Tuesday 31 July 2007

Hello Grandad

Writing Machine
Originally uploaded by malias.

The other day I went into an electronics shop here in Paris to enquire about camcorders. I've never owned a camcorder before and I don't know the first thing about them. It's bad enough trying to explain what I want in English but in French it was worse. The spotty seventeen year old shop assistant gave me the Hello grandad treatment before telling me a lot of things I didn't understand.

It reminded me of the hilarious Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch from the early eighties about a guy trying to buy a hifi (a gramophone).

In case you missed it first time around here it is.

Ah! Those were the days, they don't make them like that any more.

Sunday 29 July 2007

Anglo Paris

Malias and Gordon
Originally uploaded by malias.

Yesterday I held a picnic on the Pont des Arts for all the students who come to the English class (cours d'anglais Paris) and the French class. As well as being a lot of fun it also gave the students the opportunity to practice English or French (and a number of other languages too) in informal surroundings. It was quite a success with a large multinational crowd turning up.

I had put an invite to the event on the website so I was expecting a few anglophiles and strangers to come along however I must admit I was somewhat surprised to see celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay turn up on the bridge.

I thought of offering him one of the marmite sandwiches that I'd prepared especially for the occassion (they were absolutely delicous by the way) but in the end I thought better of it (he was probably off to some fancy-dan French restaurant later on and I didn't want to spoil his appetite).

However, just in case you missed it here is the Recipe

Marmite Sandwiches (serves 4)

Sliced white bread (1 loaf)

Line up slices of soft white bread (it must be soft white bread do not use crusty bread, baguettes or any type of brown of wholemeal bread). Spread some butter (do NOT use margarine) on each slice followed by a generous layer of marmite.

Put slices together to form a sandwich and cut in half.

Serve with a mug (preferably one which is chipped or scratched) of tea.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Paris Plage

Well it's coming the end of July and Paris reverts to summer mode. This has certain advantages and disadvantages.

On the negative side, if you don't live in a touristy area you could die of starvation since many of the neighbourhood boulangeries and food shops will be closed for a month. So make sure you've got lots of tinned goods stacked up in your larder and don't loose that tin opener.

If you have a leak in your apartment (as I did) you might as well forget about getting a plumber. You'd be better advised in buying a dinghy and a wetsuit and sitting it out until September. Fortunately those tinned goods won't spoil. I guess this is going to be the same for electricians, locksmiths and all those other trades.

If you run a business or are a freelancer then this is the time that the overdraft comes into its own as you won't be able to get any work done (unless you're a plumber, sparky etc). Your income will drop but your expenses will remain the same.

On the plus side you can visit Paris plage where you can play beach volleyball, listen to music or just sit and read on a deckchair. You can go to the open air cinemas or you can hire a velib
and ride around breathing in 75% more carbon monoxide than everybody else.

So it's swings and roundabouts really

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Paris Open Air Cinema

Time Passes Slowly
Originally uploaded by malias.

Paris is one of the world's great cities for cinema. On any day there is a vast array of films to watch, old and new, big hollywood productions and obscure low budget foreign language productions. In London I've seen many of the alternative cinemas disappear or turn into mainstream movie houses or multiplexes but in Paris the small inpedendent places are alive and well.

In summertime Parisians flock to the beaches but those who remain are treated to a grand cinema extravaganza.

At Parc de La Vilette there is the open air cinema cinema en plein aire from 17th July to 26th August.

There is a cinema au claire de lune (moonlight cinema) at a different location each evening from the 1st to 19th August. All the films are free and they are organised by the forum des images.

And on the 19th, 20th and 21st of August most of the cinemas in Paris reduce the price of entry to only 3 Euros a ticket.

Great! This could be more fun than the beach.

Monday 16 July 2007

Velib Comes to Paris

Velib riders
Originally uploaded by malias.

Velib, velib, velib everyone is talking about velib. The Mairie de Paris have positioned thousands of bicycles around Paris to encourage people to give up the motor car. There is not much I can say that hasn't already been covered extensively in the media except that on its first day it seemed pretty popular. I even saw long queues at some velib stations. The riders looked happy and the bikes were shiny and new.

I wonder how long it will stay that way.

Saturday 14 July 2007

Bastille Day Paris

Demonstration Paris
Originally uploaded by malias.

Am I right in thinking that France is the last county in Europe to hold a giant military parade on its Fête Nationale (national day) every 14th of July. It reminds me of those black and white images of Stalin waving from the balcony of. Lenin’s Tomb during May Day military parades in the Soviet Union.

The rest of the world seems to have moved on but not France. This time Sarkozy invited soldiers from France's 26 EU allies to take part in the parade.

There were even soldiers from Luxembourg here which is a very small country.

So my question is; who's defending Luxembourg?

Friday 13 July 2007

Paris Free Event

Chilling out
Originally uploaded by malias.

If your in Paris on Saturday 28th July between 6pm and 9pm you might want to trudge over to the Pont des Arts as I'm organising another free event taking place there. The idea is simple. It's aimed at anybody learning a language who would like conversation practice with a native speaker in English or French or any language. In return you have to help them with their English or whatever is your mother tongue. If in addition you want to sign up to some English or French classes then that's fine but there is no obligation to do so. The event is called Parler in the Park (even though it doesn't take place in the park). Check the website for details.

Thursday 12 July 2007

Eurostar Frequent Traveller

I’ve been travelling backwards and forwards between
Paris and London every fortnight or so for the last 4 years and except for about a dozen journeys by plane I’ve always taken the Eurostar. Here are some calculations I’ve made.

Over the last 4 years I’ve taken approximately 220 journeys on the Eurostar and I’ve spent around 10,000 Euros.

I’ve spent about 620 hours on board the train which equates to 26 full days.

I’ve been awarded 3 free tickets because the train was more than an hour late and Eurostar was to blame. (it’s been late several more times but Eurostar were, or claimed, they were not responsible).

I’ve travelled first class on 8 of the journeys.

I’ve missed 3 journeys to my carelessness.

On one occasion I was unable to complete my journey between Paris and London due to a fire when passengers were removed from the train in Ashford and had to finish the journey on local trains.

I once caused a security alert when I passed a small kitchen knife through the x-ray machine.

I know now that it is not permitted to take knives on the Eurostar.

I’ve had three arguments on my journeys, or rather in the terminals. In Paris; once with a French Eurostar official and once with an American tourist. In London; once with a French immigration policeman. On each occasion these individuals were acting in an unreasonable way (yes they were, honestly!).

I’ve been stopped and questioned by British immigration officials about 10 times. I’ve been stopped and questioned by French immigration officials twice (one of these times led to an argument).

I’ve never been stopped by custom officers.

I recognise many of the Eurostar staff, shop assistants and officials and am on nodding terms and even speaking terms with a few of them. I know the best way to get the cheapest tickets online; I know the passenger announcements by heart in both English and French. And needless to say I’m extremely familiar with the landscape between the cities.

I invariably read a book on the journey but I still sometimes get bored. So if you see me on the voyage please come and say hello.

Saturday 7 July 2007

A Paris Plumber

The Hole
The other evening there was a frantic knocking at my door, it was my neighbour from the apartment below she was complaining of a leak coming from my flat that was running down her wall. We called a plumber who turned up the next morning to sort out the problem. He quickly discovered the source of the leak Then came the bad news; He told me that because the leaking pipe was inaccessible without digging up the floor, he was going to cut off all my water.

Non c'est pas vrai , Monsieur how can I live without water? And how long will it take?

"Well", he explained "we'll have an estimate for you in a couple of days then you'll have to speak to the insurance company and the management committee so no more than a couple of weeks."

2 ****ing weeks without water, c'est pas possible. isn't there anything you can do?

He looked at me in a don't-question-the-master kind of way.

"bon, maybe I can give you hot water in the shower".

We'll that's something, at least, but what about the kitchen?

He sighed "Ok, you can have hot water in the kitchen too."

That's much better but no cold water? It would be great to have some cold water. He lent over the piping in the corner once again exposing his bum crack which I believe is obligatory in his trade.

"Ok you can have cold and hot water in the kitchen but only hot water in the bathroom"

By this time I was so relieved that I'd have at least some water that I was practically, kissing his feet. Merci, merci mille fois monsieur vous êtes très gentil.

And that's how he left it. It was only afterwards that I realized how absurd it was to have to negotiate how much water I could or could not have. Aren't these things black and white to a plumber?

I'm still waiting for an explanation and for cold water in my bathroom.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Freelancing in Paris

Clock Boy
Originally uploaded by malias.

Paris is one of the most difficult places to be a freelancer. For once I'm not complaining about the absurd taxes and 'social charges' you have to pay here but rather the process of trying to find contracts in a country which is closed to business half the year.

We are now entering the vacances, Paris empties out, its inhabitants head South to the beaches, to their houses in the countryside or on a plane to some exotic destination. In July and especially August it's difficult enough to buy bread in the city let alone get someone to do work with you. Approach a business and the answer is always the same. Mr/Mme x is on holiday please come back at the rentrée (for those who don't know the rentrée is the first week of September and is considered the beginning of the year in France).

It gets worse. In May and June nobody wants to commit to new work because the holidays are just around the corner. In November and December it's coming up to Christmas so that's out of the question and in January nobody has any money because they've spent it over Christmas and New Year.

So according to my calcuations, you can only actually get work done in Paris for a few weeks between Febraury and April or in that other narrow window of opportunity between September and the end of October.

Make sure you're ready.