries of the house. Everything.

Worse, I actually enjoy this show (and it's utter CRAP, I'm well aware of that). And worst of all, I suspect C has been hooked too: she's got the names down, she's got "favourites" (though how that's possible is a mystery as they all seem pretty irritating and we barely "know" any of them), she's OK on the rules of the game, she's starting to try and guess who has which secret... Damn!

This could be a long, long summer addiction - the show runs for an amazing 14 weeks I believe.

(On a more positive note: I got my hair cut today, about 20 cm cut off the bottom, slightly layering at the front but really very slight. I'm extremely pleased with the result and proud of myself for actually going through with it!)

jeudi 7 juillet 2011

Procrasti...hell, I can't even be bothered to type the whole word...

July has always been a busy work month for me. Sometimes, I've been on holiday in July, but the weeks I've been "at work" have still been hectic. Other years, I've gone away in August and found the whole of the month pretty frenetic.

And hey, guess what? 2011 is no exception! I've told my clients I'll be away in August, meaning I'm NOT away in July and well. Work, it just keeps on coming...

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not really complaining as I'd rather have this "problem" than the opposite one. But my natural tendency for leaving things to the last minute means I keep on wasting time and end up having to work all night. *sigh*

It wouldn't be so bad if I at least did something fun, or useful, whilst not working. Do you know what I did this afternoon? I got back from the university (last oral exam till September, woot!), made myself a ham sandwich, read the magazine I'm subscribed to (and that arrived by post this morning while I was out) and then... and THEN... (I'm embarrassed to even admit this)... I "watched" the live coverage of today's stage in the Tour de France.

Seriously - what is less interesting than watching a live cycle race over 226 km in the rain? Nothing, that's what. I absolutely couldn't give a toss who won (couldn't actually tell you, to be honest, even though I saw it. He was Norwegian, I do remember that), who's leading the overall race, bla, bla, bla.

But could I peel myself off the sofa and do something else? No, I couldn't. I couldn't even summon up the "strength" to have a nap - which would, at least, have made this evening easier.

Damn cycling. It's boring as hell, you can't tell who's who (and don't much care), it lasts FOREVER. Yet... yet... that's how I chose to fill the latter part of my afternoon.

So now, at almost 11 pm, I have a 13-page research article to proofread and a 1-page translation to correct for one of my students.

The only logic behind it that I can think of is that it allows me to look at the muscly thighs of lots and lots of young men (very muscly, I must say. Not so sure about those distinctly dodgy Lycra shorts, though. And I would rather look at the thighs of Johnny Depp, or Jon Hamm or Pat Monahan than those of random cyclists to be honest). You get your kicks where you can, I guess.

mercredi 6 juillet 2011

"Off" switch

Holy crap, I wish there were some kind of "off" switch for my brain. I just CANNOT LET GO. Whilst my body morphs into something resembling a sloth (a sloth that spends waaaaay too much time on the Internet, drinking Diet Coke and eating crap, that is), my brain runs on, a hundred miles an hour, non-stop, all day, every day and (particularly) every night.

It's driving me batshit, I swear. I've got to the point where I just don't know how to relax. All the time, in my mind, I'm having imaginary conversations. Sometimes, I'm having conversations with people that only exist in my fantasies (these can be kind of nice conversations - I feel appreciated and loved by these wonderful people, but the return to reality is rather brutal as a result). And sometimes, I'm having conversations I would like to have (or would like to have had) with real people. The latter are often ranty in nature, which does nothing to help calm me down.

I seem to have a gift for only finding the appropriately biting response to some kind of irritation or put-down once it's actually too late.

I make lists in my head, lists of things to do, planning out the order in which I have to do them. I run through all kinds of useless information, often involuntarily (like counting the number of steps up from my part of town to the centre of town (104, if you're interested) (which I know you're not) (but I'm telling you anyway because hey, if my brain is going to be filled with useless crap, yours may as well be too)), but sometimes just as some kind of test. Perhaps my mother's slowish-but-early decline into total dementia is behind this constant need to test my brain power. Or maybe I'm just certifiable.

Whatever. My brain is always in full systems GO! mode, whizzing and whirring like a crazy machine from a Tex Avery cartoon, often waking me up at night because of a thing I forgot to put on my list. Or a thing I forgot to do. Or whatever.

I suspect I'm headed for some kind of heart condition - my stress levels are always high and this brain-whirring thing can be damn disturbing. Especially when I'm still writing out lists, or crossing stuff off lists, at 3 in the morning with vision so blurred I can barely see the lines on the paper.

Can anyone tell me where the goddamn "off" switch is?

mardi 5 juillet 2011

Open water

In those hours - nanoseconds - before you wake, your heart starts pounding like crazy. Somehow, you know you're dreaming, nightmaring, but it still feels horribly, horribly real. Panic sets in, you don't know what to do, you don't know how to react, you're going to die, you're going to die, you really ARE going to di...


You're awake, a sweaty mess, trembling and hyperventilating. The shadows on the wall move eerily and you don't start to calm down till you've clicked on your bedside light and disturbed the sleeping cat at your feet.

Of COURSE it was just a bad dream. You knew that. You know yourself well enough to know that you'd never go that far out to sea. For God's sake, you can't even swim, or not properly anyway.

But it felt so REAL. The coldness of the water, that salty taste in your mouth, the unmistakeable smell of the sea. The bits of seaweed floating in the water, twining around your legs - GAH. ARRGH. GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF ME NOW! - the odd bit of flotsam, the squawking seagulls.

Your pale limbs flailing, your mind flashing to the fact that you can't feel the fucking sand beneath your feet so you're on your own and you are going to drown. Oh shit. How did this happen?

Oh yeah, that's right, it's a dream, it was a dream, a bad dream, a goddamn nightmare.

But, I swear, it DID feel real... It might be improbable, impossible even, but I was THERE: on the beach one moment, then easing myself gently into the sea the next, gasping as the cold water touched my hot skin. Walking out, further and further, to get away from the kids horsing around and splashing like crazy.

Buoyed up by the gentle waves, floating a little, drifting even. And then. Oh, Christ, and THEN. That moment of realisation that I'm out of my depth, that I'm actually going to have to swim to get back to shore.

Heart pounding, pulse racing, fear gripping my mind. Flailing, crying out for help, hoping, hoping, hoping someone will pay attention...

But it was just a dream. I keep saying that, but perhaps if I say it often enough, I'll calm down, start to believe it and finally go back to sleep. To dream of something prettier, safer, happier.

Open water? Hell no.

lundi 4 juillet 2011


Until I was 23, I rarely, if ever, considered myself to be patriotic. I was born in Britain of an English father and a Scottish mother and raised with a very real awareness of my British-ness (rather than Englishness, as the rest of the world would have it). To be honest though, I have never, even for one minute I don't think, actually felt Scottish - I like the country and I like to visit it, but it doesn't feel like "home". I'm much more comfortable with being simply English (sorry, Mummy dearest, I know this would have you spinning in your grave, but it's true) and, if anything, the 4 years I spent at St Andrews (admittedly the most English university in Scotland) reinforced that.

There were brief forays abroad - a 3-month period in Salamanca in 1990, another 3-month period in Paris in 1991, but they were just that: brief, and left no lasting impression on my identity (though I certainly had a lot of fun in Salamanca, I must say).

Since then, though, I've lived in France, moving to Paris in July 1992, then Lyon later that year (September) and finally Montpellier in August 1999 (still can't quite believe I've lived here almost 12 years...).

Don't get me wrong: I like living in France and have made it my home. I miss certain people in Britain, but not particularly the place itself - the odd visit now and then is perfectly sufficient for me. I have made friends in France, I work here, raise my children here (they were born here and are far more French than British). My life is here.

But I most certainly do NOT feel French, and I don't think I ever will. I have yet to even apply for nationality, actually, though I know I'd get it without a problem.

If I'm cornered into watching some sporting event, I don't feel any compulsion to wish the French victory (and even take a certain sadistic pleasure in seeing them lose, to be honest), just as I don't usually want the Scots to win either. But I do invariably kind of hope the English win. I'm not seriously bothered one way or the other, but that Englishness of mine is there, buried below the surface.

Today is Independence Day in the US and there have been many tweets and posts about pride in being American. This is something I admire greatly in Americans, their genuine pride in their nationality. Their sense of unity behind their flag, their history, their culture. They may all be of various diverse origin, but their American-ness unites them, unifies them, strengthens them.

I'm not proud to be British, it's just something I am. I frequently feel greatly embarrassed, even, as Brits have a horrid tendency to behave atrociously abroad. I may support England teams in their endeavours up to a point, but when they (invariably) lose, I certainly don't lose any sleep or cry any tears. I like the Union Jack flag, but never wear one, even though they fashionably adorn all kinds of things here in France (I do have things with the flag on, but they're all things that stay at home. And they match the "décor" of this flat, if you can call it that).

I suppose I feel English (not British), but really only when I feel my culture, my heritage is being attacked or criticised. The French are quick to criticise Britain in general and England in particular, and that is the one thing always liable to rile me. I'm dreading the girls' middle and high school history lessons - I've seen text books and I know I'm going to be irritated by the lying by omission, false representation, etc. I've often had to defend British cuisine (universally derided here (D, to be fair to him, was a staunch advocate of British cuisine), British weather, British politics (a tough one - a) I know little, b) I care less and c) it's been so long since I've lived there that I'm pretty much out of touch), etc. My patriotism is merely a defence from attack by the French.

Today is US Independence Day, and next week is the French National Holiday, Bastille Day on 14 July. There is no equivalent day in the British calendar (England's St George's Day is a travesty of invisibility, especially compared to the Irish effusion over St Patrick) and I sometimes wonder - usually on 14 July whilst I quite willingly ignore all forms of celebration - if I would feel some pride in my nationality if there were.

After 19 years living in a foreign country, I think I am actually without nationality. My Englishness comes out when I'm under attack or when England play someone in sport, yet I feel totally detached from life in my country of birth. I don't feel French, ever, though, yet I fit in (I think) pretty well, fairly seamlessly to be honest.

Patriotism is a pretty alien concept and I do, truly, envy Americans this holiday of theirs, this day on which the nation feels pride in its achievements, families and friends get together, eat, drink and watch fireworks.

Happy Independence Day, my US friends!

dimanche 3 juillet 2011


I had a project, way back in October or November. I "set it in motion" (which is basically just a very fancy way of saying I spent a couple of hours on the website doing research) and it finally came to "fruition" this weekend.

Gosh, that sounds impressive, right? Basically, my idea was to teach the girls how to use a camera (they've taken pictures with disposable cameras, but it's very hit-and-miss, especially as I can't see what (if anything) they're doing wrong until we get the prints back, by which time it's too late). They've taken some fairly decent pictures, but more by chance than anything else I suspect.

So, on Amazon, I did some research. I eliminated all the over-priced "licence" cameras (Hello Kitty, Barbie...) first because they're unbelievably naff, and second because they're pretty crap cameras.

I decided on a 5 Mega pixel camera (one in red, for C, and in yellow, for L) at a pretty low price. I ordered them in early November with the intention of giving them as the main Christmas present.

Unfortunately, they weren't in stock and there was no delivery estimate given, so I gave up on the idea for Christmas.

The red one arrived around the end of January, but nothing for the yellow one. Eventually, I got a mail saying they'd had stock supply problems and probably wouldn't be getting the yellow one at all. I was, understandably, pretty fucked off.

A couple of months later, I pre-ordered a pink one, but again, it had no estimated delivery date, so I wasn't hopeful.

And then, last week, I got a promotional mail from Amazon (as I do just about every day, actually) and it had a yellow camera for the same price, but a different brand. Of course I bought it - and it arrived yesterday (and I promptly cancelled the pink one - we don't need that many!).

I'm not sure when to give them to the girls, though. It's quite a big gift, and seems too much for just a "little surprise". But, at the same time, I'd like them to be able to use their cameras over the summer (and in Italy in particular). C's saint's day is coming up, as is L's (they're about 2 weeks apart, with mine in the middle), so I might use that as the pretext.

Whatever. I'm probably more excited than they're going to be, though I do hope they'll have some fun with this and get some good use from their cameras. They're not expensive things, so I won't be heartbroken or furious if they end up breaking them (though if they break them too quickly I may not be responsible for my actions, I must admit), but 5 Mega pixels is reasonable for a first camera.

I'm no great shakes as a photographer myself, but I have some pretty decent snaps, and photography is something I've always been interested in (I did a course in St Andrews on developing photos way back in my first year - it was fun, but too advanced for my complete beginner status).

If the girls take anything good (and I'm sure they will), I'll post a few pictures here. In the meanwhile, here are a couple of my favourite pictures from this spring!

samedi 2 juillet 2011

Taking the plunge

So. I took the plunge - figuratively - today. In two ways, actually.

First, I decided to not only wear a dress that I would normally consider to be outside my comfort zone, but even to wear it with pride.

Don't get me wrong - this is no Lady Gaga-esque number made of meat or cling film. It's probably a stunningly boring dress by Katy Perry standards (no exploding whipped cream). But it's quite short, it's a halter neck and it has a somewhat plunging neckline (hardly a "neck" line at all, in fact, more a "rackline" to be honest). And, because of its halter-ness (and the princess line) it requires bralessness to boot.

Strangely enough, I put it on almost without thinking this morning. I went out, off to the market to get my week's supply of fruit and vegetables, and didn't think once about my bralessness, bare-backedness, more-thigh-than-I'd-like-showing-ness. I felt cool with myself.

I've said before that I have no pretensions, illusions or delusions regarding the way I look, but with this simple, cotton dress (madras-sy type check in turquoise, taupe, cream and red if you're interested), I felt OK. Good, almost.

Quite a novel feeling, I must say.

My second figurative plunge into unknown (or at least unfamiliar) waters also occurred this morning, while I was out.

Before hitting the market, I went to the hairdresser's. Again, I know this doesn't sound earth-shattering, but a) I have always, always loathed getting my hair cut and b) given (a) and my mounting debts, it's been easy to push this ordeal to one side on the pretense of "saving money", so I haven't actually been in about 18 months I shouldn't think.

First, I got appointments for the girls (who haven't been since spring 2010 and have straggly string-like hair down to their waists). Next Wednesday, 2.30 pm. Much snipping will be in order.

And then, I sucked it up and took an appointment for me, too - next Friday, 2 pm. I even told the young girl that I want - gasp! shock! - a "change". Of course, I immediately qualified that with "nothing radical, though". She mentioned layering (which I don't think I've ever had done). I'm both horrified at the thought of having to go through with this and, at the same time, weirdly excited. My hair at present is a disaster - almost waist-length, straggly, unkempt. The only good thing is the colour - not a hint of grey, still a pale red (I like to think of it as "strawberry blond", but it's probably not quite as blond as that. But not coppery or even fully ginger either). The idea of having a proper "style", instead of just requesting that a chunk be cut off the bottom in a straight line, is terrifying and exhilarating. I do feel kind of sick, though.

Despite the fact that I did bugger all for the rest of the day (I even sank as low as "watching" the first stage of the Tour de France (cycling! Me, watching cycling!) on TV), I feel more than a little proud of myself for actually achieving something today. Nothing major by most people's standards - I'm well aware of that - but fuck that. Major for me.

vendredi 1 juillet 2011

(sink or) Swim

(By the way, I'm totally going to say I succeeded in NaBloPoMo last month, even if one of my posts didn't actually appear on the right day so it looks like there's a day missing.)

I've made it my mission to do NaBloPoMo again, and this month's theme is SWIM.

My relationship with water-of-the-swimming-in kind has always been somewhat strained. In fact, one of the surest ways to turn me into a blubbering wreck when I was a kid was to mention the words "swimming" and "lesson" and "school" in the same sentence.

I remember the horror of swimming lessons at one of the many primary schools I attended. Eight-year-old me, sitting, blue with cold, on the icy, wet tiles surrounding the local municipal pool. Shivering - with cold, yes, but also with absolute terror. Waiting for the swim teacher to stand behind me and push me in, suddenly. The waiting was almost as bad as the entry into the wet stuff itself. Almost, but not quite.

Hyperchlorinated water burning my eyes, ears, nose. Gasping for breath, arms flailing helplessly. Tears pouring down my face, scrambling back to the side, struggling to climb back out and then back to the start - sitting on those damn tiles, the rough edge cutting into the backs of my horribly skinny, white legs, shivering, gulping back the sobs, waiting for the next push.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't learn to swim at school. I was given the "10 m achievement" badge, but I think everyone got that as long as they turned up to class. I have no recollection of ever being able to swim 10 m as a child.

As we're talking about 1970s/1980s Britain, private pools and hot summers at the beach didn't feature highly in my childhood. My father absolutely didn't have the patience to teach me, my mother was worse than I was, swimming just wasn't a priority nor even, in reality, a possibility.

I never really learned to swim, in fact.

I took classes as a young adult (with my mother, for the love of God), and failed. I took classes here in France, after the death of my first child, in an attempt to accept my body. Amazingly, I DID learn that time - I could do a pretty decent crawl and breast stroke. But I never liked diving in (or even jumping in), and I still flinched if I got splashed by someone else. And I didn't really enjoy it. I never felt "in my element" (how the fuck could WATER be my environment? I mean, seriously? Do I have gills?)

I became pregnant again, had hideous, hideous nausea and sickness for the entire time, tried to swim - in the sea - only once and it was a disaster: the Mediterranean has no nice, reassuring handrails on three sides, no (visible) boundaries and MOVES ALL THE TIME (OK, the waves are pretty pathetic by oceanic standards but still. More waves than a damn pool). Oh, and there can be seaweed and jellyfish and... So. Yeah. Not so much the swimming in the sea stuff.

And now, 10 years later, I think it's safe to say I am back to not being able to swim at all again. "They" say you never forget, I beg to differ. In 2000-2001, I could swim, quite well, underwater even. Now, I can't. I've rarely been in a position to try, it's true, as I avoid it as much as I can (example: I live 10 km from the Mediterranean and went to the beach exactly 6 times last year, going "in the water" (up to my waist) only 3 of those times, plus once in a hotel pool on holiday in Spain). I can't bear being splashed, or pushed, or jostled. I can't bring myself to LIE DOWN in WATER. I CANNOT DO IT.

I pretty much loathe my body, particularly in a swimsuit. I feel white and pasty and deeply, deeply unattractive and self-conscious. D was of no help with that, frequently making fun of me and making me feel worse. Now, as a single woman of 42, my self-consciousness is in the stratosphere.

I react very badly to chlorine. My eyes go red in minutes, they start streaming, stinging, hurting.

The sea is totally out, for all the reasons mentioned above.

I feel the cold very, very easily (it's 35°C here today, but the sea's probably no more than 24°C - my teeth would be chattering within 5 minutes; swimming pools are no better) and rarely find the right balance of air temperature/desire to get wet/water temperature that would push me into "going in".

That said, I would love to be able to swim, sliding gracefully through the water, at ease in an element that feels so alien to me it might as well be Neptune. I would love to be able to have fun in the water with my girls, instead of having my heart racing in a pre-panic attack of what the holy fuck I would do if one of them got into trouble and needed my help. I know I've missed out on so much.

I love the fact that C swims like a fish, actively asks for swim lessons (she's been going for years now), loves the water and is totally at ease. Even L - who refuses lessons and has reacted very badly when forced to take them - loves the water and isn't far from teaching herself to swim. Even D, for all his faults, is a great and enthusiastic swimmer.

That just leaves me, fully dressed and under the parasol, feeling like a freak. I said I only went 6 times to the beach last year - it's true, but it's not a sob story: I hated family trips to the beach. I hated feeling so marginal, so much of a freak. I resent not being able to go, sure (no car - D has it - no other means of getting there), but not the actual beachiness of it.

But I always have the sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, I could have become a swimmer. It's a sport that might have suited me, it would have given me a healthy activity, as well as a way to have fun with my girls.

Swimming. Another area of my life in which I have fucked up totally.

Sink or swim? Sink, without a doubt, without a trace.