For about three weeks I judged my neighbours a few floors down as slobs (not the ones who disposed of my Lisa Simpson, ones another floor below). I have a good view of their balcony and in one corner, there was a mound of something; and it wasn’t going away. So I was thinking: ‘Frankly it’s a disgrace to leave a broken chair or some damaged wood just like that shoved in a corner. Whatever happened to diligently getting rid of your trash?’.
It took my brain three weeks to register that what I was looking at wasn’t trash, but two abstracted sculptures of pelicans. At least if it had been trash it would have gone away at some point. The damn pelicans are here to stay. So fine: they’re not slobs. But I still judge them for having horrible taste in outdoor furnishing.
Some things are strange when you live in a different country than your own. Like what people use to disinfect wounds. Or what they don’t use. And how they look at you when you ask for what they don’t use (but what is traditionally used in France).
Take the first time I asked for 70% alcohol in a pharmacy: I was looked at with a mixture of bewilderment and suspicion. It turns out 70% (or 90%) alcohol cannot be gotten here.
I felt like saying ‘What lady, do you think I’m going to drink it?’, but I thought she might take this as an admission of guilt so I decided to keep my mouth shut*.
Except now, I have a contact: a French chemist who relates because she’s been given the same response (and look). We didn’t just bond over our nationality, but also our love for disinfecting wounds with virtually pure alcohol. And since she’s connected and she can get the stuff, she gave me a small bottle of it. Yay!!
I am almost looking forward to having a wound to disinfect… Take that Dettol.
*I really don’t drink it. I use it as a disinfectant.
I look younger than my age, and like a very good girl. I have a little face, largish eyes, a little nose, and a little mouth (or according to a documentary on criminology I watched ages ago: a baby face – which is apparently an advantage if I ever were to be tried for something in court. Yay?).
The thing is, I also swear a lot (at home – in public I try to be a bit more restrained). And it’s always funny to me that it seems to shock other people when I do it. One of my friends explained it by saying I looked like ‘an angel of crystal’, and even said he watched what he said around me (if only the poor guy could hear me at home… Christian sometimes calls me ‘Deadwood’ when I go overboard with the language). Another of my friends refused to believe that I got 3 demerit points off my licence for speeding through a red light*. This by the way earned me the following nicknames (both from Christian again): the ‘Red-light Bandit’ and ‘Johnny Law-Breaker’.
Which brings me to the fake track marks: my doctor ordered a blood test today, which I obediently went to get. But between this and my blood donation from Sunday I have two marks on my arm that are very close together (the vampires hit the same vein!)**. I put my arm under Christian’s nose earlier and said ‘do I look like a junkie?’. To which he replied ‘no; have you ever seen what track marks look like?’ (I haven’t). He’s right: of course I don’t look like a junkie, I’m a baby-faced angel of crystal remember?
*My parents don’t know, so shhh!
**I am actually pretty relaxed now when someone approaches my arm with a needle and tubes.
Having grown up in different countries, Christian and I sometimes have no common childhood references (boo sad!). For example: Sesame Street means nothing to me*. It was on telly in France for a couple of years (translated to ’1, rue Sésame’) but no more by the time I was born. So when Christian says ‘I want-a to suck-a your blood!’ when he sees someone wearing a polo shirt with their collar up, I giggle (because I’m highly excitable and he uses a funny voice) but I also go ‘Whaaa?’.
And he is not familiar with the French institution that is ‘Cocoshaker’. Cocoshaker was on channel 2 at 8:30, and was part of my bedtime ritual when I was about 3 or 4. It is basically a tropical version of ‘spy vs. spy’: two creatures (a blue one and a pink one) vie for supremacy, which is achieved by climbing a palm tree and sitting atop holding position for as long as possible. The one still on the ground does everything in its power to unsit the one in the tree. And they don’t speak in intelligible words, but in a high pitched jibberish that makes me laugh so hard I’m in danger of snorting (if that sounds funny, you have seen nothing until you have heard my sister do an impression of it).
So while I try to show youtube videos of Cocoshaker to Christian, I am brushing up on my Sesame Street characters. And let me say, it is very surreal to have your husband explain to you who’s who in the cast of a colourful puppet show…
*But we had Fraggle Rock and the Muppets! Go figure…
Resting heart rate: 95 beats per minute.
I knew I was twitchy, but I must admit I am impressed.
Christian’s is about 60. So now you know who’s chill at our house.
The other night Christian wanted some goat’s cheese toast (it happens). So he retrieved the cheese (the creamy crust-free slightly bland type) from the fridge, but when he opened it he paused for a second. Then he came over and stuck it under my nose: ‘Can I eat that?’.
‘Well, I would because it smells better than before, and the way it should – mouldy. Except, it went mouldy in our fridge and not in controlled conditions. So, as much as I hate to say, probably not.’ Crushed (and slightly hesitant) husband puts cheese in bin. I reminisce on how I did eat cheese that went mouldy in uncontrolled conditions many a time. I realise that as far as food safety is concerned, I’m screwed: certain types of mould smell incredibly appetising to me.
Don’t ask me if you can eat that.
There have been many things to adapt to for me since moving from France to Australia, and this is the beginning of an attempt to explain.
Sometimes, I win. And by I, I mean French and by winning, I mean scoring points (in my head) over the English language (which is supposed to be soooo much more to the point and say everything with soooo much less flourish – have you detected the sarcasm yet?).
But today, look what I’ve got: en français, we say ‘poisson rouge’ while you, English language, choose to say ‘goldfish’. Well they ain’t gold! They have a goldish sheen, yes, but they’re clearly coloured red (or off-red, like a reddish orange). So who’s being poetic and all flourish now, describing something in not such a straight to the point manner, huh?
So I win. Cue my little victory dance (in my head).
If you are wondering whether I’ve lost my mind, no: it’s a quote from the Simpsons … one of my favourite episodes (the one where Lisa screams ‘Wild beast’ at Mr Burns because she’s being chased by a forest goat, and he screams back ‘Liberal midget!’. Classic).
I am talking about something different though, namely how I can’t get a break at home. You see, Christian thinks it’s hilarious to diss France and rag on me whenever he can. And I have to admit he does it in such a witty way I always near pee my pants laughing (yet engage in fake indignation, just to save face).
So one of my many nicknames at home is ‘Eurotrash’. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, our bullet train) which is ungodly fast and has broken records (has it? I’m sure I remember it has!), well you see it’s no achievement at all because France is such a puny country it’s no big deal going from end to end rapidly. I have to be contrarian and difficult because it’s the French way of life. Pre-vegan days, I got so excited over the lift of the roquefort embargo to Australia that Christian still quotes me saying ‘I have fantastic cheese news!!’. Can’t get a break…
And now because it’s getting late, Eurotrash is going to make some dinner. 1, 2, 3, 4.
When I’ve had little sleep and an inverse amount of coffee, it does something to my head. Something delightful: it makes me remember hilarious things.
So today, I attempted to negotiate fits of laughter while trying to drive my car, and if I could help it still look dignified. The culprit is a memory taking me back 18 years ago (crikey!).
My family and I lived in Australia for about a year when I was 12. Being in a smallish Queensland town, we were the only French people there and the French teacher at our local high school thought she would take advantage of that. How? By asking my mother, brother and I to read out French words from children’s memory games into a tape recorder (to have good accurate pronunciation for various words on file, she explained).
One afternoon, we sat down and for a couple of hours we read words out in turn. Except, my mother wasn’t happy with the quality of the audio, or the quality of our performance. ’Louder children, we can’t hear anything you say when we play it back!’. So my brother and I tried to oblige, but Maman was still not happy. ’Here’ she said, ‘do it like this: LAAAAAMMMMBBBBBB CHHHOOOOPPPSSSSSS!!!!!’*. Lamb chops: forever in my mind associated with my mother, screaming the words ridiculously loud. And 18 years later, it still makes me laugh.
*If you are curious about what ‘lamb chops’ is in French, it is ‘côtelettes’.
I weigh my ‘Paris weight’ at the moment: except that I don’t walk everywhere or live on the 6th floor without a lift (car, and 10th floor with lift is my life right now). Woot!
Seriously, it is great for a few reasons: I have more energy, Christian tells me I’m a skinny bitch (who doesn’t want to be called that? If you say no you’re not telling the truth). Ok, it’s great mostly because he calls me a skinny bitch.
Want to know what’s not so great? Hardly any of my clothes fit me anymore, and I have no time to go for a thrift to get some proper fitting clothes, as well as very little money (damn you dentist!). So I look like a hip hop artist with my pants hanging dangerously low, and I am at risk of pants-ing myself all the time.
I should explain I own only one belt and it’s very narrow – so it doesn’t really perform its task well. And borrowing Christian’s belts doesn’t really work: he has wider hips than I do (plus they look manly).
Just to be clear: if you run into me don’t think I’m trying to be all gangster. I’m broke and I only have 1 narrow belt. Maybe I’ll just stick to elastic waists and dresses for the time being.
PS: Christian can actually dead lift me above his head now. That doesn’t quite make up for the looming pants-ing and gangster look, but it’s close!