Thursday, April 22, 2010

Train strikes and red wine: fighting tradition with tradition (and a good dose of laughter thrown in for good measure)

"Houston Ange, we have a problem!" 
on the other end of the line... 
from the Avignon TGV station...
...3.5 hour's drive East of Toulouse 

"All trains to Toulouse have been cancelled, she said"
- Cancelled? What about one to Beziers, Narbonne, Montpellier, Perpignan or BORDEAUX? I suggested. 
- Cancelled. I don't understand. I only bought my ticket last night and they never warned me.
- Pass me the SNCF agent - I'll sort this out!! (15 years in France and still my optimism obstinately refuses to be crushed)
- Oui Madame, I confirm. No trains going West! We can send her to Marseille if you like. There may be a train to Toulouse from there...
- Merci, please pass my friend back over.
- Hello (insert an, 'Oh GOD! What do we do now?' voice.)
- Hold tight, I said, I'll be there in three and a half hours. 

What can I say? 
Even with Ladurée, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Provence...

...You don't really know the nitty gritty reality of life in France
until you've been a victim of 
one of its numerous strikes ;-)

Then the panic set in for me. I had been counting on the last few hours before she arrived by train at Matabiau station, close by in TOULOUSE, to get my house unrealistically completely clean and tidy. You know, like out of one of those fabulous home decorating magazines that I don't buy any more because they waste too much paper...

But my biggest goal, and the one I was saving for the last minute, was WASHING MY CAR!!!

We live in the country surrounded by fields and 150 horses... and a little bit of mud. Mud that the messmonsters walk through after getting off the horses and before climbing into the car. Mud that I have to drive through to pick them up from horseriding ...

(Notice that I put a nice photo of the trees above my house here, instead of a photo of that mud... 'Always aim high/Onward and upward!' is my motto;-)

Mud that sticks defiantly to my car

I hurredly kicked a few stray pieces of lego under the couch to keep the the dust bunnies company for another week, rapidly hung the washing outside and screeched out of the driveway in the direction of the high-pressure car wash... frantically calling Beaker all the while to see if we could change cars momentarily. I knew he wasn't going to like that of course - the father of my children is always impeccably dressed and his car is always impeccably clean (which was why I wanted it desperately to make a great first impression). 

No immediate response from Beaker.

Fumbling around in my purse I found only a 2 Euro coin for the car wash and no other spare change. 2 short minutes to blast two months weeks' worth of mud off my car. I  pulled up my sleeves, slipped in the coin, and attacked.  What I ended up with after the two minutes was a sort of 3D dalmation effect. Slightly more oddball visually - but not likely to compromise the cleanliness of her clothes as she climbed into my car.  Anyway - I sort of figured that the remaining lumps of mud wouldn't be able to cope for too long with the wind resistance against my speeding vehicle... THAT GIRL was stranded and waiting for me!!

This... Is a prime example of how my life works. It is a constant source of laughter for me, landing me straight back into the present moment when I get carried away with fantasies of perfection. NO matter how much I try to have every. single. thing straight, down to the last detail, real life has a tendency to catch up with me very quickly, firmly reminding me exactly who I am.  From that moment on, I gave up all pretense of perfection! I could only hope then ... that like 'real life,' she would like me for moi-même - dirty car warts and all! 

(Notice that I put a nice photo of a flower here instead of a photo of my dirty car???
It still hasn't been washed...
But I preferred to photograph the flowers... the eternal quest for beauty  ;-)

What do two people, who have never physically met, who have based all on intuition and some scant written material posted on the internet over a few months, say to each other when they finally meet under slightly stressful circumstances???

They LaUgH!

And that is how you know... or at least I found out ... that the person we sense behind each blog, is just what we can expect in real life. 

It's a bit like having your favourite movie character materialise off the screen, reach out to share your pop corn and chat about your impressions of the movie with you, then go back to her/his role in the film with a nod and a wink. Magical!

I had never intended my blog to be personal. It was always meant to be an extension of my work, things that inspire me, and a bit of inspiration for others hopefully... I've sort of come around to the fact that a blog can't NOT be personal...

In fact, to me, that's the inherent interest and beauty behind each and every blog I read. That very real, very special person behind each one, who is gradually revealed through their choice and expression of subject matter,  is the quintessential element that provides all the specific flavour and charm. It's become my main reason for allowing myself the time away from the busy-ness of 'real life' to visit bloglandia.
This last week of laughs, exchanges of ideas, and crazy tourism has allowed me to both see my own, local world with new eyes (thanks for the expression Angie), and enjoy the pleasure of cementing an 'imaginary' friendship with a flesh and blood person.

Real life just looks better and better every day...

Thanks Kim for the wonderful time you blessed me with, here in my little adopted part of France. 

You are missed already by one and all (Messmonsters currently dropping HUGE hints about not having been in a plane for a while!) The door at La Rivière is always open...

PS - After all those wonderful tips Kim gave me on taking photos (results above), I am feeling slightly guilty about my 'practical joke' concerning which parts of the duck the French actually do put into preserving jars. I'm hoping the Roquefort sauce and kiss from my cheese man were sufficient to make up for this ;-)

PPS - In case you all were wondering, this is not going to become a photo blog... I just needed to learn a few tricks and have had fun playing around with aperture and perspective. Back to my brushes quick smart tomorrow so I can reopen my currently closed ETSY shop again soon.

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  1. Mon Dieu...I need a beer, after reading your description of the day Ange.

    I am cracking up! I am so glad that I can navigate to your Bloglandia, you make me smile from ear to ear.
    Thanks for keeping it real..I love your spirit.
    I am loving your new photos...c'est magnifique!!!
    I hope your day tomorrow will be a little less eventful...(enjoy picking up the trash.)

  2. You are so real and honest, Ange. I love it! Of course, I'm holding my sides from laughing, because I am exactly the same way. My car is a mess, my house on the verge of being messy, and I worry about making a good impression, all the time.

    Oh, and you're welcome!

  3. This was so lovely...thank you!!!

  4. I will be disappointed if you don't show us many more of your wonderful photographs. Love the composition of the tree shot.

    I too, try really hard to have a clean house when people visit, often forgetting to put make up on or get out of my slippers as I race around disturbing the colonies of dust bunnies.

    Bloglandia is indeed a most wonderful place full of inspiring and creative people. I think words help people keep it real. It's hard to hide behind your own words as you write them.

  5. Oh, I love when real life creeps into blog posts--that's reality and beauty and great writing all rolled into one big gorgeous pastiche of words and image. Delicious!

    Love your new header, sweet Ange. You never cease to inspire me. xoxo

  6. Oh, how funny. I feel we are kindered spirits Ange after reading this! I laughed about Beaker's clean car and impeccable appearance - Jason is exactly the same! Glad to hear you had a wonderful time with your visitor. xx

  7. ange, i think you will parallel the lives of many of us with this post.
    welcome to the moment
    i just opened a nice red.... cheers

  8. What a great post. I laughed a lot reading this. I agree that a blog is a window into the soul and that is so even if you say hardly anything. I am glad you had a lovely time with Kim... oh and my husband is the same - my car tends to be the dirty car and his is always pristine mostly because the children hardly ever bespoil it. xoxo

  9. Ange, it sounds like you and I would not want you to be any other way. I smiled when I read the part about the train as it is so French and you have to live here inorder to understand how their minds tick albeit often too slowly for moi!

    Photos are great, I could do with some lessons....hope to catch up soon,

    Leeann x

  10. That was wonderful... I love your style funny, I am waiting for a book now!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Dear Ange,

    First let me compliment you on the wonderful masthead logo.

    As always, your writing style is so natural and free, full of humour and truth and you are so very right, I too started out wanting my blog to be nothing more than an extension of my art, only to end up being very personal.

    I agree with Hazel, when are you writing a book?

    Warmest regards,

  12. Ange if I were to have a favourite post then this would probably be it. How I laughed as I visualised your day. And you painted the most beautiful of pictures for me with your words, and the photography is brilliant. I think you've captured the personal side of blogging perfectly. Love your new masthead - more of a 'flourish' than a 'signed by'! Very apt. xx

  13. Hey Ange
    Sounds like you had a wonderful time with Kim... and by the way these photos look fantastic..truly lovely.. can you send her here? hehe

    Well I think my car and yours must be sisters... poor little petals.. I guess I will clean her one day... and running around at last minute trying to make things 'presentable'.. yep.. I'm sure a few of us can relate to that also... Well miss.. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful time and very lucky Kim to be stranded in France.. and... with you!!! You know it's funny about blogging... being personal.. I started mine with no intentions in any direction .. just to see where it lead.. i suspect it has at times become personal.. i think that comes from the relationships we build with other bloggers... a strange wonderful world.. Take care dear Ange... xxx Julie

  14. Such a lovely post Ange. I must admit, I thought it was a joke when I heard that the French trains were on strike the same week that there were no planes in most of Europe - how very considerate of them! I too love my visits to Bloglandia to all these wonderful 'friends' sharing their dreams, creations and very existence with the world. Keep sharing!

  15. A real life blog meeting! Well done you and Kim! And aren't cars meant to be dirty in the country for the AUTHENTIC look? I always hoped so. But tell me this: do we tidy for visitors so that they have a nice environment to stay in or so that they think we always live like that? I can never invite anyone to stay till I know the answer.

  16. Hmm - Mise, now that's a great question hahahaaha! I always use people staying as an added incentive to keep the house clean.

    As I've just spent the day cleaning the bathrooms and floors etc, in spite of the fact that Kim's not here to see it, I have to conclude that we tidy up so we ALLLLL feel comfortable in a nice environment. However, no matter how hard I try, I can NEVER reproduce a clean car environment. This may be one reason I so love going anywhere around here by foot or bike ;-)

  17. shockingly, this post brought tears. again. I definitely win the crybaby award (well, maybe Lil and I can share it...)~ :)
    While from the beginning it was a crazy adventure, I wouldn't have had it any other way - it was THE. MOST. PERFECT. holiday I have ever had.
    love you!!!

  18. Dear Ange,
    You are a knight (or should that be a knightess !?) in shining armour, rescuing Kim like that. A true friend, methinks.
    Well, my car is covered in ash...volcanic ash ! It's definitely falling..... and, whenever I do some housework, everyone says 'who's coming' !!!! Nice !
    Your time and extended time with Kim sounded like a blast. You really sounded as if you had the BEST time. How lovely that you got on so well. This is the best part of blogging. Making lots of new friends and, even if we don't meet them, it is like having many, many penfriends.
    Leave the mud on the car, Ange. It gives it a sort of macho feel. XXXX

  19. fun post! and I love your photos please share more!! and the header is wonderful!

  20. What a fun blog post to come back to after being off-line for a month! Your life sounds a lot like mine, right down to kicking the Legos under the couch when guests arrive :)

  21. you know this was so inspiring and well, my house has dust dinosaurs at times :) And I feel I would love to jet over to France and meet you too. I know it will happen and I am getting the timing right.

    Laughter is something I enjoy so much and need lots more of too. Sometimes that ole humour of mine gets buried by life, but it's always there bubbling. Sometimes though I think it may be a little naughty too ;) but hey!

    Look forward to more fab photo's!


  22. I was with her for 7 days also and not once did i get any photographic help.
    Maybe it's because you served her penis one night...
    couldn't have been better than goat knuckle.

  23. You have such an easy and natural writing style Ange! And the mud on your car should make a beautiful canvas for you I think! I loved this post, you have such a sweet way about you! ~Lili

  24. artists can 'go with the flow' with humor and wit and creativity-- what a fun blog post to come back home to...

  25. I'm with gorgeous Amanda all the way here - this is by far my favourite Ange post. You are my kinda gal, no doubt about it. Pretty picture blogs are OK, but pretty funny ones are the best.
    Millie ^_^

  26. Ange..
    One..I loved everything you had to say in this post...from your friend to your car to blogging..could not agree more!

    Two..Your photos are lovely, well done! More please:)

    Three...Just a thought on the eventuality of meeting blogging friends in person, I always think of that scene from 'Julie and Julia', when they meet in the train station. Makes me tear up every time. If you have not seen the movie, please do, you will understand what I mean !!

    Hope you are having a fantastic weekend...I am not sure how you could manage not to! Your life is one exciting and crazy event after another :)

    Jeanne xo

  27. Hello, it's me. Train strikes and France are like women and dirty cars. They just seem to go together. If Mr FF didn't clean my car it would just be held together with Breton mud.

  28. How come I never knew about his blog before?! I only just discovered you through Jeanne's link, and when I see all the familiar names leaving comments I feel like they've all been hiding something from me!
    Thank you, I really enjoyed reading this post, everything rings true from French civil servants to horses and mud to filthy cars.
    I'll definitely be back here often.

  29. You are darling to share this with us. I have visited your blog so often and I love your work. I need to comment more-afterall I love comments on my why do I not do this. I am so enjoying this trip via you, Kim and Lola B.

  30. You have no idea how much I needed to read this. We have an exchange student here and every time I ask him a question I get the answer I least want to hear ("Yes, I ski a lot even though we live so far away from any ski hills. Our family takes regular holidays on Mont Tremblant" and "My parents prefer Volvos", etc.), meantime driving him in my trashed 17 year old Nissan minivan, and it makes me wonder if I go out of my way to attract feelings of inadequacy. :) As for meeting blog friends, I have the exact same experience. The interwebs really doesn't lie. I met one of my best through our blogs and she is exactly what I expected. (I should share as much on my blog as I do with friends in real life but I'm not as brave as you.)

  31. Ange, you're forever blowing bubbles,(beautiful bouncy bloggy bubbles) thats how your writing comes across to me, I love this post, your photos are looking great and I dont mind you sneaking them in a pretty picture show amongst all your fabulous dialogue. Thumbs down to the French transport chaos, that must be sooooo frustrating.

  32. Morning Ange!
    How your candor and open and honest words...I am sure you did have lots of laughs and agree that the essence of a person shines through their has been true in the several meetings I have had with my blogging friends. Loved the description of your day.
    Take care,
    Laura :)

  33. You made me laugh. I love your new photos

  34. I hope my train from Paris to Bordeaux doesn't get cancelled :-(

    I'm meeting a blog friend in Greece soon, we originally met in Seville two years ago and really hit it off. One of these days i intend meeting up with Lulu LaBonne too!


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!