Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A bit like a diary this time.

Monday 6th
So that went well: it's always slightly worrying that a couchsurfer you've arranged to meet might be an old creepy psycho rather than a friendly normal french boy. We went to Musee de Cluny which is just around the corner from me and much bigger than it seems from the outside; chock full of old bits of churches and shiny relics. It was actually very interesting and it's where the 'Lady and the Unicorn' tapestries live, which I have wanted to see ever since reading a book about them. (Tracy Chevalier tells a story around the family of weavers, the people who comissioned the tapestries and the artist, with lots of detail on the process of how they would have been made.) They were impressive, I like all the symbolism: particular flowers meaning different things, the coats of arms, each tapestry based on a sense; smell, sight, touch. I did realise they were probably more fascinating to me because of all this. Now I'm sure this is not new, but it'd be better if museums gave a bit of information about the background and manufacture of exhibits rather than just details of which family has owned it for the past 5 centuries and where they're on loan from. Had the same thought again seeing the stained glass, a lot of which is beautifully installed in a dark room lit only through the glass. Fleeting thoughts of apprenticing in stained glass/ tapestry/ stone carving would probably not have popped up if I really knew the effort and number of years required to do something that skilled!

After seeing everything it was time for a drink at Procope, Paris' oldest coffee house apparently, and an old favourite of all those famous writers and philosophers that every old cafe around here says were locals. It is nice inside though, all chandeliers and well dressed waiters! Had a nice wee beer- not one to change my drinking habits just because I'm somewhere a bit posh- although it's a good thing I didn't go for a pint as it was about 6 euros each for the half... My round next time!

So I wrote this at home having a rest before heading up to Montmartre for pizza with Amy and her lovely bunch of friends. A Well Earned Rest because (a round of applause please) I did actually speak in french! At least I tried my very best, and didn't give up too many times. Lucky for me Gael was very patient and must have only corrected me every one in 50 mistakes. I have a list of new vocabulary!

Tuesday 7th
Had a very Christmassy day today. Usually I don't get Christmassy until a bit later in the month, but the excitement of going home so soon, hearing about all the snow over there, and watching the Christmas window displays at Galeries Lafayette in the snow here all combined to make me giggly with the urge to make a snow angel. But there wasn't quite enough snow so instead I had a lovely afternoon with Laura back in Bourg la Reine, (which is an interesting town name if you ask a native) involving yummy goats cheese tarts, coffee, macaroons and A Muppets Christmas Carol!

In the spirit of getting excited about the holidays I had a skype call with Angela and Helen back in Edinburgh, which, coming after almost 3 months of no contact, included a fair amount of abuse from them. Obviously they miss me... I've apparently been spoiled here having friends who are nice to me, got to toughen up before I head home. Looking forward to it girls!!

Everything has got a bit busy suddenly after a recent lull in events and nights out, it's as if we've all realised we're going home for Christmas and need some good stories to take with us; or maybe just that there's more going on and better excuses to spend a little bit of money on a nice meal or a few drinks. Not complaining! Friday night promises to be fun followed by mince pies and mulled wine on Saturday, providing Laura brings the wine and I can find some pie ingredients. Planning to use up some of my seasonal energy with the kids and make as many paper-based decorations as possible before I go home. I'm not sure if their parents will appreciate this, but maybe I can pass it off as a Scottish tradition? It has been my excuse for a lot of things recently. I tried to defend the Scots' love of Irn Bru at pizza last night to (mainly) English girls. Because it's bright orange without tasting anything like oranges or any other fruit? Because it's "Made of girders"? Because it always has the best adverts, or because it's the only thing to help a hangover?
I have also tried to explain haggis to the French, but I think it sounds worse translated.

Wednesday 8th
Oscar is fairly impressive, as I've mentioned, in cleverness, but he keeps confusing front/back and top/bottom, which means he often says the opposite of what he means, and the rest of the time I try to pre-emptively correct him and it turns out all mixed up. Jam at the front (which means on top of the yoghurt) or the bottom of the bowl? Boats in front of the bath or in the water, or just the front of the boat at the bottom of the bath? New reading words today were SEE, BEE, TALK and WALK. I feel like I'm on Sesame Street.

Ps. It snowed heavily for 4 hours today, I was so excited until I went outside into a puddly world of slush. Yuck.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

1st of December and the snow arrives!

Happy Advent! No calendar for me, will have to just eat normal chocolate for breakfast to compensate.

From what I've been hearing Scotland, and a good chunk of Europe, is struggling with ridiculous amounts of snow. Paris hasn't escaped it but right here in the middle not much has happened- enough snow to make the kids go hyper but not enough to cause proper disruption.
Walking around Montmartre yesterday morning was extremely cold but so pretty- blue sky, sun and a sprinkling of snow on the cobbles and windmills. Laura, Claire and I went up there for lunch at Les Deux Moulins, the cafe Amelie works in! And happily it lived up to our expectations- very cute, good food, and pretty much as it looked in the film. I think it was topped though by the little cake shop we went to for pudding- the best cheesecake I've ever tasted. Shared 2 slices between us and we could barely finish them. I struggled through.

There are only 16 days until I go home for Christmas. Really looking forward to it, but already know it won't be as relaxing as I like to imagine (lying on the couch in front of the fire, little brother bringing me tea and treats, watching A Muppet Christmas Carol, meeting friends for catch-up drinks) especially if this weather continues! (Getting snowed in, digging out the car, freezing on unheated buses, running out of oil, keeping the fire lit...) Fingers crossed by the 17th Edinburgh airport will be open!!

I have just made efforts to cold-weather-proof my studio: hung thicker curtains than the ones I had been using, jammed the inflatable mattress on its side against the wall, stuffed the side of my bed with my sleeping bag, and demoted an old dress to draught excluder. Wearing a hat and sitting at least a foot away from the wall are generally advised, as it's an outside wall and radiates cold. Glad I don't pay the bills, relying heavily on my one electric heater!

On the au pair side of things all is well, though it's been pointed out that when (if) I ever have kids I will have terribly high expectations of them:
Oscar (3 year old) cracks up every time I say jammies, as in 'put your jammies on'. He says 'sometimes' and 'oh no' in a Scottish accent. But he's currently starting to read in english thanks to a Dr Seuss book (If you can read UP then you can read PUP, and if you can read UP and PUP then you can read PUP is UP) and can add and take away without much effort. He's 3 years and 9 months old.
Arsene, 5, despairs when  have to help him with his dictation homework, as do I. My french is so awful I can apparently mispronounce even the shortest of words, 'rue' for example, meaning street. He can do times tables in french and english, and yesterday counted the number of seconds in a day, on his own, on paper, just for fun. He beat me 5 games to 4 at Guess Who; I taught him how to make paper chains.
And they can both play the piano as well as I can.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

8 tiny weeks in, adjusted to tiny Paris life?

I only have 2 chairs, so when there's 3 for tea someone has to perch on the stairs.
I met some French people!
Friends of friends, who are all lovely and hopefully I can keep in touch with. Failed completely (again) at speaking french, although not completely my fault as I distinctly remember one of them trying to get me to talk in french and then peeing himself laughing at my 'really funny' accent. Confidence fairly shattered, thanks for that. Anyway, so now I've been to a house party/pre-drinks down in Boucicault, and had a dance somewhere aound the Tour Montparnasse. And I've eaten my way through the treats my friend Alex brought over from Scotland- Tunnocks Teacakes, Caramel Wafers, Hobnobs and Chocolae Digestives. And I've run out of teabags!! But it's ok, only 3 more days then I can stock up in London. The shopping list is growing since I had a cheese-on-toast craving that only cheddar will satisfy, and then I remembered about Marmite...

Anything else to add? I've also had a fever, recovered, bought stamps, and bought a French film that I'm off to watch now. 'Huit Femmes', it's by the same director as 'Potiche' and I enjoyed that last week even though I missed a lot of the jokes and 99% of the words. Oh also, this week I came joint first in a pub quiz, with Laura and Olivia. Go Nannies!

A bientot!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The last weeks have (again) been quite eventful, hence another packed update.

The kids had 2 weeks of holidays, so it's quite nice now they're back at school 4 days a week I don't have to think up activities for whole days, just remember to get them to and from school/babygym/swimming/calligraphy at the right times with the appropriate bags.
Someone scoffed at me yesterday for being tired after a shift- he obviously has never looked after 3 and 5 year old boys who, within half an hour while putting their shoes and coats on to go out, cried 6 times between them. Most of the fuss was because 3 year old wanted to stand on the chair to unlock the door, but I said he had to move the chair as it was blocking the door to get to the bathroom, coats and shoes that we needed. Hence tantrums 1, 2 and 3, for each time he explained what he wanted and I explained why it wasn't possible and he realised I was a horrible chair-moving monster. When finally ready to leave, football and bottles of water in my bag and all gloves on, 5 year old decides to jump up and unlock the door ahead of his brother. (Tantrum 4.) Numbers 5 and 6, one each, happen when I lock it again and sit down with my back against the door. No-one gets to go to the park unil the crying has ceased!

But after an hour and a half in the park they were little angels again and I had a hundred kisses before bedtime, and a story read to me in English. Happy days.

In my long weekends I feel like I've been fairly adventurous with Paris, exploring a bit more.
Things to add to the list of non-typically-touristy things I have done in Paris
1. Watching an all-french tennis match at Bercy stadium in the first round of the BNP Paribas Masters
2. Going to an exhibition at the Cinemateque Francaise (for free thanks to a friend), in French, about hair in cinema.
3. Seeing 'Potiche' - a French film in French, on a discount night at a cinema in the 13th
4. Browsing and buying books for 2euros at a sale at the American Library
5. Browsing the shops at La Defense- the biggest shopping centre in the world. At least that's what it felt like.

Tourist list tick-offs:
1. Chatting over a 6euro cappucino at Les Deux Magots,  Saint Germain. Had to do it once!

I've also found a pub! The first place that feels like a pub and not a bar, somewhere you can sit in a jumper with a pint and not feel like a scruff. Handily, it's on my street just up past the Pantheon, has a Scottish barman, shows tennis and rugby, and plays great music. Unfortunately, it's 6euro for a pint. Can't have everything...

So another Friday night is here and it should be fun- I'm going to meet Alex (a good friend from art school in Glasgow) who's in town visiting her French friends, and attempt to coordinate meeting up with other au pairs and couchsurfers and people we've met between us all on nights out. It might work, might not.

And seeing as it's getting hideously close to Christmas, I've booked my flights and am looking forward to 2 whole weeks at home in December! Don't know if the French do mince pies?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My staircase, Tour Eiffel, and the autumn leaves and Oscar in Jardin du Luxembourg.

Happy Anniversary Paris...

I've now been here a whole month and 3 days!

Apologies for the lack of contact, but I haven't really felt like writing. Not that there's been nothing to say; as usual day to day life still throws up strange and funny things- the boys especially, and I've been out, met some people, had good times.

So presumably there's a fair bit to catch up on, what's happened?

Well my friend Katie came to visit which was fantastic, I was getting a bit worried that she'd never arrive with the strikes (still) going on, and then she didn't answer any of my calls or texts...Turns out she'd just forgotten her phone! Thankfully I'd sent detailed instructions that got her through the disrupted trains and metro. When she arrived my little flat was already bursting- Keyanna and Laura were here, I'd invited them and Lulu who came later, for drinks before we went to a boat-nightclub to celebrate Laura's birthday. So there were 5 of us, which I thought was quite impressive (in terms of number of friends as well as fitting them all in!)

The boat party was good, if not so memorable. Too much wine was consumed. I blame the fact I'd worked all day (9.30-8.30) and it was another exhausting one with the kids. Me and Katie left the boat early and watched the city lights reflecting on the Seine from a bridge. Unfortunately neither of us heard my phone ringing back at my flat when Keyanna called to get me to let her in, or heard Laura shouting us from down in the courtyard. (Apparently the neighbours did.) I'd never appreciated having a buzzer before. I really need to hang a bell at my window with a string down to the courtyard or something! Or just not to conk out when I've promised folk a bed for the night...

So the next day I woke not feeling too fresh, poor Katie came all the way from Madrid and ended up with a hungover host who took her to an American diner for brunch! It was on Rue Mouffetard, which was in 'Amelie' so surely scored some tourist points? I had to work at 4pm and it was the coldest day I've seen here so far, and I had to take the boys to the park. They fought all the way there, then Arsene spat at me in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Lovely. Suffice to say it was not the best day, but improved immensely when I finished work and went to see the Eiffel Tower at night with Katie. So romantic! Very cold, but verrrrry pretty. Walked all the way back along the Seine as it was past last-train time, and caught the light show when we were half way back to the Latin Quarter. We'd promised ourselves a hot chocolate for the walk, but it seems you're only allowed alcohol past midnight in Paris. So when we finally made it back we improvised with some dark chocolate and milk, not quite the same but filled a gap.

The next day started better, wine-fug-less: with pain au chocolates and coffees we admired Notre Dame and the Louvre in the sunshine before rushing back to start the long and eventful trek to the airport. As I don't have to travel far, ever, this was my first real experience of just how disruptive the strike is! Should have had loads of time, ended up running through the airport. (Well not me, but Katie did!)

It was a great weekend though, so so lovely to see wee Katie :)

Since then? Been hanging out with Laura, tea and biscuits at mine is a regular occurrence and sleepovers too which make me feel like I have a flatmate, it's nice. You wouldn't think we met only 3-4 weeks ago!
We went to a gig last week at La Cigale in Montmartre: Uffie, Erol Alkan, a guy from Franz Ferdinand and some others called Gentlemen Drivers, who we liked except for the singer, which was a shame. Decided to persuade the keyboard, bass and drums players to kick the rest of them and take us on as flute/cello/vocals and backing dancers. Uffie was fantastic, enjoyed Erol Alkan's set too. I was surprised the crowd didn't really get into either- much too cool I suppose? Good looking, the lot of them. Couldn't help noticing two tall guys in big coats, strolling in with their cigarettes, no regard at all for the smoking ban!

Just like everyone else I've been tired this week, got a bit of a cold from the changing seasons and I've worked long hours- it's the school holidays so even when the parents aren't working I've been 'on duty' with lots of English activity books, lots of stories, lots of hours spent in sandpits and playgrounds. Any other au-pairs will know the 'I work with kids' look, and I've slipped back into it since it's become winter; suddenly I'm wearing half my wardrobe at once all layered up, and dark early mornings just don't make me want to get up and shower... So much for absorbing Parisien style!

But it's looking up, I'm barely working tomorrow then 3 days off to find some new boots, finally buy and send some postcards, and do yet more exploring. And find myself a Halloween party...
Hopefully I won't leave it so long 'til my next letter!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where I am: through those doors and 71 little stairs up

Another few days, another few incidents.

Why is it when you actually have cash to spend there's nothing in a whole city to buy?

After waiting for my french bank card to arrive in the post for the past 2 weeks, I realised that I had to go in to collect it. Right enough, on one of the 20 letters they've sent me for who-knows-what reason, it says right there in french: something to do with inviting me to come and 'retirer' it. Next time read the letters, using a dictionary if necessary.

What it didn't say on the letter (and I checked this) was that before they let you into the bank you have to be identified: standing between the outer and inner doors via intercom someone speaks to you and you give your account number/name/secret password, then they buzz you in. I pushed the button for 'appel' ('call', well done me) and then completely failed the rest; Bonjour! ne comprende pas! Je ne parle pas francais! Pardon? Euh, je n'ai pas mon account number... She gave up, let me in and gave me my card- in english. Obviously not a security threat me, just incapable.

So, debit card in hand I headed to Rue de Rivoli where the high street shops are, my budget not stretching to the posher parts. Zara, Mango, H&M, Gap, all the usual suspects, and nothing. Tired myself out walking, mainly when I went the wrong direction down Boulevard de Sebastopol, just when I was thinking I had a good grip on my usually unreliable sense of direction...

The difficult thing is not knowing what shops are normal french equivalents of nice normal shops, and which are the crappy 'Internacional' types- the usual signs don't translate; decor, type of clothes, type of customer- I don't know who's cool and who's not! Same with bars, the usual set of factors you'd use to choose where to go don't work. You could think you're going into a funky nightclub, jazz bar or live music pub and end up in les Indigo Rooms.*

So after drinking my birthday wine next to a nice fountain the other night, Laura (my friend!) and I went to investigate beer pricings in a dark, dingy looking pub which turned out to sell pretty cheap wine, have a very good-looking barman AND have a multi-roomed club downstairs, like a very mini version of Glasgow's Arches! A good find I think, likely to be revisited again this weekend.

Work-wise, all is fine. I forgave the 3 year old for biting me on the ear (Sunday, on the metro, because I picked him up to stop him running around and potentially falling onto the tracks) and we were friends again today. Learning to distract him from the daily 'But I don't like this soup' by telling him it's made of whichever vegetable (of the same colour) he likes that day. Today it was not courgette, it was pea, honest. I have twice accidentally called him my little brother's name, which just popped out of nowhere. Christopher (the brother) was his age when I was 11 so "Stop It Christopher you're being Silly" must just have been etched into my brain somewhere!

Tomorrow and the next day I have off, thinking of visiting the Orangerie and seeing some art, attempting the shopping trip again, and I also need to make my way to the parks- Jardin de Luxemburg and the Jardin des Plantes are nearby and I should take advantage of the still-warm and sunny weather to do some wandering. That is after buying myself a good book or two from Shakespeare & Co, a pretty famously quirky english-language bookshop just down the road. Been in a number of times already but there's too much choice, I always come out with nothing.

I was about to write 'that's me off to re-watch another Mad Men', and remembered I finished what I have on disk last night! Noo! Any gifts of downloaded tv series would be gratefully received, I also particularly like Gossip Girl, Ugly Betty, Glee, BBC period dramas, and Neighbours.

A bientot! x

* For those who don't know, Indigo Rooms is Galashiels's finest nightclub (although this is debatable since contender 'Move' opened.) Galashiels is a small town in the Scottish Borders. In Scotland. (Just in case.) Indigo Rooms is legendary, but not necessarily for coolness. Small, sweaty, sleazy, and until recently, bright orange.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Scottish Summer / Paris in October

What a gorgeous few days. Honestly, lying in a park with new friends and a baguette I felt like I might get sunburnt. Just had 3 days off in a row and managed to do quite a lot, including boring stuff like finding the big supermarket (and learning the difference between supemarche, superette and hypermarche) finding a forest growing between 4 towers at the national library and seeing some pretty disturbing art at the Pompidou Centre. Will try and get a photo up of the library area soon, it's all new and bright, and like a whole different place to the Paris I've explored so far.
Also finally found a percolator, so have now used my little hob and happy to say it works. Thinking of making some soup, although the tiny freezer compartment in my fridge will only hold one tiny box so I'll have to eat it all in one go, shame...
Got fresh milk, butter and jam, coffee and orange juice in that little fridge and have just finished the last of my birthday After Eights with a few pots of tea (it's a small pot.)
And it was a very good idea to bring my teapot, I only wish I'd brought boxes of tea with me- it's so expensive here! Most things are, but it seems ridiculous for teabags!
Did have a lovely cafe creme (like a latte) next to the Pompiou today for only 1.80 euro- cheapest so far!

I've begun to realise that the area I'm in really is the centre.
I'm where Rue Saint Jacques meets Boulevard Saint Germain, a 3 km long Haussman-designed stretch of shops, cafes and everything else that goes parallel to the Seine. I'm told (by my reliable guide book) that this is where celebrity spotting is most likely. Not sure I'd know any if I saw them! I'm two minutes from everything, and I know how lucky I am!

Haven't met any French people yet, apart from mums and dads of the kids' friends at the school doors, and then there's that awkward they-know-me-but-I-don't-know-them situation... My french- although coming back to me s l o w l y - just doesn't want to come out when someone actually speaks to me. Spanish is still on the brain, and I'd rather say nothing than speak bad spanish! It wouldn't be so bad if I could get away with pretending to be Spanish, but with pale skin and blonde hair? No chance!

I have a window box here with nothing growing in it. Having one makes me very happy, so I'm going to go to a plant shop and see what I can find for cheap. Don't know anything about planting things in October but just want to brighten up my window a bit. North facing into a tall courtyard might not be the best conditions, but my window is single-glazed so at least they'll be warm!

My goodness these posts seem to get pretty long, and I'm sure I still have loads to say. But, again I'm starting at 5.30 tomorrow so off to theirs to sleep over. Have to take the boys to get their hair(s?)cut tomorrow- feel like this is quite a lot of responsibility. Hope I don't mess it up. Must remember dictionery.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One week in

I have Friends!!
It's very exciting, honestly. I don't know what people did before the internet- just hang around in a bar on their own, hoping an other lonely soul will come and talk to them? Now we have the wonders of facebook and couchsurfing, millions of groups for strangers in Paris, even multiple versions of 'Au Pairs in Paris 2010', we can speed things up somewhat. Might not be the most natural way of making friends, and I doubt I'd do it at home, but needs must!

So after posting my desperate plea for friends on said website and getting some replies, yesterday I went to meet (blind-date style) 2 girls of whom I knew nothing except that they also look after children. Luckily they were both cool and not psychos, one a fellow Scot and a girl from Germany. We bought very expensive coffees near the Louvre, wandered in and- like most people- went straight for the Mona Lisa. It's a shame that they make you stay so far away from it- what is the point of having such a famous painting on show, making people queue to see it, then cordoning off about 5 metres in front of it? Even if we only go to see it because it's famous (which isn't true!) surely it's better to actually SEE it and be able to form some sort of opinion... better off with a postcard sadly.
It's really easy to get lost in there too. While looking for the 'sortie' signs I liked to test myself guessing the artist of paintings I recognised, art geek? Yes I am.

Had my first ham and cheese crepe yesterday, followed by my second today. Yum.

Later I met a girl who I'd met at the au pair cafe, for a Starbucks and a film. I know- why go to Starbucks, go to a real cafe... but it's damn cheaper! Anyway found another nice one at Odeon (a place near me with lots of cinemas) with big people-watching/sketching windows upstairs, perfect for hiding in from the rain. Saw Wall Street in english with french subtitles. Subtitles were good, when the film was a bit slow I could test my translation...

Later still met the weegie girl from earlier for a couple of pints, unfortunately duped by totally deceiving menu&signage and paid 8euro each, twice. Shudder.

Up again today and went to meet some different girls- this time American, Romanian-Swiss and Hungarian. (I think.) Coffee and the now-usual questions: Arrondissement? With family or in a studio? How many kids? Ages? And the parents? Do you have to drive? Cook? What did you do before this? How old are you then?! (So far mainly this one directed at me- but 23 is not that old!!)
To Montmartre, passed on the second-hand shop knowledge, up to the Sacre Coeur, (crepe), back down, getting the hang of the metro, meeting people is really tiring, home, 'theirs' for dinner, washing, back here to write this, soon going back to theirs to sleep because I start at 5.30am tomorrow.

Missing Nuit Blanche.
Trying not to think about it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From my wee house in the '5eme'

Bonjour! Ca va? Ca va tres bien merci!

So I'm in Paris! Strangely easy to forget when I'm in my little studio, because even though it is typical Parisian cute, old beams in the spiral staircase, it has all my stuff in it, and I can still sit with a cup of tea and some After Eights and spend hours on facebook, twitter, bbc news, re-watching Mad Men...
Then I go outside and oh yes, I'm in the heart of the Quartier Latin, down there's Notre Dame, turn left and there's the Sorbonne, walk past Musee de Cluny (some pretty famous tapestries in there I hear) to get to the metro... walking around smiling like a crazy!

Up 'til today I've spent all my time either by myself or with 'the family', 2 boys aged 3 and 5, ridiculously intelligent and bilingual and lovely parents in their 30s- it's been nice and they've been so welcoming, but really needed some chat from some people like me!
So, headed off to the International Au Pair Cafe, a fabulous drop-in cafe/meeting-place in a church hall and met a crowd of other foreign girls, all chatting about Paris, the kids*, sharing plans for the weekend and tips for places to go. Including Guerrisol- a Montmartre second-hand shop where you really have to rummage but everything's basically 3 or 5 euro! Bought a dress for 5 euro, floor length but will make a nice short one with leggings :)
Also went to Galeries Lafayette, brought back lectures from the art school about Haussman and his boulevards, voyeurs, shoppers... So stylish in there! The central dome is beautiful.
Also stopped at the most snazzy Starbucks I've seen in my life! I thought Madrid's were good, Paris is another step up.

So, tackled the metro for the first time solo, got a bit touristy with my map out but made it home.
And after posting on a good few 'au pair in Paris' websites I now have plans for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday :)

Hopefully I'll work out how to use links and photos and make these posts less rambly and more informative. On the other hand, it's my equivalent of writing a million letters, so maybe not.

Un beso
from a Scot who keeps talking to French people in Spanish

*au pair-ing does make you a bit parent-ish, ie. you talk about the kids waaaayyy too much, hence needing friends who also work with (for?) children