Deep breath, and…

  • -

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.


  • -

To Fontainebleau We Go

(Fontainebleau, we discovered, is pronounced fon-ten-blow, or something like that. Definitely ‘blo’ not ‘bleu’ like the colour.)

There are about a gazillion castles/chateaux in France, and we’ve seen a few in our time here, but one of the bigger ones nearby, we hadn’t got to till yesterday. La forêt de Fontainebleau was recently featured in Castle, the TV show… perhaps that’s why it was in our heads. But we didn’t spend any time in the forest because it’s all dry sticks and rocks (remarkable but more fun in summer). Instead we went to the chateau.

chateau de fontainbleau

 We walked past the gates, appropriately awed, then (first things first) we found some lunch.

lunch in Fontainbleau

Yummy food, though Louis didn’t appreciate it much, nice wine, and Elena charmed everyone.

OMC on the tv in France

And what was playing in the background but OMC’s How Bizarre? A New Zealand band all the way over here? Bizarre indeed.

Anyway, back to the big fancy castle, eh?

panorama fontainbleau

Luuk used his phone’s panorama function, so that’s why the long picture is a bit distorted.

elena and me at FontainbleauI carried Elena around in our new sling, care of Marcelle Leo’o… not yet for public sale but watch this space.

Luuk looks at the ceiling

We spent quite a lot of our tour of the castle looking up. Some of the most remarkable decoration is on the ceilings.

Paintings on the ceilings

This was my favourite. If I was an angel I’d definitely use my powers to read more. And master a musical instrument, obviously.

Napoleon's throne, where kings once slept

This was Napoleon’s throne-room. His throne sits where the kings before him had their beds. Apparently this was because he didn’t dare sleep where the kings had… but putting your throne in the same place doesn’t scream humble to me. Perhaps Napoleon wasn’t going for humble then. Heh.

And there’s me, on the left in the picture above, listening to the audio guide. I was the lucky one, with Elena asleep in my pushchair (provided for us, free, at coat check! Awesome!) Louis preferred to push his buggy than sit in it. Needless to say I heard a lot more of the audio tour than Luuk who was shepherding Louis.

Josephine's bedThis bed was set up for Marie Antoinette but she never got a chance to sleep in it. So Josephine did. (And on a side note: the first time I ever heard of Napoleon and Josephine was when our neighbours named their cats after the pair.)

Jealous of this library

A definite highlight of the chateau – the library. Gorgeous, light, gallery-style room, but not very cosy for long reading sessions. Still, a few cushions in a corner and I’d hardly complain.

PS. must get us a globe like that.

giant ducks

After the castle, there was of course the grounds to explore. And we weren’t the only ones. The biggest ducks I’ve ever seen were enjoying the scenery too.

the park at fontainbleau

We enjoyed the fountains, the birds, the view of the chateau and formal gardens.

Louis enjoyed the rocks

Louis enjoyed scavenging rocks on the paths.

Louis, throwing rocks

And then throwing them into the pond. I swear, he wasn’t aiming for the birds.

family photo at fontainbleau

We tried to take a family photo, but the tripod was less a tripod and more my purse. As you can tell.

Luuk and Elena, overlooking the lake

We didn’t walk all the way down the larger lake because the kids were getting tired, but the view was great. Very grand. A little less to take in than the gardens at Versailles, but still more than we were up for with tired kids on a chilly day. Next time we’ll have to go out into the forest. Louis slept in the car on the way home. Elena chatted about the traffic (I’m guessing) and lost her cool in the carpark at the hardware store. Luuk had an errand to do. And then we went home and relaxed.

I do love to see the sights, kids in tow and all. But afterwards, putting up my feet feels very, very good.


  • -

it’s a bird, it’s a plane

… nope, it’s a snowflake. It’s sunny and snowing. What is this?

We are all out of whack today. There’s no french class, but I’m feeling so lazy I don’t mind the lack of an excuse to go out.

But we went out anyway. The sun was so convincing at one point that I promised Louis we would go to the park after his nap. By the time we got out the door I’d glimpsed something and denied it could possibly be snow… but it was.

Fortunately it stopped snowing again. The sun shone, it was gorgeous. We even walked all the way to see the horses. We stopped at a second play ground. It was spring!

And then it started snowing again. What in the name of what-now? It’s sunny as I write this, not half an hour later.

yesterday, snow

 

The snow, day before yesterday. Thankfully the sky has been blue for two days now and most of that is gone. But not all.

It’s not just the weather that’s dysfunctional. I stopped my editing/revision/writing at a bad point yesterday and I haven’t quite gotten started again today. The problem? I stopped at a natural stopping point. I should know better!

I have a handful ideas of what will go next, in the gap, but they’re feeling very unformed. I might journal about them all this evening and hopefully spark something because tomorrow afternoon Louis goes to halte garderie for FOUR HOURS and that is GOLD WRITING TIME. He also has to nap earlier in the day, so I need to be ready to take advantage of ALL THAT WRITING TIME!

And then we have a visitor coming to stay for the weekend and I probably won’t do much writing at all till the middle of next week.

Confession: part of the reason I’m so useless is because I have become hooked to yet another pride and prejudice adaptation and the next episode is due out now and isn’t out yet and I’ve kinda been hanging out for it all day. Before I give you the name/link/etc. I should warn you all that there are 95 episodes of around 5 minutes each and if it happens to be your cup of tea then that is quite the time-suck.

Okay, here’s the essentials: it’s a modern, up to the minute in fact, interpretation via youtube clips, ‘video diaries’ in fact, of a mass communication student named ‘Lizzie Bennet’ who, would you believe, happens to have sisters named Jane and Lydia, a mother obsessed with grandbabies, and… you can guess the rest. Anyway, here’s that link I promised you: Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

My expectations were low, but I’m hooked. I do have some addictive tendencies when it comes to stories and television series are just the worst, with their long drawn out story arcs.

But this particular saga should wrap up soon. There is a canon for it to follow and at video 96 there aint much of the canon left.

While the weather is cold (which has been consistent despite the presence of both snow and sun) the best thing I can think of to do is to eat… mainly.

anniversary dinner

 

Our last minute anniversary dinner: steak and chips. But it was a really good steak.

Luuk and I have been trying to convince Louis of the fact and I’m happy to say we’re finally making progress! The wee man, at two and a bit, is in his ‘no’ stage, which is now his ‘no mercy’ stage. Because Luuk read a book about how French kids eat everything. I haven’t read it yet, so really shouldn’t comment, but Louis is trying new things for the first time in AGES.

What did we do? We started sitting up at the table, all together, to eat the same thing at the same time. Rocket science, I know. He gets offered a starter and main (not as flash as it sounds – the starter is usually just a little part of what would otherwise all be served together as a main course), and we encourage him to try something new but leave it up to him. If he doesn’t, no dessert, but either way no big deal.

He hasn’t had much dessert lately, but he has had some. And on the nights when baguette is part of the entrée or plat (mains), he’s not going to bed hungry. Other nights, he must be hungry, but he says, he’d rather go to bed than eat. And so he does.

Tonight I’m making…

entrée
baked potato with smoked salmon and lemon cream
(potato is leftovers, will toast in a little butter then serve with cold salmon and cream dollop)

plat
mushroom soup with pesto pastry scrolls

dessert
cinn-fully good apple spice scones, hot, with ice cream
(or greek yogurt if I look at a calorie count between now and then…)

baking spiced apple scones

Louis, helping to bake the spiced apple scones, this morning.

Realistically, the wee man will eat a little of the potato (hopefully), and maybe some pastry. If he actually does, then I’ve no doubt he’ll get his chance to wolf down a whole scone. Easy.

It’s a challenge this whole toddler diet deal, but at least I know it’s totally normal. Just a stage.

One day Louis will eat most things (even meat), I will write the next chapter of my novel, and summer will arrive!


  • -
different cow species

on a hiding

on a, in French, means ‘we have’… so I could say on a cacher which means, ‘we hide’, but I’ll get to that later.

I got another rejection letter – argh! – but this one was very (very!) encouraging and had helpful advice… so, if I’m keeping perspective, this is all very positive progress, after all I’ve only been writing every day, with this kind of dedication, for a year, and good things take time and all of that bollocks.

Which isn’t bollocks at all but for a day or two, inevitably, I’m going to feel like all this work is for nothing. That I am on a hiding to nothing.

Speaking of hiding, the weather has been icy and snowy and miserable. So we spent the weekend hiding… but boy did we find some fabulous places to do it.

1. Mysterland. The indoor playground, south of Paris, that I wish we’d discovered a year ago! This place was several steps up from the one we did discover, when the temperature was hanging around freezing point for about a month and our 1-year old needed a bit more room to roam than our tiny hotel room then slightly less-tiny apartment. Now he’s coming up two and a half, so he needs even more room… but he’s more cautious now than he was then. Refused to go in the ball pit at all, but he did enjoy riding around on a toy motorbike and building walls with giant lego. We met a bunch of other friends with their kids and so we all chatted, ate crêpes, drank coffee, and occasionally got up to attend children/put them on the carousel.

2. The ‘asiatique’ buffet (ie. seafood for asia!) across the parking lot. All you can eat, and then some, of the usual chinese buffet suspects, plus a sampling of sushi, fresh spring rolls, dumplings, and then the fresh wok stuff – where you put your raw ingredients (including delicacies like scallops) on a plate and they cook it up for you, just so, with your choice of sauces.

Awesome. And I over-ate to all-new-excess.

And then came home only to print and dash to writers group. But that was good too.RER dash

The dash to writers’ group: on the RER train.

3. Salon de l’agriculture at the Paris Expo centre… which is really centreS – plural. Holy cow it’s huge. And holy Cow, that’s a lot of cows. And we didn’t even go into the cow building. We just saw the overflow cows (which I’m happy to say were not overflowing in and of themselves) in the building with all the sheep and goats and pigs.

And now, pictures…

Elena wrapped up

Unfortunately we had to go outside to get to the show… so wrapped up snuggly, we took the RER, then a tram (a first for me, in Paris, and for Elena… anywhere)

scary donkey

First stop, the horses. We got there early, hoping to avoid the worst of the crowds, and thought we’d best tick off the most popular sights first, for the same reason. But Louis was too scared to go near the horses/donkeys, even though they’re like his favourite thing the rest of the time, and he sees them regularly at the local park… but logic be damned.

pat the horse

Other people enjoyed patting the horses. Luuk and I included.

fancy tails

Others enjoyed plaiting their tails. It’s a thing, I guess.

fishes and bubbles

Louis calmed down when we got to the smaller animals. And there was a bubble machine beside this fishing display. Elena liked the fish.

Louis finally patted an animal when we got to the bunny rabbits. There were also screeds of different hens and other poultry. They were conveniently beside the produce section: saussison sec, cheeses, chocolates, caramelized nuts and candies (fruit pate at an exorbitant rate… that they don’t tell you till after you agree to buy some).

We should have spent more time there, but nonetheless…

sheep and lambs

We came all the way from NZ for the sheep! Oh, wait. Just kidding. Though I suspect this is the same breed that our friends farm in Otago.

big sheep

And this one was rather large.

french marino

And they have Marino in France too, turns out.
Another thing I thought was special about NZ… so much for that.

cow bells

And then there were cows. The bells gave them away.

cool cows

I thought these two were a handsome pair.

different cow species

And these two won the prize for interesting hair dos. By my opinion. No idea about actual prizes. Be there isn’t one called ‘interesting hair do’. There should be, though.

Howdy Cows and Boys

Forgive my ignorance. I’m sure my farming family members would have appreciated a whole lot of the details that went way over my head, in fact I still haven’t quite figured out the bell thing – is it so farmers can find their stray herd-members? I have another theory – the cows don’t like the noise and so they don’t move so much when they’re wearing the bells??

Shot in the dark. Figuratively. Though, wearing a bell would make it easier to shoot a cow in the dark. But still unwise.

4. The fourth way we hid from the weather was yesterday: Inviting ourselves to friends’ houses. I had a bit of a gong-show Monday morning because Elena had been up every hour in the night and then it was snowing. The thing with Monday mornings is that Louis has to be at halte garderie at 9 but French lesson doesn’t start till 10 (and in reality often later). So I have this chunk of time to kill, and I often just walk around Antony or a park on the way to class, but the weather yesterday was not all that inviting.

Antony in the snow

Antony in the snow. (The mad drivers are just out of this shot, on the left.)

Then French lesson finishes (again, in theory) at 11.30 and I have to pick Louis up at 11.50… but getting from one to the other takes more than fifteen minutes and when the path is icy, longer. (It’s not icy enough for safe skating.)

My walk to French

The icy path. (But it’s a nice walk otherwise)

So it’s stressful. Yesterday, class didn’t start till nearly 11 (blame the trains and the snow-crazy drivers) and so my friend gave me a ride to pick up Louis. We left Elena at the lesson and dashed down, got Louis, and returned in time for banana scones (and to scribble down the last few notes on pronomial verbes pour le passe compose et futur proche). But then I was faced with the prospect of walking home, in the snow, with Louis also walking because the double buggy is a nightmare in snow/ice so I only had the single…

Anyway, long story short, we spent the afternoon at Marcelle and Johnny’s again.

the boys holding hands

Louis and his friend Sua, being awfully cute, watching The Wiggles and holding hands. They didn’t know we saw them…

self-crusting quiche

I made quiche for us all for lunch… self-crusting quiche. Awesome.

The kids slept, I cooked, Marcelle, Mel and I talked… about Marcelle’s new business start-up, about my novel, which they’re very helpful with due to real-life expertise in the field of rugby player romance… And then Johnny came home and the kids finished school. It was still snowing so we hid out, hoping it would stop, did some gymnastics… as you do. Turns out I can still do a cartwheel and a handstand (against a wall). Didn’t risk the back-bridge.

Johnny drove us home, good man, and if I can manage it we won’t be going out today. The snow is gone but it’s oppressively grey and we can live without bread, if necessary. Or maybe I can coerce a friend into bringing us some…

And on that note, better get some writing done (just in case I’m not on a hiding to nothing) before the friend shows up with the bread…

 


  • -

hungry much?

I’ve been all about the writing today. I’m hungry for the next scene, the next twist, the next big reveal! I did nap this morning, but I wrote right up until napping became necessity and then wrote again as soon as I got the chance (must thank Louis when he gets home from halte garderie, my lovely boy, for being so conveniently distracted and happy).

I can thank Elena now.

What a happy baby!

I’ve made stacks of progress with editing, though I suspect I’m racing a bit and probably need to do another once-over of the bits I covered today, just to be sure…

I’ve been all about the food today, as well, if I’m honest. Yesterday was the same. My diet’s gone out the window. Elena was off her food this week, she was a bit sick, and has been relying on breast milk for nutrients more than usual, which is probably picking up my milk supply – which is all related to my sudden increase in appetite! Yesterday I ate all the leftover dolmades (they did need using up) for morning tea and then had a full sandwich for lunch as usual. At French class I ate about three times my share of afternoon tea and today… I kept sneaking into the kitchen for another peanut MnM this morning, and I just inhaled my second pastry for the day.

And then I wrote a poem about it.

if I were an apple
destined to be consumed
I’d like to be the one oozing
from between the layers of
un chausson aux pommes,
turned caramel crunchy where I made my escape
but just baby apples in the middle.

chausson

I do love these things: in English, a slipper of apples. Yeah, it’s an apple turnover, but a REALLY GOOD ONE.

Dinner is going to be full of veggies. And pasta. But mostly veggies. And then we’re going to have a lovely lazy evening (new episode of Modern Family, fingers crossed) and an early night. Stayed up way too late with our friends last night. Introduced them to Bohnanza, or ‘The Bean Game’ as it is generally referred to it by its numerous adoring (and English speaking) fans. It is great for groups, addictive, tactical and nearly everyone who plays it seems to then go out and buy it. So if you don’t want to buy games at the mo, you’d better stay away.

Hurrah, it’s Friday. I would take a video of Louis saying ‘bon weekend’ in his lovely French accented way, but he’s on the potty and you don’t want to see that. Plans for the weekend? A new bike seat needs picking up (the new bike comes next weekend), there’s an agricultural show in Paris, and our friends want to introduce us to a big indoor play land for kids – better than Acrochats, which isn’t saying a lot in itself, but it snowed today so indoor playgrounds are gaining appeal.

And one other thing to mention, two years today since the Christchurch earthquake. It wasn’t the first, but it was the killer. I watched a tribute video on youtube earlier (possibly unwise) and I had forgotten how bad it all was. But if you’re feeling unwise and/or curious…

The theme at the next Paris Spoken Word stand-up night is ‘hometown’. Christchurch is, in a way, my hometown, but I don’t really know what to say about all this. I’m tempted to say my town is gone, but it isn’t really. It has just changed.

It’s too hard to get along to the Spoken Word event anyway. But at the risk of being the millionth person to say it today, kia kaha Christchurch.


  • -

worth bothering

My weeks are feeling rather full. I have two french lessons, at least one playgroup, Louis goes to Halte Garderie three times, and then the gaps fill up with other friends, visitors and errands… It feels managable, and then all of a sudden it doesn’t. Or that’s the way it usually goes:

under control, under control, under control, YIKES!

Yikes comes along faster as soon as I get sick or can’t sleep. Fortunately, this week, I’m on the improve. The weather is miserable (picturesque but miserable) and at least one, possibly both, of the kids are teething, and not particularly well along with it.

We did venture out today – to take Louis to halte garderie. It’s not a long walk but a bit of a workout with the double stroller. We were first to arrive, except for the teachers, but we were also first to leave. I was phoned in the middle of french lesson and had to go pick up Louis, who had a fever… oops.

The plan for the week now: lots of naps and movies and avoiding going out in the snow.

Sometimes I feel like I’m mad, trying to write novels as well as everything else. This morning I read a blog post by someone else who does something similar, which made me feel less uniquely bonkers.

Laura Joyce Davis, writing on Megan Ward’s ‘Writerland‘ blog:

“But being a writer makes me a better mother, because even when the words come like weeds from the ground, writing nourishes me for the rest of life. It gives me the grace to allow my son to find a voice of his own.

“Most days, I manage to make time for the whisper of words on the page. I say no to a lot that other moms embrace: play dates, timely returned emails, a vibrant social life. (Yiyun Li once said you only need one friend; she is a writer and mother, too.) I’ve banished the goal of the woman who has it all together. There isn’t time for her anymore. But that’s just as well…”

’tis. The woman who has it all together has left the building, if indeed she ever was here, and the woman who is editing two novels at once is left behind. I am, in theory, editing ONE manuscript at the moment, but I took along the first chapter of another to writers’ group on Saturday evening and all the critique is fresh in my head, so rather than being distracted (and distressed, if I’m honest) by all that was said, I’ve decided to get on and make the revisions to chapter one of that book. And then, tomorrow, I’ll get back to ‘grandma’s house’ – which definitely needs a better working title.

But titles are one of those things publishers mess with and I don’t want to waste a bunch of time on that at the moment. A decent title will certainly help to get interest in the book – from agents or publishers – so it is important, but for now I’m editing.

Editing editing editing.

Ick.

I read another blog post this morning, on just how difficult editing can be.

Behler Blog‘s advice on editing:

“Do this slowly. Reason being, you need to make sure that your “now” voice blends in with the “you” who wrote this story ages ago. It’s a strange thing, but I’ve seen a number of cases where the writer has evolved, and the rewrites stand out from the old work.”

I suppose that’s a good problem to have, but it’s a problem all the same. I’ve written a whole nother novel since I finished the one I’m editing now. My writing has changed (improved, fingers crossed) and so editing, if I do it as best I can, might in fact turn out to be a full rewrite.

And some days it feels like an overwhelmingly huge job and I wonder why I bother.

But, on the whole, I’m glad I do.

To finish: today’s small stone.

A glorious crunch, gives this stolen chip, from my kid’s bowl, full of calories that don’t count unless he catches me thieving, and then there’s trouble. We go to the bag, top shelf in the kitchen, hidden and pegged shut, and retrieve ONE for a replacement. Fair is fair.


  • -

Snowy Solace

We are living in a winter wonderland. Paris in the snow! I’ve seen very little of it but I did go in to the city for writers’ group yesterday evening. The group met, not at Shakespeare and Co (who are stocktaking – no one is jealous) but at an apartment near Bastille. I tried and failed to get a photo of the monument in the snow – but you’re not missing much. It was all rather bleak.

Instead, here’s our pretty street:

 Walking home along Rue de l’Eglise.

 And that’s the Eglise (church) behind my lovely husband and miserable son.

Louis is not fond of the snow but he is fond of kicking a ball and won’t walk in the stuff unless induced in such a way.

We have a friend from New Zealand staying with us and the kids are loving getting to know her. I suspect she’s enjoying renewing the acquaintance with our cuties as well.

 Jenny went with Luuk and Louis to buy pastries for breakfast.

We went down to the market this morning, braving the snow, but the market itself was undercover and amongst the vegetables and cheeses there were other wares. Jenny resisted this marvel of a hat, but we were tempted.

Picture perfect snow flakes. (Shame about the picture quality.)

On the subject of snow, yesterday’s small stone:

curb, branch and eave
underline that – just in case you missed it – 
it snowed!

And today’s:

How many times watched, how many hearts captured, by this pair and their reluctant, inevitable affection? How many hours absorbed by this film, by the book on which it’s based? How perfect the weather for (another) five hours sedentary pleasure. “… how ardently I admire and love…”

That’s right, we are watching a rather familiar BBC miniseries this fine snow-blanketed day. Wickham is spreading his terrible lies and I’m nursing cup of coffee while Luuk gets the market cheeses and some fresh baguette ready for afternoon tea. Lazy sunday, ’tis.


  • -

all done list

The snow remains in patches, like only the most generous dustings of icing sugar on a too-warm cake. (Except for the warm bit.)

That’s today’s small stone. It’s been snowing on and off all day but such tiny flakes. I felt I was being gently salted on the way to the halte garderie. Louis loved it though. Shame about the temperature – not up to zero all day. I was very glad when Luuk happily agreed to pick up Louis, allowing Elena and I to stay in the warm and nurse our runny noses.

I’ve barely got anything done – but research always feels that way. I’ve been learning all about gardening and root systems. I also wrote a couple of possible prologue scenes, but now I think they won’t be in the book, unless as memories. I needed to write them, for myself, to clarify exactly what happened… they may or may not make the cut for the actual story.

I didn’t even hang out the laundry today. Oops. But I’ve assembled the cannelloni for dinner – it just needs to go in the oven. And I had a big long phone call – an ideas session really but the two of us cannot seem to figure out a way to get together in person during the week. Thank god for technology eh? Then I wrote a mammoth email which may or may not have made a lot of sense…

So it turns out I did plenty today. Screw to do lists. Want to feel productive? Write all-done lists at the end of the day. Woop-e-dee-doo!


  • -

so much for brevity

A galette des rois, I recently learned, is mostly flaky pastry, with almond-meal and butter textured filling – though it doesn’t always taste solely of almonds. Yep, essentially it’s a pie. They eat it all through January here in France, and frankly, why the foisgras wouldn’t they?

Hidden in each galette is a ceramic féve, a little figurine, and whoever’s slice of pie holds this token gets to be the ‘king’ or ‘queen’. They get to choose their partner (I suppose the king chooses a queen, the queen a king, or nowadays whichever they prefer) and wear a shiny cardboard crown. If there’s more to it than that, I missed it.

But how often do you get declared monarch these days? I wouldn’t sneer. Between us, yesterday, Luuk and I probably ate a whole galette – but neither of us got to be crowned. I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed.

But here’s a small stone in honour of the pie nonetheless.

In a galette, I have discovered (after a lifelong search) a pie with the right ratio of flaky pastry to filling. The filling, an almondy sludge sometimes adorned with other fragrances, is not my favourite, but the pastry – oh the pastry! I peal it away in layers and wear flecks of it like snow on my clothes. Between sips of frothy cider, we nibble. “Eat slowly; we don’t want any broken teeth,” someone says, again. I peer into my pie and hope the fève is hiding in between these buttery layers of gold.

I think my ‘small stones’ might be getting a bit long. I had grand ideas for today’s one, this morning on the way back from dropping Louis at the halte garderie. It was bitterly cold and the school rush was over, half the shops shut (cause it’s a monday and who gets out of bed if they can get away with not…?), the town was semi-deserted, the sun not quite up, and the light was eery… But getting all that in will be miraculous, so here goes brevity:

Place de l’Eglise is reduced to shades of tarnished silver in the cold dawn light. I imagine people in the apartments above, returning to duvet cocoons, burning their fingertips on tiny cups of black coffee. I test my foot on a frozen puddle and huff a little cloud of warm breath toward the baby’s pink nose.

So much for brevity, but there it is.