Friday, September 28, 2007

Hanging with the Gregster

Realising we hadn't had any shots together, we have a quick photocall at Hazebrouck train station, me in my best unironed blouse and Greg pulling a silly face as usual

"What are you doing now, Greg?"

A decent photo at last of me and Greg

Greg's surprise shot of me in the park at Calais

Me in front of the Calais Hotel de Ville - the only image of Calais that appears on shopfronts, souvenirs etc etc city-wide - pretty much 'cause it's the only nice building in Calais!

Oh là là, shirtless Greg in front of the town hall

Greg in front of the fortifications at Calais

I was lucky enough to have one of my old Prague friends, the inimitable Greg, come visit me for a few days last/this week. After an initial panic when a mystery caller rang the chateau only to be greeted with Mark 2's cheery "Barry Kebab Shop!" and hung up, we managed to track Greg down in Hazebrouck, some 8 hours after ETA but alive and well.

The next day, Sunday, we spent together in Calais, since Andy and Laura required dropping off there for a morning ferry, and the latest newbie Clare was to be picked up in the evening. This being Sunday in France, nothing was open of course, but luckily one can always make one's own fun where Greg's concerned. The precise form this 'fun' took happened to be a walking tour of Calais - namely, Greg decided we should walk to each and every tower visible on the horizon of Calais, which was some half a dozen far-flung spires. In the end, we walked for 3 1/2 hours solid, including walking to the Calais city limits, and every single fricking tower was a church that was shut - on a Sunday! What sort of godless nation do I live in? It wasn't quite as bad as it probably sounds - it was a lovely day and Greg's great company. In fact it was so sunny that he spent most of the time wandering around shirtless and shocking the natives. He also insisted that we converse only in French for the greater part of the day, especially whenever French speakers were in earshot - which actually wasn't all that often since we were mostly in the dying, boarded-up suburbs of scenic Calais. When we were finally done with the 'tour des tours' it was frites and a much-needed drink in a pleasant park, followed by an extended sunbathe during which I believe I nodded off a bit.

Nothing else of note occurred during Greg's sojourn in France, seeing that we were both combatting colds and I had to work on the Monday, but it was really lovely seeing him - we had some good chats, good laughs and I got to hear him play his guitar. In fact, not only did he play his guitar, but he took me outside and showed me how the wind could play his guitar for him - I even got to twiddle the tuning thingies to make different sounds.

In other news, I visited Albert yesterday, which has a lovely church (rebuilt after WWI), but more importantly, houses the first real live squat toilet I've seen in France (I opted to pay 1.50 for a drink and use a real loo) and a bread vending machine, check it out!

Today we went to Ypres, same old same old, but we stayed for the Last Post at 8 pm (mmm eating in a restaurant, sweet) and suprise, surprise, they sang the NZ national anthem and did the haka. It was so busy that I couldn't see a thing, so who did these things I don't know - rumour had it it was some of the All Blacks, but I can't confirm. Whoever it was sang badly and did it the wrong way round (Maori then English, should be English then Maori - not based on any notions of cultural superiority, it just flows better that way). Then I went and chatted away afterwards to a big Maori guy who was also supposed to be an ex-All Black, but on further investigation turned out to be a traditional Maori musician, who's playing for the big commemorative services early next month (I'm hoping I can go). I got his email address and a kiss on the cheek, score, ha!

Another week, another party!

Well, the second staff party was a few weeks ago now, but I've only just got around to putting the photos up, so there you go. Cunningly, I remembered to work through them backwards, so instead of us all getting soberer as the photos progress, we get drunker - all is as it should be! Enjoy!

My new haircut, fresh from the coiffeur's

The girls getting ready in Jay's bedroom - me, Esther, Phia and Jay

Before the festivities commence - Phia, Mike doing his best to look as Scouse as possible, Laura, Al, me, Jay and once again John excluded in the background

Phia ruins a perfectly good pic of John, Jay, Esther, her and Laura

See now everyone's copying my 'Fatal' look

Naughty girls

Chateau ladeez version whatever - Esther, Phia, me looking attitudy and Jay

Phia falls asleep and loses her place in the macarena

Jay, me looking slightly manic, and Phia

Esther: Do the macarena! Yeah man, how fun is this! Check it out, BEST TIME EVER!
Sophia: I'm a zombie, a big zombie zombie zombie
Laura: Oh my God, I just realised I came to the party without my pants on

New girl Esther gets left alone with the camera a little too long

Me and Marko - the détente persists

Phia struts her stuff. Check out the board behind to gauge the maturity level of party participants (not me!)

Phia sandwiched by the happy couple, Laura and Andy

Doing some sort of dance that involves sitting on the floor thusly. Check out how bored Esther looks! I look weird

Jay decides to turn over

For some reason I seem to REALLY be enjoying Jay showcasing my new shoes (they are nice though eh?

Hey look, Marko came to the party! Miracles do happen

Dear God, that's unattractive, Mike!

An explanation for the smeared lipstick, as seen below

So trashy! (Me, not Jacob)

Mark gets a kiss from Al

Mark is not destined for a glittering drag career

Marky Mark dressed up in me clothes - not my idea

Not from the staff party, but thought you'd all enjoy Mark in his hideous man-pouch - it's not even a G-string, lacking the bum accoutrements, it is merely a pouch on an elastic waist band

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A coati ate my camera!

Well, not my camera, but a camera. We visited the zoo in Lille today, and one of the kids leant into the coati enclosure to take a photo, dropped her camera, and had it promptly seized by a naughty coati, who managed to open it, get the batteries out, then run away with it hee hee. It was great! I had to go get the zookeeper, who sent someone into the enclosure to retrieve the camera, which they then confiscated for the rest of our visit. It was eventually returned in working order, but extremely scratched and muddy! And if you've never heard of coatis, neither had I before today, but there's a pic at the top of the page, and I can tell you they run around on branches upside down and obviously have pretty good snatching claws!

Other than that, we just mooched around the art gallery and Lille centre, nothing spectacularrrr, and tomorrow it's off for another riveting day of trenches and graveyards around Ypres, woohoo.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Climbing the corporate ladder

Good news for those who haven't heard it. Well, actually, it's good news for me, but if you're reading this I'll presume you're interested parties who wish me no... specific harm, so maybe it'll be good news to you too. Anyway, the gist of this communiqué is that I've been pre-promoted at my new job in Chamonix. That is to say, after they emailed me and invited me to apply for a senior admin position, I had a phone interview, and despite not feeling ultra-sanguine about it, passed with flying colours obviously. So I've now accepted a PERMANENT job in Chamonix. This means goodbye to any thoughts of heading home for the next few years at any rate (not that I was seriously considering it, anyway). It also means scary things like having a full-time, responsible, grown-up job... In admin, a field I don't really have tons of experience in. It also means dealing with people like French gas, in French, which I'm not sure I can do... It means reporting directly to the managers of the Properties Division and some other Division the name of which I've forgotten, project management of some description (gulp) and (hopefully) travelling around the different resorts located in Italy, France, and Andorra (woohoo!). I also get my own apartment and a bit more pay than I would have in the other job. Which is twice as much as I earn now. Cool. So I'm super duper scared, but looking forward to it and definitely looking forward to leaving. I'll miss the people (mostly), but I won't miss this job by a long shot and I'm excited to move to a new place, make some new friends and maybe embark on the start of a new career...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Things I have learned in France

- French DJs are not afraid to play the same song several times in the same club in the same night. After all, they are only following the lead of the endlessly-repeating music channels

- If the 'Cha Cha Slide' (stupid song that gives dance instructions such as "slide to the left, slide to the right, clap your hands" etc.) comes on in a club and 8 or so of you dance to it, the French will gather round in wonderment and you will earn a free club t-shirt from the DJ

- Said t-shirts make useful communal sweat-rags

- French chic = frumpy, particularly in clubs, where nana cardigans are de rigeur for the ladeez

- The pick-up lines French men use on foreigners:

1) A "bizou" is the French kiss kiss thing on the cheek. Bizou tradition varies from region to region of France, anywhere up to 4 bizous. Around these parts, they've settled for a sensible two. If, however, you're being introduced to a French guy and he snuffles out that "you ain't from around here boy" (Deliverance stylees), he will automatically try to convince you that the tradition here is for 6 bizous. Depending on the guy, he may try to land one of them on your mouth

2) " 'Ave you ever 'ad a Fraynshe keess?" If you are foolhardy enough to say "yes", the follow-up question will be "Ah, but from a real Fraynshe mens?"

- Flunch is the solution to all man's dietary requirements. For the paltry sum of 5 € 60, you get a cup of soft drink, a meat item of your choice, and access to the all-you-can eat salad/vegetable/pasta/frites/fantastic mashed potato buffet, sweet

- There's no French word for 'piggy-back' - this is why the Germans managed to overrun their country so easily, clearly

- 101 useful phrases for insulting someone based on the size of their genitalia

- Only a millionaire can afford to eat or drink anything in central Paris

- French music is cool

- Don't feel bad about calling the French 'frogs', they call the English 'les rosbifs' - the roast beefs

- There is some sort of French gene for men with curly hair

- How to pronounce all the menu offerings at MacDo (McDonalds) - from sheesebehrgehr to MeekFleuhree. And a SuperCombo is a MenuMaxiBestOf - WTF? Yes, this is a sad achievement, but it was fuelled by the promotional period when they were giving away really cool Coke glasses in the shape of Coke cans. Made, of course, in the world's favourite glass factory, Arc International

- And, of course, France is 90% fields!

Things I haven't learned:

- Many French people make this weird sound when saying words like 'merci'. At the end of the word, they make a noise halfway between an extra letter and a mere exhalation of breath - almost like they're saying 'mercis' but not quite. Apparently, according to my roomie Alice, she does it all the time in Amelie, so if you're ever watching it, listen out! Anyway, I really want to be able to make the noise, but for the life of me I cannae manage it