February 27, 2006

Romance in France - guest blog by D

Being single in Paris is hard.

Forget about it being the most romantic place in the world, the city of light and love and countless proposals on the Eiffel Tower.Imagine working 10-12 hour days, getting home exhausted, then having to find the motivation to transform yourself into a goddess. Then attempt to be ‘drole et amusante’ in your third language, for a date with Mr. Right. Please let him be ‘it’, let me feel butterflies. Please let him be tall. Let him like me. Every time, I hope.

It’s not that I’m not happy on my own. I love being single too. It’s just that sometimes I just want to share my life with someone who makes me laugh and I want to get naked with. Girlfriends rock, and I have been blessed with the women in my life, but I get scared I am missing out on the whole ‘marriage and kids’ thing.

Let me take you through it...my year and a half in Paris as a single girl.

March 05. My First Frenchie: Stocky, manly, hairy. Drove a motorcycle and had a bigger ass than I did. Loved feeling tiny, but wasn’t enough- we had nothing to talk about.

April 05. The Poet: American, published, talented, emotionally unavailable. Became a regular booty call on lonely nights. Hot. I wonder if he ever wrote a poem about me…

May 05. A Friend of a Friend: Older. Rich. Took me to the sparkliest places of Paris. Entertaining, exciting. He fell in love, I didn’t.

Aug 05. The Ex: My very own Mr.Big makes an appearance. My heart hurts.

Sept 05. The Married Guy. Asked me after a fabulous date if I could be ‘discreet’ before proceeding to explain why...

Oct 05. The Waiter: Luminous green eyes, fun, caring, sociable. Very French. My intuition screamed that something was dodgy, but I think I could have loved him.

Dec 05. The Movie Star’s Son: Now that wasn’t going to happen now was it?

Feb 06. The Doorman: Slipped me his phone number last night after having given me a rose on the dance floor. God, he was beautiful. On the note he wrote ‘Seriously, call me, it will be incredible, I promise you…kisses, number, name.
...promises, promises.

I know, I know, it’s like a series of bad episodes of ‘Sex in the City’. I am just not willing to settle. I want it all. Real true love, and if that means being on my own for now...so be it. Vive La France!

Pere Lachaise

Pere Lachaise is set on a hillside in the twentieth and is a massive sprawling piece of land that has the graves of the rich and fanous tucked away in corners that are hard to find.It was quiet and calm on Saturday morning and the milky white sky only added a little bit of melancholy. The cemetery surprised me in its lack of sadness, all I felt was serene.

Oscar Wildes grave was particularly poignant. Being a huge fan of his writing, this was high on our list to find and N and I walked away trying to out quote each other. The big fat lipstick kisses that are all over the grave are especially poignant when the epitaph at the back are read.

Like good Poles, we also sought out the grave of Chopin. Although buried in Paris, Chopin felt more affinity to Poland and at his request, his heart was cut out and buried in Warsaw. The grace was covered in flowers and is apparantly visited by thousand of Polish people every year.

In the end, we walked and looked. It was enjoyable to be out of the city and the quiet really was palpable. There are so many people buried there that it was interesting to see a Chinese family amongst the French names. The sculptures, flowers and stones all reminders of how much some-one was loved in life.

February 23, 2006

My French name

I liked this little quiz for a bit of French fun. I was very happy with my name and will be asking everyone in France to start calling me 'Papillon', which means butterfly for you non French speakers. It is also a great way to get rid of all those horrible French stereotypes...

Your French Name is:

Papillon Maire

Thought for the day

"It's easier to leave than to be left behind" Discuss.

As I fell asleep last night I had this song by REM playing in my head. I wonder if it is true. I have left two countries now, and am planning on leaving a third. I found leaving the UK very difficult, people that I had known for years were suddenly far away in distance and from my new life.

I felt that the new friends I made in Poland understood this part of me like no-one els ever could. And then I up and left them too. Now here I am in Paris getting ready to pack my bags again and leave a whole new set of friends behind. Who is it that suffers the most? Me or them? To say that being left behind is much worse is to imply that I must have had some huge impact on everyone, and I just don't have enough arrogance in me to ever imagine that is true.

When I seperated myself with the miles between me and my friends and family am I not the one left behind? Left behind not understanding what day to day life is like for them now. Left behind because I am not close enough to get in the car and drive to see Milo the day he takes his first steps.

What do you think: Is it easier to leave than to be left behind? Do we make others suffer for the choices we make? Or are we really just creating a big gaping hole in ourselves where those friends used to be? If we are lucky, maybe we can keep the hole plugged with time, care and attention from those who are where we came from. K and N arrive today from Warsaw. Maybe I will see how I feel on Sunday, when I am the one left behind.

February 22, 2006

Where the sun hits the sky

I wanted to post some of the pictures that I took of York on my trip back there. I love the way that the sun hits the Minster. It reminds me of some of my pictures of Paris, only a million times more beautiful to me.

Walking near the Minster was one of my highlights of being back home.

The lamposts here always remind me of Narnia.

February 21, 2006

Anne from the back

J took this photo when we were on the evening boat ride a couple of weeks ago and I quite liked it. You all know now what I look like from the back while I am taking my pictures. There is also a nifty little look at my new camera, although it is not really so new now.

I have only posted a couple of pictures of myself on the blog, because I am probably too self concious to do otherwise. I think it is funny that it takes a level of anonymity for some people to be really honest on their blog. I felt much more comfortable posting this picture of my hair and pink ebay coat than I ever did with the picture that Ally took on the Pont Neuf.

The thing is that when people look at you from the back, they have no idea where you are really looking. They don't know whether you have a smile on your face or tears in your eyes. I supoose that I just like that level of mystery in life. I like to think that life is all about people who are intriguing and unknown.

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know"
Diane Arbus

"Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You."
Dr Seuss

February 20, 2006

The secret garden

Somewhere in the Marais district of Paris there is a secret garden. It is small and well kept and can only be glimpsed through the cold dark bars of the guarding gate. I have no idea who this little courtyard belongs to, but I know that I felt a bit naughty taking a picture.

I think that it is behind the museum of Paris. On the pictures I am not sure that you can see the big purple ornamental cabbages that mark each corner of the mini mazes. The garden was like a slice of lost time. I could imagine ladies in waiting sitting on a bench and fanning themselves in the Paris summer heat.I wonder if I could find it again, or if it was like a flashback in a film.

"The secret of art is love"
Antoine Bourdelle

February 19, 2006

Last Tango in Paris

D gave me a copy of 'Last Tango in Paris' a few weeks ago and we have mentioned watching it a few times. The film location is very close to school and me and D have our twice weekly coffees in the bar featured in the film. So I decided to watch it last night. I knew that the film was quite sexual, but had also heard that it was powerful emotionally.

I have to say that I was torn whilst watching. I loved the shots of Paris. In particular, the views of the Pont Hakim were spectacular. The version that I watched was uncut, and the way that the film catches the seventies ambiance of Paris was fantastic. What I was not prepared for was the violent way that the film portayed the sexual relationship between the two main characters. I get that he was totally screwed up, I see that he pushed her away at every turn. What I could not get used to was the fact that this was often shown in agressive sexual encounters.

It is strange how certain films cross from the mainstream and into cult status. Thousands of films have been set in Paris, but this one is beyond infamous. Even within love that was doomed from the outset I wanted to see some redemption, even a little bit. I didn't get that from any of the characyters. I resented the female lead because she allowed herself to be a willing participant in his games. Fine if that it what she wanted, but it was clear that she would have liked something else from him.

Has anyone else seen this film? Were you caught up in the tidal wave of emotion, only to be washed out to sea with indifference at characters that create the mess that they later come to hate? I would love to know what anyone thought of this, the film has been on my mind all day.

"I don't mind that I'm fat. You still get the same money"
Marlon Brando

February 18, 2006

February haze

It is Saturday morning and Paris is grey and soggy. My weeks holiday for half term is drawing to a close, only two more days and then I am back to work. There are all sorts of people on the street. This being the weekend after Valentines Day, there is an unusually large selection of couples arriving or leaving.

As for me, I am going to follow my usual weekend routine of getting on the bus to Opera and going to the Gallerie Lafayette food hall. I don't buy much, but I like the hustle and bustle of the place. I like watching the old ladies try and perch themselves on a stool to drink red wine and eat meat carved razor thin off a leg that looks a million years old.

People on the streets are still wrapped up warm, but I have moved back into my cord jacket as the weather does feel milder. I feel that we are in the last weeks of Winter, that it really will all be over soon. There has been rain on and off the last few days and I think that the water is giving the buds a last boost of encouragement to bloom green and bright. With the pouting mouths and frowning faces, I don't think that anyone but me has noticed how close we are to the sun in the city though.

February 17, 2006

Strike a match

Yesterday was beautiful. I spent the day with L wandering through the Marais area on the Right Bank of the City. We went to the Picasso Museum and I finally got to see Place de Vosges, the oldest artichturally planned area of the city. We were lucky with the weather and pleased that we had found the time for something outside out Paris routine.

Everything has settled down on the future front too. I had started to really put pressure on myself to make the right choice when it comes to what I will do next year. Ally helped to remind me that there are no right choices, there is no certainty. There's only those who are willing to throw the dice and see where it lands. I needed to remember that if everything goes wrong, it is no big deal. If mistakes are made then I will try again.

With this in mind, the dye has been cast. I have made my desicions. As of last night I have chosen. I am going to keep it close for a while and see how it fits. When I have settled down into my thoughts, I will start putting my plan into action.I feel much lighter today. Just annoyed that I let myself believe that I should wait for something to tell me that what I have chosen is 'right'.

"Strike a match, start anew
And it's all over now, baby blue."
Bob Dylan

February 15, 2006

The Maple Leaf and the Yorkshire Pudding

I didn't realise at the time how much I needed a break from Paris. Coming home was all so quick that I never really got a chance to be excited. And then at the eleventh hour, D also booked a flight and has been out with me for a couple of days.

Seeing Yorkshire again through the eyes of a Canadian was a real treat. We went to York for the day yesterday, took hundreds of photos and were super tourists all along the way. We went to the Minster, Cliffords Tower, the Jorvik viking centre and also managed to shop like superstars. I never needed to be reminded of why York is one of my favourite places in the world, although Anna had already done that a couple of weeks ago.

I have enjoyed driving the last couple of days and I have enjoyed my time with D. We have talked, but there has also been room for quiet. I feel a bit more focused. The comments from the last post were full of good advice. I want to be able to go with the flow, and let the right choice come to me. Ultimately, I know this is what I will do. I work very much on intuition, and will walk away in a minute from something that feels wrong.One thing I know for sure, it is difficult to be so spritually minded when there are bills to pay. Oh well, let's roll the dice again anyway.

"You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself"
Galileo Galilei

"I don't want to earn my living, I want to live"
Oscar Wilde

February 12, 2006

The Oracle

I need some good advice. I find that I am looking too deeply into what family and friends are saying about next year because I just feel so lost. This is unusual for me, as I normally am read to crash into something headlong without a helmet. Thinking and pondering for too long on the big choices does me no good.

I need a ray of light to shine through and let me open up my intuition to where I should be going. I am hoping that A will be my Buddha for the afternoon tomorrow and give me the calm, focused advice that I normally get from her. I know that she will make me see what was there all along and clear the mist so that I see that the path ahead was never rocky, I just needed to see without the fog.

There were times when I lived in Warsaw that I could sense the trouble ahead in this area. I wanted to live overseas and have my adventure so much that when I got it something felt off. When you want and need something so badly, what do you do when you get it? Where do you go then? I need something else to aim for now, another life goal to achieve. I don't know why I feel like I need the guidance so much. My head is so foggy, it needs an outsider to clear it. I find this hilarious, since I make a point of never relying on anyone for anything.

"I'm all at sea,
where no-one can bother me"
Jamie Cullum

"I wish that you could see me in the day
I hope that you'll remember me that way"
The Kaiser Chiefs

February 11, 2006


Thanks to Kinuk, I have had my first meme in a while so here goes nothing. I have left out the 'seven things I say' because I did something like that before.In fact, it is all looking a bit similarnow that I think of it...I am going to publish it anyway, because the alternative is another post about being pulled in all directions.

1) Seven things to do before I die:
Be properly fluent in another language
Stay at La Sirenuese Hotel in Positano (Amalfi Coast, Italy)
Write and publish book
See the sun rise on the Ganges
Understand who I am
Find things that make me happy
Grow my hair long

2) Seven things I can't do
Stop sighing
Find the time or the energy to visit Pere Lachaise
Keep away from Supernoodles
Remember what he looked like
Travel enough
Go one day without several cups of tea

3) Seven things that attract me to Europe
The fact that coffee is better in continental Europe than anywhere else.
Art Galleries
Stamps in my passport
The Gellert Baths in Budapest

4)Seven good books
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Desolation angels by Jack Kerouac
The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
The Stravaganza Series
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Flowers for Algernon by Someone I forgot

5) Seven good films
The Godfather
The Usual Suspects
Pillow Talk
Funny face
The Matrix
The Wizard of Oz

6)Seven blogs to tag
Anna Overseas
D and A in Singapore

February 10, 2006

The Latecomer

All at the last minute I am going home. My small, black suitcase is stuffed in the corner of the staffroom and I have arranged to leave an hour early so that I can make it to the airport in Friday afternoon traffic. There is nothing of any importance in my case. No clothes, I will have to live in my black cords for a few days.

I have packed my camera and packed away my dignity, so I am ready to look like a tourist and take pictures on market day in Northallerton. I am looking forward to going home but I am not excited because it has all happened so quickly. I need to be out of the city so that I can breathe. I need to look at the green hills and rough heather that blanket the dales of Yorkshire. I want to walk next door and pop my head round and see if Kelli can spare half an hour for a coffee and a gossip about nothing in particular.

Maybe I will get to spend some time with my brothers. I already have my evenings booked up with friends who I want to spend some time with. I just want my normality back for a few days. The old life that I used to love, the place where, just for once, I am the local one. I am the one with the roots and the history that ties me there.

"I've found a way
a way to make you smile"

"I walk the streets to stop my weeping
But she'll never change her ways"
Jeff Buckley

February 09, 2006

The Love Letter

Some-one recieved a love letter today. Valentines day is nearer than I like to think, but this outpouring of emotion came in an unusual way. The letter was in french, and it was posted on the net. It was from a French man to a woman he has known for a few months. They have been seeing each other casually, although it seems that casual has not been labelled correctly.

The formation of words and letters into sentences can be plain, or it can be extraordinary, more amazing when the thoughts are unimagined. The love letter slipped into reality not even from illusion. There was no wondering that this island lay beneath the surface of the ocean.Je sais le desir que cette nuit ne soit pas la seule, et la deception qu'elle le devienne...I know the desire of this night is not to be the only one, but the deception is that it could be.

He has told her, in this way what she means to him. What does she do with the information given in these letters? Should she take the warmth and sadness and let them sink into her heart, or should she open her arms and embrace them? Je sais les premieres heures, celles ou on est incapable de ne pas s'emballer en se distant que peut-etre cette fois...In these first hours, they are unable to hope that it could perhaps be this time.

What does he hope for this man who has put these words into the world, and not directly into the ears of the woman he loves. Is he overwhelmed by her? Is he scared that she was only invested in the casual label we know now to be wrong. Is this how true love starts, with words that we are too scared to say? Does it begin with emotions felt so deeply, but that no-one ever imagines is there? Et ca me rend lyrique...Above all I felt the loneliness, the feeling of being misundertood more than the desire in what was written.

When writing todays blog, you cannot imagine the length of the letter, the stuff that I left out. Is that how they felt, more unsaid than spoken aloud?

February 08, 2006

La douleur de la patisserie

Even though a friend told me that todays title is something you would never say, I named the post comme ca anyway.Ever since watching the last episode of Sex and the city, set in Paris, I wanted to find the Patisserie where Carrie sits and eats cakes in the face of being abandoned by her Russian lover.

I happened upon Cador one day when I decided to get off the bus and walk down by the river. On Rue de L'Admiral-Colgigny, there is a faded pistachio green sign that sits on the corner of a building. Close to the Louvre, near to the river, it is prominent but discreet at the same time. The thing that I love most about Cador is the faded glamour of the inside. Yellowed cream walls and gold cornicing are peeling off the walls. The rattan chairs and benches are frayed.

In the end, the waiting staff are friendly, if curt. I take all my visitors there. I sit in the smoky air and watch the other customers stand for too long while they make their choices from the cabinets of patisserie. I am a classicist, the Tarte Tatin calls me every time. Warm, sweet and sticky with caramel on top, beautiful buttery pastry on the bottom. I like that I have been in there so much that the ladies now ask me how I am, how my day has been.

In the end, I have loved finding some-where that I have chosen to make local. Chosen to fill with a hundred different memories.I will remember that K said she had the best Mille Feuille in the world there. D and I shared a Neige de Printemps after a hard day at work. Long after I leave Paris, one of the things I will remember is sound of clinking china and the waft of buttery cakes in Cador.

February 07, 2006

The Paris film set

Sometimes, when the light hits the water in the right way, you can forget that you are a normal person. The knowledge that you are not staring in your own version of "Last Tango in Paris" slips past. You feel that the camera is panning away as the music plays to fade and you walk slowly off into the distance.

Of all the Paris films my favourite is Funny Face staring Audrey Hepburn. It is the story of a girl who lives for empathicalist thought, not caring about her beauty. Plucked from obscurity by Fred Astaire she is taken to Paris to be a model and the two of them eventually fall in love. This one is my favourites mostly because of Audrey Hepburn but also because Paris becomes the real star of the movie for me. The scenes at the top of the Eiffel Tower or on the streets of the city just bring everything to life.

I often think that Paris was designed to be a film set, you could say that for the whole of France in fact. In terms of the reality of being in Paris nothing beats the film, 'Before Sunset'. When the main characters are just walking and talking it gives you a sense of what it is like to be in Paris doing just that. I like how the screen reflects the true light that Paris shines out.

It is a very strange thing, to see something on the screen and then have it outside your front door. Having lived in a small Yorkshire town my whole life, to think that some-where the world of film and TV was real, is a bizarre concept to me. I live near a Park where they film costume dramas. I get a bus every morning past the Eiffel Tower. This is all so wierd...

"The secret to film is that it's an illusion"
George Lucas

February 06, 2006

Guest Blogging

I asked D last week if she would write a post for my blog and be my first guest blogger. She said that she would but has been stuck on what to write. She doesn't want to write too much about herself, so we are throwing open to all of the you the choices. Here are her first few words, and then a choice of 4 possible blog options...

When Anne Marie (That’s what I call her, although most just call her Anne) asked me to be her “guest blogger” I was excited and anxious all at once. I LOVE reading her blog, I look forward to it every morning and am slightly irritated when I don’t find a new post to read. She told me I could write about anything at all. I am a recovering perfectionist. I am not yet ready to write about my state of mind as I struggle through and celebrate day-to-day life living as a (some people say) pretty 35-year-old teacher who used to be a model, and was madly in love. Once.

I have so much to say, decades of experiences, people, places, so many words and thoughts and feelings I want to share, just like AM does, but I can’t. I’m afraid I would never finish writing. That it wouldn’t be good enough. That I would discover things about myself that I am not yet ready to know.

Should D carry on and blog about...
a) The lives and loves of the French Bistro.
b) The face of the Paris Metro
c) Sipping Champagne at the Centre Georges Pompidou on White Night
d) The blessings and curses of French men and romance

Answers on a postcard please! And by postcard, I mean comments box.

February 04, 2006

Night swimming

Last night I went on a Bateaux Mouche after work. It gave me a chance to try out my night photography and wonder for the five millionth time how Paris came to be so beautiful. I am at work again today because we have a conference this weekend. I am feeling like I just want to run away, something has reared up in me, the last time ths happened I ended up living in Poland. Wonder where the urge will lead me now?

I love the movement of being on the water. Any kind of travel, even if it is only down the road makes me want to keep going forever. It was extremely cold last night, but this only heightens the sensation of being here and being on the water. Any-one coming to Paris for Valentines must go on an evening boat ride and sigh at all the wonderful lights.

A thousand views of the Eiffel Tower later and the boat lands. Every-one is off and wandering into the night leaving the cold behind them.

"The photograph on the dashboard
Taken years ago
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows"
REM - (Night swimming)

February 03, 2006

The long way round

When I was an angst ridden teenager I read 'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac> A few weeks after that I rented 'Easy rider' on VHS and I never looked back. I developed a real love for the beat generation writers and they always pulled at something in me the way they talked about freedom and the open road.

The long way round is a documentary about two guys who take a 20'000 mile motorbike journey around the world, across Russia, Mongolia and America. The things that these boys go through is amazing. The things they see are inspiring. And it has brought me full circle back to why I wanted to live abroad in the first place.

I have talked before about ants in my pants, but really I just want to get on a bus and then keep going. I want to start running and not stop. I would have a camper van with all the stuff I would need and I would just start driving and see where I ended up. I wonder where this desire comes from? The reality of living overseas could not be more different for me. I chose one set of routines over another, but they are still routines.

Where did my ideas about wandering the earth go? When did they get swopped for a nice apartment in a European city?

"Our battered suitcases were piled on the road again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life"
Jack Kerouac

"What's in store for me in the direction I don't take?"
Jack Kerouac

February 01, 2006

Triumph of the French

I have been attending my French class with L for a month now, and last night we completed our first course.I hear that weekly lessons for foreigners at the Alliance is a bit of a cliche, but that does not concern me. As of Friday we will officially be in level 2, and therefore Intermediate, not beginners! Crack out the Champagne!

The classes that we attend are in turn challenging, frustrating and hilarious. Our class consists of a poster board for the UN, as the nationalities are so mixed.L and I spend a great deal of time trying to not look at each other for fear of giggling like naughty schoolgirls. The teacher is great, she puts up with a great deal from the group.

Two of the guys are constantly challenging her, telling her that she is wrong, that the word is spelt this way. The verb should be conjugated like this. It all adds up to L and I snorting through the lesson as we just can't believe what the others are doing. In addition to this, the range of accents in class mean that you can barely understand what anyone is talking about.

In the end, I do think that my French is getting better. I managed to talk to the lady at the bank yesterday about my overdraft, all in French. I like my little pouty lips when I speak French. I like trying to make people believe that I could be Parisienne, even for a moment. I wonder what my accent sounds like to them?

"I speak two languages; body and English"
Mae West

"Language is wine upon the lips"
Virginia Woolf