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.