Dec 30, 2010

Itsy bitsy posting

I am Big Mac-less for now so this is an attempt to post while using an iPod Touch tactile screen keyboard. I am sensing a haiku may be more sensible in such circumstances.

So here goes.

Tomorrow this long year ends.
Unlike it began.
With a job and snowy home.

Ah, you gotta love the Japanese and their knack for inventing pointless things. But seriously. What a year it's been. As soon as I stop this phase of keyboard regression I will reminisce with you appropriately. In the meantime I will attempt to enjoy my last 48hrs in Paris instead of bringing myself down by dreading the drive back to the land of snow, chocolate and complex garbage rules.

Dec 25, 2010

Big Mac

I did it.  I made the switch.

Although really the active voice isn't entirely accurate in this context.  I didn't make the switch.   The switch was made.  And now I have a Mac.  A big one.  With a little tiny keyboard.  But hey, I'm not size-ist or anything.

First impressions: it's pretty.  Really pretty.  And really big (except for the keyboard).  So very big and very pretty.  Good.

But honestly... what does it actually DO that my PC didn't?!  And where's the damn delete key?

And now I hear the pillaging armies of Granny Smith converts in uproar, ready to tear me limb from limb for this act of blasphemy.

Sorry.  I will get used to it eventually, I'm sure.  But any chance I can get a non-Lilliputian keyboard?!

In the meantime, here are a few photos to entertain you with, since photos do look rather cool on my gigantic Mac screen (what, you don't have a gigantic Mac screen? What are you people waiting for?!)





Merry Christmas everyone, may it bring you all lots of teddy bear cuddles...

PS: Anyone know why my Big Mac beeps at me ever twenty minutes?

Dec 20, 2010

Stranded in der Schweiz

Hmmm, time to update the blog, must find fascinating things to say, juicy morsels of Swiss-ness with which to entertain my friends who worry (rightly, I fear) that much like Alice I have disappeared down the rabbit hole... Must not let on that life is in fact about as exciting as an overcooked turnip and that, despite all the coolness associated with the job at CoolCo Sub, at the end of the day I live in Switzerland, and I don't know anybody, and it snows all the time and things are therefore toe-numbingly DULL.

But, let's work with what we've got and see how we go.

So, first off, I found an apartment.  I share it with the only person I know in the city, another ex-INSEADer, who travels all the time and whom I therefore never see.  Except for this past weekend, which was spent together building IKEA furniture in an intense flatmate bonding experience.

The apartment is perfect, large, bright, centrally located, and right next door to a brothel.  That's the Swiss for you.  You get slapped about if you don't tie up your cardboard for recycling on the right day, but there's nothing wrong with men lining the sidewalk to ogle half-naked women prancing about behind a window (and me, mostly clothed and prancing about in my living room - hence the urgent purchase of curtains).

So that's the living situation.  The work situation I'm starting to get a handle on, which is a good thing since I have two new recruits starting next month.  I figure, in this my first role as "the boss", it's best that I have some idea of what I'm doing before I start telling them what they're supposed to do.  I'm not quite there yet, and half hoping for a Christmas revelation.  Either that or some elaborate bluff à la Ocean's 11.

As for the social situation, well, folks, let's face it, it's rather dire.

So far, all of my extra-curricular activities have fallen under one of the following categories:

1) Work outings.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but there are ten of us at CoolCo Sub so at some point I will have to expand my social circle somewhat.  Besides, I can't shake the feeling that the nine others view me, "the Lawyer", with more than an ounce of suspicion.  It's a good thing I'm getting backup.

2) Time spent with the Boy.  As friends.  Because I'm a masochist.

3) Attempts at making friends at expat events.  Where I don't know anyone.  Where I drink too much (very expensive) wine to hide how nervous I am.  Where everyone is male.  And desperate for female company.  And just about ready to keel over as soon as I mention CoolCo.  And subsequently interested only in my breasts and the latest CoolCo media frenzy, not necessarily in that order, neither topic holding any kind of particular fascination for me.

So, not much of a social life really.  Which means I should at least be exercising but of course I've been too busy building flatpack bookshelves and drowning my frustrations in Swiss chocolate to actually join a gym.

Sigh.

Thank goodness for Christmas and the long drive home to Paris.

Dec 13, 2010

We have a pulse

I am alive.

I have not been gobbled up by a giant piece of cheese.

I have not been shat on by a monstrous Swiss milk chocolate cow.

I have not been shipped off in a box to Qatar to tell them what's what.

I have, however, been sans internet from the date of last posting to, well, five minutes ago.  The internet/digital-tv fixit man has just exited stage left, along with his wall-to-wall butt-crack, leaving in his wake.... THE INTERNET!

It is a beautiful thing.  So beautiful, in fact, that I wonder how on earth I managed those first eighteen-odd years of my life when I had never even heard of the great big web across the whole wide world.

I promise to post loads and loads in the coming weeks to make up for my unforgivable absence, and give you the detailed skinny on my life this side of the Alps, the heartaches, the stomachaches, the headaches, and the snow.  And some good stuff as well. 

But first I need to answer about 50 facebook messages...

Nov 21, 2010

Sunday Reds

I know I haven't been good.

It mostly has to do with the absence of the internet in my hotel.  I could get a connection in my room, but then I would have to fork over the second home, a couple Harry Winstons and the private jet to be able to afford it.  Or I could go down to the hotel's business centre.  And by business centre I mean that one computer that sits in the hallway next to the lobby, the one with the funky Swiss German keyboard (not Qwerty, not Azerty, but Qwertz).

Which is where I'm sitting now, mostly out of guilt and because the cleaning lady is in my room.  Where I should be packing.  Where I want to be curled up in a ball crying.  But never mind.  Instead I'm here, talking to you.

I am so fed up.  Fed up with spending every night alone in a hotel room.  Fed up with scanning the same eight items on the room service menu wondering what I'm in the mood for (and after five weeks, the answer is 'nothing').  Fed up with having no one to talk to who's known me for ore than five minutes.  Fed up with the cold.  With the fog.  With my expanding waistline.  With those dozen extra wrinkles that have cropped up ahead of my 33rd birthday.  With not having anyone to go to the movies with.  With being single and friendless in a city where I don't understand the language or the culture or the obsession with brightly painted hard-boiled eggs.

The highlight of horridness: last night.  I receive a pity invite to a party from a friend of a friend whom I'd never met.  I'm a little nervous about it but desperate to talk to somebody, anybody, espsecially after a day spent surrounded by couples and babies at IKEA, trying to lift my body weight in flat packs.  So I get all dressed up.  Makeup on.  Take two trams across town in below-freezing temperatures.  Find the building.  Ring the buzzer.  Wait.  Ring again.  Third time's not a charm.  Neither is fourth.  After ten minutes, a lady walks into the building.  I try to explain that I'm attempting to go to a party but the buzzer isn't working.  She refuses to let me in.  I give it another five rings.  Nothing happens.  I take the two trams back home.  I spend Saturday night the same way I have spent all nights.  In my pajamas, with room service, watching TV.

Which I guess means things can only go up from here, right?

First stop, a new appartment.  Tomorrow.

Still no internet, though.

Nov 7, 2010

Comments

I know I don't do it often enough, but I want to take a moment now to thank everyone who takes the time to comment on this blog and cheer me on when the going gets tough.

So thank you.

You Belong to Me

People often ask me how I come up with ideas for my blog, how long it takes me to write a post, whether there's any kind of hidden message (there isn't), is there a method in the madness (nope), etc.

While occasionally I do actually have an "idea" - usually dreamt up in the middle of the night, while sitting on a metro (or now, a tram), or when I'm actually supposed to be working - most often I just sit down because it's time to write and whatever comes out, comes out.

This is one of those.

I'm in Paris this weekend.  Back home.  Curled up on the sofa while the deluge does its thing outside.  God, I missed home.  My apartment.  My furniture.  My books.  My painting of Alina.  My little Nescafé and Kellog's muesli ritual in front of the TV (so much better than the real stuff I get in the hotel back in der Schweiz).  My loud, crazy, dirty street.  My friends.  My family.

All the things that are mine.  In Switzerland, nothing belongs to me yet.

Except the job.  The job is definitely My Job.  It helps that no one else has ever had this job before.  That no one knows exactly what the job is.  The job is whatever I decide it will be.  And so it is very much Mine.  And I love it.  Not just because of the hours, or the colleagues, or the overlapping of languages, or the man-magnet effect of saying I work for CoolCo Sub.

Mostly, I love it because I can create my own little world.  And my boss trusts me.  If I say I need something to happen, it happens.  I never realized how empowering it is just to be trusted.  I feel like I can do anything, achieve anything, go anywhere.  It's an incredible feeling and one that, in my experience, is all too rare in the workplace.  Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Leadership Seminar on you, but still, think about it.

So I have My Job.  Finally.  Although I still wonder how exactly I got here.  Litigation, consulting, novel-writing and now...  Strangely, it all feels rather fated somehow.  Dr B thinks it all has something to do with The Boy, who apparently wasn't simply put on this earth to break my heart over and over again, but also to edge me a little closer to this new life at CoolCo Sub, this new life where I feel confident and capable and ready to conquer the world.

If that's true, I suppose thanks are in order.

Still, couldn't My Job have been in Paris instead?

Oct 31, 2010

The In Between Place

I'm going to tell you a secret.

I have a strange phobia.  Some people are scared of spiders, others are scared of heights.  Snakes, bees, being enclosed in small spaces, these are all pretty common fears.

But me, I'm scared of the in between places.  Those spaces between two rungs of a ladder.  The tiny holes between the bars of metro grids.  Anything, really, that requires me to step from one place, to another, with emptiness in the middle.  Doesn't make a difference if it's 100 meters off the ground or one centimeter.  Those fragments of nothingness bloody freak me out.

I'm in an in between place right now.  A big, gaping nothing between France and Switzerland.  I'm not home anymore, but I'm not here, either.  I'm somewhere in between.  Lost.  Neither foot is touching the ground, and if something doesn't stick soon, I may spin out of control into never never land where the lost satellites go.

Oct 26, 2010

Celebrating small victories

I'm paying a million francs a minute for this internet connection, and I'm late for an apartment viewing, but I just had to tell you...

An agent has asked to see my full manuscript!!!!

[insert flash animation of Little Swiss Miss Res jumping up and down, bouncy castle style]

Speaking of which, anyone else miss bouncy castles?

Oct 23, 2010

Spartacus Helveticus

One week in Switzerland.  I came.  I saw.  I froze my little French behind off.  I conquered.

Here's what you missed.

Monday:  Wake up at stupid o'clock.  Squeeze into suit.  Remark that I was thinner back in my BM days.  Get driven to work by my new boss at CoolCo Sub.  Take possession of my office (shared) and my computer (with unmanageable Swiss keyboard).  At 9am, take coffee break with 8 of the 10 employees of CoolCo Sub (2 are on holiday).  Learn that 9am coffee break is a daily thing.  Feel happy.  After day spent in training, am told work finishes at 6pm.  Refuse to believe them.  At 6.15, am last person in office and get kicked out by cleaning lady.  Feel confused.  Treck across town by tram to visit apartment.  Am one of at least fifty applicants.  Panic and go back to hotel.  Get second agent rejection.  Miss home.  Feel sad.

Tuesday:  Wake up at stupid o'clock.  Still grey and freezing cold in Helvetica.  CoolCo Sub still cool.  After 9am coffee break, am introduced to one-hour lunch break in the kitchen.  People cook.  I'm impressed.  I microwave something.  Do some more training.  After work, go to town centre and join German conversation group in bar.  All hell breaks loose when I tell them (in German, natürlich) that I work for CoolCo Sub.  Think this is a cool party trick.  Can't wait for my business cards to come in.

Wednesday:  Don't go to work this morning.  Instead, go register as Swiss resident.  It takes fifteen minutes and Swiss civil servant lady is the nicest person I've ever met.  Am tempted to give her a hug.  Then open Swiss bank account.  Feel like rich and famous person until banker asks me if I want to put money on my account and I realize I don't have any.  Still, manage the whole morning in German so feel pretty pleased with myself.

Thursday:  Wake up at stupid o'clock.  Finally, sun is shining.  Sky is clear and I realize there are snowy Alps outside window.  Gives me ski cravings.  No training at work today, actually have to do work.  Suddenly dawns on me no one has had my job before so no one knows what my "work" is.  Make up some stuff.  It goes down well.  Feel relieved.  Have afterwork drinks at very bohemian, un-Swiss place. 

Friday:  Feel very tired after one whole week of waking up at stupid o'clock.  Wonder if I will ever get used to this waking up in the morning thing after a year of author's life.  Top it off with three-hour long meeting with finance-types.  Hold my own, though.  Go to bed at 9.30pm on a Friday night instead of joining colleague for a party.  Feel sheepish.

Saturday:  Have a lie-in, followed by gigantic hotel breakfast.  Treck across town to see another apartment that is really too expensive.  Buy water boiler so I can make tea at hotel.  Have nice cup of tea while blogging.  Feel pretty OK about first week.

Oct 17, 2010

Swiss Post One

First impressions, stream-of-consciousness style.

My Twingo made it all the way in one piece and looks adorable parked between the Bentleys and Jags.  The travel stickers on the back are a particularly nice touch.  The man at the border was friendly when welcoming me into his country.  Switzerland is grey and wet and freezing cold this time of year.  But the forest behind the hotel is perfect to run in. Although my ears did almost fall off.  There is no bathrobe in my room, which defeats the entire purpose of hotel stays.  Food is good, though pricey.  I dare to dream that one day all hotels will provide free internet.  My new country of residence requires me to go through extensive administrative torture, all in the first week, and I have no idea when I will actually manage to go to the office.  Fitting an entire life's worth of belongings inside a single hotel bedroom (seriously, a single) is harder that solving world hunger.  Switzerland has this "glocal" website for expats which looks like it will do wonders for my social life (I hope).  My German skills have so far managed to get me through the day without intense embarrassment or imminent danger.  But I'm dying for some English TV channels (CSI in German is only half comprehensible).

Oh, and I got rejected by my first agent.  Although I suppose Switzerland is not to blame for that.

Never mind, at least now I have some serious aspiring novelist street cred.

Oct 15, 2010

Next Chapter

This is it.

Bags are packed (almost).  Twingo ready to go (hopefully).  I even have a new work email address all set up (gasp).  It's time to go.

Paris and Parisians, this is goodbye for now.  Next time you hear from me, little Res will be a little Swiss Miss.

Bisous.

Oct 12, 2010

My Life in a List

If you're a procrastinator like me, chances are you make lists.  Long ones, short ones, on the back of envelopes, in pretty lined notepads, lists you add to, lists you cross off, lists you forget, lists that breed more lists.

And when you're in the middle of finishing a novel, starting a new job and moving to Switzerland, the list-making gets so out of control you can't seem to find time to do anything else.

I've done less than half of the things I wrote down, but more than half of the things I didn't.  Which I guess makes it just about alright.

Things I have done:
  • Run 20k, miraculously sparing my knee but now waddling like a duck from the sore muscles;
  • Sent manuscripts to a total of 13 agents, bursting into tears over sealed envelopes ;
  • Spent a long weekend of Parisian sunshine with the Hottie;
  • Enjoyed champagne at the terrace of the Georges like a spoiled tourist;
  • Painted my toenails dark blue on a whim;
  • Read through over 450 INSEAD CVs, and others, to find "my team";
  • Bullshitted my way through conference calls and email chains for a job I haven't started yet;
  • Watched The Sound of Music again for the first time since I was eight.
Things I haven't:
  • Packed my things for the drive to Switzerland;
  • Found an apartment;
  • Gotten Swiss health insurance;
  • Resigned myself to the harsh reality of my imminent departure. 

Oct 4, 2010

Yes and No, Now and Later

The New Yorker has a great article today about procrastination.

I am a terrible procrastinator.  In the sense that I am very good at it.  You know what I mean.  I have these small explosions of activity - like sending off queries to five agents and blogging about it all before 10 a.m. - and then I spend the rest of the day doing nothing but watching silly TV shows and breaking up with a friend (more on that later).

Until it's time to go to bed, but I decide to pop open the computer "just for a bit", get absorbed in said New Yorker article and blog again.  Not quite a model of productivity, but it beats staring blankly at television pixels.

There were a few points made in the article that I found particularly interesting.

First, that procrastination doesn't make people happy.  If they're putting off something to do something more enjoyable, that's usually not thought of as procrastination.  Real procrastination involves not doing something and agonizing about it.  It is therefore completely irrational. 

Yup.  Sounds like me.

The second thing is that procrastinators are more often than not insecure perfectionists.  Apparently:
"Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle. McClellan was also given to excessive planning, as if only the ideal battle plan were worth acting on."
Again, this all sounds eerily familiar.

Third and finally (naturally, the ex-BMer in me can't resist making three points), research suggests that procrastination often results from an inner battle within one's divided self.  Sometimes there really is a good angel and a bad angel sitting on your shoulders, and while they duke it out to decide which is the best course of action, you end up doing nothing at all or, worse, doing something vaguely in between and just messing it up altogether. 

Which brings me to my earlier point.  Wait, which point?  Fair question.  The one about the friend break-up.

I'm the kind of person that prides myself on being a good friend.  I may not always succeed but at least I try very, very hard.  But there are just some people, some people who know how to push all the right buttons and make me lash out at them in a way I am bound to be embarrassed about later, and profoundly regret.  And so I'll crawl back, make apologies - but taint the apologies in thinly veiled recriminations and buckets of self-pity.

I blame it on my divided self.  One of my selves really wants to be friends with these people (or this particular person who shall remain nameless for his sake).  The other self doesn't (because I bear a grudge, because I'm jealous, because I don't understand him).  Both selves are stubborn, doped up on steroids and refuse to admit defeat.  And so begins the endless "I hate you, come back" wars.

So tonight I think I broke up with my friend.  For his sake.  For both of mine.  Who knows.  And who knows how long it will be until I pretend it's all bygones and beg to be his friend again (because I love him, because I care, because he's wonderful) so we can start the whole miserable show over.

Think about it.  You have one of those people in your life too, don't you?  Well, now you know.  It's because of your divided self.  That's why you're procrastinating and haven't made a decision about whether to keep him in, or out, of your life.

The New Yorker said so, and thus it must be true.

Five Down

Eleven to go.

This is it.  The moment of truth.  I've started querying the first of my 16 carefully selected agents. 

For those of you who haven't spent the past year or so obsessed with the workings of the anglophone fiction publishing circus, lowly unpublished authors like myself can't just up and send a manuscript to editors willy-nilly.  Oh no.  Before any contact with editors is to be had, one must first bag oneself an Agent.

The Agent is the holy grail of the unpublished writer.  The Gateway to publication, the Saint Peter of literature.  And finding one involves hours of research, intense preparation and some pretty serious groveling.

The process goes something like this:

1.  Purchase the Writer's Yearbook, aka The Bible.  Even though you would think, in this day and age of the internet, such tomes would be unnecessary, you do it anyway because "They" say you should.

2.  Spend precious writing time reading through the list of thousands of agents and checking all their websites, to find the one agent that will be A Perfect Fit.

3.  Give up and just make up a random list.

4.  Check, double check, triple check exactly what you are supposed to send each of these agents so that they don't laugh you off the island.

5.  Write, re-write, throw away, start over, tear hair out over query letter to said agents.  End up with something along the lines of "Please agree to read a few pages of my novel.  It's amazing.  Not as amazing as you, obviously.  I love you.  Attached is my first-born."

6.  Wait.

7.  Wait some more.

8.  Move to Switzerland in despair at never hearing from agent.

It's oodles of fun.  Especially as most agents have never heard of the 21st century and actually still require you to snail mail over pages of manuscript. 

But I suppose it does lend the whole process a bit of a dramatic artistic aura.  If only I had penned my novel with a quill and ink in a haze of absinthe.

Sep 26, 2010

Short and Bitter

Oh god, the pain.

I know I said I just whizzed through the synopsis last month and ended up with a brilliant first draft sure to make the most cynical literary agent weep but, well, I just read over that draft and I was wrong.

It was terrible.  Filled with clichés, completely un-specific, and just plain bad writing.

So I started over.  And although I am now several hairs greyer and have long, bleeding scratches on my face from trying to rip it off in frustration, I don't think this damn synopsis has gotten any better.

But why is this so hard?  We all wrote book reports in high school, right?  This should be just like that.  Not rocket science.  (Come to think of it, maybe I should hire a 10th grader to write my synopsis for me).  And yet there are entire blogs devoted to how bloody difficult it is to write a half-decent synopsis (for a strong espresso dose of cruelty, see Miss Snark's contribution to making writers feel bad about themselves).

One page.  One page to sell the story, and tell the story.  But not the whole story.  Just the salient bits.  But enough so it's completely understandable.  And exciting.  Even if your novel is character, as opposed to plot-driven.  One page to show the agent how marketable your novel is.  But without sounding like flap copy.  One page of sharp, clear writing.  One page to determine whether or not you will become a published author or a pathetic failure.

Say it with me people.

Groan.

And then there's the query letter...

Sep 24, 2010

All For One

You'll probably recall that, when I was going through the first rewrite, I handled it with - well, let's just say poise and grace would not be the two words used to describe how I coped during those three months.  So it would have been safe to assume that I would do no better on the second go-around.

Which is why I'm as shocked as you are to hear myself tell you how much I am loving working on the third draft of the novel.  Maybe it's because I no longer need to stress about finding a job once I'm done.  Maybe it's because I know now that the novel isn't completely nauseatingly bad, at least according to a Dozen or so friends.  But mostly I think it's because I'm working on the third draft based on input from others.

From a completely solitary project, the novel has now evolved into a team effort.  Each and every reader who came back to me with comments is adding his or her imprint to the finished product.  And it's making it better, so much better than I would have done on my own.  There's a pretty deep moral to the story there, but I won't bore you with its unbearable cheesiness here.

I'll just say thanks, team.

Sep 22, 2010

Absolutely Fabulous

"It's like watching 'Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous.'"

Dixit my father.  About me.

Yes, at first I was confused too.  Granted, I did write a Novel (she says, in a nasal drawl, waving around one of those long cigarette holders and flinging back a corner of her mink coat) and a entire Dozen of People have read it, but I wouldn't call myself Rich per se.

But it turns out Mr. Res Senior had a point.  What he was referring to was My Evening With Stephen Fry.

Drumroll please.

It all began this past Monday afternoon, when I boarded the Eurostar and promptly proceeded to sleep throughout the entire journey (much partying had been had over the weekend).  Two hours and fifteen minutes later, I was in London.  I had a couple hours to kill so I strolled down Sloane Avenue and popped in for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a Belgravia watering hole with an unpronounceable name (I believe Rachel Weisz was sitting next to me, or at least someone who looked very much like her - with fabulous shoes).  Until it was time to make my way to the Royal Albert Hall, sit my behind in the fourth row and gawk at my intellectual idol for two and a half hours.  And go home the next morning.

That's right, I hopped over to London for a show.  Not just any show, of course; the legendary Stephen Fry is completely worth that kind of extravagance.  But still.  Even as I was doing it, I couldn't help but have a small giggle.  I desperately wanted to wave off someone with a "ta ta, dahling, I'm off to catch Steve."

As for the show, well, it was just grand.  But would you expect anything less of Mr. Fry?  Part lecture, part reading, part stand-up comedy - it was a fine evening of wit, charm, provocation and exhortation.  Bravo, I say.

Besides the sneaky picture my companion managed to capture at my urging (below), I also scored fifty UK stamps during my outing.  Fifty stamps that will soon adorn the multitude of self-addressed envelopes I will be sending to agents, along with sample chapters, a synopsis, and a letter offering my first-born or my soul or both if they would only agree to find me a publisher.

Stay tuned.

Sep 15, 2010

New day, new life, new clothes

Today is a new day.  The sun is shining, Paris is beautiful, I'm so over that whole ex-boyfriend getting married thing.  And all it took was my magic keyboard and the mind-numbing pain of a 14km run.

Now, all I can think about is buying an entirely new wardrobe for my entirely new life.  That's right!  I made the decision - I will be moving to Switzerland in one month to start my job at... No, I won't tell you, suffice it to say it's pretty cool.

So I need some clothes that say "I'm an elegant Parisian chick, but I'm not above talking to you strange-sounding Swiss people" as well as "I'm your boss, and yet also effortlessly cool" - and of course "I'm indescribably sexy and still potential long-term relationship material."

This shopping trip is going to go down in history, my friends.

Sep 14, 2010

Second best

So the man (Wentworth, to you faithful readers) who left me rather suddenly nine months back because he was "afraid of commitment" (his words, not mine) just announced his engagement.

Add that to the Boy's earnest, heart-warming desire for us to be friends, and sprinkle on top the most recent boyfriend's decision to cancel our romantic weekend to go on holiday with some bikini-clad chick he met in Ibiza, and I'm starting to wonder whether it isn't time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and finally accept that maybe, just maybe, it isn't them.  It's me.

This will be one of those posts that leads concerned friends and family members to wonder whether it's entirely appropriate to be quite this personal on such a public forum.  And my answer to that is, well, it probably isn't.

But if there's a small chance that writing things down will make me feel better about the fact that I keep falling for guys who think I'm just swell but who'd rather be with the leggy blonde, then I'm going to take it.  Writing isn't Harry Potter-esque magic, but it's the closest thing I know to it.  A way to feel the pain and tragedy of humiliating disappointment, have a good moan, and let it go, into the abstract, not-quite-there ether of the internet.

[Pause]

Is it gone yet?

[Longer pause]

Could someone please hurry over with the Nutella?

Sep 8, 2010

If You Were Me

On the basis that the wisdom of many trumps the wisdom of, well, me, I'm going to run something past you and see if you can't help me make sense of my present conundrum.

So, way back when, in the days when I was feeling brave enough to change, if not the world, then at least myself, I made an important decision.  I was going to be a writer and, because one needs to eat, find some kind of job that paid me a decent wage but, more importantly, left me lots of time to write, run, and be merry.

Then I finished the novel and this job in Switzerland came up.  Career-wise, it's very exciting.  In fact, it's about as glamorous as you can get when you're a lawyer with a business degree and can't do properly glamorous things like launch your own fashion line or fly to the moon or something.  It means defining my own role, hiring and managing my own team, and watching men drool when I tell them who I work for.  It means working with people from all over the place with accents as confusing as mine.  But it's not in Paris, it's in Switzerland.  And it may not leave me very much time for writing, running, or being terribly merry, what with not actually knowing anyone in that particular city.

Last week another possible job landed on my horizon.  It's not a bad job, but it's not something to gush over either.  It's for a very French company, where I am likely to be viewed at worst as a threatening martian or at best, as an amusing play-thing.  But the hours will be good, and I wouldn't have to move.

So what do I do?  Stick to the original plan, take the job in Paris and write novel number 2?  Or move on to something new and fly off to the next adventure to see what happens?

Of course, this may all be cart before horse talk.  I may not actually get either job - which would have the advantage of not requiring me to make a decision.

There's something strangely blissful about that.

Book Quickie

I read this one so quickly that it didn't make it onto the blog's bookshelf (the advantage of attempting to fly back to France on a general strike day - lots of time to read).  But it was wonderful.

Called "The Other Hand" in the UK and "Little Bee" in the US (I fail to understand why the difference), by Chris Cleave, it's my recommendation of the week.

Go forth and enjoy.

Sep 2, 2010

You Are What You Wear

Honey!  I'm home!

And jet lagged.  But never mind, it means I've been able to feel relatively guilt-free about doing nothing but watch season 2 of Mad Men over the past couple of days.  I still don't know what I think of Mad Men, actually.  It's esthetically pleasing, certainly, but very slow.  And yet completely addictive.  Like the thousands of cigarettes smoked per episode.

There was a minor storyline in this season that amused me, though.  If you don't know the show, it features Elisabeth Moss (a.k.a. Zoey Bartlet) playing Peggy Olson, an advertising "natural" who gets promoted from secretary to copywriter by the lead character, Don Draper, in a rare moment of progressive thinking (which doesn't mean he's going to let his wife wear a bikini - the slut).

But Peggy has a few problems.  She's a woman.  She's young.  She's not terribly attractive.  She used to be fat.  She lives in Brooklyn.  She's a Catholic.  But worst of all - she could be a candidate on "What Not To Wear".

Apparently, the reason she isn't getting the respect she deserves comes down solely to the fact that she doesn't Dress The Part.  White cotton shirt, long skirt and a ponytail?  Shock horror!  How is anyone going to take her seriously looking like that? Fortunately for her, she's able to pull out a whole new wardrobe's worth of brown suits, her gay friend cuts her hair to a bob and voilà!  She's a business woman!

This got me thinking.  I love clothes, I believe in appropriate attire (I'm required to by birth), but I'm also a little bit kooky.  Especially when it comes to work clothes.  For example, yesterday I walked past Paul & Joe and spotted a yellow Bambi T-shirt in the window and thought "Hey!  That would look great with a black trouser suit!"  (and no, it's not a fashion term for something else, I do actually mean a yellow T-shirt with a picture of Bambi on it - the Disney character, not Michael Jackson).  But seriously, couldn't you just see it?

So the other day, when I had to fly to Switzerland for an interview, it seemed entirely normal for me to lay out the said black suit with a blue, skin-tight, V-neck T-shirt.  Until the Montmartoise asked what I was wearing and almost choked on her cupcake when I told her.

Yes, I know, you're supposed to make an impression at an interview.  And that includes what you wear.  Dark suit.  White blouse.  Low heels.  Not too much make-up.  Discreet jewelry.  Blah blah blah.  But really, isn't the only impression you're giving people with that outfit the impression that you're really boring?  No?  Am I being childish about this?  Do people really not want to employ senior management executives that wear yellow Disney shirts to the office?  Don't you think work would be much more fun if they did?

But I will yield and conform.  The final round is next week and I'll be wearing black and grey.

Yawn.

Aug 26, 2010

Now what?

The second draft is done, but what happens next?  Questions abound from friends, family, loyal blog readers.  When can we read it?  When does it hit the shelves?  Are you writing another one?

God knows I don't have all the answers, but here's the skinny on the little rocky path my novel travels along.

The Dirty Dozen are still reading.  So far, I've had one in-depth report (from a high school English teacher, no less) but I'm still waiting for the rest of the feedback.  At which point I will hum and hah and ignore most of it because honestly I'm tired of fiddling with this damn story.  Then, with care and trepidation, I will put together packets of manuscripts, accompanied by brilliantly drafted cover letters and synopses, and trust the postal services to deliver them to dozens of agents.  Obviously, every one of those agents will immediately call me back with publishing offers, movie deals, and marriage proposals and I will become more famous than JK Rowling. 

Or not.

So, will you readers get a sneak peak at some point?

I don't know.  Maybe if you're very good.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll be trying to land myself a job that pays actual money that I can spend in real-life supermarkets to feed my ever-expanding waistline (no, I'm not pregnant, just perpetually hungry).  Actually, I should be trying to do that right now (my next interview involves preparing a 20-slide presentation... A splendid opportunity to take the old Powerpoint skills out for a spin).  But the sun has finally returned to New York and I just came back from a really long run and I have a dinner with friends soon and [insert random excuse here].

Aug 24, 2010

Love and Hate in the City

New York, New York.  If you can make it there...

So I'm back in my favourite city (outside of Paris, obviously).  And it's raining.  So instead of being out and about and on my way to a movie in Bryant Park, I'm stuck indoors and so can entertain you with what I love about this city - and what drives me nuts.

I love that random strangers talk to each other.  And not because they're trying to get into your pants, or sell you a pair, but just because they're feeling chatty and want to share.  I can see how it could unsettle some of the more introverted among us, but I'm the type that has to be forcibly stopped from striking up conversations with my local prostitute, so New York is my idea of heaven.

I hate that tax and tip are never included, not even in stores, so the slightest activity involving the exchange of money (and in New York, that's pretty much all activity) means having to pull out a calculator or risk having a heart attack when you're told the final price.  Or both.

I love the concept of the salad bar.  Not a uniquely New York thing, but definitely very prevalent in the city.  Salad bars epitomize everything that is wonderful about New York.  Diversity.  Freedom.  Constant availability.  Do you want a salad composed of a kilo of cherry tomatoes and a couple mushrooms on top?  You can do that.  Fancy some green beans with your lettuce?  Why the hell not.  And you can find salad bars anywhere, even in supermarkets.  It's positively orgasmic.  Please, please, I beg you, couldn't some entrepreneurial fellow launch salad bars in Paris?

I hate the taxis.  Granted, they're easy to find.  But nothing else about them is good.  The drivers get hopelessly lost as soon as you aim for anywhere outside the grid (basically, anywhere below 14th street).  The cars are dirty, small and uncomfortable.  And those damn television screens make me want to vomit and punch someone, not necessarily in that order.

Finally, I love that I never have time to do everything I want to do.  There's just too much going on in New York.  Even free stuff.  Even stuff for when it's raining.  Even stuff in the middle of the night.

On that note, time to get ready for an INSEAD dinner.

Aug 19, 2010

Sleepy in the Apple

I just landed in New York (I know, I know, I can't sit still for one minute) and I'm trying my very best to stay awake.  My watch says it's 8:30PM (well, not the one on my computer).  My brain is screaming that it's the middle of the night and I've been up since far too early.

The battle is on.  Watch vs. Brain.  My money's on the brain.  Mind over matter and all that.

In other news, some feedback has started trickling in from the Dirty Dozen.  And so far, it's good!  Miracle of miracles, one of the Dozen has reached chapter 13 and is still reading!  But they might all just be saying nice things to make me feel better. 

Oh, and my left leg appears to have ceased normal functions.  Don't ask me why, it's just not happy with me.  I think (but I can't be certain) that it's unrelated to the massive tumble I took down the stairs yesterday.  Sigh.  This is not a good month for me staying upright and injury-free.

Well, as you can probably tell, I'm not at my freshest right now and my blog posting is showing signs of impending collapse.  So I think I'll go do just that.  Stuff it, I'll just have jet lag.

Aug 16, 2010

In brief

Almost 48 hours since I finished the book.  The giddy feeling I was expecting still hasn't hit.  Instead I've felt listless, unsatisfied, and mostly waiting around for other people to make me feel good about myself - that hasn't worked either.

I thought maybe part of the problem is that my pet project, the one that's kept me up at night for the past year, is now gone.  I'm not writing anymore.  Truth be told, I haven't been properly "writing" for months now, as "re-writing" is more akin to dicing onions with blunt kiddy scissors than literary bliss (and don't ask me where that analogy came from).

To remedy this problem on this grey, rainy Monday in August (yes, I realize the weather may also be responsible for my doldrums), I decided to attempt the first draft of my synopsis.  The synopsis I will be required to send out to agents to convince them to read my manuscript which will then hopefully have them convinced to sign me so that they, in turn, can convince a publisher to turn the whole thing into a nice little paperback with a pretty cover that I can show my grandkids one day.

Anyhoo (geesh, does it always take me this long to get to the point?), once I'd plowed through the 450 word summary of my novel, I read back over it and thought, "Wow - that books sounds pretty decent!  Where is THAT book?"

Which is when I'd realized I'd done it.  I'd consulting-ized my book.  I'd taken a rather bland, completely unoriginal idea and made it sound ground-breaking.  It couldn't have been more obvious if I'd used slides to do it with.

Sigh.

But who knows, maybe it'll work?

Aug 14, 2010

Judgement Day

I finished it.  The book.  Well, the second draft of the book.

I should probably be more excited about this.  Instead, I'm terrified.  Because I've finally let the novel out of its cage, to run free and frolic and get mowed down by a humvee. 

As of one hour ago, about a dozen boys and girls, native and non-native English speakers, friends on all hemispheres, have gotten their grubby little hands on my baby.  They shall be named the Dirty Dozen.  The jury of my peers.  The ones who are 230 pages away from telling me my novel is shit.

At times like these I wish I had never started the damn thing.  What's the point if you're just going to humiliate yourself and disappoint everybody?  My friends will say, so what?  So what if it's bad?  At least you've written it.

But what's so cool about writing a bad novel?  Should I wear that proudly like a badge of honour?  "Hey guys, I made myself unemployed once so I could write the most boring 61,000 words known to man.  Jealous?"

Okay, okay, I'm calming down now.  I'm just one of those people that does not do well with being judged.  And between the grueling interview process I'm going through, plus waiting for the Dirty Dozen's verdict, I'm not making life easy for myself right now.  Talk about stepping beyond your comfort zone.

But hey, at least I have you.

PS: A shout-out to the true writers and fellow bloggers Karin and Sion for inspiration the other day.  And the Montmartoise, for a truly inspiring pizza.

Aug 12, 2010

Not-so-neutral feelings about Switzerland

I had a job interview yesterday.  In Switzerland.  And I don't know what to think.

But let's start from the beginning.  First, we'll set the scene.  It's been almost a year since I've had a job (I stopped saying I don't "work", as writing a novel surely counts as work - but it's not a job unless someone pays you and actually thinks you're any good.)  My finances are so low they're about to win a limbo competition.  All my friends, aware of my reputation as shoe expert extraordinaire, drag me shoe shopping and let me roll around the floor in pain while they buy out the store and leave me empty-handed.  I've stopped finding time to go to the gym or re-work more than one chapter a day because it interferes with my lounging around and not doing anything.  My brain has turned to mush and I can't even remember that my friends have already had their children, while I keep asking for their due dates.  Never mind still being able to do things like count or recite the alphabet.

It's time to face the facts.  I need to get back into the rat race.  If for no other reason than otherwise Res, as you know her, may cease to exist entirely.

So I started looking for a job.  Which should have been a piece of cake, or so I thought.  Excuse the appalling arrogance of the phrase you're about to read but, well, my CV is pretty damn awesome.

And yet.

It seems that no one in France wants me.  And very few people outside of France are interested either.  I'm overqualified.  I'm not French enough.  I'm too American (in that case, does that mean I get a green card?!)  I'm too specialized.  I'm not specialized enough.  They don't want someone who's done consulting.  They don't want someone who's been a litigator.  They worry I might be too nice.  Not nice enough.  And definitely vertically challenged.

And then a miracle happened.  A woman called.  She told me that a certain organization that shall remain nameless (for their sake, mostly!) was looking for someone with dual legal and business skills.  That they liked the fact that I had an unusual background.  That my patchwork of national influences was perfect.

Oh boy, it felt so good to be loved again.  And so I pulled out the black Hugo Boss suit from the back of the closet (miraculously, it still fit, albeit a bit more snug) hurried to the airport (narrowly missing my flight), flew Swiss Air (which apparently has risen from its ashes like the proverbial phoenix) and ended up in a city bordered by mountains (wait - they call that a city? but it has gardens everywhere and is barely the size of one Parisian arrondissement?...) to sit for part two of a three-part interview process.

I liked it.  I had fun.  My brain got some exercise, the verbal sparring brought me back to my glory days and all of a sudden I felt proud again.  Important.  Valued.

Which is when all the questions started pouring in.  Do I need a job to feel valued?  And does that job have to involve long hours and moving to Switzerland?  Do I have to quit the dream of being a writer?  What if it doesn't make me happy?  What if nothing makes me happy?  What if I don't have time to finish the book?  And am I prepared to leave my brand new apartment that I so lovingly redecorated?  And what about the fact that I have no friends in this particular city in Switzerland (a statistical anomaly given my lifestyle and the global reach of the INSEAD network, but there you have it).

Needless to say, I had trouble getting to sleep.  It's the morning after, now, and stress levels are high.  Fortunately, I have the blog to spill my angst into.  And a new motto I can grasp onto, thanks to Andi's discovery and a fun little website.  So I'm going to take a deep breath.  Put Switzerland on pause.  And hit chapter 13.

Aug 9, 2010

"Royally Kind" Event: Can't You Tell I'm Being Nice?

A while ago, I agreed to participate in a world-wide "Blog It Forward" event.  The rules were simple.  Do something nice for a complete stranger.  Blog about it.  Done.  How hard could it be?

Oh, the famous last words... (or not famous at all, really, especially as no one heard me pronounce them, plus I have a tendency to talk a lot of crap anyways - but idioms are all part of the fun).

So it's Friday.  I have four days left to do perform my random act of kindness.  Bring it on, strangers, I am here to be nice to you.  Step one, need to find some strangers.  Don't particularly feel like walking up to my local girls, though, they might get the wrong idea.  And what nice thing could I do for them?  Buy them less revealing leopard-print tank tops?  No, that won't do.

Ah, here we go.  Some German guy I have never heard of (yes! a honest-to-God complete stranger!) is making a promo-film about people's favourite books.  He needs someone to interview in Paris.  I can do that!  It's a pretty nice thing to do, right?  Surely that falls within the conditions of the Blog It Forward event.  Ah, hold on, he's paying participants fifty euros.  Any chance getting paid for something still makes it an act of kindness?  After all, I didn't ask for the money, did I?  No?

Fine.  It's Saturday now.  I'm heading off to Brussels for the weekend, and it might be difficult to start doing random nice things for Belgian people while I'm with my friends.  Who knows what they'll think.  Besides, I'd quite like to keep the niceness in-country, you know.  But lo!  Is that a woman in distress I see on the metro platform beside me?  Yes!  A chance to get a random act of kindness in before I leave!  What a glorious opportunity!

"Excuse me, are you lost?"
"Yes.  Is this line 3?"
"No, this is line 4."  See?  I'm helping already.  "You can't take line 3 from this stop.  You can only take lines 4, 8 and 9."  I'm really going all out now with all this additional information.
"Ah. Okay."

There we go.  Act of kindness done.  Granted, it won't make for a legendary blog post, but it's about the being nice, after all, not the writing and critical acclaim.

But hold on a sec.  She hasn't moved.  She's still standing on the platform.

"M'am?  This is line 4."
"I need to go to Quatre Septembre.  Line 3."
"Yes, I see that.  You can't get there from here.  This is line 4."
"Ah.  Okay."

This is not promising.

"To go to line 3 you need to go to a different metro station."
"Okay."
"This one, over here."  I point to her map.  She's holding it upside down so it takes me a while to find the station I want to point at.
"Yes."

This is when the metro arrives.  Mine.  Line 4.  The one that will take me to Gare du Nord and my Thalys to Brussels.  I look at my watch.  I'm running a bit late.  Right before the doors close, I throw myself into the carriage with my bags.  The woman stays on the platform.

Did my random act of kindness require me to physically escort my stranger to the right station?  Or have I already done my bit?  Surely it's not my fault if the person upon which I have gratuitously decided to bestow my kindness is either deaf or mentally challenged?  Is it?

No.  This one counts.  I'm sure of it.  She probably will find line 3 eventually if she wanders around Paris long enough.  And I contributed to that.  I can feel proud of myself.  Mother Teresa is looking down on me now and smiling.

And next month I can always go shopping for leopard-print leotards.


Want to read about some more random acts of kindness?  Check out blog postings by Red, Vanessa, Paige, Caroline, Sharalee, Bianca, Linda, Sasha, Trina and JenniferThe Royally Kind Blog-It-Forward series is the brainchild of Jill from The Duchess Guide

Aug 3, 2010

Read all about it

I'm struggling to find a unifying theme for my post today, but I was itching to write something other than this terrible chick-lit that's trying to pass as my novel (can you believe it?) so instead you're going to get a random collection of "what I did over the past couple days."

Let's get started.

A few days ago:  The man I'm dating decides to bugger off on holiday with another chick that he just met.  Goes to show there is such a thing as love at first sight - it just happens to other people.  Never mind, I immediately turn to my INSEAD network (otherwise known as €50k to never have to spend another cent on hotel rooms) and plan a weekend in Brussels.  That's what I call bouncing back, baby.

Yesterday:  The clutz series continues.  After the infamous shattered leg debacle (coming soon as a Lifetime TV movie), I decide to top it, while painting my bedroom (granted, less sexy than mini running shorts, and therefore less likely to feature Natalie Portman playing yours truly).  Anyways, there I am, paintbrush in hand, clothed in a very, very large Mickey Mouse T-shirt (and no, I don't know how that ended up in my wardrobe), and splattered in grey paint.  I move towards the other side of the (very small) room and - BANG!  Walk my pretty little head straight into a floating bookshelf.  The wood digs into my scalp.  Blood gushes.  I start feeling woozy.  You get the picture.  Long story short, I now proudly sport a large gash in my scalp (thank god, hidden by my hair) and have a permanent headache.

There's an award for the most entertaining series of self-inflicted injuries, right?

Today:  That's it, I've had enough of being the loser that gets dumped and her head cleaved by shelving.  I'm taking back control of my life, dammit!  Step 1, go to the gym.  Decide on a whim to go to the spinning class.  For the first time.  Step 2.  Lose all sensation in legs and come this close to falling off the bicycle while instructor looks on, amused.  Step 3.  Cancel all upright activities and strenuous exercise such as walking for foreseeable future.

In other news:  The rewrite is still in progress.  As we speak, I now have a prologue and nine chapters "finished" - or in their second draft form, anyway.  Only 16 more to go before I let my friends loose on the novel to tear it apart like hyenas.  Now there's something to look forward to.

Jul 31, 2010

The Quality of Human Life

No particularly deep thoughts from me today, but a snippet I would like to share from - you guessed it - The New York Times.  The article, from the Fashion & Style section, is mostly about "Mad Men" (I'm still on the fence about that show) but uses the series and its delightfully wicked behaviour to make a broader point.

Instead of paltry paraphrase, I give you the original:
Of course people still have hangovers and affairs, but what dominates the wholesome vista is a sense that everything we do should be productive, should be moving toward a sane and balanced end. The idea that you would do something just for the momentary blissful escape of it, for intensity, for strong feeling, is out of fashion.
When we talk about the three-martini lunch these days it is with contempt, with a pleasurable thrill of superiority. [...]“How did anyone get any work done?” someone will invariably ask. But maybe that’s the wrong question, or maybe the kind of work they got done was a different kind of work, or maybe that’s not the highest and holiest standard to which we can hold the quality of human life.
You can see why it resonated with me now, can't you.

Alright.  I'm done with my inflammatory, revolutionary proselytizing.  You can go back and cuddle your BlackBerries.

Jul 29, 2010

Les vacances

The following conversation takes place mid-morning, on a weekday.  The sun is making its way through the clouds.  Tourists are heaving their backpacks around the cobbled streets of Paris.  Res, a very young-looking thirty-something, is walking towards home carrying a large pot of paint and new underwear, uncovered in the final day of the sales.  She is the only French person about - all other Parisians still in the city at the end of July are safely tucked inside their offices.

Res' phone rings.  It is her very good, equally over-educated, unemployed friend.  Let's call her Mona.

Mona: "Hi!  What are you up to this week?"
Res: "Painting the new flat.  It's hard work."
Mona: "Sounds like it.  Should we have cocktails tomorrow afternoon?"
Res: "God yes, I'm exhausted.  I really could use a drink."
Mona: "Any news on the job front?"
Res: "Nope.  Still waiting to hear back about interviews.  Refreshing my email fifteen times an hour.  Checking my phone's batteries.  Harassing recruiters.  That sort of thing.  You?"
Mona: "Same.  The problem is, everyone's on vacation."
Res: [Long, drawn-out sigh]
Mona: "I think I need to go on vacation."
Res: "Mmmm."
Mona: "You know, we're entitled to five weeks a year."
Res: "Five weeks a year of what?"
Mona: "Of vacation."
Res: [stops walking, cocks head to the left] "I don't understand."
Mona: "We're entitled to five weeks a year of vacation."
Res: "But we're unemployed."
Mona: "It's the law, apparently."
Res: "It's the law that we're entitled to vacation?"
Mona: "Yes."
Res: [puts heavy bucket of paint down to scratch her head] "But aren't we always on vacation?"
Mona: "Well -"
Res: "I mean, isn't that sort of the definition of unemployment? Not having to go to work?"
Mona: "But during five weeks a year we're allowed to not think about looking for a job."
Res: "We're allowed to not think about looking for a job?"
Mona: "Yes."
Res: "So you're going to take a week off and not think about looking for a job?"
Mona: "That's right.  I'm not going to think about it for a whole week."
Res: "Huh."
Mona: "We're entitled to it."
Res: "Right."  [pause]  "Do you know if unpublished writers are also entitled to five weeks of not thinking about writing?"

Jul 26, 2010

Icarus had it coming

Hubris.

It got the Greeks in some serious trouble. 

Not those Greeks, the ones with the deficit and fiscal mismanagement and street protests (although, on second thought, maybe those ones as well).

But the ones in Sophocles' plays, in togas, who went around flouting the natural laws of the gods and were smitten (smote?) down as a result.

I think I may have a little smiting of my own coming.

Almost a year ago, Res decides that she's too good for consulting, or really any silly desk job for which she has trained and slaved and filled out circles with number 2 pencils.  Not for her, the dull life of time sheets and black trouser suits and morning commutes with sweaty unknowns.  Not for her, the anonymity of millions and the banality of monthly paychecks. 

No, for she has talent.  A special gift.  She has been touched by the gods.  She can use a keyboard and string sentences together with only the occasional grammatical error. 

And so, she will Write A Novel.  She will be Awarded The Pulitzer.  She will be  A Brilliant Author and hordes of readers will Bow Before Her Greatness.

Yeah right.

Let's count the number of people actually talented enough to write a novel, shall we?

That didn't take long.

And it appears I am not one of them - turns out statistical improbabilities are just that.  Improbable.

So let the deadly deluge and plagues of locusts begin.  I'll get my umbrella.

Jul 17, 2010

Coming back down to earth

Let me paint a picture for you.

Res, in her new yellow adidas sports top and black mini shorts (bought in the sales), stands contemplating the ocean.  She is about to go on a 7km run along the coast, and she feels pretty good about herself.  Sure, it isn't a half marathon, but given that she's been nursing her knee for three months, 7km in hot weather is entirely respectable.  Besides, the yellow of her top is showing off her golden tan superbly, and her legs look remarkably long in these shorts.  Long for a midget, anyway.

So off she goes, iPod blaring.  All the way around the harbour.  Down the promenade.  Along the beach.  She's at 2.5km now and hitting her stride.  On the sand, fat people are eating donuts and making her feel incredibly healthy and sporty, kind of like Madonna.  But younger.  And less scary.

Then up ahead she spies a low, chain-link fence separating the path from the road, where she is heading.  She has seen this fence before.  She has even gone over the fence before.  It is at mid-calf height - not overtly threatening.  So, without another thought (except maybe at how good her legs look doing this), she does a graceful little jump over the top of the chain.

And splatters on the ground.

Hard.

What the f***???? is her first thought.  Her second thought is: ouch.  But in capitals.  Like this: OUCH.  And with more expletives.

After what feels like an hour of lying face-down on the pavement, a bemused group a strangers come to examine the damage.

"Didn't you see the fence?" is their helpful commentary.

Eventually, they get her to an upright position, dragging her up by her armpits.  She doesn't feel so much like Madonna anymore.  Naturally, she isn't organized enough to have a phone with her, so she walks the 2.5km back, willing herself not to look down at her legs.

The bottom line:
- one recently restored left knee now scraped, bloody, swollen and blue;
- one right shin double its original size, and likely to turn a variety of nasty shades over the next month or more;
- one large, oozing, puffy, swollen welt on her left hand, making all activities requiring the use of two hands (like eating with proper table manners) rather entertaining.

Not to mention a shattered ego.

Jul 15, 2010

Tongue in cheek

Five downsides to being on vacation when an unemployed writer:

1.  People say things like: "But aren't you always on vacation?"

2.  You spend most of your time searching for jobs, applying for jobs, speaking to recruiters, getting rejected, etc. rather than sitting by the pool.

3.  If you are sitting by the pool, you're probably working on your novel and feeling bad about yourself.

4.  If you are not working on your job search, or working on your novel, people wonder whether you shouldn't be, and whether perhaps the reason you're unpublished and unemployed is because you spend so much time on vacation.

5.  You start counting the days until you can go home and finally relax.

Jul 14, 2010

Ten Answers

Fellow Parisian blogger Karin did a "ten questions" post a few weeks ago, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to a) answer her and b) let you find out a bit more about me (like you really wanted to know more after reading the "About Me" section, pfff...)

So here goes (note: these are Karin's questions, if you want me to answer yours, send a query and I may or may not get back to you).

1. What is happiness for you?

Friends.  All my friends.  In one place.

2. What is your favorite memory of childhood?

This is a tricky one, I had a great childhood, jam packed with lots of good memories.  I have some pretty great memories of Elementary School, actually, which probably explains why I'm such a nerd.  Also of sand competitions on the beach, pool parties in the back yard, hanging out with our local librarian, Mrs Mac (again, nerd), roaming the neighbourhood with my friends on our bikes.  Being a kid in a rich, leafy American suburbs is nice.

3. Do you like the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert? Why or why not? 

I did like the book, but not so much for how it was written or what was in it, but mostly because I thought - heck! spending a year in Italy, India and Bali? I could do that!  Plus, I'm a big fan of eating (especially Italian food) and loving (not so much Italian men, but I can be swayed).  Don't know if the praying part is for me, but I'll try anything once.

4. What do you think is the worst social problem facing the country in which you are living now?

Well, France is an expert in social problems.  Top of the list is our inability to do anything about it because of ingrained and irrational resistance to change.

5. If you like pizza, what are your favorite toppings? If you don’t like it, why the heck not?

I love pizza!  Pepperoni all the way. And mushrooms.  But mostly pepperoni.  I'm hungry.

6.  What’s your favorite holiday? Why?

Christmas.  Because my mom is German and she bakes fantastic cookies.  And I love decorating Christmas trees.  And buying presents for people I care about.  And foie gras.  And champagne.  Seriously, what's not to like about Christmas?

7. Who is the most annoying celebrity? Why?

So many to choose from!  Off the top of my head, Tom Cruise, Lindsey Lohan, anyone who became a celebrity simply for being on a reality TV show.  For all the obvious reasons.

8. Is it better to be physically attractive or intelligent?

Honestly (and this is twisting my guts to say this), I vote for attractive.  Statistics show that attractive people have an easier time in life, getting hired, making friends, finding a spouse, negotiating a raise, etc.  And sometimes thinking too much can get you depressed - better to look gorgeous in a bikini and not spend too much time in metaphysical contemplation.

9.  City or countryside? ‘Splain.

City.  Hands down.  Better cocktails.  Better shoes.

10.  What do you really think about memes like these?

I say 'why not!'  Let's be frivolous and fun once in a while (or in my case, always!)

Jul 13, 2010

Jealous?

The view from where I'm currently typing, painted toenails and all:



Bons bisous de la presqu'ile de Saint Tropez!

Oh Behave!

I'm a slut.

No, not an actual slut, this isn't Belle du Jour the Sequel (and not a peep out of you, oh darling friends of mine!)

I'm a job slut.  You know, that thing that unemployed people become once they've been looking for a while.

The shift at first is gradual.  Last time you checked you knew what you wanted, you had a list of very specific criteria for your next job: geographical location, salary, type of work, hours, industry, benefits, the colour of the office walls, whether it matches your favourite shoes, etc.

But then you start to stray.  Bit by bit.  Maybe the salary slips a little.  The geography drifts.  You didn't mean for it to happen, you had sworn you would be faithful, but somehow.  Was there something in the fruit punch?  A flirtatious glance that led you astray? 

And before you know it you're selling yourself to anything and anyone that will have you.  From London to Zurich to the dark back alleys of Bonn (Bonn? really? what were you thinking?), you hike up your CV, show a little leg and tell them whatever they want to hear.  Of course you're interested in the widgets this company make (frantic Wikipedia search to figure out what on earth they're talking about); of course you'll accept a pay cut (even below your unemployment benefits? shame on you); of course you've dreamt your whole life about - hold on, which one were you again?

Jul 11, 2010

Flip Flops

Two turtle doves were making their nest in the branches above my head this morning.  I kid you not.  All we need now is a partridge and a few pears and we've got Christmas in July.

Instead of a partridge, though, there's a large gecko crawling around between my legs, and I'm listening to the music of crickets in lieu of carols.  Perhaps we're more into Old Testament territory (Eden and the like) than the birth of Christ and Coca-Cola's Santa Claus.

Whatever it is, it's a little piece of paradise.  But a damn hot one (a veritable hellish roast).

This is how my head works now.  Thinking one thing then another.  Unable to settle, unable to decide, unable to cross the t's and dot the i's and finish off the squiggle of the s's.  In a constant state of flux.  The novel is a future bestseller.  The novel is drivel.  I want to be a lawyer again.  I can't bear the thought of being back in an office.  I'm excited about the new man I'm dating.  I'd rather be with my ex (but which one?)

It's bloody exhausting.

At least football is easy.  I'm for Spain.  I think.

Karma

Remember way back when I told you about the random acts of blogging?

You know, that crazy idea about being nice to strangers and then running for our lives to avoid resulting litanies of verbal and physical abuse from umbrella-wielding grannies.

Well, it's finally happening, and this is your last chance to be part of it!  So go ahead and email jill at the duchess guide dot com if you need some good karma flowing your way - God knows I sure could use some!

Les Fourmis

I'm feeling antsy and I don't know why.

Which is odd.  Introspection has become a bit of a hobby lately - and even if my internal reader isn't working, I can usually make something up for the sake of the blog.  I mean, who wants to read about me not knowing what's wrong with me? 

But I apologize, today is just one of those days.  Where things are unsettled in my heart and my head and I somehow can't relax into my idyllic surroundings (and this place is so beautiful, my inability to enjoy it amounts to pure blasphemy in my book).

I'm worried about the novel (the re-read is actually giving me stomach cramps).  I'm worried about never finding a job, or finding the wrong one (add one splitting headache to the tummy upset).  I'm worried about my fitness level being seriously under par for the Paris 20km I'm running in October (a dash of lung constriction and sore thighs sprinkled over the mix).  And all the other things I don't even know about yet, but that are surely very worrying as well (bake at 240°C for one hour and serve with custard).

So there you go.  It's not very interesting for you (hell, it's not even very interesting for me) and there's not much you can do to help (although I've never been known to refuse a massage and a cup of tea).  But cleverer people than myself say it's good to share, so consider yourself shared with.

Jul 10, 2010

The Big Melt(down)

God it's hot.

I know, I shouldn't complain - better hot than cold, right?  But still, it's really hot.

Too hot to blog.  Too hot to write.  Too hot to move my pinky finger and scratch that sun allergy I have unflatteringly (new word, yo) developed all over my chest. 

At least I'm in the south of France.  Down here is a good place for my writing, usually.  I don't know if it's the sunshine, the shimmering blue of the pool, the absence of beckoning shoe stores - but it usually does the trick.  Although for the next two weeks the house will be filled with family members, many of whom are under the age of twelve.  Screaming children : not so conducive to the quiet, contemplative art that is literature.

So let's see, any more excuses I can come up with?  We've covered the heat, the tweens, but there's also the stop-and-start job search, the headache I can feel coming on, the misalignment of Mars and Jupiter, and...

Alright Res, that's enough.  Let's stop pretending that there's any reason for the delay other than being scared witless of strangers and friends reading my baby and hating it.  I'm not sure I have the requisite self-confidence to handle rejection right now.

Jun 29, 2010

Same Me, New Place

The great Dr. B pointed out a few weeks ago that moving house was a great way to dis-organise, and then re-organise your life, doing a little sorting, fixer-upping and repackaging in the process.

He was not wrong.

The last two weeks have been a complete mess.  Nothing was in its place, be it in my living room or in that slightly pokier place also know as my brain.  And I can tell you, living in a state of dissaray like that is exhausting.

But now, little pieces of my life are coming back together, and I find myself appreciating them in a new, simpler way (if I'm sounding like Laura Bloody Ingalls I apologise).

First:  The internet, and associated television access.  Look!  Email!  News!  Evidence of the outside world! (and the odd realization that I didn't actually miss facebook...)

Second:  A nice, comfortable, uncluttered room to sit in.  Peaceful walls painted by yours truly (and Mommy Res).  Furniture that isn't covered in cardboard boxes or DIY materials or Pisa towers of books.  Sunlight streaming in through windows that are both framed in curtains instead of ladders.

Third:  Joining the gym.  So I can start feeling guilty again about not going.

Fourth:  Having nothing more strenuous to do over the next couple days than planning a date.  And enjoying dating again just because it's fun, and not because I'm in a rush to meet "The One" before my eggs shrivel up like yesterday's Benedicts.  OK, so moving didn't actually make me younger, but I do feel like it's hiked me up a notch on the zen-ladder.  I mean, I have grey walls.  How fabulously zen is that?!

And this great wave of chilling-out-itude is bound to get me back into the swing of things book-wise.  For sure.

In the meantime, I'm off to London!

Jun 21, 2010

Five Second Connection

I have moved (yay! hello again, Paris!).

As a result, I have spent the last three days splattered in paint and surrounded by enough cardboard and bubble wrap to make a pretty cool fort.

I am also sans internet connectivity.  Which means no TV, no email, no checking the NY Times, and no blogging.  This is actually the first time in three days that I've taken a peak at the outside world (thanks to Le Pain Quotidien's free wifi and 4-euro sinful brownie) - and I only had 20 minutes of battery life.

Gasp.

So please be patient over the next few days as Res goes radio silent again.  I promise you an extra-exciting post when I return.  Even if I have to make up the excitement.

Jun 17, 2010

Gute Laune*

Tomorrow's moving day and I'm in a strangely good mood.

I say strangely because I haven't been accustomed to good moods lately.  And also because I hate moving (I tried to count how many times I've moved house in my life, and I lost track somewhere in the 20-30 range.  You would think I'd have grown to enjoy hauling my possessions around by now.)

But still, I'm getting all sorts of positive vibes as I sit here and type.  First, because the boxes are finally all stuffed and sealed.  Second, because I'm coming back to my beloved city (twenty kilometres away might not seem like much to you, but it's an ocean for a city girl like yours truly.)  Third, because I'm watching France-Mexico with the girls tonight.  And generally, because life is sweet like a yellow pepper.

Wait, what?  Where did the yellow pepper thing come from?

Not to worry, that's just me trying out an awkward but oh-so-poetic transition to this great shot by Mr. Res Sr.  (aka Daddy).  This photo just puts me in a good mood.  Look at that little yellow pepper there, in with his species yet distinctly out of place (I've named him Res Pepper.)  I'm thinking of getting this photo framed and putting it up in my spanking new kitchen.


*because there's no reason why I shouldn't throw in a German title when the mood strikes

Jun 15, 2010

A Little How-To

Those of you who checked today's NY Times just knew I was going to post this.

And how could I not?  Advice for the budding novelist?!  Eager like the metaphorical beaver (and with only slightly better teeth), I clicked away to find...

(image courtesy of 826 National)

And that made my day.  Because there's only one thing I like better than useful advice, and that's pointlessly witty humour.

For those of you (like me) who can't read type that small, the poster encourages writers to check whether they have included all the essentials like plot, dialogue, protagonist and dinosaurs in their novel.  Bonus points are awarded for vampires. (Oddly, international arbitration lawyers are not a prerequisite character type).

But while the poster is just a bit of fun, I did find a grating ring of truth to the final paragraph of the Times' write-up:
First, “it’s reassuring,” as Alarcón writes, “to be reminded that everyone works differently, that there is no single way to arrive at your destination, that, in fact, your destination is necessarily a very different place from anyone else’s.” And second, it is perfectly fine to take a break, to scan and scroll, to seek succor in a poster or an essay, a book of quotations from celebrated authors or a trifling little blog post, but if you want to write, the first advice must always be: write.
Right.  Better get back on that horse soon.

Jun 13, 2010

Weren't you writing a novel?

You're probably wondering what's happened to the book.

Or maybe you're not, because frankly you have better things to do, but for the sake of argument, let's pretend that you are.

Well, the answer is, not a heck of a lot.  I'm not a big fan of taking too much responsibility for my failures, so I blame it on the move (do you have any idea how much crap I have to try to squeeze into boxes?!)

The plan was to read the book from start to finish and jot down a few notes on how to make it better.  I've gotten through a bit more than half so far, and most of my notes read like this:
- "No!"
- "Delete"
- "Gag"
- "What was I thinking?"

It's heaps of fun and great for my self-esteem - a bit like stabbing myself repeatedly with a spork.

My biggest problem is that my voice/style/tone - whatever you want to call it - changed about one third into the book.  Clearly, when I started out, I was very intimidated by the prospect of writing a novel (a Novel!) and decided this was Serious Stuff and there could be no dicking around like there is on the blog.

As a result, the beginning of the book is Awful. 

Fortunately, I appear to have gotten over myself about six chapters in and the rest is terrible for other, possibly more manageable reasons.  But what do I do with the beginning?  Throw it out and start again?  Work with what I have?

Since I don't have an answer to that question, I'm filling up cardboard boxes with junk instead.

Jun 12, 2010

Score

In World Cup football, women rule.

What, you don't believe me?  I thought I'd taught you never to disagree with a litigator...

Here's the proof.  Yesterday I call a fine beer-drinking establishment of central Paris to book a table for the France-Uruguay game (the opening salvo for the much-maligned Blues).  There's little hope, I think to myself, the game starts in four hours.  But lo and behold, a table is procured.

When Miss Hermes and I arrive at the said establishment, it turns out we have the best seat in the house.  Our own private television, a table by the open window, and a waiter who will bend over backwards (often over the bodies of sweaty football fans) to indulge our every whim (beer-related, that is).

Add to that the shy but indubitably flirtatious glances and smiles showered upon us as the Blues fail, yet again, to score a goal, and you'll have to agree, I was right.

During World Cup madness, it pays to be a woman.

At least it's better than being Nicolas Anelka (pardon the French football joke - it won't happen again.)

PS: What do you think of my new template?  Pretty spiffy, eh?!

Jun 8, 2010

Number 2

Let's take a break from the whinging and wailing, shall we, and enjoy instead the fact that Paris is wonderful.  And that in only ten short days, I will be moving back, to my own place, with my own set of keys, my own fridge, my own TV and comfy sofa, bref, my own chez moi.

Now you're thinking: "but where will Res go?"  Being loyal blog readers (thank you, by the way), you remember how much I loved my neighbourhood, the gays, the Pompidou, Diana the dog.  Well, do not fret, gentle souls, because I'm not moving far!

Only a few block over, actually, but into a brand new arrondissement.  I will now be a proud citizen of the second arrondissement of Paris.  Sadly (or happily, depending on how much you like having tourists taking pictures of your house on Sunday morning when you've just woken up and you're opening the window in that stretched-out T-shirt you use as pajamas), this is a mightily overlooked little corner of the world.  In fact, I'm betting you don't know much about it.

There are two ways we can solve that, though.  One, you can keep reading Res Ipsa's Paris for more info on local spots (I promise, once I move back, I will get much better at updating).  Two (and these are not mutually exclusive), you can read this great post from Hidden Kitchen blogger and chef Braden Perkins.  And then, come visit!

Wait until I've unpacked the boxes, though.

Jun 7, 2010

Perdu

I lost my funny.

I know I left it around here somewhere.  But then I went off and had a freak-out and now I can't find it.

Have you seen my funny?  It's small and round and answers to Bob.

Reward offered for its return.

The Late Show

I'm having one of those nights where I can't go to bed.

You know the ones.  When there's all this stuff simmering at the bottom of your brain and you just know that as soon as you crawl in under the sheets everything will boil over and that'll be the end.  For hours and hours, you'll be sucked into that turmoil of questions, from the sticky life-level ones ("Why can't I find a job?";  "Why can't I decide what country I should live in?";  "Why am I single?") to the self-pity ones ("Why don't any of my clothes look good on me?"; "Why am I not blonde?"; "Why can't I have another pair of Louboutins?") via the mundane anxiety-inducing ones ("Why didn't I write today?"  "Why am I too chicken-shit to call France Telecom and sort out my internet?")

To avoid this plight, the trick is to stay up.  And do pointless things to keep your mind occupied.  You can calculate the average number of words in the book titles on your shelf (but careful, this one might raise the "Why am I so crap I can't even find a decent book title?" question.)  Or you can leaf through the Breakfast Lunch Tea cookbook from Rose Bakery (as long as it doesn't lead to "Why did I never learn how to cook so I could actually have a boyfriend?")  Or watch The Hurt Locker (relatively harmless unless you're prone to "Why does my life have no purpose?" interrogations.)

It's a mine field out there.

I almost understand now why some people resort to stashing bottles of vodka under their beds.

Jun 6, 2010

Don't Know Just What To Do With Myself

My life is good.  Really.  Much better than most.  Jetting off to weddings in Cairo, spending time in London and New York almost whenever I want, enjoying dinners, concerts, theatre with friends - seriously, I can't complain.

Let me rephrase that.

I shouldn't complain.

That doesn't mean I can't.

Today is not so much a rant day as an existential crisis day.  Think of it as throwing a methaphorical bottle into the metaphorical webby ocean to see if there's an answer out there.  Somewhere.

Here's the question:  "What the bejeezus am I supposed to do now?"  (notice the quaint use of swear words - this blog is kid-friendly).

Seriously, though.  I'm feeling a bit lost.  The book - well, nothing much is happening with the book.  Eventually it will be finished.  And then I will need a job.  Preferably one I enjoy.  One that allows me some time for sleep, exercise, and a social life.  One that doesn't make me so miserable I have to quit after a year.  One that my CV can be creatively tailored for without resorting to outright lies.

So where is that job?

Is it in Paris?  Because it really doesn't feel like it right now.  Which is a slight problem seeing as I just bought a flat here (ah, yes, I forgot to mention.  More on that another day).

And what do I about the fact that I miss my friends who all live far away, and half of my friends here seem to be headed in the same direction?

[INSERT LOUD PLAINTIVE KEENING]

If you have a solution to my crisis, please send replies to Res @ selfpity dot com.

Thanks.  I feel much better now.

May 31, 2010

I'm a little bit rock n' roll

Last night, Miss LVMH and I decided to go a little rock n' roll Scotland style and check out Snow Patrol at L'Olympia (a concert venue that Res Ipsa's Paris would be proud to recommend).  (Is it just me, or is my life just too cool right now?  Someone pinch me please.)

Snow Patrol, a surprisingly underrated band (you'd be surprised how many people asked me who they were when I was offering tickets), holds a very special place in my heart.

Those of you who have been reading this blog from the start may recall that I travelled to Venezuela three years ago.  What you may not know is that this trip was not all fun and games.

Imagine a young girl (not yet thirty - those were the days) arriving alone at the airport in Caracas.  She spots a sign with the name of her hiking tour on it.  Gathered around it are not the strapping young men and women she was expecting, but a motley crue of people born before they'd invented the telephone.  And I'm only slightly exaggerating.

For two weeks, the young girl hiked across the country and shared a tent with a recently divorced 55-year old who regaled her with tales of her failed marriage and snored loudly.  She cowered behind tropical trees as the group washed in cold streams - an activity that 73-year old men apparently prefer to perform stark naked.  (I cannot tell you how much I wish I had never seen that). And she smiled bravely as she was transformed into everyone's daughter.

Finally, on the last four days, the camel found that straw that gave him a herniated disk.  It came in the shape of a hammock.  Our young heroine cannot sleep in a hammock.  Even less so when it is encased in mosquito netting (if humans were meant to sleep in coccoons, we'd look more like butterflies).  And especially when lost in the middle of the jungle and strung side by side with her travelling companions like cow meat on butchers' hooks.

So instead of sleeping, she exhausted her ipod's batteries to play Snow Patrol over and over, all night, every night.  The music kept her more or less sane.  It kept her from attacking the rest of the group with a machete.  It got her home in one piece.

Thank you boys, I am forever in your debt.  As are those old folks, even if they're not aware of it.

And last night's show was amazing.