Wednesday, 31 August 2011

avoir une araignée au plafond (lit: to have a spider in the head):to have a screw loose

So I'm lying on my bed chewing on some grapes I just picked off my windowsill and listening to the fireworks at disneyland Paris. Pinch me.

However I officially feel like I have jet lag but least it's all over and I've now officially moved! Sunday was lovely as it was my last day housesitting in Esbly so we took the dogs on some super long walks, then as the family were back earlier than anticipated bro and I decided to go one last adventure... Into the centre of Paris!

We jumped on the train and 30 mins later came out from the metro into the bustle of an august night in the Latin Quarter, one of my most favourite parts if the city. We only had a couple of hours as had to be up early next morning for the drive back but we went for a stroll along the seine towards the louvre and back again and it was such a beautiful night with everyone sat along the banks of the river, couples, groups of friends, people alone with a book, all ages, picnicking and drinking wine..beautiful

The ile de la cité from Pont Des artes

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The louvre

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Remember this place?!

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Looking down the Tuileries toward Place Concorde, the Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe

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Ah I recognise this...

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When we had finished soaking up the evening we stopped for a cheeky drink on rue de la huchette before heading back

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but not until I had gotten a glimpse of what is one of my favourite sites of the city and something I saw back in 2009 that made me realise one day I wanted to live here...

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We were home by 11pm and in bed until 05:30am when my alarm went off as it was time to make tracks back to the UK. It was a good journey back as obviously I had no idea how to get from Paris to Calais but we managed it with no wrong turns whatsoever and with me only nearly falling asleep at the wheel once (poor bro) so we did have a coffee stop but all in all we made it to Calais in much faster time than anticipated and so made an earlier ferry! Got back to the UK, refuelled, handed the car over headed into London and appreciated the city one last time before I said my goodbyes to my brother and then got my overnight coach from Victoria back to Paris. My big brother has been amazing throughout this and i can never thank him enough for his support, I appreciate I'm a lucky little sister and a lucky daughter and a lucky friend to others.

For the return I got a sleeper coach although it wasn't much for sleeping as it was only a couple of hours to Dover then you were woken up to board the ferry, so I then curled up in a chair and slept for the entire ferry crossing (thank god I hate them and that was my third ferry crossing in as many days) I didn't even loiter to poignantly watch the White cliffs of Dover disappearing for the final time; all I wanted to do was sleep!!! I woke up in time to crawl back onto the coach as the ferry docked into calais and then was woken at 6:30am as the coach pulled into Paris. Although not CDG airport which is where the coach normally drops me off but Galleiani. I have NO idea where this is, it's 6am, I'm tired and I'm now in a random part of Paris. I couldn't not laugh as after the car park incident, the horrendous driving weather and the failing sat Nav, it seemed only fitting that I was challenged one last time on this move by being dropped somewhere else entirely. Anneka Rice who??!! challenge Karen indeed.

Actually it was pretty easy, all I had to do was get the metro to opera then RER to Disney so no problems there and I'll stop moaning (I sound French already) I arrived at Disney about 8am and eyed up the avenue of of them was mine but which?

In terrible french I asked a bus driver 'quelle numero' for l'autobus to Condé and she told me 'je ne sais pas' but thought it was the stop derriere (behind- and yes I actually worked that out as she replied to me entirely in French!!)

As it was it wasn't the stop behind but the bus driver at the stop behind could tell me it was 'soixante' i needed just as it arrived so I was on my way.

Didn't take long to get to my house and the driver even dropped me outside my front door!!! (this is what I like sometimes about living somewhere rural it's all very personal). Anne and Sasha greeted me and it wasn't long before I was being sent to the boulangerie with instructions in French for practise and this is what I came back with...

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So that was breakfast that and a cup of tea (still trying to get used to the milk out here they love their UHT). The bread here is amazing and everywhere you look up until midday you will see people wandering round the streets carrying their fresh baguettes under their arms, in their pushchairs etc. Apparently the boulangerie is more important than a chemists in any populated area in France. It really is their staple stereo typical diet and it really is true about the taste, they don't use preservatives and crappy raising agents so it's got a gorgeous texture to it however if you don't generally eat it on the day you buy it the following day you will be able to do 1 of 2 things with it.

1. Use it as a weapon
2. Line your mattress for extra spring

Carbs are still carbs though and I am not of French origin and no way am I going to give my best mate Dawn the satisfaction of saying 'told you so' when I wobble back to the UK next, the sound of my thighs scraping together will not herald my arrival I promise you.

By 10am I was shattered and so fell into bed literally, only for an hour I said...
2pm I dragged myself out if it, it's sooooo comfy and I felt horrible almost jet lagged but I had to make myself get up. I also realised I had been unrealistic in the 1001 things I had planned for myself to do today and should just rest and play catch up tomorrow, it's one thing doing London to Paris to London to Paris in a weekend it's anoer doing that and expecting life to be normal when you finally do stop to breathe, you have to let yourself breathe, however I DID want to collect my bike from Zoes. She has very kindly lent me one of their unused bikes til further notice so I thought as I hadn't ridden one in about 10 years the sooner I got started on it the better. So I walked the 20 mins along the canal path through the woods to Esbly (well kind of staggered I was completely out of it) it's a beautiful walk, saw some lovely cats along the way, met some lovely dogs and got side tracked at a field with 2 donkeys and 2 goats in (who every time I see them are being fed handfuls of grass by these 2 little girls so whenever they see me they get extra hopeful that I'm someone new who won't be trying to feed them something they already have a field full of...)

Anyway finally got to zoes and got mown down on arrival by dobby and opium and ventured into the garden to find...

The bat bike

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I have called it the bat bike (to the bat bike!!) til further notice to make using it sound more exciting in a 5 year old child at play kind of way. I never said I was a grown up.

the journey home was terrifying, there was the realisation of 'right hand side of the road' to contend with and oh god what do the gears do again?? And it's fair to say I wobbled rather than cycled and eyed up lots of risky looking pavements, bumps, loose stones; seriously if it comes with stabilisers I'm tempted to go back and get them.

I didn't do much else after I cycled back I got taken for a drive by Anne. Now let me just say Anne is a lovely, warm, genuine Irish lady but is as mad as a box of frogs. I'm pretty certain she is Luna Lovegoods mum!!! I have learned if you have all the time in the world she'll help you kill it. If not... Best duck and avoid, I did this when I left the house to get the bike I somehow snook out without her seeing me go! With the drive there was no avoiding it, I was told that is what I was doing and the car keys were fetched before I had chance to wander what had happened, however I did manage to haggle the rent down whilst out and about so it was a bonus! She is Irish but has lived in France for 20 years and so never quite knows what she is saying it's a real mix of Irish and French and I'm catching on quickly. After meeting the girl whose room I'm having when she leaves next week and a guy who lives on the top floor and looks like gerard depardieu I managed to sneak off to my room for a much needed good nights sleep. I exchanged conversations with some friends back in the UK via marvellous modern technology and then drifted off promising I'd get uP early and be productive tomorrow whilst listening to the enchanted fireworks at Disneyland. Is this for real?

So much for early my body clock is definitely not an hour ahead yet so woke up at a time I'm not confessing to because mum reads this and when I was showered up and ready to go I headed downstairs. Today bank, walk to school, walk on to Disney and job hunt (need something part time to bring in extra cash as not got a meeting about my job on the wild west show till 9th September when the artistic director is back off holiday) so that was MY plan. However that wasn't Annes plan...

When she had finished talking to me about hairstyles and downloading future styles I could have when my hair is longer etc etc I finally managed to get her moving. She wanted to take me to the bank and then to meaux (as she had an errand) and then val d'europe and then... I recognised I wasn't going to get a thing I needed done. So managed to get her to take me to the bank first which was a massive help and we have arranged a meeting with them for opening my account at 10am Saturday morning and she is going to be able to be the sort of 'guarantor' if you like as obviously I have no bills to a french address in my name. However we didn't get into the bank before she had upset all the drivers in Esbly on the main street by squeezing her car in behind a man who wanted to pull out so she herself had to pull out and the cars were already starting to line up behind her, then when she found another space in true Parisian style she worked out how close the car parked behind her was by reversing into it. There were no words! (she has offered to take me in to school for my first 2 days here which is just an amazing offer but think I'll tell her it starts 30 mins earlier than it actually does...)

In the bank I was pretty excited to be able to understand much of the exchange between Anne and the receptionist about setting up the meeting and what documents were needed but I know if I had been on my own trying to make sense of it the words would have fallen in one ear and out of the other so I just need to panic less and listen more. I was very aware though that as I walked through the town and stood chatting with Anne in the bank people were having a really really good look. But then I'm not speaking in French and I have bright blonde hair. I'm getting used to this. Could be worse I could be in a country where they try to exchange me for camels.

After the bank I managed to persuade Anne to leave me at the Disney village and So off I went job hunting. First few places weren't terribly encouraging but then Planet Hollywood had a slightly more positive stint and so managed to fill out an application form (yes it was all in french so I'm still pleased with myself for being able to complete this) and then wondered off feeling a little more despondent as it had been a bit 'we'll call you...' annoyingly haven't got any cvs out here with me! (you know what it's like you have to tailor them depending on what you are applying for and with Disney I'm applying for anything so if you hand over 3 or 4 different cvs detailing all your doesn't look good!)Apparently the main Disneyland casting office called Fantasia is over at Val D'Europe but as I had no cv this seemed pointless.

Before I left I Grabbed a coffee at Starbucks and was trying to suss out why my wifi code wouldn't work in it when the helpful assistant informed me that "ere you az to pay fir eet" oh right then "owever zees did not come from me but you can get eet free over at macdonalds...'

Bless that person yes you can!!! So Disney village; macdonalds for free wifi peeps!

I have to say I have found all the French in this area nothing but helpful friendly and delightful so far! Funny how lots of people who have never lived here kept telling me how miserable and rude and unhelpful they were... Speak as you find I say.

I was just about to leave the Disney village and get my bus home when I wandered over to the sports bar to ask if they had anything going (not sure why as they are part of Disney and Disney are strict you have to go through procedural applications for jobs) I wondered up to one of the hosts and asked if he spoke English and then asked about jobs, he said there was nothing right now I'd have to go to the casting offices. His English was really good so I said so and asked where he was from


He'd arrived here 18 months ago, didn't speak a word of French when he did, had no job nothing, got this, got on with it, been here ever since! We chatted for about 10 mins before he told me to wait a second and vanished and came back with a massive looking guy who was the manager. He walked up to me and said

"alright how are ya?!" in the thickest east London accent ever.

So the upshoot is I should hopefully be starting work there in the next few days. We got on really well :)

Right anyway enough, I have just got back from the shop where I discovered alcohol is cheaper than half a dozen eggs, there are these amazing little chocolate things I wish I'd left on the shelf, you can only buy the weak yellow label tea out here whether you like it or not and you CAN get soya milk. Happy days. Plus I have a get together this evening with my fellow English speakers from the school ahead of starting actual work tomorrow! Starts at 6pm although apparently the French way is to be late, I'm not used to that but I'm sure I'll learn.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Nouveau départ (new beginning)

So it's a Sunday morning (28th âout) I just sat down to blog and discovered that apple are soooo clever my iPad automatically set itself onto French language as it knows I'm in France. Not helpful. What would have been helpful would have been if it had changed the time zones on both the iPhone and the iPad but that was asking a bit too much apparently! Anyway I'm sat on a balcony in a little village called Esbly which is just east of Paris drinking a nice espresso and listening to the sound of the church bells and the surrounding countryside and it's bliss...

Le view:

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Firstly may I just say this isn't my place I'm housesitting for someone but that someone is Zoe who I mentioned in my earlier blogs as being my guardian angel in France so if you do the maths on this then; yep I'm finally in FRANCE!!! I MADE IT I'M HERE!!!! Let's not get too excited just yet though, I can't get too comfy right now as I have to take the car back to the UK tomorrow and then get an overnight coach back to paris and THEN I've moved properly.

The past week has gone by in a blur of parents visitng (we spent the most amazing day playing tourist in London and there were lots of laughs and tears, happy ones obviously: how it should be) farewell dinners and drinks and me just wishing I could go and get on with it and then the bombshell. My plans changed early in the week with regards to moving help, my ex was supposed to be helping me move and he decided 3 days before my moving day he was no longer willing to do this...great start, just the stress I didn't need as everything was booked in his name and so I had to in hs words "deal with it". But a woman is like a teabag, never knows how strong she is til you drop her in hot water and I have to say I have the most amazing friends and family who pulled together to ensure that everything went smoothly and the result was Thursday night at 10pm my brother arrived at Victoria station to accompany me on my move. I was perfectly happy to go it alone but in the event it made it more fun having company and it helped massively when I was about ready to fall asleep. Rather than a task force it became a road trip!!!

We had a lovely last night in London at my Dior clad fairy godmothers house (Maggie) who laid on a pasta supper for us and we sat talking into the small hours, I have barely slept all week and knew this night wasnt going to be any different. Needless to say when I left England Friday morning I was exhausted and ready to go just to chill/dry out!

I'd say the move went relatively smoothly! When the alarm went off at 5am I wasn't feeling elated so much as oh god I'm so tired I could die but off we trundled from Pimlico to city airport clutching our coffee to collect the car! Now Europcar have been great Right up until they told me the deposit for the car was actually going to be £250.00 not the £50.00 they quoted me (that's a BIG difference)then I discovered the £40 payment for driving abroad didn't give me anything useful (like headlight stickers or a gb plate) merely a piece of paper to say I had their permission to have the car in that country, then we couldn't find the car as it had been parked in the wrong place, then because it was parked in the wrong place the car park tried to charge us £40 to leave. It was now 08:30am and I was unamused. Especially when I pressed the help button at the barrier and I could practically see the bodyless voice who answered shrug when I told her the problem.

Anyway we got out for free eventually, I programmed the sat Nav and off we went back to the wharf to collect my stuff. Except we bypassed the wharf. Now I think sat Navs are useful but I also think they are the devil. Especially as I tend to use mine like it's the actual windscreen. Not helped by the fact I haven't driven for a year so; mirror, signal, manoeuvre, sat Nav says what??? Bugger.

Now I have driven central London before and I know it well enough on foot (& by bus) to know that I was being taken away from the wharf but still you have to trust these things! As we started heading towards 'old street' It was a case of "Toto I don't think we're in Tower Hamlets anymore". Finally I recognised the damn thing was trying to take me into central London! I have no idea where it thinks central London is me and my bro were speculating about this. If we'd kept going at what point would the sat Nav have gone 'tah dah you're in central London you can stop now!!!'

Anyway finally got back to the wharf, had a moment where we both looked at all my stuff and then looked at the car and wondered if we'd need a miracle. But despite the pouring rain we had it all in within 10 minutes and were good to go!

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Pretty uneventful journey to Dover and despite having not driven in years I didn't mind the rain, the sat Nav behaved and bro played DJ with my dodgy cd collection. Checking in went without a hitch, we got there an hour early so we got to board the earlier ferry (bonus) we also got to smuggle all our illegal goods on board...I'm lying but we could have done! They didn't even look at our passports, cars weren't subject to checks, nothing! Shame the ferry ordeal wasnt so smooth for everyone. Like the man in the car next to us. I'll never know what went wrong but he first came to our attention because we could here "6 HOURS 6 BLOODY HOURS!!!!" being bellowed from the car next to us. Then he just stopped the car dead (it was at an angle and everything!)then he got out and proceeded to have a total fist waving foot stamping fit Rumpelstiltskin style tantrum at his family in the middle of the lane by the check in point. It wasn't funny for his family but it gave all the cars around him something to talk to each other about (which we certainly did, we were playing guess what's gone wrong from window to window) and sadly the video footage my bro tried to get sneakily didn't come out, there was steering wheel pounding and all sorts this man was not a happy bunny I haven't seen anything like it since a toddler was told 'no' to a packet of sweets in a. Supermarket. Would love to have known what sparked such fury but all I'll ever know is whatever it was, it was '6 BLOODY HOURS' as that's all he kept screaming! We saw him later on board eating opposite his wife in total silence. His face not quite so beetroot anymore :)

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A bientôt England!! (for a couple of days anyway...)

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Ferry journey was fairly uneventful I am not a big fan of them i booked it though because it was the cheapest option and I was staggering round like a drunk (just cannot find my sea legs on big boats) but it was over pretty quickly and we soon climbed back into the car, readied the sat Nav and prepared to change it over to French maps, except there was no French map. I didn't have too much time to panic as they were starting to herd us off so I switched brain into 'right hand side' of the road driving and pulled out into what was far worse rain than we had left in England. Wrong side of the road, zero's okay bro should have found the French maps by now right bro?!

Errrm no.... There's no French maps on here. Definitely not.

It was meant to have, we had borrowed it off a friend because it had and now in France we found it didn't! So plan B: had printed off maps from google as back up thankfully and in the end merely settled for following signs to Paris, then following signs to Disneyland and then I'd worry about finding Esbly from there!

After and hour and a half I was truly flagging, after a week of next to no sleep and having been on the road/moving stuff/ferry for almost 12 hours and with 2 hours to go my ass was well and truly kicked, so we stopped for wake up juice: coffee. 2 actually. This is when I discovered café au lait parfumé or cappuccino parfumé avec noisette (with hazelnut basically) I'm in love.

First time setting foot on French soil:

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With coffee in system we finished up the journey which was actually easier without using a sat Nav because you are forced to look at those other markers that are in place to help you...signs. When my sat Nav failed halfway through the Nevada desert it was no problem we spent 3 days using maps to guide us round Nevada and arizona and that went without a hitch so wasn't stressed about this. We marvelled at French driving, laughed at French signs, talked about how dull the scenery was (honestly motorway scenery in France is so flat and dull!)then we were approaching Charles de Gaulle (I always get excited about the fact the runway goes over the motorway so seeing planes driving over you is always novel!) then there were signs to Marne la Vallée, then Disney, then we got to Disney and.... No signs for Esbly anywhere!! Desperately pouring over the maps to find villages in the direction of we blindly followed those til the first sign appeared and then I was in the village, pulling up outside the house and were greeted by Zoe and Thierry with champagne and a lovely meal! This was followed by me doing my best to concentrate on all instructions given for the weekend (as they were going away so I am looking after their house!) and then dragging myself up the stairs to bed. Much needed sleep!

I woke up early the next morning waved them off and then just sat out on the balcony with my coffee wondering how i got here! 24 hours ago I was still a PT in London and now 1 day later I'm here in the french countryside looking after dogs and collecting fresh eggs from the chickens.

The house!

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Dobby and opium my charges for the weekend (bless they aren't the brightest, honestly opium is slightly brain damaged and I was too stumped to laugh at some of the things he did out on walks, such as walking head first into a fence without even seeing it...)

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Yep this one will do for breakfast....Bro checking the Chickens!!!

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When we'd finished chilling and felt more human we decided to pop out and find a supermarket and stock up on supplies for the weekend. So it was a trip to the local carrefour where I discovered

1. I'm going to get FAT...

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2. I'm going to become an alcoholic (wine @ 13% is under €2!!!)

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3. If my brother wants this he can cook it himself:

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We must have been in there for over an hour! Shopping has become fun again, trying to analyse recognise and translate everything. Things are always more exciting in another language. Pouring over every type of cheese on the shelves... I give it a month.

With various goodies which said we were tourists more than our dialect, we, well I, decided as we were over that way I wouldn't mind having a nosey at the village I was moving to. So armed with only our inner GPS and my very loose knowledge of the area we set out and eventually came across the sign!!

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With a rough image in my brain of where the road was I drove on and stumbled across it almost immediately so started looking at house numbers, mine is number 5 so when I started driving up the street and saw no. 1 awesome, no. 3 BONUS mine is the next house!!! No. 23... WHAT??? 25, 27..... why me.

So we parked up which gave me a chance to notice that the street looked like something out of a wildwest town almost, no 2 houses were the same and all we could do was stand there and say "oh it's so,!"

On the street where I live...

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I wombled down making a mental note of my local boulangerie (award winning apparently), passed about 4 people all of whom smiled at me and said "bonjour" (for a minute I thought I'd landed in disney's beauty and the beast and so wasn't sure if I needed to launch into a verse of "there goes the baker with his tray like always....") as I approached an alleyway I saw a White house I recognised from the pics that Zoe had sent me from the house viewing.

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There was a lady in the driveway trimming the vines and for a split second we looked at each other, the thought went through my head as I noticed the houses front door was open was 'wouldn't it be odd if that was Anne the landlady (neither us has a clue what the other person looks like) when there was a flash of recognition went across her face as if this strange vine trimming woman just shared the same thought as me.

Turns out that's exactly who it was!

Within minutes I was pulling my car into the drive and unloading into my amazing room whilst she ran to the shop so she could lay on a welcome lunch for us of all things typically french which was lovely!! Now this house is amazing but what makes it more amamzing?? Is Sasha, her dog who I'm officially in love with. Apparently the guy on the top floor takes her for walks everyday...we shall soon see about that haha. I have already said if she can't find her to check my room, anyone who knows me will know I love animals (quite often more than people) and the year I spent in London with no animals whatsoever (although some may beg to differ) I at times really struggled without them.

Me and Sasha outside

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Room with a view

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The garden:

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The beautiful Sasha:

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Bro and sash with impromptu welcome spread!

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Good to meet you! My new best friend.

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When in France

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Before we knew it a good couple of hours had passed and we wanted to head back and take out the dogs in our care for a walk so we bid our goodbyes to Anne, ken till whenever and me til Tuesday and headed back to Esbly to walk the dogs! What started out as a quiet walk turned into an expedition as we explored the canals and paths and surrounding countryside, we re-visited this again Sunday as turns out walking to Condé from Esbly is quick and scenic, so getting to and from the station is easy. It's nice to have a few more bearings in the area!

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The canals are beautiful as are the surrounding woodlands which are littered with cute little properties no 2 the same, plus lots and lots of animals and the wildlife is amazing even saw a terrapin basking at the side of the canal, it's so peaceful and quiet. This suits me and anyone who knows me well will know this is what I like. The locals are so friendly and I'm all good to go if this is how life keeps on I'll be a happy bunny here. Fingers crossed the job is all sound as times here will be tough but this place is so beautiful!!!

Right I better go, got to put petrol in the car ready for heading back to the UK tomorrow so more than likely next time I write on here I'll have been to Angleterre and back again one last time (got a lot of mileage to do next 24 hours) and then I'll be back living in France permanently!!

Stay happy xxx

Oh my gosh this was 4 years ago!! Time flies...

So it's a Sunday morning (28th âout) and I'm sat on a balcony in a little village called Esbly which is just east of Paris drinking a nice espresso and listening to the sound of the church bells and the surrounding countryside and it's bliss...

Le view:

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Firstly may I just say this isn't my place I'm housesitting for someone but that someone is Zoe who I mentioned in my earlier blogs as being my guardian angel in France so if you do the maths on this then; yep I'm finally in FRANCE I MADE IT I'M HERE!!!! Let's not get too excited though

Monday, 22 August 2011

au poil (lit: to a hair): perfect; flawless

Well short but sweet update here as not sure how things will go this week so next time I get round to writing one of these I could well be in France. 4 days to go my calendar tells me.

It's been a productive Start to this week I must say which is partially because my mindset is turned to 'ANYTHING to keep BUSY' which in turn stops me freaking out about what I am about to do. I am starting to view it more as an adventure though now so it's all good let's keep it that way.

The weekend saw me attending a beautifully arranged suprise goodbye get together organised by one of my clients; a mixture of work colleagues, clients, friends and it was just fabulous, was told to go to Dolphin for drinks at 7pm and got there to find some of the most amazing people I know all in one room and everyone mixed and got on so well! It was a perfect night, very chilled cheese and wine affair and a great send off.

I am so restless this last week so I will thank everyone in advance for putting up with my mood swings before I leave, it's such a weird time it's only natural things are feeling a little crazy but I'm sure I'll look back on it and laugh once I am there (my friends might not!) I'd like to say I'm one of those people that never stresses but I'd be lying.

This clip pretty much sums me up this week:

I went out thursday as my best friend Dawny and her boyfriend Lee came to see me, what should have been a quiet couple turned into one of the kind of crazy nights usually reserved only for when my brother is here and by god did I suffer for it friday.  I'm not good at these things. It wasn't helped by the fact Friday I had to shift my stuff from Pimlico back to the Wharf.  Saying goodbye to Maggie was really hard, she has been my guardian angel, fairy godmother and mentor all rolled in to one.  I said a brief goodbye (god & I will also miss that house it was incredible, the height of luxury!) and it was really hard to look out the back window of the cab and see her breaking her heart on the doorstep, i was shocked I didn't expect to see Maggie cry ever she is the toughest woman i know!  It reminded me of the day I left Coventry to move to Devon (Saturday June 10th 2000...) looking out the back window and peering through all of mine and my husbands stuff to glimpse my mum stood on the steps trying to hold it together as she waved goodbye to us even though she was clearly falling apart.  This never gets any easier.

Sunday was a perfect day following a perfect night and i enjoyed a proper 'British' Sunday (last one for the foreseeable future). I started off the day with a disgustingly long lie in then a breakfast of bacon buttes whilst watching Top Gear before trotting off to the cinema for a bit of Cowboys and Aliens (i suddenly find Daniel Craig more attractive when stuck on a horse) then as it was such a beautiful evening we sat in the sunshine at a restaurant on the Docks at West India Quay and had a really nice Sunday roast. I joked as i listened to the seagulls and the clinking of the moored boats that i could almost pretend I was back in Devon for 5 minutes were we not surrounded by the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.

The roast was immense so we walked home along the river which was a great way to end the day.

Riverside walk home:
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Have a few outdoor sessions booked with clients this week to keep me out of trouble and plan to do a lot of sightseeing. By 10am Monday I had also made my final grown up responsible calls, like called the tax office to happily tell them I am no longer self employed, called the ni office and am now declared as having moved abroad. Only 2 things in life are certain, death and taxes and no way do I want to leave the tax man out the loop!!! (death on the other hand I figure always knows what I'm doing so no need to try and attract his attention).

On the Wednesday the parents are coming out to see me, they asked if I wanted them to visit, I pointed out I wouldn't see them now til Christmas otherwise and next thing you know they have booked their tickets :)

Onwards! Xxx

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

FAIRE LE PIED DE GRUE. To make like a flamingo stands. (To wait.)

So I finally sorted my life out. Literally. I have slung everything from jumpers that have been in a suitcase for 2 seasons to bras that; just because they matched that specific top-it's no reason to keep them.

I have kept everything that is practical and binned everything else, best thing you can do in this situation is take your brain and heart out be honest and be ruthless. When i was a dancer i lived out of suitcases so learned not to hang onto much. Then when i moved to Devon eventually everything from my parents Attic that was mine (my parents are hoarders) gradually followed me and moved into my attic in Devon. After splitting from my husband i knew i was going to be downsizing property considerably as it was only going to be me and i couldnt afford much so I moved things in dribs and drabs from the old flat to my new place and left some things still stashed in the attic. When I moved to London...I had to condense it all and managed to turn it into 2 car loads! So I learned that as I was sorting through things if I found something and went "oh look I haven't seen this for yeeeeeeeears I'd forgotten about this!!! Aaaaahhhhhhh"

Exactly I had FORGOTTEN about it and so if I were to sling it then I'd eventually forget about it all over again only now it would no longer be taking up space.

Now I'm moving to France my life ideally needs to be condensed into 1 car load and a hired car at that.

It feels kind of good!!! De clutter the soul.

I now literally have a week left and I have such mixed feelings about the whole thing! I'm so broke I am glad the French diet is bread and cheese because that's pretty much all I'll be able to afford and I'm going to use cycling, running and walking everywhere as a means to get super fit rather than because I'm not totally sure I am going to be flush enough to be forking out on public transport for the first month. But that's life. There's amazing wildlife (im a secret twitcher...) out there so I'll just be taking in the scenery.

Spent the best part of the last week making my friends download viber and Skype onto their phones so i can communicate with them libre and not at the risk of it costing me or them a small fortune (i love you guys but not THAT much) and taking time to see people before I leave.

Last day at work today so been saying goodbye to all my clients which is so sad and i have been treated to lovely goodbye dinners, drinks and had some wonderfully thoughtful gifts ranging from books which provide me with self guided walking tours of Paris to a beautiful necklace made from crystals and stones purely relating to my star sign.

If you are what you read then I'm a Parisian adventure indeed:
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I am a very lucky girl and have been very spoiled but it just demonstrates to me that these people have become some of my best friends in the year I have been here and to not see them anymore is going to be strange. Very much like the clients I left behind in Devon, I don't get to speak to them much nowadays but not a week goes by where I don't think or talk about them. You forge a very close relationship with people in this job and some very amazing people they are too. These are a certain breed of people as they know what they want and what is important to them and are determined enough to want it that they seek the help of a trainer (I chan hear some people rolling their eyes and going "yeah but they can afford it..." from here) so i will say to that what i always do: Isnt it funny how we find money for the car, the boiler, the solicitor... But our own bodies? Apparently in the grand scheme of things we don't label them too much of a financial priority and I ask you where is the sense in that? I mean if you don't look after your body now where else are you going to live?!

My clients are the people who get off their asses, have the get up and go and are making a positive change in their lives and I'm lucky enough to spend my whole week surrounded by these people. People think I have a 'grab life by the balls' attitude and succeed no matter what. Well with the people I am surrounded by is it any wonder? Attitudes are contagious so make sure yours is worth catching. It goes to show that the people who you share your life with have a massive impact on your attitude and lifestyle so if you want to achieve something; whilst a lot of it is down to YOU (let's not look for excuses and start pointing fingers just yet)but sometimes maybe you also aren't getting the support you need. Maybe you have the wrong influences in your life. Don't hang around with people who don't have your best interests at heart (sometimes this is hard as immediate friends and family don't like to see you change even if you know the change is for the best!) but if they truly love you then they will accept and want whatever you do.

I have learned along the way who true friends are and they are the ones who know what I'm like and STILL choose to be seen in public with me ;) tell me to man up when I am having a bad day and if things do go wrong they might call to check I'm okay but chances are they won't contact me at all. They know if I truly need them then I know where they are. There's a fine line between those who want to know you're ok and the Rita Skeeters of the world who are contacting you for the gossip.

Everyone has their bad points noone is perfect, but also noone out there has any right to make you feel bad about yourself without your permission, life is too short and those who mind don't matter and those who don't mind; matter. I have learned a lot of this in the last couple of years.

So my advice this week; choose your friends carefully and the people who fall off the wagon along the way? Well sometimes they are the people who you least expect to and of course it hurts! Even moving from Devon to London alone I had people who I considered myself really close to but the second I left I practically felt their arrows bouncing off my back (but therein lies another truth...if they're bouncing off your back it's because you are leaving them behind) so remember everyone comes into your life for a reason, take the good stuff, move on.

I am also lucky in that I have the best parents a girl could wish for, of course they are stressing but they are also very supportive. My lovely big bro who is always there for me no matter what and my friends for being there for me no matter where I am. Ah feeling sentimental and I just know I'll get stick for this. This is my emotional de-cluttering I guess :)

Wow I am going to miss you guys, but then I already have 4 separate invitations to coffee/wine/BBQ/dinner lined up for me when I get there so I don't think it'll be too unfamiliar for long. Turns out a new English girl in the area is exciting and the main question everyone seems to want to know is 'is she single?!'

Oh dear this always sounds ominous...


Friday, 12 August 2011

Rêves (dreams)

Well it's in! The contract has now been returned to me signed by all parties, the car is booked, the ferry is booked, the moving date is set and now I'm just waiting to go.

Had my big bro here at the weekend last time i saw him was May and and the time before that was December so it was great to see him before he requires his passport to visit me! He arrived at Victoria Coach Station at the very lovely time of 06:30am and so we literally dumped his stuff at mine and played catch up til 03:30am the next morning, because that's how we roll :) actually a tame night in comparison to nights out past which have seen us wind up in strip clubs, underground jazz bars and even graffing someone's car (do not ask but I assure you it was all legal we are just very good at finding things to do and random situations to be in). So we caught up in style before he had to leave early evening Sunday :( however next time I see him i'll be in Paris which is pretty damned awesome, I think (I hope)

Been a funny old few days here lots going on got my driving license updated (that was super quick work DVLA!) also got my decree nisi through (hard to say how I feel about this anyone who has ever gotten a divorce will know what I mean) and also London has been under attack from the riots.

Funnily enough they were going on all weekend and my bro and i were totally oblivious to this as we weren't exactly keeping an eye on the news we were too busy having a good time. Id heard a rumour but then these things do happen round here from time to time, people DO get shot and fights DO break out but life goes on (oh what a blasé to violence world we live in). Had a few messages from people as the rioting increased checking I was okay which in the end prompted me to take a bit more of an interest into what it was that was going on that was so horrendous I was getting so many messages promoting me to stay safe from friends and family and when I finally caught up with it it looked pretty bad.... We were all stood around the telly in the gym Monday day watching it unfold like bad extras in Independence Day.

I wasn't too worried initially London is a very big place and the riots began nowhere near my peaceful little pocket in Pimlico, in fact I joked that unless the looters suddenly got cultured and developed a taste for fine art and antiques only then would we have to worry. As i walked home the police activity was increasing, armed response units were trawling the streets and as the night drew on the activity was getting louder and louder and I had no idea where it was spreading too. Sirens galore, alarms going off and this very loud 'boom' could be heard every now and again and I had no idea what was happening. Now due to work being carried out on my house there is no TV and no Internet so thanks to my mum in the Midlands and Facebook on the iPhone for keeping me updated as to what was going on in my own city haha. Turns out it got as close as Chelsea and Sloane Square although this was not reported on the news...

There's been a weird atmosphere and needless to say Monday and Tuesday were pretty sleepless nights with the constant sound of sirens and choppers going through til the small hours and I'm a light sleeper so huge apologies to my clients as I pretty much yawned my way through those days but to be fair Tuesday morning especially after Monday nights riots (the worst) everyone came into the gym operating on very little sleep so we were all a bunch of fitness zombies for a day or 2, I don't think anyone slept much through that.

By Tuesday there was a heavy police presence in Pimlico and rumours galore about rioting breaking out in Victoria (my friend who was in Victoria when the riots were meant to be kicking off assured us she was there and asides a mass amount of police there was little else going on) but it was hard to know what to believe in amongst all the hearsay. Obviously the police don't aim to panic so they can't really tell you much but at the same time it's nice to know so you can get out of the way!

By 4pm they were advising everyone to clear the streets and by 6pm not a single shop or office in the area was left open ( however the gym didn't shut...the bosses legged it home but the rest of the staff were there...standard management behaviour)

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It was like living in war time Britain people were walking noticeably faster than usual to get offnthe streets and get to their homes; there was a very weird atmosphere about the whole thing and it felt very uncomfortable. I wouldn't say an air of fear just a vast amount of uncertainty. Good feeling and London spirit have limped back today after 2 consecutive and considerably more peaceful nights, but still there is a lot of police everywhere and I think it's going to take a major event where London proves it can pull together with minimal trouble for the London spirit to return.

Anyway that's all I'm going to report on that as that wasn't the only thing to happen to me over the weekend, something AWESOME happened to me as I also had some news which has seen me swinging from the chandeliers ever since-Disneyland Paris called me. Yesssssssss that's right Disneyland called ME!!!

Why would Disney call me??!! Only to make my dreams come true of course....

A couple of years ago I somehow bagged myself an audition with Disneyland Paris to be a stand in for the role of Annie Oakley in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. When I say 'somehow' I mean fate or the law of attraction or the powers that be granted me an audition. I had applied at the beginning of 2009 to be a groom looking after the horses on the wild west show show as part of one of my early attempts to move to Paris, and since applying I had successfully auditioned for shows and parades and was on the books for Disney as a close 'friend' to Cinderella ;)

In November 2009 a week before Annie Oakley auditions were scheduled to take place, the artistic director was sat in his office with one of the resorts casting directors and was shuffling things round on his desk and saying he really ought to tidy his desk more. Whilst he was shuffling things about, there underneath all the paperwork was my cv detailing my experience working with horses. Apparently he glanced at it, picked it up & in his very American voice said;

"i mean look at this, what the hell is this even doing on my desk? I don't do employment, I don't hire these people, stables isn't my area!" and was about to stick my cv in the bin when the casting agent looked up and recognised my name. She went off to double check and sure enough there I was on file; Karen Duffield - successfully auditioned for parades and shows so they knew I was up to standard as a performer and they had a recent polaroid photo they had taken of me.

"OK so we know she can perform Let's see if we can get her in so we can test her riding skills"

Next thing you know I am sat there at my desk in the Council offices in Totnes, Devon listening to some French woman asking me if I'd like to audition for the role of Annie Oakley in the Buffalo Bill show at Disneyland I could barely register the enormity of this phone call. I think I cried at my desk! Just a couple of years before I had been sat in the audience of this show with my parents and my husband, a million miles away from being anything but one of the 1000+ members of the audience enjoying the show and here I was being invited to go to audition for it. This is like being asked to go practise football skills with the England team or be a backing dancer for Madonna-massive and something you totally thought would never happen and I was stumped as to how it was happening! I would have thought I was more likely to get a major role in a west end show than be invited to audition for this such was the impossibility factor!

This clip shows the role of Annie Oakley at 01:00 and at 04:45

They wanted me to go out there the following week and the morning would consist of horse riding skills and then should I make it past that round then the afternoon was for the acting audition. I had booked the eurostar and my hostel before she had even hung up, my answer was yes yes YES!!!

They told me there was no job so to speak they had 2 actresses who perform full time and they also had a list of stand ins should the girls need holiday or sickness cover and I was auditioning to go on the list. I didn't see how I stood a chance in hell of getting it (the wrong attitude I know) but just to be offered the experience was amazing so I took it on the grounds that I was being invited by Disney to go ride stunt horses in Paris possibly on that stage. Sod the outcome live the dream!!!

The night before I sat at home watching videos on YouTube which people had uploaded of the show. I still remember my husband asking if I was okay because I was crying but it was because i was sooooooo happy and all I could squeak out was "oh my god I can't believe this is going to be me, I'm going to be there on that stage, maybe that horse...look what I'm going to be doing!!!"

When Jennifer Hudson won her Oscar for Dreamgirls I always remember her saying

"oh my gosh look what god can do".

Now whilst I'm not religious myself I can totally understand her sentiment in saying that as it's exactly how I felt.

I came back to earth as I felt a total fraud when i got to the audition and found myself sat in a room surrounded by international stunt riders from film and television, dressage riders, circus riders, champion vaulters....

So Karen what's your experience with horses?

Errrrrm I have one and used to work at a riding stables. Truth is I'm not properly trained, I've never ridden a well behaved horse in my life and I have never competed and no right now I have noooo idea how or why I am here.

Waiting to audition:
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The audition was insane, i think back and don't know how i kept my nerve but i guess you just get on with it, although at the time when i was lead out onto the stage i was confronted by the largest amount of people i have ever seen at an audition, there was a whole x-factor style audition panel, not to mention creative assistants, backstage people, horse trainers and probably even the cleaner!! I hoped this wasn't their idea of entertainment for the day I did feel very much like a Christian being thrown to the lions especially as I was escorted down the dimly lit tunnels which provide the horses with their run up to and from the stage so they can burst onto the stage at speed and exit the same, (bit like a braking lane for lorries on the motorway) and then out into the flood lights of the arena itself! It was incredible being there in that massive arena looking up to the seats where not 2 years before my family and I had sat watching the show. Funnily enough I even had the same horse (I know this because I watched my home movie of the show from that particular holiday when I got home!) which was actually fate in itself because they changed horses just before my audition. That's nice fate in some ways but in others they happened to change it for one that was notoriously difficult to ride (the girl before me hadnt been able to control her at all) and by god did she make me work for it! By the end of the audition I don't know who was sweating more me or le cheval! She didn't want to do a single thing she was told that day, she wanted to do her routine and go back to bed and here was this rather rude stranger on her back trying to make her walk and change directions and basically do nothing with her that is in the script. I didn't know this at the time it was chief sitting bull who told me all this later as I was concerned my audition nerves had fed through into her and made her tense (horses are very sensitive creatures you know) but no apparently she is just a sod and I did well to make her do anything at all.

My noble steed behind bars :)
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Either way somehow I passed the riding audition (only 2 of us did!) one by one we were lead back to the arena to confront the large panel, one by one all the girls came back with feedback such as 'my riding was okay but not good enough..." there was even a "sub-standard" to say i was panicking was an understatement. Then it was my turn (i was last it was agony!) when i got to them it was all actually very informal and they were smiling (could have been bearing their teeth) i waited for my 'thanks but no thanks' it never came. Apparently being able to control an out of control horse gave me brownie points as did retaining my sense of humour whilst she tried to make a mockery of my audition. Riding awesome, I looked great, see you this afternoon for the acting.

I nearly threw up on the spot this was even better, things like this just don't happen outside of movies!!!

Flying the flag:
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In the arena:
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A fellow audition and I playing in the stagecoach
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Show me a home where the buffalo roam:
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I had no problem with the afternoon as in my mind it was the easiest part! Use your best Ohio accent, act like a tomboy (nooo worries) but skip around like a girl, wield a gun, improvise, crack jokes (thank god as I learned the lines but they just seemed to find a hole in my brain somewhere and leak out) and act to characterless voices (mickey and Minnies voices coming out over the speakers so I could pretend they were there was kind of strange) this was then followed by a trip to the offices where they interviewed us (riding, acting and personality in that order apparently and it was during the interview process the artistic director told me the amazing story of how he found my cv on his desk and so had invited me to audition last minute and then it was thanks for coming, here are some souvenirs to remember this day by (I still have them, like I'd ever forget) and we will call you...

They did call me 24 hours later to tell me I was their girl.

So I have been getting on with my life ever since waiting for this to happen. I wouldn't say I'd given up on ever being used but with every month that has passed since 2009 it became less likely but now here it is! 2 years in the waiting/making it reminds me of a poster my mum used to keep in her office which said 'the impossible we do at once, miracles take a little longer'.

As I'm going to be in the neighbourhood now and im still friends with Chief Sitting Bull (we got on really well at the audition so styaed in touch) he informed Disney of my imminent move so I had a call to say; soon as you are settled here please come by so we can sort out your paperwork and organise for you to start your training then we can look at when the girls' holidays are as to organising you covering them.

You see when you wish upon a star...