Friday, 18 November 2011

D'accord dansons! (Okay let's dance)

So it's been a busy week and a cold week! Its also been very misty with the mist Pt ting on the school grounds early doors and late evening prompting Michelle and I to note the striking resemblance school can bear to sleepy hollow.

Has anyone checked the timetable to see if the headless horseman rides tonight...?!

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It was also a BUSY week which saw us holding blind English tests (sorry kids) plus having to change my lesson plans at the last minute for the entire month plus the suggestion I choreograph a dance for the school Christmas show which then became '2' dances for the Christmas show (known as a spectacle here) which then became 'Karen my class have to do a song in the Christmas spectacle can you please help with the choreography also' so all in all I suddenly found myself planning an extra 6 hours of dance lessons a week on top of the 2 I already teach, plus choreographing no less than 6 dance routines! This was just on Monday night.

It's okay I like these little challenges and it also meant whilst skimming through my music collection I discovered some hidden gems I never knew I had! So when I was supposed to be choreographing these extra routines I mostly found myself having a bit of a disco in my dance studio to the tunes I kept finding I had forgotten About. Proper trip back to the 80's with a school disco for 1.

Actually this is also good distraction as I'm having a particularly hard time at the moment missing my cats, there's a lot of cats out here and it's really catching up with me at the minute. I'd love to get my own but I can't guarantee anything right now so it wouldn't be fair to take a cat in sadly (and sensibly, oh I'm such a grown up; sometimes) meanwhile in the last week I made 2 new feline friends:

Meet Diego

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The friendliest puss ever who lives by the school and I found him in the playground. When he'd finished hurling himself round my ankles with a particularly deep and lovely 'wooooow' sound, I advised him he may want to clear off before playtime!

Then there's this beauty who lives in my village. This cat who looks like Fizzgig from the dark crystal is indeed a beautiful piece of fluff who will happily spend hours winding round your legs for some spoiling.

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However I do miss having my own cat and even though it's been 2 years without my boys now it doesn't mean it hurts any less to not have them in my life anymore. It's sad they were my boys for 10 years and I adored them. I am fully aware I have missed out on the last 2 years of their life (not for want of trying though) and at 12 years old next May they aren't getting any younger and I'm desperate to know how they are. Here's hoping one day I'll hear something.

Anywho back to school and dance lessons.

Often the children in the dance workshops don't particularly want to dance so getting them to focus let alone learn anything routine wise can feel a near impossible task somedays, so I was now faced with a class of up to 22 children ... which also included a lot of boys who mostly would just like to play football every sports lesson. So as plans had to change literally overnight and with no time to burn anything onto CD (as no time to go and buy blank CDs) I knew my iPad wouldn't cut it volume wise so I dove into my sparse CD collection with everything crossed (who has CDs now anyway, downloading saw to the end of that). Armed only with lady gaga, britney spears and glee vol. 1 (don't judge me) I felt like a lamb heading to the slaughter.

Both classes loved it!

Lady Gaga is actually pretty child friendly, who knew! Her lyrics are mostly nonsensical and nothing as blatant as Katie Perry and her "i want to see your peacock cock cock cock" (even my big bro things she should be shot for that and had to heavily edit the album accordingly when my little niece asked for it...) so I wasn't feeling too disturbed when all the little girls started singing along to poker face. Success indeed.

Mind you I kind of wish I could say I had the same level of calm in my drama class. This week when I asked the boys and girls to come up with a short play each based around being in a shopping Market and to use as much English dialogue as possible (I was on hand to consult and dictionaries were used where necessary). As is usual the girls poured through the dictionaries, asked me for help on words they were stuck on and quietly devised their little scenario in the corner. The boys you could tell were going to sandwich an armed robbery in their play somewhere.

So when it came time to view these short pieces imagine my shock when even the girls play involved someone being tazered and as for the boys, well, I could have paused the scene at any moment and it would have looked like a still from the primary school version of Reservoir Dogs.

I understood the girls little play, normal day in the shop, one of the normally sweetest girls of cycle 3 steals something, police get called, she bashes shopkeeper over the head (really???) ends up tazered by the police (and to think at one point in our lives Tom and Jerry were shouldering the blame for this) the end.

The boys however, it, had to be witnessed to be believed, or rather - not understood. I got that it was a shop and someone bought a jacket, but from then on it descended into such an imaginary bloodbath I almost felt the need to get imaginary cloths to wipe up all the imaginary blood and guts that was being spilled all over the Walls (which incidentally were real and luckily imaginary bullet proof and wipe clean)

Of course the boys were indestructible I mean these kids had an arson of everything from glocks to machine guns in their minds with which they were massacring each other at point blank range before suddenly whipping out tazers (whats with the tazers what are these kids watching???) even the 2 boys that had their throats slit were able to continue (yep you read that right; throat slitting) all I know is no one seemed to die (they kept reincarnating it seemed) it reminded me very much of an old Alan Ahlberg poem about a primary school production of Robin Hood, my mum, most teachers and primary school children from the 80's will know what I'm on about, the book was called 'please sir' and contained poems such as 'there's a dog in the playground' anyway once again I digress.

I called time on the boys play in the end as let's face it, like a game with a cheat code that means you have unlimited life ups ...it's gotta end somewhere else it just gets boring and my poor morals were shaken and I was also thankful for the fact I've not had a tv with channels since June of this year so have obviously been spared the horrors the rest of this world are clearly watching (like X Factor...)

Its strange the children have been pretty fractious this week and for the first time since I started teaching I lost my rag. I don't like shouting, I kind of feel if you are shouting you have lost. But I'd tried everything from turning the lights out, to whispering, to adding time on post lesson to the naughty corner, to hands on head, to notes to the parents... But there is one class that just weren't having any of it this one day.

I had already had to raise my voice once (and little did I know it was actually loud enough that the headmistress who was just down the corridor with one of the pupils mums could hear me...) so the class had calmed down suitably and I thought it was safe to move on and give them something a bit more active to do. Could not have been more wrong.

I was teaching conjunctives such as 'on' and 'under' so as they weren't getting it visually and they were getting restless I thought it was time to put words into actions.

"okay class, UNDER your desks"

Silence

'yes really, tout le classe, everyone under your desks'

One child tentatively slid off their chair and looked at me suspiciously waiting for the lecture.

"oui, comme ça"

Pointing at the bewildered child peaking at me from this usually 'forbidden place' I gave them permission to follow suite and in disbelief one by one they slid under their desks, giggling and possibly thinking I'd gone slightly mad.

"okay class ON your chairs"

They returned to their chairs, the noise levels slowly creeping up and up and UP reaching a crescendo just as I repeated the command

"now UNDER your desks"

At this point it all went horribly wrong and a couple of the children actually climbed ON to their desks.

That was enough, I'd had enough, I promptly slapped my hand down on the desk and above the shouting yelled for them to stop and gave them a lecture on their unacceptable behaviour.

So now picture the scene

I'm mid yell, I have one hand attached to the desk, some of the class are under their tables, some are sat on their chairs and some are ON their desks...

Enter the head mistress.

Christian said when the headmistress turned round to him later that day and said she had walked into my class to find the kids on and under their desks Christian said he had to try not to laugh as he said "oh she was probably teaching prepositions".

Its okay apparently Mishy has used this approach also. Its official they probably now think the entire English department is insane.

Which would be right.

Probably why us living together works so well; thats a whole lot of craziness under one roof.

Its ahrd to stay mad with them though, there's never a dull moment working with children, a short while back for art Mishy covered drawing tapestries thus presenting the class with the opportunity to let their childish imaginations run wild in fantasy land and draw castles and unicorns and dragons and knights in shining armour. Which one boy promptly did. A knight in shining armour complete with flowing cape... and mini electric fan built in to keep the cape constantly flowing. When Mishy pointed out that they didn't have electrical equipment in those days the boy promptly drew a potted plant over the top of the fan and proudly announced that 'he'd disguised it'

This was mild though compared to the boy who was guarding his castle against...women! (hmmmmm I see problems when he's older) all round the base of the castle were dead and dying women, one woman was hanging from the castle walls as a warning to other women and on the battlements was a knight who was seated....on the toilet. Below the toilet was falling debris so to show an interest and to find something relatively 'ok' with the picture, Michelle asked if those were bombs? To which the boy promptly replied

"no it's poo"

Still desperate to find some good in the picture Michelle spotted that the boy had drawn a woman at the foot of the castle directly underneath the knight on the crapper and she was smiling. Pointing to it Michelle told me she said to him "well what about this woman? she's smiling she looks pretty!" to which he replied

"that's because she hasn't looked up yet"

Got to love them

So I have no idea what's in the air at the moment I was hoping it would freeze the kids into submission as it's so cold here right now but apparently not! Maybe snow is due, I have been warned that just before snow the children get really fractious! Even one of my classes who are usually absolute angels I could have happily individually lynched the one afternoon.

It didn't get any better as the week went on Thursday was another challenging day with the children retaining their yampiness and ending in the dance workshop for which 2 of the children couldn't dance due to leg injuries (I don't know what they are doing but they are running around the playground ok....) one of the children decided to spend the entire workshop doing NOTHING but standing there glaring at me as they were only there because there parents said "sat I 'ave to do the dance" and another came to class with a nose bleed which just would not stop. I was meant to be starting their dance for the Christmas show on this night too! Only 3 weeks to teach them the routine and rehearse it with 2 children down, one who point blank didn't want to be there and one bleeder.. I'm not worried "a 5,6,7,8...."

so it is fair to say I was dreading Friday... On Fridays I have the youngest children in school in the afternoon. 21 fidgety end of week children, all ready for the weekend and 99% of whom speak little English. Dance and mime was on the agenda for their lesson. Mime??!! These little ones couldn't be silent if their lives depended on it! My confidence wasn't off to the best start Friday after Thursday's dance class and not wanting a repeat of this I headed into the class with some trepidation. However I was well prepared right down to the order of the music on the (by now) newly burnt CD specially made for this occasion.

Worries were totally unfounded, somehow I managed to do an entire 30 minutes of mime where the children said next to nothing! Mesmerised and following my every move we collected stars from the sky and bagged them up, we fought battles as pirates, did mirror work and acted out their entire day. I used classical music quietly in the background which also seemed to do the trick in keeping them calm (bit of Rhapsody in Blue on a friday afternoon is good for the nerves) and it was just the loveliest lesson ever! Not to also bear in mind these kids barely speak english yet mostly and so somehow i managed to explain the exercises and get them to do it! Lesson 101 in mime, you don't need words to tell a story, least of all when you all speak different languages but have to do the same thing.

We then moved on from mime to dance, fingers still firmly crossed and I did some country dancing with them and somehow successfully taught and completed the 'Virginia reel' with most of the children getting it, also this gave the children their new word for the week... Dosey doe. Apologies to the parents :) Im trying to do world themes with the dance lessons so it'll be line dancing next week, bangrha the week after... Etc etc. Hopefully it's as good an idea as it sounds but certainly a good start. They were all very excited when I told them it was a danse de la campagne (country dance) from England and one boy who had lived in England for a few years was able to put his hand up and proudly tell the rest of the class he had in fact learned that dance before when he attended school in the UK so brownie point for my britishness and authentic English stuff.

After 2 hours of this delight I wondered how the end of the day dance workshop would fair in comparison. With 3 weeks to the spectacle du Noel (Christmas show) it was time for the younger children to begun their routine. I chose Jingle Bell rock and waited for chaos to ensue. So I was delighted when not only did they all start singing along and knew it and LIKED it but they all listened intently and learned the moves I had set to the first verse really well. Result!!!

Work asides this week on Thursday the Paris massive all gathered together at Chez moi et Mishy who cooked a lovely stew (we have an agreement she cooks I clean!) in France you usually bring wine to the table but as no one had checked with anyone else what was what we ended up looking like total winos...

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Nothing compared to this guys shop in Auchan, let it never be said the French are alcoholics. After all alcoholics attend meetings.

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That was a lovely chilled evening, our new house is beautiful and we feel right at home. I have a feeling our landlords are new to this game though as every day they have bought us something new for the house, or done the gardening, or been and dusted. We got home Tuesday night to find the house felt warmer than normal. We found out why when we went into the dining room and realised the heat was rising up from the cave...

They had lit us a fire!

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We have decided we don't have landlords we have fairies. I'm sure Peeves is delighted.

Well fairies aside I still gave the house a good clean this evening as it's now the weekend and 1. I have the bloke coming to spend the weekend with me (it's been a month and now I get to see him this weekend and the next!) and 2. It's P-A-R-T-Y time! Housewarming this weekend so it's all fun after a challenging week, but being paid to spend the week pretending to dance in the snow, collect stars, do battle with pirates and play games really can't be all bad; I love my job!

On that note, I've earned my weekend

Bon weekend everyone make the most of it!

Karen xxx

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Ça commence á ressembler beaucoup Noel; it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Well everyone will be pleased (or perhaps not) to know after my minor depressive episode illustrated by the tone of my last blog i am now back to being happy as a pig in muck as is usual.

Okay so my bank account isn't terribly healthy and due to being ill it's set to look a heck of a lot worse next month but hey, hopefully I also start another new job next month ( yep was supposed to have started work at job 2 the other weekend, your memory does serve you correctly but dear god have they messed me around so....NEXT I can't hang on any longer so fingers crossed this next one seems more hopeful for start of December).

I think it has a lot to do with the beautiful sunshine that's finally re appeared!

Soooo what's happened since last blog...not loads, Peeves has been pretty good, last week I started to teach football which went really well! Not bad considering I know next to nothing about it, I can train football players for fitness, hell I can even advise on their diet and exercise for the season, but rules of the game itself and my own ability to play? Nil.

So when demonstrating passing the ball and stopping I felt a bit of a fraud really but somehow I seem to have developed football skills overnight! To the point the children were in awe of the range of my kick, ball control when demonstrating dribbling (no jokes please), my ability to aim and pass... I guess age and experience and general sheer luck play a massive role in this. So outwardly when I demonstrated dribbling the ball skilfully around the cones before lining it up to score a goal some metres away and did so in a perfect straight line, I had the distinction of standing there while the kids all went "wooooahhhh" and now think I'm some seriously talented sports person (I mean I'm a GIRL and I kicked it in a Straight line, what boy under the age of 11 has ever seen THAT done before!) with my wry smile and self appreciating 'yes kids keep practising and one day you could be this skilled too' nod I stood there like I'd been born with that ball attached to my foot. Inside however I had already done 3 laps of the gym with my shirt pulled over my head and finished my final lap by sliding on to my knees, arms out and the crowd go wiiiiiiild yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

As some clever person once said

The secret to teaching is to make it look like you've known your whole life what you may have just learned that morning.

Too true somedays says I as I sit here latching on to the free wifi at val d'europe and desperately researching lesson plans and ideas...

Anyway asides school we were treated to a lovely 4 day week as here in France Armistice day is a public holiday. Yes that's right, the French and their lovely 'why work if we don't have to let's take a day off' I'm all for it.

So I had Friday off and rescued my anglophone angel Zoe from her boys for a few hours whilst she got some work done. It's safe to say I walked their feet off so they were a lot quieter by the afternoon!

As we walked through the town centre (I think you can call Esbly a town, it's questionable size wise but technically it is) I heard the bells ring at the Eglise and realised it was 11am! I made the boys note the time and told them it was especially important this year as it was the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 2011! Something that would never happen again (not in this lifetime anyway). I felt very pleased I could contribute to teaching them something new that day until a voice piped up:

"yes but what about next year when it's the 12th of the 12th of the 12th 2012"

You cannot argue with the logic of any child under 10 years old. Actually you can't argue with little boys full stop.

We went to visit the local donkey who shares his field with two anti social Pygmy goats so we could do the usual thing you always do; offer them handfuls of something that they are stood in an entire field of, but obviously the grass is always greener so the donkey was happy with his offerings and extra happy at some salvaged dandelion leaves. I was then offered the very difficult task of dispelling this little gem of an issue that one of the boys raised;

"he's a nice donkey, it's a shame he's going to be killed and eaten one day"

I was quick to explain that 'no the donkey wasn't for eating he was just a pet',

"how do you know?"

Well the difficulty here, is like so many people in rural areas these boys have chickens in their back garden which sometimes end up on the dinner table (I had lots of friends in Devon with cows and pigs in their back garden for the same purpose), so I then had to explain why as a rule people don't generally eat 'donkey'. Difficult, especially given that I'm in a country that is renowned for eating horse...

No logic there and they weren't buying it either but I think I convinced them this donkey was quite safe!

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Anti social Pygmy being less anti social...

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Following on from this discussion we got on to talking about horses and I was explaining to the boys that horses generally graze for 18 hours a day, snooze for 4 hours (when you see them standing up dozing) and up to 2 hours deep sleep (when they lie down) which was met with

"so a horse has 26 hours in it's day?"

Um now I know my maths isn't great but 18+4+2=24 but they still tried to find a loophole in it somewhere ;)

After dropping them back I stayed for dinner, fussed the dogs who were certainly cosy on this cold grey day

Ah contentment personified (or should that be dogified?)

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Then headed home. It was a quiet weekend, just me and Peeves (who has also been very quiet) as the wife (Mishy) has abandoned me for her blokes house in Paris for a few days. Not before she'd left me a note to return home to though.

Most houses people use dry erase pen boards (think joey and chandlers on the back of their door) however we aren't most people

She is after all the art teacher... Very creative Mishy.

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So even breakfast was a solo affair the next day and i headed to the boulangerie and treated myself to a Torsade;

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Rescued a pigeon on the way home which I promptly named Pierre which I thought might die on me but didn't (after I threw a load of water down it's neck and then left it quietly for a few hours, seemed he'd just taken a knock) and happily flew off later...

Looking super sorry for himself

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I then tried to persuade the neighbours cat some more that it WILL learn to love me... Actual true first time Michelle saw it she forgot what country she was in and apparently thought 'Christ it's a wombat, there's a wombat in the garden!!!'

So michelle for your reference

Wombat

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Neighbours cat

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Mind you also discovered a cat that would make Aslan cry!!!

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Yup plans to lure him to my garden are under foot...

Anyway this was all before heading off to get some supplies, some for the week and some bits ahead of next weekends housewarming party! They sell some strange things out here I mean....

Foie gras ice cream anyone? (yup that's really ducks liver ice cream, Heston Blumenthal must be so jealous)

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There was also pesto ice cream and balsamic vinegar ice cream if that was more your taste. Nice.

I've managed to get out and about a fair bit as it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas round these here parts. Normally the French don't celebrate Christmas until the last minute almost like they suddenly absolutely have to! I've been here in late and early November a few times over the years and there's usually not even a hint the festive season is but a mere few weeks away, but this year.... They're going for it! Everyone is just as suprised as me, though apparently they have finally cottoned on they make more money this way by starting early but bizarrely even though there's a good 5/6 weeks to go everyone is out panic buying Christmas decorations and presents like it's suddenly the last week of Christmas and they only just found out about it. Val d'Europe was hell when I popped in to do my usual, buy a coffee and hide in the corner on Skype for a couple of hours. But it also looks really pretty!

Val at Christmas

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For the record they probably think I'm super crazy at Val d'Europe as I'm only usually ever spotted in there talking to my iPad or iPhone, not into it you understand but AT it. Ah the wonders of modern technology means my relationshipmcan continue in this fashion...

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He probably won't thank me for that I'm not sure he knows I took it haha. This can sometimes lead to confusion during conversations such as;

Me: ah are you stroking my face/picture?
Him: no I'm cleaning the screen...

Feeling suitably christmassy I decided not to go straight home but to whip out my Disney dream pass, make the most of it and pop in the park to finally check out the Christmas decorations and maybe watch the castle lighting ceremony. I forget how amazing it is at this time of year, I walked in to the sounds of Christmas carols playing on main street and hordes of people. Normally there are only hordes of people after...the parade! Sure enough I looked up towards the castle in time to see Santa in his sleigh being pulled by a team of reindeer. Now there's magic for you!

As I was wandering round absorbing the atmosphere on this cold evening, looking at the Christmas decorations which were starting to glow as the sky grew darker showing up the illuminations more, I remember how choked I used to get when I used to come here with the family. Sounds silly but it's so magical and you get to feel like a child again. What a great time of your life that was, back when money troubles mainly consisted of how much pocket money you got, cleaning and household issues were confined to how unfair it was at having to keep your room tidy, boyfriend troubles stemmed from kiss chase, you never had to worry about meals because your parents always had them ready for you, you were only really wronged or hurt by the school bully (and what did they know) clothes were bought for you and generally your life took care of itself whilst you played.

Ah good times, so to be transported back to those times when issues were in short supply and innocence prevailed even to forget your role as an adult for a few seconds, can really catch in your throat.

Put me and mum together in Disneyland and we'd clear a box of Kleenex between us in the first day.

"ooooh it's so magical!" sob sob sob.... "oooooooooh look at that!!!" sob sob sob " Jack Sparrow!!!!" sob sob sob... (haha)

I was in the park on my own a couple of years ago when I had my Annie Oakley audition here and I thought ah I'll just pop into the park and look at the Christmas stuff, it's okay that I'm on my own I don't mind really, it winter be strange at all without the family. About 30 seconds later I phoned mum to say "hey guess where I am hahaha" then suddenly hearing her voice, seeing all the beautiful decorations hearing the Christmas music... "mum why aren't you hear with me??!!" sniff sniff.

Honestly we are pathetic :)

So I'm in the park on my own, I'm looking around and thinking wow. Once upon a time I'd have been feeling all emotional. Where's the lump in my throat? Why am I not even slightly Teary? Uh oh am I growing out of all this? (please god no...)

Oh well it's probably a good thing, ah it's so christmassy, the music, wow I have a pass I can come again tomorrow if I want, oh my gosh it only takes me 25 minutes to get here from my house, this is what I always wanted, I made it, I'm here, I'm living down the road finally, I'm ....

I stood watching all the mini Belles and snow whites and Peter pans and pirates passing me by.

Then it started; the snow. Several times a day it snows on main street throughout the Christmas season.

Well that was me finished. Why don't I have any tissues on me?????

What a wonderful legacy Walt Disney left behind, the power of one man eh? I'm sorry that Steve Jobs passed away recently what a great man too. I still had to google his name when I heard the news though to save me going...who?

Find me someone who doesn't know about Walt Disney that hasn't been living up a mountain for the past 50 years at least.

I don't know what it is about Disney but some people love football, some people love shoes, some people like making model aeroplanes...I love Disney. Maybe it's good food for my massive inner child either way it's magic all the same. We all need a little magic in our lives.

I decided to be brave and stay to watch the lighting ceremonies of the Christmas tree and the castle. I had a good giggle on my own leaning against a lamppost, I hoped I didn't look too strange, listened to the French conversations around me and picked out words I recognised and sentences I understood so was giving myself a language lesson whilst waiting, a family came over as the little girl was gesturing madly in my direction they held their camera up and I realised there was a picture of Rapunzel on the lamppost so I went to move...no apparently the little girl thought I looked like her so they wanted to photograph me standing under 'my picture' which made me giggle. Add to this the little girl next to me that kept looking at me and pointing whilst tugging her mums coat and squeaking "fee clochette, fee clochette!!!" I was feeling pretty good about myself, who doesn't want to be taken for 2 Disney girls in one evening!

I stood and watched the two shows which were stunning but I have no photos as this time I was filming, maybe some other time... In fact any night of the week :D

So here's a selection of christmassy photos from the park itself.

The entrance

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Pretty trees...

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The main tree

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Santas sleigh

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I'm pretty sure there were pumpkins and flowerbeds here the other week...

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The tree all lit up

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Main street

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On that note I'm now off to chill for the evening, wife is due back in a bit and I have a busy week ahead!

A bientot

Kx

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Pas de souci; no worries

So it's been a few days without Internet... Oh god it was like the end of the world honestly, short of having passed out in the back of a delorian I never felt so transported back to the early 90's. How did we manage?? Now fetch me handbag a pair of heels and a small dog that fits nicely into my armpit just to complete how much of a girl I sound like.

But the truth is we don't have to live without it nowadays so Im going to be precious as you like about it.

I didn't speak to the bloke for a whole 2 days which was horrid, eugh I don't care how much this English phonecall costs I just want to hear your voice!!! (I'll spare you the rest of the soppiness).

Not being able to speak to my parents either (sorry guys you just went into second place but only technically speaking) it's been odd enough anyway, I mean by no means am I a mummy or daddy's girl, neither have they raised me to be! Maybe because of this I am naturally close to them. I mean they have never so much as trimmed my wings as actively built me new ones anytime they were broken. My brother and I joked after they finally turned the third bedroom into a games room that we had the only parents on the planet who made it so we COULDN'T move back home after we left ;)

Don't get me wrong we can always stay anytime we want with them for as long as we need, but they raised us and then let us go, so our choices from then on have been our own right or wrong. Always there to pick up the pieces but never to say 'don't do it' or 'I told you so' no opinions, no expectations just support.

So of my own accord I pretty much used to talk to my mum at least every day if not every other and if ever life was hectic with rehearsals and such... Then sometime maybe twice in a week very very least. Now out here it's even extended to once a fortnight at one point and with no Internet it's eternally on hold! No good, so I deviated off to the nearest shopping mall to use their free wifi and get stared at for video conferencing in the middle of a shopping centre.

I don't care!!!!!

Anyway so I crumbled and got an over expensive 3G card for my iPad but it affords me some precious talk time. Ideal.

Soooooo what has happened? Why no Internet?? Well I moved house. Yes finally I now have my own place.

I wasn't terribly well the other week so had to go to the doctors (that's another story!) but finally we got our own place and it's amazing!!! Everything about it is perfect from location to size it's awesome.

We popped around as they invited us over on the Friday night to get our keys and have an aperitif (the french are so hospitable! Well in my experience they are anyway...) so we did indeed go round. They'd laid out nibbles and opened a Bottle of champagne to welcome us to the house. We had a lovely hour chatting with them, the gentleman is what is known as 'Disney retired' but of course when he said this in his thick French accent I had to stifle my giggles as all I could hear in my head was the voice of Borat saying; "you are a retard? It's very good you let him join you at dinner, in my country we keep them in cages..."

French pronunciation, you know sometimes you can help them understand your English by saying the word in English with a French accent? Try it, especially macdonalds, if you ask for a cheeseburger they may not understand. Ask for a sheeeeeeezberrgher (in your best Allo Allo accent) they'll actually understand! Hilarious! Speaking of Allo Allo one of the best things about working in France? You can quote Allo Allo for a little silly in joke and say things such as "listen carefully, I will say this only once..."

I'd be lying if I said we hadn't ever used this at school...

Anyway back to moving! Once it was time for our new landlord/lady to go Mishy and I gave them 5 seconds to get to the car and out of earshot before the screaming and victory
Dancing started. They have given us so much; new double beds, bedding, wardrobes, all cutlery and dinner sets, dishwasher, pots, pans, microwave, fridge/freezer, washing machine...we thought we'd be getting a shell of a house and they have kitted us out with EVERYTHING and Yep the house is that beautiful!

Yes ALL of it's ours.

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Well when this is the key fob they give you, you KNOW it's fate

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Kitchen:

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Bathroom 1

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Toilet 1

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Lounge/my dance studio 1

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Lounge 2

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Dining room and stairs to le cave (and Mishy still excitedly dancing about)

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Mishys tool room (Mishy doing the safety dance)

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My dance studio complete with piano, bar ad UV lighting!!! (and dancing Mishy)

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Up to mishys bedroom

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My bedroom

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And bathroom 2 my ensuite niiiiiiice

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Also has a garden and another cave the same size as the dance space.

Yep I'm a lucky git. Yep I'm gloating. Don't judge me :)

Mind you the house has come with one extra. We have named him Peeves! Yes Peeves is our pet poltergeist.

It all started Saturday night when I was home alone and unpacking things in the kitchen. Twice I caught site of someone looking in through the kitchen window. Local kids being nosey I thought, house has been empty a while... So I waited... Next time I saw movement I shot out the front door to catch them. Nothing. Street was totally devoid of all people. Odd! So I went back in and carried on starting to make dinner. Sure enough same thing so I opened the door ready to see who was there and what they wanted but still nothing! I thought nothing more of it and went back about my business. Short while later the landlord popped by with some extra things for us (more pans and nice wine glasses!) and they asked if i was alone. I said yes Mishy stayed in Paris last night with her boyfriend and probably will tonight too. They said "oh sleep okay? House warm enough? No ghost?"

I laughed and said no all good and definitely not! Thought nothing of it til they left and then kept thinking what a random thing to say.

Mishy decided she'd come back after all that night so I mentioned it to her later when sat in the kitchen.

"oh yes there's definitey something over there" she said gesticulating to the same windows that I thought the children had been looking through

"something pinched my bottom hard on the way in, I thought it was Chris and he knows I hate that so I turned round to slap him only he wasn't even through the front gate yet..."

Hmmmmmmmm curious. Anyway that was that til morning. I got up and joined them for breakfast (after I'd done my 30 second walk to the boulangerie for fresh pain au chocolats and been treated to the deadly silence and 'new girl in the village' look from the gossiping locals). As we sat chatting my protein shaker lurched off the dish rack. Michelle sighed and said 'that's the second thing he has chucked off there this morning'

After a bowl got pushed off 10 minutes later we concluded whatever it was it didn't like things being left on the dish rack.

So we cleared it and decided he needed a name, Peeves it is! On the Monday at breakfast I commented to Mishy that Peeves was pretty quiet the last 24 hours.

"no he wasn't not unless you moved the grill covers partly off the stove over night".

So there you have it that's the story of Peeves our pet poltergeist! Must ask the owners more about it. Before we moved in our mate Rich said the house was probably a bargain because it's built on an Indian burial ground or something. Yeah cheers Rich. As Meaux the town down the road is where World War 1 was halted as this was where the Germans were stopped whilst trying to invade Paris (battle of the Marne), we started inventing stories about the house being built on an old trench (it's 101 years old). Generally he is not a problem, I have only been a wuss once when I was toying with leaving the house early or waiting 10 minutes one morning. As I was hovering by the front door deciding what to do I heard a noise from upstairs. Not heard any noises from upstairs before so have to say I decided to leave pretty sharpish. Then felt pretty embarrassed. How do you explain that??!! He's cool long as you say hello and goodbye to him we figure.

Ghouls aside It's been a tough week this week I think maybe I'm still not 100% I went to the doctors the other Friday which was an experience as needed a certificate to prove I was sick. Well if I hadn't been when I went to see him I was when I got home. They are very thorough, but then for 30€ for the appointment and certificate I should hope so. You claim this back on your social security but still...

He found pain in my abdomen I never knew i had till he poked it.

Doc: Pain? (poke)
Me: no
Doc: (poke, poke) la?
Me: no
Doc: (pokey, poke, poke...) no??
Me: NO, no pain, pas de tout, definitely no pain at all none...
Doc: mmmm la?

Brief pause whilst doctor scrapes me off the ceiling

Doc: la? Goes to touch spot again
Me: (backing up the table) no touché, ouch, ne touché pas...whatever oui, yes, ouch, hurts, leave it, merci.

So he diagnosed me with an intestinal infection, wrote me a massive prescription for drugs (apparently the docs love to give drugs out here) and sent me for an ecograph to (in his words) check I wasn't dying. Thanks. Despite not speaking much French and no one speaking much english (well why should they I'm in their country!) I spoke and understood enough to get me through booking the appointment and dealing with the doctor so that felt good even if my intestines didn't!!

Not all doom and gloom asides being sick I have had some fab nights out with the usual suspects, biding my time in the bar at Planet Hollywood with Shawn and chatting to some of the others from the Wild West Show. Whilst putting the world to rights very recently we sat there evaluating my life right down to the fact I get to hang out in country and western bars with real life cowboys and Indians (one of the guys who plays an Injun is originally from the Will Rogers follies) so conversations are fascinating! chatting about growing up on the ranch and rodeo riding for a past time, they've lived whole other lives i can only imagine (but then to them i guess i have too) and I can listen to their stories for hours. Recently one of the cowboys Ludo stayed with me and we ended up chatting till the small hours about our lives (he organises rodeos and mostly lives in the south of France which sounds super exotic, I miss horses so much) but all in all I have to say...what a fascinating bunch of people I get to hang about with!!!

Of course then there's the Paris massive, these guys make me laugh til my sides hurt and Mishy is one of the only females on the planet I am happy to live with! She is just an awesome person and so a bright side to the dark winter nights is a box set of scrubs whilst lounging around on my bed gossiping oh and of course our meals! We can cook in peace, proper food! Oh the little things. Chris our boss had a late meeting at the school one evening so came back to ours tom chill out meanwhile, it's been such a long time since I was able to be part of a little unit in my nice clean kitchen, preparing food, entertaining and then chilling with a glass of red and just laughing in our lovely house with good friends, good food, good wine, good times.

Hard to explain then why it's felt so tough, I have a lot going on in my mind right now. When the clocks go back it always kicks my ass for a while and the one thing I forgot with living in the countryside is without the bright city lights, when it gets dark, it gets dark! It's suffocating! Wake up in the dark, go to work in the dark, work in the semi-light and go home in the dark I seriously need some light it is 2 weeks in and already feels like it's going to be a long winter! I get proper SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Mind you also I've dealt with a lot this last couple of months, generally I've held it together pretty well, moving to another country, starting a new job etc. etc... But I guess somedays even I forget the enormity of everything I took on of late and I guess now I'm in this house I can settle for the first time in a while and so I now have time to reflect.

Same thing happened when I moved to London, I went through major stress with finding a job and let's not go there on getting the house! But the first night I moved in I was on my own and I unpacked, listened to music, had a bath, relaxed and finally everything was in place...then I sat and just cried for half an hour solid. Damned good cry it was too. No explanation but I couldn't stop!

This feels kind of similar but without the crying, if I really think about it I moved to another country alone, so I came out here to no friends or family, plus I don't speak the language, sometimes I can be the only person in a room full of people who has no idea what's being said (if you are paranoid don't do it) I took on a job I've never done before in my life, I moved into a room in a house with total strangers (I'm quite a solitary creature too and the landlady didn't give me a minutes peace) my boyfriend is back on the scene and being the kind of boyfriend anyone could wish for BUT I'm out here and that's not going to change anytime soon so that's quite an uncertain feeling, plus you are also left semi happy/semi empty because you see people cuddling (I mean heck this is Paris after all) and whilst you know you are part of something like that you are acutely aware they aren't there (I suppose when they are though it makes it ten times better!) I think when people look at me they forget this. I'm good at the exterior bouncy bit and making stuff look supremely easy but there's still stuff going on in my brain I'm only human. Sometimes there's lonely moments whilst you adjust to what you had and what you have.

All in all I'm literally making/picking everything up as I go along. But that's life I guess, who isn't! I am pretty sure I'm doing just fine but guess now I'm feeling it a touch. Bit like when you run down hill, sometimes you have controlled momentum and sometimes your legs pick up so much you have no control you just hope you don't face plant, then the ground evens out and you are left bringing back the pace, heart beating wildly and thinking 'hoooly c**p that could've been nasty!'

I'm also sure it won't last because having spent 1 hour in a meeting at lunchtime and an hour in the orange shop tonight sorting out my iPad and they only spoke French on both occasions and I understood pretty much all of it, that I'm doing okay there. It's only Wednesday and have had 3 reports of 'best lesson ever' or 'favourite lesson of the week' or 'never enjoyed that lesson before and now they look forward to it' from the children to their parents... I will assume I'm doing okay there also and with the incredible people I spend my time with and the fun I have in and out of work... Thats all good. Plus Matty is out to visit next weekend and the weekend after that so I get him 2 weekends in a row, I have a way to contact my family everyday thanks to Orange (plus they are visiting in 44 days and counting), the Christmas season has started at Disneyland, I have a 3 day weekend coming up to explore Paris... It's all good really.

As the birthday pressie from another of my awesome friends Nigel & Kat says..

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It's all good :) xxx

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Toujours dans ma couer: always in my heart

Well I am writing this from my death bed.... Actually that's an exaggeration I'm writing this from bed as I am sick. Frustratingly so.

I'm really worried as I do not get paid if off sick and i am really wobbly today!!! Oh well suppose what I don't earn at school I'll make up with from my new part time job which I am due to start this weekend but the extra would have been useful! (I would LOVE to tell you more about the new job but folks I have had some genuine stalker issues lately so I am going to have to be a little more elusive right now I'm afraid). I know I know when detailing elements of your life and work to the public (I.e Facebook and blogs) it's a risk you take but I trust people not to go that crazy keen on me. Well they just did, let that be a lesson to me.

Just took a walk to the boulangerie which is a whole 30 seconds away and now need to lie down I have slept pretty solidly since Tuesday night too it's not good I don't even feel like moving!

You know when you can't quite believe you are ill because when you are lying down you feel okay but at the same time I know 1. I don't normally just lie down and not feel like moving and 2. If I get up I feel I am about to fall over.  If off tomorrow I will get myself to a doctors which should be interesting.

J'espere le docteur parlez anglais parce-que je suis malade et c'est ca pour ma francais... N'est pas bon. Desolée!

That's my pigeon French at it's finest! I'm learning more words, not necesarily in the right order but enough that 3 frenchies and one Brit have told me in the last week alone my French is either good (my French comprehension actually surprises me somedays!)or really improving. So that's nice.

I need to be better by Saturday as I'm moving house and starting job 2 so no rest for the wicked here. Again hopefully in time I can detail more about the house because it's AMAZING and Mishy and I are the luckiest girls in the world, it even has a mini dance studio complete with mirrored wall (and piano) in le cave (I.e cellar/basement) large garden, it's over several floors, mahoosive kitchen, separate diner, 2 living rooms, several bedrooms and shower rooms/toilets and there's only the two of us living there! However that's about as much as I'm going to be able to share because 1. Don't know when I'll be back online as got to get the Internet set up there so I can share it (trust me it's awesome!) 2. Can't say where I am moving to although it is out of Condé (away from my beautiful Sasha sob sob) and 3. See paragraph on stalker issues as to why location is quiet. Honestly this person has freaked me out good and proper and I'm pretty sure they'll read this blog too so can't take the risks. I'm sure they have good intentions but honestly it's just been bordering on scary.

So I'm mostly packed and ready to go!

Anyway so where have I been lately? It's been about 2-3 weeks and no blog I have even had people emailing me to ask where my blog had gone! Well dear readers who clearly have nothing better to do (I'm kidding I've been told it's good bedtime reading...thanks, I think) life happened so I'm going to whip through it!

Damn I was just using my photos as a timeline to see what I last blogged about and I have discovered the Internet is off. I hate this because I swear to god the land lady does it to lure us out of our rooms when she wants company (the box is in the living room which is her domain "step into my parlour said the spider to the fly....") right wish me luck, no doubt I'll bump into the mysterious Gerard Depardieu lookalike from the top floor who as always will be dressed only in his dressing gown... Who I only ever see inspecting the Internet box, feeding Sasha or dunking his toast in his coffee (the french do that, they dunk EVERYTHING in their coffee, I tried it once and I assure you it is clearly an acquired taste and I tell them so when they whinge at me for putting milk in my tea)

Right sorted so on we go. Been very busy as just had half term so trying to get all ends tied up before we went back to school (except I haven't yet, I ask you, I had 12 days off to be sick and NOW I get ill). The end of term saw a day of Halloween celebrations in place of the usual lessons, i was on hand to ensure CP class the youngest were kept suitably under control with their new found witch and wizarding powers and then literally had a short while to throw something together for the school website on the afternoons events so rather than rehash old ground here is the article complete with pictures:

“Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood to terrorise your neighbourhood...”
(Thriller)

Well, if Michael Jackson had visited EIMLV last Friday afternoon, that’s what he would have said! (note: how appropriate it is to mention MJ in regards to visiting a primary school is entirely down to your belief system....)

told you the spiders out here were big

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The last week of term, in addition to the usual lessons, saw EIMLV children helping to deck the halls with all things beastly, made by themselves. Any children who attended the after-school drama workshops got a little extra practice at being ghastly, trying out their witch and wizarding skills, and learning how to dance like zombies.

On the final day of term, the children were nowhere to be seen and EIMLV looked in desperate need of an exorcist!

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Pumpkins, vampires, ghosts, pirates and princesses were to be found in every classroom – and that was just the parents! For a little extra horrific help, face painters were on hand to add the finishing ghoulish touches to the little ones’ normally angelic faces!

In the afternoon, the children made their own witches’ brooms, complete with cobwebs and spiders for an extra-creepy effect. Once completed, they were allowed to take flight around the playground to see if their brooms worked.

Who needs A Nimbus 2000 and let's face it, Firebolts are soooo last season

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There were goodies galore and a spooky story time (with some fabulous storytelling action from the parents), then all too soon it was time for everyone to return to their haunted houses, ready to begin their holidays.

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Honestly a massive mention must go to the mums of the school who worked so hard to bring all this together, the dedication to their children and the school as a whole is astounding they are quite literally the heartbeat of the place and you feel that.

It was an amazingly hot weekend and Sunday it was in to Paris for the RWC final, so got in very very early for that it was amazing to be in France for that game and crowded in a bar with the rest of the supporters, would have been better if they'd won though, shame it was so close!!!

After the match we wound our way through the backstreets on the butte of Montmartre taking in the sunday markets (sundays in Paris are all about the markets) and just breathing the place in before reaching the top where we sat on the steps of the sacre couer drinking coffee looking out across Paris and watching the world go by

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The afternoon was for chilling on the banks of the river seine, talking about everything, talking about nothing, sometimes not talking at all, reading, enjoying a glass of red, eating fresh crepes and people watching.

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Yep today we are those people I always wanted to be chilling out in the sun. Hard life.


Hmmmm only in France could you bring your dog into a restaurant. She wouldn't thank me for this pic but I love how expressive the French are!!

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I was introduced him to the crazies to be found in any Metro carriage near you...

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So what else has happened??

I got to fly back to the UK, had I kept on top of this blog I could go into way more detail about how it took me over 3 hours to get from my home to CDG airport (the horrors of RER B) the fact trains terminated at Gare du Nord and luckily my French was good enough to translate this (but I pity tourists who dont speak French would have been awful for them!) The horror that is the Gare du Nord, the French guy I had quite a good french conversation with at the station which lead to the questioning of my nationality by the tipsy old American couple who I lent my phone to because they were stuck at the station. They were stuck and panicking about missing their connecting shuttle (I lent her my phone and she was on it for ages if I said I wasn't panicking about my bill I'd be lying) the moment of hilarity was when they said to me;

"wow you speak beautiful English where did you learn?"
I am English
"ooooh okay what state you from?"
I'm not I'm from England
"oh right"
-moment they use the phone....
"did you say you were Australian?!"

Americans. They're not the brightest.

I also slept over night in the airport terminal as the flight left so early I'd have never made it on time, I did very well on my 4 plastic chairs under my coat, let it never be said I'm precious. Until 4am when a dude sat down on a table near me and listened to Chris de Burghs 'a spaceman came travelling' over and over... Without headphones may I add. I mean why wouldn't you??!!

Ah so many stories so little time...

Anyway I went back to the midlands for a few days for my birthday and had a lovely meal out with the family including 2 of my cousins who i havent seen since god knows when? Also had a bit of a blast from the past as during the meal received a phone call from my old uncle. He is separated from my auntie and despite being the father of my cousins as these things do happen I haven't seen or heard off him since I was a young girl and today he wanted to change that so my cousin organised the call whilst I was there. It was very strange to hear his voice after all that time and like he said to me, in seperation it's hard and communication gets lost but he never stopped thinking of me and always wondered how I was and lately was following my adventures via the Internet and was so pleased I was doing so well. I was really choked up and was pretty proud of myself as it wasn't the time or place to get emotional even though I felt it. He is right though about communication, sometimes to think of someone often is not enough as we aren't mind readers and who said out of sight was ever out of mind, I'm just as guilty, he kind of disappeared out of the family but I too could have contacted him anytime it's not like I just forgot who he was or assumed he stopped existing and I was so moved to know he still thought of me and made the effort to ensure he spoke to me and remembered it was my birthday. That's really something.

Also present on this day was my dear old nanny who I literally haven't seen for a good few years either! Bless her she is no longer quite all there so mostly thought we were out for her birthday and kept saying she had the most wonderful day ever and thanked us all for coming. Couldn't have said it better myself so was inclined to agree.

It's always nice to catch up and I think my mum and my auntie are being extremely brave and doing an amazing job of looking after her. I know it can't be easy seeing someone you love this way or having the mother daughter role reversed. Have told my mum I'm having her gassed at the first sign of senility ;) although it came close when we pulled up in the car park to the nursing home and glancing round my mum said:

"gosh I've never seen it this busy on a Saturday before"

That's because it's Friday mum.

It was a day of nostalgia as I got to sort out some of my things which are stored at my Nans flat as I slowly move my entire life out to France, so there was lovely things like my Christmas decorations which I'll be very excited to have with me this year after an unsettled couple of years (let's me know I'm ever close to having my life more settled again) and then there were boxes of ornaments and of course I got caught out by finding an old wedding photo in one of the boxes. Can't explain how it feels when you come across these things just a deep sadness, not for what you lost but I guess for what once was. I married so young it really represents my youth and a time when anything was possible. Anything still is possible but your time is a little more knowingly limited somewhat at 32 than it was at 22, that's a whole decade that passed pretty bloody fast!

Being back in the UK was a little strange, i only said Bonjour to people 3 times and 'pardon' instead of 'excuse me' twice and then told dad to kick me if he heard me do it again.

Off the musings asides seeing my blood family I also went home to see the other family; my cat Juice who is now deaf as a post on account of the fact he is ancient (I swear I didn't keep testing this theory by clapping my hands above his head and marvelling at the fact he doesn't hear it; why somcruel? Well this cat once upon a time would have skinned you alive for such an action, he used to be E-vil capital E included! So I was merely behaving as a mouse would upon such a discovery)

Too beautiful for words, my dear old puss,

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And also to get spoiled by such things as this: my mum makes the most amazing cakes:

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I was woken daily with bacon butties and treated to a Sunday roast. It's the little things you miss!

As I lay in bed reading the one morning I listened to my dad who was walking down the hallway doing yoda impressions whilst getting himself ready to head to the theatre for the last night of the musical he was appearing in (playing an old grandpa zombie of all things) and also to the sounds of my mum who was getting ready to head off to spend time murdering people (she organises murder mystery events)

And people wonder why I turned out the way I did...

Asides the family madness I caught up with old friends and just generally relaxed before heading back to Paris for birthday celebrations mark 2... Halloween!!!

Of course Halloween should be spent here...

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Now as I am lucky enough to finally own one of these....

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I can go into the park whenever I damned well feel like it, even after work for a quick blast on Space mountain!!! oh one more time with me: I love my life!!!

Yes sir a day of silliness at Disney was on the cards with mishy and Chris who was half done up like a devil with the horns, mishy had the tail and together they made a complete devil:

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Naturally order of the day at Halloween for rides was Phantom Manor!

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And of course we mingled with the stars

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God only knows what rafiki made of this

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Yes that's right we are super responsible grown ups who are in charge of YOUR children...

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Initial plans were to stay in the park ALL day right through to the Halloween party which goes on til 1am but in the end we purchased tickets to an organised do in Montmartre instead which was a wise choice as Disney was absolutely rammed! So late afternoon we headed back to our respective homes to get ourselves suitably ready for Halloween Parisian style so this was me from Witch to tinker bell gone bad

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And I headed into Paris.

Parisians don't do Halloween it seems, apparently they are waaaaaaay too uptight to be dressing up so whereas last year in London there were ghosts and ghouls galore...until I met the other guys at jaures on line 2... I was the only one of my kind on the metro and didn't I know it! People laughed and waved, cameras came iut, some stared, little girls marvelled, some wanted to play with my wings, guys wanted their photos taken with me... By the time mishy and Chris arrived I was feeling like I'd either have my own tv show soon or be locked up. At least now I wasn't the only lunatic escaped from the asylum!

It was a good night had a few drinks, laughed too much and hung out with fellow creatures of the night all from various parts of the world. Can't think of a better way to spend my birthday really I swear they get better every year!

Apple....?! Mishy won a prize for her rather awesome old haggyness...

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Meeting Hugh Heffner outside a sex shop in Montmartre like you do

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Just a typical night out with friends

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So that pretty much brings me bang up to date! Hopefully I won't leave it so long next time and hope you've all been well and busy yourselves.

Much love!

Karen Duffy the Disney bear x