Thursday, 19 December 2013

Back in the UUUK

Travelling back from the south of France today was an interesting experience.

Marseille airport was uninspiring.  I was looking forward to a hot drink and a quiet sit down, but found myself in what felt like a concrete bunker, with some vending machines.  Oh well, life is like that sometimes.

I queued up, and my suitcase, which I had decided was under 20kg based on the fact I could lift it (and I know I have trouble over 20kg from sacks of coal).  Well, I don't know if I've got stronger while I've been away, but my bag was a traumatic 27kg when it landed on the scales.  The lady with lots of pancake make up and an over-orange outfit said it was going to cost me 12 euros per kg over 20.  I nearly fainted.  I didn't want to have to queue again or sort through my belongings in the concrete bunker in front of everyone, so decided to pay.  She offered to let me off 3kg, so I went to another desk to queue up to sort it out.  The overly made up person in blue spent ages with my card, then asked me if I knew what 'code 4' was.  'No' I replied, a bit grumpy.  It turned out that code 4 meant that Easyjet owed me 4 euros.  This happy state of affairs meant THEY COULDN'T TAKE ANY FURTHER PAYMENT FROM ME.  So I had a 'get out of jail free' pass for my suitcase.  Hooray.

As it was a short flight, I hadn't bothered to book a seat, so was a bit dismayed to find I was in the centre seat in the centre of the plane.  There was a woman with a bad cough on my left, and a strange, panic stricken looking man on my right, who was reading a book about the Columbine school massacre.  He looked anxious, fidgeted a lot and tried to keep his very large rucksack on his lap.  His complexion went a bit waxy and grey, and I was worried he might have been getting some ideas from his book.

The seats on Easyjet seem even smaller than I remember them (unless that is the French bread and pastries talking), and I battled a bit with keeping any claustrophobia at bay.  After a while, me and the man got chatty, and it turned out he was wearing a bright yellow, plastic watch.  I decided mass murderers probably don't wear that sort of wrist furniture.  They would have a camouflage patterned Swatch (if they do those).  

I perused the 'Bistro' menu (although the ambience was rather far removed from the bistros I had been in recently), and chose a sandwich.  The stewards spent an age getting the trolley into the middle of the plane, and as the woman in front of me asked for a sandwich, I was dismayed to hear the steward say they had run out.


There was also a bit of chaos as the trolley approaching from the rear of the train met the trolley approaching from the front just at our row.  

Apart from that it was a rather nice flight.  There were some amazing cloudscapes, which I had to peer past the coughing woman to see.  She didn't look out of the window, she was busy reading celebrity cellulite magazines, which I thought was a shame.  One cloud formation looked just like a breaking roller, and I half expected to see some surfing dudes come crashing past at any minute.

I wondered what Cezanne or Turner would have made of the view, it's a shame they couldn't get the Easyjet experience to give them some inspiration, although it would be sad if their paintings ended up with too much bright orange.

'What's the pointilism of orange?'

Sunday, 15 December 2013

It's Sunny! It's Warm!

It's not 'The Bleak Midwinter' here!  Hooray!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Tea Crisis

It is a bit of a shock being in France.  People don't seem to own kettles here.  Hot drinks don't seem to be the involved after the 'Bonjour'.

I have been coping well, in spite of this situation.  I can order coffee or chocolate chaud when I'm out.

Yesterday though, tea in France dipped to a new low.

I was in a cafe, and ordered my chocolate chaud (hot for those of you without knowledge of French), and the person behind the counter said that as the machine had broken, she could only offer me tea.  I understood the bit about the machine, mainly because she was pointing to a deconstructed technical item lying on the draining board that looked like it once might have made hot drinks.

I assumed she must have had a kettle behind the counter, so said yes, tea would be fine (or 'oui merci').

You can only imagine my absolute horror as she turned to the hot tap, ran it for a few moments AND FILLED A MUG WITH IT.  She then put it on a tray, with the teabag next to it.

I was charged 2.8 euros for this.

My jaw was still hanging somewhere near the floor, and when I managed to bring it back in unity with the rest of my face, I questioned whether it would be hot enough.  If it wasn't, she said, I could bring it back and she would run the tap for longer (I think this is what she was saying).

It was with deep melancholy that I sat down to my miserable beverage, which wasn't hot enough, and tasted pretty grim.  It didn't seem worthwhile to try again, so I did the British thing and kept quiet.

I think I need to add 'tea therapist' to the 'dessert therapist' as new career options for those with a keen sense of right and wrong in the tea and dessert worlds.
A confusing bit of trompe l'oeil in Marseille

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Deconstruction and Construction

On Masterchef I always giggle when someone presents a 'deconstructed crumble' or similar.  The fruity bit is on one side of the plate, and the crumble on the other.  There will usually be some decorative garnish at a jaunty angle, or at least some spun sugar of nebulous character to 'bring the plate together'.

Today, I realised that living out of a suitcase for seven months has left me feeling somewhat 'deconstructed'.  My clothes are tatty now, and I have just thrown away a pair of shoes as the soles had split.  I must have walked hundreds of miles in them.  I do have some smart work clothes, but in Bristol, I have better shoes, but in London, I have wonderful family and friends, in the UK (and around the world).

So here I am, deconstructed me.

On the good side, my French is improving from virtually nothing to being able to sort of converse with a real French person for FORTY MINUTES.  I went for a charity ride in a 4x4 up a mountain with one of the mountain rescue volunteers.  It was just me and him in the vehicle, and he spoke no English.  I managed to make small talk in appalling French the whole time.  I think at one point I accidentally told him I loved him (rather than a cathedral I had seen the day before), but fortunately realised my mistake and was able to apologise.  He was very polite and we were good chums by the time we got out.  I even knew how many grandchildren he had and that his son was a fireman.  Hooray!

Get multilingual me!

I am thinking of deconstruction and construction lately, having seen an art exhibition called contraction and expansion (or similar).  It was very good, with a Renault squashed into a cube, and other things squished together very tightly, along with expanded polysomething that looked like large beetles crawling along the floor.  There was also a giant thumb, which I rather liked, as it was about the same height as me.  It is very funny looking into a thumb nail that big.  It was golden too.

Some of the art I have seen has been brilliant, some of the funky, weird stuff has made me laugh, some has made me happy because of the jolly colours.  Some of it is awful though.  I have decided I really hate modern art where the colours have run on the canvas and they are left there.  It reminds me of when I was in infant school, painting with one of those long wooden handled brushes at an easel, and the colours cried tears down the paper.  I was always cross about this.  I think that's why I'm cross when I see 'proper' art doing the same thing.  Grown up painters should know to either have less runny paint, or paint on a horizontal canvas.  It can't be that hard to do.

Another strange thing I saw was a wedding dress with an embroidered and sequinned uterus and foetus on it.  I think it was for a man to wear, as it was next to a matador outfit for a woman who also cooks casseroles (presumably beef).  It's a bit much to expect the women to a) kill the bulls and b) cook them afterwards.  Let the woman be the matador, but have a man holding the saucepan please.  One job each is better equality surely?

Matadors are confusing in France, makes me start to wonder where I am.

The 4x4