June 30, 2006

Breathless - 24 hours in Paris

6.55 am - I wake up to my last day of school. I half-heartedly wipe over the kitchen sink in an effort to make sure that I get my deposit back. This deos not work, I vow to clean the apartment properly before 7.00 tomorrow morning, when I must leave to go to the airport.
8.05 - Arrive at school. Have conversation with deputy Head which indicates that I must clean my office and box up everything, which I thought I had managed to avoid.
8.35 - Coffee. Take shoes off, start boxing stuff up.
11.35 - After getting dust in my eye, have finished office cleanup. Go to Lower school for my exit interview.
1.00 pm - Reception and goodbyes for whole staff. I got a necklace. Managed to hide in the corner and not really get noticed. I ate 8 slices of melon, God it is hot.
3.55 - L and I finally escape, we take the 52 to Opera to go shopping.
6.35 - D meets us, is amazed by our great shopping. We walk down to the Palais Royal, where L has chosen for dinner.
8.00 - We exchange presents, eat amazing food, reminisce, feel sad, feel happy. Wonder what the next few months will bring for us all.
10.54 - Ds new boyfriend picks us up to take me home, but we end up on a night time tour of Paris. We watch the Eiffel sparkle, sing along to Jamie Cullum, hold hands and try not to think about the airport and the morning.
11.29 - I arrive home. I look at a large wad of dusty hair and start to wipe things again, thinking that I can do more cleaning in the morning.
12.44 am - C arrives, she has been out too and did not want me to leave without saying goodbye. She talks about the baby coming soon. We chat about how the time has gone so fast.
2.06 - Bed, I fall asleep.
5.55 - I wake up, exhausted. I have a shower. I pack.
6.55 - I realise that there is no time to clean and so I leave everything. There is small burn on the wood chest and the sink leaks. I realise that I will never get my deposit back, but don't care.
7.06 - I sit on the front steps to my apartment soaking with sweat. All my bags are at my feet and I smoke a ciggarette while I wait for the girls to show up. I don't know it now, but when I get to the airport I will cry when L gives me a card. My face will be covered with kisses and my leaving will knock the breath from my body. I will say goodbye to Paris with a heart that feels like it is going to hammer out from my chest.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
Boyd Palmer

June 29, 2006

The long and winding road....

Is there is one inch of dust from my office that has not found its way onto my cheek or into my hair then I have no idea where it is. Packing up, dusting off and there are a million things to do. I have been busier in the last two hours than I have all year. In the midst of this, everyone wants to say good-bye to me and I was never able to handle goodbyes.

You would think that I would be used to it by now, but I am not. Since those summers of weeping when I would leave my beloved German penpal in Lohmar, I have never liked goodbyes. I prefer to think that those that are important enough will just sort of stay with me and there will be no problems.

Today I am running on adrenalin. I am tired and edgy, there has been a life too full these last couple of weeks. In a few minutes I will leave to go to our lower school. After an exit interview there is a lunch reception to say goodbye to everyone. After that there is last minute shopping at Printemps to spend the vouchers that we get at the end of the year. After that there is dinner. After that there is cleaning and after that there is C and B. After that there may be a couple of hours sleep before some friends are kindly taking me to the airport.

What a strange feeling, not just to be busy, but to genuinely not have time to do everything. To be overwhelmed, to feel that the world is spinning. I can feel the time whistle as it passes my ears.

June 28, 2006

Goodbye my lover

There has been only one constant in my life in Paris. One thing that was there from the first day, she has changed every season along with my moods. She has seen me warm, seen me cold and she has watched as everyone else has come and gone. I saw Spring in her arms and watched her hold those summer days close to her.

Last night, L and I left school to go and say au revoir to our coffees and the amazingly grumpy waiters that have characterised our Sundays. The Jardin du Luxembourg has changed over the year and so have we. I have a thousand memories of the place. I took every person that came and stayed with me there. I have pictures of picnics, chunky jumpers, hands being warmed with chocolat chaud and the bare to the green.

When I come back to visit Paris, I know that will be the first place that I head for. The Jardin will be the place that makes Paris feel like home again.

June 27, 2006

Everything aches

Only a couple of days, a few precious hours left now. I am just exhausted, tired of packing and panicking about the hundred things that won't be done by Friday morning. I have an interview in July that I found out about just before the weekend and it is a job that I would really like.

I am trying to leave my professional life in good order to help the person who will take over my job in September. I am still thinking about my apartment, things have to be cleaned so that I can get my deposit back. I have heard it said that the two most stressful things you can do are change jobs and move house. I have managed to squash the two together to bring maximum feelings of being unsettled.

Am I sad to leave Paris? Of course. Am I looking forward to going home? Hell, yes. Am I scared about what happens after the summer? No doubt at all there. In between the sandwich of emotions, there is still just so much to do. Too much of Paris still left, the Jardin waiting to hold me for a couple of hours, Cador for one last Tarte Tatin.

June 25, 2006

tu me manques

Is there anything more likely to make a person contemplative and blue than a full rainy day? If there is then I have no idea what it is. From 7.44 this morning, when the rain woke me up, it has not stopped. The sky is white and shows no signs of giving Paris a break. It is warm outside and you end up more sticky than cold.

Over the last couple of days I have felt increasingly bizarre. I have been chatting to friends in the Uk, making arrangements for nights out, nights in, shopping trips and the like. A few of them have said that they can't wait to have me home, back in the UK. It feels strange, even though I have missed each and every one of them it feels funny that they are happy to have me back, maybe I thought that I would just slip back into life at home without anyone even realising that I had gone away in the first place.

I don't know where this story finishes. When I left Poland, I knew that the next adventure awaited me, I had my flight booked to Paris. This time everything is suspended. A big leap into the unknown with a feeling that something will catch me. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed and every word that anyone says sounds like they are far away.

June 24, 2006

Rainbow whirlwind

I lost count of how many floats raved their way past me and L when we went to support the Marche de Fietres this afternoon as they wound there way down St Germain. What a sea of pink, basques, oiled and glittered bodies there were at the Paris Gay Pride. The overwhelming feeling was one of love, acceptance and liberation. You know that the people who march do so in absolute celebration of who they are. I love the vibe, I loved smiling at the scantily clad men and women, happy that they are happy.

The music was loud and crazy, the streets are now littered with bag upon bag of confetti. A rainbow whirlwind hads sped through the streets and all that is left behind is sunshine and leaflets about safe sex. I myself pushed L forward to get what I thought was a ribbon, but was in fact a condom.

This week, after Fete de la musique and the Gay Pride march I feel like Paris is laughing at me a little bit. She is so much more than other cities, she is everything. She laughs because she knows that I am going, knows that I will miss hundreds of these moments, and she will get to keep them all for herself.

June 23, 2006

Deep fill sandwich

There is no doubt about it, I have managed to fill the days. So much so that there has been no room for rest or doubt. The last few weeks have flown by in the blink of an eye and now I am less than a week away. This time next Friday I will have landed and the whole experience will be finished.

Every night there is something to do, some-one to see, food to be eaten and goodbyes to be said. I am so tired that my head keeps dropping. This is my last weekend in Paris and I can't wait to relax. I will spend time with D, L and C, but I also want to sleep. I have been steadily sending things home for a while now, but some-how I am still looking at everything in the apartment and wondering how on earth it will all get into my bags.

Now that I am near the end I find that I can think about that and the beginning. The stuff in the middle seems like a blur and I think that the circle will be complete. There are still so many threads around me that need to be tied up, physical and emotional ones. How did it come so fast? How did my leaving, that was planned and given thought upon thought end up whipping past me to the finish line?

"You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven."
Jimi Hendrix

Nova Scotia blogsearch...

Does anyone know of any good blogs that come from Nova Scotia? I would love to read the thoughts of some-one who lives there before I take my trip in August....comments in the box!

June 21, 2006

Roses are red, violets are blue...

Anothet day, another field trip. This time I was with the small chidren on a day trip to visit Giverny, the place where Monet lived out his life. In addition to his house there are the famous gardens containing the Japanese lake and waterlilies that inspired his paintings.

I must say that Giverney was not the most pleasant of touristing experiences. Just me, 30 children and five million other coach tours to wind through the metre wide gravel paths. However, this does not detract from that fact that the place is really very beautiful. I could imagine bringing a coffee out of that house in the morning and just wandering peacefully through the pink roses.

The lake with the Japanese bridge is also wonderful, but I think that we saw it at a particularly good time of year. There were fat pink lilies resting all across the lake and little yellow ones starting to pop out. It was all I could do to take a picture without a person in it, but in the garden everyone is a photographer.

I have to say that if I were to go back to the gardn, it would be right at the start of Spring, to try and avoid the crowds, that would have made it a much more special experience. Mind you, those roses, those stargazer lilies, full bloom was quite a thing to see.

June 19, 2006

Musee d'Art Moderne

The thing with the modern art museum in Paris is that it is next to another art modern art museum called the Palais de Tokyo. One is free to enter, and one costs 12 euros. These choices caused no choice at all as L and I picked the free one to wile away saturday afternoon.

In between the Trocadero and Alma Marceau, the Modern art museum is quite a building. As summer is upon us, there is a huge terrace that overlooks the river and down on a smaller terrace where you can watch graffiti artists at work. L and I sat outside and watched the world go by before we mustered up the energy to go around the museum. When we got in I had one of those rare moments in which you wonder why you have never bothered doing this before. I had a flash of leaving Paris and not having had the chance to go back to the Modern Art museum.

L and I are well matched museum partners. We both like to wander, but don't stop at each piece and ponder. There was one installation that had us both sat down for a good 15 minutes though. In the permanent exhibition, there is a darkened room. In this room there is the ambiance of a roller disco as an eighties hit is belted out. Across the walls, projectors flash pictures and questions. L and I sat for ages translating these questions such as: Am I beautiful? Does my dog like me? Must I wait alone in the world to feel something? and hundreds of others.

The space is huge and there were so few people there that we felt like we had found something amazing. It was Saturday afternoon and only a handful of people had made their way there. I have to go back there before I leave Paris. It is just another thing that must be done within the next ten days. My stomach is starting to be filled with butterflies. Maybe thinking about some of the questions in the museum will take my mind off it.

June 17, 2006

Only yesterday

Looking back through this blog I see that much of the winter months were spent lamenting the lack of light. Now that Paris is teeming with the stuff it feels like a different city. It has been snatched away from me and given to visitors who come to gaze in wonder at its beauty, and I can't say that I blame them at all.

Sometimes you can see the hazes of heat shimmering in front of you and sometimes all you want in the world is a cool breeze on the back of your neck. Cold water and shade are like the most beautiful things in the world. I must say that Paris does summer well. Outdoor cafes and Sunday markets are packed with people getting ready to enjoy the sun in a million different ways. Me, I'm off for crisp white wine at Cafe Soufflot by my apartment that is now stripped bare, ready to be packed up next week.

June 16, 2006

First steps

Last night was my first ever baby shower. That is the first shower that I attended, not the first shower that was thrown for me. C is nearly seven months pregnant with a baby boy that is huge already, not that she has really noticed. We surprised her with balloons, chocolate cake and gifts and spent hours talking about babies, marriage and everything in between the two.

These things are strange, the bottles, the dummies, baby blankets. Small things that in a few weeks will have something wrapped inside them. At the moment there is only a round stomach, but soon there will be tears, feeding, baby hair and the smell of lotion. It is all far away from the bump and the shower. At one point we even imagined where we would all be when the baby was 18. Scary.

Out of the six of us that have enjoyed each others company this year, three are leaving. L, S and D have ties that bind them to Paris in ways that C, L and I do not. Still, whipping through a year of friendship at break-neck speed is exhasuting, exhilarating and upsetting all at the same time. The bonds that we form are strong, because they come from the shared experience of such an intense time, living abroad. Yet here we are after a year, getting packed up and ready to go, the next lot of new staff, new friends getting ready to slip into our places.

In a few months I will be living some-where else, C will have a baby, L will have a job and be living some-where else and D or L may be married. Life moves fast.

June 15, 2006

To sleep perchance to dream

Since N and her daughetr were here at the weekend I have been having the most vivid of dreams. When I wake up I feel like I have been somewhere else, living another life that seems as real as the sunshine in my eyes. One of my dreams involved Willow from Buffy and battling the God of War. No-one seemed scared of the God of war but me, I knew that he was trouble.

Another dream involved a boy from long ago. There were white flowers tatooed all down my arm and I spent the dream trying to get to where he was. I told N these dreams each morning as I woke up and she laughed at the outrageous nature of the images and places that live in my subconcious. I have always believed that these images mean something. Our brains select pictures that mean something to us. It is when I cross into that dream world that feels like life that I start to think my mind is trying to tell me something.

I like those dreams that take you some-where else. I like being in that space between sleep and awake when you can imagine that life is a million miles away from reality. Even more special are those dreams when you are loved, or when you are brave. They remind of feelings, people and places that you had thought you had forgotten. What happens in your dreams? Do they fade away when your eyes open, or do they stay with you?

"I am accustomed to sleep and in my dreams to imagine the same things that lunatics imagine when awake."

June 14, 2006

Sausages and sunburn

After my late Sunday night call as a last minute replacement on a field trip I found myself once again on the autoroute zooming away from Paris. We arrived at a Chateaux that is owned by the family of two of our students and the photos that we were shown did the place no justice at all. Six bedrooms, three bathrooms, stables, pool, barn sized kitchen. One of the other teachers pointed out that none of us are likely to ever live in luxury like this, let alone have it as a second home.

I spent the next four hours cooking and cleaning for 32 children and four staff and I have to say that I had th most fun that I have had in ages. The place was so well equipped, and so large that cooking 75 sausages on the barbecue while the kids helped was just great. These children are from such privelaged backgrounds, but they still love brushing on barbecue sauce and helping out. I was reminded again of the amazing oppotunities that international teaching has given me.

The four of us teachers sat and watched the stars long after the children had conked out and the cool breeze was fabulous after the heat of the day. I slept little, and got up early to make scrambled eggs and hash browns for the kids. More cleaning and then we were back on the bus and on our way to Trouville. Feet in the ocean, sand in our sandwiches and pinkness to our skin.

Long after I got home my head was full of Normandy. By 7.30 my eyes were drooping and I was not able to sit without continuously sliding down my seat. The last three weeks of term are upon me now, really only two weeks in school left. I know that yesterday was the first time that I thought I might miss this school, just a tiny bit. I also know that these last two weeks will be full of trips, goodbyes and sunshine. Not a bad way to finish off my year in Paris.

June 12, 2006

On the road again

Some-how I have managed to sneak onto yet another field trip before I leave my school and swing back into the normality of day to day life. This time we are going to a Chateaux that is owned by one of the families at out school. Whilst there the students will do different activities based around the theme of 'water'. Of course, some of this activity time will be spent on the beach, but then, life is hard.

While I still have no job and life consists of visitors and mini trips to Normandy, nothing seems real. Everything is disconnected, and I find that sometimes I crave a long lie in and some alone time. The sun is meltingly hot and my skin is brown and shiny. I spent this weekend in search of a breeze with N and her daughter. We even made it to the Trocadero fountain where we dangled our feet in the cold water.

As we rocket towards the end of the summer term I start to realise that life without a job would be relaxing, but less than ideal on the cash front. That said, I am applying for jobs left, right and centre, but nothing seems to swing back towards me. I do have an overwhelming feeling that it will all be Ok in the end and that something will come up. Maybe I am a little naiive, but I like hope better than most other things.

June 08, 2006

Pont des beaux arts

There is an outdoor exhibit of photos on the Pont des Beaux Arts by the Louvre. This is the wooden bridge that is full of couples and groups of people now that the weather is nice. On an evening, people sit and drink red wine while they watch the tourist boats flash past with their bright lights.

The exhibit consists of photos that are superimposed on top of photos that then gives a texture to the picture outside of its original state. I liked some more than others but I loved the fact that you are looking at a picture with a backdrop. The photo is in front of you and for miles behind is the Seine and the landscape of Paris buildings.

The bridge was packed with people taking pictures and I counted myself among them, as you can see here. The thing is though that I always wonder about people taking pictures of pictures. Like I said, this was a bit unique because it had the background behind the photo, at least I have never joined the ranks of people being told off because they tried to take a picture of the Mona Lisa.

June 07, 2006


Etretat is a small coastal town about three hours drive outside of Paris. I spent yesterday from 7.00 until 7.00 either on the beach or on a bus. The fat golden sun burnt my nose and while the kids had their lunch I ate moules frites until my sticky fingers could not prise open any more cream covered shells.

Etretat is a little place that is clearly focused only on one thing, tourists. This does not take any of its charm away though and I loved my day in the sun with pebbles between my toes. Wandering through the town centre while the students did surveys, I found out that there had been a very important military hospital run by the British and Americans in World War 1. Each of the tourist shops sold maps that told you where each of the Normandy landings took place and there were Americans and Brits wandering around looking for certain sites.

It took me a while to remember that I was in France and not in Saltburn or Whitby, it just felt very far away from Paris. As usual, I enjoyed the bus journey as much as the day out.

June 05, 2006

The simple life.

Thanks to Cliff for todays post.

10 simple pleasures.

1) A cup of Yorkshire tea, strong, but with lots of milk.
2) The smell and feel of freshly washed hair.
3) Watching Buffy with Ally and laughing at all the same places.
4) All butter shortbread biscuits
5) The Jardin on a Sunday, the benches under the shade of the trees are best.
6) Waking up on a Saturday morning.
7) Cinnamon lip gloss that makes my lips tingle.
8) The thought of tomorrow
9) Walking past the Eiffel tower on my way to work.
10) Finding a song on your Ipod that you forgot and love.

June 02, 2006

Life from the cheap seats

I read somewhere that people in the cheap seats have the best view of life. Those people who travel on a budget, sleeping in hostels and bunking down with locals often have the best stories to tell. This morning on the bus the view from my cheap seat was pretty fabulous.

The story is one of a city waking up, stretching and getting out of bed. The sun was slowly creeping up the side of every building and as you look up to the sky each apartment block is coloured with a unique mix of shade and light. A taxi driver left his cab in the middle of the road to go and grab a coffee to shake his brain awake. A delivery van is unloading huge crates of Coca Cola and a man is sawing through the wood for a new shop front even though it is only 7.30.

As I listen to the Beatles White album on my Ipod, I am reminded that watching is sometimes everything, that life goes on around me like the ants that scurry and build their anthills. My morning bus ride sets the tone for my mood every day, one of the things I like most about Fridays is that the ride is different. All the way along the Seine and behind the Trocadero, I never get any reading done because there is too much going on all around me.

"You tell me that you've heard every sound there is
And your bird can swing
But you can't hear me"
The Beatles

June 01, 2006

Agents and arsenic

I have been trying for the past few weeks to contact agents with regards to the possibilty of publishing my blog as a book. I have taken the whole blog, cut out about a third and added another third to make up a full manuscript. Even though I am used to putting my thoughts into the public domain, it is difficult to think that I have laid the last year bare for agents and publishers to say ' sorry, not interesting enough'. What makes people think that what they have to say is any more important or marketable than anyone else?

I still think it was important for me to do this. I always had dreams of being a writer and it has become clear to me that I would love to do this full time and forever. My normal uncertainty fades away and I am left with the career I always wished for. Don't be fooled that I am naiive about this process. The gamble is that at the end my dreams could be shattered once and for all, but I can't let that get in the way of having a go. It never has before and it won't now.

If you were writing a book, what would it be about? Romance? Sci-fi? Personal journal? Would you try, or would you be happier always dreaming?