petite anglaise

August 31, 2006

missing in action

Filed under: city of light, good time girl, miam — petiteanglaise @ 12:50 pm

I take my seat with a group of girlfriends at L’Apparemment Café, an old haunt of mine deep inside the Marais, opposite the Musée Picasso, where you can choose from a long list of mouth-watering ingredients – sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, fresh marinated anchovies – to build your own salad. Except it is Sunday today and I had completely forgotten that on the day of our Lord they serve only brunch.

This would be perfect if I hadn’t already ploughed through a copious Pain Quotidien brunch the day before, a major blowout involving lashings of praline spread, confiture de lait and other sinful concoctions which, if they didn’t taste so good, might as well be applied directly to the thigh area with a palette knife.

Waving my healthy salad goodbye, I settle in for the long haul: juice, coffee, a boiled egg, mountains of crusty bread, pancakes with maple syrup, a cheese platter (the French always seem to add a random unnecessary savoury dish into every brunch menu, which I never have room for), fromage blanc and blackberry coulis… and conversation.

“I can’t believe you snogged two guys on the dancefloor last night. Seriously, you are a menace to society!” My friend blushes, as she has only just arrived, doesn’t know the other ladies present particularly well. She should be used to me by now.

“No”, she says, recovering her composure remarkably quickly, “they were the menace to society. Fancy reaching your mid-thirties and not knowing how to kiss. Appalling. One of them had a technique like a washing machine. His tongue went round and round in a clockwise motion, then suddenly went into reverse and swept round and round in the other direction. It was so, well, mechanical.” She shudders at the memory.

All this talk of domestic appliances calls to mind the last person who chatted me up: a Darty man who delivered my new cooker. Granted, I indulged in a little eyelash fluttering, but only because I wanted him to take away an old refrigerator left in the apartment by my predecessors, and that wasn’t strictly his job…

The result was ten or more messages left on my mobile in semi-literate text speak before my suitor finally drew the appropriate conclusions from my resounding silence.

“Men just seem like too much trouble right now, I don’t even have time to do all my own stuff, let alone take anyone else into account,” I say, almost thinking aloud. “Mind you, I kind of wish my favourite toy hadn’t gone missing when I moved.”

Because, yes, of all the things that could have inexplicably failed to materialise when I unpacked my boxes, it had to be that. I live in fear of it turning up at an inopportune moment (say, during a visit from my ex-mother in law).

Embarrassment potential: critical.

August 29, 2006

meet the bloggers!

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaise @ 10:53 am

Almost forgot to mention this, but BBC Radio Four have a new series called “Meet the Bloggers” which aired for the first time this morning, featuring one of my favourite bloggers/people Anna.

Future programmes (airing Tuesdays, 9.30 am and also available on the website) take in blogs as varied as GoFugYourself (looking forward to that one) and Instapundit. Oh and, ahem, petite anglaise is featured next Tuesday, alongside Zoe Twat – on the programme dedicated to personal blogs. It will be very odd to hear a Radio Four actor reading extracts of my posts…

I have a soft spot for this particular interview(er), as I was contacted to participate before I was fired, although the interview did actually take place a few days afterwards, in early May.

August 27, 2006

rock en seine

Filed under: good time girl — petiteanglaise @ 10:01 pm



You know you are starting to get old when, at a music festival, you:

  • sensibly take care not to drink large quantities of beer, mindful of horror of festival portapotties;
  • elect to stand well back to get a decent view (of the suspended screen) rather than braving the teeming mass of sweaty bodies at centre forward;
  • time your departure just before the end of the last set so that you can catch the métro before the mad rush begins;
  • feel secretly relieved at festival’s proximity to Paris which excludes need for camping and Glastonbury-style personal hygiene involving daily swabbing with a lemon scented wet wipe;
  • do not indulge in any illicit substances, and therefore remember every single act;
  • do not indulge in any illicit substances, and therefore feel need to eat regularly;
  • realise, as you see a stallholder empty large quantities of raw mincemeat into his vat of bolognaise, give it a cursory stir, and start ladling it into people’s plates, that you would probably have been safer indulging in illicit substances;
  • overhear a younger friend confessing that they have never heard a Smiths song, whilst you surprise yourself at Morrissey’s set by knowing every word to “Panic”;
  • hear yourself start a sentence with: “When I saw The Orb at Glastonbury…”

Petite’s potted review:

Radiohead: masterful. Beck: puppet show and dinner party percussion thing very, very clever; man himself oddly lacking in charisma, but still wouldn’t kick him out of bed. Kasabian: not bad. The Raconteurs: not bad. Dirty Pretty Things: not bad. Morrissey: not enough Smiths. Burgers: undercooked. Churros: yum. Chili hot dog: a vile and dangerous invention. Earplugs: useful for blocking out sound of microwave next to pillow following morning.

August 24, 2006

one lunch, or two?

Filed under: city of light, miam — petiteanglaise @ 8:22 pm

I am woken by a text message and realise that

beer + ill advised gin based cocktail because it was cheap in happy hour + beer + beer + beer + ?

is a disastrous equation which can only = feelings of nausea and throbbing pains behind the eye sockets.

The text message invites me to lunch. At 2pm. At the “Zéphyr”. It is 10am. The idea of eating food, even drinking water, is uninviting at this juncture, but I dare to hope that things may feel a little different in four hours’ time. And the message clearly reads “buy you lunch”. <a href="Le Zéphyr is rather nice, in that artfully shabby, old fashioned sort of way which Paris does so well. It’s even within walking distance of my house, which is a thoughtful touch. Such an offer cannot be refused. I text back “ok”, hoping my inability to type anything further will not be construed as rude.

Shortly before 2, I make a triumphant dive for the one available table on the raised decking outdoors. The sky is making a respectable attempt at blue, although experience over the past two weeks has proved that caution should be exercised. I inspect the awning overhead: it wouldn’t protect us from one of the bibilical style deluges Paris has been subjected to of late, but is better than nothing.

I take out my book and find my page. The fact that I have reached a section written in a sonnet sequence does not make it ideal hangover reading, but I perservere, wishing I had brought a Voici from the stack Mr Frog’s mother so thoughtfully brought to Paris. My friend calls to announce his lateness and I hunker down in my seat, unperturbed. It’s a nice spot, the sun is (almost) shining and I am determined to savour my well-deserved screen break. I don’t have a clue I have been waiting for almost three quarters of an hour until the waiter comes over to warn me that his lunch shift is almost over.

I panic and call my friend, and after some confusion – the menu seems to have changed since he last ate there – I order us both a steak and he promises to appear in time to eat it.

Ten minutes later he phones back (apparently not for the first time, but my phone is vibrating quietly in the depths of my bag, the sound indistinguishable above the grumble of passing traffic.)

“Hi, where are you? I can’t see you anywhere.”

“In Le Zéphyr, sitting out front!” I reply, craning my neck, seeing no sign of him on the pavement. In any case, the terrasse is now almost empty, I really shouldn’t be too difficult to spot.

Suddenly I realise what has happened here, and suppress a violent urge to bang my head against the window. Repeatedly.

“I’m guessing that there is more than one Zéphyr in Paris, am I right?” I sigh.

Indeed I am. My friend is at the Café Zéphyr, halfway across town, at Bonne Nouvelle. He doesn’t have his motorbike with him today. He could never manage to get here in time to eat his steak warm. This is officially A Fiasco.

As I reassure him, through gritted teeth, not to worry, that it will be fine, I’ll cancel his order, the waiter appears, bearing two plates.

The phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” springs cruelly to mind, as I start to wish I’d never crawled out of bed in the first place.

August 18, 2006

navigo

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaise @ 11:14 am

I wait for the downpour to finish, craning my head out of Tadpole’s window to see if there is any forked lightening to accompany the ricochets of thunder. It’s a good job she’s not here with me. Last time we witnessed a storm she pressed anxious hands to her ears and begged me to make it go away, testing my omnipotence to the limits.

“Mummy, tell the clouds to stop bumping!”

I realise I should probably start reading up on a few things I have forgotten since GCSE science, now that we have entered “why?” territory.

There is no sign of a taxi at the junction, so I plunge down into the bowels of the métro instead. I am struck by how natural this feels, after my awkward experience in the London Underground. My hips instinctively know the height of the turnstile barrier and precisely how hard it must be nudged. My feet lead me to the optimum position on the platform, aligned with the exit I need when I get off. I feel the familiar bumps of the podotactile through the thin soles of my shoes.

With the KLF roaring in my earbuds, I sit back and close my eyes. I know how many stops there are before I reach my destination; I know the quartier (Bastille) better than the village where I grew up.

As the train pulls into the station, I raise the handle so that the double doors glide open while the carriage is still in motion, allowing me to alight, gracefully, at the precise moment it reaches a standstill. I walk along the platform, springing steps in time with the music in my head.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like I own this city.

August 16, 2006

chopsticks

Filed under: city of light, miam — petiteanglaise @ 10:52 pm

I glance down at my watch, startled to see it is already way past two. Time for a change of scenery; an hour or two outside my own head. I grab a book, at random, from the teetering tower by my bedside, find my purse, and, noting the ominous colour of the sky, arm myself with an umbrella.

The rue de Belleville is a wasteland of shuttered shops and extinguished lights. Welcome to Paris in August. A whole city to myself, with the exception of the most obvious tourist traps, but much of it closed for business.

I hesitate outside a shabby looking Thai joint with a seven euro lunch menu which I have never eaten at before, usually favouring the flashier Thai further down the hill, which pulls in the crowds on the strength of a favourable review in the ’98 Routard.

A little girl with sleek black pigtails, presumably the proprietor’s granddaughter, captures my attention. She darts among the empty tables with her older sister, shrieking in a language I do not understand. She must be Tadpole’s age, give or take a few months. Momentarily overcome by a rush of tenderness for my own absent daughter, I picture her sleeping on her belly, fingers curled into a fist in front of her face.

I choose a window table, amused to see I am seated directly opposite the famous trompe l’oeil advertising hoarding. A perfect reading spot.

Opening my book I plunge into the first short story and am slowly but surely reeled in, the sound of the girls playing receding as I become increasingly indifferent to my surroundings. When my food arrives, I am brought back to reality with a jolt, but luckily have the presence of mind to request cutlery, so I can keep one hand free to turn the pages as I bring forkfulls of beef and lemongrass salad to my lips.

An hour later I tip the owner and set off back home, resolving to eat out alone more often. With regular practice, maybe I’ll be able to master book in one hand, chopsticks in the other.

There’s something worthwhile to aspire to.

se mefier.jpg

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