Kicking Around

It’s been a long time between posts… work and travel have kept me a long way from the blog.  There’s not much point in trying to catch up, but here’s a very brief summary of what’s been happening since September:

We spent a late summer weekend in Dijon, looking at art and architecture, and buying mustard…

We accidentally bumped into the Fête des Vignes in Montmartre in October

I spend a few days with family and friends back in New Zealand, while on a rapid business trip.

Holly leapt out of the lily pond and watered my uncle’s lawn.

In the process, I circled the planet on Air New Zealand (CDG-LHR-LAX-AKL-HKG-LHR-CDG)

And since then, I’ve been back in Paris, in a blur of métro, boulot, dodo…

There’s another trip to New Zealand coming up soon, and I hope to get back to some more regular blogging !


Story Time

Spending some time recently cleaning out my hard drive, I rediscovered a short story I wrote a few years ago. It’s entitled How We Destroyed Panama, and anyone who is interested can pick it up in PDF format here (5,800 words, 11 pages).

Reading over it again with a few year’s hindsight, there’s very little story, and what story there is, has very little to do with Panama. The writing is uneven, but I figure as I’m giving away the story for free, nobody really can complain too much.

(The usual disclaimers apply regarding coincidental resemblance to real people and events.)

2010… wait, what?

Bit of a strange, slightly rushed year, this one. On a personal note, the sense of disjointedness in 2010 has not been helped by moving through three jobs and five weeks of unemployment during that time. And just two weeks holiday: the much-vaunted life of leisure promised by the French social-democratic compact has yet to eventuate.

However, there have been highlights, and many things I should be thankful for. Since I can no longer hold anything in my head longer that five minutes, I needed to look back at my photos for the year to realise what a lot has happened. Here are a few cool things that have happened this year:

Driving to the Western Fjords of Norway

Finding Brussels bathed in sunshine

Performing Beethoven, Schubert and Sibelius with Marc Korovitch and my friends in l’Orchestre des Concerts Gais

Walking the length and breadth of Paris, twice.

Hanging out in Hingeballe with Sigurdór, Sice and their family

Parisian photo safaris with my sister and future brother-in-law (yes they got engaged while visiting me!)

Getting my first glimpse of the Middle East… Abu Dhabi and Qatar

So, all in all, a lot happened in 2010, without really trying. A lot of visitors passed through my apartment, and somehow I improved my knowledge of this strange city called Paris. Thanks to everyone for sticking at it these last 52 weeks, and may I wish you all a very happy and fulfilling 2011, wherever you are.

How to Report the News

I spent much of today out in the rain, collecting footage for a little video project I’m helping with. With a video camera in your hand, it’s amazing how quickly you come to consider the city as your own private film set.

Pedestrians, traffic and background noise constantly interrupt your shots, and it gets a little frustrating. Next time, we’re going to call the police to shut down a couple of streets for us.

To help us construct a storyboard, we used Charlie Brooker‘s indispensable guide to “How to Report the News” as inspiration. Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s always worth watching again, because it’s very clever:

A week of it

If this post seems a little distracted, please excuse it. It’s been one of those weeks, with a lot happening and little respite in sight until Sunday evening. It all started with a having a fire at work on Tuesday, with real smoke and real firefighters and real evacuation.

Then French women insisted in putting dogs in baskets on the RER

The neighbours in my building started writing passive-agressive notes on the front door.

And then writing slightly irrelevant replies on the same notes.

I discovered that they are now advertising my favourite frozen pizza on the metro.

All of this while preparing for the inaugural concert of Les Concerts Gais (et Beaux) tonight at le Temple des Batignolles.

So, please accept my apologies for being slightly all-over-the-place at the moment. Once I find out what’s happening, I’ll let you know.

Traveller, there is no road

Chaque homme porte en lui un monde composé de tout ce qu’il a vu et aimé, et où il rentre sans cesse, alors même qu’il parcourt et semble habiter un monde étranger.

“Every man carries within him a world made up of everything he has seen and loved, and to which he returns constantly, even though he travels and seems to inhabit a foreign world.”

Chateaubriand, Voyages en Italie (texte intégral disponible ici)

Brèves de trottoirs

Something to watch out for in 2010: Brèves de trottoirs is a new web-documentary project lead by journalist Olivier Lambert and photographer Thomas Salva. The objective is to bring together a collection of short documentaries focused on personalities met on the streets of Paris.

Their first subject was Elie, the famous “Papy Dance” who dances outside the Italie 2 shopping centre in the 13th arrondissement. His performances have made him an internet star, but his life story is far more poignant… (this video is subtitled in English)

Also recently released is the next short film, an interview with Violette, a florist on Place Monge in the 5th arrondissement.

Brèves de Trottoirs provides an interesting example of how journalism, film-making and internet are coming together to create new modes story-telling. It’ll be fascinating to watch the project develop during the year. You can follow their Twitter feed or their blog.

Decade in Review

According to some people, midnight tonight marks the end of a decade. At first glance it’s hard to see how far we’ve come in this time. It’s been a decade of Dick Cheney, Harry Potter sequels and The X Factor, but surely there’s been some personal growth going on beneath the radar too.

Tash tweeted today that “we grew older, further apart and closer together, grew deeper, wiser, more foolish. Lost and found hope, but didn’t grow Up.”  Which is lovely, and possibly true if I could work out what it meant, but I thought I’d try to capture some of the spirit of the “noughties” (as I experienced it) in ten photos…

2000: living in France the first time round, learning to be an Alsatian. Hanging out in a small town at the foot of the Vosges, hiking in the hills to work off the tonnes of tartes flambées consumed.

2001: back in Auckland, joined one million dollars.  For a short period, we were something like the biggest little funk band in the land: albums, low-budget music videos and collective food poisoning in Vanuatu ensued.

Flatting in Western Springs in the first half of the decade: I learnt how to be (mostly) a vegetarian and make leek-and-potato soup.  In between cooking, we used the kitchen to make low-budget music videos.

Helping out with youth group leadership at St Paul’s Remuera, I ended up driving the van on our now-legendary ski trips. Little sleep was had by all involved, but we did get to see Paradise.

2004-06: Getting wrapped up into the free improv scene in Auckland, we formed slightly inexplicable musical units such as the Dominion Centenary Concert Band. Audiences didn’t understand what we were doing, but that was OK, because neither did we. But the costumes were fabulous.

2005: Got paid a moderately obscene sum of money to be an extra in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. It turned out to be one of the worst films of the decade, but at least the costumes were fabulous.

Over the course of the decade, I managed to ski at Le Markstein, Châtel, Méribel, Val Thorens, Arolla, Zinal and Grimentz (in Europe); and at Whakapapa, Turoa, The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona (in NZ). My skiing didn’t improve much, but I fell down a lot and bought a helmet.

2006-2008: In Oxford, another spiritual home was discovered. A town where you can consult mediaeval manuscripts in the Bodleian and chase semi-wild horses on Port Meadow within 15 minutes walking distance.

In the UK, one slightly inexplicable musical project got replaced by another: The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band. It provided an excuse to tour the pubs of Oxfordshire.

2009: finally made it back to France on the back of an MBA degree. Montpellier was hot, friendly and offered great opportunities for hiking, including the lovely Gorges de Lamalou.

So somehow I’ve finished the decade by moving to Paris. Looking back, it’s been a busy ten years, and I’m thankful for the good friends and family who have shared it with me.  I always had the impression I could have fitted more in, but in fact quite a lot got achieved anyway despite the procrastination and the blogging.

I hope the next decade is just as action-packed. I just wonder if the costumes will be quite as fabulous.

Have a very Happy New Year, all of you, near and far.  All the best for a peaceful and fulfilling 2010.

Holidays at Home

My blogging has been sparse lately – work has been very busy, and these past few days I’ve been taking visitors around Paris to see the sights. It’s been an interesting experience becoming a tourist again – Paris is a VERY beautiful city, we’re lucky to have the chance to live here.

To all the readers and visitors here, have a wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas, and all the best for a prosperous and fulfilling 2010.

Ferris wheel on Place de la Concorde

Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysées

Exploring other corners of Montmartre, still in the footsteps of Robert Sabatier

Ice-skating outside the Hôtel de Ville