Monday, 27 February 2012

OK, I give in.

As from now, this corner of amateur journalism is officially no longer a FrogBlog. I no longer feel sufficient whimsy for my everyday life to wax lyrical about that sweeeeeeeet foie gras market stall holder, nor do I wish to get annoyed about about the rank-and-file antisocial bastards who are the plague of urban life in this otherwise fair country. In short, I'm just going to get on with posting my random thoughts about life in general, which was, after all, the main reason for starting this online diary in the first place. These ruminations may or may not include pictures of women with large breasts. Sorry to Keith and Sarah for their kind words, but unless my random, vaguely chauvinistic ramblings are not to your taste, then I'm afraid I'm not your cup of tea. After all, no-one was meant to read this blog, anyway.

I have to say that my view of everyday life in urban France is, in any case, pretty jaundiced. Though not suffering from any kind of victim complex I have to say that, in this case, I may have a point: we pay overtly good money for a flat in the best part of town, only to find out later that the surrounding properties are not insulated, meaning we basically live in a bass drum, played by our tone-deaf neighbours. After four years of hell on that front, the moment we get a considerate neighbour constellation, a collection of marginals move in to the flat across from us and proceed to impose their homeless values on the entire building, resulting in us calling the police to break up drunken fights in the stairwell etc. The stench which emanates from their place might render it impossible for us to sell ours, too, as any potential buyer visiting our flat might take exception to the Eau de Cigarette, Sueuer et Chien that will hit him/her in the face as soon as they open the front door. In the meantime, our children are getting older and are still deprived of green, as French town planners don't seem capable to providing enough parks and gardens for their populations. I can see why so many people choose to live outside big cities; the only advantage to living in them is that it makes it easier to pop down to the police station to lodge complaints about the antisocial, selfish bastards you're forced to cohabit with.

Went to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy this morning (yes, this morning; had to use up a ticket). Seeing as my father worked in MI6/Soviet Counterespionage, it was funny to see Colin Firth - someone I have been told on many occasions I resemble  -  unmasked as the mole. Maybe the family resemblance goes deeper than just looking like an actor I've never met.

Peace to you all. And especially if you choose to move in near us.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Our job.

The role of the mother towards her children is clear: feed, clothe and educate responsibly. We fathers tend to be somewhat different. Now that Mrs. F is working for Airbus (sort of), due to my more flexible work hours I'm the de facto fetcher and carrier. This also involves a lot of cooking (which I love), ferrying said Fingernails to various activities and dragging them around with me when I have to go off and do tedious necessities, such as the post office, bank and the rest.

I love it. Every time. As fathers traditionally have very little daily involvement in their childrens' upbringings, when we are thrust into the front line our natural position is closer to that of the grandparents - indulgent, caring yet blind-eye turning - than that of the mother, whose love, involvement and nazi-like overseeing is permanently acknowledged yet only appreciated much later i.e. when the children reach thirty or so. Mrs. F fears that if the Fingernails spent too much time in my care they would turn into obese thugs, but I'm as wary of her driving ability as she is of my parenting skills, so we're pretty much quits, I think.

Sounds like any other family, to be honest. The picture below is not of her, by the way…

Monday, 13 February 2012

Liberté, Egalité and Shitty Neighbours

Well, yesterday night was when it finally all came to a head. Our delightful marginal neighbours had a few 'friends' round, played music very loudly all afternoon and evening and shouted and drank the whole time. It ended up in a mass brawl in their flat and in the communal areas, so we called the police. They threw a couple of them out into the street but left one of the others to wander up and down the stairs, screaming, incapable of finding the front door of their hovel. Mrs. F started a new job this morning, the same day the school holidays started and in the middle of our house-hunting escapades. It never rains, then it pours.

The only way to be half-way certain of not being bothered by antisocial bastards in this country is to get somewhere in the middle of the countryside, which then means you spend all your money on petrol. Live close to others and be confronted with selfishness. It's enough to make you want to rebel.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

No-one is French.

We're house hunting. Yes, I know you know, but I still need to introduce this post. Yesterday, we went off to get registered with a few agencies in areas we wouldn't say no to, despite the fact that French cities are basically open sewers. In the end, you just choose the least appalling pile of detritus to live with. We chin-wagged long and hard with an agent called José Perez, a child, just like my dear Mrs. Fingers, of Spanish immigrants. Toulouse is full of them. As we were leaving, he gave me his card, so I cracked the obvious joke about him being of Norwegian origin. Haha, yes, that's right, bonne journée, you sad, fucked-up Brit he could have added, but didn't. Anyhow, we popped over the road to Century 21, and gave our details to the lady behind the desk who then informed us that a certain Sven Strom would be contacting us. "He's Norwegian", she added, somewhat superfluously. Funny how contrived, unfunny remarks can come and bite you on the backside, isn't it? I'm always intrigued how people end up in places, even if their story is as anodine as their parents escaping Franco's Spain and living in a one-bed flat in Toulouse while señor built roads and señora trawled the market for bargains. Our world has become so fluid you see Frequent Flyers with cages of carry-on live chickens and fourth-hand nylon anoraks. There's no magic in moving, any more, but we're still going to do it, even if it's just to another building. With a different pile of dog shit in front of the door.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Speaking of sledges…

…I remember when we lived in Salisbury, Wiltshire (gorgeous city in those days) and had a victorian terraced town house, since demolished and replaced by a multi-storey car park, but hey…Anyhow, there was a local floozy, nice girl in my reckoning, but I was young, straight and impressionable and she was pretty with large breasts, so there you go. OK, back to the story. She would knock on our door about twice a week, asking us if we'd like to buy what she was offering that particular day: a string of plastic pearls, a briefcase, whatever. Goodness only knows where she got this stuff, but what the hell. Anyway, one day, she pitches up with a wooden sledge with yellow plastic runners. Would we like to buy this for two pounds (£2) sterling? OK, she didn't say 'sterling', but you get my drift; I'm just trying to be very inclusive with all my vistitors from Poznan and the like. Cue my brother and I putting enormous pressure on my mother and ending up, two minutes later, with a proper wooden sledge in our possession. Bear in mind you could have fed a family of four for a week on two quid (pounds sterling, OK?) in those days. Seeing as my mother was a student at that time it was quite a sum. Since that day, I've never been able to take any sledge seriously that wasn't 100% wood. What's more, the one we got in Germany had METAL runners, not even plastic, however trendy that might have appeared in 1967 in Wiltshire.

Did I really write '1967'?

This, gentle reader, is the sad truth of our lives. We recount, we discourse, we pontificate, we drink, we smoke (well, we used to), we fornicate (Yay!) and the rest, but, in the end, we just get older. Those of us born in 1962 don't feel old, but for those new voters born in 1994, we are positively prehistoric. I fancied this door-knocking girl, and I was five. There's no age limit in either direction, if you ask me.

The point of this post being: I'm just contributing to my online diary. Look away if you wish, I don't give one, OK.

That's our sledge, and as far as I can remember, this was the girl who came a-knocking…

I may be wrong, though. After all, I was only five…


You wouldn't believe how much snow we've had here, today. OK, it's relative; Canada and Russia needn't fear for their records, but it's been snowing here in Toulouse for the last twelve hours non-stop, and that's almost unheard-of in recent history for this part of the world, where the summers reach 38° Celcius and you generally don't have to switch on your heating until late November. Never having really seen snow, the authorities panic and close all the parks, just in case the branches of the trees crumble under the weight of four inches of the white stuff…pathetic, but there you go. We managed to find a green space - La Prairie des Filtres - to go sledding, but Fingernail II's hands got so cold in the end she started crying. We have equipment, but it's not really warm enough for the -7° Celcius we've had these last few days. As Minnesotans (and others) say: "There's no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing". Our sledge is rather delightful, though; it's an old-fashioned, all-wood model we found in a Sperrmüll clear-out in Germany when Fingernail I was very small. Sperrmüll is when you put your unwanted, unwieldy possessions out in the street at an allocated time for the council to pick up. Needless to say, the evening before the collection, the streets are full of people looking for gems to take home, and gems there certainly are; an American friend of mine in Koblenz back in the late '80's furnished his entire flat with Sperrrmüll, and it wasn't rubbish, either.

Tomorrow morning I start teaching at 8am; I'm intrigued to see how many of my students make it (not many, I hazard…).

That's the so-called pont suspendu, as it used to be a suspension bridge. In the background is the dome of a former hospital called La Grave. You couldn't make it up.