Thursday, 27 March 2008

Married to a Hollywood Starlet.

If it hadn't been for Ricky Gervais a lot of people would never have given film and TV extras a second thought. Through the humour and frustration we learn, basically, that their work is badly paid and offers fewer prospects than a professional dog-walking agency (providing you don't doorstep Patrick what's-his-name on a good day). One of Mrs. Fingers' various skills is the fact that she's trilingual and her CV credit of interpreter on a theatrical production here in France earned her a phone call from the local Job Centre, asking her to please submit a suitably seductive full-length photo of her good gallic self for consideration for extra work on a TV series being filmed in the city. She can only have passed with flying colours as a stressed but pleasant Parisian TV functionary called her with instructions on where to go and when and, please, to dress in such-and-such a manner. Meat and drink to the eclectic Fingers clan, so off she went this morning, dressed like a psychiatric nurse i.e. white trousers and pumps armed with a couple of books and a lot of curiosity.

Needless to say, her main encounter of the course of the day was with the refreshment tent but come 2 o'clock she and her colleagues got 'the call' and duly trotted off to be filmed briefly chatting, responding to questions and leaving shot. My newly-incarnated TV actress spouse came back about twelve hours later, tired and rather frozen. Twelve hours of sitting around in a disused hospital (yes, they even have those in France) in near-zero temperatures is not everyone's idea of a fun day out but observing the machinery of TV production was, by all accounts, pretty interesting. According to a couple of other extras, it was a fairly satisfactory day; one told of having to spend hours running back and forth over a bridge in pouring rain...

So, who knows? Maybe this will be Mrs. Fingers' big break and she'll be off to Hollywood to ingest illegal substances at some bimbo-waitress-actress' house party before falling into the swimming pool with Leonardo di Caprio.

My day as working househusband started with getting the Fingernails fed, washed and dressed, off to nursery school and crĂȘche, putting in a few hours at work, picking up Fingernail II at noon, making lunch, picking up Fingernail I from school along with a couple of friends' short people, coming home, plying them with something to keep their bellies full and their mouths closed before getting the evening meal ready. A routine, in short, as endured by millions of dutiful parents all over the world and one which I sample only intermittently. If my work could take care of itself I'd be happy to do it more often.

If any of my non-existent readership have never heard 'Oedipe' by Georges Enescu, I sincerely recommend that you remedy that situation immediately: it's phenomenal. Matter of taste, of course, but a juicy chunk of opera right up my alley: like Debussy and early Schoenberg on drugs. Intoxicatingly mellifluous harmonic shifts couple with sublime orchestration and theatricality in spades. Live recording from Vienna, available on Naxos.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Piano Lessons

One of the pleasant aspects of not giving piano lessons is realising how enjoyable they can be if you just take on one student and that person turns out to be actually very good. I get picked up, driven out to their house in the country, plied with wine and nibbles, paid for my input and guidance and then dropped back home. It's a far cry from my student days in Manchester when I'd take a bus off to teach a collection of largely unmotivated teenagers, arriving home far too late to do any serious practice of my own and without sufficient funds to at least pick up a halfway decent bottle of Chateau Castrol from the corner shop. This student was an offshoot from my choral conducting job, another expat pursuit and one which further bears out the difference in the British Expat community here in France compared to the lager louts we seem to have exported to Spain and Portugal, where you only seem to find a good sing-song around bars showing In-ger-lund matches on satellite TV. How the locals must curse our existence down there and how fortunate we are to be living in a country where we're greeted with courtesy and, for the most part, intelligence. A lot of it is probably down to our behaviour: treat your environs with respect and respect will be shown to you. Maybe France also attracts a different kind of expat; those who wish to integrate are welcomed and those who don't at least have the good sense and manners to stay holded up in their converted barns, only torturing the locals with their school French once a fortnight when they realise they're out of Marmite.

So Sarko is off to visit Queen Betty, if only for a day and a night. I trust he'll be briefed on etiquette and told to keep his Blackberry in his pocket whilst in Royal Presence. I can't help but feel it's a move to make himself look more statesmanlike in the eyes of his now disgruntled followers. He had everything going for him last May but seems to have blown a considerable amount of goodwill and support in a virtuosically short space of time. Still, like I mentioned yesterday, never write the man off...

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Long Time, No Readers.

I'm not in the habit of apologising to myself but I will just this once: it's been a long time since I posted anything so, sorry, Mr. Fingers. Nice to come back and see a complete absence of comments; rather like coming home after the summer holiday and finding you haven't been burgled. Still, as I've mentioned before, this blog is for me to record my thoughts and it would appear that I've not had one since last December.

In some ways that's true. Work has been ludicrously, sometimes pleasantly, invasive. Add a few external projects, another choir-training session and the usual demands that the Fingernails present you with and you find yourself happy just to curl up with a good book or a good wife in the evening. The witty and salient comments I dream up on the walk to work immediately get drowned like puppies in a sack as soon as I start working. By the time I leave I'm focussed on hugging the family, having some dinner and a couple of glasses of wine before putting the short people to bed and beating back the tide of often nonsensical e-mails with a sharp stick.

President Sarkozy has plummeted in peoples' estimation. The French like their Head of State to be a composed patrician, tending his EU-subsidised flock with avuncular care whilst reeking of bespoke outfitting and pre-Napoleonic financial reserves. Sarko's mirror shades, jeans, rapper jewellery and Euroslapper wife have not gone down too well in a time when prices for household basics have soared. Even our city has lurched to the left for the first time in Mrs. Fingers' lifetime. Don't bet on the Prez not turning it around, though; the man is a genius of reinvention.

The French have taken the smoking ban lying down. I'd never have thought it from this country, but that's just what's happened. Apart from the odd hunger-striking bar owner, practically no-one has offered any resistence. Seeing as healthy people will ultimately be more of a burden on the social services in later life than smokers it seems a little contradictory to encourage (or force) people to stop smoking if you really want to reduce state debt. Raise the retirement age and encourage people to light up a Marlboro; that way, everyone keels over whilst still contributing to the system. Problem solved.