Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Aïe aïe aïe

Luuk was away, working in Milan, for three days this week. The temperature was up near 35°C every day and the kids were seriously out of sync with their sleeps. I got Louis an extra session at halte garderie, just to give me a little more space, but as he wouldn’t sleep when he needed to, he was shattered after nursery and fell asleep before dinner.

The next day he got sent home with a fever. No obvious illness, but 39°C of grumpy. It was so stinking hot I had all the shutters and windows shut from midday till five, and we just hid from the heat.

I made very slow progress on my editing…

The evenings, once it started to cool down, once the kids were in bed, were divine. But getting them to sleep was never more difficult. They wanted Dad, they wanted to stop sweating, Louis wanted to get up and discovered that needing the toilet would guarantee I’d let him… the first half-dozen times, at least.

Luuk got back late on Thursday evening and we sat on the balcony with icy lemonade, and caught up. I’m so very glad I don’t have to do this on my own. It was much harder to stick to our routines and rules without the accountability of another adult, and one who is on the same page… makes such a big difference. Of course, with the heat and some kind of illness (and Elena teething too) there was plenty of reason for it to be a rough week, with or without Luuk. But yay for Luuk. Two adults to two kids is my kind of ratio.

And yay for Luuk for another reason too: he read one of my novels-in-progress and I’ve got his edits to do this week.

Cousins from the Netherlands are visiting this weekend, which is great, and not only because there are more eyes to keep on Elena. The kid is now traversing the furniture, clambering from one chair to another, couch to table, bouncing and wriggling and occasionally tumbling. Madness. Walking is such a dull way to get from one side of the room to another.

Today we will show off our local market and sample the fare (ie. picnic lunch perhaps) and then head to Paris, possibly to Canal St Martin. (But every time we plan to go there we end up elsewhere…)

We’ll see.

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times they’re a-changing

I’ve stopped breast feeding. Yep. And I’m pretty certain we’re not having any more kids. So I’m done with breast feeding. I’m a tiny bit sad about that. I’m not sure Elena has noticed.

So it was time.

Louis finishes at halte garderie next week. Must remember to sort out some kind of thank you present/card/s for his teachers.

Ten days after that we’re off to Italy. I’ve been dreaming of Italy for aeons. It’s my place, the place I fantasized about, and learned the language for (briefly) and listened to music from… I would sing along with Andrea Bocelli, reading the lyrics from the cd cover booklet. I was a dweeb for Italy.

It’ll be a proper holiday. Sight seeing, siestas, sun and then for the last week or so we will laze about on a Mediterranean island and sample the local ice cream shops.

Bring it. (The french equivalent of this is vas-y. Doesn’t have quite the same snap, does it?)

Come September, we shall return. Louis shall start school. Elena shall start halte garderie. I shall re-start twice-weekly french classes. And of course I’ll have lots of writing to do. Paris to see. Writers’ group. Maybe an art class. Much to look forward to.

But no more breastfeeding. Hm.

I realised recently that Louis has lived more of his life in France than in NZ. Elena is nearly as old as Louis was when we left NZ!

I will get on a plane in a couple of weeks and it’ll be the first since we arrived in France. That’s the longest of gone on the ground since I was twelve.

Not that I’ve any grand conclusion to draw from all that, but I suppose that things have changed. And will again.

And again.

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objectivity and art

This past few days I’ve been reading over a first draft I wrote last year. My expectations of first drafts are low, and while I’m often pleasantly surprised, a first draft usually needs a major overhaul, serious surgery, more than cosmetic…

An Heir out of Place

But I loved it! Lapped it up. Have started reading it over again. Trouble is, I’m not sure I’m objective enough to see what needs doing. There are a handful of things I’m aware need fixing. The first chapter is a bit confusing – too many characters introduced in quick succession, a lot of dialogue without much description (which is something I like, but I suspect I’ve taken too far), and historical inaccuracies (probably, though I’m not sure what exactly or it wouldn’t be such a problem…)

Objective eyes are the thing, but mine don’t work very well. Can’t reach the on-switch. Readers who happily give lots of rigorous feedback ON A WHOLE NOVEL are few and far between.

A friend and I kicked off a writer’s group this week, a new venture, a COMMITTED group. There are stacks of writers groups going in Paris, for writers who work in English, but we wanted a more consistent group, and perhaps a closer group. We get together again in a couple of weeks and will start sharing work (via email) in the mean time.

One of the challenges is to find readers of the genre. I wrote a play a while ago, partly because my tendency to write page upon page of dialogue led to someone at writer’s group asking if I’d ever considered scriptwriting. I’ve been doing a side-project, designing potential book covers for all my writing projects on the go, or otherwise, and made a few covers for this play.

A few friends in the theatre world saw the covers (and read the blurb, I’m guessing) and asked to read it. Hurrah!

So, I suppose this is my readers request:

I have two near finished novels and would love serious feedback from people who enjoy these genres:

– One contemporary romance about a baker and a professional rugby player. Saucy stuff, and 55 thousand words of it (which is pretty short for a novel, think Mills&Boon length). I think (hope!) this is pretty close to finished now, so I’m a bit impatient. Hope to send it out in September… ie. need feedback soon.

Sweet Somethings

One historical romance. Just under 60 thousand words. I think it’s fab (but it’s possible I’m delusional). No great hurry and I’ll finish another read-through/tweak before I send it to you because I’m neurotic about first drafts.

Of course, it’s possible I’m just getting better at this writing schtick. This was the most recent first draft I wrote, my fifth. I did plan it carefully. Maybe all that paid off.

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playing tourist in my own town

Okay, so Paris is hardly my town, but we’ve been here 18 months and we still play the tourist bit on occasion. We are tourists with a twist.

Twisted tourists, if you like.

On Friday I met my friend Liz in Paris for our weekly french conversation lesson. We met at Chatelet-Les Halles, a metro station which, I read somewhere, is the largest in the world. It is two metro stations, technically, and a pain in the butt to traverse. But fortunately I didn’t have to do that.

Once we found each other (hiding from the sun in two different air-conditioned shops and with my phone not cooperating with the cell towers…) we went for a walk.

Liz lived in this part of Paris for twenty years and is great at showing me all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies. We conversed in French, occasionally falling back on English, and did a little intensive with a historical info sign about one particular building’s architecture and art. Trés intéressant.

Then we continued to the gardens at the Palais Royal, and from there to ice cream (more hiding from the sun, but I did have Elena in the pushchair, getting a months worth of vitamin-D… we weren’t just being wimps.)

Pétanque, Jardins de Palais Royale Pétanque, at Palais-Royal. How very Paris.

sunbathing around a fountain, palais royale Speaking of very Paris, reading and sunbathing around a fountain. C’est ça. They’re all sun-addicts. And where better than the city-provided chairs in all the parks, feet up on the edge of a fountain? Quel Parisien.

Opera, ParisThat’s Opéra hiding in the background. Closest I’ve been yet. Plenty more to see in this city.

Post-häagen-dazs, we continued to a foot-bridge over the Seine, and there we sat on a bench, and I wrote down a few new/forgotten words/phrases I’d come across in our conversations.

Last stop, with a sleep-reluctant bub, was a scarf stall – all silk and 5 euro a pop! Incroyable!

I didn’t take many photos, very un-touristic of me… incroyable, vraiment.

Dad visited us for the weekend. He was in Europe for business anyway and why not eh? But we were all a bit wiped out and didn’t make headway till after lunch on Saturday. We biked up to a park for a picnic lunch, and back via another park (boasting a ‘farm’ and a carousel).

Picnic lunch on bikes Picnic lunch.

footy with grandpaLouis teaching grandpa his tricks.

Sunday we joined the hordes (many of them tourists) on the Champs Elysée for the annual 14 Juillet parade – Bastille day, but no one seems to call it that. The French military, or those not busy fighting, etc., parade from the Arc de Triomphe down to Concorde. We went last year, actually, and the crowds were mad. And Elena was a month old. I was reluctant this year but knew it would be right up Dad’s tree.

So off we went.

Me, the kids and dad, 14 Juillet, Paris Dad, me and the kids, waiting for it all to begin.

Dad and Elena Dad, adoring his granddaughter. Bien-sûr.

Louis watching the parade Louis had a great view of the parade.

Elena, on grandpa's shoulders Elena was just in it for the ride.

tricolore in jet trails, over the champs elysee And here come the planes!

tricolore in jet trails, 14 July 2013

I’m no great fan of things-military in general, but it’s hard not to love this bit.

fly over, 14 Juillet, 2013

And I do like planes. I am my father’s daughter.

Watching the paradeElena and I went and sat in a cafe after the flyover and a few troops had gone by. From our seats we could see the tops of the really big trucks and tanks. But the boys had a blast, and afterward, on our search for a functioning Metro station, we witnessed a whole lot more helicopter action.

apaches at invalides, notre dame in background

Two choppers landed on the lawn at Invalides, catching us in the dust storm (we saw it coming and covered our eyes, missing the actual landing moment…). Troops in full camouflage clambered out and did a bunch of formation-y things. It was seriously cool. An Apache was hovering above, the whole time, and the towers of Notre Dame were in view beyond.

Seriously awesome.

So that was our holiday weekend. Dad had to take off on Sunday afternoon and we all flaked out in the sun, me especially.

Please note: I’m not actually complaining about the heat. It’s fabulous. But I wilt.

Happily, I wilt.

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dinner on the deck and other nice things

Summer has settled in here, AT LAST! We’ve eaten dinner on the deck every night this week. The laundry has dried in time to put it away before tea – every day this week! Small victories.

Other victories…

– Elena has started walking.

– I like my novel again. I’ve been listening to my own recorded reading of it, as part of the editing process, and was feeling a bit miserable about the whole thing. And now I like it again. Whew. I might even have cover art for it: It Could be a Book.

– A friend and I have been talking about starting a small committed writers’ group, as opposed to a drop-in kind of deal. And we’ve finally got it organised. People are excited! (Not just me.) Our first meeting will probably the next week or two, before several of us disappear on summer holidays. But the ball will be rolling for September.

– My basil plant is still alive.

– I’m so onto it with the laundry this week that there isn’t even enough grubby stuff to put a load on. Je suis awesome.

– The lime juice stuff I put in my fizzy water has 0% of a RDI of sugar. Or anything else. Score.

– I submitted a poem and a short story for competitions (which close tomorrow) from the writing magazine Luuk bought me for my birthday. Money well spent.

Perhaps. Fingers crossed.

And did I mention it’s summer. It’s amazing what overdosing on vit-D does for the mood. I feel less and less like I’m going to lose it. Which is nice.

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terrible two

These are they:

terrible twoThe rascals are driving me up the wall. I learned a useful phrase in French this week: j’en ai marre. That means, basically, I’m fed up. Needless to say, I won’t forget that one.

Need a break. Time to get a babysitter and escape for half a day before I lose it.

They’re not even particularly difficult kids. They sleep all night and nap every day. They play happily together on occasion. They make an unholy mess of the place, but usually that means they’re feeding themselves and eating a decent meal.

I’m glad I wasn’t born a hundred years earlier. I think, perhaps, I’m just not cut out for women’s work. Can’t hardly believe I just wrote that. But you know what I mean…

Not that I’m ever overly motivated to clean, but knowing it’ll get dirtied-up again tout suite is a quick way to rid myself of all shreds of that meagre motivation.

Luuk and I have taken the sabbath (well, not technically, I suppose, today’s Sunday) and made it unholy, cleaning the house. It remains far from immaculate. However, our storage space in the basement is full, and the kids room has toys in it. The lounge, hallelujah, has a lot fewer toys in it. Perhaps this will put off my onset-madness. The odd clean and clear surface could help build the illusion that I’m in control. Not that I need to be in actual control. But I am fond of the illusion, on occasion.

Luuk has a business trip to Milan next week and another in September, probably. I want to tag along on the second. How wonderful would that be? I’d have loads of time to myself while he was working, but still have someone to eat dinner with. Sounds idyllic. Doesn’t hurt that I’d be in Milan.

Doesn’t hurt that I wouldn’t be required to use my sturdy ‘No!’ a thousand times a day and have it interpreted as, ‘Keep on going; let’s see what happens.’

They’re darlings and I dearly love them. But I need a break. And in order for that to be in Milan, with Luuk, I need someone to look after the kids for three days and nights, possibly during the week, and probably while Louis is still getting into rhythm of going to Maternelle and Elena is still finding her feet at the halte garderie. But there must be a way!

We are all going on holiday together in August, and that will be fantastic: two weeks of sight seeing-variety holiday in Florence, Rome and Naples, and then eight days of sun in Ischia. Surely, even with kids to feed and wash and entertain, that will be relaxing.

But it’s not quite the same as being really alone, having no responsibility, just for a breather. And it’s been a long time since I had more than half a day of that. So I’m on the hunt. I seek ways and means and plans for solitude.


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three countries, three days

We were away, this past weekend, for Luuk’s maternal family reunion in Beuningen, in the Netherlands. But we’re trying to see a bit of Europe while we’re living in France, so we took in a Belgium delight en route: neither chocolate nor waffle, but Gent, a city which offers both, as well as churches by the mile, and a fabulous castle…

castillo candes, Gent

The Count’s Castle, in Gent.

Elena, taking up arms

Elena, perched at the wall, ready for action.

a defensive position, in Gent's Count's castle

The view from the battlements.

the square opposite Gent's count's castle

The square opposite the castle: boasting an old money mint and a fish market.

view of Gent

The city of Gent

count's castle, gent, Belgium

The count’s castle was great to explore, though a little precarious in places with the kids: wonky spiral stair cases and high ledges without balustrades… Still, very imposing. The castle houses museum-like displays of armour, weaponry, and torture methods. Elena wanted to comfort the manequin on the rack.

We enjoyed walking around this scenic city and most of the rain fell while we were inside the St Bavo Cathedral, a very impressive church, which doesn’t like to have its photo taken.

bridge over the leie, GentOne of the bridges over, I believe, the Leie (river? canal? not sure)

exploring Gent

Louis wasn’t impressed by the weather.

end of an alley in GentBut there were cool views hiding at the ends of alley ways and that helped us rally something of the explorer spirit.

We drove on to the Netherlands on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday it was Perry Day! This is an annual family reunion that Luuk hasn’t been to in 8 years, and me never. Lots of new names and faces and some of them pretty challenging for my poor pronunciation skills (that dutch ‘G’ gets me good.) But there were a few familiar faces and the kids had a wonderful time with loads of their cousins.

cousins, and cousins Elena making friends with the only baby younger than her.

family reunion

The sun came out in time for beer-o’clock. Perfect.

music and cards

Music and cards, a real party.

trampolining with dadLouis and Luuk trampolining after all the big kids had gone home.

I was fighting (a losing battle) with a head cold all weekend but held it off with weak-sauce drugs for the party. It made travelling a bit miserable but the kids did well and we took a few liberal breaks for food and play on the way home, which nicely brought us into Paris late enough to avoid carnage on the périphérique… almost.