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lundi 20 février 2012

Bated breath


Just so you know, the oven DOES still work, but (despite cleaning) smells kind of weird. Burnt, charred, what you will.


I'm waiting, on absolute tenterhooks.

Every day brings a new round of nasty letters - direct debits that have been refused (tax office, loans, internet connection, mobile phone, mortgage), threats of being blackballed from all French financial institutions for the next 5 years, bla, bla, bla - and I now dread the arrival of the postman. When he actually rings the doorbell, I don't answer (if he rings it means he has registered mail or a parcel; I'm not expecting any parcels and don't want to know about any registered mail. It can only be bad news).

I'm not allowed to use either of my credit cards (private account, professional account), even though my professional account is only (as I write) € 42 overdrawn.

The credit regroupment place can't put my dossier through (the dossier that would group all my current loan repayments into one single (and lower) payment, spread over more time) because I need to either get my dad to send me some papers showing I can in fact repay D. the money he put into buying the flat, or include D. in the dossier (as co-owner of the flat) and be rejected outright because of his even more precarious financial status.

I have asked my dad to send me the documents I need, but am too embarrassed to say a) why I need them (I've said it's for the solicitor so I can get the repayment crap under way. This isn't a total lie, just not the whole truth either) and b) how damn urgently I need them. So he's dragging his feet, being old and dithery. Not his fault, I know, but annoying as hell.

The Science University owes me € 1,200 (for first semester teaching), promised at the end of January but most likely not going to appear till the end of March. One translation client owes me € 1,400 (invoices dated October 2011, for work done essentially in August and September), another owes me € 1,500. Many other clients owe me smaller sums of money.

And no one. Absolutely NO ONE is paying me anything.

My finances are about to implode, I'm stressed beyond belief and totally distraught at the idea that I do so much work, paid at decent rates (in theory) yet remain so precarious. I can't do grocery shopping - no credit cards - so have to go to my local Spar and buy (over-priced) stuff every other day or so using the cash my dad gave me at Christmas. I can't do anything, go anywhere.

This situation is killing me. It's so fucking unfair. I HAVE the money - on other people's acounts. And they aren't paying. I've accepted a monster translation job (and have no idea how on earth I'm going to manage to get the work done) just because it'll pay a huge amount of money, hopefully in four installments, starting mid-March. I could probably clear just about all my debts (apart from the money I owe D., I mean) if people actually paid me.

Instead, I'm going to have problems with my mortgage, the tax office and various other establishments because my direct debits aren't going through. My internet connection will be cut off, my fax already has been.

Fuck 2012.


Just got off the phone with my dad and he's going to try and scan and email the documents I need tomorrow morning (bearing in mind he's never scanned and attached a document to an email in his life), so maybe things will start to happen at last... Fingers crossed!

mercredi 15 février 2012


I don't usually give out a lot of advice here (I'm more of a moan-and-whine type, I guess). But I'm going to break with tradition today.
This advice is directed at those of you who are:
a) not in top form mentally right now (be it because you're over-tired, under the weather, depressed, on drugs, whatever)
b) not great cooks and
c) owners of small, worktop-sized ovens with a grill function for which you need to select "grill" or "oven" function manually

The advice:
If you use the "oven" function more often than the "grill" function, it might be a good idea to automatically return the button to the "oven" setting after making grilled cheese.

If you don't, one possible scenario is as follows:
a) whilst already running late for lunchtime, you pull a frozen mushroom pie out of the freezer and set the "oven" to heat up for the required 10 minutes;
b) you then place said mushroom pie in the oven, on the now-hot tray and set the timer for the required 30 minutes;
c) you go away and do something else, not paying any particular attention to the increasingly unpleasant burning smell for a good 20 minutes or so;
d) you eventually wander back into the kitchen and observe, rather casually as it would happen, that the aforementioned burning smell is considerably more unpleasant here than in your office;
e) you check out on the balcony (because of course, your first reaction is that the smell must be coming from outside, even though there are no open windows because it's ARCTIC out there);
f) you finally decide that maybe there's a problem with your yummy mushroom pie and go and have a look through the glass door;
g) you notice that the pie, though theoretically not yet fully cooked, is alarmingly BLACK and COAL-LIKE on the surface;
h) you open the oven door and observe pretty much critical (i.e. inedible) damage;
i) to confirm this observation, said pie then rather spectacularly BURSTS INTO FLAMES;
j) your almost 8-year-old daughter appears and starts shrieking about calling the fire brigade;
k) whilst keen to put an end to this culinary disaster and potentially dangerous situation, you are torn by the thought of the humiliation involved in bringing the fire brigade in;
l) you suddenly remember that fires need oxygen, so you close the oven door again;
m) the flames mercifully die out;
n) your already-late-to-start-with lunch is now dead (practically fossilised, actually) and you have no idea what the hell else you can cook because you will scream if you have to eat either pasta or rice again;
o) you end up eating a plate of boiled peas and carrots at almost 3 pm with about as much enthusiasm as you can imagine because there really is NOTHNG else;
p) as you try to remove the now-cold-but-still-charcoaled pie from the oven, it of course (being totally raw underneath) falls apart in your hands and splatters mushroomy goo and puff pastry charcoal chunks all over the inside of the disturbingly brown oven and the floor.

It really would be so much simpler if I just remembered to put the button back to "oven".

Not that this is a real story or anything, but you know. Just in case...

mardi 14 février 2012

St Valen-effing-tine's Day

Seriously, I think I need a Nobel Prize. No, actually. Scratch that. What I NEED is the millions that go with it. I DESERVE the Nobel Prize.

I mean, here I am. Totally unfunded (understatement of the year) yet still managing to develop totally sound, totally innovative theories about life. Genius, that's what this is...

So. My latest theory.

Tomorrow is a day that I have loathed for way more years than I've liked it. Yup, St Valentine's Day. It was fun for probably 13 years, and crap for all the others, so I'm not hopeful about tomorrow.

Seeing everything all lovey-dovey-fied on the Internet in the last few weeks set me to thinking about love and relationships and the like. Because OF COURSE I'm an expert.

Let's back up a bit, to my glorious youth. First off, it was far from glorious. Really. My youth can pretty much be summed up in 10 words: submissive, unrebellious, got good grades at school, totally missed out. I was invisible to everyone but my teachers. My parents had no clue as to what kind of person I was. I was never asked out on a date, never went on a date, never had a date to the hideous school dances (the British equivalent of the Prom) I had to go to. I had male friends, but that was it. No romance at all. And never a single Valentine, naturally.

I left high school and went away to a university as far from home as I dared, without realising that I'd actually chosen the most English university in Scotland, almost entirely peopled with kids from the same area that I had just left. *sigh*.

I made friends, plenty of friends in fact, and many of them remain close friends even today. But I was still wholly invisible as a potential "date". My male acquaintances (not friends) used me as a means of making contact with my eminently desirable room-mate. My male friends confided in me. So, once again, never asked out on a date, never accompanied to dances or whatever. Just a few very dissatisfying (and, let's be honest, frequently humiliating) one-night stands as a result of drunken shenanigans. Hmmm.

Things only slightly improved on moving to France after graduation (don't worry, I'm getting to my theory, honest), but not much till 1996, when I hooked up with my now ex-partner. We were together for 14 years (I'm clearly and all-or-nothing type) and pretty happy together for most of that time.

And now, well, I'm back to the "nothing" part again. And this is where my theory kicks in. The longer I spend alone - truly alone in a relationshippy sense of the word - the more I realise that I don't actually want to share my life with someone any more. I like being able to eat porridge at 4 am, stay up all night watching Mad Men on DVD and drool over Don Draper. I like being able to get away with not doing any housework for weeks on end. None of that (and more like it) would be possible if I had to share this home with someone else.

What I DO crave, however, is a date. Somone to make me feel special, make me feel safe, loved. Someone to take the strain when it all gets too much for me (like right now, for example) Someone with their own home, their own income, their own life, but still time for me.

So my theory is this: the longer you're single, particularly if the singledom is involuntary and a source of pain and/or anger, the less likely you are to want to go down the coupledom path again. And the more likely you are to want just casual flings. You really do get used to being alone, and the idea of having to go through all the compromise crap again is just horrible. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. I'm pretty sure there isn't a man on earth capable of putting up with me on a permanent basis (hell, I can barely put up with me...). Not even Johnny Depp.

The problem with this theory is that my pitiful "casual fling" and dating history makes it highly likely that this whole subject is a moot point. I'm more than likely never going to have any contact with a man ever again. Dating sites are out of the question - I don't want to meet "the perfect mate" or whatever vomit-inducing phrase these sites use. I also don't want to "pick up guys" (I never managed that when I was young, I certainly wouldn't now. And don't want to. Really.) So there's no solution. Well, other than having Johnny Depp just turn up on my doorstep and whisk me off on a hot, no-strings-attached date, that is.

The Shadoks claim that if there's no solution, there's no problem, but I disagree. This is, for me, a very real problem. I would very much like the company of an attractive, solvent, sane man (can you tell I've been burned?). Just not one that lives in my home or thinks I'm weird for eating porridge at 4 am. I would love to have a nice, attractive man wrap his arms around me and tell me all my troubles will disappear, but I don't want to be in a couple. I love my independence, I hate my loneliness.

Maybe a toy boy is the solution, but I doubt it. Really young men truly don't do it for me (remember, I teach students, so I see plenty of young men and they are like aliens to me - undesirable aliens) and I'm pretty much the anti-cougar (no seductive talents AT ALL).

So what can I do? Drool over Don Draper and Dr McDreamy? (Actually, McDreamy doesn't do it for me either; sometimes I prefer Dr Karev, sometimes I prefer Denny (except for the fact that he died)...) Wait for Johnny to split definitively from Vanessa (and make the leap of faith required to end up with me)? Live vicariously through others? Give up?

Clearly, the last solution is the easiest to put into action. But also the most depressing. Which is why I'm approaching tomorrow (actually, today now) with rocks in my heart and lead in my soul.

St Valen-effing-tine's Day.

Sod it.

Remind me to let the Nobel boys have my bank details. That money would at least keep the hounds from the door...