Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Keys to Living in France

It's Paris. It's complicated. Yup - I've said it before and I'll say it again, most likely.... But all things can be figured out...

Like the time we bought a new keyboard.

We left our old one in San Jose because I wanted a European one with money symbols on it for real money like £ and € and not just dollar signs. Other things, like quotation marks, where in the wrong place too, but over time I'd gotten used to that. It was the money signs I wanted...

So we went shopping. Strangely enough, electronics shops had been one of the first types of shops we'd sussed out here. That's what comes of being married to a nerd! (And of being one myself, if truth be told.) 

We sourced a keyboard and brought it home only to discover some of the keys were not were I expected them to be. Not quite a qwerty keyboard - or rather - ?ore q azerty keyboqrd:::

I tried to use it on the French setting but kept typing q instead of a, which became quite frustrating. There was however a USA setting... which left me right back where I'd started, except the keys were labeled differently for a handful of keys and some that my fingers didn't know how to find by themselves. It was enough to drive me batty!

But I found a solution to the problem.

Now everyone who sees my keyboard (my study is just a desk in the living room) wants to know the story of the weird looking keyboard!

I'm such a nitwit really! Should have kept the other keyboard...

Byddi Lee

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Cherry on the Top!

It's Paris. There are many little (and big) frustrations, but overall, we're loving being here. It feels like a privilege to have this experience, so I really don't want to complain... Please, consider these next few posts as a description of our adjustment to French life rather than a whinging session!

Everything is complicated - even simple things like buying chickens and even cherries! I was passing a fruit shop one day.

Everything looked delicious. I filled my shopping bag. Later at home, I re-examined the bill and discovered that the fruit had come to a total of €42.66! The cherries alone had cost
€16.72 just for a wee punnet. (Okay, the dattes, (dates) were expensive too - I was expecting that.)

I remembered that the cherries had said "499." Obviously the cashier had typed an extra zero when typing in the price...right?

So, armed with the French vocabulary to say, ever so politely, "I think you've made a mistake and overcharged me..." I headed back to the shop. But to my horror, I realized when I saw the sign close up that, in fact, the cherries really were that price.

They were €49.90 per kilo.

Now, I don't know about you but wasn't that sign somewhat misleading? Wouldn't you think you were getting a punnet of cherries for €4.99?

However, as a French friend did point out, it's not exactly cherry season. These cherries have come all the way from Chile, and judging by their price, flew first class on Air France!

I suppose it pays to read the small print. Quite a task when it's in scribbles that are half rubbed off the chalk board and in French.

Oh well, you win some, you get robbed some. They did taste good and sure isn't that the main thing (even if we are broke now!)

Byddi Lee

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Parisian Pooches

The doctors office was tucked way back in the bowels of a building that has been around since before Christopher Columbus discovered the "New World." Two doors with complicated intercom systems later, I found myself sitting in a tiny waiting room that had a piano taking up a quarter of the space. The opposite wall was dominated by a huge old painting with a clutter of "objects d'art" covering the sideboard beneath it. There were books everywhere, a low love seat and two bistro chairs. The one other person there explained that she wasn't a patient, she was waiting on her friend and I was next.

The door to the doctors office opened delivering two men and two dachshunds - one a scruffy long-haired ginger and the other a sleek chestnut brown! Even as I admired how cute they were (the dogs, not the men) I had a moment of panic. Had I mixed up the French words for Doctor and Veterinarian? Had I booked myself in for an appointment with an animal doctor? And if so, would he write me the prescription I needed for my migraine medication anyway?

But no need to panic - this was a doctor's office and the doggies belonged to him. I had my consultation, with the adorable scruffy ginger mutt sitting on my knee. (I seem to have an affinity for shaggy haired doggies - being shaggy haired myself). The prescription was written and doggie kisses received and I left the office thinking, "That would never happen in the US!"

They do love their dogs in California. In fact, I think it borders on the ridiculous. For example, I have a friend there who buys shoes for her dog to wear. She says its because the dog's paws get sore when it goes hiking with them. I worry about the coyotes... they are barefoot and outside all day and all night long!

I have another good friend who has a stroller for her dogs in case they get tired walking! Maybe they're wearing the wrong shoes. People dress their dogs in California, some claiming that their pooch gets cold! Cold? In California? For goodness sakes - I only wore clothes there because I was being considerate of others!

But the French are crazy about their dogs in a different way, and in a way I can understand. They allow their dogs to go pretty much everywhere with them, the doc being a great example. (The doggy poop on streets issue seems to have been addressed from what I've seen too, thankfully.)

My French teacher allows her adorable Chico to sit in on our lessons, which isn't really fair since Chico already knows more French than me!

Sometimes Chico's girlfriend Luna joins us.

The doggies agree with me - learning French is very tiring!

When Chico lies like this my French teacher tuts and says with great sympathy, "Ah Chico,
cette leçon est très difficile!" - this lesson is very difficult - I always agree!

I was really surprised to see dogs inside restaurants, even fancy ones - by fancy I mean "10th wedding anniversary" fancy. We aren't just talking "service" dogs here. It seems to me that concept is unknown to the French. All dogs are service dogs here.

This little guy walked up and down a bit during his people's meal but behaved himself really well! He is the first I've seen wearing a coat. What is sad is that his coat is newer and more trendy than the one my husband insists on wearing!

I shudder to think what it would be like to bring My Mums dog Rhubarb into a restaurant! But she too is a cutie-pie and I have to include a picture of her.

And of course one is never enough! She likes to lie on a golden pillow -mais bien sûr! Actually Rhubarb doesn't know any french...but she does know how to spell, "Walk!"

She really is a sweet little thing!

Byddi Lee

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Spirit - Post a "Helpie"

I've noticed more awareness on social media this year of how hard Christmas can be for people. I understand that, having found Christmas difficult for a variety of reasons as last years post can show. Regardless of what is missing in your life, this time of year throws the haves and have-not into stark contrast, whether it is missing a family, parent, a spouse, or loved ones in general.

The world has had a tumultuous year, 2016 gave us Brexit and Trump, and stole away so many beloved famous people ( David Bowie, Terry Wogan, Prince and the list goes on) but on a personal level, I had a good year, a year that ends with me living in Paris and loving it. This year for the first time in 8 years, I will go back home to Ireland and spend Christmas with My Mum, My Sister, Bro-In-Law and nephews, not to mention my extended family and friends. I'm actually excited about Christmas, thrilled to see the lights here in Paris, shop at the quaint Christmas markets, and hear live music on the streets. Carols still make me cry - I don't know why - they just do...nostalgia, I guess.

Christmas pulls at my heart now in a different way. I no longer mourn for myself. Even though I miss My Dad, I can accept that this is the circle of life, especially when I'm now planning the Christmas-present shopping-trip with my nephews instead of My Dad (though I'd say there's less chance of that expedition ending in Red Neds with a Guinness and a Buckfast chaser - Cheers Dad!)

I still can't help thinking about those people who hurt at Christmas, so I put this little reminder together.

While it's worth being mindful of the pictures we post on social media at Christmas, (or any time of the year) I think it's a shame to curb our joyful moments - the kids with their presents, the food on the table, the friends around the hearth, what's left of the ham after the dog has stolen it, etc. These are beautiful moments and worth sharing (well, maybe not the stolen ham...) But perhaps we can do better, do something that may actually help the less fortunate without us needing to run a marathon, or climb a mountain or pour a bucket of water over our heads.

How about this year, while we are posting our happy moments online, we take a moment to find a link to the donation page of a charity of our choice and post that too. How much you donate is of course your own business. But posting the link will remind you and those who see it to make a small (to you) donation that may make all the difference to someone else.

We may not be able to individually cure cancer, help the dying, save refugees from drowning, stop war, feed the world, shelter the homeless, comfort the lonely, but small actions add up to larger ones and we can all play a part. So while you are posting that selfie on Christmas Day, think also of posting a "helpie!"

Feel free to use one of the links below (these are my favorite charities):-

And for dollar donations:-

Wishing you a happy, fulfilling and peaceful Christmas.

Byddi Lee