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Tag Archives: Life

Where are you from?

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O-R-I-G-I-N

n. The point or place where something begins, arises, or is derived.

I have been thinking about a film I saw last year, Né Quelque Part, about a young French man who goes on a journey to protect his family’s old house in Algeria from being demolished. He says in voice over, “When someone asks where I’m from I say Algeria, but I’ve never even been there.” He goes not only to discover his father’s house, his homeland, his extended family, but also that bit of himself that makes him identify more with Algeria than France.

Affiche Né quelque part

Does this reflex to state one’s parents’ or grandparents’ origins, rather than the country in which one was born and grew up, come from within? A need to honour and remember one’s roots? Or does it come from the pressures of society, a society obsessed with defining people? (Have you seen What Kind of Asian Are You?)

I wonder about the importance of the connection to one’s native land. The connection is never felt as strongly as when it is broken, a sensation I have witnessed as an expat in Paris. Living in self inflicted exile I am grateful that no-one or no situation has forced me to leave Britain and that nothing is preventing me from returning whenever I want.

I certainly feel a pull to my homeland and I am sure it isn’t just to my family but also to the landscape, to the piece of earth I grew up on. And of course I have only realised this after leaving; if travelling and living in another country doesn’t increase your love of a new culture it will surely increase your love of home.

The grass in the pleasant land of Yorkshire is most definitely greener than that in Paris.

Yet I love my life in Paris, I find so much joy in all the city has to offer. And as the time passes I find it harder and harder to assimilate my life and my identity here with that of the ‘Yorkshire me’. At times I feel a stranger in both lands; enraged by the lack of a queuing system when getting on a bus in Paris; confused by walking into a shop in England and the staff not saying ‘Hello’; eating Marmite on toast for breakfast in Paris; turning my nose up at the terrible excuse for a ‘baguette’ in English supermarkets.

Is where you come from simply the origin of birth, the place(s) you grew up, your ancestry? Is it metaphysical, is it all in the mind? And is it important?

L’étranger
Charles Baudelaire – Le Spleen de Paris

– Qui aimes-tu le mieux, homme énigmatique, dis ? ton père, ta mère, ta soeur ou ton frère ?
– Je n’ai ni père, ni mère, ni soeur, ni frère.
– Tes amis ?
– Vous vous servez là d’une parole dont le sens m’est resté jusqu’à ce jour inconnu.
– Ta patrie ?
– J’ignore sous quelle latitude elle est située.
– La beauté ?
– Je l’aimerais volontiers, déesse et immortelle.
– L’or ?
– Je le hais comme vous haïssez Dieu.
– Eh! qu’aimes-tu donc, extraordinaire étranger ?
– J’aime les nuages… les nuages qui passent… là-bas… là-bas… les merveilleux nuages !
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A new life of sobriety

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S-O-B-E-R

adj: 1. not affected by alcohol; not drunk. 2. serious, sensible, and solemn.

Being sober is something I have been planning on writing about for a while but for some reason I have been hesitating. I think it is because talking about alcohol seems to feel like a confessional, I felt too vulnerable and like I was laying myself bare. But I have decided the time has come, what with it being the new year and everything.

First of all I would like to state that this is just my personal account. I do not claim to be an expert on alcohol, alcoholism or addiction. All I know is my experience.

Me, the drinker

My drinking habits were what I would describe as normal for a drinker of my age. Since the age of 18, more or less, I drank alcohol about 2 or 3 times a week. Maybe one pint in the evening with friends during the week or, since living in France, a glass of wine or a pastis. I would then have the weekend binge drink, starting at home with some wine before heading out to bars to drink, dance, drink, talk, drink, flirt, get hammered. On the menu; a few glasses of wine, a few of pints, the odd shot of vodka or tequila, a cocktail.

Light through the trees, how to control alcohol.

Corny caption competition. Answers on a postcard, please.

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Changing seasons, changing moods

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C-H-A-N-G-E

red and orange leaves

The colours of autumn emerge

The clocks have gone back and the colours of Paris are changing . Autumn is upon us and brings with it the delight of crispy leaves and the promise of well deserved hot chocolates. As a tour guide, I meet people from all over the globe and am delighted when they are experiencing our seasons for the first time. I giggle when someone asks me “When is Paris’s monsoon season?” and realise how exotic these autumn colours must seem to them.

At this time of year I start to look forward, albeit reluctantly, to the holiday season and at the same time I begin to reflect on the past 10 months. You could call it personal bookkeeping. Read the rest of this entry

I drank because…

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For my beautifully intelligent and innocent niece who asked me why I used to drink.

I drank because I wanted to have fun, it was normalised, everyone did it.

I drank because my parents drank.

I drank because my peers drank.

I drank because despite the fear I felt about being drunk for the first time, I liked the loss of control. It made me bold to kiss boys and tell my secrets and dance all night.

I drank because I learned to like the taste of beer and wine. But never vodka. Vodka had to find a home in coke, ribena, milk. Anything to take away the sting. Read the rest of this entry

Photographing Love

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I’ve always been in love. With a character on a TV show (my first was Danger Mouse, then I moved onto actual human beings with Illya Kuryakin from A Man From U.N.C.L.E. I think I must be one of a very small number of girls of my generation to cite this as a TV crush.)  With a boy at school, nature, my pets, a new book.

I remember as a child I was often so consumed with this feeling there was no way in the world I could express it. It made me so joyful and sad at the same time. I was nostalgic for things that had only just happened, or hadn’t even happened yet.

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Life: Just a Word Game?

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B-I-L-H-A-R-Z-I-A

Noun.  A chronic disease, endemic in parts of Africa and South America, caused by infestation with blood flukes (schistosomes).*

I was in the kitchen last week having a rather banal conversation. (You’re hooked already, no?) There were some laughs and maybe a few insightful remarks, I’m sure, but nothing to write home about. The subject was of such a high importance that I have completely forgotten it. For all I know we could have been discussing the reason why kitchen foil has one shiny and one dull side (although, I actually find this quite interesting and if you want to know you’ll just have to ask me. Or google it.)

So we were deep in mind-blowing philosophising and I got stuck mid sentence. I couldn’t find the word. It was a totally simple, everyday, uncomplicated word but it got stuck somewhere in my brain. Read the rest of this entry

Salope; verbal harassment.

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S-A-L-O-P-E, noun f: (vulgarpejorativeslut; whorebitch

She had been keeping an eye on the screen of her phone, pressing the top button to check the time. 1.20am. 1.28am. 1.43am. Shit! It’s gone. She has surely missed the last train from Place de Clichy, if not it’s too late now to make the connection at Saint Lazare. Looking around the room at the temporary friends, enjoying their Cinco de Mayo party (or what is left of it) she feels a sudden weariness.

She knows that she could rally, maybe even pull an all-nighter, but right now she’d rather just head back to her apartment in the 11th. The tired young English woman gulps the last of her virgin margherita and begins her goodbye tour of the soirée; la bise on both cheeks for the French, hugs for the Americans. Read the rest of this entry