Thursday, August 09, 2007

Of Playschemes and Picnics

OK, I'm sorry. I've been rubbish at updating my blog recently, for anyone who reads it, although I do have some excuses (my internet stopped working for four days and then my electricity was cut for another day, and I've been very busy!).

So, the playscheme. I spent two weeks on the Saltern's Playscheme, which organises fun activities for children with learning difficulties, like going to the aquarium, going swimming and stuff like that. Each of the children needed a carer to look after them, which is where I came in!

On the first week, I was looking after a child with Down Syndrome, who was absolutely fantastic, although a little stubborn and unaware of his own stength! So I had as much fun as the children that week, although my glasses were bent within a few hours of the first day after getting struck by a basketball in the face. I was hit by various objects to various parts of the anatomy over the fortnight. I got to go to the aquarium, go swimming, watch Shrek the Third, go to Finkly Down Farm and eat lots of ice cream! All in the name of making sure the children had a good time, of course!

The second week I mainly looked after a child with Kay, who decided to join in (the first week she was camping in the exotic location of... Brockenhurst). This child, although really cool in his own way, was anxious about quite a lot of things; he didn't like crowds, loud noises and water. That meant we spent most of the time staying on the bus while the rest of the children went and did things. That wasn't too bad - we must have sung A Spoonfull of sugar about a dozen times! It was only annoying because the first week the weather wasn't so great, but last week on Wednesday, it was scorching, and I spent the day on a hot bus.

However, the Tuesday we were to go swimming. The child I was with didn't like swimming (as he didn't like crowds, noise or water, which is what swimming is all about), so he swapped with a child from another group who really liked swimming while he went to Longdown Dairy Farm, where aparently he saw a lion. This third child had Angelman's Syndrome, which a fascination with water is a characteristic, hence the love of swimming.

So all in all, the Saltern's Playscheme was a fantastic experience, and I'd love to do it next year if I'm around. The children were all fantastic - well, at least the ones I looked after, there were others which were more ... challenging, to put it diplomatically.

Last Wednesday, there was a church youth group barbeque at Denise's, which was jolly fun, and Thomas decided to make a cheesecake.

This weekend just gone, the weather was fantastic, and I tried to make the most of it. Saturday, Thomas, Jess, Ali (two friends who worked at Morrison's with me) and I went on a picnic at Longdown, which was a great day. Thomas made these lovely chicken and pesto baguettes and a batch of scones. We also had strawberries, watermelon and cake. And Longdown, even though it was in the New Forest on a sunny Saturday, was practically empty, save the horses, (one of which stole a scone, an apple and trampled in our butter) which Thomas so galantly chased away - shouting and waving his arms like a maniac. After the picnic, we were thinking of going for ice cream at Lyndhurst, but the traffic was an absolute abomination! We know where all the grockels went instead of Longdown. So we went back home, and walked up to the post office to buy some ice lollies. Such a perfect day...

Sunday, I went to church, had lunch at our grandparents and then had Jo, Katy and Ben come round in the evening where we served more chicken and pesto (Jo's addicted to the stuff...) and played games, including a hilarious, yet slightly vulgar game of consequences, cranium, and pig, the card game. Another great evening. (I have such a cool social life, non?)

This week's been slightly more laid back, but not as much as I hoped for as I've got three manic weeks coming up. Next week is Soul Survivor, then Thomas and I are off to Paris!

A bientot, mes amis

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another overdue entry

As you can see, I've been rather lackadaisical updating my blog, and I apologise without prevarication for anyone who has felt somewhat catawampus from the evident diminution of updates. So, for anyone who actually reads my blog (please do!) and got past that mammoth sentence of superabundant locution, here is another overdue entry. And Beki, if you are reading this - you hypocrite! (said with love of course...), and those long words are just for you.

So, a little of what has been happening, possibly or possibly not in chronological order:

a) Marchwood fete. Two Saturday's back was Marchwood fete (Marchwood being a village where my grandparents live), and Thomas had volunteered to help out with Jo and Kay. I hadn't but on arriving, I was given things to do without even being asked whether I wanted to, not that I minded. Power of association I say. Anyway, the weather was really good, and I spent the day in the sun and got the burns to prove it. But apparently I'm a sauerkraut for not dressing up, but I only got back from Paris the Tuesday before.

b) Work. I sort of have a job. Well, I signed up for a temping agency and have been given work once a week putting inserts into local newspapers. Rivetting. I could ask for more, but I'm fine.

c) Went to see Harry Potter, which was by far the best Harry Potter film so far. Also on the Harry Potter theme, as this Saturday the new book is coming out, Hythe High Street is being decorated for the occasion. As Jo's dad is the manager at a shop there, Thomas, Kay, Jo and I (yes the same four, we should have a name, like the Marchwood Musketeers or something) are decorating it, so Thomas and I have been working on that.

d) Father's birthday. Last Saturday, which was also Bastille Day for those in France, was my father's birthday, so we had a big barbecue, with a giant gazebo and everything. My mum had a nice quiet meal with the family. My dad, the entire works. And it's not even a landmark birthday, although he'll be 50 next year. What'll he do for that, hire a string quartet?

I've also volunteered to do two weeks at Saltern's Playscheme. Saltern School is a local school for children with learning difficulties and at the start of the summer holidays, they organise activities with the children, which I'm helping out with, starting next Monday. Should be fun. Then I've got a week off, then it's Soul Survivor, and then I'm off back to Paris, to find a new apartment. And I have about 10 days to do it before I have to leave my current one! I'm insane, I know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I can't seem to add a title for some reason, oh well. I haven't updated for ages, so I can't be bothered to write about everything that's happened (nor remember everything that's happened), so it's just a short update to tell you that I'm still alive.

And I'm also back in England, since McDonalds didn't want me anymore and cancelled my contract. Cancelled, by McDonalds! Hilarious! But I'm so glad to be back in England, even though the weather is being tempermental at best.

That's all for now folks. I told you it was a short entry.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

An update at last

It's been ages since I've updated, mainly because a) my internet's been rubbish, and b) I haven't been bothered. Since I've deprived you of the news of my life which I'm sure you all so avidly read (I live in hope), I'll probably add two entries, one about my trip to England, and one about my return to Paris.

So, following on from my last entry: Tuesday, after the whole rigmarole of the McDonald's job thingy, I met up with Katy Dey at St Michel again. I had my suitcases with me, so we went to a cafe where I ate a crepe, and a baguette if I'm not mistaken. After we said goodbye at Cite, I went to the gare du nord to catch my train and buy the ticket to come back. (For some reason I'm having to control a strange desire to insert random French words here and there) I accidently bought the ticket going the wrong way, but managed to sort it out, so that was all fine. I got on the Eurostar, as one does when going back to England by train, and met my dad at Waterloo, even though I didn't realise he'd be there. Got home around nine, and had a dinner that Thomas prepared. To be honest though, I was so tired I could have eaten polystyrene.

Wednesday, I'd arranged to meet Ali and Jess in Southampton, which was cool. Thomas tagged along of course! We went to Costa Cafe, where the waitresses were rather miserable (made me feel like I was back in France!). That evening, I went to the church youth group, which was the first time in about a year, but it had hardly changed, which was nice. Afterwards, Thomas and I watched Gosford Park.

Thursday, Thomas and I went to Poole to meet up with Kaylee. Weather terrible, company good as usual. Had lunch at Wetherspoons, chatted, had a wonder around Poole, chatted, looked at some little bits and bobs including Poole Pottery, which is obscenely expensive. Then we had a cream tea (not great) to escape iniment rain, and chatted, bought some sweets (not that great either) and chatted. Then Thomas bought the entire works of Shakespeare, all 20 tons of it. And that was about all. That evening, we watched A Corpse Bride.

Friday, I went to the cinema with Jo and Katy to see The Fantastic 4, which was cliched and poorly acted, but it was at least mildly entertaining. But it was nice to see Jo and Katy. The family all watched The Prestige that evening (4 films in 3 days!), which was really good, but the ending was a bit disappointing.

Saturday evening the family (sounds daunting, mafia-like, non?) went to The Fisherman's Rest, Lymington for dinner. The food was excellent, but they ran out of venison, which Thomas ordered, and didn't tell us until they were serving everyone else. Bit daft, if I do say so.

Sunday was Father's day, so Thomas cooked a fried breakfast, while I cleaned up. Then Thomas cooked a chocolate cake and some scones for an afternoon tea (which Thomas so humbly put while plagiarising Mary Poppins, "all of which were practically perfect in every way"), while I cleaned up. The grandparents came round for the afternoon tea, so it was a thoroughly enjoyable affair.

Monday, I didn't do anything, and Tuesday I returned to Paris.

That'll do for this entry, which is beginning to compete in length with a Vikram Seth novel. Till next time, which I believe will be very soon...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

False Alarm!

My plan up until now was to go back to England this evening and stay there for the summer. But maybe God had slightly different plans. 10h this morning, I got a phone call from McDonald's saying they want to give me a job. That threw everything upside-down. New plan: I go to England this evening as planned, but I come back next week to start my job at McDonald's. Not great, but at least I'll be in Paris!
But, slight problem. HSBC (both UK and France) has blocked my debit card. Now I need to sort that out too. At least I have my Nationwide cash card. So I won't starve here in Paris. So, plan for today. Meet Katy at 2h. Go to Gare du Nord, buy next week's ticket and go home! My suitcase is a lot lighter now I'm only going for a week! Oh, and I still owe Jennifer 7€...
That was because she paid for my cinema last ticket for Pirates of the Caribbean last night. I really enjoyed the film, but it's incredibly long, and I was getting dehydrated by the end of it! The special effects were amazing.
So, I'll be back!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Packing and politics à la poste

Since I'm going back to England tomorrow (tragic, I know!), I thought it would be a good idea to pack... So today I got up nice and early, 7h45 to be precise, and packed/tidied my apartment. Isn't it nice when your apartment gradually becomes magically larger yet at the same time easier to navigate? It's also rather fun discovering objects that I'd mislaid and forgotten about under thick layers of clothes, paper and/or Penicillium chrysogenum. For example, I found my violin rosin, which may actually be cello rosin, but that's a different story, my parker pen, and a roll of bin liners.

This morning I went to the post office to post a letter saying I wanted to leave my apartment with accusé de reception. When I arrived, there was a heated argument taking place between a woman and a man. Although I missed the beginning, to my palpable disappointment, from what I could gather is that the woman made a comment to the man behind her about how long the man in front was taking. I find that French people, who are usually reserved in supermarket queues, etc., make an exception at the post office and start talking to people around them (or maybe that's just what happens at my local post office). Anyway, the man heard her make a comment, and thus the argument began in haste. By the time I arrived, the argument was very heated, especially from the lady, much to the amusement of on-lookers, who were muttering among themselves. It even became racist, with the man saying "Je suis français!", with the woman who was from an ethnic minority shouting back, "C'est quoi, 'français, c'est quoi?", and then the woman serving the man got involved, saying that one of them would have to leave. The woman originally involved started muttering something about Sarkozy, I didn't catch what, but I'm sure it wasn't positive. What Sarkozy had to do with an argument at the post office, I'm not exactly sure. I think he might have been made into a scapegoat somewhat in this example.

Sarkozy - the cause of all our problems?

Anyway, I got posted my letter with accusé de reception. Even though I knew what it meant, I simply could not think of the English translation. On the way back it struck me: proof of postage. Bizarre the way our brains work.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A little update

From Paris to Southampton
I can't believe I'm leaving Paris on Tuesday for a few months! Although I sort of need to go back to England to find a job (following unsuccessful searching here), and prices became prohibitively expensive after Tuesday, I'm starting to regret buying the ticket. There's people I probably won't be able to say goodbye to and that's sad. I told Jennifer I was leaving, slightly bluntly it must be said (by text), which shocked her somewhat! Sorry Jennifer! And plus, I'm really tired today, having not slept well, got up early, went to the Church Council half day away - which was a lot better than I anticipated, collected my ticket from Gare du Nord (isn't the RER bit scary and confusing?), did some washing and started to pack. My tiredness is contributing to my general state of miscontentedness, but nothing a good night's sleep shouldn't sort.

Church Council not so boring after all
Having joined the church council fearing it would be incredibly bureaucratic, I thought today would be a form of purgatory (if I believed in it, that is), but I was pleasantly surprised! I talked to some of the fellow church councillors who I hadn't spoken to, and there was lots of positive contributions. There was albeit some bureaucracy, some more responsible for that than others, but there was some cool stuff. And the food was really good. Which helps.

Of Decisions Made and Hillsong Paris

Ok, I decided what to do, and rather rashly bought my Eurostar ticket for next Tuesday!! That means I have 3 days (and then most of Tuesday itself) to do everything I need to before leaving Paris. And say goodbye to people who'd have left themselves by the time I return. What a hullaballoo! My list of things I need to do before I leave: a) send off my preavis at the post office, b) pay for the rent for while I'm gone, c) collect my Eurostar ticket from Gare du Nord, d) tidy my appartment, wash clothes and pack, and e) say goodbye to people. Plus, this morning is the Church Council half day away (which is why I'm up so unbelieveably early, and it's linen change) and I'm doing the projector on Sunday. Insane!

And as my title so eloquently alludes, I went to Hillsong Paris last night with Beki, Jenny and her church sort-of-student-group thingy (what it was I'm not quite sure, one thing I do know is that they were all French). All three of us and the French people found the service, well, interesting, and a good cause for conversation. The worship is all let's-all-clap-and-jump-up-and-down style, which might be to some people's taste, but not mine, but I can't really fault that. The word itself. Well... It took the person talking ten minutes to mention God. There was hardly any citation from the Bible which meant that a) any allusions to the Bible weren't backed up with hardcore scripture (he spoke about Daniel a lot, but I think gave one indirect reference to scripture), and new Christians, to whom Hillsong seems to aim at, wouldn't have had any idea what he was talking about and would have had to just take his word for it. Something that I wasn't really prepared to do. The talk didn't really have any point, jumping from Daniel's conviction in Babylon not to drink alcohol etc., to being the light and salt of the world without any sort of linking section. Which was probably linked to the fact the talk didn't have any real centre, so no real decernable path to go. The talk was incredibly egocentric, and almost totally secular. I could have just have easily been in an Alcoholic's Anonymous or marriage counciling meeting. It was all about, "you can put a conviction in your life", "you can be the light of your world". You, you, you. Which at some points became undoctrinal, suggesting, I cring at the thought, that we can initiate a miracle (no mention of God), and saying, "you are the light of the world" (I wasn't listening at this point, but I have it on good word (beki's) that he did actually say that). The scripture he was referring to is clearly "I [Jesus] am the light of the world". The whole talk suggested that if you're a good Christian, God will bless you materially. You'll have a good, happy life with lots of things. Totally unbiblical. So that's that. Don't think I'll be going back for a while.

Anyway, I need to finish getting ready, take my dirty linen down in about 10 minutes, collect the clean stuff, and then go to catch a train at Nation. But I've got a bit of time, so not to worry.

Oh, last night, I had several bizarre dreams. Which is odd, since I hardly ever dream, so to have about 3 in one night is unusual. Maybe it's all these thoughts of a million things to do. They were slightly disturbing, some of them, but good in a way, since if I dream, my life expectancy is hitched up a knot.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

I had another interview this afternoon (well, about an hour ago) with McDonald's. This interview was really different than the first one, namely the interviewer. The last interviewer smiled the entire time, spoke French clearly and with a regular pace. The man interviewing me today, with his dour expression, staccato, direct speech, and determined walk, was entirely different. Middle management springs to mind. It wasn't that he didn't seem nice, he was just straight to the point. His French was a lot harder to understand, given he was quietly spoken with a stacatto voice, but I think I did well, and he said that my application interests him (this doesn't sound right, but it was "votre canditature m'interesse"). And so again that was cool that I had a second good interview in French. The interviewer reminded me of someone from my last emploi, Richard I think he was called, also a relatively young man, but incredibly serious.

But now to the decisions bit... He said that he won't know whether he'll be able to give me a job for another week at least, because a nearby McDonalds is closing for several months and this restaurant is absorbing most of its staff, which for a summer job is quite a long time to wait. So do I wait until I find out for sure, or do I go back to England? What if I stay and it turns out I haven't got a job? At the moment I'm thinking of phoning them some time next week telling them that I’ve bought my Eurostar ticket something’s happened back in England and I need to return, but I would love to be considered for a job for the rentrée.

And yes, it may seem a rubbish option, but McDonald's isn't actually that bad. Yes, I'm selling myself to a capitalist juggernaut with which, small, worthy businesses can't compete, but the benefits include: all uniform provided, free food on the premises, and most importantly, 50% reimbursement of transport costs. That means McDonald's would pay for half of my Carte Imagine-R. And if I stay in this area (i.e. St Mandé, Vincennes etc.) next year (although I definitely won't be staying in the same apartment), the local Préfecture has announced that it'll pay for half of students' transport costs as well. That means I'll get free public transport in Paris absolutely legally! (no comment Jennifer!)

So I need to make my decision, and pretty soon since Eurostar tickets are really expensive and the longer I leave it the more they cost. Any ideas people?

Enigmatic etymology

Being a bit of a linguist, I find word origins fascinating, particularly as they often come from unusual sources. Here are a few examples of unusual etymologies:
  1. The English word hazard comes from the Persian word (via Arabic, Spanish and French) izr which means a die.
  2. The Spanish word for head is cabeza which comes from the Latin capita (as in the phrase per capita). So where does the French tête come from? From the Latin word testa meaning vase. Bizarre, non? But what's even stranger is that exactly the same thing happened in German. The German kopf comes from the Germanic kupaz meaning (and from where we get the word) "cup".
  3. Grammar and glamour come from the same word.
  4. Chicago means garlic.

And that'll do for now.

Another anecdotic entry

I haven't written an entry since Sunday, and it's now Friday, so I have a bit of catching up to do. Now, let's see. I can't remember what happened Monday, so we'll skip that, shall we?

Tuesday, I went into uni to print something off. I arrived at around 11h15. When I got there, there was a sign on the door saying the library would be closed until 12h. Great, I arrived nearly an hour before it would reopen. So, to occupy the hour, I decided to go to the Musée Rodin, since it's just down the road from uni and I get in free with my Blue Peter-esque "here's one we made earlier" student card. And I even got a purple "entrée gratuite" sticker to wear! The art there is really good, as it doesn't just have Rodin's own art, but the art he collected. Since he was an avid collector of Japanese art, there was an exhibition on there, which was really interesting. Some of the art was really erotic though, giving necessity to a "Some art may not be suitable for young children" warning.

Not so erotic example of Japanese art

And the Rodin gardens are really cool, and again, with my Histoire de l'art student card, I can get in free! So after my little browse in the museum, I went back to uni, and got back at around 12h10. It was still closed. I waited till gone 12h30 - during which it didn't open - then went and got some lunch, which was annoying since I had already bought some lunch at home - went back to uni to find it was still closed an hour after it was supposed to open. Typical! So I went home. A WASTE OF MY TIME that was. Although I did enjoy the museum.

But while I was at the museum or at uni I received a message from McDonald's asking for an interview, so I phoned back post-haste and arranged an interview for Wednesday.

Fast forward twenty-five and a half hours, and I was at McDonald's having my interview. IN FRENCH! The interview itself went really well, the interviewer seemed really pleased and said that my interview was good, so that was a real boost to my confidence. But... I don't know whether I've got a job. I've got another interview in a McDonald's restaurant in the south of Paris, which is probably too far for me to go. The problem is that most restaurants don't want to give holiday, and I want to go back to England for some time during August, which means it's unlikely I'll get a job. But they said that if I can't get a summer job, I'll go on the waiting list for the rentrée.

Yesterday I didn't really do much. I spent one-and-a-half hours on the phone to Thomas via Skype, which my parents weren't impressed with since Thomas (who arrived back home on Wednesday) was meant to be unpacking his stuff and tidying up.

The evening was church social, and it was the grub crawl. And it was really good. The food was nice as was the company.

And that leads me to today. I shall tell you how the interview went later.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Boat Party

Some photos from the boat party last week. I took more, but these were the only decent ones.
Nicky and Natasha before heading off.

The only near-decent photo of me. Even with the crooked tie.

Nathan and Beki

Saturday, June 02, 2007


As the weather was so nice, I decided to go to Montmartre to take some pics. The place was crawling with tourists, which at first was slightly quaint, but rapidly deteriorated into some Kafka-esque nightmare of zombies walking mindlessly without any idea of where they were actually going and that there were other people around them. My fault for going to Montmartre (biggest tourist trap of Paris) on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but to my defence, it was the nicest weather today for ages, and I didn't have any photos of Montmartre until today.

The street between the metro stop and the Sacre Coeur, dominated by a mix of tacky souvenir shops (for the tourists) and cheap clothes/fabric shops (for the locals - as it's still in the Barbes-Rochechouart vicinity).
The Sacre Coeur. Swarming with tourists.

The steps leading up to the Sacre Coeur, and as you can see, lots of tourists. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving, forever?

From the Sacre Coeur looking over to the 13th and 5th.

A street in Montmartre. I'm sure there was something important about this street, but I can't remember.

By the way, if you were disturbed by my sudden psychotic outburst about killing people, I was actually quoting The Third Man by Graeme Greene.

Of haircuts and job hunting

OK, so I didn't go to Hillsongs last night. I was chatting to Thomas on MSN instead. Not that I was desperate to go.

As the title suggests, I had my haircut - always an adventure in a foreign language. Which is why I left it so long. I feel practically bald now. And also as the title suggests, I've been continuing in my rather apathetic search for a job. I applied to Starbucks and McDonalds, the great French establishments that they are, as I didn't need to send a cover letter. I really don't want to write my cover letter, do I? Could someone do it for me? Please?

But that's about it in my life so far.

Real reality TV?

Reality TV - we know the format. Contestants battle it out on television, their every move being scrutinised, to win the public vote, and thus the prize. But what happens when the contestants are those in desperate need of a kidney transplant so they didn't need to spend the rest of their life on dialysis treatment? But this is what happened on the Dutch show De Grote Donorshow ('The Big Donor Show').

According to the format, a terminally ill woman, called Lisa was willing to donate her kidneys to one of three contestants requiring a kidney transplant, and the viewers could text her to aid her in the decision. One of the contestants was so ill that she could only drink a pint of fluid a day as that was all her body could cope with. Before it was aired, the show was condemned internationally as unethical, asking three people to compete over potentially life-saving treatment.

In the Netherlands, there is a chronic shortage of organ donors, and 200 people die every year waiting for a kidney transplant.

However, just as Lisa was going to give her decision, the presenter interrupted, announcing that the show was a hoax. Lisa was actually an actress, and although the contestants really did require kidney transplants, they were in on the hoax and were taking part to publicize the plight of those waiting for organ transplants. And the show definitely did that - 12,000 people texted the TV channel after the show saying they would join the donor list.

Given the publicity, it's shocking that no-one suspected it was a hoax. Prehaps this says a lot about the tasteless and sadistic nature of today's reality TV.

The chairman of BNN, the channel that broadcasted it, admitted the show was in 'bad taste' but said he 'believe[s] that reality is even worse taste'. And whether it's about the tragic shortage of organ donors or the repugnant nature of today's TV, he's probably right.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Another Day, another anecdote...

Basically, I've not done much in the job hunt... again. I got up at midday, after not sleeping well, and watched the last episode of Heroes Series 1. That took me to twenty past one. As I was meeting Katy Dey at 2h00, and I hadn't even started to get ready, I dashed into the shower, wolfed down my breakfast and rushed to the metro. Well, I tried to. I was wearing flip-flops because I had no socks so I didn't want to wear my now beyond delapidated trainers. I could only walk at about half my normal pace, but since I walk quickly, that put me to about the same pace as everyone else. But I wasn't late, and I met Katy at the Fontaine Saint-Michel. We walked to the Notre Dame, but it was cold, so we went to a cafe on the opposite side of the river. We then went for another little walk, to Ile-Saint-Louis, but it was cold, so we went to a cafe on the opposite side of the river. Two cafes in an hour - not good for the wallet.

We then went for a little walk to Hotel de Ville, had a look at the "Garden of Tomorrow" display they had there - why not, it was free. I then went home. At my metro stop, I bumped into Virginie from church, and we had a little chat (in French of course). It turns out she works not at all far from where I live. Le monde est vraiment petit ! (See The Mighty Game of Go...)

Then I did some washing to resolve my sock shortage.

I NEED TO WRITE MY LETTRE DE MOTIVATION! I also desperately need my haircut, but I'm scared of French hairdressers. I'm gonna have something to eat and then go to Hillsongs maybe. Even though I don't really like it.

A bientot, mes amis !

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Of Conversations and missed messages

I use the plural in the title with a bit of artistic liscence since I'm referring to one conversation on MSN with my dear friend Beki, where I missed a message and ended up being confused. Although I didn't have the foresight to save the conversation, this is roughly how it went. The vital information that I missed is in italics.

Beki: "I'm having dinner with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew tonight."
Me: "Aunt Beki! How sweet!"
Beki: "I know!
"They're staying at Disneyland.
"It was a total surprise for my nephew."
Me: "What, that you're his aunt? It must have been."

Of drunken conversations and goodbyes

Well, yesterday was unproductive. I was tired, the weather was terrible, so I did nothing. Really, practically nothing at all. I hardly managed to motivate myself to breathe. Actually, I posted a letter, bought some chocolate and watched (any guesses...) Heroes. I have also managed to get my brother addicted, who watched NINE episodes yesterday! That's shocking, even for my standards!

I then went to a bar called the Cameleon in St Michel to say goodbye to Cecily, as she's leaving this evening. It was really nice and I had some cool conversations. The bar, which is a jazz bar was cool as well. I thinks I might return. However, I have to confess, that with my prolific alcohol consumption of just two glasses of kir cassis, which probably has a tiny alcohol percentage (and the glasses weren't even that big) I got slightly tipsy. How embarrassing, I'm such a lightweight. I didn't do anything humiliating, I was just very aware that I had consumed alcohol.

Luckily I was nowhere near as drunk as this French guy who decided to join our group. He was wasted. And he kept on staring at the female members of our party. I had a rather interesting conversation with him, which went along the lines of this:

"Why are you in Paris?" (drunken random)
"I'm studying." (me)
"What university are you studying at?"
"The university of London."
"No, what university are you studying at? Cambridge?"
[I repeat previous answer, but he still doesn't believe me, and moves on]
"So, what are you studying?"
"French studies."
"Just French?"
"Yep. French language and culture."
"Not anything like French business? Just French?"
"Just French."
"So, where are you studying?"

And on the way home, a rather jovial (also drunk) black man sat next to me laughing hysterically at a woman because she was wearing a scarf. I know this because he decided to share this hilarity with me. I did the usual trick, "je suis anglais." Didn't work. "Oh, you're English? Wheeeeeerrre arre you frooom?" (note drunken slur) "Southampton." Bad move. He then started talking to me about Southampton Football Team, which I don't support nor know anything about. He said it must be so difficult for me to cope with Southampton being in the second division (now called the Champions' league, n'est-ce pas?). I graciously accepted his sympathy, and smiled to him as he got off the metro.

Today, I got up in earnest to find a job, and looked at loads of offers, but have yet to really get anywhere. I WILL write my cover letter and I WILL send it off! I WILL write my cover letter...

And that brings you up to date really.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


As you may have noticed, I've added a playlist to my blog. Please comment on my choice of music and of course, make any recommendations of what I should add! Apparently, I can add an unlimited number of songs, so more the merrier!

The mighty game of Go...

Here are some random thoughts that have come into my head over the last 24 hours, which might give you some indication of the bizarre ways that my brain works.

1) A performer is juggling on a jumbo jet. He throws a ball into the air. At its highest point, the ball, for an infinitely small point of time, is perfectly motionless, before it falls back into the performer's hand. However, the ball is never really perfectly still, for it is moving along with the plane at 895 km/h at cruising speed. The plane is flying around the Earth, which rotates at 1674 km/h which means if the plane is flying in a westerly direction, it's actually going backwards. The Earth itself is orbiting around the Sun at on average 107,218 km/h. The Sun itself is orbiting around the centre of the galazy, the Milky Way at a staggering 217 km per second (That's 718,200 km/h). The Milky Way is hurtling through space at around 600 km per second. That means the Milky Way moves a staggering 51.84 million kilometres a day. No wonder it's so difficult to get any stillness nowadays...

2) The number of final positions of the chinese game of Go is larger than the number of atoms in the Universe. The number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon is 1,400,000 times the age of the universe in seconds. I have been alive for 19 years. That's 1/720,000,000 of the estimated age of the universe. To put that into perspective, if the universe existed for one year, I would have existed for aproximately one tenth of the time it takes to blink. That is a lot of final positions for the game of Go.

3) You may have heard that, unless you're Sentinelese and unsociably chase off with arrows and javelins anybody who's not from your remote tribe on a small island near Burma, that there are six degrees of separation between you and anyone else in the world. You can also theoretically get from any Wikipedia article to another with a maximum of six clicks (you can test that here).

So in conclusion, I am just one of six billion people in the world, but nearly every single one of them is practically my next-door neighbour. The world is obviously a small place, which is also moving incredibly quickly through a rather large universe. But nothing compares in size to the number of final positions of a game of Go. But if you were Sentinelese, this wouldn't matter, because you don't even know how to make fire. On the other hand, one expedition noticed that the Sentinelese had what appeared to be an 8x8 game board. So maybe they prefer chess.

Of Columbians and Heroes

Yes, I promised to Natasha and Lucy that I'd watch no more Heroes until the rentrée (the start of the next year in case you don't speak French. I might as well have just put 'start of the next year' since that would have saved me having to write this entire explanation...), but I sinned... Although they do know that I gave in. The internet - a bastion of temptation. And like a certain Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything but temptation. But unlike him, I'm neither Irish nor dead.

Sunday and Monday were characterised by my inability to motivate myself to do anything. Instead, I either slept or sat at the computer in a quasi-vegetative state watching Heroes (although I did only watch two episodes... but so many twists and turns. Utterly addictive). I also managed to consume five bars of milka in three days. In the evening however, I went back to that Spanish bar with Nicky, Nichy's cousin, Natasha, Susannah and Susannah's friend who's here for the week or so. A Columbian, who could dance really well (but was incredibly sleazy) danced with Susannah, Natasha and Susannah's friend. And for some bizarre reason Susannah gave him her number... out of sympathy apparently.

Today, I've been slightly more proactive. I washed up for the first time in ages, and sent off my CV to a Subway in Paris, and have printed off some copies of my CV to give to other places around Bastille. I went for a little wander and saw 5 ads, so I decided that might be a good place to target.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Exams are over!

I have finally finished all of my exams! But it's such a long time since I wrote my last blog entry, and I've done so much non-revision orientated stuff, this is going to be a long entry! Hold on to your seats!

Here goes... last week I had three exams, roman (Monday), grands débats (Tuesday) and poésie (Wednesday). All went relatively well I hope, but I'll only find out for sure when I get my results. Thursday I didn't really do much, at least I don't think so, but if I did I can't remember.

Friday - I can definitely remember Friday! In the evening, a group of us from uni (Lucy, Natasha, Nicky, Susannah and moi) went to the Louvre. Nicky and Susannah walked ridiculously fast, so within two minutes, the rest of us had lost them. We guessed roughly where they would be (the section on French art), but we never caught up, so we decided to go back to Lucy's apartment (spelt correctly this time). It turns out we were probably only a room or so apart all the time. C'est la vie! Nicky returned not long after sans Susannah, and the four of us had lasagne. We then decided in a moment of random impulsiveness to go to a karaoke in Pigalle (which, if you don't know, is the red-light district of Paris). And we were terrible! But we had fun, and Lucy and Nicky chatted to these Australians.

Saturday, I went to Nicky's and Lucy's to watch Cyrano de Bergerac with Natasha tagging along as well! After that, Nicky, Natasha and I met up with Susannah at Invalides to watch a jazz concert. It was really good, although it was a bit odd that the players were in full military costume, slightly contradictory. Lucy then joined us and we went to the Marais, and had falafel. We then went to Victor Hugo's house, but since it was Nuit des Musées it was really busy, but cool anyway. We then went to the Archives Nationales because there was a medieval thingy. I had bottled mineral water and a waffle from a waffle iron. The epitome of medieval cuisine! There were some people in armour though...

Sunday, I did some washing and went to church in the evening.

Monday, I had my théâtre exam in the morning. I then went shopping with Natasha to buy some clothes for the uni end of year boat party which is tomorrow! We then went to Lucy's to watch... can you guess? Heroes! Unfortunately, we got to the end of the 18 episodes that she has, so we'll have to wait till October to resume viewing. In the evening I then went to my first Church council meeting, which I found slightly excessively bureaucratic, but maybe that's just my youthful idealism.

Tuesday was art exam. Went well considering I did no revision whatsoever. I then went to church for the mid-week thingy.

(I started writing this on Friday, but didn't finish it. It's now Sunday, so if there are any confusing time shifts, bear with me.) Wednesday was the cinema which went ok I hope, but was one of the hardest exams. And I don't think I did much else after that.

Thursday was media. After that I went to Lucy's apartment (also spelt correctly) to eat this chocolate fondant thingy and ice cream. I then went to have fondu with Square 1 (the student youth group at St Mike's) in this bizarre restaurant in Montmartre (Refuge des Fondus, rue des deux freres if you ever want to know where it is), which was cool. We then wondered around Montmartre a bit, watched people perform outside the Sacré-Coeur and then had ice cream. Apparently, someone from uni saw me at Sacré-Coeur but I rudely ignored them. You don't expect to bump into people in Paris (well at least, I don't) so you walk around in a little bubble. Then I went home.

Friday was my last exam! And Questionnement too, what a waste of time! We were originally told it was three hours, but it was actually two. And one of the questions was of course 'Peut-on justifier le terrorisme ?' (this probably means nothing to anyone outside of ULIP, but it became a bit of a running joke since in each one of the two and a half lectures we had he asked us to discuss this question). Then I started writing this, but didn't finish.

Then, I went to Lucy and Nicky's apartment for a celebratory drink with Natasha and Gabby. After the drinks and an excessive consumption of crisps and mock petits écoliers we said goodbye for four months to Lucy as she was catching a train back to Brittany that evening. The rest of us save Gabby then went for a nice Italian dinner at Susannah's, where we consumed more drink, and we then went to a Spanish bar in Saint Michel, where Susannah was chatted up by a Spanish car salesman who wanted to marry her the next day and bizarrely stroked my hair. There are lots of weirdos in Paris, I can tell you!

Saturday during the day, I mainly slept, and did some shopping since Monday is yet another bank holiday (the fourth in a month!) so I won't be able to buy anything else till Tuesday. In the evening, I went to the uni's boat party on the Seine. The boat was really cool, but the part of Paris was a dump (by the National Library of France), but that was probably the only place the uni could afford! I then went back to Nicky's apartment with Nicky, her cousin, Natasha and Will Setters. Will and I slept in Lucy's room, since she wasn't there (I had permission to use it, and I'm sure she didn't mind Will sleeping on the floor...). And then I left around midday (when I got up) and came home. Et voila, we're up to date.

Next week, I'm also going to be busy, I'm planning to tidy my apartment, find a job and am also going out Monday and Wednesday...

Till next time, adiós!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

101 things about me

I'm bored, so, after reading another blog which did this, I decided to list 101 things about me. Enjoy... or not, as the case may well be.
  1. I’m a twin
  2. I’m also identical
  3. But I’m left-handed and my brother’s right-handed
  4. I’m the oldest
  5. I have no other siblings except my twin brother
  6. I’m English
  7. I was born in Southampton
  8. I liked school
  9. I binge chocolate
  10. I worked at a supermarket – good old Morrisons!
  11. I did my two-week Year 10 work experience in a primary school in Southampton
  12. I’m studying French Studies
  13. In Paris
  14. At the University of London Institute in Paris
  15. Even though French was my worst subject at both GCSE and A-levels
  16. I’ve always wanted to live abroad
  17. I applied to Oxford
  18. But they rejected me
  19. As a child, my favourite book was the Dorling Kindersley Encyclopaedia
  20. My nicknames include Shmead, Shmead no. 1 and Mr Wikipedia
  21. The last is owing to my ability to retain useless information
  22. As a child, I had two hamsters, a guinea pig, as well as looking after my brother’s guinea pig and rabbit
  23. I was rubbish at looking after them
  24. And they died
  25. I talk excessively
  26. I hate French pop music (who doesn’t)
  27. I like rollercoasters and fast rides
  28. I’m not particularly afraid of death
  29. My favourite novel is To Kill a Mockingbird
  30. My favourite French novel is La Symphonie pastorale
  31. I used to have a comfort blanket
  32. I once fell down the stairs whilst inside it (don’t ask)
  33. I was kicked in the mouth by a New Forest pony when I was a child
  34. I’m a Christian
  35. I was baptised nearly two years ago
  36. I hate injections
  37. And I generally pass out when I have them
  38. But I survived the BCG!
  39. But only since I passed out ten minutes after my meningitis C jab
  40. I also hate blood, blood transfusions, and so forth
  41. But I can’t give blood in France because I lived in the UK during the mad cow disease crisis
  42. I play the violin
  43. But failed my grade 6 exam
  44. Mainly because I didn’t practise for a month before hand (it was my A-levels at a time)
  45. I hardly ever revise for exams
  46. But have the gift of the gab and generally do well
  47. Simple things amuse me
  48. If I’m in a bad mood, a cup of tea and digestive biscuits will always cheer me up
  49. I laugh incredibly easily
  50. But often sound like I’m hyperventilating
  51. I like words because of the way they sound (ubiquitous, soliloquy, cacophony, etc.)
  52. I did GCSE Spanish in a year, and have since forgotten everything
  53. I forget important things like birthdays and where I put things
  54. But I’m rarely late for appointments
  55. I’m incredibly untidy
  56. Certain people (you know who you are) say I’m like an old man, and maybe they’re right
  57. I love to sing
  58. But have possibly the worst voice you can imagine
  59. Sometimes I talk to myself
  60. Languages fascinate me
  61. I love to travel
  62. I’ve been to Australia
  63. And went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef
  64. I went to Japan
  65. And ate something which was the most disgusting thing I ever tasted (it looked like Branston pickle)
  66. The second most disgusting thing I’ve eaten is a type of cheese from Corsica in France
  67. Sometimes I don’t know why I’m in France
  68. But I love it anyway
  69. I have no idea what I’m going to do after uni, well I have some idea – I’m not going to join the Foreign Legion
  70. I’ve never voted
  71. I’m very legalistic
  72. I’ve never smoked
  73. I hate sport and hardly ever exercise
  74. I have terrible hand-eye coordination
  75. I eat lots but don’t put on weight
  76. I’m trying to read the entire Bible
  77. I hate marmite
  78. At the moment I’m a bit of a Heroes addict
  79. I am a bit of an internet junkie
  80. I have a Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, and WAYN account, as well as this blog
  81. I want to write at least one novel in my lifetime
  82. And I’ve started to write several, but never get further than a few thousand words
  83. I sometimes have a feeling of Weltschmerz (don’t we all?)
  84. I’m happy 99% of the time
  85. I sound stereotypically British with my received pronunciation accent
  86. I like literature and poetry
  87. But avoid writing my own poetry, to prevent creating angst-driven prosaic rubbish
  88. I wear glasses generally
  89. But I can see without them
  90. I may have an operation on both my jaws in a few years time
  91. I had tracheo-oesophageal fistula
  92. And needed an operation in the first twenty-four hours of my life to prevent it
  93. My earliest memory of football (soccer) is being hit by a football at the top of the hill with such force that I rolled to the bottom
  94. My favourite radio station in the UK is probably Classic FM
  95. But I don’t really listen to the radio
  96. And I don’t watch the TV since I don’t have one in France
  97. I like maths
  98. And studying grammar
  99. My favourite composer is probably Vivaldi
  100. But I also like Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Fauré and Ibert
  101. I have just listed 100 things about me.

There you go! I hope you enjoyed that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Exams, exams and more... Heroes.

Monday I had my first exam: Introduction a la lecture du roman. It went ok I suppose, I mean I wrote two essays. But of course, I have to wait until I get the mark to find out how I actually did. Yesterday I had another exam as well, Grands Debats. I'm hoping that one went well. The question was good, and I think I wrote a good 600-word answer, but again, I'll have to wait until I get the result till I actually know. And in an hour and a half I have my poetry exam. And that's it for this week (Tomorrow being another bank holiday. There's been one every week since the start of May...). But I have an exam every day next week.

Yesterday I got the results for my phonetics exams, which I'm really pleased with. For the speaking, I got 13/20, which is a good 2:1. But for the theory, I got a whooping 19/20. As you can imagine, I'm really pleased with that.

Last night, after the exam and before going to church, I went to Lucy's to watch more Heroes. However, I'd already watched those episodes because Natasha needed to catch up. But we're having another Heroes session tonight! By the way, I'm not addicted... Church was really cool as well, as usual.

Oh, and I've decided to eat more healthily, since I keep on cutting myself and the cuts are taking a long time to heal. So five fruit and veg a day from now on. My plans to cut back on chocolate failed last night as I bought some petit-beurres with chocolate on top. Oh well. The only other thing I've done is break a glass. Stupid glasses. I've broken 3 in my apartment, they're rubbish (unless it's just that me and glass don't go well together...). So I suppose I'll have to buy some new ones before I leave.

Anyway, I'm gonna go to uni. A bientot, mes amis!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The terrors of technology...

Don't you just hate technology when it goes wrong? (or, anything when it goes wrong, whether your mobile phone or your kidneys...) Well, this weekend, everything technological seemed to fail. That's partly to do with stupid French annoying things - sometimes they don't understand how to make things simple, or perhaps they do, and deliberately do the opposite. But more on that story later...

I shall continue from where I finished on my last blog, because unfortunately, I can't see into the future. Friday evening (I can't really remember what I did during the day, so probably not that much) I went to Lucy's apartment to watch some more Heroes. Thursday night, while I was at the funfair being spun around at 120 km/h, Natasha and Lucy had a Heroes watching night, so if I wanted to catch up, I'd have to watch two-and-a-half hours extra. Which I did. Then Natasha decided to join us. So after having some dinner, we watched another two (or was it three?) hours of Heroes. Then I got bored of watching five-and-a-half hours of heroes (it must have been three hours then, mustn't it) so instead I suggested we watched Remains of the Day. Natasha, being utterly addicted to Heroes and being unsociable decided to watch Heroes on her own in the corner on Lucy's laptop, while Lucy and I watched Remains of the Day on the TV. The DVD player didn't work (flat batteries in the remote control) so we were able to force Natasha to watch it with us. We only watched the first hour before Natasha and I had to leave to be able to catch the metro in good time. It's really annoying if you're running close to when it shuts, since you don't know whether you're going to make it home or not!

But before I left I borrowed Nicky's version of La Dentelliere and an umbrella owing to the inclement weather, which I promised I would return the next day.

Cue Saturday, and a string of unfortunate events and technological bafflements. I left my apartment to return said book and said umbrella to Nicky. Although I hadn't finished La Dentelliere, I managed to borrow another copy from Gabby. However, when I got there, I discovered my mobile phone wasn't working. It turns out, that without any warning of any kind, my number had expired after six months, which I would have to 'recharge'. Typically French! In good old Royaume-Uni, if you buy a mobile with a SIM card, you keep the number as long as you keep the SIM card. But, oh no, not here in France. You have to 'recharge' your number in the same way as you recharge your credit, or your battery. I can still receive calls and texts, I just can't do anything else. I wonder if I can phone the emergency services if the necessity ever arose? So, I had no way of contacting Nicky to tell her I had arrived outside of her apartment so she could come down and let me in.

No problem, I thought. I'll just ask the gardien to let me in. But, oh no. That wouldn't work, would it. I knocked on the door, and the gardien replied that he'd locked the door and didn't know where the key was. So he was locked inside his own apartment. So I had to give him the book and the umbrella to give to Nicky whenever he managed to escape from his apartment or whenever Nicky happened to be standing outside his window...

So I went back to my apartment. And I tried to email Nicky, phone Nicky using Skype and send an instant message, but, alas, my internet, being as tempermental as it is, decided not to work. So I was unable to get into contact with her. I was just about to go to a public telephone when the internet finally worked long enough for me to contact her. She went and collected her book and umbrella, the man still locked in his apartment. All's well that ends well.

Almost immediately, I was invited back to Nicky's apartment (by Lucy this time) so we could watch the Eurovision song contest. Because the internet stopped working, Lucy texted me saying she would let me in at five past five. We planned to watch the Eurovision song contest, but since that started at nine, we watched some more Heroes instead (partly to spite Natasha). And at around 11, I went back home. So in the space of one afternoon, I made 2 journeys to and from Nicky's and Lucy's apartment, each part taking 45 minutes. So that works out at three hours on the metro. Not that I mind, since it gave me time to finish La Dentelliere, speaking of which, I finished this morning. Then I did some washing. And that's about it.

And tomorrow, I have my first exam, literature (so good timing with the whole La Dentelliere thing, although it seemed every power on earth tried to stop me...). And the internet's still being decidedly uncooperative. And I still haven't got my own copy of La Dentelliere back from David's apartment.

So till next time: remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another week, another President

Well, it's been more than a week since my latest update, but that doesn't matter. Let's start with last Thursday, which was a church social picnic at Champs de Mars. It was très cool, with lots of food (all of it healthy of course!) and a game of frisby which became more and more difficult as wind levels increased and light levels dropped as the evening went on. And we saw someone propose. How romantic! How cliché!

Friday I went shopping with Cecily to buy some new trainers. Instead I bought a t-shirt, a jumper, some sandals and a belt. I didn't really do much Saturday, so I'll skip that.

Sunday was election day here in France! I didn't vote of course, since I can't. I don't really know who'd I'd have voted for if I could, possibly Ségo, or possibly a vote blanc. In the afternoon/evening I went to church (both French and English services). After church, I went to Bugsy's for free sandwiches (on the condition you buy a drink for 4€...) and then went to Place de la Concorde to watch Sarko's acceptance speech. I have to say, he's a very good public speaker, but what he said is what everyone says when they win an election ("I will help the victimized...", "This is a historic moment for France..." "Vive la France!"), which was followed of course by La Marseillaise (Allons, enfants de la Patrie...) plus an incredibly trite political rendition of O Happy Day. Enough to make the skin crawl! It was interesting as it was far more patriotic than anything in Britain would be for a general election. On the way back I went through Bastille, which was unusually noisy. It wasn't till the next day I found out that there were riots at the time... Ah, the French and their revolutionary tendancies... And the unions are promising lots of strikes come autumn, which should be fun. I've already seen three protests, and the RER has had about three or four strikes, and the metro one, since I arrived.

Monday I went to look at an apartment, which was rubbish, and then went to Susannah's apartment with Nicky and Natasha, where I had baguette and white chocolate spread. Delicious but incredibly sickening, as well as diabetes-inducingly unhealthy. Tuesday I went to Nicky's to watch A Bout de Souffle, which although it is a pioneering classic, is not that good. Thoughts of tinny jazz music and Humphrey Bogart impressions haunting my dreams... Then I went to church again for the midweek social.

Wednesday, I did do some revision, and then I went to David's apartment for crêpes and to watch a movie (which didn't happen). Unfortunately, I left La Dentellière at his apartment.

Thursday, I did actually a near-decent amount of revision, then in the evening went to a fun fair. I only went on one ride (I might go back this evening or something because it's just down the road), one which spins you around at up to 120km/h, which was great! It was really cool as it was very high and I could see the entire funfair upside down. Unfortunately, I couldn't really see into Paris, as I was facing the wrong way, so all i could see was the Bois de Vincennes.

Till next time, Vive la France...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another update

I can't think of an original title, as I'm not in a particularly creative mood, so that will have to suffice I'm afraid. Yesterday, I really didn't do much. There seems to be a recurring pattern, doesn't there? That's what happens when you've got too much free time to do revision. You don't. I started to tidy my apartment, but I got distracted by the wonderful thing called the internet. I then got invited to meet up with Nicky at her apartment, as she was bored of revising as well. So I went and met up with her. We decided to go for a walk from the Eiffel Tower (there were hundreds of people around the Eiffel Tower! It was a bank holiday though, and a beautiful day) to the Champs Elysees, and then down to Madeleine. I then said good-bye to Nicky and went to church for the midweek thingy. I arrived early simply because of the timing of the walk, and for a long time it was only me and Joy, so it might have just been the two of us. Not that that would be a bad thing of course. But, more people turned up around 8, and the discussion was really interesting. It went on past the 9.30 supposed finishing time, but that doesn't matter! I got home and was on the internet till nearly 2.

Seeing as I didn't go to bed till quite late, it's not really a surprise that I didn't get up until 11. But this morning, I actually tidied my apartment, and did some washing. And then I went to uni to collect my essay result for grands debats. On the way, I started reading La Dentelliere on the metro. For the essay, I got 16/20, which I'm really pleased with. And then I came home, had lunch even though it was half four and had a slightly too long snooze, which probably means I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Latest happenings

Just a short update about happenings today and yesterday. Yesterday, I got up quite late and spoke to Lucy on MSN. She asked me if I wanted to meet her on the Champs de Mars as she went back to Brittany today as it's her mum's birthday. It was originally intended that we'd have a sort of revision session, reading our respective books for literature. However, none of this materialised, as although I had a fair and concerted effort to read some of La Symphonie pastorale, Lucy distracted me every thirty seconds with things like "Oh, oh, oh, try and guess what song this is!" (she had brought her iPod). And, "Look, that man has a penny-farthing!" So all in all, all that I read of La Symphonie Pastorale was what I read on the metro on the way there, and the two words "La Grange" about one hundred times. Nicky joined us momentarily, but almost immediately the already-ominous sky became thundery, and we decided to make our retreat to Nicky and Lucy's apartment.

And indeed, the heavens did open, and there were the occasional flashes of lightning followed by rumbles of thunder. So we decided to watch the first two episodes of Heroes which I hadn't seen before, and then I went to church. I was intending to go to the French service, but I didn't leave in time so I decided to skip it and went to the English service instead.

The aforementioned English service was really good and inspiring. The speaker was a medical missionary for Lifeline Malawi, and he talked with such passion about what he did. He only left for Malawi aged 58, which goes to prove it's never too late, which is a feeling that I already sometimes experience at age 19. The bible readings happened to be about the Final Judgement, which seemed to be quite appropriate with the pathetic fallacy of the regular low rumbles of thunder. Is it just me, or do you agree that everyone's mood seems to change when there's a storm? Then I cooked pizzas for students after the service even though it wasn't my turn, and then I consumed my fair share and went home and finished La Symphonie pastorale. The whole book leads up to an ending which comes very swiftly and seems to be over and done with in a couple of pages as if the author got bored and decided to finish the book there and then.

Today was another day characterized by doing very little. I finished my art essay, handed it in and got my mark for my grammar exam - a very respectable 14/20. The comment from the lecturer was, "You take some risks with the level of syntax and vocabulary, which is good (even if it is not very prudent for an exam)", so I was pleased enough with that. And I did some shopping, and that's about it. Tomorrow, I'm planning to tidy my apartment and do some washing. Let's see if that actually materialises.

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Beijing Olympics 2008

These two articles (here and here) raise a lot of concern about the Olympics next year in Beijing. In order to complete the building works in time, labourers are being paid as little as £3.27 a day for 12 hour shifts, often in incredibly dangerous conditions without adequate safety equipment. And then, the Chinese authorities are using the Olympic Games as an excuse to "suppress dissent", and are arresting petty criminals and other undesirables without charge in Beijing in order to clean up the city in time for the Olympics. The Chinese authorities promised as part of their bid to clean up China's human rights records, which they have failed to do.

And what makes it worse is that the IOC says that it is a sporting organisation, not a political one, and so won't do anything about it. But with the quickest glance to the Olympic Charter, especially the section 'Fundamental Principals of Olympism', it is clear that political considerations are an integral part of the Olympic games. For example:

"Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles ... with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned
with the preservation of human dignity."

I'm not sure abusing human rights and forcing people to work below the minimum wage of Beijing in order to make a good impression when the opening ceremony arrives is compatible with the values of 'Olympism'.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I know, I know

Easter's come and gone, but I still found this slightly amusing.

Just some random pictures...

Here are just a few images for prosperity, in no chronological order.
A cool builidng near where I live.

This is either Île de la Cité taken from Île Saint-Louis, or Île Saint-Louis taken from Île de la Cité.

La Conciergerie, Île de la Cité.

I didn't realise the Notre Dame was so crooked! Also on Île de la Cité.

Opéra de la Bastille

Children on the taboggan slide outside the Hôtel de Ville, next to the big ice skating rink that you can't see. Just to think, there's going to be an artificial beach there soon if I'm to believe correctly.

C'est moi! And look at the lovely, green lawn...
And that'll do for now, because I'm bored of uploading photos and then giving them captions with stupid French accents that I have to copy and paste.

Adding Comments

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

French French Bashing no surprise to me

Does this article surprise me one iota? No, it doesn't. Since I've been living in Paris, the one thing which is abundantly clear is the sense of insecurity that pervades the national identity, particularly here in the capital. On everything from economy to national identity, the French seem ill at ease with themselves.

France has faced long-term consistent unemployment at around 10%, which is much higher among the young and ethnic minorities. France also has a massive welfare system, which has to be sustained by high taxation. Protectionism is restricting business. London continues to outstrip Paris on development, even though in my opinion, Paris is probably a much better city for international business - transport, for one, is second to none here. The government's spending is unsustainable. The law makes it almost impossible for businesses to hire people, because of the taxes they'll have to pay and because it is near impossible to fire someone once they are employed. But people don't want the law to change, as demonstrated by student riots last year.

And then there's the question of national identity. Nearly a quarter of the French population belong to ethnic minorities, although most of these are European and the descendants have long been assimilated into the general population. However, there are massive immigrant populations from the Maghreb, and from French overseas colonies. But with the French unitairianisme, these immigrant groups must become French or face exclusion. This is a country where only last year did the television see its first non-white prime time news presenter on state television. The immigrant groups are often face discrimination, and are forced into ghettos in the banlieues, particularly around Paris. Paris is a city under seige, with riots and car burning in the surrounding banlieues always grabbing headlines.

The people of France want change, and that is why there was such a high turn out to last week's first round to the elections. The problem is, most of the population don't really know who's going to deliver such a change.

(Another interesting article here)

Of heat and homelessness

Welcome to my first blog! I hope you're excited: I know I am! This is a little run down of the week that was, from my return to Paris after my Easter séjourn in the UK. So, make sure you're comfy, as I begin.

It was on Monday that my holiday in England came to an end to start my holiday of sorts here in Paris. As I left London on the Eurostar, the weather on that side of the channel was decidedly greyer and cooler than previous days. But arriving at Gare du Nord, although it was seven in the evening, it was ridiculously hot. And things haven't changed from then.

Tuesday was just as hot and sunny, so before going to my only lecture of the week, I went on an hour walk. Well, two walks, since I found it impossible to tackle the Nation mega-roundabout and find the road I wanted. So, instead, I caught the métro to Châtelet and continued from there until Tuileries. Walking by the Seine in the summer air: it can't be beaten. Since our lecturer wasn't there, which was no change as we have had him for a total of four hours approximately out of the timetabled ten, the lecture was taught instead by a PhD student, whose name I can't remember, and never will again. She was really good actually, although she became frustrated by the very little general information we seemed to know. In the evening, I went to church, which had a new format; we got into two small groups and talked about a topic. My group was 'decisions'. I have to say I really enjoyed that evening. Although we did get onto slightly bizarre side tracks, like having one's head cut off.

Wednesday, I wrote some of my art essay in the morning, and for lunch I went for a picnic with Nicky on the Champs de Mars, just by the Eiffel Tower. Nicky has the fortune, or misfortune, of living right besides the Eiffel Tower. I then went swimming, but I was quite disappointed, as the swimming pool was covered (I thought it was outdoors), I had to pay the full fee (a whopping 2€60, extortionate!), and it was crowded. But that's what you get for going on a Wednesday, as all the schools are closed. I could have swum in one of the designated lanes, but since when I swim I look like I'm drowning (well, that's what my report for swimming said at school), and the swimmers already in the lanes looked incredibly serious, I decided it was best not to disturb them. Some people were taking themselves far too seriously, but that's the French for you... and I know as an Englishman how easy it is to upset the French.

Thursday, I wrote more of my art essay, and then I had ice cream with Lucy and Katy Dey. Katy Dey has quit uni but is still working in Paris. We went for ice cream on Ile St-Louis, which has a ridiculous number of ice cream shops in a really small area. Although that is what the island is known for. And there were people queuing for miles (slight exaggeration, but 50 yards sounds less dramatic) because it was so hot. But we found a small ice cream shop with no one queuing, and the ice cream was really nice. There's always a possibility that there's a reason people weren't queuing for that one but for others. But that's how tourists work. They only go for ones where there are already really long queues to be on the safe side and then moan about how long the queues are. I had a very nice raspberry ice cream (at least I think it was raspberry). I'm sure that counts as one of my five fruit and veg a day. We sat by the Seine eating ice cream while Lucy explained why she hates Paris so much. We then walked through Ile de la Cite, past Notre Dame, crossed over the river and past Hotel de Ville, and decided that because it was so hot we'd have another ice cream. This one wasn't fruit orientated, in fact it was chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. A bastion of calorific temptation, but it was worth the possible later heart disease. There Lucy and I parted from Katy and went to uni to collect our results for Literature. I then went back to Lucy's apartment (she lives with Nicky) where I had dinner, although I did help pay for it as we purchased it on the way. Chicken nuggets and boiled potatoes. Loving my healthy life style.

Friday morning I wrote my shortest ever essay, 150 words! That's ridiculous. It was a film review on the 1966 Bataille d'Alger. The "essay" only took about an hour to write. I haven't even watched the film. Although that's possibly a good thing, since Thursday I got the mark back for my literature essay (see above), a text commentary on an extract from La Nausée by Sartre. I hadn't read the vast majority of the book, and I got 16/20 - a very respectable mark even if I do say so myself.

After spending the entire afternoon in a comatose state owing to the heat, I spent the evening handing out sandwiches to homeless people. Our group of three, I believe, was the only group who didn't get rid of all their food. But as it was my first time, I can only get better. There were several examples of people who were probably homeless but we weren't absolutely sure. Offering food to a non-homeless person isn't a great idea, since they may get the wrong idea. So we mainly went for ones with sleeping bags, just to be on the safe side. Paris has a phenomenally large problem with homelessness and unemployment, it's really sad. Paris is such a city of two extremes. Near my church, in the incredibly wealthy 8th arrondissement, there are shops selling hand bags and the like for hundreds of euros. And then there's the lavish Hotel de Crillon, where a starter can cost 35€ or more. And then there are the hundreds of people who are homeless. And I'm not exaggerating. By St Lazare, homeless people put their tents above the grillings in the road to catch the warm air rising from the métro. On the way to making sandwiches, a homeless person sat opposite me on the train. Although he was slightly abrasive, he wasn't doing anything criminal. But the middle-aged woman next to me tutted as he sat opposite, and when she left, people refused to sit in the vacant seat. Handing out sandwiches to homeless people, as Ekkardt from my church pointed out, is a total reversal of normality. Normally, you try to avoid homeless people - I know I do, especially the ones who smell, and when I say smell...imagine a person who has defecated in their trousers and done nothing about it...that's what I mean smell - but today we were actively trying to find them.

And today, I've done absolutely nothing. Well, that's a lie. I had a shower, and got my clean linen as we have a linen exchange, and I started this blog. And had a cup of tea.

Hope you enjoyed reading that rather long monologue on the life that is mine. A la prochaine, mes amis !