Archive for July, 2012

Petit Coucou de Provence

July 12, 2012

Taking a sunset walk across the famous “champs de lavande” in Provence. Photo by Margaret Ko.

un petit coucou – a little hello
un champ – a field
la lavande – lavender
en attendant – in the meantime

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”
― J.K. Rowling

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” ― Pablo Picasso


Recently, I made a deal with a friend that I would commit to posting to my blog at least once a week, “even if I only had time to upload a photo”.  I’ve got a lot on the go at the moment, so it looks like this is going to be one of those weeks!

The aforementioned agreement constitutes part of our mutual effort to kick our own butts and stay creative by being disciplined about writing/producing/what have you on a regular basis, adhering strictly to our own self-imposed deadlines, even when we “don’t have the time”. Even when we don’t feel like it.  Even if the end result won’t be “perfect”.

It’s that last one that will be the biggest struggle for me, a self-confessed chronic perfectionist.  But I’ve also come to realize that it doesn’t matter how perfect an idea is if it only ever exists in my head. I can (and have) easily spend years mulling over an idea, picking it apart, speculating about the best way to put it into motion… but never actually putting anything down on paper. I think that on some level I feel that if I don’t take any concrete steps towards making that idea a reality, it’s still possible for it to turn out perfectly—and in effect, it does get to stay perfect… in my imagination. But the funny thing is that I always feel so much happier once I’ve actually just gone ahead and accomplished said idea/task/goal, even if the results are not exactly what I had hoped. And even if I’m not totally satisfied, the great thing about producing creative work on an ongoing basis is that there’s always the next project, waiting for me to do better. Continue reading »

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Fifty Shades of Grey

July 3, 2012
Not even the rainy weather could deter these tourists from admiring la belle Tour Eiffel from the outlook at Trocadero Gardens.

C’est penible – it’s horrible; it’s awful
la météo – the weather report
Météo France – France Weather, the French national weather bureau
grisaille – grey (and dreary) weather
temps pluvieux – rainy weather
le moral – morale
la pluie, toujours la pluie – rain, rain and more rain
lunettes de soleil – sunglasses
un maillot de bain – a bathing suit
une terrasse – a terrace, a patio
un accessoire de mode – fashion accessory
un parapluie – an umbrella
Paname – an affectionate French nickname for Paris
SNCF – France’s national state-owned railway company
ensoleillé(e)(s) – sunny
desinations ensoleillées – sunny destinations
se changer les idées – to clear one’s head; to take one’s mind off of things
réchauffer le cœur – to warm the heart
le paysage – landscape
la crème solaire – sunscreen
une robe d’été – summer dress
le soleil – sun
spontanément – impulsively, in the moment
un boucle – a loop
un boucle à véloa bike trip; a bike tour
les champs de lavande – the lavender fields
se faire du bien – to do one good (me faire du bien – to do me good)

 

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« En juin, trop de pluie, et le jardinier s’ennuie. »
(“Too much rain in June and the gardener languishes.”)
– French saying


This spring and summer has been one of the rainiest that Paris has seen in a very long time. Day after day, I wake up, throw open the window and look hopefully up at the sky, only to be greeted with endless clouds of grey and an unrelenting rain that continues to fall without pity. C’est pénible.

From April 1 to June 21, Paris received 330 mm of rain.  In June alone, the city recorded 98.5 mm of rainfall – nearly twice the normal average for this time of year. Last week, Météo France confirmed it—this June has been one of the rainiest Paris has seen in the last 50 years. On June 21, we hit 48 days of rain since the beginning of spring.  June 24 marked 49.  I’m starting to feel like I’m living out some kind of alternate and, sadly for me, much less racy version of Fifty Shades of Grey – or rather, Fifty Shades of Grisaille.

All this temps pluvieux has not been good for le moral.  “Je n’en peux plus de ce temps merdique !” my friend Jen texted me the other day in despair. (“I can’t take any more of this sh*tty weather!”)  It’s a sentiment shared by many. I have a new appreciation for the lyrics to the early 90s pop song by French group Au P’tit Bonheur : “J’veux du soleil ! J’veux du soleil ! J’veux du soleil !” (“I want sun! I want sun! I want sun!”) Continue reading »

To Canada, With Love from Paris

July 1, 2012
“L’Express Special Edition – Moving to Canada: All the Keys to Success”


Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, at home and abroad!

It’s a funny thing being an expat—I have never felt more Canadian now that I live outside of my country than I ever did while I was living in it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been really proud of my Canadian heritage.  Like most other Canucks, I get all excited and puff up with some bizarre sort of delighted pride when our neighbours to the south poke fun at us in films and sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock and Family Guy (probably because, I suspect, someone on their writing staff is Canadian).  I occasionally crave poutine when I’ve been drinking it’s cold out, I know all the lyrics to If I Had A Million Dollars—including the banter about gourmet ketchup—and when somebody says, “If I wanted water…”, I know exactly how to finish the sentence.  I followed the events of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics with zealous fervour, and I was part of the ecstatic, flag-waving crowd celebrating with national pride in Toronto’s Dundas Square when we beat out the Americans in a nail-biting overtime game to take home the Olympic gold in hockey.

But all that aside, for the most part, being Canadian was something that had always been kind of a given.  You’d trot it out when you were rooting for your favourite team, during national elections, when you were good-naturedly mocking your American friends for forgetting their “u”s… and then you mostly forgot about it.  When everybody around you is also Canadian, it’s not something really something that you tend to think about on a daily basis.

When you live abroad however, the first thing that people ask you once they realize you’re not local is, “Where do you come from?” Over here, I probably tell somebody that I’m Canadian at least once a week, if not more.  And there’s always that instant, spontaneous reaction—positive or negative—upon hearing your response. Just naming your country conjures up all sorts of preconceived notions and connotations about your background that influence how other people interact with you. I’m proud to report that most of the time, saying I’m Canadian elicits a big smile, followed by a comment along the lines of, “Ah, le Canada ! Il est beau, ce pays !” (“Oh, Canada! It’s a really beautiful country!”) or “J’y suis allé une fois et les gens étaient vraiment sympas !” (“I went there one time and the people were so friendly!”)

Living abroad, you also somehow become THE representative for All Canadians, Everywhere. When Canadian politics or culture come up in a discussion, my French friends will turn to me quizzically and ask me to explain why something is a certain way in Canada, or why Canadians have such-and-such an opinion. Ummm….  (As somebody who has never really been into politics, I’ve been somewhat shamed into following them from abroad, just so that I can answer their questions.)  When Canadian murderer Luke Magnotta fled our borders to hang out in Paris cafés, everybody suddenly wanted to talk to me about it. And when I do or say something out of the (French) ordinary that aggravates or pleases a friend of mine, that behavior isn’t just seen as my own, it’s also “typically Canadian”. I remember one time being reluctant to complain about a dessert that didn’t come exactly as described in the menu, and being scolded by my friend Jean-François: “Non, mais Darlene, arrête de faire la Canadienne ! Tu ne vas pas payer six euros pour un moelleux au chocolat qui n’est pas moelleux !” (“No Darlene, stop being so Canadian! You’re not going to pay six euro for a chocolate lava cake that doesn’t come with any lava!”) Continue reading »

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