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Christchurch’s new Nanowrimo Municipal Liaison Crew

Category : Uncategorized

As many Christchurch participants of NaNoWriMo already know, Lady Talia has stood down as the Municipal Leader for our region. She has contributed much to NaNo over the years, but is now looking forward to spending time with some of her other writing friends in other regions. How she managed on her own for such a large community of writers, one will never know.

Since the earthquakes, the writers within the Christchurch region have become so spread out, living as far north as Pegasus and as far south as Rolleston and Lincoln. To accommodate the growing size of the Christchurch region, two Municipal Leaders have been appointed for the forthcoming 2015 NaNoWriMo.

Christchurch Nanowrimo MLs

Judy Mohr (on the left in the picture) is a writer of fantasy, filled with dark turns, adventurous leaps, not to forget the humour and romance thrown in for good measure. Those involved with the Christchurch Writers’ Guild will know her well, as she is always spreading what tidbits of knowledge she can about her road toward traditional publishing, and frequently asks those hairy questions others are sometimes afraid to ask. She is currently the Guild president and is working toward improving Guild-offered services for Christchurch writers. She is also a member of SpecFicNZ and the Scribophile on-line writing community.

Judy is penning a Adult high fantasy series where a young magician must join her soul with twin warriors or give her enemy the ultimate power: the ability to bring back the dead. However, for this November, she will be putting aside the world of the Signs and the Bleeders, to start work on a Middle Grade science fiction filled with fun characters and deliberate cliches; if Jack O’Neil was a unicorn, he’d be in charge of the Rainbow Squad.

Judy’s NaNoWriMo name, unlike her writing, is not very imaginative. You can find her if you search for “Judy Mohr“. She’s the only one that comes up in the database.

Amy Paulussen (aka sunburntdaisy on NaNoWriMo and on the right in the photo) is a sun-lover, and has wrinkles from all the squinting, because she can’t bear to close the curtain behind her desk. She writes contemporary and historical fiction, love stories with a literary bent. Amy received a complete manuscript assessment from the NZ Society of Authors this year and so she’s in the midst of rewriting ‘Off Camera’, on the advice of a brilliant veteran author and lit agent. Come November, she’ll be writing a historical set right here in Christchurch… fingers crossed it’ll be NZ’s answer to Downton Abbey.

Amy discovered writers’ groups while living in Paris and loves a good write-in and/or a fierce critique sesh. She used to teach English and Media Studies, but then there were babies, and 3 years overseas, and she started writing full-time. Now she does relief at Hagley most days, writing in all the gaps. She calls it word-snatching, types at alarming speeds, but finds good ol’ fashioned pen ‘n paper a good way to tap into some kinda creative-special-reserve. Amy’s on the committee for the Christchurch branch of the NZSA.

Amy and Judy will be working together to ensure that all NaNoWriMo participants throughout the greater Christchurch region get the opportunity to meet with other Christchurch WriMo crazies (I mean writers). Feel free to drop them a line through the NaNoWriMo website, or if you’re on Facebook, make sure you make yourself known through the “NaNoWriMo Christchurch” closed group. Or for those of you on Twitter, use the hashtag #ChChWriMos.

Write-ins will be planned for throughout Christchurch, starting with the kickoff on Saturday, October 31st at Mexicano’s starting at 10:30pm. See you there.

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and the winners are…

Earlier this year, a couple of days after we got to Christchurch (after relocating from France and visiting people for a few weeks in the north island before tripping down the country) I applied for a program the NZ Society of Author’s runs each year, called ‘CompleteMS’. Basically, I want some editorial-flavoured feedback from someone in the writing and publishing industry. I’ve had helpful criticism and lovely praise from my writers’ group and assorted reader/writer-friends, and I know this particular story has its strengths but it isn’t getting bites from literary agents. There are many reasons literary agents don’t bite – it’s not all about the quality of the work but that’s a factor. So rather than rush head-long into self-publishing, or continue firing off queries to agents, hoping someone will fall head-over-heels for this manuscript in its current form, I’m hoping to lift my game a bit, take this novel up another notch.

So I applied and I’ve won one of the twelve assessments they award each year! Hurrah!

Thanks to The NZ Society of Authors and CreativeNZ, I’ll have some help from… mystery guest. I have no idea who my assessor is, but I’ve posted off the big, fat envelope. It’ll take a month or two to get the thing back, with notes and all that, and then there’s a work-shopping session, a chance to talk through the issues and next-steps. And then I’ll be ready to rewrite the thing, again. Make it magic. Fine-tune. Or, you know, rip out great hunks and suture the wounds.

It could happen. It’ll hurt but if that’s what it needs…

So, yeah, that’s my news. Yay! It feels like a big smack of a kiss of legitimacy, to have something I wrote recognised as kind of up-and-coming. I even get my bio on the NZSA website.

In the meantime, while I wait, I’m still working: rewriting another many-times edited manuscript, one that has already had some professional editing. It’s not a magic fix-all, and I’ve gone several rounds with this baby, even after those assessments. I suppose, for all that, my expectations of this CompleteMS thing are in-check. It’s an honour to be supported in my work, but I still have to do the work.

We’re in school hols so with 2 kids under-toe I’m scrabbling at time to get at the manuscript. After sunset, I say fair game and let the kids at their screens, and pour myself a glass of wine and try to switch on my brain (and yes, I’m aware that’s counter-intuitive). If I can just get into it a bit them the odd interruption won’t hurt: I can go make hot chocolates or find someone a dummy, or build a mattress “slide bridge” and then return to my page and pick up where I left off. But I have to get my head into what I’m working on to begin with, and some days that takes longer than others. I went and hid in my bedroom this evening and read a whole chapter aloud. Off the back of that I managed several new paragraphs, necessary because of the massive changes I’ve made in the previous three chapters (cut the bulk of two of them – bam. Ow.)

So, yeah, that’s me, word snatching when I’m a bit past it. Today we roller-skated.

That's how we roll

Tomorrow we’re hanging with friends, assuming we don’t get snowed in. Thursday we’re going to try gymnastics on for size. There’s a school holiday thing on with heaps of stuff to do… so we’re doing, rather than bumming around at home, getting annoyed at one another. Or that’s the goal. I’d get more writing/editing done if we stayed in, but I’d be fobbing off the kids and I do try to delay that till later in the day.

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Co-op Coercion

Category : Uncategorized

lying to the kids, getting them to try things

I have a three-year-old and a four-year-old. Needless to say, mealtimes are often an exercise in finding the line between coercion and co-operation. Sure, Kiddo, we can have pesto pasta but you choose: beans or peas. No. Beans or peas. Yes, you can pick out the sun-dried tomatoes, if you really must, but if you try it, you’ll love it. It’s like a tomato sauce candy.


Think about it. I’m not lying.

Not this time anyway. I once told Louis that a sliver of orange capsicum was a carrot stick. He ate it. Then I told him the truth and now he eats capsicums (translation: bell peppers).

But it’s not just the kids who are learning to like new things. I’ve joined the fruit and vegetable co-op near us. Each week, for $12, we get an enormous bag of fruit, and another of veggies, and often add-ons – at least $24 worth of stuff. But we don’t get any choice about what’s in the bags. It’s something of a gamble. So far, no entire bag of artichokes, thankfully, because only a tiny bit of those things are edible, and when I say edible I don’t really mean it. (I love artichoke hearts but after one attempt at cooking them, I now buy them in jars, pre-prepared.)

So… in the last couple of weeks I’ve cooked and eaten things I wouldn’t have picked off a shelf, no matter how good the price: kale, parsnips and red cabbage. Kale, though it’s all the rage on the foodie and diet circuit, I’d never even tried before. I didn’t do a great job of cooking it so if we get it again I’ll try something different. Not a fault of the kale. If it’s on special, I’d buy it now.

The parsnips though – first try and they were amazing. I made carrot and parsnip chips and baked them babies so crispy good. We all loved them so much I bought more parsnips, over and above the co-op lot of fruit and veg, the next week.

Cabbage on the other hand… it has been my food-nemesis for years. We didn’t eat it – red or green – at all, growing up, because Mum’s not a fan. I’ve eaten it elsewhere, but never enjoyed it. I was once horribly sick after a dodgy hot-dog with sauerkraut on it, and call it confirmation bias or what-you-will, but I’ve often felt something like a gag-reflex in response to the stuff.

But an enormous red cabbage was in last week’s haul, so off I went to the internet for recipes that might make it more palatable. Worst case scenario, Luuk would get a lunch-box-full of leftovers for a few days. (Luuk will eat pretty much anything.)

I looked at a bunch of braised cabbage recipes and figured out what absolutely needed to happen to make the stuff edible, and then borrowed ingredient ideas from several different recipes – brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, red wine (and some for the cook), and some spicy sausages…

braised red cabbage

It was so good.


But seriously, delishimoso.

There were left-overs (because a cabbage is actually an enormous quantity of food for 2 adults and 2 halflings – who weren’t impressed by purple food – I did have hopes, but they were disappointed) so I loaded up a couple of pizza bases with the braised cabbage mix a couple of days later, added bacon and cheese and put them under the grill.

I had other leftovers too, so I made a variety of leftover-pizzas, but the cabbage ones were the best. Unlikely, I know, but there you go. So damn delish.

I also never ate Fejoias, growing up, but we have a tree at our new place and about a month ago I tried one for the first time. I’ve always said I don’t like them but I think the closest I’d come to eating them was the smell – not unpleasant but unique and probably made more pungent because they’d been in some kid’s lunchbox for several hours.

Turns out, I adore the things. I’ve been eating dozens a day. And yay, because free food!

free vitamin C!

Of course, it doesn’t always go this way. I’ve been tasting and trying different olives for years and I still don’t like them. Not even in tapenade.

But worth a try. Tastes change. Attitudes toward new tastes change. That’s as much the point. When we were travelling and living overseas, experiencing strange, new things was part of the adventure, and coming home I definitely wanted to keep that attitude toward – not just toward food, but all of life.

So here’s to taking a bite, and another, and falling a little bit in love with Fejoias!

ps. For my foreign friends, fejoias are a something like a cross between passionfruit and kiwis. They have a tough matte-green skin, are shaped like a rugby ball, and inside are white and brown – browner when they’re riper. The center is seeds and their goopy surrounds, like passionfruit, but the inner rind is soft and sweet with a texture similar to a floury apple. There are loads of different varieties – more sweet or sour, larger or smaller – and they are very seasonal. People give them away by the bag-full this time of year but they’re impossible to find in summer.

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Come on in…

Category : Daily Life

Well, this is a little embarrassing, but the kids are adorable, so voila, the video tour of our place…

Now that we’ve been living here for two months, have passed our three-month inspection (no idea why they did it early, but it was a great kick in the pants to clear up a few junky corners) and all the pictures are on the walls, it’s too late to have a house-warming. Meanwhile, we’re hosting a 3-year-old’s birthday tomorrow, and that’ll sate our appetite for parties for a while, I suspect.

In other news, said 3-year-old, Elena, starts Kindy on Monday, almost full-time, and so I’ll finally have some solid writing time – as well as enough time for a lunch break. Winter has set in. We’ve even set-up the dryer. We are rain-ready in the laundry department, and what-do-you-know? We’ve got fine weather. But not warm. Basically, it’s the perfect weather to cosy-up inside and read or write… or build a slide/trampoline out of mattresses and throw yourself at it.


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Christchurch. It’s an odd place. And I’m in an odd space, straddling the fence (as uncomfy as it sounds) between the arrogance of a newcomer who hasn’t yet seen the diversity and complexity of a place and so can make sweeping judgements based on a narrow view (ie. man, cantabs are a fit bunch, all biking up Hackthorne Road at half-8 every morning…) and the other side of the fence: feeling completely ill-qualified to say or even really think anything with any kind of certainty about this place.

a different perspective

Living here, on the hill, where I’ve never lived and spent very little time before, I am realising that some of my assumptions about Christchurch, in the more-than-decade I lived here before, were always a bit skewed to my neighbourhood, the demographic of the majority of my friends and acquaintances, my similarly-limited experience of the other cities I’d lived in (Auckland and Hong Kong) and the things I liked and didn’t like about those ex-homes…

a different demographic

Kids are a quick introduction to a wider demographic. Though some would say the parent-crowd is a narrow demographic, it’s still new to me.

Socialising without widely-used and widely-available public transport is different. The hours here are generally so much earlier than in France. I went to a writers group that was all over before nine and we didn’t even open all the wine. Catching-up with old friends and making new ones are both different experiences to hanging out with people you bump into every other day. Sight-seeing in a place that you feel you belong to is different from sight-seeing in a foreign land.

New Zealanders seem obsessed with their houses, their diets and which brand of yogurt or detergent is best, but actually those are probably international obsessions and I’m someone who a) doesn’t own a house, b) has had to change brands of everything (and used to teach media studies, so can preach with the best about how marketing is aiming for brand loyalty big time – YOU’RE BEING MANIPULATED), and c) my most successful diet involved generous doses of bread and cheese. I walked a lot. I still walk a lot. I have no intention of cutting bread or cheese. Or cheesy bread.

In some ways, things and people seem same-old, but at second glance not really at all. And, of course, Christchurch has changed. We were here for the earthquakes and a year of aftershocks and demolition and adjusting. But in the three years we’ve been away, the demolition has gone rip-roaring on and driving through the city I keep getting completely disoriented. Rebuilding has now (finally!) begun, in some areas anyway, and in the empty spaces, the waiting, other cool stuff, temporary or not, has sprung up: bars and cafes made of scaffolding and builder’s plastic, art installations framed by cranes and construction. And then there’s the street art. It’s not new, but I suppose I came to appreciate the street art in Paris and coming back, it’s a nice surprise.

official street art, an oxymoron?

So there’s the official kind, which is impressive and some is just plain beautiful…

elephant street art

street art in christchurch

…but street art with permission seems a little oxymoronic, don’t it?

unofficial art installation

And then there’s the unofficial kind, the twisted remains of steel reinforcement, the pillars channeling roman ruins (the poorly upkept type, sure) and the illegible paint-job behind the security fencing.

So walking through christchurch is a vastly different but not unpleasent experience. The cathedral’s a bit of a shock everytime I drive up Colombo Street and I’m suddenly there (so many of the buildings in the lead-up have gone that I don’t realise I’m close until I’m there). I’m not one for fierce attachment to buildings and that might be because I moved internationally when I was twelve, twice, and then again when I was fourteen, inter-island-ally, and so my concept of ‘home’ is indecisive, to say the least. I am very glad, however, that they are saving the Art Centre.

cranes and work

For my non-cantab readers, this was the old university buildings but has long been an arts and culture centre of the city, with weekend markets and every day artist studios, theatres, cinemas, museum space, community classes, galleries, the works. The first time I ever exhibited paintings it was on the street outside this place. I took a creative writing class here while I was working on my first ever novel. Luuk and I went on our first date to see ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ at the Court Theatre and then to Dux-de-Lux for their legendary seafood pizza.

Just over the road from this pile of rocks, is the YMCA, and they’ve been hosting a whole hoard of street art in an exhibition which closes, um, tomorrow…

spectre exhibition, chch ymca

Large and small, super-famous and not-so. Street art of a variety of shapes and flavours.

tilt and banksy

Tilt and Banksy co-built this half-white, half intense tags and full-colour, room. The nearest picture here reads, ‘I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.’


canapes, can o' peas - what's the dif?

Having just spent three years wrestling with French, this one resonated.

not louis vuitton

This one just made me laugh because I had a friend in Paris who was a designer for Louis Vuitton and even he said he couldn’t say it right.

Luuk and I walked the streets after seeing the exhibition and found heaps of work on the walls of the city. ‘Tis a right mess in there, but it’s cool to see progress and there’s something therapeutic and metaphoric about finding beauty in a mess.

I’m happy to say it’s not metaphorical for my life as a whole right now. We are settling down and our place is nearly organised. The routines are starting to fall into place and it’s not hard to find beauty. Don’t look at the crumbs on the carpet or the coffee grinds on the kitchen bench, just feast your eyes on the Southern Alps, the bright, dusty plains, the immense sky, the motley autumn trees, and if you listen, you’ll hear the birds in the Kowhai outside the kitchen window.

In my next installment I might show you around the house a bit. By then I’ll finally have all the pictures up on the wall.

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new digs

We’ve had three quakes in three days and so I think it’s fair to say that the country has stopped putting out the good china for us. We’re back to being ordinary kiwis again, except that we occasionally (all the time) yell at our kids in more than one language.

So, how are we settling in? I don’t know. My head is as all-over-the-show as the canterbury sky and let me tell you, that’s one damn interesting, constantly changing sky.

changing skies

I’ve finally got a little writing done, which makes things feel a bit normal. The kids are sleeping, concurrently, and I’ve pulled myself away from Sim City, which is fun but as dangerous as Candy Crush in this new iPad format. Great for a bit of down-time when chaos and boxes are piling up around you, but not great for feeling like you might be a little bit in control of your life.

Which I am.

I might be.

‘Tis possible.

We got back to Christchurch nearly four weeks ago and moved into this place exactly two weeks ago. We’re in a completely different neighbourhood than when we lived here before, on the hill in an otherwise pancake-like city. The feel of it is totally new to us, which is at the very least a good distraction from the complex combo of disappointment and confusion and coming-home feelings around returning, and at most a big help in that whole reverse culture shock thang.

helpful. So helpful.

A new kind of view.

So, two weeks in, we’ve been tapping away at the to-do lists. Louis will be starting Kindy in a couple of weeks, and we’ve found a play group, and maybe a fruit & veggie co-op, and we’ve joined Alliance Française. My 30th birthday party is in the works, so that will be a great big catch-up and I’ve been driving all over the city visiting old friends and colleagues. That stuff’s all great fun but not good for helping life to feel normal. There’s no real routine yet and oh how I need routine.

Kindy will impose something of a timetable. Come June, Elena will start Kindy too and then we’ll be in business, but in the meantime I’m going to have to be out and about and sociable or risk losing my mind, and my temper, at home with the wee ones all day, every day.

I know, I know, I’m an extrovert and doesn’t that mean I lap up the social stuff and… well, sometimes. Only when I’m spending a good chunk of the day, undisturbed, on my own, getting my writing done, not managing children’s activities and/or health & safety at the same time.

One of our weekly outings will probably be to the local library – all of 2kms away and containing both a playground and a cafe within its multi-purpose community centre-ish borders.

After the ‘how are you settling’ question, people usually ask, ‘are you missing France yet?”

Yes. The bread, obviously, and people: all my dear friends. And childcare. And the price of fresh mozzarella.

And the price of wine. We have a divine balcony and the sun is baking us just nicely, but I’m rationing the frosty drink that goes best with it.

That said, we have been enjoying the perks of NZ. The March weather has been fabulous, and we have a view which takes in a good portion of the southern alps and a sliver of the Pacific Ocean. Can’t complain. Also, we get four days off for Easter in NZ, and we went to the beach on Friday and Saturday. Two different beaches, in fact.

And they say there's no sun in sumner.

At Sumner, on Good Friday.

late afternoon on the beach, christchurch, nz

Same as ever… but not, in fact.

cliffs and containers

Containers, protecting the road in case earthquakes bring down any more of the cliffs. But a good half of the containers are also art now, so that’s cool.

Speaking of containers, our shipping is stuck in Singapore. Missed the boat and so we have to wait an extra week. So, basically, it’s going to arrive on ANZAC day, which is now a proper public holiday (if it lands on a weekend you get the Monday), but that means it’s going to be May, probably, before we see our couch and our washing machine and the kids’ beds. (They’re on mattresses on the floor in the meantime.)

I am looking forward to the arrival of that container so much, it verges on the ridiculous. Mum is being a laundry superhero in the meantime but still… we can’t settle yet. We unpacked all our storage in two or three days, in a mad rush, as if we could set up properly, but we can’t until the rest arrives and I must have realised that on day four, I’d guess, because I haven’t unpacked or organised anything in the house since then. Luuk’s done some building and buying and rearranging, but I’ve stalled.

I wonder if, having got a bit of solitary time and writing done today, I’ll start setting-up and rearranging the house again. It might feel less futile to sort out the space, now that I’ve done work in the space, and presumably will do more tomorrow, or the day after, or – hold the phone – both.

Wait for it…

Nope. No sudden hankering to put together the dvd shelves. Oh, but I could do an eclair citron.


Except I really couldn’t. Lemon mousse is more complicated than it looks.

But there’s a Tui and a couple of Fantails in our garden. So it’s a mixed bag this moving back thing. Pros and cons. Highs and lows. The kids are awake, but there’s a library just a short drive away. Maybe I can read a little more of my book.

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signing off

I started this blog after we’d already been in France for a few months but for most of the time we’ve lived here, it’s been a sort of travel-meets-expat blog, with forays into parenting and politics and writing and all sorts. However, we are leaving France in less than two weeks and so things will change.

I will write a little something, I’m sure, about re-adjusting to New Zealand, about going back, reverse culture shock and all that jazz.

And I’ll still be writing books. One day, some of them will be published, so this website will remain my home base online. The flavour and frequency of blog-posts will change, but this feels a little like goodbye.

Mind you, everything feels a little like goodbye this week. I went to my final writers’ group get-together last Friday night. I hosted my final Friday morning prayer thing (which never got a name but will continue without me and might yet…). I’ve been to my final french class and tomorrow I teach my final English lesson.

writers' group

This is the kids’ last week at school and halte garderie. The thank-you pressies and cards are sitting on the bookshelf will all the other things I must remember to give or give back to people.

Several large pieces of furniture have been dismantled. The basement storage space is empty. Our house is full of boxes and lists and my next job is to go through all the lists and pull it all together into one big list of all the things going in the container. I have an episode of ‘Call the Midwife’ all lined up, ready to keep me company while I do that scintillating job. (Hopefully it won’t have me in rivers of tears like the last one did. Wonderful catharsis though it is…)

So here’s the plan:

Monday 16 Feb – moving out of our flat

We’re staying in a hotel in the vicinity of Paris and taking advantage of things like Disneyland, sometime in here…

Sunday 22 – flying out of France

Tuesday 24 – arriving in NZ (the length of the flight is having a similar effect as ‘Call the Midwife’)

We’ll stay with Luuk’s folks in the Waikato for a couple of weeks and we will spend a couple of days in Auckland, and maybe in Tauranga too.

Then we’ll drive down to Christchurch… exact dates yet to be confirmed. We really must get onto that – ferry tickets and whatnot.

Right, on with the packing then. (Have I suddenly started sounding like something out of 1950s London?)

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Deep breath, and…

wait. It’s too soon to actually pack. It’s too soon to get rid of furniture we actually use. There’s a bunch of phone calls and things to book and organise… but actually not much we can do to prepare for moving back to New Zealand.

We are, by the way, moving back home. In a month. A month, today, in fact. The urgent things are booking the shipping company and getting Elena her visa. Thank heaven her application is now off in the post and we can only… wait.

WHY does she need a visa? That’s always the next question. Well, she’s Dutch. She was born in France so the Dutch won’t allow her to have dual citizenship. She can be a New Zealander, because I am, but she’d lose her European citizenship, which she might want when she’s older… so we’ll get her New Zealand residency. Eventually, like Luuk, she’ll have Permanent Residence and will have every right of a NZ citizen, bar a passport… so that’s all fine, but in the meantime she has to have a visitor visa.

And hopefully, before we move out of our apartment, she’ll have one.

The other question I’m getting a lot is WHY do you suddenly have to move? The plan was for August and now it’s for February, and WHY?

French law says your landlord can only kick you out at the end of your lease (3yrs) if the owner is either selling or moving in. They have to give 6 months notice or else it rolls over for another three years. Our lease is up mid-February and our landlady gave us 6 months notice but we thought she’d be nice and let us stay for an extra few months if we promised to leave – signed something, even – in July. We asked… no answer. We didn’t chase it up fast because it seemed like a reasonable request, but eventually we asked again… no answer. Eventually, in November, she gave a definitive NO. So we tried to find a place nearby to move to, but come Christmas were having no luck and two moves in 6 months is unnecessarily stressful…

So one it is.

Back to Christchurch for the immediate future, but more aware than ever that the future is a tricky thing and who knows?

I suppose it’s fair to say I’ve been quite stressed. Quite sick too, but the doctor put me on powerful antibiotics so it’ll pass. Once I’m well, I’m sure I will feel less panicky about things, so long as no more idiots go on a murderous rampage just a couple of neighborhoods away… That’d be good.

Perhaps it was a bit reckless to go into Paris on Thursday, just the day after the Charlie Hedbo shootings, but as far as we knew the guys had gone north east. But I hadn’t been to a French class in over a month. So I went. Never mind that one of these nut jobs shot a couple of people in the southern part of the city, quite near Antony… because at that point no one realised he was one of the same guys who’d done the Charlie Hedbo lot.

On Friday I actually did have to go into the city, to take Elena to the ONE doctor in Paris who can do a medical certificate for NZ immigration. I had the beginnings of a horrible throat infection, and a grumpy 2 year old, and taking the train meant…

1. joining the morning rush on the RER B (no chairs and no way I can let Elena out of the pushchair, but she’ll try to get out anyway), and

2. changing trains at Denfert Rochereau, with about a million other people, and not breaking stride (which would cause AT LEAST ten people to collide) while lifting 15.5kgs of Elena plus whatever the pushchair weighs and carrying it down and up several double and at least one triple staircase.

So I get to the doctor and I have the wrong papers and the secretary seems like she’s going to help me out (print the right papers) and then she gets confused and thinks I have the right papers, so I go ahead with Elena to see the doctor (after waiting for a while in the lobby with a 2 year old and no toys and an annoying video ad playing on repeat for plastic surgery – think breasts spontaneously changing size and shape, bottoms defying gravity, the sort of thing you absolutely want your 2-year-old seeing ten times over). And then we figure out that no, indeed, I do have the wrong papers, but now the secretary is adamant that she can’t print documents for clients, and Elena is ready for her nap and throwing a bit of a tizzy and I’m feeling quite ill and I crack, ie. start crying, then pull myself together enough to make another appointment for Monday.

I leave and stand on the footpath and have a good cry – which gets you no comments, not even a sideways glance, in Paris. It’s kind of nice. I cried, confident that no passers-by would interrupt me with their concern. And then I went to the New Zealand Embassy to get certified copies of our passports. Oh, it was nice to speak English to people with NZ accents and who could actually do the thing that I was asking of them.

Elena was asleep by then, so I went back to Antony (all the train crap again – although I did get a seat for the last leg of the trip). It was nearly time for Elena to go to nursery so not worth going home. I needed to eat but the cafes were all packed. It wasn’t quite raining, but misting, so we found a damp bench under a tree and shared a sandwich.

I dropped her off at nursery then went home and discovered that just a couple of arrondisements away all hell was breaking loose. I was kind of a mess at this point, but I lay on the couch and watched TV until I had to pick up Louis from school. The watching TV probably didn’t help but lying still did. The hostage situations were all over by six pm. And I’d been looking forward to writers’ group; I’d read all their pages and they’d read mine, so off I went to the city again. Three times in two days.

Such a stressful trip. I mean the sieges were over at this point so it shouldn’t have been, but the train kept stopping between stations, and I could just see everyone trying not to worry. But then at St Michel some idiots were yelling on the platform and there was a bang and then a minute later two more bangs – I don’t know what was banging but it must have been nothing serious and the train left the station. Just some idiots… just freaking everyone out. All these slick Parisians with their expressionless faces. Except for the half dozen people who gave in to curiosity and craned their necks to see out the train windows. Anyway, I got to writers group safe and sound. Got a bit drunk, unfortunately, but perhaps that was inevitable.

What a week.

This week has been thankfully uneventful. My throat was horrific so I opted out of everything I could opt out of. I sorted Elena’s application and got myself to the doctors, and the antibiotics are kicking the throat infection’s arse.

Is that everything? I had a huge catch-up to write and I suppose I haven’t talked about Christmas and our trip to Belgium and all of that, but too bad. It snowed in Belgium. We won at cards (we played 500, so all credit to my Dad who taught me). Good chips. Excellent beer. A couple of stressful travel-related dreams. I read many books. That is all.

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What the fête is going on?

Tags :

Category : Daily Life

(and where the holly are my Christmas presents?)

We have to move. If we find a place soon we’ll be shifting flats within the same suburb and staying till July next year, as planned. Then we’ll move back to New Zealand. As planned.

If we can’t find an apartment in the next month then, come mid-February, when our lease ends, we will move back to New Zealand. Once again our plans are all up in the air.

Kind of like Luuk’s key was, in the elevator yesterday.

found key

Funny story. He must have dropped it and whoever found it decided to hang it from the dodgy wire that sticks out of the elevator light.

I saw it and thought ‘how wonderfully absurd’ and took a photo, not knowing it was Luuk’s key.

So that was the highlight of yesterday. I know, that sounds terrible, but the kids have been sick and the getting-better thing is making them grumpy little wretches. Even christmas baking was a bit of a downer because I overcooked the cookies. I should know – trust the clock, not the look.

Anyway, so moving. Maybe. Definitely, but not sure when. Or where. But it’s easy, especially this time of year, to get so wrapped up in day-to-day stuff that even an imminent (just 2 months away) and major change can fade into the background. It is probably making me look at my friends here with a bit of the expectation that I will have to say goodbye soon. And NZ being where it is, far far away, it might be years before we meet again.

One friend in particular is moving out of the city over the next two weeks (it’s a process) and we’ll probably visit them out in the wops before we jet off, but there will be no more grabbing a drink before we pick the kids up from halte garderie, no more 7-types-of-cheese-and-accompaniments picnic lunches between the kids’ morning and afternoon sessions.

In NZ christmas is always the time for finishing things, for saying goodbye to teachers or students and heading off for summer break, but it feels like that a little bit here, this year. School’s only off for 2 weeks, and halte garderie less than that. But I suppose, all my life, christmas parties were end-of-year send-offs.

pomme d'api christmas party

Elena’s christmas party was last week. They nursery she attends is so sweet. I feel very lucky in that regard and hope we can find such a good fit in NZ.

christmas party story time

The teachers read and acted out a lovely little winter story about a bunch of animals taking shelter in a giant mitten. And then the bear joins them and (spoiler alert) the mitten breaks. Elena’s teachers, most of the time, are the two on either side of the ‘stage’ and the woman with the book is the principal.

Louis’s school has christmas trees up in every room, and they took them to a movie about a snowman last week, but as far as I’m aware there’s no christmas party. Which is fine – one less thing. They’re doing lots of lovely christmas art, though, and they actually (at 4!) look at artists and copy their styles.

Louis' painting

I’m rather impressed. And he’s rather proud.

Speaking of art, I better get on and make some. I’m editing like crazy – what else is new? And I’ve only got an hour before I need to go get Elena.

PS. I ordered all my christmas presents online and they’re not here yet! So I’m going to be dragging out people’s christmases with late pressies, I suspect.

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the opposite game

Remember that game? It was popular with kids who also liked the phrase, “Stop hitting yourself.”

Well, calling the school holidays HOLIDAYS is kind of like that – the exact opposite, and sometimes painful.

But this time we had mum come to visit, ie. I did less housework but more sightseeing and it was mostly painful to our feet.

Luuk and I took advantage rather deftly and went away for the weekend the day after she arrived. Mum’s a trooper. In fact, within an hour of her arrival she was being schooled in French by Louis. The kids have a skill for giving adults books in languages they don’t speak. I just make up stories that match the pictures of the dutch ones.

Anyway, so Mum’s visited us in Paris a few times before, but this time we were both feeling a bit more determined to see some of the sights she’s missed in the past. Rather than hang around Antony with the kids. With the dregs of jet lag still doing their nasty thing, we started with something little: Saint Sulpice –

saint sulpice



The kids took a lot of photographs, which turns out is a great way to keep them entertained while we look at stained glass and frescoes. But we still didn’t stay long.

autumn on the seine

And then on Wednesday we upped our game and did the Louvre.

kids at the louvre

I’ve only been once before, and this time we covered a lot of ground. The Richelieu wing, which we didn’t even go in last time, was great. The kids respond really well to the sculptures… when they’re not running around and getting in trouble with the security guards.

Elena at the Louvre

After that we needed a lazy day, and Thursday is market day in Antony, so we did that too. The kids enjoyed having Gran around.

cricket in franceGran and Louis playing cricket.

morning tea with gran




Morning tea at the park.

On the weekend we drove out to Giverny, to visit Monet’s gardens.

elena at monet's gardensElena and the water lilies.

louis and gran and giverny Louis and Gran, talking about the flowers.

louis running around at monet's garden

Of course, the good thing about gardens is that the kids can run around. Not so much in the house, so we did a quick dash through that.

And then drove off to find a picnic spot. Luuk had done his research (of course) and found a chateau we could visit nearby – a proper ruined castle type thing rather than just a fancy house.

chateau gaillard

elena and the sheep, near Les Andeleys

No picnic spot is complete without some wandering sheep for the kids to watch.

elena at chateau gaillardElena climbing around the ruins of Chateau Gaillard.

We were all exhausted after that so stopped in Les Andeleys for a coffee before driving home.

Mum powered-on, the next day, and did Versailles, while the rest of us lazed about. I had writers’ group. The kids napped.

I got a babysitter for for the Monday, so that Mum and I could do some stuff in Paris without dragging the kids about. We started at Montmartre and went on a bit of a walking tour, of our own design, going past the cemetary, the moulin rouge and the moulin… ah, the other one… and then up to the art market. We walked down the steps from Sacre Coeur and then went to the fabric shops.

Holy cow, the fabric shops! Even I shopped up large, and I don’t even sew (but someone’s getting material for christmas).

We grabbed lunch and then found our way to the Marais and only got a little lost on our way to Victor Hugo’s house.

maison de victor hugo!That’s me, outside Victor Hugo’s house. The plaque is very faded but there it is!

We wandered around, looking for yummies for Luuk’s birthday and any cute shops we fancied. Stumbled across a couple of thrift stores that would make certain people I know salivate. Floors and floors of cramped motley messes of clothes and accessories… I tried to take photos but they all look awful. And we didn’t end up buying anything. I’ll have to go back another day, when I have more time and energy.

One last gem we found before we headed home – this old cloister.

art in a cloister, in the maraisWhich was hosting a random but cool art exhibition.

Mum packed in a few more Paris sights but me and the kids saved our energy for the Salon du Chocolat.

paris in chocolat

Elena, enjoying the Salon du Chocolat

It was chocolate tasting to the n’th. Holy cow. Mum quickly started saying no thanks. I held out a little longer. The kids didn’t say no at all, not once. My best efforts to get them to eat something-anything-else was a waffle.

Then Mum had to head back to NZ and that left only a day or two of holidays.

not-spider cookies

We made a meagre attempt at pirate costumes and spider cookies for halloween.

More chocolate? Well, yes, actually. We ate so much chocolate at the Salon du Chocolat that we didn’t feel like chocolate and seriously under-shopped! Who’d have thought?

So it wasn’t a HOLIDAY of the restful and rejuvenating kind, but it was great. Visitors give us a great injection of make-the-most-while-you’re-in-paris, that is just not maintainable most of the time.

That said, this weekend we’re going away to do something restful AND uniquely-french: staying at a country house in the Loire with some Brits!