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February 28, 2007

Return of the fuites

Last year I wrote about the pesky fuites, and it seems that that time has rolled around again. This time however, it was my own modest little dwelling.

The resident of the flat below came up to say that her bathroom was awash with my shower water, and once she had let me get dressed I popped down and indeed it was. Fairly badly too. I went back to my apartment and looked under the bath, and it was damp but not really waterlogged, so I wasn't totally sure it was me, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been.

Then started the back and forth of wills to see who would actually make any effort to sort out the problem - the lady from downstairs didn't normally live there, and so she didn't really have to do anything, but I wasn't keen on arranging for the plumber myself as if it didn't turn out to be me, I'd still be landed with the 50€ call out fee. I called the owner of the flat below and she stood fast and refused to call a plumber, and unfortunately I don't have the inexhaustible stubborness of the french, and gave in.

I asked the nice guys at the deli downstairs if they knew a plumber (I must blog about them one day actually - they're fantastic, and do a kind of portugese/italian fusion of food), but they didn't. Then I tried my landlord, who lived in the flat opposite mine, and he took everything in hand and sorted it all out (I bet you can't say that about many landlords! He even speaks french to me slowly!).

It turned out the way to handle it is to call the building's syndic (a building management group). They get out their plumber who decides where the water is coming from, and after that all the insurance gets sorted out.

The guys came round and re-did the bath sealant and then left. Without asking for money. I'm sure a bill of some kind is going to pop up, but at the moment I'm a bit bemused what has happened. I still think the problem hasn't gone away really, but when in France it's best to do the French thing, and just ignore anything else that happens - the plumber came, sealed and so whatever happens from now on c'est pas mon faut...

February 27, 2007

Confit de Canard

confit.jpgOne of my favourite meals in France is confit de canard. Coming from a gourmet challenged country I didn't actually know what this was before arriving here, but I rapidly learnt as french menus usually only consist of steak & chips, salads, magret de canard, and confit de canard - bad news for ducks obviously, but at least the chickens get a break for a change...

So, after admitting my ignorance, for those that don't know what confit de canard is, it's duck that's really slowly roasted, and then stored in it's own fat which preserves it. Usually it comes in jars or tins. All you have to do is stick it in the oven for 20 minutes, and voila, perfect meal. For some reason the french love to serve it with fried garlicy potato slices, which makes it a rather fatty meal, but it's one of the best, honestly.

Anyway, the picture you see here is how confit is sold in my local supermarket. No frills, just a bag of duck in solidified fat. All for 3 euros! I looked on the internet to find out how long I should reheat it, and some chef was spouting on about the joys of cooking duck, and said that the easiest way was to buy confit IF YOU COULD AFFORD IT! Oh, you poor people out there in the civilised world, so it looks like you're not only missing cheap wine (cheap enough to use as mouthwash), but also cheap duck!

There is a downside though, my apartment now smells strongly of duck fat, and all my cutlery is also now covered with a thin layer of duck fat which seems to take multpile washes. Also I'm now showing a good layer of duck fat too, which would be useful if I intended to bob around on ponds, but not so hot in super skinny Paris....

February 5, 2007

Tea break

I don't know if this is surprising news to anyone, but in other countries the keys on your keyboard aren't necessarily in the same place as back home.

It was certainly a surprise to me when I got here - I'd just arrived and had several job interviews with the majority in French. Looking back I realise how insane that was, since even now I'd find it tough to sound comprehensible at an interview. At one company they sat me down in a dungeon of a room with just a PC, and told me I had twenty minutes to answer the question.

I scrolled down the list of questions and was pleased to find I understood all of them - both the french and the questions themselves. However, getting the answers out was a near impossible task - I bludgeoned together vague french phrases, and slipped in a few anglaisms where I completely failed to come up with a french word.

However, what really slowed me down was the french keyboard. Most of it is the same, in fact a cursory glance and you won't spot the differences. The differences are all around the edge - the M has risen a level, the A and Q are swapped, and the Z and W also - this actually gives your keyboard a french accent believe it or not, since everytime you write we, it comes out ze, which is funny for all of a minute.

So things went terribly slowly, and it got even worse when I had to write some programming code, since the brackets and other arcane symbols us programmers use are all in total disarray. They came back into the interview room, and I'd managed only a handful of the questions. The phrase 'I'll get my coat' came into my mind...

Why am I going on about this? Unfortunately it's just a precursor to something so banal that now I'm regretting even having started on this.

Type gmail into google, but forget you're on a french computer, and it comes out gmqil. Try it and see what google thinks you should be spelling. I laughed, but I'm a nerd and allowed to...

Just to wrap up, it actually only took a day or so for your fingers to get used to the different keyboard layout. Surprising when you think that your fingers are all trained to press in the right place without looking at the keyboard much, and that they can change their training so easily. Now that I'm fluent on a french keyboard, I prefer it to an english one, if only for the reason I no longer have to press shift to get "