petite anglaise

January 31, 2005

A new toy (from hell)

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 11:53 am

The rational part of my brain was berating me for letting a a seemingly insignificant thing overwhelm me. The rest of me was a quivering mass of panic, Panic, PANIC, pulse racing, adrenaline flowing, feeling utterly, terrifyingly helpless.

The weekend began with the purchase of a new computer. Something that had been planned for a while, as my trusty companion since 2000 was not even compatible with XP. Or Ipods. And was starting to labour a bit if I tried to use anything remotely interesting like Dreamweaver or Photoshop. And so it came to pass that I added a a powerful but not too expensive new toy to my shopping basket and Frog, Tadpole and I went to collect it from Surcouf in a borrowed car this weekend.

Surcouf is a computer warehouse shop, located in the seventh circle of hell. Vast, intimidating and filled with swarms of teenage boys with skin problems at the weekends. The salespeople are young, incompetent and – apologies for the generalisation – mostly de la caillera (backslang for racaille: literal meaning = scum; commonly used to describe young folk from the dodgier suburbs, who may or may not be dressed like British ‘chavs’).

I marched straight to the collection room brandishing my internet receipt and queued up in front of a large printed sign which read ‘desktops’. Charming young gentleman at the desk, growling: ‘C’est là -bas, vous savez pas lire ou quoi?’ (‘the queue is over there, can’t you read?’) Ah yes, a handwritten post it note attached to the ‘laptops’ sign did indeed read ‘internet orders’. Cheeks flaming I fled. French customer service: an exercise in humiliation.

Home sweet home and several hours of saving things from the old computer later, I emerged from a spaghetti of computer wiring, covered in the clumps of fluffy dust you only find behind electrical appliances (rather appropriately called ‘moutons’ in French). And switched it on.

It sounded like a HAIRDRYER.

I began to wish I hadn’t made quite such an impulsive purchase. I dimly recall having read somewhere once that AMD processors can overheat and tend to need very strong fans to keep them cool.

Perhaps the fact that the computer was called Aspiro should have sent alarm bells ringing. Not Aspiro as in aspirational or something nice and positive. Aspiro as in ‘aspirateur’ (French: hoover, vaccuum cleaner). The smiling lady pictured on the box was probably wearing cunningly concealed earplugs.

Gritting my teeth, determined to pretend that it didn’t sound like I was sitting in front of a jumbo jet propellor, I loaded up the antivirus, spyware destroyer and firewall first, like the sensible girl I am. I noted, with annoyance, that XP was in French. A lovely language, but one which has no business to be on my operating system. Another point I had gaily overlooked while making my purchase.

I then spent the rest of the day duelling with a particularly resistant browser hijacker. I removed it, it came back. Repeat to fade. Each time the red spyware alert popped up to say that the little f*$@&r was trying to re-install itself, I edged one step closer to meltdown. A cool, white, padded cell started to look soothing and attractive.

And forgive me for sharing what could be seen as too much information, but I note that the laxative properties of viruses and spyware are really quite remarkable.

I think it’s gone now. Fingers crossed. But I have to admit I am dreading going home and switching on the hairdryer from hell just in case that pop up message comes back again. I simply can’t face wiping clean a brand new computer and reinstalling everything. I had nightmares about it last night. I’m an untidy bundle of nerves.

How is it that these machines are able to wield such power over us? And why didn’t I shack up with a geekfrog who could sort these things out. Why oh why?

vote!

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 9:48 am

Well, it would seem that I won’t be needing those pyjamas after all…

Voting ends today! I need your help! 20 votes behind Carniola at the last count!

January 28, 2005

party time!

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 11:31 am

How very inconsiderate of my boss to give me stacks of work to do. I’ve got a responsibility to my visitors to come up with a new post this morning. Really, it’s not on.

In the meantime, my virtual self is over at Rachie’s place at a party, and we need males. In fancy dress. Or a state of undress. We’re not fussy. (Well, I’m not anyway).

See you there?

January 26, 2005

driving in Paris: a survival guide

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 12:45 pm
cars mating in Paris, yesterday

I passed my driving test on the third attempt. Even then, I’m not convinced this was in the best interests of the residents of York.

The summer before going away to university when my mother foolishly insured me to drive her car, I managed to reverse into a Tesco trolley park and hit the brick gatepost in our driveway. My father spent most of that summer removing the bumper, hammering it back into shape and putting it back on again. In my defence, the trolley park in question was empty and in the blind spot in the rear window. This was in the days when car seats were not height adjustable. I remember vividly the day my long-suffering driving instructor told me to line up the curb with a sticker on the rear window when reversing around the corner. I had to break the news to him that I couldn’t even see the curb. I’m not called petite for nothing.

That was in 1991. I haven’t driven since. To complicate matters I am now living in a country where people drive on the wrong side of the road and change gear with their right hands. After a decade I still cannot get my head around this, so whether I’m in France or the UK I invariably head to the wrong side of every car when trying to locate the passenger seat. And whether I’m crossing a French road or an English road I inevitably look the wrong way first. To make matters worse, I live in a city where most people drive as if they have just snorted several grams of cocaine (arrogantly, aggressively), parallel park in miniscule spaces (ahem, parallel parking wasn’t even tested back in 1991) and disregard a different highway code altogether. You will be relieved to hear that I don’t plan to exchange my British driving license for a French one any time soon.

If you are foolhardy enough to drive in the French capital, here are a few tips on how to drive like a native Parisian:

  • You know those lovely big French roundabouts with no lane markings whatsoever – like Charles de Gaulle Etoile, Bastille and Place de la Concorde? The rule for use of these roundabouts is under no circumstances should you use your indicator to show people what your intentions are. Instead, weave in and out of the ‘lanes’ in a random fashion, and then cut off several lanes of traffic when you reach your exit.
  • Learn to park the French way! Nudging the bumpers of the cars adjacent to your space is perfectly acceptable, and indeed expected. I once spied four people lifting a Fiat Uno sideways out of a space it had got hemmed into.
  • Ignore traffic lights. Give yourself an extra five seconds to drive across a junction after the lights have turned to red. Everyone else does. Or at the very least, brake at the very last minute so that paranoid, pushchair-wheeling pedestrians are unsure about whether you plan to stop, or not. That way they can only get to the traffic island in the middle before the lights change.
  • If you drive a moped/scooter/motorbike it is compulsory to drive the wrong way around traffic islands in order to get ahead. It keeps pedestrians on their toes (except petite anglaise, who instinctively looks the wrong way and therefore cannot be caught out). Driving across the pavement to jump the lights altogether is also perfectly acceptable, on one condition: do not reduce your speed.
  • The horn should be used liberally at all times, and not just when you are part of a wedding cortège. Rolling down your windows and swearing* is also highly recommended if you want to blend in with the natives. There doesn’t have to be any particular provocation. And don’t forget to accompany your tirade with a vigorous shake of your fist.


cut out and keep swearing vocab in French:

connard! – assehole!
enculé! – asshole!
fils de pute! – sonofabitch!

You’re good to go.

sabotage

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 10:45 am

This post amused me no end this morning.

I almost choked on my coffee.

Bloggies update: bandwidth problems have been solved according to Nikolai and voting extended to 3 February. So please click on my Vitriolica Webb designed button and cast your vote!

January 25, 2005

upstaged by the babysitter

Filed under: city of light, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 12:35 pm

The text message on my mobile reads:

“Bonne Année. Je voulais juste avoir des nouvelles de [Tadpole] – Myriam”.

It is dated January 4th. Oh dear. I do dimly recall having read this some time ago and making a sarcastic comment to Mr Frog about how the babysitter was touting for business again, but then I promptly forgot all about it. I haven’t the faintest idea whether I replied. The post-partum brain is a fickle creature.

Tadpole has somehow unearthed this message while tappety-tapping on the keypad. It’s really quite impressive the way she holds the phone to her ear and strolls out of the room as if she is having a private conversation I cannot be privy to (“Allô? Allô? Allô Gram ma!”).

So now I’m feeling guilty. Both about the dose of radiation Tadpole may be self-administrating (justification: the mobile is the only ‘toy’ I have to hand here in the doctor’s waiting room) and also about my lack of courtesy to the babysitter. She is not someone we can afford to offend. Our very social lives depend on her goodwill.

When you live in a big city, many hundreds of miles/kilometres from the nearest relative, finding a reliable babysitter is a big deal. There being no teenage girls conveniently located in our apartment building, we asked the childminder if she could recommend someone. She came up with a friend’s daughter who lived a half hour walk from our flat and required chaperoning home at the end of the evening. On foot, as opposed to on the back of Mr Frog’s Vespa.

In desperation I put an advert in our local boulangerie asking for a student with childcare references – one of those little ads you see everywhere in France with tear-off strips bearing our phone number. I was prepared to take the the risk of receiving a few heavy breathing perv-calls from mac-wearing stalkers who happened to buy a baguette that day. It was for a good cause.

The advert disappeared, I suspect removed by our soon-to-be babysitter, anxious to eliminate the opposition. She was perfect: nicely spoken, lived close by and had been picking up a toddler from school and minding her every evening for three years. Her references were duly checked.

And she is reliable. But I can’t help feeling that we are not the ones who call the shots here. She charges € 7 per hour – equal to the minimum wage in this country, but non-declared and therefore tax-free. That’s pretty good television watching/internet surfing/cupboard exploring money, by anyone’s standards. As we never seem to have any change when it comes to the crucial moment of paying her, the amounts inevitably get rounded up in her favour. Just to rub it in, she shows up carrying a different genuine-looking Chanel/Dior/Gucci handbag every time, her hair styled as if she has just come from a salon, her clothes pristine. I leave the flat feeling dowdy, in spite of my glad rags and make-up.

And then there is the guilt factor. Our ad said we would require someone about once a week. This was in the optimistic, naïve days before the reality of paying someone and then also paying to go out had really sunk in. You have to read really good reviews of a film before you want to spend €100 paying the sitter/seeing the film/buying Mr Frog the obligatory bucket of salty popcorn/having a bite to eat before/after the film. As opposed to renting the DVD for € 3. But occasionally Myriam adopts a petulant tone in her texts and implies she had hoped to work more regularly, so like the mugs we are we end up booking her just to keep her sweet, so that she will be there for us when we really do need her.

I suppose we should count our blessings though. A friend of mine uses an Orthodox Jewish girl whose family live in her apartment building. She has a bizarre set of rules about babysitting on the Sabbath. She can’t be paid on that day, nor can she do anything which constitutes ‘work’. The mother in question returned from a night out to find her children still wide awake and bouncing off the walls at midnight. Their bedroom light was still on, as the babysitter wasn’t ‘allowed’ to turn it off.

I try not to dwell on what our young lady gets up to when we go out. I know that when I babysat in my early teens I pretty much cased the joint for films with ‘rude’ scenes or mildly titillating literature (Women in Love, Tropic of Cancer). God only knows what I’d have got up to if I had broadband internet access.

I only hope she never stumbles across Mr Frog’s fluffy baaing sheep thong.

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