Browsing Posts published in 2011

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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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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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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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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Last week was all about luck and lately it seems that I’ve got more luck than I know what to do with. I saw a flyer up in town advertising something to do with apples so I made sure to jot down the details. Now I’m not overly concerned with pommes but I live with someone who is quite fruity. And since it’s in my own best interest to support Neil’s ongoing culinary efforts, we set off to the town’s exposition hall to take in what we thought would be an apple market. I was suppressing a large yawn as we opened the door but one look inside and I knew my sweet and considerate behaviour was being rewarded.

Not apples. A brocante! A giant market of furniture …

Continue reading “An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Happy” »

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Vacation? What Vacation?

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But let me tell you more about my ‘week off’. Apart from day and night editing of the blog to book, hereinafter called the blook, I received a publishing contract. Now I’m no JK Rowling or that guy who wrote The Da Vinci Code. There’s no super agent pacing my living room while screaming in her phone, “She doesn’t get out of bed for less than that.” On the one hand, an extra 15% in my pocket, on the other hand, I had to go it alone with contract negotiation.

I did a lot of research and then reached out to friends and an incredibly generous published author who read the whole contract, sent me very specific suggestions and voilà, a mutually satisfying deal was struck. I have signed with a smaller Canadian press who likes my blook just as it is. This is important because it is, as they say, ‘unusual’. Well, people say I’m ‘unusual’ so what else could be expected? Continue reading “Vacation? What Vacation?” »

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Oh it’s nice to have some time off every now and then isn’t it? But when you are an obsessive overachiever like me it makes total sense to spend every moment of your week off from writing doing nothing but writing. Oh I did take a break here and there to think about writing and to talk about writing. But I say it was all worth it and let me tell you why.

A while back I made a pretty bold claim, I said that I had written a book. Of course I had. Everyone who moves to France, Italy or Spain writes a book. They won’t even let you over the border until you agree to do so. I sent my collection of doodles around to various helpful souls and I got a lot of interesting responses. But there was one response that especially caught my eye. Continue reading “Attention K-Mart Shoppers” »

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Anyone who knows my mother-in-love (MIL) would agree that she’s a pretty cool customer. She’s warm and funny, supportive and wise and one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. She’s also a total babe and plays the double base in a jazz group but that’s beside the point. She’s been a psychologist, a music teacher, a museum docent and apparently now dabbles in some light trafficking.

Today I arrived home to find this in my mailbox: Continue reading “Food And Drug Administration” »

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Blogs For Dummies

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So yesterday I was whining to Duchess Downith that I had absolutely nothing to write about today. Rien, tapped out. In a manner entirely befitting her royal highness she reminded me of her post called It’s The Library Stupid. Then she told me to stop being such a baby and drag my bony yet somehow simultaneously flabby arse up to my local library. She used clever tactics like multiple exclamation points and ‘seriously’.

I told her that I already had plans to go to the gym but then she broke out the tough love. “Do both,” she said. “Choose life,” she said. That’s the trouble with the Duchess, she’s very convincing and always right. So after I hit the gym (where there was actually another woman (!), naturally the most beautiful and fit woman in all of France but still) I made my way in the pouring rain to la bibliothèque. Continue reading “Blogs For Dummies” »

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