The other “B” word…

That is, “bordel”…..commonly used in French to describe an absolutely, feckin’ enormous mess! I learned this word from my father in law maaaany years ago when he was describing Hubby’s technique for loading suitcases into the boot (trunk) of the car πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Had a character-building bordel experience last Sunday morning after a fab few hours browsing and buying at an awesome brocante. Having secured a painting that he loved, from an artist whose work he collected, father in law decided that it was time to go home for lunch πŸ™„ Hell hath no fury like an Irishwoman interrupted mid-shopping πŸ˜‚….anyway, “good girl” kicked in, so l left him guarding our purchases while I trekked over 1km to retrieve the car. This was bordel part 1…..beautiful little French village, totally unprepared for onslaught of cars for brocante, meant that we were parked “some” distance away. It was a lovely morning, so I was happy for the walk. Anyway….get to car & realise that I’ll have to drive in opposite direction to find a spot to turn around to go back & retrieve father in law. Not a problem…..2+ kms later, perform an illegal 7 point turn in someone’s driveway πŸ˜… Tootling back along the road when I come face to face with a Frenchwoman driving one of those enormous (in my view) Chrysler people carriers. Now, we were on a little boreen (Irish for small road), with cars parked all along one side….and nowhere to pass each other…..πŸ™ƒ So, muggins here decides to reverse enough to allow monster truck to pass……1.5kms later….in reverse….on the “wrong” side of the road (for me), and without hitting a single wing mirror πŸ‘πŸ‘ I finally find a spot to pull in so that she could get past, which she did, without so much as a little wave to say “thank you” (which would constitute social death in Ireland btw). So, feeling just a tad annoyed (understatement of the year!!), off I trundle a second time, down the boreen, to collect father in law. Yes, of course, I run into another car, driven by a young, arrogant, French prick (who stared aggressively & swore at me), Β and yes, I reversed again…..then gave him the 1 finger salute (in retrospect, blowing kisses at him would have annoyed him more, kicking myself that I didn’t do that….damn!!). Finally returned to father in law, who wasn’t wearing his hearing aid that day & therefore missed all my bordel references, as I tried to get him into the car as quickly as possible while we blocked a car park exit…..what an utter bordel!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

The French dinner table

IMG_3099.JPGSurvived not one, but two, family dining occasions this week πŸ˜… French family dining occasions tend to involve multiple, very animated,Β conversations at once, so it’s a challenge for a less than fluent French speaker to keep up. The secret is to find the person who speaks the slowest and avoid giving yourself whiplash by trying to keep up with everything!! πŸ˜‚

The first occasion was my niece in law’s 13th Birthday….family lunch in Paris…..my niece was adopted in Ethiopia when she was 9 months old and is quite the young Parisienne (she loves clothes!), the highlight of the day for me was when her Mum told her that the absolutely best gift she ever received was when she left Ethiopia with my her in her arms. My niece’s face lit up, must admit, there was a tear in my eye 😊

The second occasion was one that I had hoped to avoid…..the Parisian dinner party 😱😱 If you’ve ever seen a French film, you’ll know that it is not sufficient to show up, with a few bottles of something nice, and chat to people. Non, non, non….one’s brain must be fully alert to the “subtext” conversation, primed to respond with lots of witty, well-timed banter….it’s like double entendres on speed! Happily, the other dinner party guests were Hubby’s cousins and in-laws (so, not quite hostile! πŸ˜‚) and some generous pours of wine lubricated the conversation 🍷 My only faux pas was offering the first guests a glass of champagne before the others arrived…..quelle horreur!! 😱🍾πŸ₯‚ After an awkward 10 minutes, while we all sat there looking at the bottle πŸ˜‚ my Mother in law relented and allowed me to serve it!

My Father in law is an absolute art fanatic, so he very kindly brought me to my first ever art auction house in Paris. I fell in love with a piece, and submitted a pre-bid as the sale was the following day. Received an email earlier today advising that my bid was successful! See photo above, it’s titled “The woman with the big heart” and was created in 1966 πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰

My first countryside flea market is tomorrow morning, so, in a step towards risk mitigation on the driving front, I asked my Father in law if he would accompany me on a test drive to the village in question. So, armed with: Google Maps (hilarious French pronounciation in an Aussie accent….not knocking it….was very, very happy to hear it!!), Father in law’s Michelin map, print out I’d brought with me and the car’s GPS…..off we set 🚘 The good news is that we found the village (thank you, thank you Google Maps πŸ‘πŸ‘), the not so good news is that I had “Poutain” (whore) shouted at me by a very charming French woman. Father in law was anxious that I understand that she was referring to my driving and not me personally πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚

I’m writing this while sitting outside a cafe. Have belatedly realised that I was supposed to order at the counter……think I’d better move on before I get shouted at again!! Happy Friday everyone πŸ˜€ xx

The Fragility of Trust

So, what was it that finally made me question a corporate life? Many things, I guess, but there are a few that stand out as mind-changing….

The first was a growing unease that what I was doing day to day was not having a positive impact in our world. In previous roles, I could always clearly link the output of my work to supporting others (customers) when they most needed it. This was very important to me, and the teams I led, and a source of some pride. It wasn’t just about the technology, it was about doing the right thing by customers.

The second was when I started to feel misled, and flat out deceived, by my 2 bosses in my shiny new role at B3 (Big Balls Bank). The resources and budget that had been confirmed during the interview process just did not exist. Not only that, the process and means to address this were out of reach. However, I pride myself on being able to solve problems (have always enjoyed “fixing” situations), so determinedly carried on fire-fighting, strategising and making tough calls, with no team and no budget, but managing to deliver some really good wins anyway. My technology boss was happy because she didn’t have to worry about my customers (no “noise” is good), and my business boss (and his team) took delight in continuously pointing out & rehashing every issue that ever existed in how the larger technology team supported them….most of which I could do nothing about as it was before my time. However, that didn’t stop me from taking it onboard and feeling responsible…..being a “good girl” has been part of my make-up for a very long time. I started to dread our executive team meetings and the inevitable tech bashing that would occur (it felt increasingly personal). As I learned, being constructive and transparent only works when there’s a degree of reason being used by all parties.

The third was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As my Mum got sicker and sicker, I was sleeping less and less, always on edge, unable to relax if I hadn’t spoken to her that day (nighttime in my case). At work, I was asked to take on a second customer team, which I was very happy to do, seeing it as acknowledgement that I was doing a good job. However, after 4 weeks of throwing myself into it, I was brought up short when my new client executive was surprised to learn that I was still looking after my old client team. She had been working under the assumption that I was assigned to her full-time (what the…..??!). Turns out that my technology boss hadn’t advised her of this, even though she knew that the client wanted a dedicated technology executive…..unbelievable……a few days later, I left for Ireland as Mum went into the hospice. My technology boss called me at home a week after Mum died to advise that I was being taken off my new client account, and that she was going to circulate a message saying that I was having a hard time in my personal life, so she was lightening my work load…..unfuckingbelievable……even though I was in bed running a temp of 40, I had enough wits about me to disagree and request that she “position it” using the facts…..which were that the client wanted a dedicated technology exec. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, there was no communication, leaving an awkward vacuum and me to explain it to anyone who asked (most people assumed that I’d stuffed it up somehow). I felt very embarrassed and used, and pretty disgusted that anyone would use the death of my Mum as an excuse to cover up their mistake. It wasn’t until a few months later that she apologised, and only then after I raised it with her.

Roll forward a few months from this, the frustration of being a small cog in a giant wheel, coupled with the near impossibility of getting things done without being a paid up member of the back-slapping political boys’ club that was technology at B3, and I had had enough. I was dreading going into the office, the job was literally making me sick. This is NOT who I am. I DON’T do victim-hood. Having decided to leave, it was fortuitous that I got laid off (though I’d have preferred to be the one in charge of the timing 😬). Being a mug to the end, I’d worked most of a public holiday and until 10pm the night before I was laid off πŸ€“ The “good girl” lives……

There’s Perrier in the beer fridge….

…..so don’t panic!! If it’s necessary to re-hydrate at 6am before hitting the flea market, and push comes to shove, there’s expensive fizzy water to be had in the beer (minibar) fridge πŸ˜… and, no doubt, the disco shower will be a great help!! Unfortunately, for a woman who normally doesn’t set foot outside the front door without an Alka Seltzer on her person, am strangely an AS-free zone…..😬😬 Not good, but at least I do have some Solpadeine on me (tho completely forgot to buy some when in Ireland, so now they’re only to be used in “special circumstances” (like a 6am hangover)).

Bucket List Bliss

So, today was “collect the hire car day”, having NEVER driven on the “other” side of the road before, ever, ever….what could possibly go wrong?? It started off well when I only had to explain to my Father-in-law approx 10 times exactly why I was collecting the car today when I only really needed it from 7am on Sunday, this included during the walk to the EuropCar office (“but there’s no parking until after 4.00pm”!!) and while standing at the counter!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Safely tucked into the car, we then proceeded to exit the most ridiculously narrow (for a car hire place) olde worlde stone tunnel/exit…..this was accompanied by a screeeeeching….griiiiinding noise as I scraped the passenger side of the car along the wall of the exit πŸ™„πŸ™„ Great job missus πŸ‘πŸ‘Β I’d only just opted for the full insurance package (waaaaay cheaper at the counter FYI) so drove off resolving to deal with it another day (what is happening to me??!).Β After a 3 mins drive to my in-laws’ home, we found not one, but two (yay!!), parking spaces πŸ˜€πŸ‘ confidently headed for the first one & immediately realised it was too narrow (I’d booked a tank-like care in case of “driving on the wrong side of the road” accidents πŸ€“πŸ€“). Unfortunately, this realisation dawned AFTER I’d raced into the spot (before a Frenchie driver beat me to it) and proceeded to get stuck at a 45 degree angle between a Range Rover and a Renault. Admit it, we’ve all done this at some point!! My Father-in-law has now seen me sweat buckets, swearing like a drunken sailor during > 10 mini reverses & forwards to extricate “tiny the tank”. Miraculously, the other space was still empty and tiny the tank is now elegantly parked, at an angle, next to a tree πŸ˜€πŸŒ³πŸŒ² If the French traffic wardens give out tickets for bad parking, I’m in big trouble!!

After all that, and having established that my Mother-in- law doesn’t have a secret stash of Xanax(!), a quick train trip to Paris got me to where I’m staying tonight….OFF Paris Seine….somewhere I’ve wanted to stay since it opened last year πŸ˜€ It’s a floating hotel (with a giant inflatable flamingo πŸ‘πŸ‘) next to Gare d’Austerlitz, in the 13th arrondissement. Yes, you can feel a floating sensation….so not for those with a tendency to sea sickness. Really, really happy I did this, the bar is perfect for Friday night drinks, the bar team is fun and chatty, and the view is exactly what I imagined πŸ˜€πŸ₯‚ Happy Friday! xx

Hand Wipes

Went to “fait les courses” (“run errands”….apologies right now for rusty French/dodgy spelling & grammar!) with my Mother-in-law. Maintaining my glorious track record of causing havoc in French supermarket checkouts (Hubby is still embarrassed about a certain exploding box incident in Burgundy this Summer….not to mention the new English swear words that the entire checkout line learned πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚), I was swiftly overtaken in bag packing by an elderly lady who MUST have been at least 90. Thankfully, French people don’t “tut” so I could only imagine the disapproving looks about the delay 😬

Fresh from my latest international incident, visited a giant “depot” with my Father-in-law to check out lots of attic contents. Very happy to say that it’s official…..the first objets have been purchased (some pics above)! We managed to get a little discount (7%) but I learned that if it’s not an actual market, haggling isn’t really welcome 😬 Needless to say, also spotted lots of larger items that were interesting (my favourite was an enormous timber wardrobe, the size of 2 portaloos (seriously, you could walk around in it!), that would have made an awesome outdoor room), however, not quite in that space just yet πŸ˜‰ Second lesson of the day: bring hand wipes when digging around in old stuff!