Monday, October 31, 2005

A very personal day

I have a slightly macabre sense of humour. 26 Years ago, today, my father died. I try not to make a big deal out of it but I always remember the day almost as soon as I wake up. Also, it’s Halloween. Am I the only one that sees the slightly sick humour in that?
Today I am wearing black, in honour of the date. Black shoes, charcoal jeans, and a black top. It’s just my own little way of marking the day. But here’s the funny bit.
The top I am wearing today – black, as I mentioned – has a sort of motif where one would find a pocket if it were a shirt. It is a big number 26, and the caption below it says “Keep it moving”.
Sort of coincidence, sort of not, but it’s my own slightly macabre private joke today.
Well if you didn’t think I was a little odd before, no doubt you do now.

Seven-year-old Jade was happily painting away in her Kindergarten class, concentrating so hard on her big yellow sun that she didn’t even realise she was frowning. The other kids around her were chatting and laughing and making a noise, but Jade had a task to do and she was taking it seriously, as she always did. The intercom crackled for a special announcement; the teacher tried to shush the class of youngsters so that they could hear what The Headmaster had to say. Jade didn’t pay too much attention – she was almost finished colouring in her sun – until she heard her name being called. Over the intercom!
This was unheard-of. Nobody got called to The Headmaster’s Office unless they were in Big Big Trouble, and Jade was never in trouble.
But wait, it wasn’t just Jade; her elder sister, Amber, was being called too.
Teacher bustled over to where Jade was sitting to help her pack all of her things into her little suitcase. Jade was confused. She hated being the centre of attention, and right now all the other children were looking at her and wondering what was going on. She wished the floor could just swallow her up. Also, she was a little cross because now she knew she wouldn’t be able to finish her painting. On the other hand, she was a little excited because she would get to see Amber, her big sister, her idol. Normally she had to wait until break-time to see her and even then it wasn’t for long.
One of the Prefects came to the classroom to fetch her, a kind looking girl with long blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. Amber was already waiting at the Office when she arrived. The Secretary looked up when they walked in, but Jade didn’t pay much attention to her because Amber was sitting on one of the blue chairs with Aunty Bernice. She wasn’t Jade’s real aunt, but a close friend of Jade’s mother. Her mom’s family lived far away, on the other side of the country.
Jade smiled and Aunty Bernice smiled back, but something felt strange. Nevertheless, Jade was happy enough because Aunty Bernice told the girls that she was there to take them home. Jade thought it was rather nice to be going home from school early, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Aunty Bernice didn’t say why they were going home and she was quiet on the short drive home.
There were several strange cars parked outside the house when they got home, and the front door was open. Amber took her hand as they walked inside. Aunty Bernice’s husband was there, as was their other friend, Uncle Andrew, and some other men Jade didn’t know. Everyone seemed to be talking in hushed tones and Jade started to feel a little scared, but Amber was still holding her hand so she was okay. The girls were ushered through to their parents’ bedroom, where their mother was sitting on the bed. She beckoned to them to sit down with her, Jade on her left and Amber on her right. Briefly, Jade wondered where their little sister, Amelia was. Her mother said that Uncle Andrew’s wife, Aunty Jenny, had taken her out shopping. The bad feeling grew stronger upon hearing the strange tone in her mother’s voice.
All three of them looked up as the Priest walked in and started talking in his calm, gentle way, but the words started flowing over and around Jade, and soon she couldn’t hear what he was saying anymore. The world stopped for a few minutes and her mother and Amber started crying. There had been a car accident. The Priest was telling them that their Daddy was gone and wouldn’t be coming back. Surely that was a mistake? But her mother was sobbing quietly and then Jade found that she was crying too. She didn’t really understand but she knew that this was a bad, bad thing, although she couldn’t really comprehend fully what she had just been told.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. Her mother’s friends stayed and looked after them, made them lunch, comforted her mother and generally bustled around the place. Amber seemed more upset than Jade felt, but then, she was a little older and Jade couldn’t help feeling that she knew or understood something that Jade didn’t. Amelia, who was only four, was brought home later in the afternoon, and when it started growing dark all the people left, and all that remained were Jade and her two sisters, and her mother. They ate sandwiches for supper and when it was bedtime her mother came and tucked them in, as she did every night.
And when she turned at the door after switching out the light, Amelia, who slept in the other bed in Jade’s room, said, as she did every night,
“Mommy, please tell Daddy to come and kiss us goodnight,”
Her mother replied, in a strangled voice,
“I wish I could girls. I wish I could.”
And right then, Jade knew that he never would again, and for the first time that day she cried not because it was what everyone else was doing, but because she knew.

Rest in peace, Daddy.
31 October 1979

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sneakily Tagged and Quirky?

During my absence from Blogging this week, during which time I have managed to pop in for a mere comment here and there, I appear to have been tagged by Ben-O. Sneaky of him to do it while I was otherwise occupied and therefore completely unable to defend myself... but OK Ben, here goes:

Some Quirky Stuff About Me:

When I drink coffee out of a paper cup, I always keep the lid on. If I have to take the lid off to put milk in, I always put the lid back on afterwards to drink it. It just tastes better.

I don't eat a lot of sweet things, but occasionally I like chocolate, and then I eat the whole thing in as short a time as possible to get the maximum amount of pleasure out if it even if it doesn't last long. I think I may be one of those instant-gratification-seeking people.

I don't really like eating rice... because it's untidy. If served rice with chicken, for example, I will pick up the chicken with my fork and scrape all the bits of rice off that are sticking to it, and do my best to separate the two on my plate.

I know I've mentioned this before but I LOVE boxes... when I see a box I am compelled to open it to see what's inside, even if I know it is empty.

I talk to myself almost constantly while I am working but I seldom realise I am doing it. I think it helps me concentrate.

I only like the orange Liquorice All-Sorts.

I frown when I'm concentrating which apparently makes me look either cross, or stressed. I find that quite amusing.

I crave order in my universe. I straighten pictures, square off piles of books, papers, magazines, whatever, and fold all my clothes to the same size so that the piles are neat... without even realising I am doing it at the time.

OK that's all the quirks I can think of right now. Really, I don't come out too badly in the grand scheme of things. I don't do silly things like mix peanut butter and jam on sandwiches, or alphabetise my books (although I do order them on the shelves according to size. Is that a quirk?). All in all I'm probably quite normal, although some might disagree ;-)

And now to pass this tag along. Hmmm, let me think...

Del, 'cos although we're related I really don't know too many little things about you.

Anne, 'cos I know it will irritate the crap out of you and really, you're looking for a good reason to rant these days anyway, so actually I'm doing you a favour.

Chitty, 'cos you're bound to come up with stuff that will make me laugh.

LiVEwIRe, ditto. Plus I'll probably go, "Hey I do that too" quite a lot.

And last but not least, Lori, 'cos I don't know much about you at all.

Now don't the rest of you go feeling all left out OK? 'Cos it's a free world (more or less anyway) and actually you can all do this if you want to. Besides, this is the first time I'm tagging people by name, so rest assured, your time will come, hehe!

And next week life will be more or less back to normal for me so I will once again be spending hours and hours online to bring you more babbling than you can possibly stand.

Monday, October 24, 2005

woohoo and yay!

It's that time of year again - two weeks ago I heard the first BANG! and thought I was back in South Africa. Then I realised it wasn't a gunshot but a cracker. Halloween is a-comin...

It amazes me that in a place where fireworks are illegal there are just so many of them around. It's easy enough to come by them though. All you have to do is drive North from here for about an hour and you reach the border of The North (as the Irish refer to Northern Ireland) and right there, a few metres inside the border, are huge signs advertising "FIREWORKS ON SALE HERE". Needless to say the road is a tad busy at this time of year. These people seem to celebrate Halloween for a whole month. I'm beginning to wonder if we are being invaded by a race of aliens cleverly disguised as Halloween Pumpkins - it would be a great way to strategically position thousands of aliens without arousing any suspicion. They walk among us...!

One can't help being caught up in all of this revelry though. The shops are crammed full of Halloween stuff - costumes, pumpkins (or so they'd like us to believe),candles and decorations of all shapes and sizes (as long as they're either orange or black) and huge bags of sweets for trick-or-treaters. I discovered over the weekend that even I am the proud (?) owner of a black witches hat. When did I think I was ever going to use it?! I can only surmise it must have been one of my shopping-while-hungover purchases.

Of course, just past all the Halloween displays, the Christmas goodies are a-waiting, and the day after, all the orange and black stuff will have magically disappeared and been replaced by twinkling red and silver stuff. And then the carols will start (eesh!). I swear the window-dressers must pull an all-nighter on Halloween to change their displays, poor buggers.

Now, you may be wondering why I'm posting about Halloween so far in advance. Well firstly (and I just know you all want to know this) someone was looking for a good idea for a Halloween outfit not so long ago and I promised I would post a pic on my blog for them. So here it is:
I don't know where this photograph originated - someone sent it to me in an email that looked as if has been around the world a few times - but I just thought this was the cleverest Halloween outfit EVER!

And since I'm unlikely to be using the idea myself, I thought someone might be able to make use of it. But if you win a prize, I get 50% of the proceeds, deal?

Oh, and you have to post a pic of yourself in costume on your Blog, too.

The other reason for the slightly premature post is that my friend and her husband are arriving from SA tomorrow so I'll more than likely be spending more time with real people for the next week or so than with my blogging buddies (although I'm sure I can squeeze in a comment or two somewhere).

I am SOOOO excited to see my friend, and the best news is, they're not just visiting, but are actually moving to Ireland. Yay!!! They'll be staying with us for a week before heading to their new home in the south of the country but I am so happy to have her here I'm almost falling out of myself!

So spare a thought for the weary travellers - they will have left Jo'burg by now and have a gruelling long-haul flight ahead of them. Believe me, this is not a fun trip to make. And on top of that I'm sure their hearts are breaking a little at leaving behind their home and their family and their friends and their lives to start anew on the other side of the globe. Been there, done that. It is not an easy thing to do.

But Yay! My friend is coming!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

No dinner; and dancing

This is one of those times where I feel the need to write but I don’t really have any particular subject in mind. So let’s see where this goes, shall we?

Got this from http://pdphoto.orgI had a really fun evening last night. Drinks were arranged after work, at work, to mark our one-year anniversary of moving into our shiny new building. Yes – the Irish will use any excuse for a party! I almost changed my mind about going at the last minute – it was cold and pouring with rain when I finished work, and the thought of escaping to a nice warm evening at home was very tempting. On the other hand they were offering free beer. No-brainer.
They closed the bar at 8 (I think they actually ran out of beer) and finally threw us out of the building around 9:30 (I think). As always, most of the IT crowd were still there, so we stumbled en masse to a pub a block away called the Gingerman. This place is a real dive – the restrooms smell, the stairs creak… and we always end up having a really good time there for some reason. The four potato wedges I ate didn’t go very far where supper was concerned, but I figured beer is full of carbohydrates so that has to count for something. It’s amazing how that seemed logical last night. This morning I saw the error in my logic through a thumping headachy haze.

But I had a really good time. I was in great form, meaning I was in a good mood, and when I’m in a good mood I can be extremely witty and funny (also very humble, as you can tell). That’s what I do best – I make people laugh. Haven’t been doing a whole lot of that just lately so it made a pleasant change and I was left with a feeling of well-being, once the hangover dissipated. Confession time. (Perhaps not the best choice of words, but it’s the best I can do at short notice). It dawned on me during the course of the evening, and this morning, that some of the people I work with actually appear to like me and there is a possibility that one or two of them might actually give a shit about me. For those few hours I felt like I was among friends. That’s a nice feeling. It’s a feeling I need to hang on to and remember for those other times. You know the ones. No? OK then, I’ll move along.
Oh, by the way, this is not a self-pitying morbid post - on the contrary. I’m in a good mood today. It was just something that’s been floating around in my head today so I thought I’d get it out there and see what it looks like.

There was something else today that jolted something in my mind a little – another good thing.

We went grocery shopping this afternoon – again, with a hangover, so of course there was none of this sticking-to-the-shopping-list stuff. The CD store was having a sale (OK this particular store is pretty much always having a sale, but that’s not really the point). I decided my classical music collection needed a new addition, so I bought myself a new CD.
My collection now consists of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and “The Very Best Of Tchaikovsky”, which is my new double CD. Yes, that is the sum total of said collection – not much, but it’s a start. I wouldn’t be one to listen to classical music all the time, but I do enjoy it on occasion. So while Hubby escaped into the magical world of shooting people online, I put on my new CD and just sat and listened and remembered how every Sunday morning when we were growing up, my Mom would play one of her Classical LP’s. Those were my favourite days, I think. She would leave us all to sleep late but around 10am or so she would decide that any further sleeping would be sheer indulgence so it would be okay if we woke up, and she would play her music. There are worse sounds to wake up to, I must admit. We would all eventually make it into the lounge and sit there and listen, and talk, and laugh. We laughed a lot, in my family. Still do, in fact. And the other memories my new CD invoked were of my ballet dancing days. It must be 18 years since my last ballet lesson but I still find myself visualising the dancing in my head when certain music is playing.

Got this from www.nycballet.comLast year I went to watch the Perm Russian Ballet dance Swan Lake here in Dublin. What a treat! I got all dressed up and went with a woman I don’t know very well, but who also loves ballet. It was the first time I had seen a ballet performed with a live orchestra and I was entranced. The final scene, with the tumbling music, the ‘dying swan’ on stage dancing dramatically and the conductor weaving his magic with such intensity that you could almost see the beads of sweat on his forehead, was a powerful and enthralling experience.

I’m still not sure how this all fits into one personality – a big bad beer-drinking biker chick who loves rock music and fast cars, with an equal love of classical music and ballet. Can you all say “split personality”?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cutting Edge technology

I borrowed this pic from - hope they don't mind! - 'cos this is what ours looks like
One of the Helpdesk ladies came over to ask us to let her into the Comms room today. This is a large secure room with swipe-card access only, which contains all the Server computers in the Company. It has anti-static flooring, a sophisticated automatic fire-extinguishing unit that locks and seals the room completely in the event of a fire. It is cooled by an expensive and reliable air-conditioning system and looks like something you'd see on TV - rows of neat, orderly racks of equipment, all humming gently, led's flickering comfortingly, with nothing out of place. It is the only room in the building where drinks are not allowed - no, not even water or coffee.

But apparently it serves another purpose, of which I was not aware until a few minutes ago. Every Friday our happy Helpdesk lady goes shopping at lunchtime, and when she returns she uses the Comms room to store her groceries so that the meat and fish stays cool.
So there ya go - a dual purpose storage facility!

Now, I think that is hilarious - she can't see what's so funny.
"Wha'? I do this every Friday.."
Well, I suppose the Lads go sit in there to cool down after their lunchtime squash game, so why not?

Actually, that reminds me of another story involving this room.
One day - we hadn't been here long and the building still smelled of fresh paint - the alarm went off in the Comms room, indicating a possible fire. At the very least, the temperature had risen above it's trigger limit. Nobody knew what to do - the Facilities people were nowhere to be found, and the doors were automatically locked, just as they were designed to be. Understand, there is thousands of Euros worth of equipment in that room, not to mention all the data on the machines.
Until one of the Developers (don't u just love programmers?) asked himself, "What's the worst that can happen if I press this button on the panel outside, next to the flashing light?"
Stupid question, really, and anyone who is in a position to ask this question should automatically know the answer.
Don't. Do. It.
But he did.

There was a loud CRASH from behind the locked doors, followed by a sound akin to the air escaping rapidly from a large hole in a monster-truck tyre. Then... silence. From both inside the room and outside. Said Developer went red in the face and began to shuffle his feet. Almost as one, dozens of heads popped up from behind partitions, everyone looking wide-eyed at him and each other. There were a few nervous giggles. And still nobody could get into the room.

Eventually the Responsible Managers arrived and opened the doors. Did I mention it's also designed to have all the air sucked out of the room in an "emergency" like this, which is why the doors sealed so well? There was no fire, though - it had been a glitch in the Aircon unit. The button, when pushed, had activated the fire extinguishing units, which had expelled their special fire-putting-out stuff so strongly that it had blown tiles off the wall and damaged at least one of the servers.

Er, Oops?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

questions answered

So, did everyone meet "Sleep-Deprived Terri" yesterday?

Fun, isn't she?

As for today, well it's amazing what a good night's sleep will do for one's sense of humour. Last night I almost fell asleep in front of the TV - something I NEVER do, no matter how uninteresting it is - so at 9:15 I took myself off to bed and proceeded to have what can only be described as a marathon sleep. I don't think I could have slept harder if I had been drugged.
Yes, you heard what I said -never underestimate the healing power of a muscle-relaxant

So today here I am, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Er, or something.
I haven't bitten any heads off today anyway - that has to be a good sign.

Well this post has been a whole day in the writing and now, at last, I’m home again and I’ve just read something that made me laugh out loud – thanks Undr!

So I’ve decided to take up his suggestion and do a little meme:

1. If money were no object, what would you be doing with your life?
Travelling the world, meeting people and writing all about it just because I can.

2. Money is just that - an object, so why aren't you doing it?

Du-uh, ‘cos you need to have money to travel, and my recent £50 windfall probably won’t even get me out of Ireland.

3. What's better: horses or cows?

Definitely horses. Cows are the stupidest creatures on earth, next to PC end-users (Before you start swearing at me & calling me names, Bloggers don’t count – you gotta have at least a bit of savvy to be able to log in and blog!)

4. What do you think the secret to happiness is?
Well after pondering this one for a while, I have to agree with Undr here. The correct answer is {drum roll}… Love.

5. When was the last time you had a dream that you either remember well or did not want to awake from? Can you share a bit?

Dreams? Me? Surely you jest! Two nights ago I dreamt about a guy I used to know who was once married to a friend of mine, and who is a complete and utter arsehole. I dreamt he pitched up wherever we were and I wanted to beat the crap out of him because he’s the kind of person who just sucks up oxygen and serves no useful purpose on this planet.
Yeesh, I should’ve chosen to answer the second option…!

6. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Aw, I’ve told you guys this already – a ballet teacher.

7. Complete this statement: Love is...Never having to say ...

Untie me you bastard!

8. Can you tell a good story? (write one!)

Umm… the short answer is:

Tess was under pressure. She didn’t work well under pressure. The director was screaming at the actress, the actress was screaming at the wardrobe lady, and the wardrobe lady was screaming at Tess. Where the hell were those safety pins? Suddenly she spotted them on a little table behind the potted plant.
“I found them!” she cried.
The wardrobe lady stopped screaming at Tess, the actress stopped screaming at the wardrobe lady and the director finally stopped screaming at the actress.
Five minutes later the cameras were rolling again and the pressure was gone… for the moment, anyway.

You want the long answer? Click here.

9. Can you remember your last daydream? What was it about?

Sandy beaches and sunshine...

OK, that’s it, all done.
You’re all tagged, mwahahahaha!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Is it time for pms again? Must be. It would certainly explain my foul mood. It's one of those days where I feel bloody miserable about everything. I got to work to find there was no milk for my coffee and it's been pretty much downhill from there. I'm snapping at everyone and almost sent an extremely sarcastic and bitchy email to a colleague because I am just not in the mood for peoples' whining and moaning and laziness. (I said "Almost". I actually typed the reply but then thought better about it and hit "Delete" instead of "Send")

You see, if you ask me why something is not working...
and I tell you that if it's not working, you should check the install document and make sure the installation procedures have all been done...
and you ask me where it is instead of making the minimal effort required to look in the place where ALL the install documents are kept...
and then you email again to ask me what you should do...
and I ask you "Did you check x, y and z from the install document?"...
and you reply, "Not yet, I assumed they would have already been done by W when he did the install last week..."
then I ask, in my infinite patience, do you REALLY expect a CIVIL reply to that???

And since this is turning into a good old fashioned rant, I will return briefly to one of my favourite rant topics: Email.

I just received an email with a Powerpoint Presentation entitled
The first slide states, "THIS IS NOT A HOTEL, THIS IS THE HOUSE OF (some sheik / Arab oil millionaire or other)".
The pictures are of a building that is unbelievably huge, luxurious and beautiful.
The last slide says, "AMAZING WHAT $2.75 US A GALLON GAS CAN BUY, ISN'T IT?"

Only trouble is... the building IS a hotel, NOT someone's house - I went and looked it up on a website called

It pisses me off when people bullshit others in an attempt to ... what? Generate mass anger towards a group of people? Incite racism? Justify their own delusional and probably uninformed, but undoubtedly small-minded prejudices? To what end?
Even if whoever put this thing together didn't have such a big goal in mind, WHY LIE?
Why try to pull the wool over peoples' eyes?
And why, oh why, do people keep perpetuating this crap by forwarding it on to other people?

I believe there is enough distrust and strife in the world without idiots spreading rubbish like this to everyone, because somewhere along the line someone without the ability to think for themselves is going to take it as face value...
and that person could one day end up in a position of power (I'm sure we could think of an appropriate scenario)...
and then who knows what they might do?...
like, oh, say, invade another country...
and all based on some ill-founded preconceived ideas.

So, if you do happen to receive any of this stuff and you want to forward it to people to show them pretty pictures, at least take the time to remove the misleading text?

Phew, my keyboard is starting to groan - suspect I may have been typing as hard as I was shouting loud in my head.
I think I'm all ranted out for now.
Thanks for listening, come again soon.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

On a lighter note

Dearie me. I’ve just been reading through my last few posts and they do seem a tad depressing.
Well we’re going to have to do something about that, aren’t we? OK, me, specifically. I’m going to have to do something about that.
So what should I do? Tell a joke? I suck at telling jokes – always forget the punchline. Besides, that would take more effort than I can muster at the moment.

Hubby and I had one of our Pizza & Wine evenings last night. We do this every now and then. Spend a Friday night at home with the TV off (yay!), too lazy to cook anything except a frozen pizza, and knock back a couple of bottles of vino while listening to some of our favourite music. When it’s cold enough – like it was last night - we light the gas fire, too. Very cosy. We have these wonderful long, deep conversations until late into the night and the next morning wake up with pounding headaches, which I try and ease by cooking a nice greasy fry-up for breakfast.
Not so conducive to doing all the housework that needs my attention, but there are more important things in life than a Hoover.

Right, so, happy thoughts eh?
I’ll do my best.

We went shopping today (a.k.a. housework avoidance). I had 6 things on my shopping list. Now, when I go shopping alone I generally come home with what was on the list and maybe 1 or 2 items that weren’t, but only because I forgot to write them down. And occasionally a new pair of shoes.
However, when I go shopping with Hubby it turns into a free-for-all. Every time I turn around another box of biscuits or packet of scones (or in today’s case, both) has miraculously ‘fallen’ into the trolley. The trouble is, this kind of shopping is contagious.

Today we came home with (in addition to actual groceries) a window-washer, a CD, some Christmas napkins and candles and a clever little flat-pack PVC thing that turns into a storage box, which is held together with Velcro. OK that last one was my fault – I have a thing for boxes. Maybe I can put some of my shoes in it?

Of course like any good shopper (a.k.a. woman) I can justify pretty much any purchase. I mean, I intend having Christmas dinner at our place this year so I may as well get some stuff now because what if I forget, or if it’s all sold out closer to the time? As for the CD, well I realised last night during our Pizza & Wine evening that we need a new addition to our collection. Yes, I know we have a whole box of CD’s at my Mom’s place in SA still, but that’s like 10 000km away and really, I can’t remember what’s there anymore to ask her to send me some because there are just too many for her to send them all.
Did ya see how I did that? Justified it all? What can I say - it’s a gift :-)

The scones were delicious.
Jury's still out on the CD 'cos Hubby has been watching rugby on TV since we got home. That's just finished though so I think I'll go put it on now. The CD that is. But no vino tonight - my taste buds still haven't recovered from last night's over-indulgence.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'm chasing shadows

I'm sitting at work with stuff to do but am really battling to motivate myself to do it. I just don't wanna.
Instead, I am feeling unsettled and driven by an overwhelming urge to write. I don't know what it is I want to write about, all I know is that the feeling has come over me. Something is welling up inside and wants to spill itself out onto paper, or in this case, a blank white screen. Ideas - no, not ideas, feelings are flitting across my mind, just out of my line of sight, and my consciousness attempts to grab at them as they dance past, but they escape as shadows escape the hands of a child. There is a yearning for something undefined, reminding me of the mornings when I wake up with an awareness of something threatening or scary that has disturbed my dreams, yet I cannot remember what it was. It is the same, yet opposite.

I feel tired, but at the same time hyper. My nerve-endings are tingling and it's as if there is too much energy inside my head, while not enough in my body. Is it the feeling of creativity needing to express itself? Or merely the onset of what D calls my 'melancholy'? I hope it is the former, and fear it is the latter. Although sometimes I think the two are inextricably linked. It is when these moods come over me that I am able to sit down and write for hours on end without a break, the words pour out of me through pen or keyboard almost too fast for me to keep up, and I need not stop for food or even coffee.
Well, maybe coffee, occasionally.

But to sit in front of a PC at work doing logical, technical tasks is pure torture. Nonetheless, I suppose am pretty good at these tasks, and the work is a necessary evil. It pays the bills and will probably continue to do so, at the very least until someone realises that instead of disabling old user accounts on our systems, I am sitting here indulging my need to ramble.

Terri 1, Creep 0

There's this man at work who gives me the creeps. I have no idea why, he just makes my skin crawl. Actually, I feel a bit bad about it because I often see him stop in at a Church after leaving the train station on his way to work. He must be a good person, right? Nonetheless, I just can't shake this icky feeling I get when I look at him.

We've had a run-in once before, on email, where he got a bit snooty with me. This I don't like, but no big deal, I just try and avoid him now.

So last friday I get in the lift at the end of the day and who should step in with me? Creepy middle-manager himself.

Wanna know how to make an awkward situation even worse? It went something like this:

Creep: Hi Terri, anything wild planned for the weekend?
Terri: Not really. Going out to dinner tonight - one of my favourite pastimes.
Creep: Nice. I'm going out with some lads for a lot of drinking, eating and talking shit.
Terri: Hm. Sounds like one of your favourite pastimes.

A moment of very awkward silence ensues, while Terri bites down furiously on her tongue and hopes he wasn't really paying attention, 'cos she sure as hell wasn't.

Creep: I'll just ignore that slight slur there...

Thankfully, the lift doors opened then and I could escape with an embarrassed smile and unintelligable mutter.

But man, I laughed all the way to the train station!

PS Because you asked so nicely, for those of u who have the time and the inclination you can check out my prize-winning short story here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

For Anne...

Anne seems concerned that the Parisian Pigeons were the only thing I will remember about my recent trip to her beautiful city.

In light of this, I thought I'd show you just a teensy bit of the other Parisian things that impressed me.


place de la concorde

denon wing of the louvre

in the tuileries gardens

notre dame

across the seine

duh-uh! eiffel tower

one of the infamous parisian pigeons

sacre coeur

boat on the seine, passing musee d'orsay

arc de triomphe

sunset over tuileries gardens

"winged victory"
A little side note on this one: as I ascended the stairs inside the Louvre she towered over me on the landing and I found myself awestruck and drawn to her, so for the time being I am borrowing her as my muse and inspiration.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lost and Found in Paris

The Plan was simple.
Mom and Lisa would fly from Johannesburg to Paris, arriving early in the morning.
Three hours later, Jacky would arrive from London.
Since both flights were landing at Terminal 2, Mom and Lisa would have plenty of time – around 3 hours – to make their way from Gate F to Gate B, where they would meet Jacky, whereupon they would all make their way to the RER (train) station.

My flight from Dublin was scheduled to land about 10 minutes after Jacky’s, but at Terminal 1, so I would take a shuttle bus and meet them at the RER station. We would then all get on the train that would take us into Paris.
If, for some reason, I hadn’t met up with them by 11:30am they were to get on a train anyway and I would make my own way into the city and meet them at the hotel.
Since I was the only one of the four of us who had been in Paris before, I had downloaded maps and emailed instructions to them for this contingency, but I didn’t foresee any problems.
As I said, the plan was simple.

But life rarely goes according to plan and this was no exception. As I stood waiting for the shuttle bus that would take me to Terminal 2, I lit a cigarette and switched on my phone. Although Mom and Lisa were travelling without phones, I knew Jacky would have hers, so I figured I would send her a text message to tell her I had arrived. She replied almost immediately: “Can’t find Mom!”

I thought, at first, that it must be a joke, but it soon became apparent that she was serious.

Terminal 2 of Charles De Gaulle airport consists of two long buildings, one on each side of a dual-carriageway road. Each building houses different Gates – A, B and C on one side and D, E and F on the other. A circular road connects the two buildings, crossing over (or under?) the main road at each end.
Pay attention now, because this is where it gets a little tricky.
To get from one Gate to another, one has to exit the building and hop on one of the shuttle buses that spend all day driving the road that circles around the inside of the complex, stopping at the different gates along the way. Of course, not every bus stops at every gate – that would be far too easy.
I think I did two full laps on this road that day in the search for my parent and sibling, leaving a trail of hastily-smoked cigarettes and a very confused Frenchwoman in my wake - she thought I had missed a flight to South Africa and I didn’t have the energy or the linguistic skills to correct her once I had established that their flight had, indeed, landed earlier that morning.

The good news is that just as I had begun to worry about what might have become of them, Jacky phoned from her post at the RER station to say that they had finally arrived from “… somewhere”.

Relief! They were found!
After my final leg on the shuttle bus I arrived at the RER station with three minutes to spare before the 11:30am deadline, and there was my family: Jacky and Mom sporting slightly goofy grins and Lisa looking decidedly grumpy after her first ever long-haul flight, desperate for a cigarette but having had no luck in procuring a flame. Ever mindful of priorities, we found a spot for her to smoke, whereupon her sense of humour began to reappear.

After braving what was possibly the slowest-moving queue in the world to get tickets we finally boarded a train to Paris, after only a minor disagreement about which doors to go through to find the correct platform. It wasn’t really the emotional reunion I had been expecting, but by the time we had settled ourselves and our luggage on the train we were all much happier, bar a few hunger pains.

Our train ride ended some time later at the monolithic Gare du Nord station, where we attempted to follow the “Taxi” signs out of the building. After a few wrong turns and small circles we found ourselves outside in bright sunshine and just around the corner we piled into the first taxi we could find and gave the driver the name and address of our hotel. As it turned out, the hotel was not too far from the station. The drive there took about fifteen minutes. It probably should have taken five. I had no idea it was possible to get lost when you have on-board GPS, but I guess you learn something new every day. Mom got to practise her French on the driver a bit - he said something and she “um-er”-ed a bit in reply but managed to make herself understood, whereupon he proceeded to gabble on at warp-speed in French, delighted that one of his passengers understood what he was saying. Well, sort of.

We had booked rooms at the Hotel Favart, located a few blocks away from the Opera, on the Right Bank in Paris’s 2nd Arrondissement. It is a lovely neighbourhood, especially when compared to the place I’d stayed in the last time I was in Paris, which was directly opposite a bar called “Dirty Dick’s” in the middle of the red light district.
The hotel had an air of slightly faded elegance, with thick plush carpets in the lobby and discreet, warm lighting. Jacky and I shared a twin room on the 4th floor, while Mom and Lisa were on the 3rd. The rooms were spacious and clean and ours had a large en-suite bathroom and a view over the street. Once we had settled in and Mom and Lisa had refreshed themselves sufficiently after their long trip, we went out in search of food. It was long past lunchtime already and I hadn’t even had breakfast. I’d tried, on the flight over, but by the time the air-hostess got to me they had run out of both time and hot breakfasts, so all I had in my stomach by that time was coffee, and a biscuit that Lisa had saved for me from her in-flight meal.
(Isn’t that sweet? My sister knows me well! I, on the other hand, had been so disorganised for this trip that I didn’t even have my regulation emergency-munchies-situation Pringles with me!)

We stepped out of the hotel and turned left onto Boulevard Des Italiens, a long, wide avenue lined with an endless array of restaurants, cafés and brasseries, and tall trees bearing copper-coloured leaves that were already beginning to fall. We wandered along in the chilly, breezy Autumn afternoon, stopping to peruse the menus posted outside until we finally decided on a steakhouse called Hippopotamus, which was recommended in my handy pocket-sized (although not really) guide book. Over cheeseburgers and Cokes we began to catch up on each other’s lives after being so long apart. The last time we had all been together was four years previously, at my wedding. It wasn’t long before we were giggling like schoolgirls. What set us off was talking about how Mom and Lisa managed to get lost in the airport.
Apparently they hadn’t realised they actually had to go out the door to get from one gate to another. Added to this was the fact that Mom had been convinced that they were in a different time-zone, when in fact they weren’t, and by the time they realised their mistake Jacky had already landed, which left them making a mad dash to the RER station to get there before 11:30am in case we left for the hotel without them.
The conversation at the table went something like this:

{Side note: Mom had received a new digital camera three days in advance of her birthday, which was the excuse -sorry, the reason - for this whole trip.}

Lisa: “So what’s new in everyone’s lives? Jacky, you first.”
“Oh not much. You know, London is London…”

“Wait! Lean in a little closer girls so that I can get a photo”

Lisa (looking determinedly at Jacky): “I see. So tell me about work and stuff.”
“Mom, do you know where the flash is? Make sure it’s on.”


Me: “Yowza! I think she found it!”
“Now how do I get to see what it looks like?”

“Press that button over there, I think.”

(attempting to not look harassed): “Okay, and Terri, what about you? How’s your job going?”

“It’s going fine, I just started in a new department.”

“Oh, I see how it works now…”

Lisa: “Really? Doing what?”
“DBA – database administration.”

“Let’s have a look, Ma?”

Mom: “Yes, Lisa, I’m sure I told you about that…”
“Oh, right, and are you still with the bank?”

“Yep, I… ah Ma! I look completely wasted in that photo!”

“Terri, you always look wasted in photos.”


Mom: “Nonsense, I think you all look lovely.”

And so it continued, as it normally does. It is no wonder husbands leave the room when we all get together. Between all the laughing and having three conversations going at once, it’s a marvel we ever get any sense out of it all. But we do, and we’re happy. It’s the way we are.

After stuffing ourselves at lunch, we decided to explore our neighbourhood a little and within a block or two found ourselves standing at an enormous intersection dominated by L’Opera. It dawned on me then that it was the Opera – the setting for “The Phantom of the Opera”. (Yes, I can be a little slow to catch on sometimes.) I was delighted at this discovery, since it is one of my favourite stories and I took careful aim with my camera in an attempt to do the gracious structure justice. As it turned out, I failed dismally because, unbeknownst to me at the time, my camera was set up for Tungsten lighting, not a bright Autumn sky. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Dodging the traffic, we turned left again and ambled down Rue de la Paix, peering into the many shops and trying to avoid being knocked down by mad Parisian drivers, until we found ourselves in what we realised was the Place Vendome. Needless to say we were too busy ogling the jewellery in the window displays of Cartier and Chanel to pay much attention to the magnificent Vendome column in the centre.
While we were there my personal on-board navigational system kicked in and I suddenly realised exactly where we were. Filled with excitement and purpose, I proceeded to hurry my little posse along down a side street and then left again, all the while urging them to get a move on - no easy feat as we were all so easily distracted by the wares in the beautiful shops. They couldn’t fathom what the rush was and I suppose, to be fair, they had a point. What I wanted to show them wasn’t going anywhere.
But I really wanted them to see this!

At length we arrived at the Place De La Concorde and I stood back and waited for them to see it. They ooh-ed and aah-ed at the beautiful old buildings and the fountain, but looked a little confused, obviously wondering what all the fuss was about. Overhead, huge grey and bright white clouds loomed and a chilly wind threatened rain. Eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer so I pointed it out to them – past the mad traffic and beyond the fountain in the centre of the massive square, breaking the skyline in the distance was The Eiffel Tower. Ah! Suddenly there was much smiling and photographing. Remembering how excited I had been the first time I’d glimpsed it a couple of years back I felt happy, like I had given them a present.

After the photo-shoot was over we strolled into the Jardins Tuileries, down the wide gravel path that runs the length of the gardens and around large shallow pools dominated by fountains. We drank in the sight of the Autumn colours, almost unnaturally bright in the late afternoon sunlight that broke through huge rainclouds in shafts, creating patterns and shapes on the ground as the fallen leaves swirled and played in the crisp wind. When the rain came we stepped inside one of the coffee shops and enjoyed a Café Au Lait.
I had finally learned that when in continental Europe, if one wants a cup of coffee, one should order either a Latté, Americano or Café Au Lait. If one orders coffee, one gets a tiny cup of espresso that will make one’s hair stand on end. Not recommended for amateurs.

When the heavy rain clouds moved on, so did we. In front of us now loomed the Louvre, gracious and beautiful, except for the imposing glass pyramid which guards the entrance. Some might say it is a work of art – juxtaposing the old with the new – but personally I think it is rather ugly, starkly taking something away from the grandeur of the original building.

However, as we stood admiring the architecture of the museum with its adornment of statues and carvings enhanced by the glow of late afternoon sun, I saw something that warmed my heart even more and made me smile. You see, while I appreciated my surroundings, I had been there before, and I spent much of our time in Paris watching my Mom and my sisters enjoying it. And at that moment I saw in Lisa a spark, a rekindling of a passion for art and beauty. When Lisa left school she spent three years studying art - graphic design, to be precise. I remember her love for art and photography from back then and over the years I have been slightly puzzled at the fact that she moved away from this to become a businesswoman, a wife and a mother. Not that these are bad things – not at all. It’s just that if you had asked me back then where Lisa would be in 10 years’ time I would have said she’d be in some sophisticated arty job, rubbing shoulders with the cultural circle. Mind you, I don’t think any of us have turned out how we thought we would.
But I digress.

Standing outside the Louvre in Paris, it was as if her eyes suddenly opened after a long sleep and she remembered. And then she couldn’t get her camera out fast enough. I do believe she would have happily stayed right there all night if we had let her. It was a wonderful thing to see – the rediscovery of a joy long lost in the business of life.

However it was beginning to get late and the air was cooling as rapidly as the sun was disappearing so we decided to call it a day and turned left again, towards where we estimated our hotel to be.
Halfway up Avenue Del L’Opera we happened upon the first souvinir shop. These places are tourist heaven and we emerged with at least one shopping bag each. But shopping is thirsty work, so a block or so later we ducked into a café where we found a spot to stand at the bar and drink a small beer each.
It felt strange to be standing at a bar counter, smoking cigarettes and tipping the ash on the floor, but in this particular establishment it appeared there were no ashtrays and that was the way it was done. My trusty guide book advised that it is cheaper to have your drinks at the bar counter than at a table, so we had decided to test the theory. We were all in good humour and our cheerfulness rubbed off on the barman, who turned out to be quite a friendly chap once we smiled at him.

Here is my personal theory on the service in Paris : If you are a woman travelling with a man, chances are the waitering staff are going to be rude and obnoxious. If you are a group of women travelling together, you will get exactly the same response – unless you smile at them, in which case these bastions of reservedness suddenly become human.

It was almost dark by the time we stepped outside again and we were all still reasonably full from our late lunch, so supper consisted of sandwiches and coffee purchased at a nearby Starbucks and eaten in our hotel room.
Exhausted after their long flight from South Africa and the tiring afternoon of walking, Mom and Lisa elected to retire early. Jacky and I sat quietly in our room and I began writing some of the postcards I’d bought to send to my family in various parts of the world.
I managed to do three before Jacky discovered the mini-bar, whereupon the postcards were abandoned and we concientiously liberated all the miniature Gin bottles and tonic water from the little fridge, and proceeded to yak away until the wee hours of the morning.

We had arranged to meet for breakfast at 8 :30 the next morning in the little dining room off the hotel lobby. Jacky and I arrived at 9, just in time to see Mom and Lisa finishing theirs. If patience involves tapping of feet and much rolling of eyes, then they waited patiently for us to drink our coffee and eat our croissants, unaware that we were, in fact, suffering from the after-effects of too much mini-bar Gin. Lisa couldn’t wait to get back to the Louvre and since we had read somewhere (the trusty guide book strikes again !) that entrance was free on the first Sunday of every month, we agreed that this would be our first port of call.
We had barely wiped the crumbs from our faces and we were out the door, headed in the direction of the river Seine and the Louvre.

It was close enough for us to walk and the streets were quiet at that time of the morning so we were able to enjoy the sights and sounds without worrying about being hit by cars too much. Paris is a beautiful city – certainly, the most beautiful that I have seen. There is no ugliness. All the buildings, even the plain ones, are beautiful, the avenues are wide and gracious, the narrower alleys and roads flanked by tall, elegant office blocks or apartments. Statues, fountains and memorials can be seen from afar down most streets and it is difficult not to be entranced by it all. Being women, of course we couldn’t help but be entranced by something else as well – the shopping. It may not be the least expensive place to shop but it is not surprising that Parisian women are so beautifully dressed. However, it doesn’t stop at clothes or jewellery.
On our way to the Louvre that morning we got ever so slightly sidetracked in yet another souvinir shop, which resulted in us finally reaching our destination only around midday.

I am pleased to report that my guide book was correct – entrance to the museum was free that day. Unfortunately it would appear that a lot of people have read that guide book because we stood in the freezing wind for over an hour in a queue that wound from the aforementioned offensive pyramid, around one side of the massive courtyard, through the archway under the Sully wing which joins the Richelieu and Denon wings, to halfway around the second courtyard. This is easily the length of a football field, and then some.

It was cold, but at least it didn’t rain.

Eventually we made it to the entrance of the pyramid, passed through the security checks and rode the escalator down into the cavernous lobby on the lower ground floor. Armed with a floor plan of the building we wasted no time in deciding that our first goal was to see the Mona Lisa.
It may seem strange that we would need a floor plan of a museum but until you have been there you have no idea how enormous this place is. Four storeys high - one of which is below ground level - it would probably take a week to see everything in it. Hence the free floor plan that is available to visitors in the lobby. The most popular attractions are highlighted on the pamphlet so that the day’s visit can be planned intelligently.

We joined the throngs of people all moving in the general direction of the Denon wing, which houses the great lady. Turning a corner we began to climb a flight of stairs and when I looked up, there she was, rising above the crowds at the top of the stairs, larger than life and impervious to the humdrum existence of modern life, fearless and beautiful.
No, not Mona Lisa - I am referring to a statue known as “Winged Victory of Smothrace”. She is Nike, the goddess of Victory. Carved from stone, she stands tall and strong on what was once the prow of her stony ship.
Of course at the time I didn’t know any of this.
All I knew was that I had found my muse.
She was the most beautiful and inspiring piece of art I had seen and I was drawn to her at the top of the stairs, utterly captivated. Up close, I couldn’t see her properly because of her size so I found a spot off to the side, out of the crush of people, and allowed myself a few moments to gaze and take a photograph or two that I could take with me. After all, one can’t leave one’s muse behind in Paris now, can one?!
And here she is: When I snapped out of my trance-like state it dawned on me that I should probably find my family, who had wandered through to the next room. Once I had caught up to them we took our time admiring the magnificent paintings and detailed ceilings that adorn the rooms leading to our destination at the end of the Denon wing.

The Mona Lisa is just one of those things that simply must be seen during a visit to the Paris. I have now seen it twice. The first time I was not terribly impressed. It is smaller than might be expected, and quite dark. At the time it was also surrounded by a few thousand Japanese tourists. This time the tourists were mostly European and American and the painting was just as small and just as dark as I remembered, and no more impressive.

Perhaps I don’t know enough about art.
Or perhaps it is one of the biggest practical jokes in history.

Nonetheless, we went, we saw, we went on in search of bigger and better things.

Our foray into the magical world of art thus far had built up in us a serious thirst accompanied by minor hunger pains, so it was decided that before continuing on our journey of culture we should find something to eat. Between the floor plan and the signs on the walls (never mind that some of them seemed to contradict each other) we found ourselves once again on the lower ground floor in a place called Café Denon, which is tucked away in the midst of an Egyptian exhibition. After a short wait for a vacant table, during which time I entertained everyone by making what I thought was a subtle comment about raiding the dessert tray opposite, but which was in fact overheard by a very amused waiter, we were led through the restaurant to a table near a window.
The restaurant was lovely with its vaulted stone ceilings and relaxed atmosphere and the service was terrible. For the life of me I could not fathom why, because there appeared to be a good ratio of waiters to tables, but it seemed to take forever before someone came to take our order. When the food arrived it was delicious, if slightly less than I would have liked. And then we decided it was time for coffee.
The trick, of course, was to catch the eye of a waiter so that we could tell him this.
Summoning my best French accent I called “Monsieur!” in a not-so-genteel tone and, ignoring the slightly bemused expression on his face I asked for four cups of coffee – sorry, Café Au Lait. I realised too late that “Monsieur” was in fact not a waiter but the Maitre D’, or manager, or something. Not that I cared all that much. I wanted my coffee.
To his credit, he brought the tray of coffee to us himself, with a waiter in tow to serve and pour – but not before he said to the lad, “But not for this one”, indicating me with a wink and a smile. The young man looked shocked, somewhat like a rabbit caught in headlights, until he realised his superior was joking – obviously not a regular occurrence. A French waiter with a sense of humour; who would have thought?

With our energy levels restored we set out to explore the museum further. Mom and my sisters wanted to examine the Egyptian exhibit while were in the vicinity, but since it contained, among other things, a couple of mummies, I took a time out to sit on a bench and just enjoy the echoing silence of the vault-like room we were in. Dead stuff freaks me out and stuff doesn’t get much deader than mummies.

After that it was off to the part of the museum I had enjoyed most on my previous visit: the halls containing the Greek sculptures, including the magnificent Venus de Milo. Three hours after we had first set foot inside we had covered a lot of ground, including Objects d’Art belonging to one King Louis, and a whole host of other ancient and beautiful things.
By then we had reached a point where our senses were simply overloaded and we could no longer appreciate what we saw so we made our way back to the lobby and tried to leave.

That is correct, I said we tried to leave.

Some moron had chosen that afternoon to try to steal something from the museum, and as a result the exits were sealed and the queue to leave was almost as long as the queue to get in.
After what seemed an eternity to us of milling around with the few hundred other tourists wanting to leave, the staff must have caught the culprit or found the missing object and we managed to escape outside into the fresh air again, where we were drawn back into the Tuileries gardens to rest our weary legs at a table outside one of the café’s.
A waiter was cajoled into taking a photograph of the four of us together while we drank yet another cup of coffee and waited out yet another cloudburst under an umbrella.

If we had had more days to spend in Paris this probably would have been a good time for us to head back to the hotel. Lisa had developed a cold that looked more like the ‘flu and we were all a little tired, but we wanted to see as much as possible while we could, so I consulted my map and decided that we could fit in at least one more sight that day.

Dodging raindrops and traffic we quick-marched along the bank of the river and crossed over a bridge onto the island that houses Notre Dame cathedral. There we joined the endless stream of visitors that flock from all over the world to see the famous landmark.
We stepped inside just as Mass was about to begin. The haunting echo of the choir lent a magical, mystical quality to the already enchanting scene of gilt and candles, huge stained-glass windows lit up by daylight trying to steal in from outside and creating an eerie glow that illuminated the massive stone arches.

After touring the small chapels that line the outer walls of the church, I accompanied Lisa outside for some fresh air. Her sniffles were being disastrously aggravated by the smell of incense.
Mom hung back, clearly appreciating the Mass that was in progress, and we were happy to leave her to enjoy the experience.

After Notre Dame we stopped in at a bar for a cup of coffee and a rest away from the cold in order to fortify ourselves for the walk back to the hotel. According to the little map that had been given to us by the receptionist, it didn’t seem far enough away to justify a taxi. Thus, about an hour later, we found ourselves walking up unfamiliar, dimly-lit roads in darkness and pouring rain, stepping into the shelter of doorways in an attempt to figure out where we were in relation to our hotel, and all the time all of us becoming more agitated because some thought we needed to head left while others swore we needed to turn right. Oh what fun.
Eventually I decided to take control of the situation, telling them in my most authoritative tone to Just Trust Me! In truth, I had a little doubt myself, but one thing I have learnt over the years is that I have an impeccable sense of direction. I decided that this was the time to believe in myself. What a sense of relief when we reached a street I recognised! Okay, so we might have taken the long way home, but in the end we got there and I am quite happy to take credit for that. We were never lost – after all, I always knew we were in Paris.

After another quiet supper of baguettes eaten in our hotel room Lisa took her sniffling, aching body off to bed, while Jacky, Mom and I went off in search of a pub. Ha! Hundreds of restaurants in our neighbourhood and not a pub to be seen, but we were less inclined to walk too far after the day’s exercise, so we went into a café and persuaded the waiter to clear the cutlery off the table, where we shared a bottle of wine. The wine wasn’t great but it was okay, and I enjoyed being able to sit and relax and chat with the gals, with no great need to rush off and do something.
On our return to the hotel Mom headed directly to bed, her lip curling slightly as it always does after a glass of wine, although she will deny this vehemently.
Back in our room, Jacky discovered that our mini-bar had been re-stocked so we decided to have a nightcap.

By the next morning all the Gin was gone again and we both had pounding hangovers. The stale croissant and two-day-old coffee we had for breakfast didn’t help. Mom and Lisa were still none the wiser about our late night foray into miniature booze-land so we stoically joined them in heading off to purchase bus tickets at the Metro station.
The woman who sold them to us was extremely helpful and Mom’s rapidly improving French assisted in getting us directions to where we wanted to go.

If the Metro in Paris is a reliable form of transport, I can unfortunately not say the same for the buses. We waited about forty minutes for the bus to arrive that would take us to Pigalle. Lisa, not being the most patient person in the world at the best of times, was less impressed. Of course with a heavy dose of ‘flu this was also not the best of times, and she was frustrated at having flown halfway across the world to do the whole sightseeing thing only to spend half the day waiting for a bus. Fair point, I suppose, although Jacky and I are well used to waiting for public transport, living as we do in London and Dublin.

By the time we reached Pigalle, however, she was somewhat placated and as we walked uphill through the streets of Montmartre, shopping occasionally in the offbeat stores until we reached Sacre Coeur, we all thoroughly enjoyed our surroundings. There’s a reason they call it retail “therapy”.

We opted to ride the funicular up to the top of the hill on which Sacre Coeur is perched, rather than climbing the steep stairs. The majestic white domes and graceful architecture of this place is unbelievably beautiful. And that’s just on the outside. Inside it is a marvel of art and beauty; plus, it contains a shrine to my namesake.

Once outside again we stopped to enjoy the view. This is the highest ground in Paris and the city lay spread out like a three dimensional map at our feet. There was an aura of peace and relaxation outside the basilica as people hovered around, taking photographs and appreciating the view, and simply resting in this haven. We watched some birds bathing in a puddle, dodging the pigeons. That is, I was dodging the pigeons, which seemed to be out to get me that weekend!

After strolling slowly down the stairs back to reality, we went into a pizzeria for lunch. This tourist stuff sure makes a person hungry! Again, we managed to make friends with the manager. I think he was intrigued by the four of us, although I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was the way we all laugh so much when we’re together. Our little family is known for its strange sense of humour. We find something funny in pretty much everything. But I will never know what made him come over and kiss me on the cheek when I leaned over and closed the window behind me. The others found it hysterical, of course, while I was just completely bewildered.

When we’d eaten our fill of pizza we wandered down towards the Moulin Rouge. By night the area is brightly lit with neon signs and red lights. I know this from my previous visit. By day, it is a seedy area populated with pimps and prostitutes, dodgy-looking sex shops, peep shows and establishments of general disrepute. It felt a little odd to be there with my mother. We quickly took our photographs (of the Moulin Rouge, not the prostitutes) and then hopped on a bus into town, past the Opera and back to the Louvre.
From there we did the marathon walk up the Champs Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, past the rows of tall trees bedecked with autumn-coloured leaves, which give way to the large, stylish shops and restaurants. We stopped in at a MacCafé for a milky cappuccino near the top of the avenue and again I felt the magic of Paris inspire me.
If I’d been alone I could have sat all day at the open-air table, people watching and writing while the city sped by. But I wasn’t alone and there was more to be seen, so after finally reaching the enormous Arc De Triomphe we caught another bus, which dropped us at the Place du Trocadero.

I was getting all excited again by the time we got off the bus, because I knew just how close we were to the Eiffel Tower and I knew what to expect when we stepped around the side of the building. It seemed the pinnacle of our trip to Paris and now we have it: a photograph of the four of us with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
This is one of the coolest things I own.
A fellow tourist was kind enough to do the favour of taking this picture in exchange for me taking a similar one with her camera, of she and her friend. That’s how things work when you’re a tourist.

We stood for a while trying to absorb the size of the structure and photograph it nicely – once you get up close it is too big to try and capture in a single shot. We had great fun laughing at Jacky, who had her camera lined up for a perfect photo, except for the giant pigeon that landed on the ledge in front of her, completely filling her viewfinder. It was clever enough to stay just out of arm’s reach, too, and completely ignored all our efforts at scaring it away. Eventually she had to simply move and re-set up the whole picture again. She may not have been amused, but the rest of us sure were!

When we had all taken enough photographs, we walked down the steps and across the road and the river Seine and sat on a bench eating Crepes with chocolate, the Eiffel Tower looming overhead. The sun was setting again, casting an orange glow and causing the temperature to plummet. Although we were uncertain of which bus to take, Mom used her now almost fluent French to get us on the right one back to the Louvre, from where we walked the couple of blocks back to our hotel. No mistakes that night!

After resting our weary feet we dressed up and went to a café around the corner and had a good sit-down dinner accompanied by a couple of small carafes of rosé wine; all four of us this time, after we convinced Lisa she could not spend her last night in Paris alone in her hotel room. Nonetheless, she was still feeling really ill so she and Mom left around 10pm, while Jacky and I stayed to settle the bill and have another (couple) of coffees before heading back to collapse into bed ourselves - sans mini-bar Gin this time.

Tuesday was our last day. We checked out after breakfast (I’m pleased to report that the coffee and croissants were both fresh again) and stored our baggage in the small luggage room behind reception. Lisa was happily, if sneezily, ensconced in one of the couches in the lobby, having given up all pretence of good health and succumbed to the cosiness of being wrapped up indoors on a plush couch with a magazine. Mom, Jacky and I decided we had enough time to visit the Musée D’Orsay, where I was especially keen to see the Impressionist collection.

As luck would have it, however, the museum was closed that day due to strikes, so we shopped instead while making our way back up towards L’Opera and then our hotel. It was proper shopping this time – beautiful clothes at reasonable prices. I am now the proud owner of what I call my ‘Paris top’, which I have yet to wear due to lack of functions, but of which I am extremely proud.

We picked up some baguettes along the way and went back to the hotel to eat them before loading our luggage and ourselves into a hotel-arranged shuttle service to the airport. With strikes on we weren’t taking any chances with public transport – as it was, my flight back to Dublin turned out to be delayed by an hour.

And with that, our Paris adventure was over. Despite getting lost a few times, we had a great time with plenty of laughs, and I believe we each found something there too.
Mom found a place to finally use her French language skills.

Lisa found a long-forgotten love of art.

I found my Muse.
And Jacky? Well, Jacky found the mini-bar!

The weather matches my mood today

It has been dark and grey and rainy all day.

I'm sad today.
I'm allowed to be sad sometimes, aren't I?
Well today I have good reason to be sad.

My Mom and Big Sis left Dublin today and I don't know when I'm going to see them again. I was doing quite well at keeping control of myself until I hugged Big Sis goodbye and then I saw her tears, which set off my own tears and the chain reaction sparked the same from Mom, and the poor taxi driver stood there shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot while the 3 of us blubbered and sniffled and tried to be gruff in an attempt to control the pain of saying goodbye again.
There are times when I think it would just be better if I didn't see them at all. After moving here just over 4 years ago, it hurt so much having left them behind, that gradually, unconciously, I taught myself to not feel anything. Emotions were choked back and strangled as soon as they started, locked away behind a huge wall. Which is all very well until I see those people I miss most. Then, the wall is not strong or high enough and it may as well be made from tissue paper for all its effectiveness. And every time I have to say goodbye again it gets a little harder and I don't think my heart can take much more sadness or pain.
But I'll carry on. Perhaps when I go home tonight I'll have a good cry and perhaps it will make me feel a bit better.
Or perhaps not.
I'll carry on anyway.

'Bye girls...

But on a completely unrelated note, and in an attempt to lift the mood of this morbid post a little, I think I'll do a bit of horn-tooting quickly.

I'll wait for a moment while you all pick your minds up out of the gutter.... u with me again? Good.

A few months back I wrote a short story and submitted it for a competition. Don't ask me why, I wasn't myself and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I only told 2 people, and felt silly afterwards because it, well, seemed like a silly thing to do.
Imagine my utter disbelief when on my return from Paris to find a letter from the competition organizers congratulating me on winning 5th prize for my short story... and enclosed was a cheque for £50!
Elation doesn't even begin to describe how I felt! I still haven't banked the cheque, I'm just carrying it around at the moment as proof that I don't absolutely suck at writing... especially considering that actually I'm not a writer, but a techie.
Yay me!
I'm not usually one to brag, but I'm so chuffed with myself & just wanted to share this with u guys because, well, just because I can.

And no doubt my melancholy mood will lift soon and I'll be back to something as closely resembling normal as I can be.

Oh, and one more thing...

Happy Birthday, Ma!!!

Mom in Tuileries Gardens, Paris, October 2005

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I love Paris in the Fall..

The Gals in Paris
Honey, I'm home!

Yep, made it back from Paris in one piece, and it was fantabulous!

I don't think I'll bore you with all the sightseeing details - some people complained that my last travel blog was so long they almost died of starvation and dehydration with the length of time it took to read. Uh, damn shame, nonetheless, apart from the obvious and overwhelming beauty of the city, what made this trip so special was being with my mom and sisters.

All together now: Aaaaaaw sweet! :-)

Well I landed at Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle airport and found the shuttle bus to take me to the RER (train) station at Terminal 2, because I had arranged to meet my family there, since they had all landed at Terminal 2. The first thing I did while waiting for the shuttle bus (apart from have a smoke, of course) was switch on my phone to check for messages. Li'l Sis had her phone too, but Ma and Big Sis left theirs in SA.

(My phone is very shy. It only beeps once.)

"Can't find Mom"


OK Don't panic. Take shuttle to 2F where the lost gals landed, ask at info - Yes, their plane did arrive earlier.
No, they're not there.
Take shuttle to 2B where Li'l Sis landed earlier to see if they're still there waiting for her.
Er, no.
Begin to sms Li'l Sis again trying to sound calm and collected while inside I'm starting to go through all the scenarios:
1. They've found a nice corner in the airport to nap in their 3 hours before meeting Li'l Sis, and have fallen asleep & not woken up.
2. They forgot to get off the plane in Paris.
3. They decided not to wait at the airport but headed straight to the hotel to catch up on a nap... after all, they've just flown across the globe overnight and are tired & full of travel grime.

Of course, scenario 3 is the most scary because that would've involved them trying to follow my directions to the hotel which I've never actually been to before so, really, they could be completely wrong. Also it would've involved all sorts of public transport which, being South African, is a completely foreign concept for them.

I began to worry.

"It's OK they've just arrived from somewhere"

Take the shuttle around the circle that is Terminal 2, again, and find the gals waiting patiently on a bench.

Despite the sense of humour failures all round due to extreme hunger, we managed to get ourselves to the hotel in one piece and all together.

We spent the next 4 days shopping, laughing, sightseeing and laughing.

Louvre from Tuileries Gardens

We rested in cafe's in the Tuileries Gardens amongst the falling autumn leaves.

We queued for an hour in a freezing wind to get into the Louvre, were awed at what we saw inside, and then couldn't get out again because some asshole had stolen something so they locked all the doors.

Notre Dame was a treat, not just because of the enormous cavernous architecture but also because the choir was singing haunting hymns that echoed off the ancient stone walls while we shuffled through, gawking at the chapels and stained glass windows.

We wandered the streets back to our hotel in pouring rain, stopping under streetlamps to figure out where we were on the map.

We waited 45 minutes in the sun for a bus to take us to Montmarte, shopped as if we hadn't seen shops in months and sat in awed silence to enjoy the splendour of Sacre Coeur. I have to say it felt a little strange walking past the sex shops and peep shows with my Mother, to take a look at the Moulin Rouge.

Sacre Coeur

We took photographs of us standing outside the display windows of Chanel and strolled up the Champs Elysees to see the Arc de Triomphe, stopping, as one must, to enjoy a cup of coffee at a sidewalk cafe. We were on a budget, so ours was a MacCafe cuppacino, but never mind because we enjoyed it.

And we sat eating chocolate crepes on a bench, staring up at the unbelievable largeness of the Eiffel Tower.

There was much drinking of coffee in many different cafe's, many croissants and baguettes were eaten and hundreds of photographs taken.

Somehow we made friends with the waiters wherever we went - they seemed to find me terribly amusing for some reason. In one establishment I was cheeky enough to close a window behind me which prompted the waiter to run over and kiss me on the cheek. He also handed me a business card as we left... maybe he didn't see my wedding ring...?

There were pigeons everywhere and I kept hearing Anne's voice in my head, warning me, "Whatever you do, Terri, don't feed the pigeons!"
Which is very strange because I don't know what Anne's voice sounds like, but nevertheless I tried very hard to stay away from them.
This was not as easy as you may think because the damn things kept dive-bombing me as if they thought my head might be a giant breadcrumb. Very flattering, non?

Li'l Sis and I were sharing a room and we discovered that if you drink all the little miniature Gins and Tonic in the minibar, they actually replace it the very next morning.
Very handy!
Mom and Big Sis seemed a little perplexed as to why the two of us looked like train wrecks at breakfast in the morning - after all, hadn't we all gone to bed at the same time and had a good night's sleep?
Er, not exactly.
There was a good deal of yakking and Gin consumption until the wee hours.

All in all, four days of shopping and laughing in Paris - what more could 4 girls ask for?!

Sunset over the Seine