Thank you Trophydaughter for nominating me for the Liebster Award! I can’t deny I am flattered, and I am grateful for the extra publicity for my blog.
Before passing the award on I must tell you 11 random things about myself and answer 11 questions Trophydaughter thought up:
Random facts about me:
1. I am not really a nightingale. I don’t sing particularly well either.
2. I love chocolate. Good, Belgian chocolate. I import it because I can’t live without. Well, I could, but I’d rather not.
3. I also import Belgian beer, preferably a Tripel. Just for my own private consumption, don’t hassle me. Although I could start up a business if you wanted.
4. I like my own company. That is not to say I don’t like others’, but I have no problem being by myself.
5. I meditate. Have done for about 8 months. I always thought mediation was for weird people, let’s call them the mildly untethered. Surprisingly I have found it anchors me more firmly so I actually feel more alive.
6. I once qualified as a diver, and I’d love to revive those skills. I want to be in the thick of the sardine run action at the Cape, when all the dolphins, whales, seagulls and sharks are going for the poor little sardines. Let’s not tell them that if they manage to escape the predators they are likely to end up in a trawler net and on my plate.
7. It saddens me that I don’t fully belong in Belgium anymore, and yet don’t quite belong here in the UK either. On the plus side, that frees me up to move anywhere I fancy once the children grow up.
8. I want to come back as my dog: sleep all day, only interrupted for foodies and walkies. That’s the life.
9. My favourite smell is freshly baked bread, in all its many varieties – the smell of croissants wafting out onto the pavements of Paris in the morning or my very own cardamom-laced currant buns fresh from the oven on a winter’s day… I love them all.
10. My favourite sound is the lazy bubbling sound a full wine bottle produces when you pour the first wine. It never sounds like that again, it must be linked to the bottle neck. It holds so much promise.
11. I am determined to travel more in the coming years. I’ll start with a trip to Budapest to visit the friend who got me into blogging.
My answers to Trophydaughter’s questions:
1) Why did you start writing a blog? A friend of mine convinced me to publish what I was writing for myself anyway. He was right, it did make me polish my craft more. And it is great to know someone reads what you’ve written.
2) What are you currently reading? A work related book. Fascinating if you are into that kind of thing. I’m not sure what novel I’ll pick from my recently downloaded mini-library yet.
3) How would you describe your singing voice? Alto. Not trained at all; who knows what potential it holds?
4) What gives you the giggles? Catching my husband’s eye when I am about to burst into laughter, then lose it together so badly we don’t remember what set us off in the first place.
5) What’s your favorite movie one-liner? I still find the scene in the Raiders of the Lost Ark where Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones pulls a gun on the sword-wielding baddies hilarious. Ok it is non-verbal but allow me to stretch the assignment a little.
6) If you could have one do-over, what would it be? Can you make me funnier?
7) What’s your fav Chinese dish? The stuffed lotus root I had in a fabulous Beijing restaurant. I dreaded touching it because it looked like brain, but it was lovely! And once they had told me what it was the aftertaste was even better. Phew, lotus root.
8) How are you going to change the world? I am going to save a species from extinction by moving it to a new, friendlier environment. I am bound to, with all the moving around I do on this planet and the elephant in a porcelain shop I am to these tiny creatures.
9) When is the last time you sobbed, truly sobbed? About 4 months ago. That is all I will tell you.
10) What do you want to be remembered for? Having raised sensible and responsible children.
11) Who’s a tough act to follow? There are so many people who truly have changed our world, but I’ll pick Nelson Mandela. I can’t think of anyone else as brave, determined, graceful and influential.
Now I would like to pass the award on to the following blogs:
Eternal Domnation – who has only just been given the Liebster Award so I’ll just endorse that award without demanding anything in return
My questions to you are:
2. Post 11 random facts about yourself
3. Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
4. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (and notify the bloggers that you nominated them!)
5. Write 11 NEW questions directed toward YOUR nominees.
6. You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog.
7. Paste the award picture into your blog.
Long time no hear, I know. Been busy. I spent the summer in Paris. You know, those few days this past week. Always a treat, even if it meant I missed summer in England. There is something irresistibly careless about Parisians in summer mode. They seem more forgiving, less urgent. The cafes and restaurants open up and the streets fill with people relaxing after work. Sitting among them with a glass of chilled Saint-Veran in good company makes you forget you got up at 5 in the morning and had a long and productive day.
Eventually of course summer had to be washed away in almighty thunderstorms and floods. Leaving the city in a morning-after mood, full of the memory but a touch deflated. And Parisians counting down to their summer trek to the south coast, where the sun shines, even this year. And me? Back to the rainy isle, keeping myself going with these morsels of summer as it should be. Once I’ve shaken the memory I’ll kick it up a gear, I tell myself. For now I’ll pour myself another glass of wine and sit back. Worth it, I might produce a fabulous idea. You have to make time for that.
I interviewed with chocolate on my face today. In a cafe in Paris. One more entry on my list of embarrassing things I’ve done. I did suspect for a fleeting moment I might have smeared chocolate on my cheek but then forgot about it, absorbed in the conversation. The guy was interesting and seemed a good fit. One problem solved. It was a couple of hours later, having finished the interview, debriefed with my colleague, walked back through Paris Nord station and made my way back to the airport that the unkind lighting in the ladies’ confirmed I did have chocolate on my face. In my defense, I had been ravenous: I had not had time to eat anything since breakfast other than the miniature galettes the Air France people gave me on the flight out to Paris. The coffee we all ordered to grant us leave to use the cafe as a meeting room came with a sliver of dark chocolate wrapped in foil, perched precariously on the saucer. My chocolate had been leaning into the coffee and half melted away. In my desperation for an energy boost (and my craving for dark chocolate, fine) I tried to eat it anyway, getting the goo all over my fingers. No napkins. I could either put on a show by trying to fish for a tissue in my handbag without getting that coated in chocolate too, or pretend it never happened and hope the chocolate would just dry and peel off or something. No-brainer, I am a professional. The thing is, my fingers must have had the right temperature to keep the chocolate smooth, for a really long time. Long enough for me to forget it was there. Judging by the smears on my face I must have swept my hair out of my face at least twice.
I am grateful to the interviewee and my colleague for being just as professional: they never once looked at me funny. I guess it would have been gracious of my colleague to alert me once the interviewee was gone to spare me the embarrassment of travelling through crowded public places in my decorated state. I can’t decide whether he is ultra shy or a tiny bit evil.
It could have been worse though. I could have been the interviewee, vying for my dream job.
Apparently this happened to someone known to a colleague of mine. I can’t stop fantasizing how on earth he got there. I must ask my colleague next week to expand on this summary he dangled out there, to get us all to reveal something nobody else knows we have done.
What intrigues me most is the wetsuit. What was he plotting in the middle of Paris that would require a wetsuit? Exploring the catacombs via the sewage system? I imagine rats and cobwebs, drip-drip-dripping and dank air. Dark – with a flame torch. But he was probably just getting ready for a stag party wasn’t he.
How do you get into a disused metro station? Does anyone even know where there is one? Maybe the Parisians do. Again I conjure dank darkness, where there may actually have been stark fluorescent lighting that nobody had bothered to cut off. I picture the lone diver plodding towards the hole in the wall that leads to the catacombs, while he probably was just drinking beer with his mates. And he was probably arrested for trespassing. How boringly mundane.
What should I reveal about myself? That I once walked into the office full of young men (I was their age then) with my black skirt tucked into my sunny yellow underwear? Nah, I’ve probably already told someone that. That I have eaten jellyfish? Boring. That I once had a brief chat with Harrison Ford in a lift? Yeah, I may go with that one.
I have not traveled for a month now, and I am getting itchy feet. The thing is, business travel is a drag: get up at stupid in the morning, schlep to the airport, dissemble luggage and get half undressed in a public place, re-assemble luggage, get dressed again in a public place, trying to ignore the feeling of being sneakily watched; find breakfast and try not to get it on your clothes; walk and walk some more, fight for a place to store your compliant little suitcase on the plane, find a taxi that will take credit cards, and finally make it to the office. Everyone there aspires to my life and wants to breeze in just before lunch time like I do. If I am lucky I get to have lunch, with people who have all sorts to discuss because they don’t see me often enough. The rest of the people are waiting for something bad to happen because they hardly ever see me. There must be a very good reason for my visit, and it can’t be good news. Umpteen meetings and conversations later I get to make my way to a hotel halfway across the city and look forward to a dinner by myself. Sometimes I get company, which can truly be that but just as often turns into another work meeting. I am really really tired by then.
And yet here I am, wondering when my next trip is going to be. I love being home, but routine bores me. I crave input from other people than those who surround me every day, and enjoy being in different places. For all my whingeing about the drag of business travel, there often is a brief window when I can appreciate my surroundings. I like to walk to and from my hotels, if at all feasible (mostly in Europe, to be honest). I discovered how nice that was once I was forced to, having waited for 20 minutes for a taxi that just wasn’t getting through traffic in Paris. In the end I assured the hotel reception staff I would be fine, and started walking. I checked the city maps on my way to keep myself on track but any other human would not even have to do that – I just have a formidably lacking sense of direction. And even I got to the office without getting lost. Since Hausmann Paris has a backbone of wide boulevards and follow-on arteries that take you effortlessly through the city. I noticed how recently a lot more people are cycling to work or college there. People also dress differently than they do in the UK.
Smells play a key role in experiencing the environment, I noticed while walking. Paris in the morning smells of the cigarettes of the many pedestrians smoking, with a dash of croissant and bitter coffee wafting out from coffee bars. One July morning, after a violent thunderstorm, it smelt freshly laundered.
And then there was that time I had a hotel room with a view out to the Atlantic in North Carolina. I watched the sun rise, pouring watercolours over the ocean in ever changing shades. It was so mild I threw the doors open so I could smell the salt on the air. That was terrific.
When is my next trip again?