Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festive feelings

Had the annual unofficial school reunion at our pub tonight, which was exactly the same as it always is, a lot of fun and lots of catching up with old friends.  Hope everyone has a lovely day tomorrow, I for one will be eating until I burst and playing board games and overheating next to the fire.
Merry, merry Christmas xx

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An update of sorts:

I haven't been very good at keeping this a regular thing recently. Truth is, I've been knackered! And hit by  number of minging kiddy viruses and coughs. It's very unfair that the little children don't seem to get ill themselves, but like to hold my hands and sneeze in my face and pass on all their germs to me. And make me yell at them, ruining my voice forever. (That's how it feels, I haven't spoken normally for about a month. I sound like Gollum.)

Anyway, it hasn't all been miserable, in fact I've fitted quite a lot in, including a fun-packed visit from Laura which was fabulous, a barbecue and trip to Valle de los Caidos, lots of Christmas-themed lessons, and dressing up as an elf for one of my jobs' kids' Christmas Party. I can only hope against all probability that those photos never end up on the big TV they've just set up in reception for 'advertising' purposes...

I'll probably, maybe, write about these things at some point. Right now I'm sitting in my nice clean room, pretty much packed, and with 2 hours before I have to leave for the airport. All I need to do is have lunch, and- I've just spotted my biscuit jar which is about a third full... ... They'll go soft if I leave them till the 8th of January. Better get on it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Delicious, blue, mouth hurting cheese

Bank Holidays. Spain absolutely loves them, this week we have 2, Tuesday and Thursday!
They're great, especially as Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busy days, so I have only 4 lessons to plan this week instead of 13. And, I thought, what a great opportunity to do something seasonal like wander around looking at the Christmas lights, or buy some presents, or make some cards, or go on a day trip to one of the pretty towns around Madrid. So what did I do today?

I woke up at 10:30 and went to a cash machine to get out money to pay my rent, because my flatmate had stuck a post-it to my door saying he was leaving at 11:15 and I had to give him the money before then. I paid him, then went back to bed. He said (employing his usual tact) I had a 'face of sleep'. I then woke up at 4pm, starving and slightly regretting the waste of so many hours of a national holiday in bed.

Must try harder on Thursday, but having already made plans to go out on Wednesday night, it may or may not work out. This week has already become a pattern of going out and sleeping, and going out and sleeping... But, as always, it wasn't really my fault. I just get swept along!

What happened was, yesterday I decided to go out after work for 'a few drinks' with Pops and her friends who (of course) were Lovely People. We made ourselves dizzy standing inside the big Christmas tree at Sol, then went to 100 Montaditos to sample the new menu (do it- they've got calamares now!) and the 1euro jarras of beer (just short of a pint). In case I haven't mentioned it before, it's a place everyone here loves, mainly because of the extremely cheap beers and the fact you order off a menu with hundreds of montaditos (mini bocadillos, little baguette sandwiches basically which have a slight tendancy to rip the roof of your mouth apart but are nice) which are numbered, and then you get your food from a hatch when they shout your name. It is always funny to give a fake name. Or a Scottish one.

Then we went to an Asturian sidreria to drink cider. To plan a night around Spanish food and drink is heaven. It was Ñeru, on calle Bordadores, 5. I ate the most intense cheese I've ever tasted. It's made from cows' and goats' milk and maybe sheep's milk as well, and spread on bread as a tapa it's really blue. I think it's called Cabrales. It actually hurt my mouth, which was feeling sensitive after all the montaditos, but it was delicious. And because there was a Spaniard amongst us, we drank the cider the Proper Way, which involves pouring about 2 shots worth into your glass from high up in the air, and downing it before something bad happens with the sediment, or something. It's really good cider, but compared to sipping the large beers moments before it was a quite hardcore drinking environment, I kept falling behind! The place is definitely worth a visit, the man who's behind it is a bit of a legend (/was, he died in 2005) and there are photos all over the walls of him in a dodgy suit and large moustache with various celebs, football teams and other people, and in not a single one does he look at the camera. Go see for yourself.

Then, we decided to continue the night in La Latina and got lured into a strangely long bar with bad mojitos, and after that, bought some cans from the beer sellers and sat in the Plaza discussing childhood tv favourites and singing the Sharky and George theme tune. It was a really good night, totally unexpected, and I ended up taxiing home around 5am.

I've just realised, what I've just said is that on the night of the 5th of December 2011, I sat outside happily chatting for over an hour and I don't remember ever feeling toooo cold. I did not wake up with hypothermia, I did not lose any fingers to frostbite. I LOVE SPAIN. 

(enjoying the snow, Scotland?)

I've skipped the weekend, which was another fun and unexpected night, only marred by getting my mobile stolen. I will write about this later. Again, I feel like half the stuff I write here you must think I make up. But I don't! I mean I might get some details wrong (the meat never did hit Poppy in the face, it hit her somewhere on her jacket, I do apologise) but I never aim to deceive. Madrid is just brilliant and unpredictable and you should all move here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sheep again, beer again, potatoes.

Sheep Photo boy texted me!
He was still planning to go to Cuenca on Friday at 8pm, and did we still want to go? I did, obviously, wouldn't you? Of course you would! Though when a friend repeated back to me what I'd said- evening trip to beautiful countryside, nice meal with new friends, interesting photo session of people amongst sheep- she made it sound like a stranger(danger) was planning on taking us out into the middle of nowhere, murdering us and chopping us up with only sheep for witnesses. I think I've gotten more naive with age, but why isn't it ok to just believe what people tell you?! Anyway I had to work Saturday morning, as usual, so didn't ever find out. He offered to show me the photos over a beer this week, but I'm pretty sure his appeal was just the novelty sheep photo stuff.

I stayed in on Friday night, which makes 2 in a row! I am a convert to going to bed at a Reasonable Time on a Friday, and working headache-free on a Saturday morning. The thing is, both times I've done this, I've gone for a drink with my friend who also teaches there after we finish. The barmen love her there, and so didn't let us go after just one beer each. So I've ended up, two weeks in a row, tipsy at 1pm. Yesterday we then proceeded to windowshop, giggling, all across Madrid, eating sushi and hotdogs, all the while with a kitchen knife in my bag, sticking out of a large potato.
(It was potato-print day in the wee art class and I had a spare.)

The potato-knife ensemble is now sitting on my bedside table, where it has been since I eventually got home 13 hours after I left for work that morning, and hurriedly emptied my bag to get ready to go out again, to dodgy Chamartin.

I will write about that later, I'm going to inspect the potato, and possibly go stick it in the oven.

ps. I know I sound like an alcoholic, but I'm not really. It's just during the week all I do is work, so there's no much to write about, and basically, weekends in Madrid are about having a wee drink and doing whatever you like. So I do.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meat man, sheep photography and cheap drinks

I said before that Fatigas del Querer was a good bar. Now I absolutely LOVE IT.

I went with Poppy last night, after trying to get into a really nice looking bar with live jazz. It was full, so we went off to F del Q. That was the third time I've taken someone Scottish/English there, I should be their promo...

Anyway we got ourselves a spot at the bar and some beer, and the barman gave us some Really Nice olives. After, we got another beer and I don't think they gave us tapas that time.... But later we got chorizo and wee breadsticks, in case you were wondering. We were standing right under the big leg of pig, watching an angry-looking man carve nice thin slices of it while we chatted about boys and old boyfriends and school and work and suddenly a large slice (wedge?) of ham came flying at Poppy and hit her in the face!*

Angry man wasn't so apologetic, saying hey, you can eat it, better I fling meat at you than the knife!
From then on we had a stop-start conversation with meat Man, who was angry because he was doing lots of carving, moving onto chorizo, cheese and morcilla (spanish black sausage, which was better than any i've ever tasted) for very little pay, and he used to carve that very same jamon at Harrods, apparently. He told us he's been on tv with Jamie Oliver, and also Ainsley Harriot, who he did an amusing impression of (have you ever noticed how much he moves his face when he talks?) He said he left London because he missed Spain, but is now fully regretting it. He kept giving us slices of the meat he was working on, and we liked him so much we bought him a beer, to the bewilderment of the barman who's presumably more used to getting drinks bought for himself or the other younger, better looking barmen. Meat Man was chuffed. I think his name was Julio, or something equally Spanish. Legend. I hope he gets enough money to buy his flights to London for his Harrods interview and I see him on tv soon. Mr Harrods, if you're reading this, please give him a job and lots of money.

In between spurts of chat with Meat Man Julio, a Spanish boy in a white t-shirt approached with some friends with comedy glasses who did a disappearing trick soon after. He asked us if we wanted to go to Cuenca next weekend and be photographed with lots of sheep. Of course we said yes. He didn't ask straight off, there was a bit of the usual 'where are you from, what do you teach, do you like Spain?' chat first, it would have been a weird opener. But, yeah, I do want to go to Cuenca which is meant to be beautiful, and be in a photo (he's a photographer) and go on a hike and have a big dinner with his other friends/models and sheep friends. Unfortunately, I work on Saturdays. This job is ruining a lot of my plans, and also making people think I'm a bit stupid. I get a lot of 'why did you take a job on Saturday mornings? Why haven't you quit yet? Can't you phone in sick? But really, Saturday mornings??' accompanied by incredulous looks and shakings of the head.
We tried to persuade him to do it on Saturday afternoon following on to Sunday morning (we didn't think about the fact this would have us staying with a stranger overnight, but it was a good plan at the time) because then he'd have 2 chances for photography and the choice of evening or morning light. I know he was tempted, and he has my number so I will let you know if this sheep photography session goes ahead. I hope it does.

The best bit of the night was just after, when we decided to pay up and leave. An observant reader will know we owed them for 7 beers. They said pay for 4, we said no, it was 6 for us and one for him, they said ok then, pay for 2 and stay for another, for free. I always thought bargaining was meant to go the other way. We paid 2 euros each!  Cheapest night ever.

When we left, overjoyed, Madrid had turned into a river and we were under a waterfall. My pink umbrella came out and did a good job for a while, then began to leak and drip onto my face in big cold blobs. My boots are not, it turns out, waterproof.

We headed for Ya'sta, to be told it was a boys only night, so continued up the road to Tupperware, a place I've been told about many times but never yet been. At least that's what I thought- as soon as I got in the door the 'I've been here before!' feeling hit me. I don't think many places have a silver glittery wall and lots of little red plastic tv sets filled with old toys. I went when I'd just arrived in Madrid with Spanish friends, but never knew what it was called. This makes me really cool and Madrid-ian.

I've also taken the night bus home twice now, which makes me brave and economical. So far they're not half as scary as Parisian night buses but last night it was so steamed up inside I almost missed my stop. Didn't though. Good night all round.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh go to bed

Why am I writing this?
I'm knackered, super cansada, ready to keel over, but not sleepy. Why do I wake up around midnight? It's not very helpful.

I'm trying to make more of an effort to speak in Spanish and talk to my flamates a bit, which after teaching 7 classes in a day (in 3 different schools) is a huge effort but I still did.... well ok I listened... or at least heard, concentrating on trying to understand a conversation only to find out after 10 minutes it's about Torres can make you switch off.
I did sum up the energy to make fun of Spain, Campeones del Mundo, for losing to both England and Costa Rica, which they tried to defend as generous tactics; if they won all the time the rest of the teams would get depressed apparently... but then they did beat Scotland.
Then they made fun of rugby and curling, and one of them asked The Question, the one mainland Europe just keeps asking, the 'England vs United Kingdom/Great Britain' question. Trying to help me out, the other one explained to him in Spanish, 'no, England is just the bottom bit, the skirt'. The skirt?!

Must go to bed, this is nonsense.

Ps. The Dizzee Rascal story isn't quite as star-studded as it might have sounded when I casually slipped in that I introduced the him to the DJ. But I'll drag it out anyway and tell you next time!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Speed dating.

This was not the barman we had, but I'm sure he's nice too.

There's another bar I've found that I like a lot, Fatigas del Querer. I can't take credit for finding it, as it was recommended to me, with the advice 'give the barmen good chat and they'll give you stuff for free'.

Obviously it was worth a try, even with my very low level of conversation in Spanish. Been twice now; the first time two of us had a beer each and got a wee tapa of chorizo and breadsticks. I didn't fancy another drink but the barman said if I had another, he's get them. Couldn't say no, so we had another beer and right enough we didn't pay for them. So I went back, ordered a beer again and this time got a dish of langoustines. Yummy, but not easy to eat standing at a bar in a way in which you can charm the barman. Drippy, slimy, legs everywhere, messy face... no free drinks.

I had been planning on going home, this being on a Sunday evening after 2 consecutive nights out, but ended up in a hostel playing beer pong. And somehow me and my pong partner (John maybe? Joe? Not sure if I ever knew) won! Didn't get a prize, you get more, technically, by losing, but I suppose it depends on how much you like chugging beer. And then we ended up in an Irish bar, drinking Heinekin, which I've decided is really not my favourite beer. I started chatting to a girl who was in the hostel group, and it turned out she, like me, wasn't a hostel person at all, just a sly tagger-along. In the way that you do, when you don't have many friends in a country that's not home, we made friends immediately, swapped numbers.
Living abroad is like speed dating all the time.

Possibly my speediest friend-making so far was the other day, my teaching partner was off sick so I was chatting to the Sub briefly before and after class. She lived just around the corner so invited me for a coffee and ended up feeding me tacos and telling me stories from her extensive experience of teaching and general life. She even knew decent Spanish music, something I'm finding elusive. And while doing all this, she was preparing dinner for her and her date to have later, all in a one hour gap between classes!
Left me slightly in awe.

Conclusions: Everyone foreign in Madrid is an English teacher. English teachers are all extraordinarily friendly. After teaching for a few years, they are extraordinarily efficient.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Various items (food, drink, quizzes)

Some snippets of the past weeks.

Rastro on a hangover = terrible idea. The Rastro is a big market that runs down the length of a long street, it has a few nice leather stalls and a lot of tat, and it's great for a wander if you're not tired, hungover, irritable, hungry or all of the above.

Indian food with no spice. It can be done. Spanish curry= yummy, but different. A godsend with beers after the Rastro experience.

Teashop in a bookshop. We found somewhere that's not a bar that serves coffee and tea! A little independent bookshop near Anton Martin, perfect for chilling on a Sunday. Can't remember the name unfortunately.

Areia = A cool bar with sofas and cushions and beds and candles, and nice juice. I was on a budget so didn't try one of the many cocktails, but the strawberry juice was good. Also there were no comfy seats free. Must go back, and get there earlier, with more cash. Near Alonso Martinez metro.

Pub Quiz at J&Js, the English (American/Canadian whatever, it's got books In English) bookshop and bar. I'm rubbish at quizzes but still came 4th! It helped that another team swapped answers with us. It was an especially hard quiz, there was a round on Switzerland and a round on chess.
Spanish people don't know about pub quizzes. I'm going to introduce them.

It was Fiona's birthday. We went to El Jardin Secreto which is really nice, but really busy so you only get your table for an alloted time slot, which is a shame. I had black squid ink risotto and immediately regretted it. There's only one night of the year it's cool to have black teeth, and Halloween was over already. I also had pear lemonade, that was delish. And a chocolate volcano exploding with dulce de leche magma!! At least that's what we imagined, it wasn't even shaped like a volcano, but I suppose it's unealistic to expect actual explosives in a pudding. It was still very tasty, even though by the time I got to the dulce de leche filling (the best bit) most of it had been stolen out the other side! Grrr. The coffee ice cream on top was amazing.

The stairs are prettily lit with tea lights, but this is a bit Dangerous I think.

Because they chuck you out after you've eaten, it was really early still so we went to a few bars; El Tigre was just too full so we went round the corner to a nice quiet bar that ceased to be quiet when everyone sang happy birthday! That's what happens when you say 'what are you going to give me?' to a camp barman in Chueca. They made her dance, it was fantastic. Then on to a club called Coco's where they lure you with promises of free shots which turn out to be orange juice and when you're in you're tempted to stay if only to use the toilets again. Chandeliers! Mirrors! Extravagance! The music wasn't great though so we moved on.....

To Star Studio! It was brilliant, like last summer all over again. Star Studio is an Irish bar/club where last year I introduced the DJ to Dizzee Rascal. It's on Plaza de Carmen, it's cheap to get in and every time I go I forget there's a whole other, bigger, dancefloor downstairs! A surprise every time. I learnt the moves to a Spanish song that goes, from what I could catch, stick your hands in the air, wiggle a bit, do a half turn, dance around a bit.

Obviously this was a Friday night (all the fun stuff happens on Friday nights) and yes, I work on Saturday mornings. It's a good thing I'm alright at working while sleep deprived. I can't imagine what would happen if I taught art classes after a full 8 hours sleep; I'd be bouncing all over the place, painting the roof most likely.

That's enough for now, I still have many things to tell you but I need to go back to work soon. I would be working now, but got told an hour beforehand that my class are going to a workshop about olives in the plaza next to the school, so they won't have English today. I'm not sure what an olive workshop entails either.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Freedom! and nudity

I should be planning lessons. Or watching the big political debate that's on tele to improve my Spanish and knowledge of Spanish politics. I'm just not good at concentrating this late at night, I'm much better at procrastinating.

I watched Braveheart this weekend, at the demand of one of my fellow teachers who couldn't believe (along with all of Spain) that I'd never seen it. I've been slagging it off all these years, just presuming it'd be terrible, but actually, I kind of enjoyed it, a lot. Apologies to anyone I may have scoffed at for liking it. It's good. And I've been singing Scots Wha Hae in my head all day, which I learnt in Primary 4 or 5 and haven't sung since, which means my memory isn't half bad. We also learnt The Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book in French around the same time, and I can almost get through a whole verse. Obviously that came in really handy in Paris last year, do you speak French? Oh yes, cherchez le mini-minimum, le mini-mini-minimum, oubliez les ennuies, oubliez tes... oh wow, I just looked up how to spell the next word and instead of finding the lyrics I stumbled across Bare Necessities Naked Cruises!! 'The finest clothing free vacations in the world', in their own words., if you're interested...

Might go do that planning now, just saw a bit more than I wanted to.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ya'sta! and dressing up, Madrid style

Lots to catch up on.

I had never appreciated Halloween so much before this year. I love Halloween; dressing up, bobbing for apples, getting doughnut jam in your eyes while you're trying to tear it from a string hanging from the ceiling. But never before had I realised the potential for Halloween themed lessons. Brilliant. For a whole week and a bit, all I had to do was imitate ghosts (oooooh) witches (nyahahaha) and spiders (more difficult) and draw them on the board. This week I'm floundering in post-Halloween no-man's-land, where no-one celebrates Guy Fawkes Night, I don't understand Thanksgiving and it's way too early for Christmas.

Incidently by the time it came to celebrate Halloween as an adult, by getting dressed up and drinking and doing the Thriller dance on repeat, I was a bit bored of the idea. Mainly because I'd been blackmailed into working at a kids' party for free, but the less said about that the better, because it makes me Angry. So a friend and I went out dressed normally, and at first we were glad, there were a lot of quite endearingly bad costumes in Madrid on the 31st. Halloween's new here, so it's still wild and unconventional to stick a white sheet on you, squirt it with red food colouring and mess up your hair. We saw a man in the metro wearing jeans and a plad jacket, topped with a 'see you Jimmy' hat and a sort of wrap-around tartan cloth, over his jeans. As two Scots, we resisted the urge to talk to him, so just took a covert photo instead: picture to follow when I work out how to get it off my phone.

But later in the night, when we were bopping around to an excellent selection of 50s and 60s music in Ya'sta Club, I wanted to join in, I wanted to be a zombie-monster-person too! Luckily I know myself and I'd packed my facepaints into my bag. So, quick trip to the loos, and I come back with bright blue lips and streams of blood pouring down my neck, and my friend with a particularly nasty looking Glasgow Smile.

Ya'sta is a really cool place, it has different nights each night (you know what I mean) and that one was Viva Las Vegas. There were projections of old burlesque films on the walls, and just such good music. A nice change from the ceaseless reggaeton. It's just off Gran Via, c/ Valverde, 10.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slippers in Spanish

This conversation just actually happened, in Spanish.

My older flatmate lady: Aren't you cold with only socks on your feet? (I am fully clothed, including two jumpers and two pairs of socks but she wasn't to know.)
Me: Well yeah, but I don't have... anything else! (lacking the word for slippers.)
Her: You don't have slippers?! (astounded.)
Me: In Scotland, yes lots, but here no. I'm waiting for payday to buy some!
(This was said half-jokingly, I'd forgotten jokes in bad Spanish are a bad idea.)

What followed was a protracted polite argument about who was buying my slippers; she wanted to lend me money to get some, and when I said no, buy me them as a late birthday present.

Her: Go and find some you like and we'll (including our other unsuspecting flatmates in this) give you them as a present.
Me: But Jesus made me a cake already, no more presents, I am going to buy them myself! I promise!

Haha she just came into my room under the pretense of lending me an old pair until I have my own, then sneakily looked on my shoes to see my size!!

I reckon it was the longest conversation we've ever had, now I think about it.

And if there wasn't a law in Madrid that says you can't turn on the heating until the 1st of November, it would never have happened. I think I'd rather have the heating, it's blooming cold. Those big single-glazed windows that let in so much lovely sunlight also let in a fair bit of air. Brrr.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

No time for tapas

'Busy' I said. Ha.
Somehow the hours have jumped so I'm now working in 5 schools, 6 days out of 7, and it's exhausting me! So much that I haven't written anything on here and I'm not going to just now, because I need to go to bed. And before I can get into bed I have to move the heaps of folders and bits of paper off it- the ones I was meant to be turning into organised piles and lesson plans. Instead I went shopping. I felt guilty, as I do even when buying milk or tomatoes, about spending money I haven't been paid yet, but also, it's cold. I need socks. And a scarf. I got socks and tights but no scarf; all I have are two wimpy flimsy ones I tie around my head or neck when I'm feeling whimsical. That has been fine up till now; the beginning of Cold. Now, it's forecast to Rain. There were Clouds in the sky today. I feel like I'm learning these words at the same time as my 4 year olds, because in the 7 weeks since I arrived, there have been 3 cloudy days and only one faint shower of rain. Oh bother, I didn't buy an umbrella.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Busy teacher makes time for tapas in Madrid

I have 3 jobs. I started the new one yesterday and that brings me up to 17 and a half hours a week. I feel so busy!

It was a bit disconcerting to have been given this job for the reason I'm 'so enthusiatic about teaching' (I wrote my CV while I was an au pair- of course I was excited about doing anything else.)
Then more worrying to be immediately emailed various notices about Rules and Discipline. Apparently the other teachers have been having Problems.
I went to collect copies of my teaching books and lesson plans the day before, as I am a New teacher who likes to be Prepared, and got less than I'd hoped for; a cd that doesn't seem to match the books and some glorified colouring-in sheets. So yesterday morning I was a bit anxious. I dislike being unprepared!

But I've realised, it's Spain. It's just like that here.

I was thinking 'oh how awful I'm going to look really stupid and the evil 8 year olds will throw things at me' but actually, it was fine. We did lots of "point at... the pegs!/computer!/table! and when I told my boss we didn't exactly stick to the plan she just said, 'that's fine, I'm glad you're here!'. Apparently she was desperate. And then I had a class of 4 year olds, who were fun.

Do all kids like to have their fingers bitten by puppets, or is it a Spanish thing? They absolutely love it.

So then after that I nipped home for some lunch, then back out to the other Tuesday job teaching 'art' to some nice but mental kids. One of them shouts everything. He just can't remember to talk at a normal volume, I'd remind him and he's say 'ok, yes ok' and then do it again. We made octopus monsters.

After that, I went to meet someone who I've met once before when I first arrived; another Scot teaching English here. We decided to go and watch Scotland get beat by Spain in the football, and bumped into another Scot teaching English here who I'd also met once before, at the last match, that we actually won. So we joined him and ended up in a large group of English teachers drinking 2 euro pints and comparing our jobs, which was fantastic. Except that I hadn't eaten yet, and as I'm on my cash only budget, I couldn't afford any. Luckily I wasn't joining in the shot-per-goal deal, but still by the end I was in need of some sustenance.

El Tigre to the rescue! 

For the price of another cheap caña, you get to scoff off a large plate of fried things. The croquettas are my favourite, and the barmen know me from repeated visits last summer and this.
I caught the eye of one of them through the crush at the bar and shouted him our order 'dos cañas!' For which a Spanish girl next to us started taking the piss, saying 'dos cañas' in what I assume was a bad Spanish accent. Not in the mood for being made fun of by more Spaniards (we had just lost the football) I replied, 'y que?' (And wot? I should be in N-dubz.) She was a bit taken aback; I think she was just jealous at my speedy delivery of beers and tapas.

El Tigre is a legend in Madrid, the amount of food they dish out to you is phenomenal. The number of times I've been there in a relatively short time is also meritable. It's also the reason I'll struggle this weekend when family are visiting and wanting me to take them nice places. Guidebook at the ready.

So after yesterday's business, today's a holiday! And my birthday too it seems, because I got a card and presents in the post. (Thank you.) I'm off now to do my lesson planning/procrastinating in the park, squeezing the last of the sun onto my legs while the rest of Madrid sweats in jeans and scarves. Yes, I do know it's October. I am also Scottish.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some stuff I've done, giraffes, glitter glue...

In the last two weeks I've done a lot of sitting in my room, so I'm not entirely sure why I haven't managed to get anything up on here yet. Not much has been going on really, nothing to write home about! I've applied for hunners of jobs, later realising that they're  a) too far away, b) really badly paid, or c) a bit dodgy. Dodgy ones are the places where interviews are more like, 'Ok so here's the contract, you sign here and it's till June, she asked for an American native speaker with experience teaching for exams, but it doesn't matter, you start tomorrow!' ...I've cancelled a few interviews, had a few promising ones and, finally, things seem to be starting to fit. As of tomorrow, providing all goes well I'll have 4 jobs! (And they say there's a crisis, as my flatmate says.) 4 jobs that add up to just under 20 hours mind you, but still, not too shabby seeing as a lot of them are really fun.

I missed my first real art class at the one place I work, let's call it the Gooseberry Bush Club, because I got a sicky bug, which was miserable timing as it was also the weekend I was meant to be celebrating my birthday! But at my second job I did some wonderful giraffe collages which were very well received by parents. I had been told 'do something that looks nice for the first couple of classes so more people will sign their kids up'... as easy as you'd think with a bunch of 3-6 year olds with a penchant for scribbling. After that, I'll be going for abstract expressionist inspired pieces, with added glitter glue.

 What else?

I got one of those generic wiggly mirrors, my boss very kindly got me it on a trip to Ikea, and a lightshade which is not blue, so my room no longer feels like a spaceship, which is nice. Still have to somehow make the black and white curtains make friends with the orange and green floral sofa, but we're getting there. I've been watching Doctor Who, which I'd forgotten about, I love having a whole series to catch up on. And as from now on I'll be adding a few hours to my schedule each week, I'd better use my time wisely and get watching. Actually now I think about it, everything's been a bit sci-fi recently, lots of alien drawing, and "3 Little Men in a Flying Saucer (flew round the world one day)" has been on on repeat in my head. And I was very excited about 'teaching' a Star Wars in English class this evening, which basically would have involved playing with Star Wars toys with Spanish kids, but last minute I got changed onto a real teaching class, bummer.

I know this is a fairly boring list of things, but as soon as something exciting happens, I'll let you know. It was my one month aniversary with Madrid yesterday; feels like I've been here forever. Except that I don't know any really nice places, speak like a five year old, and still have few friends. Poco a poco, as people keep saying to me. But I'm feeling impatient, I want it all now!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"It's all about the process"

"Well, it's all about the process isn't it, not the end product..."

That's what my boss said, and I couldn't tell if it was ironic or not.

Casa de Campo at dusk
This was in the middle of my art class for 2-3 year olds when one wee girl was being washed in a bucket after getting paint all over her wee self, and I was fleeing about, schooshing paint into trays and saying 'that's excellent Lucia/Irene/Gorka/Sergio, how about painting on the paper now?'

I am completely of the opinion that with 2 and 3 year olds it's always going to be about the process, and to be honest, I'd be making variations on 'dark sludge' too if it was me. But of course parents want to see something pretty... maybe next week eh.

If only it had only been 4 kids maybe there'd have been less chaos, but it was more like 14, plus their parents! But apparently not many have signed up for next week yet. I hope some come though because I've spent the last half hour trying different ways of using wax-resist and dark blue paint to make fishy scenes, and attempting to get into the frame of mind of an excited 3 year old. If anyone has one nearby, can I borrow them for practise? Never thought I'd be wishing for a small child's company.

It was fun though, and so was having a beer outside afterwards, hiding them from the kids and their parents as they cycled by. Teachers drinking straight after class doesn't look so good I imagine, necessary as it usually is.

This is a photo from the Teleferico, the cable car that goes out of the city into the massive big park.
Really cool views. Beware- if you go near closing time, they won't take you back and you'll have to walk down some very quiet paths to get back to civilisation. Try and get back to the metro before dark...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nuns and quizzes

Learned the word for nun today: 'monja'.

I thought I'd misunderstood when my flatmate told me he was keeping his plastic tub (you know the ones you get cherry tomatoes in) for our other, older, flatmate to give to the nuns.

He speculates the nuns use them for plant pots or something.
I've nicked it, incidentally, for my art class. I need it more than them.

And then just now, watching a quiz show which I like because I understand almost everything, one of the questions was 'what's the name of the thing a nun wears?' which of course is a hábito.

What useful vocabulary it turned out to be! By the way, monk is 'monje'. I knew you'd want to know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting... ... ...

The problem with wanting to work in vaguely arty jobs is that you end up being organised by arty people.
So for organised, read Confused By.

I definitely have one, almost-definitely 2, and potentially 3 jobs, teaching art and movement and even songs in the name of English, but so far only one has started. That's no-one's fault, term just starts later here, but here I am, sitting in Madrid, not earning money, applying for more and more jobs that don't want me because I'm not available all week. Either that or they're offering me hours that I can't do, because I'm waiting on confirmation of two hour-long classes in a primary school down the road!
Oh the trials.
I'm off to bed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Return to San Lorenzo!

I've been in Madrid now for almost exactly 2 weeks which seems ridiculous because I'm feeling fairly settled. Settled in that I have a flat, a couple of friends, a job. I'm understanding more, getting a sense of direction and added a few more things to my food cupboard (pasta, chorizo, tomatoes, 3 types of cheese.)
Still crap at Spanish, but jeezo it has only been 2 weeks!

Spent the weekend in San Lorenzo de el Escorial, eating and drinking and laughing excessively, and had quite weird sensations of having gone back in time a year, as if the past year in Paris never happened. A walk round the Monasterio and a dulce de leche ice cream was a blast from the past, but now with the added bonus of not being an au pair = perfect! There's a pond (it's way grander than a pond but I can't think of the word...) with 2 swans on it and fish in it, surrounded by little potted trees, and a view of mountains and in the distance; Madrid.

I do love it here. I just need to get used to the timings of meals and sleep and I'll be set. And maybe a few more jobs, to fund my holiday home in the hills.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Starting over.

Alright kids, here’s the deal: (I don’t know why I just said that, forgive me?)

I arrived in Madrid! 12 days ago, around midnight. 
Got to work straight away on my conversation skills, chatting to the taxi driver about unemployment and au-pairing. At least that’s what I chatted about, he might have been saying anything.

Then on arriving at the hostel I was greeted by a lovely boy who had great patience with my language ‘skills’ and heaved my extremely large case up the stairs. I must have seemed looney; giggling about everything, I was just so excited! 

The FEAR that suddenly overcame me on the flight over (why am I doing this I can’t speak any Spanish I don’t know anyone I’m going to be that boring silent creepy person standing in the corner trying to make friends without saying a word laughing at all the wrong places and I have no-where to live my clothes are creased and I have to have interviews where will I find an iron and I can’t teach I don’t even like children and I forgot a towel will I have to dry myself on a bathmat) turned into pure JOY at having got there and hearing things like ‘tapas’ and ‘flamenco’ and ‘churros’. Unfortunately as it was one o'clock I had to go to bed, not-so-silently crashing into my bunk bed in my shared dorm.

Lucky for me, next morning I hired a towel and went to meet my Spanish friend, who found me a flat pronto, with added benefits of living with Very Holy Flatmates. Well, in name anyway. Call us Jesus Mary and Joseph, and Mercedez, but I’m not sure who she was in the bible?

Having met a fellow Scot in the hostel we immediately made friends (as you do when new in a city) hung out all week exploring bars and cafes, until I moved into my flat. So far I’ve had 2 interviews, taught 2 classes (which went tolerably well), eaten countless fried squid-type things, met 3 different groups of Spanish people (friends of Fiona, Martin and Jose Luis) and spoken to them with varying degrees of success, done some food shopping, stuck postcards on my walls, and trawled from administrative building to another trying to get an ID number, travel card and social security sorted.

It is also HOT. I like it, but I can’t cope with it when I actually have things to do.

Helpfully due to my various jobs not starting till next week or even October, I have a bit of time to finally write to you, and plan some art classes. That’s what I’m here for by the way, teaching ‘fun’ English to small children with songs and exaggerated hand movements and stuff 
(think me jumping around a room oo-oo-ee-ing like a monkey and a bunch of kids looking at me not knowing whether to laugh or not.) 

But also art classes in English, which will be fun. So far I’ve planned some messy hand painting stuff and a bit of wax relief fish making. Slightly dubious about the 2-3 year old class though,; surely this will just be an exercise in teaching them not to eat paint?

So that was a bit of a long update, I don’t know if you’re even interested, but if you are please comment to give me some sort of direction for this ‘blog’ as it’s in danger of becoming a rambling mess, as usual…

New words of the week:
Resaca = hangover.
-Voy a trabajar manana con resaca (I’m going to work with a hangover tomorrow)
-Estoy resacosa (I’m hungover)

Edredon = duvet.

Tener prisa= to be in a hurry

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love at Last!

Earlier in the year I said I liked Paris, I enjoyed living here, but I didn't love it. Well now I love it!
Sunshine is the key to real love it seems. And sunsets.

 I decided this while sitting in the park next to Shakespeare and Co., eating falafel, hearing Notre Dame's organ and bells in the background, on a bank holiday Monday, with a hangover and laughing to myself about the nights before.

I'm not so sad to be leaving, partly because I'm moving onto another terrifically exciting adventure in Madrid. But also because I know we'll see each other again soon, we'll always be friends, with lots of memories and a few secrets.

So to Paris and friends, aquaintences, and randoms we've met along the way... au revoir and thanks for all the crepes.

The things I'll miss the most...

orange skies

crossing the many bridges over the Seine

the green chairs in the parks

eating croissants on the banks of the river in the sun

walking home at night past Notre Dame

drinking tea and eating biscuits in my studio with a friend or two

my local pub up the road with it's lovely people and impromptu nights out

the happiness I feel when someone says 'oh la la'

meeting really interesting people

surprising people with the size of my studio

falafel and vintage shops in Marais

the really buttery St Michel biscuits that the shop next door sells at hugely inflated price after Monoprix shuts

Amorino gelato: speculos and caramello

speculos biscuits

coffee in cafes

eating out really well for cheap(ish)

I already miss all the girls who left before me, and I'll miss the one I'm leaving behind!

I won't miss...

the price of a pint
being asked the same questions by boys in bars-
"English? So where are you from? Are you on holiday? Are you studying? So, what are you doing here? What? Why? Do you speak French? You drink a lot you English, no? Whisky?"

-although maybe I will miss that a wee bit, because it is funny.

All change!

To anyone who may read this, sorry for being so unupdateful. Moving country is tiring, and 32 degree weather does not encourage me to sit for long at this dangerously overheating laptop. I'm sure I wrote a last Paris post and hid it somewhere for when I got back on the internet, so I will attempt to find it, tie up loose ends and begin the next. xx
PS. It's going to be along the lines of I Love Madrid. Just a warning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Last Nights Out

Paris you are too good to me. And bad for me. My body cannot take any more drinking. Lucky I've got more Irn Bru and strawberry tart left over... Thank you for two consecutive nights of total madness. I don't even know how to put it into words.

(I began writing this on waking from a few hours sleep after the second of said nights- I might have still been a bit drunk.)

On Saturday night I went to Wos to celebrate and share my utter joy at having finished my last ever shift as an au pair. I sat, with my pint, happy as Larry (happy as Mairi) chatting to Emma and Matty behind the bar and a guy who was doing the same beside me.

We ended up chatting all night, about all sorts. I told him my childrens' story idea about the boy who though he was a ladybird, he told me about Russia, and how being Armenian but not looking it, like him, is the best possible situation, and how there are so many hot girls and too many fat ugly men. We discussed driving bad cars. He's rich, it seems. His grandad makes cognac, he made me taste 'the good stuff'. When I apologised that though I appreciated the gesture, the supposed chocolateyness was lost on me, he admitted he gave me the cheap stuff; only the 200 euro bottle- he knew I wouldn't have appreciated the 1000 euro one! At this point my memory is telling me he said 10,000 euro, but I'm just not letting myself believe that... We talked about imaginary French boyfriends and how he's given up having girlfriends because it's too expensive. He thinks economically, I don't, but I did laugh at a maths-based joke.
An interesting night, after only going out to have a pint by myself.

I'm telling you this to back up my claim that in Paris you meet a lot of people you wouldn't otherwise- I do anyway. More later:

Sunday night was my official leaving night, as it was the night Claire wasn't working. Dinner was a nice burger, cocktails and a sugary coffee, and off we went to Wos. The football was finishing, Barcelona versus Real Madrid, and that reminded me how much I love shouting abuse at the ref in Spanish.

The crowd cleared a bit and we got our bar seats and some wine and were discussing how boring it is to be asked the exact same questions every time a guy speaks to you in a bar- that is, if you are a foreigner in Paris. (It's fairly generic, and seems to be based on what you learn in standard grade- 'who, why, what, where, how long' questions.)
Quick as a flash, someone appeared to do exactly that! After telling us off because it's "not French" to drink wine at that time, (around midnight) 'Snow White' came and began talking to us, mainly to Claire because I figured if I stayed silent he'd think I didn't understand French therefore I wouldn't have to discuss the odd name choice. Claire demanded to see ID, which showed him to be Maxim, which is much better. His said his jokes were all about skin colour, said "the riots in London are funny, no?" and got himself into a heated debate.

We ended up chatting to the group of them, and among them: someone who got the highest marks in a clever subject (finance, economics?) in the whole of Morocco, a boy who likes to dance, one who is going to the States to work in real estate and finance because it pays more and "money is the most important thing"... My point- so many people come to Paris and being foreigners we don't quite end up in the same situations as we would at home, so we mix in very interesting circles!

At closing time our friend the barman suggested a little bar around the corner that stays open till 5am, it turned out to be the one and only South African bar in Paris, 'Pomme d'Eve'. Claire made me drink some sort of fruity baileys (?) and we danced. On the way to the bar we passed the Pantheon and thought it a
perfect spot for a last-night-out-in-Paris-together photo shoot. It was. Spinning and twirling in front of Pantheon, sitting on the chains, hanging off the statues. (Later accidentally deleting the photos= heart-wrenching.)

We met friends of friends in the bar and decided, at very early in the morning, to go to the flat of the one who lived the closest, for some pasta, and a creme caramel for pudding. There was an obscene amount of out-of-date chocolate and iced tea in that flat; I'm still not sure why.

After eating we left and came back here, our new friend came with us on his bike, helped me get my suitcase down the stairs and admired my painting of the ladybird boy. He left. Claire made me a multivitamin, I made her tea. We both fell asleep sitting up, she jerked awake and spilt her tea on herself. We crashed, basically. She went home armed with a water filter jug, a book, sugar, lentils and couscous, around 7.30am.
I went to bed and woke up a few hours later, in awe of my last weekend in Paris.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The countdown is on.

I'm listening to The Sound of Music- right now it's the one where Maria's saying "I have confidence in me, I can do this children thing, easy peasy, aye sure." If I'd listened to this at any point during the year I'd probably have been angered by the annoying children- give a nanny a break! But now, with 5 shifts to go, I can deal with nanny and child references. I have one 5.45am start shift, one all day shift, and 3 afternoons to go. I've packed my sleeping bag and my teapot.

And even though I could be shirking my au pair responsibilities - what can they do, I'm leaving anyway- I've been a blooming good au pair. We painted a masterpiece, had an english lesson each, and went twice to the park yesterday, and they watched Robin Hood while I hoovered their room and changed their beds.

I'll definitely not miss being an au pair, but Oscar said to me yesterday "I really really like you" and I almost cried. Is it crazy of me to suggest annual trips to Scotland for both of them?! Will I regret it if I do? Will they expect me to pay for it?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sorry to deviate, but...


This is people pushing it, realising how little can be done to stop them, and getting high on the thrill of destruction. A failure of the police or a lack of numbers. Politicians absent. The army? To be used at home surely, not just abroad.

People gain a new tv, a top, pair of shoes, a suit, some food. People lose a livelihood, a house, a job, money, a life, hope. People lose faith in the country as it loses safety and security. Britain loses it's good reputation. (Britain loses money. People lose jobs.)

It's disgusting. People attacking people. For what reason? Yes people are disillusioned, disaffected, angry, jobless, poor, deprived, bitter, powerless and desperate. People are also greedy, selfish, destructive, mindless, terrifying. Other people are sad and disappointed, horrified by what people can do, are doing.

The last time London looked like this was the Second World War. That was a tragedy. This is self-inflicted.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Excuses, excuses...

I make excuses all the time. Some of the time they're harmless little lies, "oh sorry I can't talk just now my tea's ready and I have to go to work"... But a lot of the time they're completely honest real reasons, not even excuses, mostly involving money and not having enough of it.

Talking to Claire and Laura the other day made me notice that we talk about money a lot. It's not because we're all money-hungry capitalists who don't want anything else- the opposite really.
We've taken badly or barely-paid jobs for the benefits of living in a foreign land, lunching on cheese, and drinking by the Seine or the sea, living in the 'city of light'. (Or in a shared caravan, which I reckon is less of a benefit than a daily struggle.) The thing is, I bet when you have enough money for everyday living you don't talk about it as much- you'll be spending the time we use talking about money just spending it.

I'm passing up an evening at the pub and a half pint for 3.50; therefore I talk about that 3 euros and fifty cents that I've just saved; I make comparisons between various possibilities for that money, (3 bottles of fresh milk would leave me with 29 cents, which I could then add to my collection of centimes for the stamp machine) and thus convince myself that I'm much better off sitting in, on my own, drinking tea with disgusting UHT milk. As I'm leaving tomorrow evening and it's only sold here in massive bottles, I cannot justify buying the milk I've just saved up for. I'll appreciate it when I get back though.

No-one's even asking me for excuses today, as I have no friends to invite me to do anything. Woe is me. It's just that I feel guilty for sitting in my studio all day, eating chocolate digestives (I didn't buy them- they were a luxury gift!!) pretending to pack, half-heartedly taking postcards off the walls, when Paris is outside. But I'll say it again- Paris is blooming expensive!!

For goodness sake, I'm writing to myself about making excuses to myself about doing nothing. Sorry everyone, this is boring.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Must blog more regularly. This is a biggie.

I've not been very good at keeping this blog up to date, or particularly informative or relevant.
So here's a last-ditch attempt! Over my last weeks I'll try my best. Mainly because I now only have one friend in Paris (the lovely Claire) and she works blooming hard, so I'll have a fair bit of free time.

Over the past weeks there have been lots of fun times, but tinged with sad goodbyes and promises to meet up again soon. Clare was the first, which seems so long ago aready. Then Laura left, after one of the funniest and funnest nights Paris can ever have seen. I'm not even going to attempt to describe it.

Then it was Kayt, who we sent off with wine at Chez Prune, 'champagne' on the banks of the canal, bubbles, a rose each, hilarity and Irish men at the Irish bar who really just wanted to close up, then a final bottle at Les Parigots. It didn't end there- we got the night bus back to Neuilly, had an hour to sleep then got up to tearfully wave her away on the airport bus.

Les Parigots is really nice- earlier in the week me, Amy and Kayt had an excellent impromptu lunch there after suitcase shopping. Salad and wine felt so civilised in the sunshine, even if it was a girl who served us instead of the man-gods that usually do.

My last week with Amy and Tabs consisted of watching the top half of Bastille Day fireworks from Pont des Artes, some great home-cooking, flicking through old photos and postcards and vintage clothes at the flea market, a trip to Neuilly pool to enjoy a bit of rare July sunshine, tea and pastries at mine, a final outing to Favela Chic and Wos, where we found the crowd a bit unappreciative... and a morning bowl of hot chocolate with croissants to dip in up in Montmartre.

Elle's next, and though she's still in Paris until tomorrow we said bye yesterday morning after spending the previous day at the Musee de l'Orangerie, getting caught in the rain, drinking tea and eating eclairs at mine, and meeting up again in the evening for a nice bottle of wine. It should have included a meal out too, but instead I made myself pasta. All these farewell outings have done nothing good for my bank account.

I have just had a lovely coffee, again chez moi, with Claire, who brought chocolate digestives and creme eggs, which has brightened up my week considerably. I've been spending a lot of time applying for jobs in Madrid, flat-hunting, and tidying/packing/procrastinating. I have a 'to do' list that's 4 lines short of an A4 page. I've packed my rucksack to take home on Tuesday, and yet my flat looks as full as ever.

He'll find me soon and propose, I'm sure.

I'm realising just how forgetful I've been as I search through photos to upload- I haven't mentioned I watched the women's semi finals at Roland Garros where we also got to see Rafael Nadal warm up from only about 10 metres away. It was a fantastic day, boiling hot, and I'm almost completely sure I spotted Anna Wintour!

Oscar Wilde

Or that me and Laura went to Pere Lachaise and wandered in search of Modigliani, Oscar Wilde, Delacroix, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Max Ernst, Corot, Caillebotte, Gericault, and of course Jim Morrison.

We also went for a glass of wine at a cafe in Montmartre and got charged 9 euro each for the priviledge. Ouch.

We also had macaroons at the beautiful Parc Monceau, and did a bit of a literary tour around the 5eme, and saw where Hemmingway, James Joyce, George Orwell and others used to live and write.
Parc Monceau

Paris has been full of delights.

All the same, I can't wait to eat fish and chips in Scotland next week. I will be rewarding myself with food for being such a good au pair and taking the child 'on holiday' for a week. Quite looking forward to going back to Dynamic Earth too if I'm honest, and Harestanes. Oh to be 6 and a half again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So long, farewell...

I hate goodbyes.
I'm such a cryer that to say bye in public places I have to become completely cold and unfeeling, 'right ok, yeah see you later, keep in touch!' is about as much as I can manage.
As soon as it gets anywhere near 'I'll miss you' I'm a mess.

The Neuilly crew has disbanded. (RG4eva)
The number of friends I have in Paris is now down to two.
Honest it was more, they've just all left.

Friday, July 15, 2011

25 and a half...

is the number of days I have left to spend in Paris, broken up by 7 and a half in Scotland, before the 18th of August. I finally booked my transport home after days spent trawling through the internet. I don't ask to be a millionaire or anything like that, but it would be nice to be able to just book a taxi to the airport then a flight for me and all my stuff, directly to where I want to go.
As it is, I have to leave/give away/somehow shrink as much stuff as possible, then drag the rest on the RER to the station ON MY OWN because my friends here are all so selfish and will have left by the time I go, selfish... And of course I've got the cello as well. Haven't told him yet but I'm employing my brother as porter to get me off eurostar and onto the train north, otherwise I don't think I'll make it.

Everyone's leaving and I don't like it. Not one bit. The only good thing about leaving amazing friends is that you end up with lots of places to go on holiday, and that's how I'm going to console myself. If I had any money at all I'd go to Saint Tropez; but the train to Newcastle's cheaper. Kayt 1, Laura 0.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Caved In.

Succumbed, gave up, crumbled. I bought something from the British Aisle in the shop after 9 months of managing to not buy Worcester sauce and Dairy Milk for a fiver. And what broke me? Ginger Nuts. They are so good though!

Then because he slipped up and said it was the English food bit, I gave a lesson on flags, The United Kingdom versus Great Britain, Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, etc, to the four year old. He will be the best educated French person I know when I'm done, except on the Welsh flag, which I shamefully don't know how to draw. Even after so much Gavin and Stacey.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I just had a 45 minute walk with the potential (but not really) new au pair.

'Not really', because I already knew she wasn't getting the job, and it turns out she doesn't want it anyway. Their reasons for not wanting her: she's too nice for our kids, she told us our books were bad, she's very big on God and morals and stuff. Her reasons: she frowns upon reading in English at bedtime and would "have to change that" -going for candles and one of her stories instead, the general not-listening attitude of the boys (I can't tell a lie, I told her they never listen) but mainly she talked about ironing.

Ironing. She doesn't want to lower her standards of living to what they would be in mon petit studio, and she got quite emphatic at this point- Let me first say that you look very nice, I don't mean that you don't look very nice, but me I cannot live somewhere I cannot iron, and where would I put my clothes? (At least the clothes rail is accessible love- try Amy's climb-on-the-desk-to-reach-it cupboard, now sadly empty.) I told her I just hang them up after the wash and that I've gone for a 'non-iron chic' look for my year in Paris, but it isn't for her, apparently. And when I mentioned it was baltic all winter well that was it, she can't do it, she'd get sick. She has a point here, I have been ill in this flat a lot. But mainly what came across from our awkward chat? Fruitcake. (As in she is a.) She carried around a little Tupperware box with cold toast and lemon curd. Yes I had one, but I was really hungry.

I forgot to mention, this au pair is a 50 year old woman rather than your bog standard early twenties girl like the rest of us, which surely begs the question WHY are you applying for this job? You can do better!!! Surely.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Living the dream?

Just walked home right across the front of Notre Dame at 2am. Could have been in a film.
Actually walked through a film set last weekend, just down from the steps where magic happens at midnight in the new Woody Allen one- how I wanted Hemmingway to come and pick me up in a carriage. Just to add to an already surreal night.

(I only went out to use the wifi at Wos, and ended up crashing a birthday party with someone I'd just met through chatting to her grandad who tried to set me up with his grandson, a star American football player.)

But then maybe that's all it is- just pictures.
'Picture' living in Paris, New York, London... you'd think of striking scenes, with streetlamps, rivers, iconic public transport and famous monuments, and anything that happens against the backdrop automatically looks good; romantic, melancholy, dramatic, beautiful, whatever. And it feels it too, thinking you're in a film all day and night long can get to your head. I wear headscarves much more freely than I did at home.
Life imitates chic Parisen movies.
If you filmed anyone's life in the right lighting it could be worth watching, so filming mine right now would make people jealous, if you left out the terrible work parts. It's funny how you adjust. It'd make me jealous if I wasn't living it. That's strange, because I'm leaving it.

Climbing my 71 steps this came to me in a much more eloquent way than it's coming out now, by the way.

I haven't done my list of best places in Paris recently, but it's basically been decided.

Les Parigots for tea, amazing burgers.
Le Comptoir Generale for drinks in the coolest place. Alternative wedding venue.
Favela Chic for dancing on benches.
Wos Bar for the staff and general fun.
Le Relais Gascon for giant salads with lots of meat and potatoes.
Le Mosquee for mint tea, it fixes everything.
Marlusse et Lapin for drinks in a bedroom and to see them serve absinthe properly.

I'll add that the the first 3 are also the places I've seen the most gorgeous men of my life, mostly working behind the bars. Just so you know where to go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I don't think you've seen this one yet:


I've been having Nice Days Out again,

which seems to be the running theme of this blog, apart from the ranting.

Mornings have been improved by the discovery that a mini Evian bottle (purchased in a 'menu' at macdos- healthy, see) is made of stronger stuff that your regular plastic bottle, and can in fact hold the steaming hot contents of my percolator. Thus saving money on takeaway coffees and consequently being able to have two croissants for breakfast by the Seine: nice thing no.1.

I've also noticed that I'm quite talented at running into sports events quite by accident. Nice thing no.2.

Silly pic of me and my teacup of wine.
One weekend, which I'm surprised I've not written about yet because it was fab- actually just remembered, it's because I gave myself a horrendous hangover and couldn't face the computer screen for days- anyway that weekend we went to a free music festival at Parc de la Villette, which is very cool and has floaty bridges over a wee canal in it.

Caribou were playing and we drank wine from teacups and ate a picnic and had a lot of fun, a nice big group of us.
At the end of the afternoon everyone else sort of branched off for home so me and Laura thought; firstly- food- and purchased a greasy merguezy kebaby thing and ate it on the side of a fountain, discussing the extensive French use of the word 'pique', for spicy, hot, stingy, itchy, cold, sour....

The second thought was to go home and wash the grease off out faces, hands and clothes, being messy eaters. So off we pop on the metro where we are picked on by a man for no other reason than our speaking English and being girls, so off we jump asap- a stroke of genius if I say so myself- at Jaures and go to Point Ephemere where lo and behold the something-or-other final was on, Barcelona versus Manchester United, showing on a big screen with lots of boys watching. So we stayed and watched and had another wine, it was lovely (not creepy).

By now it's quite late and we still need to wash our faces, so back on the metro and on a whim, we say why not head up to Wos bar after a quick stop at mine, it's close, it's cheap, we love it. We're quite up for a dance.
It was a brilliant idea as we knew it would be, and we had a lot of fun. We also had a lot of free drinks, and not enough water. I blame the barman. Laura hugged me over-enthusiatically outside, I was in my high heels:  she has bruises.

I've gone off on a tangent. Will continue when I remember what my point was. Ah yes, with more sporting events...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Across the Universe

I have just watched this film, have you seen it? I'd suggest you do, if you're a fan of good musical films.
From the moment Jim Sturgess turns around and starts singing 'Girl', I'm absolutely in love. Oh my goodness he is amazing. And I love that song.

Twas a good day, even though our extremely early start was thwarted by trains not running as they should. After breakfasting at Opera on croissants and home-brewed coffee transported in a plastic bottle and drunk out of plastic teacups, we got the train to Vernon and then a bus up to Giverny, where Claude Monet lived and worked, all the waterlilies and that.
Unfortunately, being optimists, we expected hot and we expected sunshine. We had taken heed of the stormy weather forecasts only by taking an umbrella and wearing a cardi with a hood. These came in useful (the red umbrella contrasted brilliantly with the weeping willows) but weren't really adequate for the downpour of the afternoon, neither were the sandals which went all slimy and made me squirm and giggle. It tickled, but in a horrible way.

The gardens were beautiful, no wonder he painted so much. And the house is painted in such pretty colours, and nice tiles everywhere. I WILL live in a house like that, one day... We took a lot of photos, hogging the bridge for a good 5 minutes, so long people started heckling. Actually my day started with being heckled in the train station purely for being blond. At least that was the only word I understood. Oh Paris men, why can't you just be normal, more like Jude...
...I'm away to re-watch that film.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Evil creepy frenzy

I'll miss the boys when I leave, and I'll miss Paris, it really is beautiful, and lovely, and full of lovely things-

Eeughhh, I have just discovered I can't say the word lovely anymore after watching Hitchcock's Frenzy last night. Anyone who's watched it will know why, anyone who wants to know should watch it, but be warned: it involves one of the most creepy scenes I've ever seen. It was a really good film, with some fairly graphic murders, and a naked corpse falling out the back of a potato truck onto a road, narrowly escaping being run over by a following police car.

Also I kept getting distracted by having to identify all the old cars correctly, Spitfires, Dolomites, Heralds, Stags, etc. (Fellow Uptons will empathise, I actually made my friend stop and look into a dusty old Triumph the other day, oohing at it, I think she thought I was mental. But it's the first one I've seen in Paris!) We're coming to the end of our Hitchcock collection, and a sad thing it is too. It has been an education.

What I was going to say before getting flashbacks to the 'lovely' scene (ugh) was that I will not miss being an au pair/nanny/nounou. Even the little one has a blooming evil streak when he wants to. I was trying to hurry him down the stairs to get back to school on time after lunch, so went down ahead of him and called up a few times,
-hurry up please, you can tell me while we're walking, come on...
He shouted back in his most insolent and superior voice
I wasn't even saying anything, I was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. I went outside into the courtyard so I couldn't hear him.
He came outside giving me the blackest look- shockingly dark for such a cherubic looking boy, and continued to shout
-come on we're going to be late for school, listen, stop,
He storms back towards the stairs. I despair, stuck between wanting for him to calm down and stop being a hideous brat, and not wanting him to be late for school, but having no desire to have him continue to bully me all the way down the street in front of people.
-Don't speak to me like that, you are being very rude

There was more like that, then I got him to wheesht long enough to say
-but I'm an adult, you don't speak to other adults like that, would you speak to your teacher like that?
-No you certainly do not
YES I CAN. *accompanied by evil laser eyes*

I got him back to school, late, "c'est pas grave" teacher says. I must have looked how I felt.

Only an hour left before I have to pick them up again, hideous.
Happily, I have 4 days off starting at 8.30pm tonight- bring it on. Gotta love Bank Holidays!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A newly finished painting.

I started this ages ago from a photo and sketches of the boys in the park in front of Notre Dame. It's become gradually more jungle-y and Rousseau inspired. I called it 'A View of Paris' for want of a better name, but I suppose in a way it is my view of Paris- famous things, beautiful places, with a couple of kids hanging around!

By the way, you can see more of my paintings here, and yes, they're for sale!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two very different nights in Paris.

Before I start, here's a lovely big cat from the menagerie at Jardin des Plantes, my favourite place:

Last Friday and Saturday nights in Paris couldn't have been more different.

One was rushed, involved rum in a plastic bottle, and when that was done, some very expensive drinks. We'd spent 20 euro on tickets, and were very excited to go see 2 Many DJs at Social Club. We wanted to have a proper dance to songs we know, we knew people who were going, and looking forward to out Friday night out had basically got us through the previous 2 weeks of evil children (and  in some cases their relatives).

Unfortunately, we'd forgotten a basic truth: Paris does not do "going out" very well.

It was still fun, don't get me wrong, but at points I was having to try pretty hard to enjoy myself, which was not exactly what I went for. It felt like everything was against us- judgemental looks while we sat drinking our sneaky bevvies in the loos, the 'fumoir' being unbearable (cancer in a room, pretty much), and the American man next to us insulting us by association: there was one girl who was, let's say, a bit tipsy, who was slinging herself around a pole in the bar area while everyone else was (bien sur) sitting quietly and nonchalantly sipping their classy drinks. This charming man nods at her and says to his French friend, "she's definitely English".

Thus far, despite all that, we weren't disheartened as we were pleased at our sneaky cheap boozing, and still excited about that dance. It was only later, when we'd joined the crowd building in front of the stage and got near the front for the start of their set, that it went badly wrong.
It doesn't help for me personally that when my head's at just the right level for mens' elbows to come crashing down on, hard, when they're "dancing". And I certainly didn't appreciate that the majority of the crowd acted like they were at a Slipknot gig. 2 Many DJs is for having a happy wee dance to; not for being crushed and trampled to death under the shoes of horrible sweaty Parisiens. I was glad they managed to find a little more energy than the crowd we were stuck in at Uffie, but there really should be a happy middle ground between bored mooching and a mosh pit. I thought it was obvious, but apparently someone needs to tell people this.

Particular low point- the arse of a barman charging us 10 euros for a cup with ice and a shot of green stuff in it, instead of a much more reasonable (?) 5 because, allegedly, we asked for it 'as a drink'. No, Mr Social Club Barman, you are just a nasty thief.

When we asked for free tap water he served that as a shot, which proves he was also trying to kills us by dehydration. It was s w e a t y in there. Add this to the lack of taxis which means a long walk home; the inevitable argument over hidden charges in a taxi that finally picked us up; and the growing bruise on my cheekbone; I think it's fair to say we had a rant on the way home.

By contrast, Saturday night was a pleasure.

I had worked all day with the children and was about to drop my plans to go for a drink and crawl into bed, but it was museums night, and I am not one to turn down a free exhibition; especially if someone's already decided which one to pick. So I stuck a bit of makeup on and met friends at the Grand Palais for the Anish Kapoor exhibition. It was amazing.

Various good things about this night: skipping the hour-and-a-half long queue and being let in the side door by security, like a real V.I.P; a calm coffee with chocolate and home-made (by Kayt) cake; the gorgeous building to admire; and the mind-melting sculpture (if that's what you'd call it). I can't describe it, the two years since art school having wiped any hope of intelligent art analysis from my brain, but I really liked it. You go inside through a revolving door and feel all alone, in this huge, dark, space, and it's like being in a huge womb, or in underground burrows, and you lose all concept of distance and size... Yeah it's better if you just go for yourself!

We also went to the Odilon Redon expo, which was equally fabulous and the only downside was that we totally underestimated the size of the place and the time of night, and spent way too long translating the titles of the prints in the first three rooms and had to practically run through the rest, flying past beautiful pastels and paintings that I'll just have to go back to see again. It was a lovely was to spend a Saturday night, and to give Paris due credit; it does do culture very well.

(I was secretly gutted to be missing Eurovision, but seeing as I'm trying to present myself as a credible arty cultural type I tried to keep quiet about it; a good idea I think, judging by the first few horrified responses.)

Thursday, May 12, 2011


 It's funny the things you miss, and how they just pop into your head uninvited. Having the space to wander around the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, and while you're there, opening the back door and stepping outside to feel the cold morning air, and the warming sun promising a nice day, and all the birds. And for that matter a view, fields with trees that haven't been planted, or trimmed, or fenced off. Making toast with butter, reading whatever sections of the newspaper haven't already been taken upstairs.

Neighbours. The programme, not the ones next door. People just popping in. Having time and space to yourself but knowing that someone will come by with shortbread or maybe farmhouse fruitcake if you're lucky, and tell you to hoover and clean out the fire- but not before a cup of tea. Fish And Chips has acquired almost holy status. I couldn't tell you the last time I had it, not in March, not at Christmas, not in September... a year has passed without fish and chips. This is how I know I have been abroad, even though most of the time it feels like I could be anywhere; it's a different life but still one with British friends, days with tea and cakes and nights out with beers and dancing, painting with my own old oil paints. How do I know I'm in France? The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and creperies are so everyday I barely notice them. (Yes, I am so blasé and Parisien, get me.) No, it's that I'm painting still lifes, and rooftops with chimney pots under illuminated skies, and every sketch of a picnic in the park features a bottle of wine or six.

Watching Gavin and Stacey is a big fat slice of home. We watch it when we're feeling a bit down or homesick. Then it makes us laugh at the truth in it, the ridiculousness of their and our friends, the nightclub scenes and at the fact the French wouldn't get it at all. And because I had the same car as Gavin, but with
better seat belts; multi-coloured. Then it makes us cry, because Nessa has her baby. And because if we love home so much (we'd have Smithy's baby if we could) why are we determined to keep moving on, going somewhere else?

It's all very well our friends having babies, careers, houses, live-in boyfriends and a settled, all-laid-out life; but we reckon that there's something else we should do first. We hope that by travelling, working badly paid jobs for pocket money, improving our languages, and meeting all kinds of dodgy characters that we're not wasting time. We're spending time, making excellent, unforgettable friends and memories, even when we're doing nothing, or sitting in a clinic waiting room for 3 hours on a sunny day. We'll remember these days and they'll make bloody good stories- they already do- and when (if the experience hasn't put us off the idea FOREVER) we have children, their friends will think we're really cool because we 'travelled'. 'When I lived in Paris for a year' does have a certain ring to it.

Anyways, even if it's a complete waste of time, I'm not stopping! (Au-pairing- hell yes, but general mainland European life- no.) Scotland, Tunnocks, and fish suppers will always be there. Touch wood. And in the meantime, just because it's temporary, doesn't mean it's not home.

Some flamingos.
P.s. I dreamed the other night that I kept singing like a wood-pigeon. On purpose, just because it was fun.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Various little unimportant things.

I think I've complained before about people going about in winter clothes when it's boiling outside; I just don't understand why anyone would rather be sweating away in black or navy jeans, boots, blazers and scarves instead of cool and bronzing in shorts and a floral top! So why oh why did I go to the Jardin de Luxembourg this afternoon wearing skinny black jeans? This city is rubbing off on me.

While I was reading 'Marie Antoinette- The Journey' in the hot park I came across a nice sentence, describing the English's "complicated relationship with the French in which their yearning for the French way of life had to be accompanied by a paradoxical contempt for these frivolous people". I'm not saying this is my feeling (does sweating to death in the name of fashion count as frivolous?) and I'm Scottish anyway- but it did ring a bell with various things we have all said, usually late at night after a wine or two, that aren't completely complimentary about the native citizens of Paris. (What was it again, you'd wish they'd all go away and let us enjoy this country in peace? Something like that?! Wasn't me.)

I think the fact they don't let you sit on the grass in half of the parks is a pretty good reason to get annoyed. But apart from that Paris does do parks well. At Luxembourg I noticed they've added palm trees to the landscape, and other trees in perfect spheres in little painted wooden boxes. This makes me think that they actually did plant all the flowers overnight that time earlier in the year when I thought it was just a wonderful coincidence that they all grew and bloomed on the same day.

Last night Laura and I watched The Shining, and now horrific images of the old (dead, never mind old) mouldy lady keep coming back and making me nauseous. It was so much scarier this time, the second time I've seen it. Last time I must have either not been paying any attention, or my big magic memory rubber has erased it, as it was clearly a traumatic experience. But, now I'm ready for the Kubrick expo at Cinemateque Francaise, and if it's anything like the last one it'll be fab- it was about blondes and brunettes and the role of hair in films. They had a massive ponytail draped from the top of the building all the way to the entrance!
Trying my best not to dread working tomorrow and Sunday, even as I read a group facebook message chatting about where to sunbathe and swim and drink in the 26 degree sun tomorrow... Why did I think it'd be ok to take a job where my days off are different to the rest of the world? I spend way too much time on my own these days. And seeing as the worst insult I could think of while a friend was hacking someone's facebook was "smells of poo", too much time with children as well.

A family has just moved into the flat underneath the ones I work for, and they had this amazing ladder-pulley-machine that they put all the boxes off the van and the furniture on and towed them right up to their third-floor windows! Very exciting and clever. They had to cut down half a tree to get the machine into the courtyard though, which was less clever, and a bit noisy.

I have been trying to send speculative job applications off, but am still being thwarted by Paypal who are now refusing to believe I'm me and won't until I answer my home phone number, in Redpath, where I'm not going to be until July. Hmm. And my internet isn't working. I have spent a lot of time in Wos bar this week, so I'll just leave it for today and see if it works long enough to send emails, and in fact upload blog posts, tomorrow.