Saturday, 29 December 2007

Prouder auntie

You are all of course familiar with Super nephew in all his loveliness:


Well, now this particular proud auntie has a Super niece too!


Isn't she the best? Of course, I am most grateful to Bro and Sis-in-law for producing a girl (lol lol), as this solved my possible dilemma on how to distinguish between two nephews. I couldn't have used super nephew 1 and 2 as this implies ranking. It was causing much consternation, but then Super niece arrived and problem solved. First girl to be born into my Mum's side of the family since me, in fact, so she is even extra special.

Why we pay for European breakdown cover

Or how not to end your trip home for Christmas:


We set off back to France this morning but didn't get very far. We made a quick pit stop at services on the M74 in south west Scotland, and Hubby had barely finished reversing out of the parking space as we set off again than the dashboard lights lit up in their very own Christmas display, the power steering failed and the engine started to make a very unpleasant noise. Hubby promptly re-parked. We sat for a moment then he tried the engine again. Warning lights and nasty noise. Off again. Hubby got out (in the rather horrid wintery shower) and looked under the bonnet. Looking under the bonnet only serves to confirm to me that I know nothing about cars or diagnosing what might be wrong with them. I mean, I can identify different bits of what's under there, but my automotive knowledge stops there. We tried the engine again. Same result.

I got the book of words out and found the page about warning lights. Under the battery warning light it said: when this light comes on, stop immediately and contact your Renault dealer. Oh bum. Oh bum oh bum oh bum. Hubby decided some oil might do the trick, even though the engine management system said it had plenty. He ventured off to the petrol station and instructed me to call Dad as my bottom lip started to tremble.

Hubby returned with oil and the news that the chap at the garage had called out a breakdown truck. I had stopped crying and found the number to call the insurance company. Felt better after we had spoken to them as the agent did a good job of being reassuring in a "we're here to sort it all out" sort of way. That'll be why we let them rob us blind for cover, so that when we need them, they can say "don't worry".

Meantime, Mum and Dad had leapt on their white chargers (read red Mégane and green Clio) and were en route to ground zero. When the recovery truck arrived the bloke took one look under the bonnet and said "ah yes I see the problem, it looks like the crankshaft". Does that sound bad to you too? He said it wasn't a very major thing to fix, providing it hadn't damaged anything else (I like the disclaimer). We transferred everything to Mum and Dad's cars and, declining Dad's kind offer of continuing home in his car and leaving ours in Scotland, we went back to Midlothian. I have decided that I'd rather stay here until we hear from the garage on Monday how long it will take (and how much it will cost) before going back to France.

Needless to say, the insurance company is delighted that we decided to go back to Mum and Dad's rather than requiring a hire car to continue our journey. Of course it is, costs less! So we are having an unexpectedly extended stay in Scotland until the voiture is fit to travel. You'd think I'd be pleased at getting extra time at home but in truth I would rather be in my trusty motor speeding southwards. Some folk are never satisfied.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Secrets of the handbag

Lovely Princesse tagged me to reveal the contents of my handbag. What an absolutely ace idea for a meme. I love handbags. I love shoes too. Don't know whether I love handbags or shoes more. The problem is my expensive tastes. I suppose it means that we don't yet have to buy a bigger house to accommodate my shoes and bags - I can't afford to indulge so often!

Having said that, I have still managed to accrue a reasonable handbag collection. There is the classy, minuscule "posh occasion" bag (big enough for camera, car keys and a credit card), there is the "cram in loads of stuff I don't need" bag (I have two of these, the exact same model from Mandarina Duck - one is blue and the other is pink, how fab is that??), there is the holiday mini backpack... Now, I only just changed handbags (I have a rotation system so none of them feel left out and unloved), to my grown up red leather Lancaster one:

It's actually a bit darker red than the photo, but anyway. I got it a couple of years ago and paid ... more than €100 I think. It has a lovely silky lining with LANCASTER sewn into it and I love the dangly heart thing.

Because I changed bags on Friday, I dumped a whole load of crap I didn't need (mostly receipts), and haven't yet accumulated any new crap. So the "bare minimum" stuff inside:

Hubby calls my bag a portable black hole. I beg to differ. Everything that's in there is essential at all times. And I can locate any item in less than ... well, I can find things.


So let's start with the gadgets. I'm quite a gadget girl really. Here we have my Palm (magic electronic memory - beeps at you when you have to do something), my camera (obviously not used to take these pics), my pink iPod mini (which is unfortunately dying, its battery won't hold a charge anymore - overused I think - so I might have to replace it soon), my USB memory stick, and my rather battered but much-loved Nokia phone (my ringtone is The A-team it's so naff!). I need all these electronic gadgets all the time. They are like life support devices. Especially my phone. How did we cope before mobile phones?!

These are the "practical" bits and bobs. Kleenex. I always have at least two packets of Kleenex. You can never have too many of them paper tissues. Lip balm (no explanation required). STYLE chewing gum "tabs" which have 3 kcal per tab, actually. That has sort of put me off them. Pens, always useful. Clarins Baume beauté éclair for emergency moisturising. And an empty packet of 1mg paracetamol tablets. I know, empty isn't much sodding use when you've got a stinking headache. I don't even know why I didn't dispose of the packet when I took the last tablet. I'm strange.

Specs for to see with. I wear them for the computer at work, occasionally at home too. And to watch the rugby on telly. And sometimes to drive with. I also have sunglasses for driving.

More practical stuff. My passport to be able to get back into Britain in an emergency (!) - well, you never know. Also serves as ID, which one must always carry in France. The grey wallet thing underneath everything else has my car insurance and owner's certificate, and my driving licence. One should have these documents on hand when driving at all times in France. My work badge, and my house keys. The car keys are somewhere else. Probably.


And finally the cash and cards! This is my lovely wallet that I bought in John Lewis last year. It's lovely soft black leather on the outside, and the lining is pink and violet and it's fab. I think I have at last found the wallet I need: zillions of pockets for credit cards, loyalty cards, health insurance cards and every other card I have, a decent pocket for coins, and plenty of space to shove credit card receipts. So as you can see, I have filled all the card slots rather well. The meagre supply of coins is quite usual, I never have any cash (and it is usually a mix of euros and pennies, too). That 20 euro note won't last long. And there are also about a thousand credit card receipts, which accumulate in my wallet until it is fat and full, and then I throw them out.

So there are the secrets of my handbag! Thank you so much Princesse for tagging me with this, and to Zhu for starting it. I've really enjoyed having a nosey look in your bags, hope you enjoyed mine!

Now I am going to go on technorati and catch up a bit. I am so very behind and very rubbish. Still, nevermind eh? Also hope very much to blog a bit more in the next few days, I might even manage it as our schedules are looking much less hectic. Bisous to you all!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Homeward bound ... I was

This year being a special birthday year for me (I am now truly in my late twenties), I had decreed that I would spend the day with Mummy and Daddy. In fact, the last time I had spent the anniversary of my birth with my parents I wasn't even at university! So it was time.

And so we piled into the super Lismobile and took to the road. I think we set a new record this time, completing Folkestone to Midlothian in 8 hours including stops. When we got home a little birdie mistook Mum and Dad's house for a suitable roosting site. Aaah. We had to evict it though.


Dad says it was a green finch. He knows these things.

Alas I have nothing entertaining to relate regarding our journey, save for the thorough and far-reaching anti-terrorist controls at the French "border" checkpoint before embarking on Eurotunnel. The procedure is as follows:

1. Have four or five vehicles stop all at once.
2. Take one of those explosive trace swab things.
3. Go from one car to the next, and wipe the swab all around the steering wheel and the driver's electric window controls. Do not change swabs between cars and do not wipe any other parts of the cars.
4. Go back to little hut thing and analyse the swab.

While I am sure that the people who work for the French interior office surely are more clued up on counter-terrorism methods than myself, I have identified a couple of weaknesses in their technique. What do they do if the swab registers positive? Get everyone in all four cars to get out and unpack? And, more to the point, if you want to smuggle explosives into the Channel Tunnel, just ensure you don't touch the steering wheel or the electric window buttons. Best to get one of the passengers to pack the semtex.

Return of the Lis

Hello folks, it's me! I'm back to the blog after much absence. I think, rather than doing one rather long and probably tedious post, I'll try to break down my latest adventures into bitesize chunks for you to savour (or skip over). And I'll try to do all that this weekend. And I'll try to catch up with everyone else's blogs too.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Underage voters?!

It seems the Scottish Nationalists have invented another "populist" idea to lower the voting age to 16. I would wager it's just another fight to pick with Westminster (because any legislation altering the voting age must be decided in the UK parliament). When this crackpot idea falls flat, the Nationalists can whine about Westminster foiling their clever policies.

Sorry teenies, but most 16 and 17 year-olds are just not clued up enough to vote. Of course, most people over the age of 18 aren't clued up enough to vote either, but the law says they are allowed to so we just have to put up with it. When I become Supreme World Leader, anyone who bases their political and world views on what The Sun or The Daily Mail says will be stripped of their civic rights.

Heheheh.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Faced with an empty text box

My blogging has been lacking lately. No posts, no visits to my blogroll. No nothing. One explanation is that I have been avoiding my laptop. The horrid fluorescent felt tip pen came back and I didn't want to use my laptop in case it made it worse. Anyway, it seems to have gone away all by itself for the moment.

Another explanation is feeling slightly guilty (as deftly-explained by Princesse Ecossaise) about not maintaining my blog and visiting everyone else. Which is silly really, but that's what I'm all about, isn't it? Silly, I mean.

Yet another explanation is lack of anything blog-worthy to tell. Lately I've been low and worn out and just not right. I can't sleep because my brain likes to be awake at 4am and think about things in a very excited and busy way. My body thinks this is a crock o' shite but it can't get my brain to SHUT UP and GO TO SLEEP. It's been so bad some nights I've switched the light back on and reached for a book to pass the time until sheer fatigue inevitably takes over. Doc has given me some proper drugs because the drowsy-making anti-histamine tablets weren't making a jot of difference. I hope my brain will quickly come round to the idea that thinking is for daylight hours, and the only decent thing to be doing at 4am is sleeping.

Hubby is jolly fed up with his stupid job. When he tells me about the stupid working methods they have and management's flat refusal to invest in any tools that might make his team's job easier and help them produce better, more reliable results, I am struck by how patient he is. I just could not work in the environment he works in. I'd have shouted very rudely at people and probably assaulted my boss long since. Poor Hubby.

The company in the UK that wants a telephone interview hasn't been back in touch this week to re-schedule (the first attempt went nowhere due to difficulties with their conference call system), but hey. Hubby is very diligently practising his English. We used to speak mostly French to each other but now it's mostly English. I have taught him useful idiomatic English such as "innit" or finishing every other sentence with "but" (this is to prepare him for visits to Lanarkshire to see Bro & Family). But he is under strict instructions not to show off this mastery of modern English during any interviews!

Doggy is as delightful as ever. Here is proof:



Pic taken with my new toy, which is now back from after-sales hell and works again. Obviously. That hairy blue thing behind her used to be a slipper, but she savaged it. She's that sort of a doggy. Can you tell from the photo?

If you were paying attention you'll have figured out that Bro & Family have finally moved West. They sold their flat very quickly (within two days of it going on the market!), but finding a new house didn't happen quite so quickly. And when they did find one and their offer was accepted, it wasn't looking likely they would get entry the same weekend they had agreed to vacate their flat. It was all a bit of a soap opera, but they are at last installed and have a postcode that starts with "G". The day they moved in, some curious kids from round about stopped by to see who the new neighbours were. Sis-in-law says she didn't understand one word they said. It's Sis-in-law's birthday today. Everyone say Happy Birthday.

Anyway, that's enough from me. I'm going to change my "currently reading" book and make a cup of tea and visit some blogs. Cheery-bye.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Tea restrictions crisis averted

It's going to be OK, I can sleep soundly at night (well, I can't, but at least the risk of an impending tea shortage won't be the cause of my nocturnal awakenings). I found some Famous Edinburgh tea in the cupboard. Hurray.

This means I can indulge my tea habit with gay abandon because I definitely have sufficient supplies to last until our next trip north. As you can imagine, this is good news indeed, for a Lis without tea is like a car without petrol. It just doesn't function.

I must also learn a lesson from this brush with disaster - bigger tea stocks required. Obviously my TRP (like materials requirement planning, only for Tea) system needs to be looked at, as my consumption forecasts are all wrong. Surely better to have slightly too much tea than not enough. And anyway, if you find that tea stock lifetime is a bit too high, you can easily increase turnover by upping tea drinkage, thus enabling clearance of any ageing tea stock that might be getting dangerously near its BB. Actually that never happens. Surely? How could that happen? How could anyone keep tea for so long it gets to its best before?

Whatever. Looks like this post has turned a bit odd. Work is invading, with its stock lifetimes and components forecasts. Poo!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

What's your point ,caller?

So what *is* my point? What is the point of this blog? Do I have anything useful to say? And why is the wifi so bleedin' slow today?

First I have long overdue blushing thanks for Mya's nomination of this blog for a glittering prize. One day hopefully quite soon I'll display it with pride. But for now I'll just say "thank you, Mya, I'm touched".

I have lots of blogs to catch up on. I lazily technorati'd this morning to check out the latest news from my "favourite" blogs. Was upset to see that the dazzling Miss D has been struggling with her demons, and indignant to read Sugar's story of her freaky date and how all men just want to bed you. And there's lots else going on in the blogosphere and look how behind I've got!

I still don't seem to be able to hold on to an idea long enough to be able to write one down. I so want to blog about just what we've been up to (braderie last weekend, it was really warm and we made about 200 euros - yay!), what we're going to be doing (visit home soon-ish), and just generally give forth on anything and everything (as I'm prone to do)... But my mind is in a big rush and won't let me take the time to make up a proper post on anything. So you're just getting a sort of stream-of-consciousness pile of nonsense. Sorry!

So we did the braderie. It was hot (in October?!). We sold champagne corks (no kidding).

Hubby had an interview in Brussels on Wednesday but we don't really know what for. That doesn't make any sense. The employer is an IT services company and the job would be as a "consultant". But no further information. The compensation package sounded very generous so it probably means they expect you to work 10 hours a day. Every day. Hmm.

On Friday, Hubby got a call from a company in the UK that had already contacted him a couple of weeks ago. They want to arrange a telephone interview. Exciting!

I made Greek stuffed tomatoes out of my Rick Stein book. Surprisingly managed not to butcher any other fingers (last week I did some amateur amputation surgery with a Sabatier paring knife on my little finger - damn sharp them knives). They were a bit fiddly to make but really pretty tasty.

I also think I've accidentally stumbled on some kind of time warp/hole/thing. In the office, we don't have Earth minutes, we have Work minutes. They must only contain about 22 Earth seconds, and probably a Work hour lasts about 13 Earth minutes. This is the only possible explanation for how quickly the days whizz by. Except there is also a sort of reverse time warp that happens when someone says "I'll send you the files in about ten minutes", and two hours later, you still haven't received them...

I opened my last pack of tea bags this morning. I only have about 42 tea bags left. We're going to Scotland in 3½ weeks. Two cups of tea a day into 42 tea bags doesn't add up to enough tea until we go. Even mathematically-challenged Lis can work that out (and I didn't even need a pen and paper to do the sums)!

I wanted to debate (well, have a one-sided rant) about the hypocrisy of being a member of Les Verts (political party not unlike The Green Party, surprisingly enough), but nevertheless driving one's child to school every morning although you only live about a fifteen minute walk away (with no busy roads to cross en route). I don't get how you can join a party that claims to fight for the environment, but pollute so wantonly and pointlessly. But there is nothing to debate. The person in question is a hypocrite. End of.

I also want to know why the eco-mental green-friendly liquid hand soap is only sold by the dispenser-load. I mean, they don't sell refills. You have to buy a whole new dispenser each time. It doesn't make any sense.

And lastly, I'd like you all to have a look at the Earth Clock. And think on. Thanks to maxxo for leading me to that. Maxxo is a clockwork bunny who likes brewing nice cups of tea. I think she sounds interesting.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Inside my head must be a very strange place

Lots and lots going on inside my head and in life in general. Nothing particularly exciting, of course, but I just can't seem to get my thoughts straight. So no exciting and insightful posts for the moment (not that regular readers will find that any different from usual service!). Hope to make things ordered inside my head so I can post post and post some more, and soon.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Dilemma!

7 October, 8pm (GMT+1), Top Gear is back.

7 October, 9pm (GMT+2), rugby world cup quarter final, Scotland v Argentina.

What am I going to do?!?

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Perfect Paterson

Scotland 18 - 16 Italy
That was close.

Good thing Chris Paterson was a reliable as ever with his right foot. And he's fairly easy on the eye for all the close ups when he's eyeing up the posts before kicking.

I (with no bias whatsoever!!) thought the Scots actually played a pretty decent game. Remember the lads were out there against SIXTEEN players and not the usual fifteen. And one of the players on the other team had a whistle and was allowed to make important decisions about the game. Such as not even giving Masi a talking-to after his rather late tackle on Rory Lamont. The poor guy really landed with a thump on his face. That could have had terrible consequences. He could have been badly injured or even lost his good looks! That would have been dreadful.

Other strange refereeing decisions included sin-binning Nathan Hines for a high-ish tackle in the second half having allowed Troncon to attempt to decapitate Dan Parks in the first half without so much as a stern look. I feel like trying to decapitate Parks at times too, but that's no excuse! Oh and ignoring much tripping by his fellow team-members. Er, I mean by the Italians.

That said, Scotland really do need to get their act together because they won't be able to muck around like that against the Argies and get away with it. The Argies have one thing the Italians didn't. No, not a referee, but discipline. And if I set aside all national affinity, I have to say them Argies are looking like a good rugby team. Hopefully they'll be feeling very unlike a good rugby team next Sunday, eh?

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Overstretched

On Friday I did something rather silly and cried at work. It was Hubby's fault. He rang me just as I was looking at my Inbox and thinking I probably wouldn't be able to escape until the following Tuesday. I had to scuttle off to the ladies' and dry my tears and blow my nose.

It's been a tough couple of weeks. Work is stacking up in all quarters. There is the day-to-day work, then the project work on top of it, and the emergency can-you-squeeze-this-in work. Plus the other person in the team was off three days in the last two weeks. I'm not blaming her, everyone has times when they need 'unplanned' leave it's just the way things go.

I'm debating whether it's worth discussing it with my manager. She'll almost certainly blithely tell me that I don't manage my priorities/workload properly, and that's why I'm overstretched. I beg to disagree. When someone asks on Thursday morning if you can fit in a job which, after examination you will take less than an hour and can easily be fitted in along with all the other stuff, for Friday end of the day, you say yes. When at ten to five on Friday that same person sends you the documentation again saying "we made a few changes" and there is 50% extra work, it's not my failure to manage my workload that's the problem.

Also, when I plan priorities and work to come, I do so on the basis of available resources. When 50% of your resources are suddenly removed, it kicks your clever and careful planning into touch, somewhat.

Ach I dunno. My manager is a very insightful person who brings a lot to our activity, but she doesn't understand the nitty-gritty of what we do and is given to flippant remarks like "you're so lucky, you can outsource your work". Riiiiight. But when I do I have to triple-check it because no matter how much care I take in referencing my suppliers, they don't know the company the way I do and sometimes just don't "get" the content of documents. So I have to check and correct. But if I say that to my manager, I'll be told I need to get new suppliers!

I'm really very lucky because I have a job I really quite like. But sometimes it expects too much of me.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

A little corner of Murrayfield

'Moan Scotland!!! We're no scared o' them All Black poofs. Stick it up them eh!!! Send them homewards tae think again and aw'.



And back in the real world... Let's hope we can improve our rucking and try and keep the points difference damage down.

Pleased but hacked off

I'm pleased because it would appear my laptop won't have to go to laptop hospital after all. A couple of weeks ago, the screen started behaving oddly. It looked like somebody had drawn on it with a fluorescent felt pen. I was getting odd vertical blocks of bright pink on the title bars of windows instead of the gentle blue-fading-to-lighter blue we Windows slaves know so well. The clouds on my desktop wallpaper picture had lost their fluffy whiteness and were becoming a garish red around the edges.

Hubby (on my nagging instructions) called Dell and the bloke made him go through the usual IT quick-fix of updating every possible thing there is to update. It seemed to work. But then the fluorescent felt pen came back and it was worse than before. I was deeply distressed. My laptop would have to go to laptop hospital. I was to be deprived of blogging, the interweb... And how long would it take? I mean, I can use Hubby's computer for a couple of days in an emergency but it's not nice like my laptop. What was I going to do??!!!

Hubby sent another email to the man at Dell saying we had a relapse and things were looking critical. Dell-man wrote back with a last resort repair plan to try to keep my laptop out of after-sales service hell. Plug in an external screen and see if the same problem occurs (why didn't we think of that d'oh!). Everything looked fine on the external screen. Well, it wasn't the graphics card, but it was the screen. Oh no, repair gloom loomed... But wait, one last thing to try. The other IT stalwart of "unplug it and plug it back in again". This involves open-keyboard surgery on the laptop, to get to the bit you have to unplug and plug back in again. And it was there we discovered the source of the problem. A dog hair.

"Suction, nurse," commanded Hubby as he prodded at the innards of my laptop with a screwdriver. And no, it wasn't some odd new sex-game we have going on. My laptop was infested with little white dog hairs. Now this is something you can't use a Dyson for. Too much suction. It would have sucked up all my keys. Lucky we still have the ancient cleaner with adjustable sucking speed. Cleared up the dog hairs and put the laptop back together and the felt pen has gone! Hurray!

So why am I hacked off? Well, my new toy is broke. Proper broke. I've only had it for a month. Don't buy a Sony digital camera is my advice! So it has been shipped off to after-sales service hell and won't return for at least 3 WEEKS! How long??!! And what really made me fizz was that if it had gone broke two weeks ago, they would just have replaced it pure and simple. That'll be the fantastic statutory consumer protection in France then. Grr.

They're back

Comments are back - it is a miracle.

Well, less of a miracle and more thanks to some code-twigging. Thanks to the person (people?) behind this blog, who are there to help when the folks who are actually on Google/Blogger's payroll don't care.

Thank you, mystery blog-troubleshooters.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Tag cloud

I have a tag cloud. Good, innit. If you want one, and your blog is hosted by Blogger, you can get one here. You have to tweak your template code a wee bit, but you get a tidy tag cloud for your effort and it's ever so easy really it is.

That has quite cheered me up considering Blogger is being bloody useless. Still no comments.

What on earth???!!!????

Anyone else having Blogger trouble at the moment? As you may have notice, the comments link has disappeared from this blog (I didn't do it!), and no amount if unticking and re-ticking the Allow comments box will bring them back. Blogger Help is sod all use too.
Half my Dashboard is now in German, response times make me wonder if the data transmission is going from my ISP to Blogger's servers via the moon, and I occasionally am treated to a page of javascript code instead of the Manage posts page.
You can still comment if you so wish, just click "Links to this post" and that leads you to a page with a Post comment link.
I might take my blog elsewhere sometime soon. Any suggestions? Wordpress is OK but not enough widget options...

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Oh, bad luck France

In my post on things I'd miss about France, you may have noticed I didn't mention the nation's fine sports teams. I can't fathom why I omitted to include them in my list ...

Ah yes, France. They get done over at rugby by a great footballing nation, and done over at football by a great rugby nation. And you want to watch out, Les Bleus, getting beat by the Scots might become an embarrassing habit!

Oh I'm only mildly pleased to see two of the biggest and most irritating prats in the country brought down a peg or two (yes, I mean you, Laporte and Domenech).

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Gi'us a job

Hubby applied for an exciting job on Friday. Well, exciting if you like designing data networks I suppose. Hubby says it's the best match to his skills and experience he's seen, and we ran it by Matt who said it looked like a good find too. The salary definitely sounds exciting in any case.

It's in Bristol. Not sure how I feel about Bristol. Still, let's not get ahead of ourselves, he only sent in his CV and the recruiter didn't immediately summon him to interview (or, even better, promptly offer him the job). He also applied to a position in Livingston yesterday. Very little chance of that going anywhere because in the ad there's that usual list of "must haves": excellent knowledge of [insert name of some fibre networking technology here], and Hubby says "um, I've heard of it". And anyway, do we really want to go and live in Livingston? I mean, I know I'm no angel, but I don't think I deserve to live in Livingston... !

As for me, a chap from a recruitment firm phoned on Monday, he wants to set me up a telephone interview with a company in Yorkshire. Crikey, a telephone interview. Err...

Not sure how I feel about it all. I am homesick and want to go home, but I have been shifting all the "responsibility" onto Hubby. He's the one applying for all the jobs, I just stuck my CV on a job website to see what would happen... Also, I am (mostly) happy in my job. He is miserable in his. But I have minimal career progression possibilities. He could be earning big bucks and being a high-flying senior engineer.

Sometimes having to make grown up decisions and choices is hard. I wish I could just ask Mum.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

I'm really pretty useless you know...

That lovely girl Despina has been inspiring us all with tales of her summer in Prague, and has been duly recognised for the entertaining way she shares it all with us. And strange as it may seem, she has rather kindly picked out little tubby old still young-ish me for a:

Bless her darling little heart.

So, according to the rules, here are five blogs I think are worthy of some shameless patting-on-the-back and general congratulations. Here goes:


Jo is most definitely a charity blogger. She has even published a book of poetry, with all profits donated to Cancer Research.

Zhu in Canada definitely qualifies for Creative. I mean, just look at her blog. I love it, it's so distinctive and, well, creative.
Also, Ghosty's blog has such a neat look. Only a creative mind could have thought that up! Plus he once wrote a poem/song using the subject lines from the spam in his inbox. I think that is the most creative thing anyone has ever done with spam.

Jane easily qualifies for this one. And I'm especially well-placed to decide on this because I'm lucky enough to know her in real life(TM). And she's a great wee lassie.

Just go to Rachel's blog to find out why she so very much deserves this!

So there!

ooosh!!

My nephew, who let's face it is the cutest, dearest and cleverest nephew around, is at the age of the rapidly expanding vocabulary. Obviously even he is not at the stage of fully formed sentences, but he babbles away with his many words. Just the other day, as Bro was reading him a story, he pointed eagerly at the picture of a camel and declared "mamal". Bro thought, naturally, crikey what a clever lad. "Yes, that's right, the camel is a mammal. Clever boy." To which super nephew replied "camal". Oh well, thought Bro, maybe not got a child prodigy on our hands just yet...

Another favourite word is "puppy". Rest assured his auntie Lis will be putting all her energies into teaching him his first sentence, thus: "I want a...".

But the best word of all is "ooosh", which he repeats enthusiastically, whilst pointing at his feet and holding his shoes... Awwwww.

"Pedal faster", she said

And I thought "I'm going as fast as I can here!". And she said "Turn the resistance up further!" And I thought, "no flippin' chance, my thighs are protesting enough as it is!".

So yesterday I finally remembered the way to the gym and even persuaded Hubby to join me for RPM (you may know it as spinning). It is over a year since I last did any serious sport, and my little legs pedalled and pedalled and my little heart pumped and pumped. And today my little bum is saddle sore. Hubby said he really enjoyed it but I think this is more to do with the lithe and sculpted fitness instructor than the actual cardio workout. I could be wrong...

So anyway, feeling quite pleased with myself as I'm finally getting myself organised and back into a fitness regime. And quite honestly, while RPM makes you all hot and sweaty and feeling like you might just drop dead off the bike, suddenly it's all over and you're doing nice stretching exercises to warm down. And you also observe that everyone else is looking hot and sweaty, even the girl with the perfectly toned derriere and that guy who looks like he's a Tour de France pro racer with his enormous musclely thighs and calves. Yes, OK, they probably turned the resistance up all the way, but never mind. It's not like step where you're the only one who can't get the routine right and are constantly two steps behind everyone else. In fact, I quite like RPM. Maybe I will succeed in saying au revoir to my disgraceful pot-belly by the end of the year... Wish me luck.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Priceless French experiences

Or things the French do so much better than anyone else.

Having been tagged by Zhu who's in Canada, I have been busy thinking of ten things you can experience/see/do/eat in France that you really shouldn't miss out on. Purely from my point of view. I think there might be lots of food in this list.

1: A long French lunch. Everyone knows the French are serious about food. There must, of course, be some French people who don't care about good food and enjoying it (plenty of McDonald's here), but it's so much more fun to enjoy meals and take plenty of time over the whole eating business. The 2-hour lunch break on weekdays may be a myth, but on a Sunday the French are experts at making having lunch into an afternoon-long activity. The best occasions are family meals for birthdays, anniversaries or just for the fun of having a big family meal. It all begins with the apéro and some little nibbles for a mise en apétit. This can take half an hour easily. Then the meal itself which can take three hours at least. You have time to enjoy your food, to chat with your companions, and decent pauses between courses. You need this time to digest a bit before more food comes your way. Sometimes, it takes so long to have lunch, it's nearly dinner time before you get up from the table. Except you're too full for more food.
You don't want to have these sorts of lunches every week, of course. You'd become an enormous blob if you did and would never get anything done on a weekend ;)

2: Conduite sans frontières. This one isn't exclusively French, but it is one of the appreciable aspects of living in France, which is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement. This means you can climb in the car and drive and drive, to Denmark via Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. And maybe even carry on to Sweden. Or to Portugal via Spain. And all this without ever having to stop at a border control and present your passport. I love Europe.

3: The choice of cheese. Everyone knows about the French love of cheese, the vast choice and variety of cheeses produced and enjoyed by the French. And there is a cheese out there for all tastes. If you like nutty and fruity, try some Comté, cow's milk cheese from the Jura mountains in the east. I like the 18-month aged one. Or maybe you prefer creamy and mild? How about some ultra-fresh Selles-sur-Cher, made using goat's milk in a handful of départements around 150 miles south of Paris, just south of the Loire river. When it's very young it's creamy and fresh, and as it ages it dries and takes on a saltier flavour with a strong aftertaste. Or how about brie? Two cheeses in one: when it's young it is quite firm and mild, but you can also buy it "runny", with the creamy pâte literally seeping out from under the rind. I cut the rind off because I don't like the flavour. French people roll their eyes at this. And my favourite, Picodon (pic). A small, round goat's cheese from the Ardèche and Drôme, in the Rhône Alpes region. It is quite delicious.

4: Buying wine directly from the vigneron. Like cheese, wine is very much associated with France, especially in the "old world". The French are rightly proud of their wine. Some of it is indeed very nice. The most fun way of buying wine is to be able to go to a wine-producing region, pick out a producer, and go directly to the exploitation where the vigneron will tell you about his wine, he might show you the vats where it's fermenting, or the oak casks where it ages. You might get to visit his cave and see dozens and dozens and dozens of bottles in gravity-defying stacking arrangements. And then the wine-grower will offer you a taste of his wine. He'll explain how you should serve it (chilled, room temperature) and suggest which foods go best with it. This is the most fun way of buying wine. And guess what, the closest wine-producing region to our house is Champagne. Oh what a shame.

5: la Tour Eiffel. It may well be a tourist cliché but no visit to France, and certainly no visit to Paris can be complete without the famous iron tower. What more can I say? Take the stairs!


6: The braderie de Lille. The braderie is like an enormous yard sale/car boot sale/garage sale, and it happens in the centre of Lille on the first weekend of September. There are braderies all over the north of France, there's even one in our "village". You pay a few euros for a space and sell all your junk. Great fun. The Lille event is now quite removed from the amateur feel of most braderies. There are still some sections of the 200km of streets and pavements where you can find stalls selling collector's items and old furniture, but it is also quite commercial, with all city centre stores joining in, with special braderie bargains. And of course, moules-frites. Mussels steamed in white wine and served with French fries. I have no idea how many kilos of mussels are consumed, but restaurants compete with each other to have the biggest pile of shells outside. Can get a bit whiffy when it's warm...!

Now I'm going to enjoy a glass of champ' (bought from the producer!) cos it's our 1st wedding anniversary. Might finish this off tomorrow...

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Ah'm aff ma heid

This is my mug. It's rather cool is it not? Well, I like it.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Having a clear out

Thanks to the generous flexi-time arrangement I enjoy at work, I'm now enjoying the weekend! You see today is a public holiday, and I've taken Thursday and Friday as days in lieu out of my flexi-time. The weather being a bit useless (story of the summer), I've decided to get on and do some of the stuff that never gets done.

1. Wedding album. With our first anniversary just 11 days away, I have at last done our wedding album. Or one of them. There will be a second, because I couldn't fit in all the pics and there are lots that I want to put in an album instead of them being stuck in a box.
2. Sorting through some of the mountains of books in this house. Because I am constantly feeding my book addiction, the place is overflowing with printed matter. My book-loving hoarding personality has finally been won over by my more rational personality and I am clearing out a whole load of books that I know I'll never read again... To make way for more books (probably), hurray!

Which leads me nicely on to my bright idea. I can't throw the books away (am physically unable to I'm sure), and I can't give them to a charity shop (two drawbacks: they don't exist in France, and all my books are in English). So I'm putting them up for adoption via my blog.

So if you fancy a new (well, used) book, you can visit either LibraryThing or Bookcrossing. These are the books looking for a new home. Just email me (my email is lisofthenorth and it lives at gmail.com) and say which book you'd like and I'll send it you. On one condition. After you've read the book, pass it on to someone else, or give it to a charity shop. Or leave it on the train. Or whatever. Rule of baggsy applies (that means first come first served). Other books might also be available for adoption, but subject to negotiation.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Painting my toenails ...

... when I should have been applying the blasted stuff to the shutters.

Most of the week we've been enjoying what could be (at last) described as summer here in northern France. And with a weekend of sunshine promised by weather forecasters, I had a bright idea yesterday morning. "Given that it's going to be fine," I said to Hubby, "why don't we paint the shutters?". He agreed that this was a good plan. I mean, this could be the last weekend of decent weather (oh, doom and gloom - but I'm only going on past form for this year), and the shutters did badly need some attention.

So off to the DIY store to get exterior wood paint and a couple of other bits and pieces. Returned home €130 worse off (€50 for a tin of paint??), and Hubby announced his intention to go and get the grocery shopping. "Will you show me how to sand the shutters first?" I pleaded pathetically. And he did. And I was so incapable of using the sanding machine properly that he ended up doing all the shutters for me. This is my cunning way of getting him to do stuff I don't really want to do - just be useless.

It was by now about 11:45, and the sun had moved round to be shining its sunny hotness down on our whitewashed house. Instead of being sensible and retreating indoors to wait out the heat, I set about painting the exterior woodwork. In the midday sun. That was amplified as it reflected off our whitewashed walls. It was hot. But I got it all done. Of course, I couldn't really wait until the cooler hours came round, because I had sensibly invited friends for a bbq. Who else in the world decides to do (messy) DIY the same day she is expecting people for dinner. Silly moo.

Anyway, applied a second coat this morning and the shutters are looking slightly less dilapidated. Of course, we'll probably have to get some masonry paint the next time the weather's looking good, because your favourite painter & decorator has artfully applied little splodges of dark brown wood gloss to the walls...

Still, pretty pleased with myself.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Choices, choices

Imagine you fancy a change (of job, of scene, of whole and total country of residence). So you're on the look out for opportunities of gainful employment in your target region because it's not by clicking your dainty red heels together and affirming "there's no place like home" that you're magically going to wing your way to where you want to be. And, having barely clicked "publish" on the jobs website to send your CV off into the cyber-world to find potential suitors, already 2 emails grace your inbox, with expressions of interest from the promised land. Except that, they are offering a job that you really would like to do, in either Yorkshire or Cheshire. And you wanted Scotland.
It's a toughie.

Lost and found

"Phew" is all I've got to say. After clicking on the usual address, and finding an error page, I worried frantically at what could have happened to Jane's blog. Had she abandoned us here in the world of Blog, so soon after making so many darling interweb friends? Or had something more sinister happened? Well, no, it's just that the dear girl has decided her blog needs an address worthy of its owner. If you were wondering where she'd gone, you can find her at: dozymare.blogspot.com.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Elected representative?

Here's a question to ponder: why is that fat (and getting fatter) little Nationalist MSP for Gordon, and also MP for Banff & Buchan? Because he has made it very clear he won't be heading down to Westminster very often, being as he's prancing about as First Minister in Bute House now. So, while his constituents in Gordon have their elected representative, it would appear the residents of Banff & Buchan don't. And why he is still claiming his full MP's salary for the Banff & Buchan seat? That's actually quite a good wheeze, getting paid for a job you are quite openly not doing. Maybe he's cleverer than I thought...

No, he isn't. He is swindling tax payers and his constituents. Would the good people of Banff & Buchan have elected him at the last general election if they'd known he would be so quick to abandon his duty to represent them at Westminster once he got his Holyrood seat? Hmmm, maybe the good people of Banff & Buchan are stupid and would indeed have elected him anyway. I certainly wouldn't appoint anyone to a job if I knew they were going to abandon their post two years' into the contract, but continue to expect a wage.

Stand down and let there be a by-election so that your Westminster constituency can be represented, Mr Salmond. You're depriving them of something everyone else has and it's not fair.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Wibble wobble

At lunchtime today a couple of colleagues and I went for a try-out session of PowerPlate. It's apparently the latest "thing" amongst celebs such as Maddy or Sadie Frost. The concept behind the plate is that it vibrates at up to 50 times a second, and this makes your muscles contract at the same frequency, giving them an intense workout. The end results (after several sessions) are a toned silhouette and less cellulite. And all this without having to actually exercise (all you do is squats or leg extensions), because the vibrating plate is putting your muscles through the equivalent of 1800 squats or ab crunches in just 1 minute.

Well, that's the hype. The truth is this: some of the positions are pretty hard to hold, even for just 60 seconds (especially if your abs are non-existent like mine!); because your muscles are contracting at such a high frequency, your body generates a lot of heat and you consequently get all sweaty (bleurk); it's expensive!

The best bit of the whole session was the massage at the end, where you just get to lie on your back with your thighs on the platform and it jiggles away your cellulite (hence the jelly - that was my thighs!), supposedly.

Having tried it, I certainly won't be forking out 200 and something euros for ten sessions (said to be the minimum required to see some results). Powerplate might give your muscles a workout but it's not cardio-training, so it's not actually bringing any real health benefits. And while you might work up a sweat, that's the only side effect of a "real" sports workout you'll notice. Because there's no cardio-pulmonary workout, you're not getting the oxygen rush and endorphin "high" you get from 40 minutes of RPM or step class. And isn't that the best part of sport? It's not the "look at my flab-free abs" and "be impressed at my 10k times", it's the buzz you get, even though you've worn yourself out. Powerplate can't do that.

Which all adds up to the (for some people inconvenient) truth that if you want to get in shape and stay healthy, a buzzing platform and some silly stretching positions are no substitute for a run round the park or a body pump class.

I'm off to renew my gym membership...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

I want to ride my bicycle

Hubby had an appointment to see the consultant as part of his broken ankle follow up. Météo France and the Met Office were both predicting fine weather and pleasant temperatures (at last - it's only been raining since 30 April after all). I was feeling fed up and rather like a fat little dumpling (new challenge: not be fat for 30th (eek) birthday/lose 5kg). It seemed everything was coming together and could only mean one thing: Lis was finally going to get on her bike!

Yes folks, my good intentions have at last become more than just intentions and I biked it to work today. How lovely it was to ride through the park at 8.25, with not a soul in sight. Birds hopping about the dewy grass, the heron watching the still river water intently. No dopey-driver induced stress, instead a gentle 20min ride to arrive at work with flushed cheeks and cycle hat-hair (that went away thank goodness). And not a sore bum in sight (thanks to gel saddles and full suspension frames) - yay!

Of course, there are some minor drawbacks to my get-fit and be-green transport: no iPod (that could be solved by the purchase of new earphones); requirement to get lazy self out of bed at an earlier hour; dependent on suitable weather conditions. But hey, if this can help me get to what I consider a reasonable weight by my 30th (eek) birthday and cut my carbon footprint, I'm all go. I just hope this spell of decent weather will last!

Sunday, 15 July 2007

On the bonnie, bonnie banks

Some popular cultcha, and some trivia. First, Scottish folk/rock band Runrig's version of "Loch Lomond":



I only just learned the "story" behind this song, it's about two Jacobean soldiers, captured as they retreated from England. One is to be hanged, and one set free. That's the low road and the high road: the one to be hanged is taking the "low" (underworld) road back to Scotland (so he'll be home first). The high road is the real road.

Anyway, even without the little snippet of trivia, it's worth a listen.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

What I could happily live without

Continuing in the same vein, and still in the interests of fairness, let's have a look at what I wouldn't miss in France if one day we escaped from here...
  • French driving. Here's a tip if you're ever driving round these parts: don't stop at the lights unless they are red. Do not stop at orange. Or, if you do, check your mirrors first. If there's a car behind you, keep going, because if you stop you'll be rear-ended. I think part of the problem is that the lights stay on orange for too long, instead of passing almost immediately to red. Many other gripes about French driving include: lane discipline (an unknown concept), indicators (too confusing), headlights (not required in town because there are street lights so you can see where you're going), and don't get me started on roundabouts...
  • French TV. It is quite awful. The TV licence costs about £80, admittedly cheaper than in the UK. But in France, public service channels have commercial advertising. Lots of it. And all the programming is bought, either from the US or Germany. I suppose that's why it's cheaper than the BBC, no expensive programme-making here! And the "private" channels are like ITV on a particularly bad day.
  • strikes. Especially by railway workers. They are possibly the most molly-coddled public sector workers in the world. They work for three years then retire on full salary (paid for by me!), but like to go on strike often and inconvenience lots of the people who pay for their pensions in order to claim the right to retire after just two and half years working.
  • taxes. I am especially intrigued by the fact that, the salary I must declare on my tax return is actually about €720 greater than what I actually got paid. How does that work? That's a clever system, though, getting people to pay tax on money they never had. Cunning.
  • diesel cars. In France, nearly everyone has a diesel. They are all driving around in their diesel cars, pumping out sulphur and black soot particles, giving us all brain cancer and asthma. Diesel cars sound like tractors, smell like something very smelly and foul, and are just generally bad. Yes yes, modern diesel cars emit less carbon than modern petrol cars. OK. But the French don't have modern diesel cars. They have ancient Peugeot 405s that have never been serviced and pump out huge clouds of black smoke at all times. I also love the myth peddled in these parts that diesel cars are cheaper. No they are not. They cost more to buy and more to service. Apparently it takes ten years (at average mileage of 12 000km a year) for the initial extra investment of buying a diesel car to start paying off in cheaper running costs. Think I'll stick to petrol.
  • the Académie Française. This is a sort of old farts club that holds sway over the French language, deciding whether a word is "French" or not. Whenever a new word comes on the scene (like start-up, or e-mail, or web [as in, the interweb]), the academy sets about finding a suitably French equivalent. So we have contrived words like "courriel" or "mél" for e-mail, and the "ouaib" (I kid you not) for the interweb. Most people, naturally, speak of sending a "mail" and surfing the "web". If a language is allowed to evolve and grow, it will stay alive. If some stuffy group of academics try to keep out any "new" or (worse) "foreign" words, the language will die. Think on, academiciens.
  • nuclear power. The French think they have the answer to meeting Kyoto targets and beyond in generating their electricity from nuclear power. It is hailed as a "clean" energy of the "future". Personally, I find nuclear power is a bit like crapping in a shoebox and leaving it to your grandchildren. It generates highly toxic waste, and we have no idea what to do with this. So we bury it far underground and hope it will go away. I'm sure our children's children will thank us very much for this gift to them.
  • people speaking about "England" and the "English" when in fact they mean "Britain" and the "British". That really, *really* winds me up.
Still, it ain't all bad. I have Hubby and Doggy to help me through :)

Thursday, 12 July 2007

You miss the little things the most ...

If you have always lived in the same place (be it same county, same town, same country, whatever), you end up taking many things for granted. You also probably end up noticing the negatives about where you are rather than the positives.

Being an expat (oh no, I said it, does that mean I am one??), I have learned that it is only when one leaves one's home country that one truly appreciates little aspects of the way of life that one now pines for. I appreciate this is not the case for everyone, but it generally is for me.

The little things I miss about the UK / Scotland are, in absolutely no order at all:
  • newspapers. Yeah, you can get newspapers here too, but they are either very regional (and a bit parochial if I may say), or far too serious (national dailies like Le Monde or Le Figaro are unreadable for a poor foreigner like myself). I miss The Scotsman (er, what was I saying about being parochial?), The Independent. I miss Sunday papers that have so many supplements it takes you until the following Sunday to read them all.
  • curry. Love curry. Love going out for a curry. Cannot be done in France. At least, not in the part of France where I am. And the rare French Indian restaurants (OK, 2 then) I have visited don't serve Cobra beer. How I am supposed to enjoy my jalfrezi if there's no Cobra? Note to Matt - you need to find a good curry place in Rotheram!
  • my family.
  • hilly countryside. I grew up in a fairly hilly place. I spent many summers in the Lake District. I like gradient in my landscape. Here the countryside is flat. It's a bit boring. But I guess living in the Alps would solve that one.
  • being able to get a decent cup of tea in cafés/restaurants.
  • Sainsbury's (how sad am I??). I can't explain it, but the Sainsbury's supermarket experience is just different from the Auchan supermarket experience. Not the same at all.
  • Waterstone's. This one is self-explanatory. But I'll explain it anyway. French books are rubbish. Even ones translated from English. They are written in some 13th century tense called the past historic and it's offensive. Imagine having to read everything in Chaucer's English. Would be tiresome. Also, French paperbacks are unattractive. The typeface is too small and the covers never look enticing. And they are expensive.
  • bacon. Cooked breakfast. Baked beans.
  • the long summer evenings. When the weather is good, where better than Scotland in June? The evenings last forever. And the twilight barely has time to fade in the north west before daybreak creeps over the eastern horizon.
  • the M&Ms (they know who they are), boy Nicklas...
  • M&S food to go. Good thing I don't have access to their salads because my bank manager would be demanding I give my money card back immediately.
  • people knowing how to queue properly. I think anyone who has spent any time in France will appreciate this.
  • men in kilts!
  • childhood "references" - school friends (well, those I still see), the house where I grew up, even grotty Dalkeith! No actually I don't really miss Dalkeith. Not much.
  • John Lewis (big consumer theme going on here!!)
I'm sure there are many more of the little things, Hubby should keep a list! But it can't be all that bad because I'm still here after all these years.

In the interests of fairness and equality, and if you can be bothered to decipher my French, I've done a corresponding list of French things I would miss here.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Bloggers Anonymous

It seems my blog addiction is not too severe.

52%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
But maybe if I had done the questionnaire on a different day, I would have scored higher. My blogging and blog addiction is sort of bi-polar, as it were!

And just to prove that I have a real life (TM) too, I'm switching off the laptop now and I'm not coming back until tomorrow. Toodle-pip, everyone.

Bruised and battered

Monday comes around ever so quickly, don't you find? You hardly have time to get to weekend cruising speed and suddenly it's Monday again. Oh well, it's out of the way for this week now at any rate.

Been a busy weekend here at Franco-British HQ. Mum and Dad (or, The Grown Ups, as Hubby calls them - not sure they would agree with this moniker) were here for a layover between the end of their hols in the south of France and the journey back up Britain. They came laden with many goodies, mostly of the food variety and some of the fermented grape juice variety. All very pleasant. As usual, the time went by too quickly and they were packing up the car to leave this morning. I cried like a big baby (because I am), and Mum stoically didn't cry until she was in the car (because she has to put on a brave face for her little girl). And off they went.

Because the mundane aspects of life (like work) have a habit of taking over, I had no time to dwell on my sad heart, which is maybe not such a bad thing. So off to work it was, and to a team meeting. With my office-mates we had the usual ritual of "have you prepared your presentation?" "no, why, have you?!", but it was surprisingly useful (meetings often are in my job, it's always nice) and informative. At lunchtime we went and did some archery (corporate "rules": team meetings must include time for sport). I am now the proud owner of a nasty bow string bruise. Whenever I do archery, there are never any arm guards provided. Only once did I manage to avoid the dreaded bow string bruise. Should I report it as an occupational accident? Is quite sore actually.

Anyway, enough of feeling sorry for myself, I have a blog-addiction to feed...

Friday, 6 July 2007

Desperately seeking ... français

Spurred into action by a simple query from Stratford Girl, I'm on the hunt for (good) French blogs to (potentially) add to my blogroll over at Excuse My French. I have decided that I must put more effort into my French blogging, and maybe having some decent blogs to look in on will motivate me. Or maybe not.

Still, it's worth a try. Send in your suggestions on the back of a postcard to: well, to the comments form, probably would be best.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

The blog arriving at platform 2 ...

A new arrival in my blogroll and I'm all pleased. A long-standing (see how I tactfully didn't employ the world "old" - that's tactfully for both parties) real life (TM) friend has joined the world of Blog. Check out her embryonic blogworld here.

Oh, a prize

The charming Princesse Ecossaise has seen fit to give me a blog award. I am très touchée [blush]. The lovely lass included Attention All Shipping in her list of five schmooze-tastic blogs. I have the power of schmooze! Hurrah.

The illustrious (!) Power of Schmooze Award was founded on 2 July 2007, by Mike at Ordinary Folk, to recognise those bloggers who are "gifted in the ability to schmooze", schmoozing being "to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection". Hmm, not sure about the gaining and advantage, not with my ramblings of an only half-connected mind ;)). Anyway, you can find out more here.

So now it now befalls me to nominate a further five worthy bloggers who I feel are very much entitled to add this prestigious little badge to their blogs. Here goes...
  • Stratford Girl, because even though she's only new to this blogging lark, she has already regaled us with stories of puking dogs and paperclips in her Fox's biscuits (just the paperclips in the biscuits, of course).
  • Jo, because she lives on a boat and she has a big heart, and a lovely dog called Paddy.
  • Willie, because I love to read his latest pronouncements on music and because he's one of the most interesting people I know, and one of the most intelligent, and because our friend Jane describes him as "slightly eccentric". And, most importantly, because we both love curry.
  • Polly, because I have been dropping in on her blog for a while, and I love her blog's name.
  • My brother, because when he makes the effort to post he often makes me smile.
I also must give out some special prix du jury to:
Princesse Ecossaise, she's such a sweet wee thing
Miss Despina who is more adventurous than I, she's living in Prague!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

It's not fair

The sole purpose of this post is to have a moan.

I left work at 7.30 tonight, and my colleague was still there finishing things up. And why were we stuck in the office until so late? Because for a month now we've been having IT/network problems that prevent us from working properly.

Some background: we use translation memory software, and the memory database is stored on a server (it has to be, so we both have real-time access to it). We also store all our "working" files on the same server, as we both need access to them.

So for the last month, the connection to this server has been woefully unreliable, some days it goes off ten or more times. Each time the server connection is lost, if we're working in the the TM software, the whole thing freezes and the quickest solution is to kill it in Task Manager and start again. Can you imagine spending about 15% of your working day just re-starting a program?

The other really great thing that can happen is this: if the connection to the server is lost at the very time when you are "writing" to the TM, this can corrupt the whole database (two and a half years worth of translations here), rendering it useless. This has happened twice since I came back off holiday. Luckily, I copy the TM to my hard drive every morning so we don't have to wait for IT to restore the file from the backup.

And what solution does the helpdesk offer? "Work from your hard drive and copy to the server at the end of day so everything is backed up". And how exactly does that allow real-time sharing of the database? Well, they don't have an answer to that one.

I estimate that in the 10 days I've been back at work, I have lost 3 of them to this problem. Great productivity! Which adds up to things taking far longer than they should, and us being stuck in work until late to finish projects.

I did warn you it was a moan. :(

***UPDATE: they have bought a new server. Yay.***

Alan Johnston freed

I guess I can take my Alan Johnston button down now... the BBC's Gaza correspondent was freed by the Army of Islam in the early hours of this morning. Relief all round in this house in any case.

Looks like Hamas will be trying to make political capital out of this happy conclusion to events. Let's see ...

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Poorly Lis

Note to self: when you feel thirsty, get up from your desk and get a drink.

Don't think "I'll just finish this" and never get round to getting that bottle of water. Because yesterday, I kept "just finishing this" and ended up with the most awful headache/sicky feeling. I thought I was going to die last night (she declares, melodramatically). But instead I woke up at 4.12am and couldn't get back to sleep. Well, not until 7.05am, after the alarm had gone off. Fortunately, I have a backup alarm called Hubby. He left me to sleep until nearly 8. Poor me.

In other news:

Weather remains soggy and cold.
Work remains hectic but there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
Hélène survived her first day in her new job but she's not sure how.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Been reading

I finished Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane. I've read a few of his books, they're all what book reviewers call "dark", but this one is particularly hard-going and grim. All about the darker side of human nature, about pure evil, even. Still, a good read if you like that kind of fiction. Ha! No seriously, it's a mystery thriller and it's pretty gripping stuff. Also you get to feel clever when you work out what's about to happen just before it does. Of course, I'm now taking a break from Lehane. I can only read one of his books a year otherwise it all gets too much.

Say no to plastic bags

Come on Britain, why not follow Uganda's example and banish plastic bags?? They're made from oil, they don't biodegrade, they litter the streets, countryside, rivers and seas. They poison the soil and choke animals, birds and marine life.

I confess to feeling slightly righteous about this. Most French supermarkets have already stopped handing out free plastic bags. You have to bring your own (most people have those bag for life ones), or plastic or cardboard boxes. I've already covered that subject in more depth here.

Do something positive, next time you're at the supermarket, don't grab all the free bags (you probably take far more than you need anyway - you know you can carry more than a loaf of bread and a punnet of strawberries in one bag?). Buy a bag for life and remember to take it with you on future trips.

You don't need the throw-away plastic bags. Because that's what happens to them - they get thrown away and finish up scarring the land. They make the whole country look like a tip, strewn along motorway verges and blowing around high streets. BAN THE BAGS.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

No sex and violence here

Surprisingly enough, I'm a PG blog:

Online Dating

Must be due to my uncharacteristic lack of swearing in blogposts (my cunning plan to make you all think I'm actually not at all a foul-mouthed young madam).

The ultimate gift

Some heart-lifting news at last! Toddler Zoe Chambers today underwent heart transplant surgery. You may have seen or heard Zoe's story at the weekend, when doctors in Newcastle had her placed at the top of the European transplant waiting list, believing she only had a few weeks to live. Even being number one on the waiting list would not necessarily guarantee a match would turn up so soon (or at all), given Zoe's young age and specific needs.

It's truly heartening news and I do hope that baby Zoe recovers well from the operation and that her little body accepts her new heart. But, naturally, happiness for the Chambers family is matched only by grief for the anonymous parents of a small child who has passed away. And they found the courage and humanity to give Zoe another chance at life. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I admire you! I'm praying that your selfless decision to help Zoe, who you don't know and who possibly lives in a country far from yours, gives you some solace at this most difficult time.

These people are an example to us all. Organ donation would appear to be quite a taboo subject, with many people who are registered as donors failing to inform their next of kin about their choice. Ultimately, this can mean their wishes are not respected when something awful happens, as their surviving family refuse to give consent for organ donation. Whatever one's personal views on the matter, we all have a duty to respect the wishes of those we love. I truly hope none of you are ever faced with the decision ... but if you are, remember the chance you have of giving someone else a new life and new hope.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Too much information

I see that the US is still bullying the EU into disclosing air passengers' shoe sizes, favourite flavour of ice cream, and how many vegetables they eat on average every day. It would seem both parties are close to an agreement on sharing data about passengers on US-bound flights. I do understand the security concerns and so on and so forth, but does the US department of homeland security really think terrorists are stupid (well, they are, but bear with me)?

I mean, amongst information they plan to record and keep for 15 years (!) is your email address. If I was a terrorist I wouldn't buy my plane tickets using the same email address that I'd been using to correspond with my fellow terrorists. Would you?

I do think that it smacks of overkill, it is going to inconvenience many perfectly innocent travellers and, yes, I do feel that my privacy is violated by this. I don't understand why the US government needs to know which seat I occupied on board (in most cases, randomly-assigned by the airline anyway).

Pff, I'll probably get flagged up for being some sort of subversive influence now and anyone who reads my blog will be monitored by the CIA for the next 50 years.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Alan Johnston

You may have noticed a recent addition to my sidebar - the Alan Johnston button. Mr. Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent, was abducted on his way home from work on 12 March 2006. His captors today released a film of him wearing an explosives belt.

Mr Johnston's abduction is all the more senseless when one considers that he was the only resident Western journalist in Gaza, deciding to stay on in spite of heightened security risks and when all other correspondents left the territory. He believed that the people of Gaza deserved an impartial media presence to report on stories as they happened and from the region. And because of his integrity he's now being used by an extremist group to attempt to achieve its own dubious ends.

If you too want to express your indignation and your support for Mr Johnston and his family, find out how here.

Are you sure it's June?

The weather recently has been more reminiscent of October than June. The only way you can tell the difference is the late hour at which the sun goes to bed (well, you have to guess at this judging by the relative light of the sky, given that the sun is hidden behind the thick layer of cloud). It's quite depressing.

So I'm feeling a bit cheesed off. Have an unending mountain of work at work. I suppose that'll be why it's called "work". Would rather stay at home with my doggy. Am feeling like a fat little telly tubby. And I can't try to be sporty and go to work on my bike because of this useless weather. Well, I suppose I could but I don't really want to arrive at work completely drenched.

Oh dear, quite a grumpy post this evening. And now it's thundering. I can't quite figure out how that's happening - doesn't there have to be hot air for thunderstorms to form??

Hurumph.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Food porn

My interweb travels lead me to this gallery of foodie heaven. It may induce Masterchef fantasies of the type "oooh, I could do that". In my case, you can't and you should stick to what you know. Still, I can dream and imagine I actually live inside the BBC Food magazine.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

I carried a watermelon

Anyone with any semblance of cinema culture will instantly know what I'm talking about here... What, you don't know? Dirty Dancing of course, which is cult viewing as far as I'm concerned. The other night I decided it had been quite long enough since I'd indulged my sad habit so I stuck it in the DVD player and wallowed in girly nostalgia.

In fact, this film holds a special place in my heart. When I was sixteen I visited Wisconsin, USA on a youth exchange trip. Students from Wisconsin University have the possibility to study one semester in my home town, and from there came the idea that a youth exchange between our town and UW towns could be a good idea. So off we went. I stayed with Jim & Marcy along with my friend Jane. (I'm getting there, hang on.)

One evening Jim & Marcy were invited to their GP's retirement party so Jane and I were home alone. In a big house with a big garden mostly surrounded by corn fields. In the middle of a tornado weather warning. And we, for some unfathomable reason, decided to watch America's Most Wanted on TV. Naturally we worked ourselves into near hysteria, and had to watch Dirty Dancing to calm ourselves down. Later that same week, we bought watermelons at the supermarket. And carried them. :)

It has since become a truly cult film for Jane and me. Brings back many happy memories.