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July 24, 2006

Finding time to breathe

I've been a bit quiet on the blog front lately, hopefully I'll get back on track again soon. I've mainly been busy with work and moving apartment, and posting inconsequential ramblings on the web tends to drop down in your priorities...

The apartment move went well, although was typically exhausting. How come every time I move, it's always in the middle of a heat wave. Today someone complemented me on losing some weight - it looks like total dehydration & exhaustion is a fantastic dieting technique! Moving the stuff out of the apartment didn't go too badly, with the exception of chatting to one of my neighbours who decides now's the time to tell me about his 65m2 one bedroom apartment in the same building for only 600 euros/month!!! Unbelievable - cheaper than the broom closet I'm moving to and three times the size! I can only face moving once a year now though, so I'll have to pass that one up. If you're interested, then go to the laundrette on 38 rue d'Enghien and phone the number that's on the wall there. He says he'll have the flat refurbished by September...

Anyway, so now I'm a resident of the troisième. I have to admit already feeling a bit out of place by being straight, but I should be used to that by now. I seem to be blending in by accident though, as all my cheapy tshirts from H&M seem to have shrunk alarmingly. The next steps are to find the local supermarket and best takeaways etc. There are plenty of takeaways, but finding a decent one might be hard - it's unfortunate truth that there's an inverse correlation between numbers of tourists and food quality :-(

The other downside is I'm also back to going to the laundrette. The washing machine just wouldn't fit in the lift (maximum of three very friendly people can get in the lift), so I gave it away to a friend. The other option was to carry it up five flights of narrow stairs, which was just not an option. At that stage we were all gasping our last - rue st Martin has parking spaces, but you're lucky to catch a car leaving as you arrive, and here we were with a great big van. So, it was hazard lights on, pile everything on the pavement (occasionally having to head off to do a quick circle around the streets when traffic built up behind you), and then lose the van somewhere else. Hopefully nothing disappeared from the pavement, but apparently everyone seemed very interested in my stuff as they walked past. It's a fact of life here (probably like everywhere else) in that leave something out on the street and it'll be gone half an hour later. One man's rubbish is another man's something or other...

Anyway, all over now. Feels strange knowing that I'll almost never step foot in the tenth again (apart from Gare du Nord for Eurostar I guess). Paris has just shrunk to single digit arrondissements for me...

July 17, 2006

I wouldn't survive Borneo

There's a nice box of cold beers in my fridge - almost empty since it's almost a day old now. I was trying to get a beer out from the back of the box, but couldn't get it out through the hole.

After struggling several times I was suddenly reminded of the fact that Borneo hunters trap monkeys by putting food in a box with a hole smaller than the food, and the monkeys get caught because they refuse to let go of the food.


July 17, 2006

All About Beauborg

For some reason most of this weekend was spent around the Pompidou center. No reason why, but it just somehow we ended up either passing through, hanging around and finally going in to see some art!

The first thing to notice is the big yellow scrawling all over the main square outside the center.


I've turned the picture upside down, which gives it a bit of a vertigo effect, but it's just so you can read the words. The Beauborg area is to become the first in Paris with public wifi. There's been a few experiments before, for instance where they turned an entire bus route into a wifi area, but I think this is the first 'official' area. There was an announcement that all of Paris is to be wifi, but I don't think this has anything to do with that. To be honest I'd be amazed if it actually happened and was *good* quality. There is usually a lot of behind the scenes business stuff going on - did you know that the whole of Paris is served by only *one* cable company? All the regions of France were dished out to different companies, so no local competition. The company for Paris is called Noos, which seems to be missing an 'e' to me...

Anyway, we went inside and half the modern art museum seems to have disappeared - all the 1905-1950 stuff, which was a real disapointment. It looks like they're refurbishing, but there weren't any signs that told you what was going on.
The moving image exhibition that's going on right now is cool though. It's a chronological history of how film has moved into the gallery's, and went from initially merely recording performance art to become an art form in itself. It's worth seeing.

And in art imitating life imitating art, here's my contribution;


C minus, 'could do better'...

Finally we ended up just sitting around outside. Too hot to do anything other than go back and forth to the corner shop to get cans of beer. We decided one can at a time was the only way of having *cold* beer. There was the usual hopeless musicians and street artists littering the place, but there was also this couple playing aboriginal instruments;


The girl playing the didgeridoo was amazing. It wasn't just the usual reverberating up and down sound you normally hear, but all sorts of pops and whistles going on at the same time. At first we thought it must be someone else playing at the same time, but gradually we realised she was making all the different sounds with just the one instrument.

Click on this link to stream a recording I made (again with my lame phone).

The higher pitched flute sounds are the guy playing (he was pretty good too I guess), but listen to the digeridoo - you can hear the low wahwah sounds (bit quiet at first), but also some plop sounds - they're not percussion instruments but are coming from the didgeridoo. The recording doesn't give them much credit, but if you see them stop and listen (and give them some money! - they didn't seem inclined to go round collecting money, and just left their hat on the ground...).

July 7, 2006

Extreme mountain biking in Paris

I've just cycled back from playing tennis in the west of the city near Porte Dauphine. Well, sort of playing tennis since about three games into it the heavens opened and we had to abandon everything! A few lightning strikes and rolls of thunder made it pretty obvious that it was all over - a long way to cycle for just 10 minutes play!

(mini digression - the other night there was a massive thunderclap at about four in the morning - it was so loud that my first thought was that it was a bomb going off (not that I've heard a bomb go off actually). Nobody else seemed to have heard it, which amazes me since it was sooo loud. I guess that's what happens when you live in the 10th and everyone else is in the 4th...). However, I checked someone into an apartment today, and they'd just come from Montmartre (a bit odd - they were doing a tour of the quartiers of Paris (next stop St Germain) - not a bad idea, but a bit too much moving for me) - and they'd heard it as well. So, north of the city was the only place blown up by lightning then - end of digression).

The route to the tennis courts took me through the Place de l'Etoile (where the Arc de Triomphe is), and I really wasn't looking forward to cycling around it - fortunately there's a little mini-road going around it, and it totally avoids the hideous roundabout (in case you don't know, it's a five lane roundabout with no lane markings, and cars driving onto the roundabout have right of way!). I proudly announced this to my tennis partner, Alex, and he said 'Oh yes, you mean Chicken Alley'. Hmph. At least I'm a living chicken.

The hardest thing about those roads though, is that they're all cobbled. Not an inch of tarmac in sight, unless you count the patches of road repairs looking like oversized chewing gum blotches everywhere. The cobbles are not only bumpy, but in many places completely pot-holed. I used to cycle a lot in the Peak District in the UK, and would happily bounce around steep stony paths. The cobbled roads however had the added danger of taxis and buses - not something you meet on the average off road path (apart from around Manchester).

The worst was coming back - just as you approach Gare St Lazarre the road goes completely to pieces. The rain had filled every single pot-hole going, and I had to bounce through the whole lot standing on the pedals hoping that the bike wouldn't slip out from under me, throwing me into the path of the number 26 bus thundering down right behind.

It was a lot of fun. Next time I'm going to try it while listening to my voicemail on my mobile...

July 6, 2006

France through to the finals

France are through!

Not that I'm biased of course, but I'm so glad that those diving, cheating b**ds Portugal aren't in the final! Rather ironically Ronaldo is claiming that the referee was biased against Portugal, apparently because they're a small country! Such a hard life, try playing with an Argentine referee... Actually the bitterness has passed a bit, and I'm facing up to the fact that we (England) just weren't good enough really. Sven has a lot to answer for though, and I doubt he's looking forward to returning to England. Nor for that matter should Ronaldo - he'll probably get a right kicking when he gets back to Manchester...

The other ironic news was the Portugal coach Scolari blaming their loss on the fact that Portugal can't score goals. Guess the tactic of rolling around on the ground and holding out for penalties just wasn't quite enough for world class football, was it.

Anyway, watching the match was fantastic - we were in O'Corcorans again, or should I say outside - there's a tv set that faces onto the street, and with the warm weather we're having everyone stood outside to watch it - good job it's on one of the really wide boulevards - there was a huge crowd.

I've put some pictures below, although the whole lot can be found here on my photo album.

The celebration after the match was amazing! We had thought we were in one of the most crowded pubs on the street, but the moment the game was over, the whole boulevard erupted with people!

Here's some of the ways the french celebrate ;-)

Waving arms:

Holding flags:

Holding shirts:

Flares (not fires - just looks that way!)

Holding on to the front of cars:

and finally, burning all the rubber off your tyres!