Jul 31, 2009

My friends from Mars

I've had a surprisingly productive week. As if last week, and the tumultuous weekend, somehow had a cleansing effect on me. With renewed energy, I managed to slog though 5 client interviews, over a dozen brand new powerpoint slides, one intense pilates session, a run in Hyde Park and many, many kilometers of walking. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

I have also been quite busy preparing for a date. And what began as a rather anodyne attempt to get myself out of the house has now turned into a full-blown comedy routine, with friends and co-workers getting actively involved.

On the girl side, it's been mostly about using the event as an excuse to go shopping (as if I ever need an excuse to go shopping). I suspect, however, that the girls' participation will increase threefold as soon as the date is over, through the lengthy and intricate debriefing process.

It's the boys that have provided the most entertainment.

First, there was the venue advice. One by one, they came to me to disclose, in hushed tones, the name of their "favourite date place". With a wink and a smile they deposited address after address as if bestowing upon me the Crown jewels themselves.

Then came the big-brotherly concern. The enquiries into the young man's background, professional qualifications, references and intentions. The stern requests to review any available photographs, no no, not out of girly curiosity, but to check that he had the "right kind of look about him". Right.

And finally, today, an entire oenology course conducted via messenger with my lovely OBT "El Culinary Genius" Buddy in Madrid.

Buddy: So, have fun tonight.
Res: I will.
Buddy: What kind of wine will you have?
Res: Ummm, I don't know... why?
Buddy: You should have a wine you really enjoy.
Res: Uh, ok, how about... white?
Buddy: Which one?
Res: Ummm... a nice one? The Boy liked Sancerre. Maybe that one?
Buddy: Sancerre sucks. I thought you were French. What's the matter with you? Are you some kind of retard?
Res: Well...
Buddy: What do you like? Dry? Fruity? Tall? Short? Kick-ass? With a bitchin' sense of humour? [or something to that effect]
Res: Huh?
Buddy: Here. Read this. Memorize it. Get back to me.
[Sends over large amounts of info, that reads like an instruction manual for the Hubble telescope]

[Long pause, as Res' eyes pour over the screen frantically]

Res: Ah. Graves. I've heard of that. That's quite nice, eh?
Buddy: Yes. You can have that.
Res: Ok. I always thought it was called "Graves" because it was a serious wine.
Buddy: [groan...]
Res: But it says here it's because it's gravelly.
Buddy: Yes.
Res: Not the wine, though, I hope? Because I wouldn't want any crunchy wine, would I?
Buddy: [pat pat]

Jul 29, 2009


Saw an article in Courrier International today about a new strain of swine flu that is Tamiflu-resistant. This is not a good sign for London, where the piggy virus has already cut through large swathes of the population (including half my team).
Mostly I just really like the picture, though.

Jul 28, 2009

Res Ipsa's Paris Updated!

Catch the latest seasonal recommendations on Res Ipsa's Paris.
And enjoy the fact that you're actually in Paris right now rather than rainy London like some people...

What's with the smiley-face?!

I don't know if someone put Kool-Aid in my latte recently, but I've started feeling positively cheerful. Bordering on chipper. And since I've never shied away from expressing my deepest, darkest winters of discontent on these pages, I figured my obligations as a balanced, objective reporter of my life required me to disclose my present state of contentment.

Trouble is, it's not quite as fun to write about.

"What on earth happened?!", I hear you cry (the role of "you" this evening is being played by my pesky inner voices).

Well, fundamentally, I think that after a while all those people who care about me and went out of their way to cheer me up finally wore me down. Even my steroid-fuelled "reds" were no match for the outpour of hugging. I'm telling you, hug me and I'm a goner.

So, if you want to see more lengthy lamentations and litanies of fury, send over something annoying and hug-retardant like swine flu and I should be back to my old self in no time.

Jul 25, 2009

A la semaine prochaine

This has been a strange week. There were some nice moments (my induction into the bendy world of pilates, courtesy of Houston Hottie; meeting a fellow blogger over a lovely Korean meal) but also a lot of really painful ones (Death and The Boy: should be a play title, or maybe a Schubert symphony).

All in all I'm glad I made it through in one piece. More or less. Next week should be better: Legal Soldier is coming back from Afghanistan on leave, and I might pick up some plane tickets to an Italian reunion. Wipe the slate clean on this shitty week and start a new one.

This evening was rather special, though. While I had pretty much decided I would be spending the evening in a foetal position on my sofa, listening to the sounds of the wedding party from the restaurant below, my dear Ozzie friend managed to rouse me from my stupor and drag me to.... Paris Plage. It may come as a shock but I had in fact never been to Paris Plage before, having always felt too busy to go visit what I assumed was some kind of over-crowded, dingy tourist trap. And a lot of it probably is. But we managed to grab dinner at an ad hoc crêperie, our little table snuggled right up against the river with an amazing view of the sun setting over the Ile de la Cité.

So my choices were topping off a miserable week by crying myself to sleep, or drinking rosé with a friend on the river. I think I made the right choice. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Jul 21, 2009

Tic toc

6 am: Alarm rings. It's that annoying Antelope ring tone from the Blackberry, since I don't have my cool "wake up to your ipod alarm" from home. I mumble onomatopoeic curses and hit snooze.

6.10: Ditto.

6.20: Again.

6.50: Oh shit. I should really get up now.

7 am: Comfortably settled on the 1970s sofa watching BBC Breakfast on a 1980s television, with a bowl of Special K (that nice one with the red berries in it) and a similarly-sized bowl of coffee. My brain isn't completely awake yet but, from what I can tell, the news looks bad. And rainy.

8 am: Yes, I can confirm, it is raining. This is annoying as it appears I just missed my bus.

8.20: Where the hell is the bus? My new shoes are getting wet!

8.30: This is actually one of my favourite London things: riding a double-decker bus. Now if only that American woman sitting opposite wasn't so bloody shrill.

8.50: OK, so I'm a bit late this morning. The good thing is no one in this office knows who I am so I'm pretty sure they don't care.

9.30: Having fun proofreading some slides now. Aligning a couple boxes. Making sure it looks like we can spell. There we go, my value-add for the day is done. Time to call Mom.

10.30: Team "problem-solving" session. Basically this is when the partners glance at a couple slides for 30 seconds and tell us we're full of shit. Except we already knew that.

12.30: Lunch, i.e. overcooked rice trying to pass as paella and a brownie (or two) in a stuffy, windowless room. A woman at my table is conducting an in-depth analysis of the financial crisis. I wonder what she's on.

2.30 pm: Client call. I do my cheery, friendly bit where I actually act like a human and for which I have become a bit of a legend around here. I let my teammate do the content stuff. The client is happy and tells us he's now going off on a 6-week holiday. I'm literally green with envy. Maybe I need some fake tan or something.

3.30 pm: I start writing this blog post. What?! I'm entitled to a break...

Jul 19, 2009

Amicalement votre

Dear London,

I'm back. Did you miss me? Somehow I don't remember it being so cold when I saw you last. Ah well, you were always one to pull off a chill in the middle of July. I suppose it's part of your charm.

It's nice being in the old neighbourhood again, far away from the dangers of your whizzing-cabbies-center. Your quiet streets and locked-up gardens (very Frances Hodgson Burnett) are more my style.

Like you, despite my contemporary exterior I am a creature of habit and tradition. On Sunday, the classic brunch at PJs with the girls, where after 5 years I still always have the eggs florentine. The casual saunter past the shop fronts around the Bibendum (oh wait! shoes!) and the boy-talk over fruit cocktails on Fulham.

Of course, it's your French quarter I love. Don't be offended, you can take the girl out of Paris but...; well, you know how it is.

Let's you and I stay friends.



Jul 17, 2009

Putting my house in order: Introducing Res Ipsa's Paris

So maybe breaking up the Definitive Guide to My Little Corner of Paris wasn't such a good idea. All those wonderful pearls of wisdom could get lost in the oyster-farm of my messy life, if I'm not careful.

To avoid this cataclysm, I have gathered it all here, and will continue updating it for your visiting pleasure.

On a totally random note, why does wisdom always come in pearls? Why not sapphires of wisdom, or diamonds of wisdom, or little cherry tomatoes of wisdom?

Jul 15, 2009

L'étendard sanglant est levé

After I left the doctor's office this morning, I held a little parade of my own down the Champs Elysees. In my mind, passers-by cheered as I brandished my double tall skinny latte. In reality, the air was filled with pungent horsey-ness and people gave me strange looks as I walked around in the baking sun in my fleece. Can't seem to get warm, lately.

Once I decided I'd walked long enough for it to qualify as exercise, I headed home, curled up on the sofa and proceeded to ignore the rest of the world as I consumed an entire season of Bones DVDs (N and P, I blame you for planting that thought in my head). There's just something about blood, gore, and barely concealed sexual tension that really works to take your mind off things. Have to find something else to do for the rest of the week, though, or my eyeballs may fall out of my head (and because they haven't released the next season yet).

Fortunately, tomorrow I get to interrupt my sick leave to go to the office for my performance evaluation. Yippee, just what the doctor ordered. At least it will get me out of the house.

On another note, seeing as I've done a lot of complaining lately, I was reminded that I had once, long ago, made a resolution to regularly list five things I'm happy about. Never one to shirk from a challenge, here are my five things:

1. I've gotten warm fuzzies from lots of people who care.
2. It's sunny.
3. David Boreanaz.
4. I have perfected the art of scrambling eggs and am now officially the world's best potential girlfriend.
5. I'm still not smoking.

Jul 11, 2009

Talk more about ME...

For years I have been obsessed (well, maybe not obsessed exactly, maybe more like "recurrently titillated") by accounts of foreigners in France. Especially Paris. I blame Hemingway.

In particular, I love it when foreigners explain the mystery that is the French(wo)man and his/her unique vision du monde. I'm not being ironic, I do actually find it eye-opening. In fact, I have a little project sous le coude that is not entirely unrelated to this issue. But more about that later.

So after the NY Times' Guide to the French, I bring you culinary author David Lebovitz's "15 Things I'd Miss About Paris If I Moved Away" (go read the detail on his blog, you'll love it):

1. The dorky sense of fashion (prevalent in a slightly older segment of the population)

2. The lack of wacky diets and exercise freaks (we love carbs and fatty cheeses)

3. Vélib' (Res confession time: I still haven't tried it, being more of a (fabulous) shoe on sidewalk kinda girl)

4. Les jeunes hommes with impossibly small waistlines (well, ummm, actually I prefer my men not to be thinner than me...)

5. The brusque-ness (yes)

6. The sense of humour (sometimes)

7. The butter (especially if employed in the making of a croissant)

8. The cheap (and drinkable) wine (obviously)

9. The lack of beating-around-the-bush (or "turning around the pot", as I like to call it; goes with the brusque-ness, if you're thinking something, just say it!)

10. You can get anything you want by flirting (in fact, sometimes the only way to get what you want is by flirting; consider it a rite of passage)

11. The volatility (for those puritan Anglos who may not have heard of it, it's called "passion"; the Spanish will know what I'm talking about)

12. Dining in restaurants (especially with cheap and drinkable wine)

13. Cafés (toujours)

14. Cutting in line (what line?)


15. The bakeries (ok, now I've gone and made myself hungry)

Now it's your turn. If you're a foreigner in Paris, or used to be a foreigner in Paris (interpret that how you wish), what are the things you'd miss?

SPF - Apologies for the fromage

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.
- Baz Luhrmann

I know you've been hurting, but I've been waiting to be there for you...
- Nigel Swanston, Tim Cox

Jul 9, 2009


I've always worked in a male-dominated environment. In fact, I've mostly grown up, studied and socialised in male-dominated environments as well. Sometimes it feels like my environment is so male-dominated, that even the girls are guys.

When I say male, I don't mean just physiologically having all the right bits, or being loud, brash, football-loving, beer-drinking hooligans (though sometimes they are). No, when I say male, I mean alpha-male.

As in:
Emotions are for pansies
Abuse just makes you stronger
I make all the obligatory, PC noises about work-life balance but balance is for pansies
I bring my blackberry into the delivery room
I'm on a conference call when I go into surgery
I show up to work straight from my mother's funeral
I eat pansies for breakfast

Now I have been called an "alpha-bitch" in the past (at least once that I know of, and probably several times behind my back) but in reality I'm just a big girl. It's a chronic condition, but one that's been getting more acute with age. Now I cry at work. Regularly. For stupid reasons like getting yelled at, dumped by email during a meeting or being severely sleep-deprived. I also get sick. Like now. When that happens, I end up stranded in bed with my mother's chicken soup, feeling utterly useless. And none of my team's cheerful "relax and get well soon" emails are making me feel any less useless.

Maybe I'm not so good at the alpha game. I'm pretty sure the alpha-males never feel useless. And they never get sick. Getting sick is for pansies.

Jul 5, 2009


I finally wrote a letter to my friend M today. That's post-worthy for two reasons. First, because when I say I wrote a letter, I actually mean a letter. Not a facebook message. Not an email. Not a skype-text. An actual letter with a piece of paper that I scribbled on myself, with a pen, before putting it in an envelope, licking it shut (I'd forgotten that tangy, unpleasant taste that envelopes have) and popping a stamp on it. A real 1990s experience.

The second reason for posting about my letter to M is he's the one who upped and left his law-firm life, decided to use his legal skills in the service of his country and is now at some undisclosed location in Afghanistan. This is not some big, beefy guy who enjoyed playing wargames on his Playstation and decided to try out the real thing. This guy is your typical, 30-something slightly unfit lawyer (or he was, anyway; the latest pictures seem to suggest that becoming a soldier is even more effective than shelling out for a personal trainer).

In any event, there he is, in some hot, arid place where people who don't know how incredibly funny he can be have decided they don't like him and are employing their best efforts to blow him to pieces.

Given those circumstances, I found the letter-writing a bit tricky. What do you say to someone whose daily life is now mostly filled with trying not to get killed? What exactly is the right tone? Is there an etiquette book that has a chapter on "writing war letters" that women in the 40s used as a handy reference text?

Well, M being M, and me being me, I went for funny. Hopefully that was the right call.

* * *

For fun, a few words from Emily Post on the subject of letter-writing, published in 1922:

THE ART of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a post-card... to-day people don’t care a bit whether they write well or ill. Mental effort is one thing that the younger generation of the “smart world” seems to consider it unreasonable to ask—and just as it is the fashion to let their spines droop until they suggest nothing so much as Tenniel’s drawing in Alice in Wonderland of the caterpillar sitting on the toad-stool—so do they let their mental faculties relax, slump and atrophy.

And to close, Ms. Post's invaluable counsel...

Of course the best advice to a young girl who is impelled to write letters to men, can be put in one word, don’t!

Jul 1, 2009

Grand Place

One of the bizarre things about this job is sometimes you come to, give your eyes a good rub, and realize you're in a completely different city than you thought you were supposed to be in.

Today, that city is Brussels.

This morning, I once again got a 7am Eurostar, this time from London to the land of the Manneken Pis for a meeting. One meeting. One day. Return to the UK scheduled in time to hit a birthday party in the evening.

But over lunch, somewhere in between my leak soup and the overcooked spaghetti, plans changed and it was decided we would stay overnight. So here I am. Spending the night in Brussels before another big client meeting tomorrow. And having packed.... absolutely nothing. (Think about that one for a while... There you go... Not ideal.)

On a positive (and rather ironic) note, though, this hotel wins the prize for nicest hotel I have stayed in in the past five weeks (out of five). A particularly big hit with me are the Magritte prints in the bedroom and the Tintin figurines in the bathroom. Two Siskel and Ebert thumbs up for the Amigo.