Friday, December 31, 2010

It's hard to wait around for something you know might never happen;

 ... but it's even harder to give up when you know it's every thing you want!!!
(starring Pomo, street dog who followed us all the way up to 3,500m altitude. She was that HUNGRY!!)

I've been home for 2 weeks now - just in time for Santa to come and go.
I shouldn't tell you that, should I, seeing I have been so remiss in keeping in touch :(
I have soooo missed you. REALLY I HAVE.
I wanted to write while I was in India (sigh)
But it just seemed a bit too complicated 
sorta like "getting my ambitions mixed up with my (internet) capabilities..."

Although "getting your ambitions mixed up with your capabilities" 
is a predominant affliction in India and one I might try to cultivate carefully afterall!

I  suitably admonished myself for my lack of will power but promised myself I would make it up to you all while in Australia picking up the Messies and visiting M'ma for 4 days...

Of course, that was rather naïve on my part...

...Paying your mother a 4 day visit when you haven't seen her for 2.5 years comes with an implicit warning... something vaguely to do with not holing yourself up in an office if you want to get your Messmonsters back ... So what could I do but hit the waves in front of the Mooloolaba surf club with my M'ma and chicks in tow.?

"What about blogging in New Zealand then?" I hear you ask.

Erm, let's just say I'm currently writing the guide on how to see 20,000 cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmothers and fabulous friends in 10 different towns over 4,000km, while getting the Messmonsters to relive every possible experience I could've had before I was 11. They have come back to France proficient in Kiwi English, Aussie English and knowing what Maori airconditioning is!! We saw seals, kiwis and glow worms, smoked salmon, caught eels and trout, swam in rivers, climbed glaciers and learnt that 'If it weren't for your gumboots, where would you be?'
(Libellule would be barefoot, as usual!)
YET still NO time to blog!! 

Since I've been home the Mac has watched me forlornly from the corner while I put up the Christmas decorations, cleaned the house, shopped for Yummy Christmas dishes and swept the chimney in time for the ritual descent of the lovely man in the red suit and big black boots. 
So seeing I didn't make it in time to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and while there's a lull in the New Year's preparations, and a brief pause in the newly resumed homeschooling, I've hijacked the computer, hell bent on sending you all a humungous cyber hug complete with an explosion of colour from India...

 ... and wishing you all


May 2011 sparkle and shine brighter than bling for you.

And most of all may you all find the courage to never give up
when you know it's everything you want!!

Looking forward to catching up with you all properly next year!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The world is all gates, all opportunities...

... strings of tension waiting to be struck.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prayer beads in hand, photograph Sam Webb 2010

I too have prayer beads in hand.
They have been very useful 
ever since I realised last night 
that I'd COMPLETELY forgotten 
Which gave rise to a lovely discussion between three girlfriends 
about all the horrible diseases I was likely to catch while I away...
If I wasn't vaccinated
... did I mention my car's broken down
and has been for two weeks?
Oh well
Lucky I have a bike
and strong shoulders

Anyway, I don't need a car to announce the winners of the giveaway.
Thanks to the horsey, arty, muddy fingers of my 3 messmonsters
We drew 3 lucky numbers!
Once I had wiped the smudges off the paper
these are the names I found:

Julie, from Being Ruby
(A chic chick whom many of you know already, and if you don't you should)

Helen Lewis, from Illuminating Words
(who popped by for the first time to join the game - and won!)
Caterina at La Dolce Vita
(Whose fabulous talent I very much admire)

I do wish I could send something to all of you.
Maybe I will when I get back from India
Create a giveaway where everybody wins 
a trinket, a colour, a thought, a word
Just for fun!!

In the mean time I'd better get to bed with those prayer beads
Or more than one messmonster is likely to strike my own chords of tension
tomorrow morning ;-)
Bonne nuit and love to you all

PS - don't forget to email me your addresses tomorrow girls!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Every journey conceals another journey within its lines...

"... the path not taken and the forgotten angle. These are the journeys I wish to record. Not the ones I made, but the ones I might have made, or perhaps did make in some other place or time. I could tell you the truth as you will find it in diaries and maps and log books. I could faithfully describe all that I saw and heard and give you a travel book.  You could follow it then, tracing those travels with your finger, putting red flags where I went. "

Jeanette Winterson
Sexing the Cherry

 This is the feeling I get when I sift through the dusty old objects in the many vide-greniers and brocantes that are held every weekend for most of the year around France. Fragments of memories decorate the stalls, calling out to the passers by as if searching for their lost home. Each object has a past life. Was one of them mine? Are these lives still carrying gaily on their merry way in some parallel universe? If so, how did these random pieces slip through the cracks into our own realm? Maybe they passed through the twilight zone with the adventurous sock that always leaves an orphan in the laundry basket.  For all the socks that have disappeared from my laundry through the washing machine, not one 18th century stocking has taken its place so far. I'm still waiting though ;-) I guess some things will just forever remain a mystery.

These little goodies are only some of the items I'll be sharing between the 3 winners of my giveaway, which will  be announced Wednesday. Other strays are sure to meander their way into the pile as I'm still ruthlessly decluttering tidying up a little before I leave for my India/Australia trip this Friday. 
It's not too late to enter. 
All you have to do is leave a comment HERE (on yesterday's post) and if you want a second chance to win, 'Spread the Word' by putting the giveaway on your sidebar. Don't forget to come back and let me know.

I still have to add a sliver of calligraphy to each package, for I couldn't have a giveaway without a word or two of my own hand.

This was just a sneak peek at some of what will be in the wee packages...

And of the journey? 
I humbly travel to Dharamshala next week with no expectations. 
In spite of my big plans. 
This is uncharted territory for me.

I take nothing but an open mind for a compass 
and a  blank page for a map. 
This is how I most love to travel.

There will be artists, women's refugee groups, Tibetan calligraphy and pigments in colours so vibrant they leave me breathless... but in what way we will link up I can't even begin to imagine.  I dare hope I'll find some pieces of wood discarded in a corner somewhere, relics of other lives, that require little more than a tender brush stroke and a word of encouragement to draw out their wings so they can fly out to the four corners of the Earth.
Your kind words of support so far really warm my soul. I'm shy. I'm nervous. I'm afraid I'll come back to you "empty handed." I know it won't 'happen' overnight, or even during this first three weeks in India ('You mean there's more planned?' laments Beaker from his position at the helm of the finances??) 

I may have nothing more than my tales of friendship and discovery with which to regale you on my return in December.

A thousand thank you's in advance though for making this journey with me.
If I'm lucky, I'll have some regular internet access so you and I 
can put those little red flags on that page 
and mark our map together.  

Cross fingers :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spread the Word!! Giveaway!!

"Naked I came into the world, but brush strokes cover me, language raises me, music rhythms me. Art is my rod and staff, my resting place and shield, and not mine only, for art leaves nobody out. Even those from whom art has been stolen away by tyranny, by poverty, begin to make it again. If the arts did not exist, at every moment, someone would begin to create them, in song, out of dust and mud, and although the artifacts might be destroyed, the energy that creates them is not destroyed."
- Jeanette Winterson Art Objects

found again at Whiskey River but read, 
and re-read here at La Rivière

Been reading alot of Jeanette Winterson lately. So mesmerised have I become by her eloquent story telling that I race to bed every evening just to be rocked to sleep on a tide of words as wave after wave of emotion washes through me.   

On Friday, in the wee hours of the morning, my Messies and I will take to the skies on an A380 (which, incidentally are made just down the road from us so it will be soooo amazing to be in one instead of watching it circle gracefully from underneath) from France to Australia. With Beaker here to hold the fort and feed the raging beast faithful hound, and my dearest Mama in Australia to look after the grandchildren she hasn't seen for a few years, I can safely embark from there on my humble journey to Dharamsala.

If you have missed the reason for my trip you can read about it here. Wish me luck friends. This is the adventure that is my life and I know not where it may lead!

In the mean time, as many of you will have read, I've been sorting through lots of chippy crap (to coin the phrase most often used by dearest US  bestie) as I gaily set up the new studio in preparation for my return and the multiple surges of inspiration I'm sure to have after 2months away from my nest. Fingers crossed. Toes crossed!

This means I have accumulated a little trove of French vintage treasures that are just 'trop' (too much) for me to tidy away. So I thought, "Why don't I just share them with my wonderful friends out there in Blogtopia?!!!" With that I have devised and can now officially announce the 

(And thanks for helping me reduce the chippy crap collection)

Unfortunately, I managed to have a camera failure today so we will have to wait for tomorrow for the 'official' photos.

What will be included in the package?

Ahhh - you'll have to wait till tomorrow for the photos ;-)
All I can tell you is that it won't be these little piano parts off an early 1800's piano 
as I haven't made them into anything yet ;-)
It will consist of pretty bits and pieces.
Definitely vintage
Definitely French
 oh and...

all packaged up in special packages
with more handwritten words
of friendship and good will
from moi

There will be three winners.

You don't have to be a follower.
Anyone can enter by leaving a comment on this post.
Even if you don't have a blog.
But I'd love it if you would 
by putting me up in the sidebar of your blog
(for which you get an extra entry)

As that is to be the new name for my ethical art project

See you tomorrow with more...

Oops! Forgot to say that the 3 winners will be announced
on Wednesday October 13th
at midnight Toulouse time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Il est Interdit d'Interdire! The jury's still out on this one...

Whoever made that up didn't have real kids!

Messmonster:|mesmonster  ˈmesmänstər |noun [usu. in sing. ]:

* Accomplished perpetrator of immediate and apparently permanent chaos disguised in a miniature human body. Thrives on a mixture of bribery, threats, stolen jelly beans and what appears to be NO sleep. Characterised by its uncompromising strength and determination in the face of authority. Known to harbour a blatant disregard for homeschooling mothers that is cleverly dissimulated under a joyous, devil-may-care attitude. Allergic to all forms of housework and cleanliness.

Homeschooling Mother / Artiste: |ärˈtēst|noun]:

* A professional entertainer seemingly normal female adult, with l'extraordinaire capacity to understand and teach foreign languages or complicated math problems that she can't recall ever understanding at school. Thrives on champagne, the faint prospect of sleep, and bribing messmonsters with jelly beans. Allergic to housework but paradoxically addicted to cleanliness. Slightly masochistic tendency to create more housework and less cleanliness through keeping 3 messmonsters at home during a normal school year. Dreams frequently of calligraphy and paints...

Problem n°1 (Maths, Art & English all rolled into one):

If a bottle of pink champagne = 75cl,  how many glasses can Mummy have to steady her nerves while cooking dinner before emptying the bottle? 5 points

Describe the champagne's exact shade and tone of pink: 2 points

Spot the French word in the sentences above and explain the difference between Champagne and Méthode Champenoise: 3 points 

No really, I'm just joshin' ya!

I'm R.E.A.L.L.Y enjoying the challenges and rewards of homeschooling the possums, especially now that, since I've finally started transferring truckloads boxes of paints, inks and papers across to the studio once lessons are finished, I've almost been reunited with my bedroom floor. 
Still sort of tracing a path through a minefield of soon-to-be-moved books and bits just to reach my bed. You can all see a glimpse of carpet there though, can't you? It wasn't there last week!! I'm making slow progress I assure you :)

Been saving the drawers below, that I found in a vide grenier just 2km down the road, for the day I would have my very own atelier.

Loved this chippy old home-made block of drawers that I found in a mechanic's garage in the Ariège region at the foot of the Pyrenées.

All this organising has allowed me to re-acquaint myself with lots of long forgotten vintage treasures off which some will be going into the giveaway that I'll be announcing officially this weekend. Still got a bit more putting awayering to go before I can actually work in here, but it's getting there!

Pop by over the weekend for a 'full of gratitude' giveaway
The one I've been promising for months now.
French vintage. Paper. A touch of calligraphy.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Just another drop in the Ocean?

If each drop of water were to say: 
one drop does not make an ocean, 
there would be no sea.

If each note of music were to say: 
one note does not make a symphony, 
there would be no melody

If each word were to say: 
one word does not make a library, 
there would be no book

If each brick were to say: 
one brick does not make a wall, 
there would be no house

If each seed were to say: 
one seed does not make a field, 
there would be no harvest

Zambian saying found here, at one of the most harmonious places on Earth...

Thought you'd like this as much as I do 
Fitting for a 40 year old state of mind :-)

I wanted to add lots of photos... but my attempts have been thwarted twice.
So I hope you'll just enjoy this one, 
taken from a wee boat off L'Ile Rousse in Corsica 

May your oceans be full 
Your symphony be melodious
Your library be verbose
Your crops be plentiful

Laura, thank you so much for your amazing post 
about my fair trade project over at Kim Klassen's 
'The Inspiration Studio'
I am very honoured
and truly blessed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I dare you, whoever you are...

... I dare you to share with others the fruits of your daring. Catch a passion for helping others and a richer life will come back to you.

William H Danforth

Thanks to my darling friend Kimberly's very kind, and VERY SURPRISE birthday post, you are all aware by now that I've just hit the big FOUR O! I have to admit, I kinda like it! In fact I love it. I wouldn't be 20 again for anything. It's got something to do more with growing up than growing old. It's all about embodying who you are. 

Stand back! I can feel a Helen Reddy song coming on.  "I am Woman hear me roar ..." (sighs of relief that there is no sound embedded in this post) 

Yup, now my opinions finally have some weight behind them, although we won't go into exactly how much weight of course, and even my MiL listens to me from time to time. At last! It's not unpleasant to be taken seriously, at least some of the time!!

Oh dear, those nine days in Wales, coupled with all the culinary, logistical and decorative preparations for the birthday bash of the year, not to mention the start of the homeschooling Mum role, have obviously had a profound effect on me. But I digress.

Now where was I? That's right! We were being strong,  and daring... That's what you do when you're 40 n'est ce pas?! The wee book shown above was one my dear dad gave me when I was a rather less daring 11 year old and we had just moved to Australia from New Zealand. I've written a little more about it for Gigi's "Legacy" series. If you don't know Gigi already, I suggest you pop over and visit here for she is one of the most sensitive, delicate, articulate poets/writers of our time and I feel very privileged to be included as one of her guests. 

Summer is gradually winding down here at La Rivière. A more reasonable schedule is finally settling in: my new studio is practically finished (if you don't count the calligraphy paraphernalia littering my bedroom floor that hasn't been sorted into shelves out there yet), the messmonsters are feeling ripped off that homeschooling still means reading, writing and doing a bit of maths while we're at it getting used to their homeschooling routine, and I am looking forward to spending a few evenings whiling away the hours visiting you with a glass of wine and a friendly comment instead of painting ceilings, laying concrete, limewashing walls and cooking party tucker. I feel a bit like Dorothy after the Tornado and all that excitement in Oz ... I shall now click my ruby slippers and say, "There's no place like home Bloglandia" 

I definitely have so much to share with you all. In particular, I feel touched to the point of tears for all your kind words and birthday wishes. I've been thoroughly spoilt! Merci. Merci. Merci. :)

So this Thursday night, I shall snuggle down, fluffy slippers on tootsies and glass of wine in hand to spin you a yarn. One I've been promising to tell for a while now. A story of Paris, Bereavement, Fear, Wales, Daring, Strength and Joy. I'm also a wee bit excited to announce that I'm soon going to be interviewed by Laura from the very chic blog 52 Flea for one of her upcoming contributions to Kim Klassen's 'The Inspiration Studio.' But you'll hear about that in due time.

I think I started this post off with a dare. I still dare you. But it's now 23.30am and I'm using my new found woman's wisdom to suggest that a richer life is much more easily accessible to those who get a minimum amount of sleep.  Promptly, on that note, I shall now bid you 

Bonne nuit 

PS - I haven't forgotten my giveaway idea from a month or so back to celebrate my 200th follower and now I can join that to one WHOLE year of blogging and a whopping great birthday celebration!! Some fine French vintage ware is in preparation for a post next week. Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy Birthday to you~

Hello there!

My name is Kimberly today I am visiting from across the sea, OVER HERE.  I am so excited to be here, although, truly, I would rather *really* be there, with Ange and her beautiful family (which, as some of you may know, have been my second family for some time now...).

smiling while cutting herbs...

So, as you know, Ange is away this week, and I am quite certain that you have been missing her because, to be honest, she hasn't been posting as much as all of us would like lately.  She has been so incredibly busy - what with summer holidays, and putting in her fabulous new atelier (studio) where she will be creating more of her absolutely stunning work.  (I have seen it first hand and trust me - divine.)

laughing while removing confit~

Now, what some of you may not know is that today is actually Ange's BIRTHDAY!!!  Yes indeed, today, right now, Ange is celebrating a milestone.  I won't say which milestone - I will let her share that with you herself, but let's just say that I will be celebrating that same milestone in November...

she dances while cooking...

So today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite photos of Ange from when we spent a week together this past April.  You can read about the first day of that trip HERE.  That very first day really solidified our friendship and showed me how incredibly blessed I was to have met her, and in turn, her family.  The second post is HERE - more to come, I promise!

laughing hysterically - maybe next time we will leave a bit more room to get out when we park....

One thing about Ange that you should know is that she is nearly ALWAYS smiling or laughing.  Really, she is quite honestly one of the happiest people I know!  I don't know if I have laughed as much in one week as I did with her, ever.  She has a wicked sense of humor, she laughs easily at herself, and she sings and dances all. of. the. time!  Being with Ange (and her family) is like a constant state of celebration.  It is what I wanted most to bring back home with me when I left.  (okay, that and her entire family, and her linen collection, and have I mentioned French Husband?!?)

always gorgeous~

As you can see, I miss her terribly, I wish every single day that she was closer, and I am already looking forward to my trip back next summer.   Ange - I wish you a marvelous birthday today (yes, I know you are already half-way through it as I am just beginning), and that the year ahead is an absolutely magical one.  I love you with all of my heart my friend, and I can't wait to see you again~


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Patience ...

is a virtue.

Now who was the wise saint that came up with that one??

Abandoned in Cyber Limbo by Orange (the new name for France Telecom but never-the-less still my favourite colour), I have been stranded for over a week with no home telephone or internet connection. Just in case you were wondering why I haven't dropped by...  Of course if I was a non-patient homeschooling mother, I could be driven round the bend with no internet connection (read: no blogging). But today's theme is patience isn't it? So we shall continue to focus on that ;-) with a glass of wine.

And here we are on the eve of my next trip to Wales. Yes - I do leave tomorrow again for 9 days, during which I will once again be deprived of all internet access. This time, however, it's for a good purpose. So there you all are, on the edge of your seats waiting for me to FINALLY give you the low down on the last Wales trip - and here I am off again on the next one. There you all are... You are still there aren't you?

Sigh. I still can't give you the story tonight. You see, it's all a question of breath - and trying to find the time to stop and catch it. Something along the lines of Peter Pan's shadow, my breath has taken off without me and taken on a mind of its own. If you see it, would you mind snaring it, calming it down and keeping it safe until I catch up? 

In the mean time, I do have some news. While all external links to La Rivière were on the blink, this is what has been going on: 

With the help of Beaker, we finished clearing EVERY SINGLE ITEM out of the garage.
(Photo of the garage NEARLY cleared) 

Seeing my new studio (be still my palpitating heart) was built into the right hand half of the garage, we had to fit everything that had been on both sides of the garage into the remaining left hand side. A big hurray to Beaker for the mammoth effort used to efficiently transform a truck load of 'bazarre' as we say in French, into some resemblance of purposeful arrangement within a significantly reduced garage space so he could still get his golf clubs out easily. APPLAUSE!!

And of the right hand side??? 

 Thought I'd try my hand at laying a very liquid concrete floor. I know there's a technical term for this in English but pfffed if I can remember it ;-)

Then painted the ceiling ... Over ceilings for this year! Très passé!

Then rendered (I think. That's what you do with a mix of extra fine sand, lime and acetate isn't it?) and varnished the walls in one day with the extensive help and expertise of one of my very dearest friends.  Needless to say, there was no possibility of reading up on homeschooling curriculum that evening. The zzzzzz stacked up before the head hit the pillow.

Below is just an early photo. The render is now finished, dry - as in WHITE, not sand colour - and varnished. I've also coated the floor in resin to waterproof it and allow it to be cleaned. Housework, did I mention housework? 

Where was I? Oh yes. So the studio/atelier is now finished except for the small task of putting in two doors. One of them was promised to me by the end of July (this year). I think we've already touched on the fact that French artisans don't have quite the same concept of time that I do. When my 'door' artisan passed by the other day and promised that I would have said door installed soon, I asked with a facetious friendly smile, "Soon, as in before the end of the year?" Quite seriously he responded, "Ouaaaaiiii, I think that should be possible." Sigh. Sigh again. Patience I tell you! Patience.

Ok - apart from said door this is the current state of affairs at La Rivière:

Atelier/Studio painted and ready to inhabit, decorate, OWN: Check. 
Homeschooling started: Check. 
Kitchen and dining room ceilings painted: Check
Two new kittens: check
Shelves built for all homeschooling folders: still waiting for the wood. Artisan only two weeks late on promise so far. This is probably a blessing as a minimum of sleep has actually come in handy during the GIC (Great Internet Crash).

So finally dear friends, this afternoon, I wanted to write to you about Wales. I duly sat at my desk, rubbing my little hands together in glee at the thought of telling my tale. But it was not to be as to get to Wales I have to take you through Paris, and that takes time. Patience 

This afternoon we had a minor disaster that was revealed to me when I picked up my newly operational telephone on its very first ring for more than a week. Sad news. My poor little Libellule had managed to slam her thumb in the door at the neighbours so we ended up spending some unplanned time at A&E reassuring her that she was neither going to die, nor lose her arm, in spite of the immense pain. Love. And Patience.

Beaker now has a mixture of vertigo and lumbago, Libellule is miserable with a thumb the size of a house and my bags aren't packed... Not entirely optimal circumstances for a serene trip. Patience. 

Like I said, if you find my breath, keep hold of it for me. In the mean time, I think I'll just pack a big case of patience to take on board.

When I return, all I have to do is cook for 60 people and finish organising the GBB (Great Birthday Bash!!). Then all can go back to a normal routine of homeschooling, sport, calligraphy projects, BLOGGING and housework.

I do hope you'll all still be here when I get back so I can finally grab that whisky, wine cuppa and enjoy a good visit.

It really is you who I must thank for your eternal patience!!

Much love to all.



Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Paris Episodes: Only those who will risk going too far...

... can possibly find out how far one can go.
T.S. Elliot

How long has it been that I have been promising you the story of my travels to Wales and why I went there? Actually, don't tell me. Guilt and remorse are pushing me down, down, down into the depths of my paint tin for not having approached my blog since almost August 2nd. Tsk Tsk! Shame on moi!! 

You'll be pleased to know that I can't sink too far into my paint tin as I've painted 4 coats each on the CFH (ceilings from hell) and have very little of the 26 litres of paint left enough to drown in ;-)

En plus, it's nearly time to return to Wales again for my September retreat. Honestly though, first things first. You can't start a story in the middle. Let's go back to where it all began. Once upon a time in France...

Sharon, very talented author from My French Country Home (Yes! Yes! She writes great French/English books for bilingual children that are available here), has asked a few of us to reveal what brought us to the very poised yet paradoxical France as part of her French Settler Week theme. Aside from the trip down memory lane and the kick up the butt I needed to get writing again, I'm hoping that by joining in, I might actually be able to reveal to myself exactly what made a small Kiwi girl say to her young mother back in some obscure year in the 1970's, "When I grow up I'm going to live in France." 

To this day it's still anyone's guess where that idea came from. Fate? A home decorating magazine left open at a random page for an impressionable 6 year old to see? Did New Zealand have home decorating magazines in the 70's? Whatever the motivation, living in France in some distant future remained fixed in my mind as I grew and left NZ for a new life in Australia where five year's of high school French taught me little other than how to make hot chocolate, nutella crêpes ...

 ... and the French lyrics to Stevie Wonder's, "I just called to say I love you." Oui! Oui! There are French Lyrics to this song. Look them up!  "Je t'appelle pour dire je t'aime."

Mind you, as I'm sure you can imagine, they were of little help in making a good impression to the selection committee at TNT Transport when I had to explain why I wanted to be an exchange student to France. Never-the-less, Fate and Stevie must've both been on my side that day for they later gave me a 1 year scholarship to Belgium as few families in France were hosting AFS students that year.  But that's another story... 

A year in a French/Belgian family as an exchange student was just the tip of the iceberg and only kindled the flame rather than dousing the fire and I vowed to finish my degree and return to France indefinitely. Was it a calling? (Oh please don't say that ... I want to leave one day - really I do!!) In any case, it was certainly a fixation with me - in spite of choosing a degree in Chinese and international trade and finance. Yes, I know. She does Chinese - but wants to move to France. Can anyone else help me on that one??? No comment!!  OK - bear with me. Regardless of appearances, it's all linked. Sort of. N'est ce pas?

Fixation. Fixation. Fixation. You know, I have never seen myself as single minded or stubborn. Dam-ned! (as we say in French) But for whatever reason, I just couldn't get that country out of my head. Why not Italy? Why not China? What was it about France, and Paris in particular? Chanel, Avenue Montaigne, l'Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre, Père Lachaise, the artists on the Left Bank...

One thing it definitely had going for it was UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.  Of course, I wasn't aware of UNESCO way back when I was 6, but it started popping up here and there as I looked (unsuccessfully) for a position, any position, in international aid work. With none forthcoming for a young woman of my enthusiasm and glaring lack of experience, I decided it was time to give fate a bit of a nudge and find a way of getting back to France. For surely that was where it was all happening.

Have you noticed that about life? Things don't always go in a straight line. Oh I got to France alright, but not doing international aid work. My life-saving job after telemarketing, sales rep for copy and print services, statistical analyst and market researcher for International Medical Statistics was as a conference organiser. Yup! The job that makes you the ideal dinner party companion and allows you to travel the world. At least in as far as  you can organise conferences in a language other than your own. 

After two years locally with the conference organising company, 6 months of socialising at Alliance Française Auckland, practising my new French conversation - you definitely heard right, conversation - with fabulous now EX (see previous Paris Episodes) and two 1 hour interviews by telephone with the Paris office, I was told I had the job, nearly fainted exhaled and promptly sold most of my possessions in the space of one weekend. My birthday weekend, 16 years ago.

16 years ago. I'll be 40 this year! Six months later I arrived in Paris, ready to write my first two-day conference and interview more than 40 potential speakers IN FRENCH on the exceptionally exciting topic of "The corrosion of industrial chemical storage tanks." Yes, well it's getting late and really, the topic is as just as exciting as it sounds. 

Several weeks later, through a chance introduction, I walked through the doors of UNESCO on La Place de Fontenoy and into the start of my lifelong passion for women's and girls' literacy and education.

The person who changed my life in that 'chance meeting' just celebrated her wedding in Sissinghurst gardens, Kent, last week which gave me the chance to reflect fondly on the days when we were so broke that we could only afford a bottle of wine together on the Pont des Arts, or sit up on the roof of her 9m sq bedsit in Avenue du Président Kennedy and watch the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkle into forever as we made our dreams for the future.

She has since been promoted to Head of Education for a renowned NGO, and here I am ready to leave for India in October on my quest to start a fair trade project with Tibetan refugee women's groups. My how time flies. 

Thanks Sharon, part of the fun of writing this was to see if I could decipher what really motivated me to come to France in the first place.  I still don't know what my original reasons were way back when. They may forever remain a mystery to all of us, both the little girl, her mother and the rest of her entourage (insert music from Ripley's 'Believe it or Not').

Whatever the reason, there seems to be an element of destiny lurking in there somewhere and enough to keep me in this country in the mean time in spite of, or maybe because of all the challenges it offers on a daily basis.  Now Wales and India have wiggled themselves into the equation... But those stories will have to wait until someone else can manage to pull me away from this bottomless paint tin.

Go well everybody. 

PS. And what of LURVE? AMOOOOUUUUUR? Well, I  have three enigmatic things to say about it.

1/ French men seem to be attracted to foreign women. Accordingly, any attempts at passing unnoticed in a sport that you dare to try in your new country ONLY and I repeat ONLY because no-one knows you and you think you can slink off incognito if you're no good, will prove to be COMPLETELY futile.
 (photo from
2/Regardless of whether you think you look like a gasping lobster after your second 2 hour swim training session, the Frenchie who walks up to you as you get out of the pool is not likely to be wanting to collect your club fees.

3/I have a huge debt to the great French transport strikes of 1995 which, even as they shattered small businesses and ground the whole country to a screeching halt,  propelled me prematurely into the boyfriend's apartment which just happened to be conveniently located five minutes walk from my office. Needless to say, I never left. 

Three messmonsters later...

Any questions??