petite anglaise

July 14, 2005

smile

Filed under: mills & boon, navel gazing — bipolarinparis @ 10:52 pm

A train carries me in the direction of Paris, away from my lover, at breakneck speed.

There is a plane to be caught the next day, a long-anticipated university reunion to attend in Bath. However, the excitement I felt when I first booked that trip, my elation at the possibility of a weekend where I could slip back ten years and catch a fleeting glimpse of my twenty three year old self, has largely evaporated.

I wish I wasn’t going alone.

I know we will have a fantastic jaunt down memory lane. I also know that I will have to bite my lip so as not to tell anyone who cares to listen with the story of how I met a lovely man two short months ago. A man who fell in love with petite anglaise before he even met me. Nor will I tell them that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I intend to marry him one day.

Every single time I close my eyes, whether it be in a train, a metro, at home in bed, or even, for the briefest second, in front of my monitor at work, I see his face. I taste his skin. Flashbacks to moments of overwhelming intensity cause me to inhale sharply.

Soon after I began writing petite anglaise, the blog was mentioned in the Guardian newsblog. That day I almost skipped around the office. I was unable to share my glee with any of my colleagues, so I hugged my glowing secret to myself.

That is how I feel today. Almost by chance, I have stumbled upon something unbelievably precious, which not many of my nearest and dearest dare to believe in, at this early stage.

I smile a secret smile whenever I think of what we are, and will be.

July 13, 2005

definition of frustration (#2)

Filed under: french touch — bipolarinparis @ 1:07 pm

I open the letterbox, and, to my surprise, pull out two identical envelopes, both containing train tickets. Upon closer inspection, I realise, with a sinking feeling, that they are duplicate tickets for the same journey.

I curse the SNCF and their wonderful, shiny, new website.

Later that day, I phone 3635 to see how the situation can be remedied. First, I am told that it has nothing to do with the SNCF whatsoever, as the website is run by another company, “Voyages SNCF”. Well I never! A French fonctionnaire merrily* shunting the responsibility for my problem onto another person/department/company. How novel.

I persist, undeterred, and manage to establish that although any complaints about the shortcomings of the website should be addressed to Voyages SNCF, to obtain reimbursement of my ticket, I simply need to take it to any station, before the date of travel.

This was yesterday. Date of travel being today. After which I would no longer be able to obtain a full refund of my € 100.

I resolve to spend my lunch hour in St Lazare station, the nearest mainline station to my office. As I approach the guichets grandes lignes, I am not a little relieved to note that there are only three or four people in each queue. This should be painless, I think to myself, idly wondering which sandwich I will by from Paul for lunch once I am done. A Dieppois? A fruit tart, to celebrate?

The employee listens patiently to my explanation, without interrupting, and when I have finished points silently to a very small sign: “Départs Normandie uniquement”.

I am not going to Normandy.

Nor can I strangle this man with my bare hands, because he is protected by bulletproof glass.

I make my way, stomach growling, to the opposite end of the station, where there is another sign marked “Billeterie Grandes Lignes“.

Oh. My. God.

Picture a large, windowless, dimly lit room with ticket desks lining three sides. The room was last refurbished circa 1960. The colour scheme is brown, on brown. There are fourteen desks, lining three sides of the room, of which only six are open. The queue zigzags back and forth across the centre of the room, in a decidedly orderly fashion for France, the irritated, overheated people having been shepherded into submission using barriers and red tape. I start to count how many irritated, overheated people must be served before it is my turn. I stop at 50, deciding, on balance, that I’d rather not know.

The time is 13.20; I left the office at 12.50.

Some people in the queue came prepared, and nibble on baguette sandwiches, or read books. I have no such means of sustenance or entertainment at my disposal, so I content myself with fuming inwardly at the number of SNCF employees who are milling about behind the ticket desks seemingly unoccupied; chatting, or just standing around with their arms folded, calmly surveying the mayhem, in full view of the people queuing. Hardly very tactful behaviour.

Occasionally, an employee comes on duty and deigns to sit down at one of the empty desks and pull up the blind to start work. But not before they have sauntered around the room at the speed of a snail and kissed both cheeks of every single fellow fonctionnairein the room.

For every blind that is pulled up, another is lowered, elsewhere in the room.

I finally reach the front of the queue at 14.02. A pleasant and efficient young gentleman with a ponytail refunds my ticket in seconds. I smile, pathetically grateful, as all along I had been imagining what I would do if once I got to the front of the queue, I was told that I was in the wrong place for refunds.

I arrive back at the office at 14.20, looking forward to consoling myself with a sandwich and a strawberry tart.

I see that my boss is back from lunch, looking pointedly at his watch, so I return to my desk, stomach still protesting, crestfallen, and consign my lunch to the recesses of a desk drawer.

At that precise moment in time, I would gladly have paid in excess of € 100 to be able to eat my fruit tart in peace.

*a figure of speech. There was nothing merry about the voice of my interlocuteur. Disinterested, slightly dim and very bored would all be more apt descriptions.

July 12, 2005

dizzy blonde

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — bipolarinparis @ 12:36 pm

I hang up, reluctantly, after another long conversation with my absent lover, and feel around on the bed for my glasses.

Odd. I thought I had put them down on the pillow beside me.

I scrabble around pointlessly on the bedside table, then the computer desk, narrowly avoiding a calamity involving a large glass of tonic water and some vital electronic equipment, not reputed for its fondness for fizzy drinks.

Nothing.

I slide off the bed and try the bookcase, the fireplace, the chest of drawers.

Patience is not a virtue I possess in large quantities, so I begin cursing under my breath, not exactly seeing the funny side of the ridiculous catch 22 situation in which I find myself: need glasses, in order to find glasses.

I feel something yield under my bare foot.

First rule of living alone: if you have soft-focus eyes, never place your dark brown Gucci glasses on a dark brown hardwood floor.

**************

Tadpole and I bundle ourselves into the lift. We are late. Again. She is carrying her Miffy bag, which accompanies her to the childminder’s every day, and I am carrying a weekend bag, a handbag and two bags of rubbish. It’s a tight squeeze in our minute lift, and I can’t even see Tadplole, as she is below the bag horizon.

“Mind your fingers!” I caution, as the lift doors strain closed around our luggage.

I empty the recycling rubbish into the yellow bin, wondering who will have the job of separating papers from cans and plastic. I suspect no-one does. I have a rather pessimistic theory that all the rubbish all gets taken to the same place, and that the yellow bin is just there to lull us into feeling like we have done our environmental duty. The bin in question is almost empty, and comes up to my chest.

Rubbish bag duly emptied, I grope for keys in my handbag.

Nothing.

I try the front pocket.

Still nothing.

A long, thin icicle slides down my spine as I realise that no-one in Paris has a spare set of keys to my flat, the letter box or the pushchair room. Taking a deep breath, I mentally retrace my steps and can almost feel the cold keyring dangling loosely from my index finger, just seconds before I started to empty the rubbish into the bin. I peer downwards, gloomily, looking for a glint of metal and the hair bobble attached to the keyring.

“What has mummy done now?” I wail at Tadpole, who looks rather puzzled as the top half of mummy disappears into a stinking dustbin.

Arms flailing, I stir the junk mail and packaging around a bit, straining to hear the muffled jangle of keys. My hair is falling unhelpfully across my eyes and my glasses have slid to the very end of my nose, where they threaten to fall off – a fact not unrelated to the earlier incident which saw them bent rather out of shape.

I withdraw my head for a moment, surfacing for air, only to see the sun glinting off something metallic in Tadpole’s tiny palm.

I have no recollection whatsoever of giving them to her. Sometimes I fear for my sanity.

Second rule of living alone: give spare set of keys to nearby friend (Mr Frog) to avoid repeated coronary incidents.

July 7, 2005

anniversary

Filed under: misc — bipolarinparis @ 6:00 am

Petite anglaise began blogging on 7 July 2004.

Looking at those first posts, which quite frankly make me cringe when I re-read them now, I realise things have come a long way since then. The blog has evolved, organically, without any sort of master plan, and I have undoubtedly evolved with it.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, blogrolling, commenting, emailing and nominating petite anglaise for awards in the past year. It means a great deal: without you, I am nothing.

I have no idea if petite will make it to a second blogiversary, but in honour of today, I wonder if you might consider leaving a comment in the box below and telling me one thing about yourself that not many people know.

I promise I won’t tell anyone.

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