Whatever little time I have at the moment is spent almost exclusively drooling over the thought of calissons. That no doubt someone in my family has just eaten or is about to eat (if it’s my father as a side to coffee) because it’s Christmas time and calissons flow freely this time of year.
It’s more than six years since I’ve eaten one… Can’t… take… much… more!
(Image from here)
A few nights ago and without any reason apparent, I felt the most irresistible urge to read ‘L’écume des jours‘ again. I have read it only once before, when it was on our study list from French literature class – yikes, some fifteen years ago.
I loved the book at the time – it grabbed me from the first page: the name of the hero is Colin (which is very rare in France, maybe because it’s also the name of fish?), and the world he lives in is quirky, on-its-head, and fantastical. The kind of world you want to live in even if you’d have to have a daily fight with the eel that lives in your plumbing to stop it from eating all your toothpaste.
We studied ‘L’écume des jours’ in the same year as classic, beautiful (and let’s face it, often depressing and bleak) works by Victor Hugo, Balzac, Maupassant, and Zola. After those dinosaurs of French literature Boris Vian felt like the cheekiest breath of fresh air – the playful creator of a crazy world where two people fall madly in love and even death comes about more poetically (dying from a water-lily growing in your lung… Beautiful no?).
Wanting to immerse myself in Colin’s world again, I hunted for the book – easy to spot: white with a giant water-lily on the cover (fitting).
After two sweeps of our bookshelves I had to conclude I hadn’t in fact thieved my parents’ copy like I thought I’d done before moving here. And I was very disappointed with myself for not doing it.
I wanted to read a beautiful story of love, friendship and death by water-lily, and nothing but Boris Vian will do (internal dialogue as I shuffled away empty-handed feeling stroppy and despondent). But then I thought: I’ll just swipe it next time I visit… And sniggered a little bit. Would Boris Vian have condoned my behaviour? I’d like to think so.
PS: He also sings quirky funny songs. I love him.
(Image from here)
So ‘Chemical Yeast’ in French translates to ‘Baking Powder’ in English. And when recipes call for half a packet (it’s understood it’s a packet of Alsa, which is a kitchen staple in France), it’s 5 grammes-ish.
The lightbulb just went off in my head. It’s a bit embarrassing considering I’ve lived here 9 years and brought home baker’s yeast countless times (direct translation, see?) and didn’t bother to investigate on Wikipedia until this morning, even when the resulting cakes and biscuits tasted a bit too much like bread.
(Image from here).
I must sharpen my kitchen knives – the point at which I have to use force to cut a tomato is long gone… I hate doing it and blame Jean-Claude Dreyfus (Delicatessen cannibal butcher if you recall) for making it seem so creepy… But I sliced into the cushion of my little finger last week and it still hurts (the cut is healed, but the trauma from how much force I was using when the knife came down – aïe ouille).
Wouldn’t you think twice about going anywhere near a knife or sharpening one after watching Delicatessen? Me too.
On occasion my mind pulls out of nowhere a little gem from back home that makes me at once nostalgic and very giggly. For no apparent reason I started to think about the FLNJ yesterday (that’s ‘Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin‘: ‘Front for the Liberation of Garden Gnomes‘) – and I am not punking anyone: it’s real.
France takes freedom very seriously – it’s in our country’s motto and it was stamped on our coins until we joined the Euro. The ‘Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin‘ is basically about kidnapping garden gnomes that are perceived as enslaved and open to ridicule as ornaments of private gardens. They are taken out to forests or parks and ‘released’ back to a more natural habitat, free to frolic and do their gnome thing.
I wasn’t familiar with the FLNJ until I saw one of their posters in Montmartre in 1999. And my vague understanding is that there are branches throughout France that have periods of activity and then lay low for a while (it’s a bit like Fight Club so it’s hard to find information – I suspect the first rule of FLNJ is, well, you know).
And let’s be clear: the liberators aren’t just thieves after some adrenaline kick – although I can’t imagine jumping a fence and plucking a gnome from a bed of lettuce is much of a kick – they always leave an FLNJ manifesto in the letter box. And even go as far as revealing the location where the gnomes will be released so their owners can retrieve (and re-enslave) them.
I love how useless and nonsensical it is. And I secretly suspect my sister of moonlighting with the FLNJ because when I pointed to the poster in Montmartre, she immediately knew what it was and explained the FLNJ’s philosophy. The stronger she denies it, the stronger my suspicion will be. My sister is after all a born righter of wrongs.
(Image from here).
I actually never planned to write this. Back at the end of June when it all started I couldn’t manage a post in two weeks so wrote a quick and vague ‘Things are sad!‘. Then proceeded to list things that made me happy, so I would focus on the bright side of my life.
I can honestly say the last three months have been some of the hardest I’ve ever lived… Maybe reading this you’ll think it’s all very sad. Maybe you’ll think there are worse things. I think both views are true.
You might be familiar with the little furry face that is Mira’s if you’ve come by a few times. Mira is an 11 years old little grey schnauzer and she is very, very sick. We think of our family as a unit of three, but she is not our surrogate child, nor do we don’t dress her up in clothes or treat her like our baby (except at Christmas – she gets to wear a Santa hat and totally resents it). She is a huge part of our lives: a trusty and utterly valued little companion that brings us bucket loads of joy.
We found a tumour on her spleen at the end of June and it was taken out. The day of her surgery could have been her last one but it wasn’t – at 4PM we heard she was recovering really well and the rest of the day was joyful. For dinner we had salad with walnuts and grilled haloumi (grand miam).
She started chemotherapy and tolerated it really well. But in the last three weeks she hasn’t been doing so good. She’s had seizures, and we’re fairly positive there’s a brain tumour in her little head causing them. Her heart is much larger than it’s supposed to be, and her lungs are getting tired too.
She amazes her vet by how happy and bright she is all things considered. She amazes us. But in all honesty she is near the end of her life and I know it. And it feels so damn unfair – she is such a sweet and loving and clever little creature and I don’t want her out of my life.
And yet the life we have now is incredibly hard: it revolves around 5 different types of medication, monitoring her breathing and adjusting dosages, stroking her head and talking to her when she has seizures and panics, being overall as churpy as possible so she can enjoy our company as usual and some sense of normal. Watching her being slower, older and responding by making sure she is comfortable for as long as possible. And then, I can’t even say it.
I’ve been told how long she’s got to live at most, the three most likely ways she’s going to die and what I have to do to help when it happens (thankfully it involves giving her the same medication and jumping in the car each time so that’s easy to remember). I have timed how long it takes to drive to the vet (10 minutes in good traffic) and have already made peace with losing another 3 license points if I speed a bit on my way there (first strike was a red light…).
It’s in my nature to be optimistic but it’s hard right now not to dwell on the incredibly hard things yet to come. We joke a bit about her being a senior citizen, her sleeping and farting most of the day, and her obsession with going out onto the balcony (she’s scratching on that window every five minutes – and keeps on scratching when it’s open…).
I don’t know how to deal with this, some days are downright awful and others are tolerable. Most of the time they’re a mixture of both.
I love my Mira and that also means I’ll have to let her go. But for now, she’s snoozing next to me. And farting. And that’s strangely comforting…
PS: I wrote this yesterday but didn’t have time to publish it as things went a bit pear-shaped and she spent the night at the animal hospital. So right now, she is snoozing and farting next to a poor unsuspecting nurse, not me.
I have folders, and rules. My rules dictate that when I like something, I put images of it in a folder. If I still like what I’ve put in the folder after at least 30 days, I congratulate myself for being so reasonable and in my mind allow myself to buy it (provided it’s a reasonably teeny amount).
This has been in my folder for over 30 days. And we keep on breaking mugs. And it’s pretty cheap. So it would be perfect timing. Except, I am still not going to buy it, because I don’t really feel like spending anything or buying anything. For reals. I’m happy with what I’ve got (not for long given the rate things smash around here). So I’m happy just looking at the graph paper mug.
Isn’t it pretty?
Some things of note about my sister:
- Her favourite flavour of anything sweet is vanilla. Always. (So the cupcake pictured is a vanilla cupcake).
- She doesn’t eat breakfast straight away when she wakes up – she lingers in her pyjamas for a while and after about half an hour, she’ll eat.
- She is the cutest in pyjamas.
- She reads freakishly fast – can knock a 500-page book in a few hours.
- She is afraid of spiders just like me, yet plucky enough to trap them under cups and shoo them out if need be.
- She met her husband during a job interview (and she got the job!).
- She always greeted my mother’s ‘Let’s repaint the hallway/corridor/bedroom/cupboards’ with enthusiasm.
- She’s great at painting walls.
- She is very very warm and friendly (that’s from Christian).
- She spent more than an hour coming up with ways to do my hair when a stupid Parisian hairdresser cut it too short.
- She screamed ‘You suck Britney’ from our kitchen window when the primary school kids next door were doing a dance number to a Britney Spears song.
I love you so much Sophie! Millions de bisous!
Read more things of note about my sister in last year’s birthday list.