petite anglaise

March 31, 2005

stand and deliver

Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaise @ 12:16 pm

I note, with some amusement, that the HM Post Office has been rapped across the knuckles for installing fee-charging cash machines in three quarters of its branches. Especially as the offending machines bear a sticker stating that they are free, when in fact only consulting your balance or last few transactions is free. Withdrawing money is not. Four out of ten UK cash machines apparently charge a minimum fee for cash withdrawals these days.

Ten years ago, when I arrived in France, employed as an English assistante at the none too aesthetically pleasing Lycée Raymond Queneau, I recall having to be very careful about using only Crédit Lyonnais ATMs (or DABs, as they are known over here) when I wanted to get my hands on my paltry paycheck. I ranted and raved that this was not, and would never be, the case in the UK, bragging that UK banks had a far superior grasp of the concept of customer service. However, over the past few years, banks in the UK seem to have been taking steps in the wrong direction. One can only hope that the mercenary French banks are not being used as their role models.

On the other side of the Channel we have to pay for the ‘privileges’ of receiving new cheque books by post, having a visa (debit) card and access to on-line banking facilities (a necessity, as I rarely now need to set foot in the horrible 70’s monstrosity that is the Caisse d’Epargne, place Léon Blum). There have been rumours that soon there will be a fee for every cheque written or cashed, and some banks are reintroducing charges for DAB withdrawals. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Account ‘services’ are bundled into a helpful little package (forfait), which every bank concocts to a different recipe, making it tricky/impossible to compare charges between banks. Helpfully, services which I do actually use, like for instance drawing money out in the UK or making international bank transfers, are stubbornly opaque, and not detailed in the convention de comptefrais de dossier (loan processing fee), should you decide to accept their terms. It can be up to € 1,000. The French banks cannot be persuaded to lend you as much as you would get in the UK, as the repayments are capped at 33.33% of your monthly earnings before tax, and you will be expected to repay over only 15 or 20 years. 25 year mortgages exist (but banks are often reluctant to offer them) and 30 year mortgages are simply unheard of. Which is why Mr Frog and I have been priced out of the Paris property market, unless I fancy raising Tadpole, plus future potential mini-Tadpole, in a small broom cupboard.

The French do seem to have a completely different relationship with credit. They generally limit themselves to buying what they can actually afford. I do see this as A Good Thing, given the weight of credit card debt many families are struggling with in the UK, where consumers are constantly tempted to take on more debt and splash out on that three piece suite today (but pay nothing until December 2006).

Supermarkets like Auchan and Carrefour and companies like Egg (who have seriously struggled to convince the recalcitrant French that online banking is the way forward) have gone some way towards changing this mentality recently, introducing store cards which double as credit cards. My bank only offers a direct debit or a deferred debit card, however. Not that I’ve ever been able to actually obtain a credit card here. Several department stores have refused my applications, with no justification forthcoming. I suspect having a entirely blank (or ‘virginal’, as the French would say) credit record in this country and being ‘foreign’ may have something to do with it.

Vive l’Europe!

March 30, 2005

mort de rire?

Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaise @ 12:04 pm

I recently discovered skyblogs. To my horror. These are for the most part teen blogs and are hosted by shouty French radio station Skyrock. The mothership’s homepage has so much busy flash animation (advertising) that I can’t actually look at it for more than five seconds without triggering a migraine.

It sets the tone nicely for what is to come.

Imagine if you will a blog written entirely in mobile phone textspeak, littered with a few low resolution photos uploaded from a cheap cameraphone, and you are getting to the essence of what skyblogging is. Indecipherable unless you are a teenager yourself, or happen to have a teenage translator to hand who understands all the slang, verlan (backwards slang, or sometimes backwards backwards slang – meriting of a post in itself one day) and teen cultural references whch are thrown into the mix.

The following text was lifted from p-a13 and I reproduce it here along with my attempted translation into French, and then English:

voila sa c théo 1 gro pomé du bahu lol!!! g d cone mdr!! c mon meilleur pote il tro s1pa on c clate tro o bahu enssemble top d lire mdr!!! a+ mek by !!!

Voilà ça c’est Theo un gros paumé du bahut. LOL!!! Je déconne MDR [Mort de rire]!! C’est mon meilleur pote. Il est trop sympa. On s’éclate trop au bahut ensemble. Top délire MDR!! A plus mec. Bye!!

This is Theo a fat loser from school. LOL!! I’m joking LOL!! It’s my best friend. He is too nice. We have too much fun together. Top fantastic LOL!! See you soon mate. Bye.

Other sites abound which are completely beyond my limited translation abilities. Especially those written by French teenagers with North African parents or grandparents, who use a smattering of Arabic words or French/Arabic hybrid slang in addition to French textspeak. At least I imagine that’s what they are.

The skyblog community is so vast that the volume of traffic the most popular skyblogs attract is phenomenal. Take this graffiti blog, for example, where visitors can leave their name and colour preferences and the blogger will create and publish a personalised tague . The site has seen a staggering 132,000+ visits since its creation in February 2005 and the most recent entry attracted 17,462 comments.

However, closer inspection reveals that many of these are a new form of comment spam: fellow skybloggers promoting their own blogs. I suppose I’m as guilty as the next person for having left the odd strategic comment on a high profile site in the hope that I might pique the curiosity of a few of their visitors. Dooce‘s daily photo entry is basically a competition to see who can comment first (unfortunately this paves the way for meaningless comments in the vein of “cute photo!”), as apparently pole position on her comments page translates into a not insignificant number of hits on the statcounter. But skybloggers are even less subtle: no beating about the bush, no semblance of interaction, just the blog address.

Vierge Insolente, who from her picture looks like an all too familiar patchouli scented gothette, is one of the few skybloggers I have found so far who forms actual sentences with grammar and punctuation. In her recent farewell post she laments the fact that being in the skyblogs top ten means that no-one actually reads what she has to say any more, most simply dropping by to leave ads in her comments box.

Ce n’est plus personnel, c’est ennuyant… Ne plus être livre d’écrire ce que l’on veut à cause d’une certaine célébrité. Ce n’est pas un avantage d’être dans ce top 100… Du moins dans les 10 premiers. Tout le monde se fout de ce qu’on peut bien écrire, les gens sont un peu égoistes au fond, genre je te balance ma pub et j’en ai rien à faire de tes trucs…

I hope that this isn’t where the rest of the blogosphere is headed. It takes me long enough to delete my trackback spam, without having to start filtering mindless ads from fellow bloggers as well.

March 29, 2005

daddy’s girl

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 11:30 am

Tadpole is nestling in my arms, limp, warm, soft and still half slumbering. I want to bury my nose in her neck and just breathe in her scent for a few minutes. But she has other ideas. She spies daddy through the slits of her bleary eyes. They snap open as if a switch has been flipped, her face becomes instantly animated, chubby little arms reach longingly in his direction.

I surrender the Tadpole, reluctantly.

On the way home from the childminders’, singing songs. Tadpole chants: “va voir daddy, va voir dadDY, va voir DADDY, VA VOIR DADDY!”

“Daddy’s not home yet, he’s at the office,” I explain.

NON! Pas office! Va voir DADDY!”

There’s no reasoning with some people. “Okay, whatever, let’s go home and see whether daddy is there, shall we?”

Daddy is special.

Who gets up bright and early every morning and proceeds to zip around the apartment hurriedly cramming flailing limbs into sleeves and trouser legs, braving dangerous windmill legs to change soiled nappies, brushing unruly locks, cleaning teeth and supervising the slurping of leftover milk from the cereal bowl (a hazardous manoeuvre which, if badly executed, can necessitate the cramming of small flailing limbs into fresh clothing)?

I do.

Where is Mr Frog while this is all going on?

Cocooned away in a steaming bath listening to his floating radio (with hindsight, probably the most ill thought out gift I ever gave him) with eyes closed.

Who races home from work every evening, cursing metro delays and pelting up and down escalators at full speed, checking the time every other minute hoping that the nanny will not be kept waiting or need overtime pay? Who then prepares a healthy, nutritious (but ready in two minutes in the microwave) meal for the ravenous Tadpole, bathes her, reads several stories and finally sits down to put feet up and savour a much needed cup of tea at approximately 8pm?

I do.

When does Mr Frog show up? At best, in time for one last story. At worst, much later than that. Possibly after even my bedtime.

What do I get in return for my daily labours of love? I’m taken for granted.

Daddy, on the other hand, who has wisely marketed himself as a scarce and therefore greatly prized commodity, is deluged with affection.

It’s a man’s world and no mistake.

March 28, 2005

philosophy of time travel

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 9:04 am

I’m suffering from blogger’s guilt.

If I don’t post tomorrow, my site will look forlorn, naked and neglected. The fonts will wilt, a layer of dust will settle on my header image and the disappointment of my regular visitors as they click on, then off again in disgust, will be almost tangible.

Sadly, as I’ll be leaving the parental home tomorrow morning and not arriving in Paris until late afternoon, writing will be nigh on impossible. Which means that, were I a conscientious soul, I would rustle up a little post for you now (Sunday evening) and then press the magic button which makes things publish in the future, with a startlingly convincing timestamp, say 9.04 am.

But it’s 00.05 and I’m just too weary and low (PMT if you must know) to deliver the goods. My apologies. Normal service will resume on Tuesday. You’re all on holiday today anyways, so you should have something better to do than read blogs all day, right?

news in brief

Highlights of Easter weekend: the look on Tadpole’s face when she first caught sight of herself in the mirror wearing pink, fluffy Easter bunny ears (courtesy of great grandma), and the perfect way she pronounced selected Yorkshire phrases (e.g. “ee by gum”) after a short but effective coaching session with grandad.

March 24, 2005

ahem

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 4:47 pm

Just so no-one can accuse me of slacking off today… I did write something, but it’s here instead.

But feel free to comment here, as there are no comments enabled as yet chez expatica.

March 23, 2005

gluttony vs willpower

Filed under: miam — petiteanglaise @ 3:40 pm

I bought three hens at lunchtime. Three milk chocolate hens, perched atop three chocolate wicker baskets, presumably filled with lots of little Easter goodies. I haven’t rattled them – in fact I barely dare approach the bag for fear of being overcome by a whiff of chocolate escaping from under the cellophane wrapping and succumbing to temptation. Which is why I am telling you there are THREE chickens. So that I can’t eat any of them between now and Easter Sunday. And if I mumble sheepishly upon arrival that one of said hens got smashed into smithereens when my hand luggage was scanned at the airport, DO NOT BELIEVE ME. Look for telltale signs of chocolate consumption around my and Tadpole’s mouths.

This is, after all, the same mummy who bought gingerbread pumpkins for her daughter and daughter’s playmates at Halloween and then ate all three in one sitting with a nice cup of tea. (In my defence, I thought the ginger flavour might be a bit too potent for 16 month old toddlers.) The same mummy who has bought a Lindt easter bunny, complete with red neck ribbon and dinging bell, with the last two Saturday’s groceries. At Tadpole’s insistence. And polished off each one, after allowing Tadpole to bite off the tips of their ears.

Sadly, the chocolatier I found within striking distance of my office only stocked traditional fare: eggs, chickens, bells, fish and rabbits. I was hoping to find at the very least a frog for him indoors, and some other more original gifts. A little forward planning probably wouldn’t have gone amiss, but somehow Easter has slunk up and pounced on me: the visit which seemed to be permanently several weeks away is now happening tomorrow. I winced at the price tags (yes, they do look home-made and artisanal, prettily wrapped in patterned cellphane with their yellow ribbons, but they also cost rather more than your average Dairy Milk egg.)

I have a vivid memory of a visit to a chocolatier in the rue de Courcelles (17th arrondissement) where I once shopped for Easter fare. I marvelled at the divine smell which permeated the tiny shop, wondering if it was possible to get a seratonin high from just breathing it in, and subsequently got chatting to the shopkeeper about how superior French easter chocolates were to the pre-packaged, supermarket-bought eggs I had known in the UK. The flattery paid off – it never hurts to pander a little to a French person’s innate superiority complex, I find – and the lady offered to show me behind the scenes, around the laboratoire du chocolat where her husband and son worked their cocoa magic. Oh the heavenly aroma which the vat of melted chocolate gave off as it waited to be poured into a multitude of different moulds.

Would Mademoiselle like to taste one of the little fishes?

Mademoiselle most certainly would. Mademoiselle would also like to know if it would be possible to ask for their son’s hand in marriage.

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