Browsing Posts published in 2011

The R Word

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Brace yourself because I’m feeling slightly shrinky today. As you look at your calendar you might think you know what R word I’m talking about. Resolution. No, that’s not the one. See, I’m not a fan of the word Resolution. First of all, for some reason, it makes me think of Risotto which makes me think about thick cream and cheese and asparagus and lobster which inevitably leads to eating chocolate. So if I ever want to make a dent (no pun intended) into the state of my caboose, Resolution cannot be part of my day to day lexicon.

Second, Resolution, in my mind anyway, is inextricably linked with the F word: Failure. Over the last year I’ve made many a pledge and promise to myself. One by one they’ve all crumbled to dust, my best intentions piled precariously on a foundation of nonexistent willpower. Indeed weakness of will is my main weakness. But I do have an intermittent ability to learn from the past coupled with a tendency to laugh at myself. So I accept this about me. I choose to find it endearing and sweet. “Oh, just look at her in her sweatpants dipping nacho chips in Miracle Whip surrounded by unopened French texts. Isn’t she adorable?” Continue reading “The R Word” »

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Plop, Plop. Fizz, Fizz.

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Well, the holidays are almost over and as Downith says so far so fat. Oh my holy jaysus, how much food can two people consume in a few short days? I’ll tell you, too much. Last night I was up every two hours munching Tums in between vivid carbohydrate/fat-induced nightmares.

It all started innocently enough with some lovely tea from the coolest Tea Man in Strasbourg.

And from there things ramped up considerably. Continue reading “Plop, Plop. Fizz, Fizz.” »

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I may have mentioned this but I used to be a psychiatrist and as such Christmas was not often a blessed event. In fact I couldn’t wait for it to come and go. Boxing Day was the worst. The ER would be full of the tail end of drunken rages and crying jags. Masses of people who, 5 days before being descended upon by every relative they’ve ever known, decided to abruptly discontinue the chemicals that support sanity. One year I consoled a poor woman who had a black eye from being whacked in the face by her sister who apparently wields a mean drumstick.

But this year peace and goodwill toward women ruled my holiday in Strasbourg, the “Capital Of Christmas” and I’m telling you not even the dreary weather could dampen my spirits however the rain did limit the picture taking. But I think you’ll get the idea …

Continue reading “Christmas For Professionals” »

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Oh that Rusty. He’s a crafty one I’ll say that much for him. It turns out he’s been tucking away a few euros without my knowledge. Imagine the nerve of him keeping his hard earned money to himself. But all is forgiven. Just when I thought my Christmas would be back to back Elf screenings with buckets of chocolates and chardonnay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), my lovely husband decided he needed a mini vacation and he’s taking moi with him. Of course he is, he enjoys living.

Not long ago France added a new TGV route that rockets one from Dijon to Strasbourg in just under two hours. Then the train company threw in a few last minute hotel deals and voilà, a chance for us to hang at one of Europe’s most famous Christmas markets without me having to sell my body (for scrap parts). We’re off tomorrow morning to soak up the season the Strasbourg way. I assume that crowd knows what they are doing by now, the same market has been there since 1570. Continue reading “This Little Piggy Went To Market” »

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Okay, enough of hungry children. We’ve all agreed that it’s sad and important and we’ll do what we can. But today let me take you back to the wretched excess of this French life, specifically my appetite. I suspect for most people the holidays are a lot about food. For me it’s nothing but food. I don’t buy gifts any more nor do I expect any. So I don’t have to shop or wrap or find a parking space at the mall. I don’t even have to cook. But I do have to eat.

Semur is getting ready for Noël. The streets are starting to fill up with little wooden chalets that sell seasonal specialty goods, everything from handmade toys to hot, paper thin crepes smeared with globs of Nutella. Guess which one I’ll be hanging off twice a day? The smell alone is enough to do me in. There are concerts and chorales of course but most important there’s a contest. One that I’m convinced I must win. Continue reading “From One Extreme To Another” »

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Food For Thought

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The other day I came across this picture …

and I got to thinking. It’s a bit off this world of ours isn’t it? We have so much with our food and our water, our iPhones and our retirement funds. I always say that if the rich of the world put their minds and their wallets together things would be more balanced within the span of a day. But that’s not how it works. It’s easy to let Africa starve. It’s so far away and the scope of the problem is too large to even know where to begin.

But what about our own countries? Our cities, our towns, our neighbourhoods, the family two streets away? I’m not trying to get all maudlin and mighty here. I’m just going through what I go through every December. Sometimes I feel appalled and ashamed of the excess in which I live especially during the holidays. But I also feel incredibly grateful. Every time I turn on a tap clean water flows out and my cupboard is always full.

This morning I ate a pain au chocolat the size of my head. Often when I eat something ridiculously decadent I remember two small children, a boy about 8 and his sister, about 5. I can’t recall their names but if I close my eyes I can see their faces with perfect clarity. I remember their tatty clothes and dirty nails and greasy, matted hair. I remember how pale and thin they were. They had just been removed from their mother’s care by children’s services and were sitting in my office with a social worker. Continue reading “Food For Thought” »

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Watch Your Language

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I’m a genius. I’ve known this for some time but due to an overdeveloped sense of empathy for all the people way more stupider than me, I try not to talk about it too much. So it is indeed surprising that I’m not yet fluent in French. Maybe I’m subconsciously dialing my intelligence down a notch. I don’t want the locals to be intimidated by how fast a Canadian woman can master the bon usage of one of the most ridiculously complicated languages invented by man. I don’t mean ‘man’ as in human, I mean man as in male because there’s no way a woman came up with that mess. She wouldn’t have had time.

Anyway, now that my manuscript has finally been sent off it’s time for me to get back to the task of verbs and partitive articles. I know it’s time because people (Elodie) have been telling me that my French has relapsed and needs to go back to rehab. Everybody knows how much I love French. And everybody knows how it flows off my tongue with no effort at all. Now everybody knows that I’m a big fat liar. Continue reading “Watch Your Language” »

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Oh my. The arse hits just keep on coming. I’ve talked about the French health care system before but because I fell down the stairs and beat the merde out of myself I get to be a repetitive old bag if I feel like it. While I was icing and moaning, Neil called our doctor and explained what happened. I knew it wasn’t likely serious but because of my other spine issues she thought an X-ray was the safest way to go.

I went up to her office, she met me in the waiting room, passed me the order and sent me on my way, no charge. Then I drove up to the radiology clinic at the top of town. It’s right swanky, set in the middle of a field next to a big grocery store. It’s so different from any publicly funded clinic I’ve ever been to. The gals behind the desk are friendly, efficient and are even able to work and smile simultaneously. They don’t chat on their cell phones or stare into space or roll their eyes when you dare to ask for an appointment. They ask what time would be convenient for you to come for an X-Ray. They make jokes about how a black and blue arse is just the thing for the festive holiday season. Continue reading “Spills, Chills And Thrills” »

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From My Cold Dead Hands

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I knew all this yakking about my arse would come back to bite me, well, in the arse. It was a morning like any other at the housette except for one small detail. Slippers. I always wear these tatty black Fit Flop slippers because my feet are perpetually cold. Now that winter is setting in my feet are like two giant blocks of ice so I wear thick wool socks as well. Anyway, for whatever reason, I descended the wooden stairs sans slippers and about halfway down wool on slippery wood and gravity took the upper hand.

Before I knew what was happening I was sailing through the air. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I’m a tall woman and it’s a long way down from anywhere I happen to be standing. Even with that kind of time lag I didn’t manage to make one compensatory movement. The middle of my bony back took the first hit followed by my much talked about behind. Then I just kept on going, banging and bouncing off every single tread. I’m expecting a call from the French Olympic Luge Team any minute. Continue reading “From My Cold Dead Hands” »

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The Big Picture

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Last week I was all up in arms over my private parts being available at the nearest Chapters next year. I read all your brilliant comments again and I felt better. Of course the ten kilo bag of guacamole flavoured corn chips along with a family sized box of Christmas chocolates didn’t hurt.

But here’s the thing. It just doesn’t matter. Even if everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life thinks I’m a blithering idiot, in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Really, anyone who thinks me a fool can bite me. I’m having the time of my life over here doing what I’m doing. Sure, the pay stinks but again, it doesn’t matter.

I’ve decided that pretty much everything in this life is of relatively little consequence. Even all the stuff we think is so essential, none of it matters. We live, we die, the planet keeps spinning. I’m not suggesting that life is a pointless endeavour. But worrying about anything definitely is. So a few people will have too much information about the state of my arse. Who cares? Five minutes later they’ll be thinking about someone else’s arse.

Worry is always such wasted energy. I’m still learning that. Most days I’ve got it licked but every now and then it gets the better of me. I guess I spent so much time banishing guilt that I fell behind on the worry front. But I’ll get there. This blook business will be a good way to practice.

I recall, years ago, having a long conversation with a woman outside an Intensive Care Unit where her husband was clinging to life. She was so unaffected by it all. Maybe he was a right bastard and she was already spending her insurance money but I don’t think so. She just knew that there was nothing she could do about it. If he died she’d face it. What choice did she have? What choice do any of us have?

So there it is. Guilt-free and now worry-free as well. What in god’s name will I do with all my spare time?

 

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Indecent Exposure

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Yesterday a woman in Paris called to grant me permission to use photos of her exquisite mansion in my blook. Of course I didn’t actually speak to her. Neil did as he continues to be my conversational surrogate. Poor man. She expressed her delight to be included and professed her admiration for the quality of the pictures. And she promised to have us over when she returns to Semur. I can’t believe that I’m going to get inside that palace she calls her second home.

My point is that I am down to two outstanding photo permissions which means the blook is almost done. When I say done I mean ready for an actual professional editor to help transform it into something safe for public consumption. Which brings me to my other point, the word public. Okay, I know I have this blog that anyone in the world can see but we’re all friends here. A small group of lovely folks who share the comfort provided by the relative anonymity of cyberspace. Continue reading “Indecent Exposure” »

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A Fine Vintage

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Last weekend, for three nights in a row I was simultaneously fully dressed in real clothing (pants without an elastic waistband), nowhere near a computer and outside the confines of the housette, likely a new French record for me. My bon weekend wasn’t all about art and books but it was all about fine living. Sunday night we made the long trek across the street to chez Jean-Claude for an apéritif.

I’m telling you the people we meet here are endlessly fascinating. We sat in a large room connected to his office and I struggle with how to describe it. Let’s just call it a collector’s paradise. Pistols by the dozen, antique rifles from Afghanistan and Switzerland. Ancient knives, daggers and swords. Animal skins, fossilized shark teeth, giant African masks and statues carved by hand from huge trunks of ebony wood. Asian chests and armoires, jade figurines and antique pocket watches. Continue reading “A Fine Vintage” »

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The Art Of Living

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Even after all this time, after all the croissants and creative inspiration found here, after all that France has given me, there remains room for doubt. I’d say once a week I experience a cascade of misgivings about what the hell I’m doing cloistered in a medieval French town. It’s so tranquil and tucked away from it all which is part of the point of living here. But sometimes I wonder how long I can sustain an isolated existence. Perhaps peace and I are not meant to be in a long term relationship and are better suited for a one-year stand.

But the minute I start thinking this way the universe screams out my name. Last week I received a hand delivered invitation to a book launch. Then as I was seeking permission to use photos of a gallery for my blook, the owner invited us to another book launch. And despite being up to my eyeballs in editing I decided to shed the sweatpants and hit the local literary scene. Continue reading “The Art Of Living” »

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So I figure since I have a book coming out, this doodle writing now moves from hobby to ‘work’. So far it’s the best job I’ve ever had. Pajamas and bedhead, cocktails and copious amounts of chocolate, all ‘necessary’ for the creative process. Having a completely hysterical meltdown when you lose your entire manuscript within the bowels of your computer is appropriate and expected behaviour. And the promise of a miniscule and far-off income affords me the right to demand fair labour conditions. Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one with a toilet brush in my hand this week.

But the downside is that it’s a solitary endeavour. My last career was all about teamwork and not a day goes by when I don’t miss all the amazing professionals I worked with. Everyday I learned some thing valuable from every one of them (4 South and Crisis teams, I’m looking at you). But this week I’m thinking about three gals who made my days in the trenches worthwhile. Gals who have big brains and big hearts to match. Gals who save lives every day, world experts in their fields of study. They are respected, admired and win awards for their work. And they have kick ass clothes. Continue reading “To All The Shrinks I’ve Loved Before” »

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Ready Or Not

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Oh the horror or as they say here quelle horreur! ‘They say’ indeed, I can’t say horreur without bringing up a furball. The point is Neil had the winter tires put on the blue bubble car today. Oh very sad this. It’s coming. Just as it does every year. My denial is still strong, it’s 15 degrees and sunny making snow and ice seem a long way off. But last winter we were caught off guard, shameful for seasoned Canadians but I see putting the tires on early as insurance. The more extensive my preparations, the more likely it is that not a single snowflake will fall.

Also shameful for a shrinky gal like me is that I’m not mentally prepared. I was going through some photos this morning and I found that I’m already missing green leafy things and clay flower pots full of brightly coloured posies. I’m never satisfied. As soon as the splendour of autumn fades I want to see cherry blossoms. I came across these springtime shots I took in the village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain (say that fast three times), a small town not far from where I live.

Continue reading “Ready Or Not” »

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