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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pub wifi is the least productive wifi.

But at least it gets me out of the house. I just dislike staying at work any longer than I have to, especially if I have to wait to use the computer until after they've finished browsing beautiful Parisien apartments for Mamie, which is slightly sickening. Imagine ever having that much money! So I'm at Wos, again, thinking that because I did two TEFL grammar quizzes I have now earned the right to day-dream all over the internet with a half pint, and maybe some crisps. It's the weekend for goodness sake, let's go wild. My weekend will be totally non-existent and at the same time it'll drag- I'm working both days. Booo. But I'm off tomorrow and Friday, and unlike the past two mornings I'm going to go and do stuff. To be fair to myself I have finished my CV and written a pretty good cover letter, but when I was about to finish the job and send it to LingoBongo (who will hopefully send it to all language schools in Marid like they promised, and not just take my 10 euros and spend it on beers) I realised I don't have 10 euros to pay them with.
Ach well. That's depressing.

There are loads of exhibitions to see, so I shall do them, if I can be bothered and if they're free. Laura's coming at midday for lunch, so at least that ensures I'll get up!