Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Doing stuff for money

I was just looking at the small biography of an author included at the start of one of her novels. It said that before she was a writer she worked as an icecream driver, a funeral parlour assistant, and a riddler (person who turns the champagne bottles so the sediment collects in the neck of the bottle), among other wacky jobs. You have to wonder how long she actually spent at each of these jobs just to list them on her quirky c.v.

I’ve been doing stuff for money for a long time now. When I was a child I used to make odourless liquids using food colouring and crushed ants, and I'd bottle these laboratory blues and raging reds, label them "perfume", and sell them to kindly neighbours.

My first real paying job was as a sales assistant in a lollipop shop, at the age of 14 and nine months, the legal age for children to work in Australia. I was like a kid in a candy store. Customers would ask where they could find candy dentures, liquorice bullets and king size jelly cobras and I’d just stand there, unable to speak, my voice blocked from exiting my mouth by a pile-up of jelly beans. Every Thursday night and Saturday morning I ate away my working hours. As well as wearing a bright yellow cap, red shorts and a smile, I also had a sugar lump belly from too many sweets. Six months later I swapped this job for bookselling in the hope of fattening my brain with reading.

One of the book shops I worked in was located in a decrepit shopping centre in a suburb of Sydney where people have long-forgotten how to read. Julie, who looked after the shop during the weekdays, spent her time in the back room doing yoga or chatting to friends on the phone while little kids ate the bestsellers and stray dogs dribbled over the cookbooks. But this neglected book shop was a dusty paradise for me. Being on the virgo cusp I’ve always had a love of organising. Every Thursday night I came in to that shop and arranged, inventorised and alphabetised everything. I even lined up the cup o noodles Julie kept behind the counter in alphabetical order by flavour (beef before chicken etc).

Shelving books in a library was equally fulfilling. I find that humdrum jobs, if done in moderation, can in fact unleash a herd of creative thoughts and send them stampeding in to my writing.

But I lasted one night as a pizza delivery driver. I was the only girl in the parlour. I sat around watching telly in a room full of boys who smelled like pepperoni and tickled me because I was a girl, waiting for my turn to hit the road. Fast Craig whisked in and out, taking all the ready to go pizzas and boasting about how many tips he got from big-breasted waif girls (probably pizza loving old ladies). You were paid according to how many pizzas you delivered but because of Fast Craig (and because I got lost en route to my first customer) I only delivered one pizza. One pizza minus deduction from my pay of the cost of one bottle of coke which exploded in the customer’s face because I accidently dropped it on the ground, doesn't equal a whole lot of dough.

When I moved to London it was a bit like starting again, returning to these odd jobs of my adolescence and early adulthood. I’ve posted a couple of posts about some of my early London jobs below.

Monday, February 26, 2007

An unloveable mongrel called shawn

This post is set in the epoque after I returned to the Mother Country (England) from my native Australia, but before I moved to the Old Dog (Paris).

When I was straight off the boat from Australia, my first job was as a Saver.

It sounds glamorous I know. A Saver of Souls. A Saver of Lives. A Saver of cats stuck up trees.

But no, I was a Saver of CVs for a recruitment company located in a pre-gender discrimination law, pre-sexual harrassment in the workplace, time warp.

I got all miu-miu-ed up for the first day of the job, my very first job
in that difficult hotpot we call London. I was dressed in my most spic and span suit but as
it turned out I didn’t need to glam it up, no one even raised an eye when I walked in.

And so, explained my South African trainer in her jolting accent, you check all the potential candidate's details are at the top of the CV and then you save the CV as a word file and then as a text file.

Yes I see, and then?

And…that’s all.

Ok there was SOMETHING fun about saving CVs into text and word files. I got to see
some really creepy CVs. Some were almost love letters to the recruiter, others were borderline begging. Lots of people included their photo (this seems to be the done thing in France but it is definitely not the done thing in Australia and I think it is not so common in England) so I had to let out tiny chuckles when I saw photos of boys (yes, boys!) and girls prancing around in their bikinis. They were applying for jobs in IT.

I am proud to say that I saved a lot of people from
the trash can. We were given strict instructions to delete anyone who came from
anywhere that was not in the European Union who didn’t specify they had a visa to work in the UK. Some of the folks from India wrote such nice, sensible letters about why they should get the job despite their lack of work permit, that with one swoop I saved them (as word and text files). After all, i'm from the ex colonies too, I know exactly what it is like scrounging around for a work permit in unforgiving Old Blighty.

There were about 25 of us on one side of a big room, saving away. Across a river of undesked carpet, on the left bank of the room, were the Bridgers. Their exact role remains
a mystery to me but I guess they were bridging some kind of gap between the savers
and the Almighty Recruiters. All I know is that they considered themselves a cut above us lowly savers, like the girls who dance topless at the Moulin Rouge consider themselves a cut above the girls who tuck their boobs under sequins and dance the cancan.

I was unluckily placed near the unloveable mongrel Shawn, who, unlike me, wasn’t temping and had been working there for five years and miraculously never moved on from Saver to Bridger. His hobbies included (all in a loud voice so all the savers and even the bridgers could hear) – ranking the appearance of all the girls in the room from Very Hot to Very Dog, discussing his sexual escapades with a girl who had worn the same g-string three days in a row, exchanging ideas with his nondescript but shawn-like cronies about why the girl sitting next to me, a quiet philosophy student looking for an easy pound, had worn the same trousers all week (Shawn seemed to have an eye for girl’s fashion faux pas) and talking about who was going to get the old high-ho from the company at the end of the week for not saving enough CVs.

Yep, Shawn was in cahoots with the Manager and in this environment where professionalism had been packed in a little box and chucked out on to Regent Street to be trampled on by heavy heeled londoners, the manager for some ungodly and unprofessional reason confided in Shawn before she fired or hired anyone.

And Shawn was a professional Dobber who told her if someone went to the toilet too many times, took a phone call on their mobile from their dying grandmother or wore the same pants too many days in a row.

Now I can’t even remember her name, but lets just call this manager Susy because that was probably her name, although I was required to call her Miss Susy. Miss Susy's claims to fame were rising from the ranks of company receptionist to Head of Savers, talking loudly on the phone about who she was going to fire that week, telling Shawn whether the new girls she was hiring (after she'd finished firing) were cute or not, and telling anyone who would listen about how many beers she'd put away the night before (I’d like to make it clear now that I have nothing against binge drinking if it is done with style but if you knew Miss Susy you’d know that she was more of a tits on the table, vomit dribbling down the chin kind of binge drinker).

First day on the job (lucky for me Miss Susy started her new role the same week as me) she gave us a list of all the forbiddens – no eating at your desk, can’t be more then one nano second late in the morning, no talking, no whispering, no laughing (except if you are shawn or liked by shawn).

Anyway, you may have guessed by now, but I was one of the people who was getting fired after four weeks of saving. It might have been because I was accused of computer sabotage on my second week of the job. Apparently someone had managed to delete all the CVs in the entire company database that had been saved the previous month and Miss Susy shouted me down about this saying that the sabotage had been activated from my computer. Of course I pleaded innocent and they had to accept that as they had no hard evidence against me (lots of people used my computer at lunchtime) and they have that thing embedded in the common law about letting all those guilty people go free rather than one innocent person being convicted. I wasn't guilty but I couldn’t help thinking I wish I had come up with the idea to sabotage the system and somehow point the finger at Shawn.

I was also a lousy saver. I’d get caught up reading the CVs. All these CVs peopling my inbox with characters from all over the world made fascinating reading. I also spent a fair bit of time correcting spelling and grammar to help the candidates in this cut-throat world of job-hunting. I don’t think I ever made the daily saving quota.

The day I got fired, Miss Susy didn't pull the trigger. She passed the buck by putting me on the phone to my temping agency who said “it is nothing personal, shawn just doesn’t think you are hot enough” or something like that.

I was a little shaken up about this. I was back to no money in London as opposed to some money. But I also left that chamber for the last time letting out tiny whoops of joy. No more sexism in the workplace, no more gender specific language, no more school mama caning me for being a nano second late and no more oppressive office air. I was out on the street with the Hari Krishnas now. I used to hear them singing when I was stuck up on the sixth floor breathing Shawn's fumes, but now I was with them.

When I still lived in London I sometimes used to go back to that same street. I'd look up at that sixth floor window and think about Shawn up there fashion policing the girls and winning prizes for being Saver of the Year. He must be nearing long service leave for Saving now. His name is probably spelt more fancily, like Sean, or maybe Shaun, but for me he will always be Shawn.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wrapped in gold

After I was sent a-packing from my job as a Saver under false accusations of computer sabotage (and because the Chief Saver didn't fancy me), it wasn't long before I scored my second job in London, cutting out cardboard animals for one of the cities most prestigious law firms.

More prosaic than the job title "Saver", my new title was "Paralegal". My actual role was to cut sheets of black cardboard into appropriate sized pieces and tape them over the relevant sections of documents as indicated by the Legals. Meeting minutes, memorandums etc - those nuggets of evidence that weren't admissible in court - were to be concealed from the prying eyes of the other parties to the case. Sometimes I'd leave a saucy little gap in my taping to try and tempt them into a peek.

It was better than the stiff-backed world of the Savers. I lounged in a luxurious sixth floor office with regular visits from a tea lady bearing plates of gold-wrapped chocolate biscuits. I shared my world with another ex-colonial law graduate, a New Zealander also suffering working visa restrictions at the hands of the Mother Country. We passed the days overeating and making crooked giraffes and curly tailed pigs out of black carboard and gold paper, heating up the room with our unused brain activity.

At lunchtime I hobnobbed in sandwich bars with dry-cleaned souls carrying bristling briefcases. Several times I came across fellow law graduates from my university in Sydney who had hit the big time working as solicitors in London's top firms. These were law graduates who had studied law in the appropriate manner. Unlike me, they hadn't decided after two weeks that this degree wasn't for them, yet still hung about because they were programmed to finish what they start, from sandwiches to law degrees.

They would ask me politely where I was at?, and i'd say the name of the law firm - not mentioning my job title, or how many giraffes i'd created that morning - and their eyes would say "wow", and their lips: "well done", while their hands patted me on the head. I knew they were thinking, how in the hooligans did this wayward creature who never came to class get to be working in one of the biggies? And i'd just stick around and finish my sandwich.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tony Gatlif kiss me anywhere you like

In my early vixen period I was the kind of person who would correct the spelling errors and problems with syntax in love letters and send them back to where they came from. I once didn't speak to a boyfriend for a week because he sent me flowers at work (and because he had a pus-clogged pimple glistening on his chin). I once received a mysterious Valentine's day card which said simply: "Bet you dont [my italics] remember me, but I remember you Pinochiette". I spent years trying to find the author of that missing apostrophe who never dared come forth. One sentence and he/she/it couldn't get the grammar right.

Of course things have changed since those dark days. Bring on the flowers now. I dine on flower petals and chew their stalks. I love to let loose the scent of flowers in my dull-aired flat which is sealed off from the world to keep the cold out and the cat in. And after four years in Paris, exchanging mangled English and French words of love, I've become accustomed to grammatically incorrect love.

In the spirit of February 14 I've posted below a snippet from my old blog about the language of love, and I'd love to devote the rest of this post to one of my greatest loves, European cinema, more particularly French cinema.

I met some film students a couple of weeks ago, a German and an Italian, who have come to Paris to do five weeks study of French cinema as part of their overall university degree. While I was extremely positive about the current state of European cinema, they dismissed the German, French and Italian film industries as scabby dinosaurs and instead they believe the US is where it is all happening.

The German guy kept saying that the French don't seem to have cottoned on to the fact that the idea is not to bore the audience. I was adamant, barking like a terrier, that in most French films it's exactly the opposite of boring because you don't have to follow set plot points, you don't have to look at your watch and think, well we still have to go through a re-building montage and then reconciliation and one person has to save one world before the film finishes. No, instead the film just ends suddenly and keeps on turning in your head. Men and women (women in particular, because they get to be all sorts of things beyond the devastatingly beautiful/middle-aged neurotic dichotomy they are granted in Hollywood) are free to roam outside structure. And don't go talking to me about Coppola's "Lost in Translation". Because. I've said it once. And I'll say it again. It was an ok film but it wasn't that great. The French are constantly releasing films just as subtle, and just as good, and not making such a hoo-ha about it. Subtlety is the welcome norm in French films.

Interestingly enough, when I probed these film students as to what recent French films they have seen one of them said `L'enfant' (poor old Belgians, yet again someone mistaking their frites for someone elses) and then unable to name anything else, he started mumbling something about Godard!
Godard - did he release a film last year?

I hope to talk in more detail about some of the great films I loved and saw in 2006. However, after watching Nanni Moretti's Journal Intime this weekend - there is one scene where he imagines going to the house of a film critic with copies of her reviews and force feeding her this over-flowerised drivel - I don't have the guts to attempt it right now. So for the moment I will just leave you the following images of ten of the great European (mainly French admittedly) films that I saw at the cinema in 2006, and encourage you all to see them, before it is too late for us all.

Je t'aime my darling gargoyle

Anyone who has been one half of a bi-lingual love story knows about the linguistic mishaps that arise in day to day communication.

For example, an eavesdropper whose ears are too small to hear all the sounds might think I know less about music then I actually do:

H: Hey you know that old band “Colonzey Gong”?

Me, uninterested, just some boring French band I’ve never heard of:

“no don’t know 'em”

H: Yes you know them!

Me: No I don’t.

Look here...he googles (the internet is always alight at my place)

Oh Kool and the Gang!

H. recounting a conversation he had when he went to see, what he assures me was a post hard core band, the other night:

"And so then I started talking to the other photographer there
and she said she photographed the Madonna concert the other week, so I said
`oh I didn’t know Madonna was in Paris' and she said `Not Madonna, Modonney!'
She was saying Modonney so I felt really stupid but that music was loud!"

Blank look from me: "Who is Modonney? Is he French post hard core as well?"

H: You don’t know who Modonney is??!

Google again: Oh Mudhoney. Right yes.

But when I'm speaking in French, often correcting H's French because it doesn't correspond with the way I would say it with my Australian accent, I've found that i'm more free n easy with the language of love.

I'm not much of a kissy kissy person in English. One Australian friend complains I’m
not very liberal with my “xx”s in correspondence and that he has counted every x I’ve ever signed at the end of my name and put them in a little treasure box (one x on his birthday in 1997, and three xxx's when I wanted something in 2005). But here in France, the ritual of hello-kissing people you don’t know has transposed itself into my emails and I'm now more likely to put bises at the end of my correspondence.

However, I still find "je t'embrasse!" quite frightening. When French men speaking in English decide to translate this as: `I kiss you' (as they often do) it sounds like a blessing, the kind of phrase that should be reserved for when your long white dress is billowing in a persistent breeze and you lean down and kiss someone on their forehead before they go forth to discover a new planet - "I kiss you, now go forth and conquer".

In English if a boyfriend called me "dear" I'd biff him one, but in French I quite like being someone's chérie, like I'm full of sugar and spice and all things nice.

And then there is that whole “I love you” thing. Some of the boys I’ve been with have been the types who have been champing at the bit to say "I love you" after two weeks. This bores me senseless as it means that after that you have nothing really to look forward to except for the first time he says "I hate you, hope you get pecked to death by bored pigeons".

In English I shy away from saying I love you, it seems like too much of a deal clincher. But now that I’ve been given "je t’aime", I'm much more hardcore about it: "Je t’aime! Je t’aime!". I guess it's because I still don't feel comfortable enough in French to feel any real affinity with the language so for me saying "je t'aime!" is as easy as saying "aussie aussie aussie oi oi oi". Saying "I love you", however, remains post hard core.

There are of course constraints on giving free reign to your passion when you aren't operating in your mother tongue. I remember one time before I could understand French when I composed a particularly saucy text, rampant with soft English innuendos, to my French boyfriend who hadn't yet dusted off his English grammar books and he wrote back with: "I think about some good stuffs too".

Monday, February 12, 2007

Marie Pinochiette

When I went to a hairdressing salon in Sydney on my recent vacation, my hairdresser was curious about the coiffeurs in Paris. She had never been to Paris but she had heard all sorts of tales about dogs with powdered bobs and chic parisiennes at the zenith of style, and so she thought that it was inevitable that the salons that snipped and trimmed these fashionable canines and women must be rather fancy.

`No, they are just like here', I said, mainly just to curtail the conversation because I abhor talking to hairdressers, especially on Mondays. But, as she was holding the scissors and clearly wanted me to come up with something, I added: `except that they don’t automatically condition your hair after washing it'.

`What the pickles! Kylie, did you hear that?' she called out to a co-worker, `get this, in France, they don’t condition your hair after washing it. Oh my gawd! How can you get a comb through unconditioned hair!'

`Well you have to ask for them to condition it. And they charge extra.'

`Bloody hell!'

`I know. I was brought up to wash my hands regularly, never to talk with my mouth full and always to condition my hair after washing it. It was really a culture shock for me.'

We then marvelled for a couple more minutes about how weird the French are, and then she said: `I bet you miss Australia'.

The other day when I was at my local hairdresser I thought of other things that, if I'd been so inclined, I could have told that Sydney hairdresser and Kylie. Perhaps it is just a general French distaste for multi-tasking, but every time I go to my parisian hairdresser, I feel like I catch a whiff of the ancien regime.

There is a rigid hierarchy among the staff that goes beyond manager and trainees. I'm transported to the Court of Versailles where the way you dressed exhibited your rank, for example, the longer the train of a woman's dress the higher her rank. At my coiffeur it's black and white. The manager wears a distinctive courtly black, whereas everyone else: the stylists, colourists and hair-scrubbers, must be dressed in unbecoming baggy-white shirts. As if to brand her as a yet more lowly species on the social ladder than the non-manager stylists, the colourist wears a little vest over her white shirt, branded, appropriately enough, with the word "colourist", in case her surgical gloves and the little trolley of dyes she wheels around isn't evidence enough.

They fawn over me like Marie Antoinette in her heydey (perhaps this may have something to do with the fact that it's not uncommon to tip a hairdresser in France), but in the same way that there were strict regulations as to who had rights depending on rank to dress and undress Marie Antionette, here invisible rules dictate who can condition my hair and who can blow dry my hair and who can pass me the magazines. The manager won't just give a simple blow dry but will cut and blow dry, the colourist can't touch the scissors or the magazines but she can wash hair as well as colour it, and then the lowliest of all, the simple hairwasher can offer me a coffee and take my coat, but she doesn't seem to have phone privileges. This means even if she is the nearest to a ringing phone she'll continue with her important task of dusting the shampoo while the phone boils over.

I've been drinking and dreaming so much lately that I don't know anymore what is real and what isn't, what happened and what didn't, what is past and what is present. Am I Marie-Pinochiette?

The stylist, with a wary look to check her manager isn't listening, leans in close to me and says conspiratorially under the click of her scissors: `you know it would probably be cheaper for you if you just bought a bottle of conditioner and took it home with you rather than getting us to condition your hair here.' Instead of giving her a haughty response that of course I already have a bottle of conditioner at home, I nod and think back to that final part of Marie Antoinette's life when she was imprisoned in the Tower. During this period, under the guise of dressing her hair, well-wishers from the outside world passed her potentially useful information, unbeknownst to the watchful guards.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

De-bunking deliciously bed-rumpled Frenchmen

My friend sent me this quote from an article by Jacqueline Maley in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

"There are certain truths every woman knows intellectually but which she does not really learn until she experiences them first-hand.

Skinny jeans look good only on someone whose body shape resembles a whippet's. Pretty much everything tastes better deep-fried. Yellow is a very unforgiving colour.

But the most difficult truth, the truth most sweetly painful to learn, is the one about Frenchmen, that no matter how handsome, no matter how nonchalantly unshaven and deliciously bed-rumpled they are, they should be resisted, for they will always break a lady's heart."

On closer inspection, the article is a tongue-in-cheek look at the way Australians supposedly wholeheartedly support their entertainment exports in their foreign romances, particularly when things go awry.

The Australian population apparently rioted when Tom Cruise dumped Nicole Kidman if we are to believe the Australian press and, as it was too painful to think that he could possibly have left our golden girl for a talented European, in the end we just blamed it on him having his brain transplanted by Scientologists.

The SMH article goes on to say that bed-bogged Olivier Martinez's alleged cheatings on Kylie Minogue are "nothing less than an international incident. Sanctions should be opposed and products boycotted".

Of course the idea often implied in the press that Oliver Martinez's reported infidelity is somehow linked to his being French (and therefore oversexed, unfaithful and snapping off hearts) is the stuff that looney tunes is made from. It reeks of the scurrilous pamphleteers of Marie Antoinette's day, depicting her as the wanton and unfaithful Austrian. Infidelity is foreign. But no, Olivier Martinez is just part of the universal struggle against monogamy that men and women of all nationalites are engaged in.

However, spurred on by the image of a "deliciously bed-rumpled" Frenchman, I rummaged around in the old files in my computer attic and found some old posts, half-eaten by dust mites, which I boxed away when I moved my old blog late one night. They recount some incidents in my relationship with a Frenchman. But needless to say, I was largely disappointed. In place of bedroom eyes I had well-scrubbed ears. The posts depict no heavy odour of love. There are no savage descriptions of charming and ultimately heart-crashing amour. I've posted them below.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Patriotism rolled up into little balls

The recent winds in Paris have been tearing apart French flags. I noticed one yesterday at Place de La Republique which had lost its red band and was rebelliously pecking the air like a blue and white flycatcher.

This mangled flag got me thinking about patriotism and my old beau French.

In the first part of our long and winding relationship, French and I were living in London.

During this period French was a mighty and forceful advocate of all things French.

If, for example, I was preparing a salad and I left the lettuce in big pieces, because in Australia we have great faith in the ability of people to use utensils and therefore give them the choice as to how they wish to upload the lettuce into their mouths, French would say “no no no, in France we don’t do it like that, we cut it into tiny pieces, like this, see, that’s how its done in France and that’s how it should be done everywhere else”.

Sometimes, trying to be helpful, I'd wash his clothes for him and then roll his socks into little balls before putting them away in the drawer. One day, speaking in such grave tones I thought perhaps I was finally going to be given the old high ho, he said “you know Pinochiette, if you don’t mind I’d like to do my washing myself, because you see in France we don’t roll socks into little balls like that because they get crushed. You need to just put them in the drawer as separate entities."

Of course it was here that I realised that his overwhelming pride in France was in fact blurring the fact and fiction of what people actually do in France and that the law against rolling socks together was enacted by him and corresponded to his own world view that socks, like people, are better off single.

Voyage à deux

I've got a crush on the south of France.

The first French friends I made in Paris are all originally from various places in the south. These southern friends are "expats" in a way, fiercely denying any ties to those arse-hole Parisiens. They wear bright colours and flaunt shirts with embroidered flowers in defiance of the muted tones of parisiens. They open themselves right up as if to distinguish themselves from the parisiens concealed behind closed shutters.

Down south, Summer is just the way I like it. The air crackles and pops like it does in Australia and you are impregnated with the heavy stench of the juices of insects and worn out flowers. If you reach out and touch the coast you can throw yourself into a swimmable sea.

I started thinking about organising another trip down south again when I watched Two for the Road this weekend. Usually I watch Audrey Hepburn films just to admire her wardrobe but this film was bigger than her wardrobe.

The film is the story of an English couple whose relationship is about to shrivel up and fall off. They take a trip by car from Calais (I guess), to the Côte d'Azur. On this voyage we weave in and out of several other road trips they have taken in France, including the time they first met when they collided in the French countryside. We see how their relationship has evolved in pace with the way that they have social climbed. We feel sad when we see how happy they were before, in contrast to the bat cave of lies and disappointment that their relationship has now become. But in the end we're not that sad because we realise that their love has reached a new level and can stretch even further to accommodate their changed selves.

I just had a rummage through my archives and found a little diary entry of my own voyage à deux when French and I took a road trip down south for my 30th birthday. It highlights the way that an ill-matched middle class couple, who have never been out in the fields working with a hammer and sickle, can waste time on trivialities:

"We drove gung ho from Paris to Lyon, only stopping for sandwiches in an ant-filled ditch by the road. Then, after a day of nibbling on each other's nerves, we had a fight because, for no sound reason, I wanted to go on a tour of Lyon's Opera House. Because of this desire to see the Opera House, French wanted to break up with me.

But he changed his mind three minutes later. I didn't say "yes, we're back together" or "no, we're not" for the sake of peace over my Salade Lyonnaise. But although things were half patched up between us, we didn't say bonne nuit to each other that night and this led to hostilities over the white bread and nutella spread the next morning. This already sombre mood was aggravated by a dearth of croissants.

But then in medieval Avignon, after I made several snide remarks, we were reunited in a thunderstorm in a little park on the hill, watched by two sniggering goats.

Then everything fell apart again in Aix-en-Provence when I refused to pick a restaurant for dinner. What followed was a whole night of breaking up and crying (me) and me attacking everyone with a pair of nail scissors (me being the main victim).

The next morning when I insisted on being dropped off at the nearest train station, French kidnapped me and took me to Nice. And there everything changed because there we have the sea and you can swim and it's pumping-and-mad-and-hot-and you can eat big juicy capers and Socca.

That day was my birthday and it was all about me and champagne and beautiful parks on promontories. So things were in top shape.

And then there was yesterday: the seven hours slog in the car back to Paris with sporadic arguments and boredom and reminiscing about what a nice holiday it was, with everyone forgetting about those nail scissors and our lack of complicity.

Lethe-wards we sunk."