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jeudi 30 juin 2011

Code red




Today was kind of a long day (after a ridiculously long night - awake - or short night - asleep - last night), and this evening seems to be heading the same way as last night too. I've always known that I work best with a deadline, and I seem to get some kind of adrenalin rush out of pushing myself to the absolute limits of do-ability, but seriously, Magic? All-nighters just really don't suit you any more...

OK, so it wasn't quite an all-nighter - but I probably did nothing more than doze at my desk for an hour or so. I did also sneak in a nap this afternoon (another hour and a half). But that's it.

And I still have about 4,000 words to translate tonight, as well as my June (and May for that matter) invoices to do, a quotation to do for another job, tax hassle crap, admin crap, bla, bla, bla.

And of course, school's out tomorrow at 11h45, we're invited to lunch with a friend, I have to pick up another friend's son (same age as C and her best out-of-school friend) at the SAME TIME but from a DIFFERENT SCHOOL and take him along to lunch too, even though I haven't managed to get hold of our hostess to warn her of this at all today. I also have to find the time to do some food shopping at some point as we have essentially nothing to eat in the house (or nothing that anyone wants to eat, anyway).

I'm guessing my afternoon of "work" is pretty much screwed.

On top of that, the girls drove me batshit this evening, what with the bickering, not putting anything away, not doing anything to help, not going to bed and holy crap High School Musical AGAIN.

5 September seems a long way off, I can tell you.

At the same time, I have lots of ideas for cool (I think) things we can do together this summer and I'm kind of looking forward to doing them (assuming I stop staying up all night and manage to a) sleep at night and b) get my work done during the day). I don't want to wish the summer away - I love summer, come alive in warm weather - but I'm certainly going to have find some kind of strategy for getting the girls to be more helpful round the house. As it stands, they only help once I've asked a million times and probably shouted a couple of times as well and I really do feel like some kind of slave.

Of course, the tiredness doesn't help.Nor do Troy and Gabriella's squawking (I don't HATE HSM as much as I hate, say, Dora (though we're pretty much past the Dora phase now), but it is still pretty irritating and those kids just aren't great singers, all nasal and whiny, but with a heavy dose of sugar frosting on top. GAH.).

What I really fancy right now is a week in a swanky spa place with my best friends from England. A luxury hotel, with fluffy towels and crisp sheets (not covered in cat fur), spa treatments and beauty salon, elegant dining and fine wine and - why not? - an inexplicably single Johnny Depp or Jon Hamm at my beck and call. Yum.

Obviously none of that is likely to happen, but a girl can dream, right?

mercredi 29 juin 2011

I never learn

You'd think, by the ripe old age of 42, I'd have learnt from my mistakes by now. I know I certainly imagined that by adulthood - and 42 is most definitely that - I'd have my shit a bit more together.

But no.

I make the same fucking mistakes all. the. time. Like, for example, when I have a slight "lull" work-wise. I never - NEVER - make use of that "lull" to get ahead and do useful stuff. Oh no. I usually just sit about watching crap on TV, crap on the internet or sleeping.

There's nothing inherently WRONG with that, except that I always - ALWAYS - end up in a frazzle when the lull inevitably becomes a veritable shitstorm of work and deadlines and to-do lists and what have you.

Have you guessed that my "lull" has come to an end? I wasted most of yesterday reading blogs, tweeting, FaceBooking and listening to stuff on YouTube (can't stop listening to this right now). And now, of course, I have about 8,500 words to do for either tomorrow or Friday, plus a translation to correct for a student, plus two dissertations to read through for two oral exams tomorrow morning, plus mail to deal with, my credit card to collect, shopping to do, a lunch invite on Friday and a million other things. I'm not detecting much asleep-in-bed-time in my immediate future (oh, I have another 6,600 words for next Tuesday too).

When, oh when will I learn?

mardi 28 juin 2011


Today was the end-of-term tea party to say "thank you" to the girls' teachers (yes, both on the same day, and actually at the same time, which was practical).

The tea party in C's class was nice and civilised, apart from the class clown being, well, typical of himself. The teacher was very nice about C and seemed deeply touched by the gifts she received.

However, I went to L's class first as it is on the ground floor. Her teacher is retiring this year and was quite emotional. I can't imagine what it would be like to teach at the same school for 27 years... and more than half of them in 1st grade...

But she did make me laugh - she gave a little speech, saying how much she'd enjoyed her final year of teaching CP (the French equivalent of 1st grade) and how much she'll miss the children, despite them being a "class of popcorn".

It is absolutely the perfect description of L: pale, light and incapable of staying still for more than a nanosecond!

Watching the class "in action", so to speak - talking, babbling, bustling - they really did look just like grains of corn "popping" in a pan, and I haven't been able to stop calling L "Popcorn" all evening, changing it to "Palomita" (the Spanish for popcorn, meaning "little dove", which I've always thought adorable) at bed time.

And, of course, I haven't been able to get the music, Popcorn, out of my head either. Particularly this version, which just cracks me up.

lundi 27 juin 2011

Where I am from

OK, so everyone's done this today, but I actually picked it up from Avitable (of course!). I strongly suspect most other versions of this will read more poetically than mine, but you know me, incapable of resisting a meme of any kind, so I'm going to give it a go all the same... Sorry if it sounds bitter and resentful...

I am from red tinsel Christmas trees, stolen by my mother from a work dance in the 1960s, from a Spitfire sports car, lovingly stored in our garage for as long as I can remember (and long before that).

I am from the cottage in Hertfordshire, so idyllic sounding, yet a place from which I have no memories, a haven, a gardener's delight.

I am from the daffodils and crocuses, baby thrushes and hedgehogs, an unfortunate stick insect named Henry.
I am from Brussels sprouts with Christmas lunch and sherry before dinner, from pale skin and freckles, from the Mackintosh clan and all the Williams and Bills and Billys on my father's side, and a traditional Scottish nickname for Christine.

I am from the dysfunctional, let's-not-get-to-know-each-other family, the let's-all-die-young-or-join-a-sect family.

From "you were a mistake" and "you're our only child, it all depends on you" (thanks, guys, no pressure there, then).

I am from Scottish Episcopalians and (very lapsed) Church of Englanders, raised without faith, not christened, to avoid family feuding but causing bad blood all the same, growing up to distrust religion and the effects it has on people, raised in a family with Jehovah's Witnesses but never knowing them. 

I'm from Hertfordshire in England, out of the north east of England and the north east of Scotland, with a dash of Viking thrown in for good measure, from vanilla icecream and cheese.

From the grandfather I never knew, born in 1885 and an ambulance driver at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, a man who owned a hotel in Scotland and was a success until the Depression, when he lost everything and ended up a chauffeur for a cruel, Dickensian gentleman farmer, the grandfather who married a woman 11 years his junior only for her to die, suddenly, at the age of 59, whilst he, my grandfather, was driving his boss to Aberdeen, and my other grandfather, who I also never knew, who, with his best friend, saved a man from drowning in the North Sea, but whilst the friend drowned and was given a posthumous medal, my grandfather, who survived, received nothing.

I am from an old, brown leather suitcase with rusting clasps, full to the brim with ageing photos of people I don't know, people I never met, a happy chest of my mother's, with invitations and corsages from happier times.

dimanche 26 juin 2011

Last week

This is the last week of school in the girls' year. By lunch time on Friday, CM1 (4th grade) and CP (1st grade) will be over, and the long summer holiday will be before us.

9 whole weeks, if you can believe it.

Fuck me.

I have the sneaking suspicion that the TV and DVD player will be my best friends this summer - I'll be working for all but 2 of those weeks, even if I won't necessarily have huge amounts of work all the time. And D is so damn fucking unreliable that I know I can't count on him to help me out in any way (I don't think he even knows what "punctuality" means - he frequently turns up over an hour late, sometimes even more and never really apologises. It drives me batshit).

I would love to give the girls a really good summer, and I think I've done my best for this year: two different friends are coming, both for two weeks (though we won't see them every day), one late July/early August, the other the last 2 weeks of August; the girls have a circus and trampoline course every afternoon one week in August, we're going to Genoa for a week... I'm doing OK, I think.

But still. I know there will be lots of time spent at home, with no particular programme, while I try and get work done. And that means TV, or bickering. And a serious dent in my sanity.

I feel kind of guilty in advance, but I don't have any money for more stuff (the circus/trampoline thing, plus Genoa, are both unreasonable to be honest; I certainly can't afford more). I want to be able to go out for meals, eat icecreams, go to the cinema, but I'm just not sure how much of that will be possible.

I'm doing my best. I always try and do my best, but fuck me, it's hard.

This is the last week of school, in a year that I feel has flown by. Here's to hoping for a good summer.

samedi 25 juin 2011

Total Festum

There is a Brazilian-Occitan music festival, "Total Festum", in full swing almost literally right outside my window. The various groups have been at it since about 2 pm, and it's been gradually picking up speed. Now, at almost midnight, the music - mainly beating drums and flutes from what I can tell - is really quite loud.

I look out the window, across the street to the car park opposite and I can see the stage, the crowds, the lights. I can hear the music, see the people dancing, having a good time.

I feel old and out of touch, though to be honest, I'm not sure I've ever really been young.

I sit here, at my computer, and I've been watching "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". The film (which I've enjoyed much more than "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") is sweet and touching. But most of all, Brad Pitt is drop-dead-gorgeous once he gets to the 1960s (roughly his real age, actually).

And you know what? I am perfectly content to be here, virtually alone, watching Beautiful Brad, chugging down my Diet Coke. I have no desire whatsoever to be out there with the crowd, listening to Occitan music (haven't heard anything that I would identify as Brazilian), dancing among strangers in the dark.

I am old, and undoubtedly dull. I accept that.

vendredi 24 juin 2011

In the eye of the beholder

Beauty, as defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:


▶noun (pl. beauties)

1 a combination of qualities that delights the aesthetic senses.
2 [as modifier] denoting something intended to make someone more attractive: beauty treatment.
3 a beautiful woman.
4 an excellent example of something.
5 an attractive feature or advantage.
– origin ME: from OFr. beaute, based on L. bellus ‘beautiful, fine’.

I am not a beautiful woman. I have no illusions (or delusions) at that level, even if my sweet girls tell me they think I am beautiful (I suspect they won't always think this; I'm trying to make the most of it). My skin is horrible, I don't take care of myself as well as I should (or even at all, on many days), my hair is a disaster, my teeth are typically British and unattractive, I'm chunky around the stomach-hips-thighs... I could go on, but you get the drift.
Added to that is the fact that, living in the south of France with my daughters attending a private school frequented by the kids of doctors and lawyers, I see what I would consider beautiful women just about everywhere. Some of it is a question of grooming - maybe if I paid more attention to the way I looked and dressed I could be OK too - but there is, most definitely, a French "look" (well-off, well-groomed, well-dressed women) that I will most definitely never have.
Most of the time, I'm OK with the way I look. Sure, I'd like to lose a few kilos and get back to the size I was pre-children. But I'm not overweight, I'm not fat and I don't think I'm ugly exactly. So I'm pretty much OK with the whole thing.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I see something, watch something and it's like a shockwave running through me. Today, I downloaded (paid for, legally) Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and watched it instead of working this afternoon. I didn't particularly enjoy the film - I've loved many Woody Allen films, but this one, no. Deeply dissatisfying, I found. Frustrating, even - but there was something about the way Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) looked at Cristina (ScarJo), touched her, caressed her that made me realise something.
Not the obvious - that ScarJo is way more beautiful than I could ever, ever have been, even when I was her age - no. It was that beauty is the way someone makes you feel. And no one, no man, has ever made me feel beautiful.
In the 14 years D and I were together, he frequently made fun of my clothes, rarely made compliments. He made me feel like a freak, in fact. On the rare occasions he compared me to someone famous, he invariably chose men - old, unattractive and often even DEAD men: Louis XIV, Churchill, Giscard d'Estaing. You can imagine how that made me feel because seriously? Who would want to be compared physically to any of those?. I'm not saying he should have said I look like Angelina Jolie because that's blatantly untrue, but even no comparisons at all would have been better than Churchill.
As I said, I have no delusions whatsoever about my looks. I wasn't a beautiful child, and I'm not a beautiful woman. And really, I'm OK with that. But it would have been nice to have felt that my imperfect body, hair, skin, teeth were beautiful to someone. And, although D did on occasion give the odd compliment, the opposite was more frequent. I have never felt the way Juan Antonio made Cristina feel. No man's touch has ever made me feel special, or beautiful or even attractive.
Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder, and I have the distinct impression that no one has ever beholden me with an eye that sees beauty.
And I've realised that I really am NOT OK with that.

jeudi 23 juin 2011


You know I'm a sucker for a meme - and I got this one from Life of a Doctor's Wife. Although many of my answers are pathetic and woe-is-me-ish, I'm not actively looking for sympathy or anything resembling commiseration; I'm merely stating fact!

1. Who was your first prom date?
In my last two years of school, we had "school dances" which were about as similar to a prom as my stuffy all-girl British private school could manage. Most of my friends had dates, but I was totally invisible and socially inept so I was asked to invite a guy I barely knew but who was friends with my friends' dates. We were in a group, but I was still hideously aware of the fact that I didn't have a real date. (At university, the residences had "dances" too. I was never invited to one, and for my own, I invited a friend (nothing romantic between us AT ALL) and he got so drunk he became violent. So yeah, that was fun. For my university grad ball, I still didn't have a date and invited my former roommate (a girl) just so she could attend and see all our friends. My love life (ha!) has been a total disaster - I must be a freak of some kind.)
2. Who was your first roommate?
In my first year at university, I shared a room with a petite, dark-haired beauty with amazing clothes and shoes. Every guy at the university fancied her. We became great friends, shared a flat after that room, went on holidays together and only lost touch when she married a mega-rich Pakistani business man and converted to Islam (oh yeah - her then only son was a spoiled brat and we had an argument about him trying to bite C).

3. What was your first alcoholic beverage?
Family legend has it that a "wee drop" of whisky was put in my bottle of milk when I was 3 months old - my grandfather had just died and my parents and I had had to travel to the north of England (from London) overnight. I apparently wouldn't sleep and wouldn't stop squawking, so my grandmother suggested the whisky. It worked, so I've been told, but I've never drunk whisky since - even the smell of it makes me want to barf!

4. What was your first job?
I worked as a waitress in a winebar the summer I was 19. It was hard work, and put me off restaurants (the owner had one essential rule: any food you drop goes back on the plate. Except lasagna, which cannot be picked up. I often order lasagna now...).

5. What was your first car?
I passed my driving test when I was 21 (half my life ago!) and have essentially never driven since (perhaps 3 hours' driving since, in total, all before 1995). With my now ex, I did buy a car in 2001 - a Hyundai Accent, but obviously I never drove it, my ex did.

6. When did you go to your first funeral?
Although many members of my family died all through my childhood, I think the first funeral I actually attended was my grandmother's, in 1988. I spent the night before travelling to it on the beach in St Andrews, watching the sun come up over the North Sea with friends and felt remarkable peace at the beauty of the spectacle.

7. How old were you when you first moved away from your hometown?
18 - I left my parents' home in the south of England to go to university in St Andrews (about 900 miles away) in Scotland and never really went back, apart from the odd holiday now and then.
8. Who was your first grade teacher?
No idea, but it was a man. That year, I was the only girl in a strict, old-fashioned boys' school in southern Scotland that had just decided to take girls. It felt like something from Dickens - no heating ("to toughen you up"), corporal punishment (6 year olds! getting our palms whacked with a metal ruler!), very strict teachers... I've blanked out much of that year, to be honest.

9. Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I think it was probably when I was 14 and my parents booked our first ever holiday abroad (they used to go abroad in the 1960s, but never after I was born), in Spain one half term. We flew from Gatwick to Girona.

10. When you sneaked out of your house for the first time, who was it with?
My parents always lived miles away from a) school b) my friends and c) civilisation, so I never sneaked out to be with someone or go somewhere. I did, however, sneak out and go up into the garden to dance around in the moonlight (you have to remember that the TV series "Fame!" was a big thing when I was young teen...!)

11. Who was your first Best Friend and are you still friends with them?
My first real best friend was a girl called Sara, whom I met when I was 11, in our first year at middle school. We met in September 1980. I haven't seen her since 1997, I don't think, but we are still in touch - we send Christmas and birthday cards - but I suspect we don't have much in common any more.

12. Where did you live the first time you moved out of your parents’ house?
See #2 and #7 - I lived in an all-girl university hall of residence (not by choice, I applied too late for the mixed halls) in St Andrews in Scotland, about an hour north of Edinburgh.

13. Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
No one. I hate the phone and never call anyone if I can help it. If I'm having a bad day, I tend to curl up in bed with my cat, or write on this blog or FaceBook. I would talk to my best friends if they were nearby, but I'm in the south of France and they're all in England, so I just hold it all in, write it all down, try and get by on my own.

14. Whose wedding were you in the first time you were a bridesmaid or a groomsman?
My grandmother rented out one of her bedrooms when I was very young. The girl in question, Jane, asked me to be her only bridesmaid when she got married. I was 6. It was a magical day for me, though apparently the bride's mother deeply resented my (and my family's) presence because we weren't posh enough. My mother spent the day furious, but I had a great time, and a pretty dress and SILVER shoes that I loved with all my heart. I've never been a bridesmaid since (haven't actually been to that many weddings to be honest).

15. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Either feed the cat or open the shutters.

16. What was the first concert you attended?
I'm not a huge fan of concerts - when I was a teenager, smoking was allowed and I loathe cigarette smoke and react badly to it (red, streaming eyes, I lose my voice, I cough...) so I rarely went to concerts. I did see Level 42 when I was about 17 I think.

17. First tattoo or piercing?
No tattoos, no piercings. Not now, not ever most likely.

18. First celebrity crush?
John Travolta, after I saw Grease at the cinema in 1978. Easy.

19. First crush?
Probably a boy called Kit at the boys' school I mentioned in #8. He was older - probably 11 or so - but left the school the same time I did (half way through the year, we were the only two leaving). At our last school assembly, the headmaster announced that we were leaving and we had to go up on stage to shake hands with the teaching staff. As we walked forward, one of the assistants told him to hold my hand (I was 7), which he did, rather grudgingly, though obviously I was absolutely delighted! He was blond and athletic and I thought he was wonderful!

20. First real love?
I thought it was my ex. We were together for 14 years, I'd never had anything resembling a relationship before him (just the occasional "fling", usually involving some kind of humiliation for me) and really thought he was "the one". I imagined us growing old together. But that all went pear-shaped last year, so maybe I've never really been in love, never actually found my "first real love"... And at 42, it seems unlikely that I ever will now...

mercredi 22 juin 2011

Seeing red

I've always had a hot temper. I like to think it's because I have red hair, but it might just be some kind of character flaw that has nothing to do with my hair colour.

It's also always struck me as mildly amusing that so many people (people who clearly don't know me very well and/or don't live in my immediate vicinity) see me as "calm" and "unflappable". What a joke.

I'm actually beginning to think that I might even need anger management classes.

The anger I feel just bubbles away inside me, allowing my deceptively calm exterior to fool a certain number of people, and then suddenly... BANG! It explodes, loudly, messily, embarrassingly.

I nearly always regret losing my temper - I say things I don't mean, I express myself badly, I shout so loud I've been known to damage my voice, I break things, I slam doors - but it just bursts out of me, with such violence, such force that I know I am totally incapable of controlling it.

Unfortunately, my sweet little girls seem to bear the brunt of it nowadays. I shout at them so much more than I mean to, I'm so impatient, so intolerant, so downright crabby most of the time with them, and I know they don't deserve it (to be fair, they're also pretty crap at doing what I ask - clothes draped over all the furniture for days on end, used Kleenex not picked up, homework not done unless I physically make them, no help given unless I ask for it). And yes, they went to bed crying again this evening. And I feel like shit. Again.

I'm angry about just about everything I can think of, myself first and foremost. I hate myself for failing to get stuff done, failing to maintain this small house in any kind of presentable state, failing to eat properly, failing to get over D's departure. I hate myself for not being able to give my girls the life I would have liked for them, I hate that I'm so intolerant of everyone, everything.

Then, I'm angry at D. Oh, so very, very angry. He doesn't get it, but I blame him for just about all the shit in my life these last 18 months. I blame him for destroying our family, destroying our couple (14 fucking years up in smoke...). I blame him for forcing me to live such a damn miserable fucking life.

After that, I'm just angry. I'm angry at cyclists cycling on pavements, going through stop signs and red lights, going the wrong way down one-way streets; I'm angry at snarky administrations.

Just angry at the world in general, to be honest.

There isn't a single day I'm not feeling angry about one thing or another.

I know it can't be good for me, it can't be healthy (though there isn't much that I do that's healthy), but I can't switch it off, calm down, relax. I know even going on holiday will be a source of conflict (the girls will annoy me, I know they will, and I'll feel angry with D for screwing up holidays - leaving me alone, without adult company).

I'm scared of who I've become, of how miserable, angry, snarky, impatient and just downright nasty I seem to be most of the time, worst of all, with the only two people I love more than life itself.

I scare myself.

mardi 21 juin 2011

Bah, humbug

I strongly suspect I'm some kind of grouchy curmudgeon who is wholly unsuited to life amongst other human beings. People just BUG THE SHIT OUT OF ME, sooooo damn easily.

I've always had issues with patience and tolerance, and seriously? Those issues just seem to be getting worse (or maybe it's just that people in the south of France and more particularly irritating - that is a very real possibility).

I'm not going to bore you with the details of my utterly frustrating day - in which I trudged miles in blazing sun whilst spectacularly failing to accomplish what I set out to do, partly because I don't drive (I know, I know) and partly because GAH. PEOPLE. GAH.

But I will tell you that I'm getting pretty good at being snarky and - let's be honest - downright unpleasant on the phone with dickheads.

In addition, here in France, 21 June is the "Fête de la Musique" and I become even more delightfully curmudgeonly as a result.

This Fête, inaugurated back in 1980-something by foppish Champagne Socialist Jack Lang, celebrates music (duh). Every town, city and village has its official programme, more or less elaborate. Montpellier is a biggish city, so there are "official" events set up all over the place (there's a huge esplanade place about 100 m from where I live, so obviously there's a stage set up there, for example), and most bars have some kind of musical entertainment planned for tonight. In addition to that, all kinds of opportunistic events set up their speakers on street corners, seeming to believe that their music is fantastic as long as you play it loud enough.

And this is my main gripe with the Fête - it's so damn LOUD. Some of the bands playing are quite good, but would be infinitely better (in my opinion) if they didn't use those damn amplifiers. The cacophony in the city centre is downright unbearable (imagine different groups on just about every street corner or small square, all blaring their music - it's hideous), not to mention the huge crowds everywhere.

Obviously, I won't be going out tonight because I'm alone at home with the girls. But I'm absolutely not bothered - even before D left, I rarely went out, he usually went either alone or with friends, not me (as I said, I'm not suited for life amongst humans apparently) - but I AM bothered by the fact that there will be music blaring at me from at least 2 different places - the aforementioned esplanade place, where there's a huge stage set up, and a bar about 3 doors down, also with a stage set up outside it - most likely into the small hours of the morning.

I can't believe I'm such a curmudgeon. When I was young, I loved to go out dancing and stuff (though I have never been to many concerts, mainly because I react so badly to cigarette smoke, which obviously wasn't banned back then) but now? Can't be arsed. I DO still like dancing, but prefer (or rather, would prefer if the occasion were to arise, which it hasn't for as long as I can remember) private parties, with friends, not huge crowds of increasingly drunk strangers.

So yeah. Bah, humbug indeed.

This is, technically, the longest day of the year, but I suspect it'll feel more like the longest night.


I often - very, very often, in fact - wonder what it would have been like to have grown up in a large, tight-knit family. My family is, at least technically, fairly large (I have a lot of cousins, for example) but in reality, pitifully small.

On my father's side, my grandfather died a few weeks after I was born, my grandmother when I was just 19 and my aunt, whom I loved most dearly, died of cancer when I was 21 (she was married to an arsehole and had no children, even though she would have been a wonderful, wonderful mother). There were a lot of "uncles" (presumably my father's, not possibly mine) and "cousins", but we didn't really see any of them and certainly don't have contact now.

On my mother's side, things are worse still. My mother (who died in 2003) was the youngest of 5 children. Her eldest sister died when I was 6, her only brother died a few years ago (quite a few, I think, though I couldn't really say, I probably only met him a handful of times) and the middle sister died probably about 20 years ago. That middle sister was kind of out of the loop, though, because she was a fanatical Jehovah's Witness, so again, I didn't know her or her husband and never knowingly met any of their 3 sons (my cousins), all presumably much older than I am.

The sister nearest my mother in age - 7 years older - lived in Africa with her husband (now dead) and four children. They all moved back to Britain gradually, more or less when I moved to France. I've probably never spent more than a few hours with any of them.

So yeah, it's all pretty dysfunctional. My family can basically be summarised as my father and one cousin - the son of my mother's eldest sister, though he's 65 now and has always felt more like an uncle than a cousin.

All this because I had a mild tiff with D's mother on the phone this weekend and I'm now waiting for the fall-out to hit. I know I shouldn't have said so much to her, I shouldn't have let rip quite so much with what I think of D and his behavious, I certainly shouldn't have said what my feelings are for D. But there really is no one else right now.

dimanche 19 juin 2011

Mother's Day

You probably think I'm crazy - it isn't actually "Mother's Day" in Britain, France or the US today, it's Father's Day.

But today would have been my mother's day - her birthday. If she hadn't died on 13 August 2003, she would have been 78 today, which sounds amazingly old. I can't imagine her old like that; she was 70 when she died (though she looked like she was about 100 - a barely living skeleton, shrunken skin and bone, no spark in her eyes, no impression that she had any idea of who she was, where she was...) and in my memories of her before she became this other person, this stranger I didn't know, she was pretty much a wild child, a free spirit, obsessed with the moon and the stars, a lover of the sun and nature and birds. An artist in her soul, always sketching, reciting poetry, singing songs.

My mother and I had a strained and distant relationship (I've talked about this before) and she really didn't know me very well. She projected through me, and was disappointed that I didn't have her artistic talent (I'm not bad, but she was good). She became proud of me, but still. I'm pretty sure she considered me responsible for screwing up her life, making her leave the job she loved, making her a lonely, isolated housewife who did nothing to help herself and gradually became bitter.

She loved her birthday, loved being a Gemini, loved being born in the summer, during the season of roses and warmth and long days. She hated the winter months with a passion, was remarkably sensitive to cold for someone born in the north-east of Scotland and brought up in a house with neither heating nor electricity nor running water. She hated the short days.

I've said it before, I know, but I don't actually miss my mother. I miss, instead, the mother I never had, the mother I would have liked to have had, someone to confide in, someone to teach me things, guide me, help me become an adult. She had many qualities, but she failed in those respects, teaching me nothing of the ways of the world, giving me no insight into love and romance, never giving me "the talk", never considering me as anything more than a child.

For all her failings as the mother of a daughter, however, I'm pretty sure she would have made a wonderful grandmother to my little girls, and that is what I miss about her the most, perhaps. The fact that she never got to know C properly (they met twice, once when C was 7 months old, once the day before she died, when C was 19 months old) and never met L at all (she wasn't conceived till just after my mother's death) is perhaps my biggest regret.

But we'll never know what she would have been like. She's been dead for almost 8 years now, and the mother I remember seems a lifetime ago.


Happy Birthday, Mummy. I never forget this day, how much you loved it. It will always be your birthday in my heart.

samedi 18 juin 2011

Coup de blues

(By the way, yes, yesterday was a stunningly long day, spent mainly on my feet, making my ankles swell most attractively and leaving me with aching muscles today (which says a lot about my overall muscle tone and fitness, I feel), but we had a good time!)

So. Today. Another long day, actually. Going to the market, wrapping birthday presents, taking C to a birthday party and picking her up, plus all the usual cooking, working, bla, bla, bla.

Why the "coup de blues"? Tomorrow is Father's Day, and that alone leaves me feeling a little strange. I've bought a small gift on behalf of the girls, plus they've made stuff at school, but it's always these "special" days that are the hardest.

On top of that, the summer holidays are almost upon us and it's still a struggle for me to accept that things - everything, actually - are so different. Hearing everyone at the fête yesterday going on about how they're going to this place or that place "as a family" is hard. We'll never do anything as a "family" again, just as 3/4 of a family. Don't get me wrong - I don't miss D, and I certainly don't want him back, but I do miss the "family of 4" thing, I really do.

And last of all, the party C went to this afternoon was at a friend's house, though I use the word "house" rather loosely. The kid's home is amazingly beautiful, with a spectacular garden and pool. I'm not jealous, exactly, but I am jealous of all these people around me who don't have to worry about money all. the. time. It's probably the thought that occupies me the most (that and the fear of spending the rest of my life alone), and I'm so tired of having to worry about every single euro I spend, always a little anxious when I pay for something by credit card in case it's refused, always scrimping and saving.

I would so love to be able to not worry about money. I'm not asking to be rich, just to not have that fear in my mind all the time.

vendredi 17 juin 2011

The longest day

I know, I know, this isn't technically the longest day of the year, but I wasn't actually talking about sun hours or the like.

No, today is the annual, end-of-year school fête and extravaganza.

As a member of the Parents' Association, I'm actively involved, and my involvement starts at 8.30 this morning, when I'll be setting up the various games (drawing chalk lines, preparing equipment...), then moving (seemingly endless numbers of) tables, cutting up melons, making sandwiches, etc., along with a small army of other parents willing to give up their Friday morning.

The school closes at 11.45, so I'll bring the girls home, try and find something to feed them, have a quick shower and then head back to school at about 2.30.

The fête part of the day starts at 3.30 and goes on till 5.30. After that, I'll be helping put all the games away till next year.

And then, at 6, the "shows" start, each class performing some kind of choreography. The first batch are the kindergarteners, then there's an hour's break, and finally, at about 8 the primary kids start. L's class are dancing to the theme music from Pirates of the Caribbean and are dressed (of course) as pirates, C's class are dancing to "Everybody needs somebody" from The Blues Brothers.

The shows usually finish around 10, and then I'll be staying to help with the general clear-up.

I'm guessing it'll be midnight by the time we make it home, tired but happy (as they say).

This event is much-looked forward to and is mightily impressive. And I must admit to be kind of excited for it myself, even if it involves more than 15 hours' participation on my part...

jeudi 16 juin 2011

One of those days

You know what it's like. Your alarm goes off in the morning, and it all goes downhill from there.

I mean, this hasn't (by any means) been a BAD day, just a frustrating one, a day in which I feel like I've walked a hundred miles and done a thousand things but have actually achieved pretty much nothing. Nothing I intended to do, anyway.

Let's ignore the fact that I got up at 5 this morning (I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so decided to just fuck it and get up anyway), although of course tiredness probably played a part in the frustrating-ness of today.

I prepared for an oral exam (not me - I was part of the jury), correcting the student's work, etc. A positive - though bone-crushingly dull - start. I got the girls up and ready for school, which is always a somewhat fraught process, and got them to school on time.

I came home and did some paperworky stuff and then headed off for the exam, getting home at 11.30.

I spent over an hour sifting through the detritus on, around, on the floor beside and shelf above my desk, looking for a specific document. I did eventually find it, but all those areas remain a mess and nothing's been properly sifted. BECAUSE I SUCK AT TIDYING. But I did find what I was looking for, so I suppose there's that.

Then I spoke to D on the phone because I needed a document he has (all this is to enrol the girls in a week-long sports day camp in July). And which he CAN'T FIND.

First major frustration.

So, I set off to do the enrolling, even though one important document was missing, and trekked all the way across the city, on foot and by tram.

I got to the address displayed the most prominently on the web site (address, map...), only to learn that a) I wasn't in the right place and b) the right place is in fact even FURTHER away, in a totally different direction again. By then, I'd missed my time slot AND didn't have time to get there and back by school time, so I now have another appointment next week.

Second major frustration.

The actual address is on the site, but there's no map and it isn't nearly as prominent as the wrong one (which is where the camp takes place, in fact, but not the organisation's offices). I'm pretty pissed off, I can tell you.

Then I had to go spend more money on yet another birthday present (both girls are invited to different parties this Saturday) and rush back to pick up the girls.

You see? Not a bad day at all, but it's now 7 pm and I've still done basically nothing. This means I've got work to do this evening, but of course I'm exhausted and all I actually want to do is sleep...

Plus, tomorrow is the school end-of-year extravaganza. I'll be at school all morning, setting up the various games, moving tables, getting stuff ready (not on my own, of course, but it's pretty intense work all the same), then have the girls home for lunch, spend the afternoon at the school fete and the evening watching the shows and clearing up. I won't get home till about midnight I should think.

So, yeah. I really don't feel like working tonight. Just sleeeeeeeeeping.

Sorry. This has been really, really boring, hasn't it? I'll try and do better tomorrow!

mercredi 15 juin 2011

Spineless but excited

I trust you all know me well enough now to have guessed that I gave in to the temptation...

Yup, the girls and I are heading to Genoa this summer for 5 days of fun and games. I booked the hotel very early this morning and the three of us went to get our train tickets this afternoon.

I know I'm taking a financial risk (to be honest, I was surprised that my credit card didn't get rejected...), but to hell with it. I need a break, I need to get away from the stress and strain of this life, I need a change of air. And I am now sooooo excited!

I spent a while last night surfing sites about what to do in Genoa and there are some really cool things - the aforementioned aquarium, but also a whole "village" down by the harbour - biosphere, museum of the sea, humming bird forest, science museum for children - plus the old town and it's cathedral, palaces...

I CAN'T WAIT, people!

mardi 14 juin 2011


Hell's bells, I don't know what to do. I am sorely tempted - "sorely" to the point of almost actual physical pain - to just go ahead and do something that is probably unreasonable and rash.

I KNOW it's unreasonable and rash, but I SO BADLY WANT TO DO IT!

But I'm a logical creature by nature, and I'm well aware that to do something so clearly unreasonable and rash would cause me problems further down the road.

So, the dilemma:

This has been a hard year (as in twelve-month period and as in 2011-so-far). I've worked hard, I've struggled, I've had many downs and further downs (and a few ups, it's true) and I'm bone-crushingly tired. I spent 24 hours in the country and that was my first trip outside of Montpellier (except for the two trips to the airport, collecting my father and taking him back in April/may) since God-knows-when. Many, many months. I don't remember the last time I went anywhere that wasn't in Montpellier - it's most likely when we went to England in late October/early November, and before that it was August in Carnon. I just don't get out much.

On the other hand, and despite all the working hard, I'm still hopelessly in debt. I owe money all over the place, I have no savings and I basically seem to live from hand to mouth. I certainly can't afford to splurge.

In the midst of all this, is the fact that Novotel are now offering their 50% off deal in selected city hotels throughout the world.

I went on the site, and the Novotel in Genoa is at 52 €/night. I also checked trains and stuff and could get the three of us there and back for 180 €. If we stayed 5 nights, that would be 440 €. On top of that, we'd need lunch and dinner, plus tickets to the Genoa aquarium (the "biggest in Europe", at least at some fairly recent time) and other attractions in the city and miscellaneous "other expenses".

I sooooo badly want to go, and I know I'll go into self-pity mode if I don't (or, worse, dither for days on end, decide I want to do it and then find there are no more rooms available). But I also know I can't really afford it. I would like to go away, just for a few days, with the girls. Bilbao was difficult because all this (being alone stuff) was still so new. But we had fun all the same, plus I'm hardened now, I could do it with more tranquillity, more serenity, more self-assurance this time.

Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?

(On the "go for it" side of things, there is the fact that I have 300 € in cash that my father gave me for my birthday - I've technically spent it (as in, I've bought myself stuff, but with my credit card, not the actual hard cash) but not literally, so that's a good chunk of holiday spending money right there. But I'd still need an at least equally big chunk more.)

lundi 13 juin 2011

No surprise

I'm sure it'll come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but we actually had a pretty good time out at my friend's place in the country.

She came and picked us up last night at about 7 pm, we spent a pleasant evening chatting and playing with their adorable 6-week-old kitten, Pantoufle, and we were all in bed early. I mean, no, the girls (C and L, and my friend's daughter A, who's the same age as C) went to sleep ridiculously late - as is often the case with sleepovers - but I was in bed earlier than I have been for months, even if I didn't actually sleep till midnight (which was still an improvement).

The only trouble with going to bed so early is that I woke up at 4.45 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I read for a (long) while and eventually got up at about 8 when I heard someone moving around.

After breakfast, the girls headed up to the pool (so, around 10 I guess) and probably didn't spend more than an hour or so out of it all day - they had a fabulous time!

I helped my friend get things ready, and chatted with the other (adult) guests. I'm never wholly comfortable in social situations in which I don't know people, but today was OK. Better than most. And my friend, S, is a considerate hostess who always makes you welcome.

It's all a lesson for me to stop being so negative because this was a good day, despite the thunderstorm late afternoon.

It was nice to get away for few hours, to be somewhere else (and somewhere else that is amazing - a huge, beautiful house, massive gardens, pool...), to be with other people. I know I should make more effort to get out and do stuff. This was fun and did us all good. I just have to find a way to continue in this way now.

dimanche 12 juin 2011

Long weekend

Is it mean-spirited of me to hate these oh-so-French and oh-so-common-at-this-time-of-year "long weekends"? We've already had a four-day weekend (five-day for kids as they have no school on Wednesdays), in honour of "Ascension Thursday" on 2 June, now we have "Pentecost Monday" tomorrow.

I'm pretty sure these "long weekends" are a great thing if you have the kind of job that a) pays you even if you don't work that day (not like my teaching, for example: any teaching day that falls on a public holiday either has to be moved to another date or not paid) and b) implies working in an office or somewhere out of the house. It must be great to not have work to do, just like that.

When you work from home, and are too poor to turn down any work, "public holidays" cease to exist, just as weekends cease to exist. Worse than that: they're regular work days WITH THE CHILDREN AT HOME ALL DAY.

I guess it is mean-spirited.

I should love having my girls home with me; I should love having the time to do stuff with them, go places with them, hang out with them. But the truth is, I don't actually have time to do all that, so I end up resenting the days when they are here: I'm frustrated because I can't concentrate properly on my work and, at the same time, can't just hang out with my little girls.


That said, we have been invited to lunch tomorrow (Monday) with a friend who lives out in the middle of nowhere. So far out into the middle of nowhere, in fact, that she's picking us up this evening and we're spending the night. Then she'll bring us back tomorrow, probably late afternoonish.

The girls are thrilled at the prospect - this friend has a daughter the same age as C and the three of them get along famously. They also love sleepovers.

I, however (and this will come as no surprise to you), am a little less enthusiastic. I'm a homebody, I love sleeping in my own bed, and a night away puts me outside my comfort zone. Also, this friend is someone I'm not particularly close to and with whom I actually have little in common. She's nice, and kind, and well-meaning, but I'm concerned that 24 hours together might just be a little too much. We'll see. Oh, and there's also Tom, who's going to be on his own for 24 hours and he HATES that, so I'll likely find cat vomit on my bed or some such delight on arriving home.

But I'm not a complete grinch (contrary to popular belief) and I am grateful that this friend thought of me, thought of us and is going to so much trouble for us. I'm sure we'll have a great time: I haven't been anywhere in so long that it no doubt will do me good to get away for a bit.

I just can't be arsed, to be honest.

samedi 11 juin 2011

Right where I am: 3,986 days

I'm writing this post as part of the "Right where I am" project, in the hope that someone, somewhere might take comfort from it.

My elder daughter, my first child, my first miracle, conceived totally naturally after more than two years of trying and tests and procedures was stillborn on 13 July 2000. Yes, that's coming up to 11 years ago, something I find it hard to get my head around myself.

I'm not going to go into the horrors of what happened that night/day - it still remains unspeakably painful and there are so many regrets. So much I didn't know, that I didn't do.

But that's the past.

Since that terrible, bleak time, I have had two more little girls - one born in December 2001 after an extremely tense and difficult pregnancy, and one born in April 2004, after a still tense and difficult but less so pregnancy.

Apart from one of my best friends (who has had her own fair share of trauma and heartbreak), who lives in a different coutry to me and whom I see at most for a couple of days a year, I don't think there is anyone on earth who even remembers my first daughter, much less her birthday.

Even her father, the father of all my girls but now my ex (and I'm not going to go back over THAT trainwreck tonight, either) doesn't say anything on her birthday. I suspect he does still remember her, but hey, he's a guy, he's not going to talk about it.

Every year, on 13 July, I buy something containing or scented with lavendar. It's one of my favourite flowers and there are bushes of it outside the hospital where my baby died and was born. I remember smelling it that same afternoon, picking a stem off a bush and crushing it in my hands. It's the one single scent that will always remind me of my daughter.

My other girls know nothing - yet - of their big sister. One day, when I feel able to talk about her without breaking down in tears, I will tell them. I think they need to know how very much they were wanted, how very hard it was for their father and I to have children, how they are and will always be our world.

I don't cry for my dead daughter any more (OK, sometimes, but really, not so much), and the pain has eased a lot. Really. I still hate the question "How many children do you have?" and I'll always feel guilty when I say "2", but I no longer feel the need to explain my first child. I live my life every day, rarely even thinking about her. Her sisters are my world, my concern, my life now, and they take up all my time. And that's as it should be.


That little girl - who was never even given a name officially, though she has always been Eva in my mind as it was one of the names we'd started to think about - is deep in my heart, in a very special place. She was my first born, my true miracle. I let her down, in so many ways, even after she died. I didn't defend her rights, I let bad things happen to her and I will never forgive myself for my ignorance, my self-pity, my cowardice. But I hope, as I strive continually to do my very best for her little sisters, that she knows, wherever she is, that I love her with all my heart.

And I will always, always remember her birthday.

vendredi 10 juin 2011

French bureaucracy SUCKS

France is famous for its administrative and bureaucratic red tape craptasticness (that is totally a real word). And for a reason.

I teach English at the University here, except that that University is actually divided into a whole slew of different (read: independent) parts (Arts University, Science University, Economics University... etc.). I teach at the first two (arts and science), as well as "Polytech" (also at the Science University but independent of it. Don't ask) which is for the brightest students, preparing them for high faluting "grandes écoles".

As a freelance translator, my teaching is done as "vacations", a very specific (and specifically very shitty) type of contract that basically means you have to do what classes you're told, when you're told and every hour you don't teach isn't paid (including public holidays, illness...). If they need to get rid of staff for any reason, the "vacataires" are, of course, the first to go. There is also a maximum number of hours you can teach, namely 196, all universities together, for the academic year as a whole.

Another joy of these "vacations" is that you only get paid twice a year: the first semester (September to December) gets paid at the end of March, the second (teaching from January to May, then exams and orals and bla bla bla on and off till July) at the end of July.

This year (as in 2010-2011), in the first semester I taught 44 hours at the Arts University, 20 at Polytech and 54 at the Science University. The first two were paid at the end of March as planned. Still nothing from Science, and I learned today, after a snark-fest on the phone with a university administrator who has a job for life, gets paid for 13 months in every calendar year and can retire at 55, that I won't actually be paid till the end of July.

In the second semester, I taught 76 hours at the Science University. And the same administrator informed me that "because they have a lot of dossiers to deal with", they won't be paid till the end of October.

I guess you could probably say that right now I am beyond furious. Livid, even. The sums involved probably seem derisory to most people (all 196 hours taught probably comes to about 7,000 € or perhaps a little more), but I count on that money. I planned to use it to pay off debts, take the girls away for a few days at least, whatever. Now, instead, the debts will increase and we'll be staying home all summer.

I work stupid hours, but I work every day. Every. single. day. That includes Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. I don't necessarily work huge numbers of hours every day, but still. Every. single. day. I haven't taken a whole day off since Christmas Day. And now I know I'm going to be here all damn summer.

I'm angry, and disappointed and oh, so tired.

You have to wonder when the fuck life is going to give me a goddamn break...

jeudi 9 juin 2011


When I was a kid, I looooooved board games. I'm not sure why. Maybe I really did love that throwing dice/moving counters stuff. Or maybe (more likely) I just enjoyed enjoying something I knew my mother despised. The only board games my mother would play willingly were Scrabble (which is yawntastic when you're a kid playing the adult version knowing your wordophile mother is going to win every.damn.time) and - inexplicably - Snakes and Ladders. Seriously, is there any board game more dull that that one?

My obsession was with Monopoly. It's a board game, my mother loathed it and it takes ages to play. I fantasised about it, dreamed of it, yearned for it. Occasionally, my father (when he was home and not exhausted) and I would gang up on my mother and force her into playing, sometimes it was just my father and me. But it was always rare, so I loved it.

Fast forward too-many-years-to-count. Here at home, the girls and I have TWO Monopoly sets - my original one (original as in it's London and it's the one I had as a child, in fabulous condition because it was hardly ever used) and my ex's one from his childhood (so it's of Paris, and in French Francs and has the Champs-Elysées card missing). Every so often the girls will beg me to play it.

But do you know what? While I really don't think I'm particularly like my mother at all, I have to say I'm with her on this: Monopoly sucks the life out of you. It wears you down till you can barely think, barely function, and eats up so many hours of a day that you get nothing done at all. Especially when your 7-year-old is the Bank and takes about 5 minutes to give change for every transaction (and confuses the 100s with the 1000s pretty much every time).

As you can probably guess, yesterday was that French favourite: no-school-Wednesday. And, whilst this may well be the south of France, you wouldn't fucking know it: grey skies, cool wind, threatening rain for a week now. I couldn't think of anywhere to go with the girls that wouldn't cost me their inheritance (what inheritance?), so we stayed in. This morning they watched "Rocky and Bullwinkle" (is it really so very wrong of me - or a sign of brain disintegration perhaps? - that I find this film hilarious?) and this afternoon it was either take them to the swimming pool (which I hate even more than Monopoly - I swim like a brick, loathe getting water on my face, feel claustrophobic in those horrid swimcaps you have to wear and get a headache from the noise levels) or play Monopoly.

We played Monopoly.

To be honest, I couldn't even tell you who won. I'm guessing C, as she seemed to have the most money left despite having bought shitloads of streets. We didn't declare a winner, we just stopped playing when I couldn't feel my arse any more (sitting on a parquet floor for hours is hell) and L was getting to fidgety. They seemed to enjoy it, despite the squabbling and painful money calculating procedures. I wanted to poke my eyes out with a fork.

And of course I got nothing of any significance done - Rocky and Bullwinkle sucked me in this morning, Monopoly sucked the life out of me this afternoon.

I suppose I should consider it time well spent, quality time with the girls, doing stuff together, or what have you. But Lord Almighty, why does it always have to be Monopoly?

mercredi 8 juin 2011


If not exactly productive (a two-page text and a quotation - and that's it), I did at least get some stuff done today. Let's try and make it seem like I did A LOT, shall we?

1. I finally activated my personal account credit card. Yeah!
2. I "did" the shopping (by which I mean I ordered all my food shopping for the next two weeks via internet last night and had it delivered this morning - paid for with the aforementioned activated credit card).
3. I put the shopping away.
4. I cut up hundreds of tickets for the school fête all afternoon (I'm going to pretend that this is what killed my productivity, but I know I'm fooling no one).
5. I translated a two-page text.
6. I found someone for the text into French, got it sorted, did the quotation for the client, received the translation back and sent both text and quotation to the end client (sounds impressive, huh?).
7. I texted two mothers from school confirming C's presence at a birthday party to one, and L's at another.
8. I did some boring admin stuff for one of my students (it involved printing out a couple of forms, filling them in, scanning them and sending them back. We're talking INTENSE WORK, here).

Gosh, that looks good, right? There are 8 things on that list!

Of course, what you can't see is my "to do" notebook with about 40 other things (I'm not kidding) still to do. But baby steps, baby steps as they say.

So, yeah. I feel like I was kind of useful today. Let's just pretend the uncomfortable and disturbing phonecall with D never happened, shall we?

mardi 7 juin 2011


I really do believe I could be an Olympic champion if there were a procrastination race (contest?). I have a million small, simple things to do, yet I don't do them. To be honest, most of the time I have no idea where the time goes...

An example. Both my credit cards (one private account, one professional account) needed to be renewed recently. One became invalid on 01 May, the other on 01 June. For the private account (invalid as of 01 May), I received my new card by post at home some time towards the end of April. It can only be used if it is first "activated" by withdrawing money from a cash machine. For the professional account (invalid as of 01 June), I seriously have no recollection. I THINK I received it by mail too, but can't be sure, and sure as hell can't find it. Perhaps I just got a note saying that my new card is now available from my branch and that I need to go and pick it up. Who knows?

As I'm sure you've guessed, I still haven't even activated my private account card (even though I've had almost 6 weeks to do it). And that, in turn, means I can't use my credit cards at all.

Now, I'm going to be forced to take action because we have nothing to eat and I had to order my shopping last night. It's coming tomorrow (today) between 11 and 12 am, and the only means of payment is, of course, credit card. I know it's stupid, but I just can't seem to help myself.

Another example. I'm broke (nothing new there) yet can't get my arse in gear and actually get my invoices done, or phone the idiots at the university who still haven't even paid my classes from the first semester (September to December). And we all know how much I need the money...

I don't know what's wrong with me, I don't know how I manage to be so ridiculously behind, so stupidly late in bed, so damn fucking exhausted all the time - without actually seeming to get much of anything at all done.

The list of shit to do on my list is insane. The end of the school year is always crazy, and this one is crashing towards me like an out of control Formula 1 car. There are parties and birthdays and stuff to do for the school fête, there are holidays to organise, work, invoices, accounts, debts to pay off...

I'm totally at the end of my rope, can't be arsed to do anything at all (I've even got a translation to do into French and haven't done anything about finding someone to do it - and it's due in on Wednesday morning), just want to sink into bed and slip quietly into my fantasy life where all is how I want it, where I'm beautiful and slim and sexy and loved.

I try and motivate myself, every day I say, "OK, today you'll do this and this and this". I'm even pretty realistic, making sure I don't set myself unassailable targets. Yet that damn list just gets longer every day...

2011 World Procrastination Champion: Magic27!

lundi 6 juin 2011


I can't believe (or rather yes, I can but hate to) that it's once again 4.39 am and I'm still up, writing this crap. Even my cat is now completely out of phase with reality - he's miaowing for his breakfast (or possibly another midnight snack - cat likes to eat).

It all started with a quick look at my Facebook page. And there, there was a message from a friend (dare I call her that? We've never actually met, but I feel we could be friends, we exchange messages. Is that friendship in this modern world?) asking how, living in France, you can watch American stuff via the internet. I was hooked: I've been trying to do this for months, without success: streaming doesn't work (you need to be in the US), sites claiming to do this don't work...

One of the answers gave a link to another site, one I hadn't heard of and thus hadn't tried. My curiosity was piqued. I have no self-discipline. I clicked the link.

After downloading the odd doodad or two, I found myself stunningly able to watch episodes of Glee, directly on the computer, for free (not downloaded, you have to pay for that).

As I said, I have no self-discipline. So of course I watched the first 3 episodes in season 2, one after the other (with a frustrating - and so far inexplicable - technical hitch between 2 and 3, making me "waste" about half an hour).

Then, just as I was about to shut up "shop" (ha!) for the night, I decided to check my e-mails. And lo and behold! A message from a student reminding me that I'd promised her her work back by 6 June. Had I corrected her work? Hell, I hadn't even downloaded it...

So I had to do that (luckily, she's a pretty good student so it didn't take long). And it reminded me that I'd promised another student a text to translate either today (Sunday) or tomorrow. And of course I didn't have one ready, so I had to do that too. And send it.

Which is why it is now 4.47 am and I am only just finished for the "day". And I have to be up again in less than 3 hours.

I have a feeling that tomorrow (today) is going to be another great day.

I also have to try and stop starting sentences with "and" - Mrs Sharrock, a wonderful English teacher I had back in secondary school (she used to sneak out of class on the pretext of fetching something so she could smoke a cigarette... unsurprisingly, she died of lung cancer years ago. But she was a great teacher and I learned a lot from her) would kill me...

dimanche 5 juin 2011


I have rarely been so glad to have had nothing planned at all for this 5-day weekend... The weather has been unbelievably craptastic, with Wednesday kind of grey and cold and windy and threatening rain, Thursday grey and cold and windy and actually raining, Friday grey and cold and windy and sometimes raining (can you see a pattern emerging here?) and yesterday - Saturday duh - grey and cold, with a mammoth thunderstorm ALL MORNING (and the torrential rain that goes with that) plus ordinary rain most of the afternoon, then back to grey and cold and windy and threatening rain.

People, this is the SOUTH OF FRANCE and it is JUNE. It has been hot in England and Paris, it's hot on the east coast of the US, it's probably hot in fucking Lapland... but not here.

I was so sure that the good weather season had arrived - we'd had a fair stretch of hot, sunny days. But no. Back to crap.

So it's only fitting that I've got fuck all done this weekend and have felt down in the dumps and miserable. It might be because I've been stupid, staying up till dawn watching Mad Men DVDs and reading FaceBook and Twitter; it might be because I'm lazy; it might be because I played Lego games with the girls (though it would be pretty mean-spirited of me to blame that as that hardly took up much time at all).

But no. I'm not blaming it on any of those things. I'm British, this is my birthright: I'm blaming it on the weather.

samedi 4 juin 2011

My favourite place

I haven't exactly travelled extensively in my life. I've visited a fair number of European countries (some several times and different parts) and I've been to the US once - a fabulous week in NYC in April 2001.

I moved around (within Britain) a lot as a child, moving roughly every 12 to 18 months in the first 10 years of my life, and have never had a problem with the idea of moving (though the fuck-what-a-hassle factor is quite high now).

I've had wonderful times in Salamanca, Rome, Florence, Sienna, Lake Como, Amsterdam, NYC, London, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Lisbon, Zürich and more.

But you know what? Do you know where my favourite place is? The place that makes me smile, without fail, every time I go there? The one place where I know, for a fact, that my life is EXACTLY how I want it to be? Do you?


Asleep, in my bed (much as I love "my" bed, though, it doesn't actually have to be my actual bed, it can just as easily be the-bed-allocated-to-me on a given occasion). THAT, without a doubt, is my favourite place in the whole world.

Am I pathetic or what?!

vendredi 3 juin 2011


I didn't exactly have "plans" for today, but I did promise the girls yesterday that we would "do something" together. I didn't really believe that the weather would still be crap (yesterday was kind of grey and sort of half-hearted not-rain), so had vague plans to hit the Domaine de Méric, a beautiful park near the centre of Montpellier.

Méric is the former home of the painter Frédéric Bazille and is truly delightful. It covers a hilly area, so at the top level there's a "wild" prairie, most likely in full bloom right now (cornflowers, poppies, cow parsley...), then a series of small grassy areas and an orchard, then, down in a hollow, a play area for kids and woodland, leading down to a riverside walk. Lovely at this time of year.

So of course it has been not only cold (which would have been scandalous enough, but manageable) but WET all. fucking. day. So that plan was out the window.

L. wanted to go to Altissimo, an indoor "rock climbing" place. It's expensive, particularly as the girls have generally had enough after an hour, but they do enjoy it so I sort of said OK.

Of course, we weren't the only ones to think of this and the place was PACKED. So C. suggested a game of bowling. I was vaguely up for that, but it was even more crowded, with a looooooong queue and a waiting time estimated at "about 45 minutes". No way.

So we ended up at Acrochats, God help me. We had to queue there, too, and it's probably the most expensive of the three, and certainly the most hideous for me. It's basically just a huge indoor play gym thing (like the ones at McDonald's, only much, much bigger), but it's in a massive, cavern-like room that multiplies the sound level a billion times. It's unspeakably hot, the kids get hyper, all types of drink etc. are wildly over-priced and, as an adult on my own, I was virtually comatose with boredom.

So much for our "doing something together". Huh.

The girls then begged to have dinner out too (all these places are in a part of the city called Odysseum, which is an out-of-centre shopping-eating-entertainment place, all open air and accessible by tram), so, as I'm a cheapskate and Acrochats almost bankrupted me, we went to Subway. Splendid.

My head was throbbing from the Acrochats atrocity, and I find Subway to be singularly unspectacular (doughy bread, stingy on the chicken...), but the girls love it, so at least they had a fun afternoon.

The main problem was that the whole thing put me in a bad mood and I spent a fair amount of the rest of the evening feeling annoyed with them that they wouldn't do as they were told (pick up their clothes, go get in the shower, brush teeth, switch the Glee DVD off, go to bed...). I wanted today to be a fun day, just the three of us, and instead I spent the whole afternoon sitting on my own with nothing to do and going almost insane from all those kids screaming.

I know I'm being grouchy and unreasonable - the girls had a lot of fun and that should probably be enough on a day out with kids. But I don't often take the girls places, I don't often get to do "fun" stuff and this was beyond disappointing for me. I should have gone with my instinct and gone to the Musée Fabre - they would have been less enthusiastic at the beginning, but we always have a good time there. And it's quiet. And we could have gone out for supper somewhere reasonably priced (but not Subway). *sigh*

Lesson learned, I guess.

jeudi 2 juin 2011


The theme of this month's NaBloPoMo is "Fan" (as you can see on the button to the left of this). I used to think I was a fan of certain things and that I remain loyal to them, but I'm beginning to think that's not actually the case... In fact, I'd say I'm more obsessive-compulsive than loyal.

I mean yes, there are things I was a fan of in the past and that I still like now (lots of things, in fact) but what I find more striking (and possibly more worrying) is that the things I REALLY like are more flash-in-the-pan. For example, I developed an obsession a few weeks ago about the TV series "Friends". And when I say "obsession", I really mean it. I bought myself - very cheap - the box set of ALL TEN SERIES and watched them, compulsively. I watched as many as 10 or 12 episodes in a row, non-stop, going to bed at dawn, totally bug-eyed, and then spending the next day exhausted yet desperate to keep going. But then, once I'd watched the last episode ever (and sobbed at the end), I put the DVDs away and haven't looked at them since.

Instead, I've turned my attention to Mad Men. There are only 4 seasons, but I've watched almost 3 and a half in just a few days. I've watched 4 episodes today (and why yes, it would be 6 am - thank God it's a public holiday today and there's no school to make me get up at 7.30). I have 8 or 9 episodes left. I'm obsessed about the show, even dreaming about the characters. But I know that once I've watched the last episode of season 4, I'll stop (until season 5 comes out on DVD of course, but that might be a while away).

The same thing happens with CDs, books, even food.

I don't have the "classic" OCD - I'm most definitely not obsessively clean (ha! ha! ha!), but these "bouts" really do take on obsessive status. I'm not sure what happens, nor what pleasure I get from it, but I just can't control myself. I tell you, I'm fighting the urge not to break out disc 2 in the season 4 DVD...

Obviously, as obsessions go, this is fairly harmless (apart from the not sleeping part, of course). I don't drink (much - maybe a bottle of wine a YEAR), I don't smoke at all, I don't do any kind of drug. But this type of behaviour still concerns me.

I'm feeling unspeakably fragile right now - totally adrift, without direction, struggling to keep my head out of water and make sure my daughters get the best I can give them. And I have a feeling these obsessions are the only form of stability I can find. They're real, practical, measurable.

They keep me, if not on, then at least in view of dry land.

So I accept them for now. Because I need all the stability I can get my hands on right now.

mercredi 1 juin 2011

New month

A new month, supposedly a new beginning, but this really is all starting to feel like the end.

I'm seriously starting to not care about my work (which will eventually all blow up in my face, I suspect) and it probably won't be long till I make a gaffe of some kind, like forgetting a translation to be done, or not turning up for an exam or something.

But right now I don't care. I'm floating, drifting, drowning.

My life isn't exactly flashing before my eyes, but my dreams are, my fantasies are.

And I'm yearning for some time away, alone with my girls, time to enjoy being with them. But I suspect it won't be possible this year as everything is too expensive.

I watch "Mad Men" and feel like bitch-slapping Betty Draper - she throws away so much, she hurts those children so much, and all for what? A dull, bourgeois life... Yeah, OK, maybe that's what she wanted, but the passion isn't the same. And boy, would I love some passion right now...

But I remain adrift, distraught at the idea that this is probably as close as I'll get all summer to being at the sea...