Archives for the month of: November, 2012

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What a crap day. It all deals with the fallout from my previous post about moving on the National Holiday, and the concierges who love to cause trouble.  I’ll save you this story (for now) except to say that the moving company did some minor damage to the common area of the building… and the Syndic is trying to get them to fix more than they should be obligated to fix. Oh, and the moving company is holding up their hands and saying ‘it wasn’t us’ (no one saw it… no one did it). Which ultimately leave my client financially responsible from their caution.

Hellz no. That’s not going to happen. Not on my watch. There was a lot of yelling going on today. Most of it in french. I was able to phase out most of the nonsense  while everyone talked over each other 🙂

So… I’m home now and I want a drink. A nice big glass of wine. A nice, quaffable italian white Frascati. And you know what… I’M PUTTING A FRICKIN’ ICE CUBE IN IT.  I like my wine chilled. Really, really chilled. And I’m willing to offend you wine snobs by diluting it was a piece of ice to get it even chillier.  Which was, by the way — to further offend you — the ice is made from plain old calc-heavy tap water.

So, wine snobs… you too can suck it.  I’m just in that mood this week.

(but don’t worry, I wont’ try this with a red — even I have my limits!)

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It’s been an intense week… I’m organising a move out of Monaco for one of my clients, and because the rental market is so ridiculously tight, we still haven’t found a new address to move into. So I’ve been sorting and organising to put contents in storage for the time being.

And I’ve had it all well in hand. Until around 6pm last night when the rug was pulled out from underneath me (not literally, the carpet is actually fine).

I received a text from the agent for the owner, who said that the Syndic (the group responsible for the building itself) has sent an terse email that they understood I would move the contents out on 19 November, the Monaco National Holiday, and that all citizens and residents of Monaco must respect the holiday and that the removal must not happen.

Holy frickin’ Merde!

Yes, I knew that the 19th was a National Holiday… in fact, one of the stricter ones in Monaco. HOWEVER, the moving company is not from Monaco. I am not a Monaco resident. And the police had already approved the parking and moving permit. So how could this happen, and so late in the game!?

Needless to say I was wound up in a tizzy, and couldn’t resolve the issue immediately as both the moving company was closed, and the police office was closed.  So I had to fret about it all night. And I did. So tired now….

Long story short:  The habitually UNHELPFUL concierge at the building complained to the Syndic that I was planning the move for the 19th, and as it was a National Holiday, they would not work. Ok. Well. For one thing, I have no need for the concierge for the move — they are a couple of useless twats who do nothing anyway, and complain about it. Secondly… THEY NEVER WORK ON MONDAYS. So what the hell difference would it make to them if it was a holiday or not???  I cannot comprehend why they would try to rock a boat that would have absolutely no effect on them whatsoever. What is with people???

Seriously, they are the worst concierges ever… they have refused to accept packages for us, and in one shocking instance, my client’s car was being towed, and the concierge just stood outside and watched them hoist it up on the truck…. didn’t even bother to buzz up to the apartment to let us know there was a problem. Instead, we got a call from the parking concierge from up the block, who knows us too, who saw it happening as he drove past, and SAW THE CONCIERGE WATCHING FROM THE SIDELINES. Incroyable.

These people must resent their jobs, and yet they have a cushy job where they are paid, provided with an apartment and parking in Monaco, and have very little to do to earn it.  Give the job to someone who would actually provide a service to the tenants, would you?  The apartment we are vacating will rent for 13,000 Euros per month. For that kind of money, the concierge should at LEAST be willing to accept a fucking FedEx package.

The police have confirmed that we have the authorisation to move, and to park as planned. And so the move starts at 9am on Monday morning.

The Syndic can suck it.

This is a story of how the term ‘Side Fringe’ does NOT translate literally to French. Also known as ‘the haircut that took a year to grow out’ , ‘It’s my own damn fault’ or ‘Ode to Michel’.

Trust me, it’s HARD to get a good haircut when you can’t communicate clearly. Even harder to argue your point if you’re not happy.

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Most women are pretty loyal to their hairstylist, and I’m no exception. I was with my stylist back in Toronto for at least 10 years, and when I first came to the South of France, I floundered trying to find a new stylist. I ‘let it go’ for the first few months to grow out my pixie cut, and, as a bit of an unexpected bonus, I got to see my natural hair colour for perhaps the first time in over a decade. But that didn’t last, as it was peppered with more grey than I remembered!

Anyway… fast forward a few years, and I found myself settled into a tiny apartment in Vieux Nice, and on a whim I decided to try a small and uber-trendy salon (way too cool for me!), just up my street.  And so I met Michel. He was so cool, he should have an entourage. I swear I felt like a glamourous celebrity every time I left the salon, and people would turn to stare as I flicked my golden locks as I cruised down the street. Okay, probably not… but how could they not admire his handiwork!  I was red-carpet ready!

My relationship with Michel lasted a good many years. When he told me he was leaving the salon, I followed like a lemming. How could I let anyone else touch my hair??? It had taken me years to find him!  I went regularly to his home for my touch ups and cuts, and I couldn’t imagine going to anyone else. I befriended his boyfriend, and his cats.  He even gave me my wedding updo, and my awesome “New Mommy” cut when my son was just born.

But, alas… all good things must come to an end. After more than five years, he told me he’s had enough of being a hairdresser, and he was changing his metier to something more personally rewarding… and the next thing I knew he was doing good work with mentally & physically challenged patients, and I had a silver stripe down the middle of my head. I was proud of him, and resented him all at the same time. Merde.

Back to square one… which led me to a quaint salon in my new neighbourhood. And here it started to go terribly wrong. The colour was never right. Too brassy. But anytime I tried to bring it up, I was scoffed as it was the ‘same colour since the beginning’ and it had no red in it. Maybe so, but I look in the mirror, and I see brassy. *sigh*  Okay, pick your battles… at least the ones you can articulate properly!

Let’s not even talk about the day she sent me home with some frizzed out ‘rock ‘n roll styling’, so bizarre that my husband told me I looked like something out a John Hughes movie when I walked in the door… and he never notices anything. Does she not get that I am a 40-something mother of a baby???

Winter came, and I wanted a change. I’d put on a few pounds of ‘new mom’ weight and wasn’t feeling terribly attractive. Hormones had made my skin patchy on my face.  I wanted side-fringe to shake things up, and get me through the season. Side fringe. “Frange sur le côté”.  I was pretty confident with my explanation. Right up until the moment she snipped an additional few centimetres of fringe on either side. Wowza… that is NOT a side fringe. That’s a full on blunt fringe, and I was NOT feeling it. My stomach sank, and I sucked it up and told her it was certainly ‘different’ and that I would give it a try. As if I had a choice. She told me it was very au courant, very trendy. I thought I looked like my mom, who is NONE OF THOSE THINGS.

Since then, I’ve discovered a very important lesson. Ladies, the phrase ‘frange sur le côté’ does NOT EXIST. Side fringe is ‘meche côté’.  Yes, meche is also the translation for highlights. I can forgive myself for being confused. I could forgive my stylist. It was my own damn fault. Kinda sorta.

That stylist has recently left the salon. I stuck with her for 2 years, only because I didn’t want to go through the steps of finding someone else new (and they have an awesome massage chair for when your hair is getting rinsed — I highly recommend every salon do this!). Eventually, she understood me. More or less. No movie star moments… but beyond the fringe that took a year to grow out, no more horrid hair moments.

I just had a rendez-vous with her replacement today. I was all a-jitter, anxious about getting another bad cut… but he did well. I got my “frange a côté”, just the way I wanted it. Next time, the meche. And if I’m lucky, maybe he can sort that brassiness. Baby steps!

But I still miss my Michel. I’d like to feel like a movie star again, even if just for the 5 minute walk home from the salon.

I’ve been hanging around the south of France for about 10 years or so now, and one of the things I do lament, every year, is the lack of Halloween (and fall foliage, *sigh*).

Now that Buddy is nearing three, I thought it would be a great time to teach him a little Canadian Halloween heritage. And bring a bit of my favourite holiday to France, much to my Kiwi hubby’s chagrin. There was a lot of eye-rolling going on in our house this past week!

Now Halloween in France is a pretty dismal thing. There is no trick or treating. There are very few parties or events unless you live in an expat-heavy community (i.e. Monaco, Sophia-Antipolis, Nice) and there is a decided lack of candy in the supermarket aisles!

Don’t get me wrong… the French have been celebrating the ‘dead’ for centuries themselves around this time, just in vastly different ways. We North Americans celebrate it with costume parties, jack o lanterns and candy filled trick-or-treat outings. The French celebrate ‘Toussaints’ (All Saints), by visiting cemeteries and remembering the dead. And attending church.

But I think the North American tradition is starting to take hold a bit more every year. Communities seem to be holding little Halloween parties for kids… and what I’ve noticed (and love) is that the costumes are mostly in the ghoulish realm:  ghosts, skeletons, witches, wizards… I didn’t see a ‘sexy whatever-it-is’ anywhere, or any cartoon cute characters on the kids. The French seem to have embraced the ‘dead’ in Halloween better than the North Americans… although we do have Carnival to look forward to in February where we can all get kitted out in our cartoonish finest and whoop it up for 2 weeks of parades and fancy dress parties.

So our first task was to find a pumpkin to make dude’s first Jack ‘o Lantern. Not as easy as you would think!!!  I did manage to find some okay (smallish) pumpkins in the Carrefour supermarket in Monaco. None were found in any of the local markets.  Pumpkin, in French, is ‘Citrouille’… but not these ones. I kid you not, they were labelled as ‘Gourdes de Halloween’ in the supermarket. A nod to the Americanism of Halloween. AND they were 6 Euros apiece, which is probably close to 10 bucks. For a tiny little pumpkin. Don’t even get me started on how much it costs to buy a cob of corn (if one can be found).

So Buddy and I rolled up our sleeves for the fun and messy task of carving his very first pumpkin. Let me clarify. Buddy scooped what he could with a spoon so he didn’t have to get his hands dirty. I thought boys LOVED to get dirty???  He had carte blanche to get mucked up, and said no. Mon Dieu.

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All the same, less than an hour later we had our first Jack ‘o Lantern, art directed by a toddler. And a container of seeds to be roasted in butter and salt. Truly Canadian!  Jackie O was lit, every night, for the dinner hour. I suppose if I carried tradition over then I could teach him to smash the pumpkin on the road now that Halloween is over and done… but I’m pretty sure our neighbours would all know it was us!  Expats to tend to stick out like a sore thumb sometimes! No anonymity in our hood!

Expat friends invited us out to their house for a Halloween Party, and we braved the horrid weather so Buddy could enjoy his first real Halloween. He wore his cape for all of two minutes before discarding it for the rest of the evening. But the company was great, the kids had a blast, and our roasted pumpkin seeds were a surprise hit (how many times did I have to assure a Brit that YES, you really do eat them!).

I’ve heard tell that the charming town of Valbonne, which has a big expat community, has it’s own special french tradition nowadays…. the kids go through the narrow old town streets calling out whatever the french equivalent is for ‘Trick or Treat’ (we’ve got a year to find out what that is!), and then the residents just toss it out of the windows for the kids to scramble and catch. That’s how door-to-door works in the narrow cobblestone streets of an old village I guess, where most residents are in upper floors!   We’ll have to wait and find out next year, as it was bucketing down rain this year.

Happy Halloween folks.