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jeudi 18 août 2011

Cringing with embarrassment...

By popular request (if one request can be described as popular), here is photographic evidence of something I mentioned in my previous post.


I can't quite believe I'm going through with this (I'm a shy, retiring little flower in reality), but well. Here goes:

If you ignore the mess behind me, I'm reasonably satisfied with this photo (mainly because you can't see my face or thighs...).

Voilà. That's one less mystery in the world.

25 things the internet doesn't know about me

Yes, of course this is a meme I picked up from Avitable... and one of the things NOT on this list is my inability to ignore a meme...

Anyway, here we go:

1. When I was 6-7, I attended a very strict school in the south of Scotland and was the only girl in the entire school (it was an interesting experience, to put it mildly).
2. During my time at that school, I had the palm of my right hand smacked with a metal ruler by the teacher as part of a punishment meted out to the entire class. It hurt like hell.
3. The only PE class I consistently enjoyed was also at that school - the boys all played rugby, but for once my mother put her foot down and refused to let me do that (thank God), meaning that I ended up playing badminton with the headmaster's wife every day. Fabulous.
4. I'm not a particularly spiritual person, yet I know that the night my beloved aunt died, way back when I was 21, and far from both my home and hers, our souls connected - she died at the exact same time I was lying on the floor of the jazz club in my university town (held in a fabulous old building with stained glass windows) in a pool of moonlight reflecting through the stained glass. I felt peaceful. (Don't ask why I was lying on the floor...)
5. I cannot ever imagine being able to eat oysters.
6. I love junk food, even though here in France it's virtually treason to admit to such a thing. Meaning I don't eat it very often (probably a good thing). But the cravings are there...
7. I love trashy TV shows, even though I'm pretty much an intellectual snob.
8. Oh yeah, I'm an intellectual snob!
9. I don't think I actually know what it feels like to be truly happy.
10. One of my biggest fears for my girls is that their love lives will be like mine - non-existent for way, way too long (never even went on a date till I was about 21, never got a Valentine's, never got asked out, never heard that anyone had a crush on me), then intense and exclusive for a long time, and finally back to being alone again.
11. I feel woefully unsuited to explaining the finer points of boy-girl relationships to my girls.
12. I am hopeless when it comes to putting on make-up (which is why I rarely wear any).
13. I didn't learn to swim till I was 30.
14. Since learning to swim, I've almost never been in water and am now back to not being able to swim again.
15. The thing about how you never forget how to swim is CRAP.
16. I have always wished I were more athletic.
17. When I was in primary school, I wished my name were Wendy.
18. I would love to learn to dance the salsa and the tango.
19. I hate my skin - both its colour (white as hell, prone to bluish and orange splotches in cold weather, bright redness in hot weather) and its extreme sensitivity.
20. I passed my driving test in 1990 and have essentially never driven since (I've mentioned this before), but am hoping to find the money to take a few (a lot of) "refresher" lessons sometime in the next 12 months.
21. I have never owned, nor ever wanted to own, a dog.
22. I am pathologically terrified of dentists (because I have big gum problems) and haven't been for longer than I'm willing to admit (because I have excellent - but ugly - teeth, no fillings, no bridges, no crowns).
23. I haven't ridden a bicycle since I was 19.
24. I think I have a pretty good rack (apart from the whiteness of my skin, of course), and it's almost certainly the part of my body I find the least offensive.
25. I often feel guilty for not missing my mother because we didn't have a bad relationship. Yet I don't miss her. At all. (Though I do miss having "a mother", just not mine.)

I've just read these back, and now suspect that I sound like a cold-hearted basket case. Which may be partially true, actually (I would baulk against "cold-hearted").

mercredi 17 août 2011

Ah, Italy. You divine creature, you!


Oh, seriously people, if you get the chance to go to Italy - GO! It's such a beautiful country, even the grotty bits. Italy shines and sparkles and twinkles and entices you in. It scrambles into your heart and won't let go.

The girls and I took the train - cheap, but ridiculously time-consuming, given the distance: 4h20 to Nice (but oh! the scenery...), then hang about a bit there, then 50 mins to Ventimiglia (via Monaco and St Raphaël and Cap d'Ail...), then hang about there for a longer bit, then just over 2 more hours to Genova.

We splurged on a taxi to the hotel, we arrived at our hotel in style.

Words fail me. Our room looked out over what should have been a pretty grim site: dockyards, a cloverleaf junction and flyover, cranes. But even that was glorious. We looked directly on to the famous Lantern, dating back to God knows when (but pre Christopher Columbus, anyway, waaaaay before), the sun was setting, the sky was blue and green and orange and pink, the cranes looked like giant red and white giraffes. It was stunning. Of course, I didn't take a picture. But I did take one the day we left, early, early in the morning:

I know it doesn't look much (I guess I take rubbish pictures) but I love this juxtaposition - the ancient Lantern, the modern docks. The sea stretching out in the background. Swoon.

We stayed for a week, and it flew by. We did so many things, yet still have so much more to visit next time (and yes, there will be a next time, I hope). We ate pasta and pizza and icecream (not together, you understand). We stroked sting rays. (Stroked. sting. rays!!!) We went into a real submarine. We visited the house Christopher Columbus grew up in. We visited the pirate ship made for Polanski's film. We went up in a panoramic lift thing ("Bigo"), 40 m above ground, with spectacular views over the city:

It was a magical, magical week and I am soooo glad we went. Yes, my debts are suffocating me (direct debits being refused, credit cards blocked...) but it was worth the expense, truly worth it. Especially as we didn't spend very much at all (thanks to my dad giving me money for my birthday and me squirrelling it away).

Ah, Italy. Would that I could return RIGHT NOW.

Soon, my friend, soon. I will be back. My heart belongs to you.

Ciao, Bellissima!

lundi 8 août 2011


Everything is, once again, a bit last minute. I didn't even go and see our neighbour about looking after Tom till 8 pm (no idea what I would have done if she couldn't have done it...). But I'm just about ready.

The bags are packed, the tickets bought and verified and put in my hand bag; the laundry has been done, so have the dishes. I've cleaned out the fridge of all the stuff that needed to be thrown out/given away. I've cleared my e-mail in-box down from about 900 mails to less than 150; I've noted down addresses for future postcards.

We're almost ready! I just need to make our picnic, check bus times to the station for tomorrow morning, nip round to the post office with invoices needing to be sent out, have my shower and sleep.

If all goes to plan, this time tomorrow, the girls and I should be fast asleep in our beds in the Novotel in Genoa. I am beyond excited, I really am.

I also booked a 2-week holiday for my dad in an apartment in Palavas for the last week of August/first week of September. The girls will most likely spend the first week with him, but then they go back to school so he'll be alone for the second one (though after a week often on his own with the girls, he'll almost certainly need it!).

I'm kind of looking forward to it, though I feel sick at the thought of having to ask him to give me all the money I need to pay D his "share" of my flat. It's a huge amount of money and, even though it will mean that the flat is finally in my name only, it's still basically a huge gift to D. Especially as the solicitors' fees are almost half again.

The thing is, D is making noises about this again - talking of arranging meetings with solicitors and so on, so I know I can't put it off much longer. I did vaguely broach the subject the last time my dad was here, and he seemed OK with it. But it's not so much that I'm scared he'll say no, it's more that I'm so embarrassed at being such a huge failure in life that I can't even pay my ex his share of this flat (bearing in mind it amounts to only about 10% of the value of the whole place).

But I'm going to try and stop thinking about that for now. I want to focus on what I hope will be a good week ahead - I love Italy, some of my favourite holidays have been in there and I'm sure this one will be just as good.


vendredi 5 août 2011


About a year ago, I said I would very much like to attend BlogHer 2011. It's currently taking place in San Diego and - in case you hadn't guessed - I'm not there. As the weeks passed, it became increasingly obvious to me that there was just no way on earth I could possibly afford to go to San Diego for 5 or 6 days (for one thing, west coast USA requires hideously expensive flights and layovers and bla bla bla).

Sure, I'm bummed because I would love to be there, love to actually meet some of the people whose work I enjoy so much, let my hair down, have fun, meet new people. But if I'd been in San Diego, I wouldn't have seen my friend J, and her visit has done me a lot of good, I must admit. But still.

However, according to the BH11 attendees on Twitter this afternoon, it has apparently been announced that BlogHer 2012 will be held in New York. That is a much more realistic target for me - yes, it's still a big expense, but at least it's east coast (6 hours away, rather than, oh, I don't know, 12 or something), and it's probably the best-served US city with regard to flights from France. I'm excited at the possibility, I really am.

I've only been to the US once (and that was NYC too), back in 2001, and I loved it. Really, really loved it. I'm going to try and start saving as soon as I have climbed out of my current debt hole. Even just saving €50 a month would pay for the flight (maybe).

That's going to be my target, my goal and my motivation for the coming weeks and months. Funding my trip to BlogHer 2012 in New York City.

Wish me luck!

mercredi 3 août 2011

High and low

It's amazing how the first word from my friend J, the first hello at the Comédie this morning when we met up, sent all my money worries scattering from my head like shards of a glass the falls on ceramic tiles.

We didn't do much of anything today, but I nevertheless managed to forget my worries, forget my stress and just soak up the pleasure of being with J and M, two amazing, wonderful and delightfully normal people, with whom I most definitely feel more comfortable than I do with anyone I know here.

We met at about 11.30, bought a picnic, bought a postcard at the Musée Fabre (Frédéric Bazille's portrait of a girl at Méric, overlooking Castelnau village), walked a little and took the tram to the Domaine de Méric. We picknicked and chatted, the children played and excavated and made cement and collected sticks.

[D came at about 2 pm and chatted with them for a while - as we'd arranged - but of course I was hideously uncomfortable, as I always am in his presence. But he left after about an hour, so that was cool.]

We took the tram to Odysseum, the children had icecreams, we went to Decathlon and bought goodies, the kids had hot dogs in IKEA, and then we parted company, till tomorrow, when we go back to their place for our last day together.

The girls and I got home, and I found two cards from M (my other friend, in London) in my letter box, and that cheered me even further.

It was a good day, really. And, best of all, we're going back to J and M's holiday rental tomorrow for our last day before they leave.

Of course, real life sneaked its way back in, as it is wont to do: money worries plague me virtually all the time (except when I'm with J and M), D phoned tonight and is once again making noises about me refunding him his 25,000 € and I have so much to do that I'm not coping well at all.

But the four kids get on well - really well, even - and the weather is good, and the girls and I are off to Italy soon and it's summer and yeah. Life is definitely good in bits!

lundi 1 août 2011

High hopes

First day of a new month, and I have HIGH HOPES for this one. For one thing, as of midnight last night, I am officially on holiday, till midnight on the 15th. That alone is liable to make this a good month.

Also, the weather seems to have stabilised, and feels really hot and summery. Perfect.

Next, the girls and I are going to Italy for a week this month and I can hardly wait. I love Italy, have loved it every time I've been (three times so far) and am confident that we're going to have a great time.

My good friend D from New York will already have arrived here in Montpellier by the time we get back, and I haven't seen him since April 2001. And I can hardly wait for that, either.

The girls will be doing a circus and trampoline course, three hours every afternoon for five days, in the last week of August. They love the course, I love the breathing space.

Only minor hiccup - my ex-MIL from hell will be coming in the middle of the month, but hopefully I'll be able to avoid her as much as possible.

And only regret: that I won't be making it to my first ever BlogHer event this year. San Diego is financially unviable, and totally impractical in terms of timing. I'm hoping for (at least) an east coast venue next year, which would certainly be easier for me (less flights, probably cheaper flights). But I'm determined to go at least once; there are so many people whose work I read, and love, and admire, so many bloggers who have helped me (even if they don't know it), so many people I just love the sound of in their writing... 2012, hell yeah!

I used to love July, but this year July pretty much sucked. But really, I do have high hopes for August!

Bring it!