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.

May 30, 2010


Am still reeling from the week in Cairo (and desperately sleep deprived) but I wanted to share this picture with you.

This was the setting for a rehearsal dinner.  Yes, you read that right.  A rehearsal dinner.  And no, that is not a cardboard backdrop.

As a result, I have decided never to get married, as nothing short of a reception on the moon can top this.  Sorry boys.

I'm crawling back under the covers now to dream of pharaos.  I'll be with you as soon as my feet land back in the real world.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

May 24, 2010

The Gauls do Egypt

Just a quickie today to let you know that, for reasons too unwieldy to get into here, I am taking an unexpected trip to Cairo this week.

(That sounds pretty glamorous, doesn't it.)

So imagine me, draft manuscript in hand, large sunhat and Audrey Hepburn sunglasses on head, lounging by the pyramids with a glass of gin and tonic... and you will be pretty far from the truth.  I don't even own a large sunhat.

But I do promise to bring back a picture of my buddy Sphinxy.

See you next week.

May 20, 2010

Plan B

One day in New York, three smart, beautiful girls were enjoying a bottle or two of Sancerre (or was it Sauvignon Blanc?)  They had been friends for (holy crap) 25 years.  Two were single on a tragic and entertaining scale, one had a good woman waiting for her at home, all were over 30 and worried about passing on their exceptional genetic gifts.

And so this song was born (only one of us is a singer and in this video, the other two are uncredited behind the camera inspiration).

May 17, 2010

So There

Today, I want to rant.

I know I'm supposed to go to bed every night listing five things that I'm over-the-moon happy about (yes, Duchess, I have been paying attention) but sometimes that's just not as fun as ranting.

So tonight, you're going to get ranting.

Here goes.

Rant #1
My knee hurts. Still. By the end of every day, the simple fact of having been in an upright position since morning makes my knee mighty sore. Add to that the pleasures of Parisian metro steps and the two stories of my parents' house, and sore becomes a serious understatement. It's been two months since the half-marathon. Two months without my normal exercise (and today my physio banned pilates for the next couple weeks).

Now, if I don't exercise, I put on weight. And if I put on weight, I get yelled at by the scary, skinny blonde lady at the beauty parlour. This is the real secret of why French women don't get fat, by the way: if they do, they get yelled at. Except what the Flabtator doesn't realize is that my relationship with weight gain and food generally is entirely governed by my German genes, not my French ones. Yup, the Germans won that battle as well...

The fact that I look better in a dirndl than those twiglet Parisiennes is a small consolation...

Rant #2
I'm frightened of my book. It's sitting in my room now (well, I should say my parents' guest room), neatly printed, hole-punched and organized in two old college binders I found lying around. And it's scaring the bejeezus out of me. What if I hate it? What if I can't make it better? What if I realize that I spent the last six months writing a load of hogwash? But what if I never bite the bullet and it never gets done?

It's at moments like this that I start eating cupcakes. Refer back to rant #1.

Rant #3
Tomorrow, I meet with my employment counsellor. She's going to ask me how my job search is going, and I'm going to put on a happy face and tell her it's totally under control, and she's going to be pretty worried nonetheless because the French state pays me a lot of money and it's beginning to dawn on them that they're going to have to continue doing so for some time as I'm completely unsuitable for just about any job they've ever even heard of.

What the heck does an international investor-State arbitration specialist do, anyway? (For the record, the simple answer is: sue countries for a living. And it's not like there's a whole list of job offers out there saying, "Hey, come work for us, we need someone who knows how to sue countries!")

In the past six months, I have found three jobs I'm sort of interested in. The first one (the one I had nightmares about, if you recall), turned me down. The second one is on the fence because I'm not French enough. The third one hasn't gotten back to me.

Fine, whatever. But the thing is, I will have to find a job eventually. And that eventually is coming fast and furious now that the book-writing hoopla is coming to an end.

If you're into pop psychology, you might infer a cause and effect relationship between rants #2 and 3. Just if you're into that sort of thing.

May 16, 2010

Scribe Me a Writer

This post from Lydia's France got me thinking about definitions. More specifically, how I define myself.

These days, when people ask me what I do, I typically reply that I'm unemployed. If I don't feel like saying that, I tell them I'm a lawyer. Only rarely do I ever answer: "writer." (Notice I never say ex-consultant!)

So why not? Why don't I tell people I'm a writer? It is what I purposefully became unemployed for, after all. It's what I do all day (or what I try to do...) But why does it feel so unnatural to say, "I'm a writer"?

My gut instinct tells me I can't be called a writer until I'm published. Fair enough. But what is it about publishing that will push me over the line between lazy git and author?

Is it that I will be paid for something I wrote? That can't be it. I haven't made any money from being a lawyer for four years and yet I never stopped referring to myself as one. Damn it, I worked hard for that bar exam! Also, I've never made any money from blogging, but I'm not ashamed to have it known that I'm a blogger (albeit a minor one!)

So what is it?

Recognition, obviously.

The State of New York recognizes me as a lawyer. The 250-odd people who read my blog recognize me as a blogger.

No one recognizes me as a writer. Least of all myself.

Aye, there's the rub.

May 13, 2010

Past Hurdle One

I'm done. Done with chapter 25. Done with the epilogue. Done.

The first draft of my novel, the one I started way back when at the end of October, is finally complete.

I can't write more as I feel completely spent and am now going to crawl under the duvet with a cup of rooibos vanilla, but I did want to let you know, you who have been with me every painful step of the way.

Now on to Hurdle Two. The rewrite.

Bring it on.

May 10, 2010

Live from London

In London since election night, and still no government. I had been hoping they'd scramble to piece one together before I left, but no. How inconsiderate.

So instead of checking out a new prime minister, this weekend I have enjoyed the fine offerings of the London stage (Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Old Vic, fan-freakin'-tastic!), many helpings of food, wine, and more food (the flab-tator will not be pleased) and the company of good friends.

What I have not been doing so much of is writing. None at all, actually. I'm so close (so close!) but maybe it's like exercise - once you've been off it for a while, it's hard to get back on the metaphorical horse.

And yet, it would be so great to finish off those last twenty-odd pages of the first draft between now and Friday, when Supermom and I ditch Paris to check out the new Pompidou in Metz. Because if I do, then that means champagne and art to celebrate! Followed by the rewrite (which I am actually looking forward to) and the activation of my volunteer army of proofreaders (thanks girls!)

So come on. Send some energy my way. Chapter 25. I can do it. It's nowhere near as hard as getting the Tories and the Lib Dems to agree on something.

May 4, 2010


The UK goes a-polling in two days. Now, I'm not British, I don't even live there anymore (and I am not currently dating an Englishman, which is unlike me) but like in 1997 (when I was a young London student), I'm finding this year's vintage particularly interesting.

Never mind that elections anywhere during this time of crisis/upheaval/turmoil (choose your favourite headline word) should be watched closely.

So I'm interested. Which doesn't mean I have anything intelligent to say about Thursday's elections. But you know who does? Stephen (Fry, not King). Right here. A long, but powerful and personal analysis of the options available. And a reminder, for those who need it - and many do - of what democracy is and why it's a very good thing indeed.

Now go read. And if you're British, go vote. I'll be swinging by on Thursday to see how you did.

May 1, 2010

The Devil's In the Storyboard

How could I, ex-consultant extraordinaire, not share this wonderful piece from the New York Times on the use of Powerpoint in the US Department of Defense? It had to be done folks. Especially because it echoes so precisely all those months of frustration with the dumming down of the professional world through the excessive use of bullet points. Seriously, we're going to end up with an entire generation of people unable to write a sentence (for those of you who still work in consulting firms, a sentence typically has a subject, a verb and an object, begins with a capital letter and ends with some form of punctuation. Just FYI.)

But don't take my word for it. Listen to what the generals have to say:

"Powerpoint makes us stupid." (General Mattis)
Powerpoint is handy for "hypnotizing chickens." (retired Colonel Hammes)

"It's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable." (General McMaster)

The illusion of understanding. How many times did I feel that, as consultants, that was exactly what we were peddling? We shouldn't be able to get away with it. No one should be able to get away with it. Whether it's consultants, bankers (hello Fabulous Fab), or writers (like those authors who write about a place they have clearly never been to and don't even bother to research - I'll be nice and won't name names). The illusion of understanding is what gets civilizations like ours into a big fat mess (hello Athens).

Right, I'll stop here with this foray into negativity and political soap-boxing (so un-Res). But take a look at the slide that started all the hoopla at the DoD, and smile (or cringe).

We have met the enemy and he is Powerpoint, says the Times. But where's the "so what"?! Someone draw me a big f***ing arrow over here! And some pretty boxes, dammit!