26 Jun 2013

Putain! At War with French Women!

Gone are the days where I attempt to be polite on my blog.  Being polite is boring. (Disclaimer: If you're French and act like the women I'm about to mention below, you are exempt from this. You need politeness therapy. NOW!)
I'm one of the unlucky bunch who suffers from hay-fever and recently, the pollen count has been ridiculously high and I've been sneezing to hell and back.  My nostrils are flaming red after I practically devoured the toilet paper at work, while trying to avoid raised eyebrows from people who think I have an unfortunate bladder problem.  I'm sure my colleagues were appreciative of the lovely long strips of white loo roll I spent much of today wrestling with at my desk.  My annoying sniffs and continually running nose (if only I had as much stamina as my nose, I'd be an Olympic athlete) meant that I bucked up the courage to do something about it.  (Brownie points for initiative?!)

Big supermarkets in France are always useful; you can buy make-up, endless toiletries, medicine.....  All the things you can't buy at those trashy little supermarkets like Dia which attempt to sell cardboard in any form and pass it off as anything from pizza to crackers to soap.  No joke - I bought some crackers from Dia the other day to smear some cheese on.  I opened the packet and they looked like the sort of thing you'd put through a paper shredder and use for your hamster's foul pit.  *Trash*.  It's therefore nice to treat yourself to the more up-market places like Monoprix if you want to avoid eating paper sandwiches.  

When I was in there today, I waltzed over to the "mini-pharmacy" section to find some blister plasters for my feet.  I recognised at once the compede plasters I used for my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award but I still wanted professional advice before parting ways with my well-earned dosh.  I spoke to a lovely man who was very helpful and didn't mind that I didn't know the word for 'blister' in French and we managed to get a good conversation going before I decided to choose the compede.  I thanked him for his time and he continued with his work.  

I then sneezed and remembered I needed to pick up some hay-fever tablets.  The man had disappeared so I approached another woman in the vicinity and started speaking to her.  She looked at me with such a judging mixture of disgust and confusion that I thought for a moment I'd accidentally approached a customer.  I told her I didn't know the word for hay-fever in French but I tried to describe the symptoms and said it was an allergy to pollen.  She just stood there staring at my face with contempt.  I mean, it wasn't like I'd asked her how to cure vaginal warts.  Seriously. She then muttered something under her breath about going to a pharmacy before I did one of those fake smiles and thanked her for "wasting" my time.  When I waited in the queue to pay, I did that thing where you just stare and stare and stare at someone when they're not looking at you, hoping your eyes might just burn into the back of their head and cause them to keel over and choke on their own depressing existence.  Bit harsh maybe?

Last weekend I was in Normandy and found myself in a touristy shop which had a clothing department upstairs.  As I walked up the stairs, I noticed a gorgeous trench coat on one of the mannequins and simply fell in love.  I don't actually own a trench coat and despite it being summer, the weather's been so foul that I figured purchasing a trench coat might not be such a bad idea.  I walked over to the rail where the coats were hanging and slipped on the bright orange number after finding my size (yes, it did clash with my hair a little). Before I'd even had a chance to look in the mirror, a lady who worked there condescendingly shouted over to me "are you actually going to buy that?", as if I were some random tramp who'd come into the store.  I was so taken aback that she actually had the cheek to speak to me like that and make such a grotesque judgement.  In retrospect I should have said: "No, I'm not going to buy it.  I'm going to steal it and sell it on eBay."  I stormed off.  If my mouth hadn't been so dry I would have spat on her.

My one piece of advice for these women?  Do us all a favour and remove that massive rod you have so firmly stuck up your arse. It's giving you wrinkle lines and a soggy disposition.

16 Jun 2013

The Red Light District and Other Tales

It was eight in the evening and the sun was still a peachy orange.  Armadas of vintage bicycles were resting on top of bridges above canals of slowly moving water, their handlebars glinting.  Picturesque houses on either side slanted forwards, their crooked façades giving them the appearance of reaching out towards the water below. The night was still young.

Walking down streets the distinctive smell of weed brought me back to my first year at university; the unforgettable stench would linger in the corridor of my student residence or waft in through my window in the early hours of the morning.  Walking into one coffee shop - the notorious name for a cannabis cafe - we were met by dazed faces.  A group of young men were sprawled out in one corner of space cake city, smoking joints and absentmindedly watching the peculiar music videos being aired on the different screens.  A druggy's paradise.

I watched my friends around me nibbling on their first hash brownies or sharing joints.  I didn't mind being there but I didn't want to try it.  I suppose part of me was scared I might have a bad reaction to it.  And then there was the money issue...I didn't want to spend well-earned money on weed.  Cheese, yes, but not weed. Yet the root of my decision was that despite it being one of those "When in Rome" moments, I just wasn't interested.


On first glance, it seemed like any other part of Amsterdam.  I searched for women in micro skirts and too much make-up but they were nowhere to be seen. We wondered if we weren't a bit early.  But then, looking to our left, we noticed alleyways lit up with red lights.  I thought red light was merely a phrase for "risqué", "naughty" or "dangerous" but it suddenly all made sense.  I was feeling nervous but intrigued and we decided to follow the flow of men and women who hounded the windows.  Beams of pinky red light infused the cramped passageways and I couldn't help but feel a twinge of fear as we ebbed deeper and deeper into the heart of Amsterdam's sex trade. I had been warned not to take photos; the pimps were protective of their ladies and wouldn't allow it.  I'd heard stories of cameras being taken and smashed to the ground. 
Walking past the windows, we saw slim, ample-breasted women wearing what looked like thin strips of elastic cloth, barely covering the essentials.  Some stared out at their voyeurs; others looked bored; some played on their mobile phones.  I don't know what was more upsetting; the women who actually looked like they wanted to be there, or the women who were conscious of their prison.  I felt a rush of guilt cloud over me.  They had been turned into dogs and these were their kennels. I saw a few men walking out of doorways, buttoning up shirts or doing up their flies. As we rushed back towards civilisation, seedy men eyed us up.  I couldn't help but ask my friends: "since when did prostitutes wear baggy jumpers and converse?"

Any woman who turns herself into a man’s whore knows no freedom.  

7 Jun 2013

You know you're not French when...

...You start using meaningless abbreviations like 'pdp' because you think you're in with the cool kids.  Until you realise that no French person has a clue what you're going on about (even the teenagers think you're weird); in fact, the more you try to make 'pdp' happen, the more confused you'll make them.  You may think that 'pdp' means 'pas de probleme' but for a French person it means f@ck all (excuse my French...) 

...You have unbearably pale (synonym: translucent) skin, freckles and reddish hair.  They will assume right away that you are British, or, not of their country.  Note to self: try dying your hair and hitting a tanning booth. 

...You pronounce croissant like "cwoson" because you still can't manage to pronounce the French 'r' without sounding like you're choking on your own tongue or trying to impersonate Gollum.

...You ask for your hamburger to be served 'well done' in a restaurant.  The waiter will most certainly look at you like you made a mistake and the chef will serve it rare.  Expect blood to spill onto your plate because you'll be getting far from the lump of charcoal you initially requested.  If the idea of Steak tartare (raw minced beef on a plate) fills you with disgust, you're definitely not French.

...You apologise when someone bumps into you because you're British and it's the social norm to apologise to everyone, all of the time.  Must. Stop. Being. Overly. Polite.  Contrary to popular belief, old people aren't always nice either.  Feel free to scream at them once in a while when they're in your way.

...You offer up your seat to a pregnant woman on the metro.  That's far too nice.

...You continue to use sarcasm, and think it's hilarious.  French people don't get British humour.  Your attempt at being 'ironic' will go right over their heads and they'll either think you're being incredible mean, or incredibly nice.  Either way, it should be avoided at all costs if you want to make French friends.

...You start having panic attacks in a restaurant when they bring you the wrong flavoured ice-cream because you can't bring yourself to tell the waiter that instead of vanilla, he gave you coconut, which you LOATHE.  You feel guilty because you can't bear to cause an inconvenience and you stare at your food for a long period of time, swirling it around your plate, hoping it might miraculously turn into what you ordered if you frown at it for long enough.  Hint: it won't.

Where on earth is the Eiffel Tower?
...You say each digit individually in your mobile number instead of putting them in pairs.  

...Someone asks you where the closest tube station is and you get your Paris map out.

...You forget how to use the 24 hour clock.  If you say "8" instead of "20" for 8pm, a French person will look at you like you just asked them a complicated mathematical equation, before asking the person behind you.

...You give money to homeless people on the metro.  And then get your wallet stolen because you forgot to zip your bag up.

...You ask for extra ketchup.  On everything.  And then ask how much the free bread costs.

2 Jun 2013

Bridal Fever and Marrying Animals

The last thing on my mind right now should be marriage and children.  I'm 21, sans potential husband, and I still haven't reached the perfect pre-baby figure.  But this doesn't stop me endlessly pinning wedding dresses onto a board I've called "My style".  Don't ask.

Furthermore, when I hear wedding bells ringing on my Facebook timeline, coupled with my colleagues sending me pictures of their dream wedding dresses and sparkling white Jimmy Choos over the office IM, it's hard to ignore the matter altogether.  I think I can therefore be forgiven for occasionally daydreaming about ivory, lace, fruit cake and fondant icing shaped like doves.  And dropping into conversation the fact that I want aquamarines and diamonds in my engagement ring too.  I mean, I'm obviously not going to accept a freebie from a cereal box so I might as well state the real deal before it's too late and my husband to be buys me a sickly Canary diamond ring à la Kelly Clarkson.  I kid you not when I say that poor taste in engagement rings could make it or break it for a potential suitor of mine.  And that includes buying it online.  Apart from that, I'm not too fussy.  Although I might as well mention that I also want a horse-drawn carriage on my way to the church and a reception of 2,000 and four dozen white roses in crystal vases for every square metre.  That's all.

Even if I have to dress up my dog as the groom in the process, I am determined at some point in my life to walk down the aisle.  You know, marrying your pet isn't actually frowned upon in all cultures.  I'm kidding.  Human-animal marriage, as my source acutely puts it, is not recognised in law by any country.  Sadly this doesn't include men with animalistic tendencies.  Sigh.

Interestingly enough however, in 2003 a 9 year old tribal girl in eastern India married a dog because she believed it would ward off bad omens. Fact.  And this wasn't some beloved pet she'd been caring for - it was a stray dog.  According to the BBC article, the girl had a tooth rooted to her upper gum (a sign of bad things to come), hence her tribe's insistence that she either marry a dog, or face the bad omen.  Luckily for the girl, the tribal elders confirmed that this marriage would not affect her ability to marry again, and neither would she have to go through divorce proceedings.  I wouldn't be surprised however if she was found citing "irreconcilable differences".

And then in 2006, a Sudanese man was forced to marry a goat after being caught having sex with it. The culprit, Mr Tombe, was ordered by a council of elders to pay 15,000 Sudanese dinars (£37) to the goat's owner before taking it home to be his wife.  The goat, who was later nicknamed Rose, became the best-known goat in Sudan.  Sadly for Mr. Tombe however, Rose died a few months following the wedding after choking.  On a plastic bag, I hasten to add.  Gone, but not forgoaten.  (And she left a 'kid' in her legacy too. I'm thinking someone wasn't a very faithful wife!)

2006 was a popular year in terms of human-animal weddings after an Indian woman supposedly, and I quote, 'fell in love with a snake' - yes, that is right.  She married the reptile in a traditional Hindu ceremony with 2,000 guests in attendance.  The Press Trust of India exaplined how Priests chanted mantras to 'seal' the union, but the cobra failed to come out of a nearby ant hill where it lived.  Instead, a brass replica of the snake stood in for the hesitant groom.  Sneaky.  Or should I say snakey?

So, dear readers, if you had to marry any animal, which would you choose?  A dog, a goat, a snake?  Or maybe you'd go a little closer to home and wed an orangutan?  The possibilities are endless...

P.s. I'd just like to point out that contrary to popular belief, I am in no desperate rush to get married.  Quite the opposite.  I am almost determined not to tie the knot until I'm at least 27.  So in the meantime, I'll satisfy myself by Googling wedding venues instead.. ;)