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 !