Monday, November 28, 2005

love-life
Not that I write as much in here as I used to, but when I was writing a lot, one of the themes was love-life. So here's an update.

Since the days of whingeing about how hard it was to meet anyone, some things have changed. First there was Odile, French, 23. That lasted about four or five months before we got tired of each other. She was a spoilt princess. I didn't match up to her last boyfriend, a 45 year old Iranian millionaire.

A little bit of time passed before one weekend there was a fling with a very nice girl called Carmen, Spanish, 26. Unfortunately, she lived 6 hours away. Seeing as I had known her for only 3 days it was unlikely to last. And it didn't.

Isabelle is French, 32. We've known each other for about 18 months or something thereabouts, through work. We first kissed 1 year ago but she got scared and ran off. She apologised and told me that she does that a lot. So we have spent the last year being friends, having lunch. Clubbing on the odd occasion, or going to the beach.

Two weeks ago, we both went to a conference in Lisbon hosted by our company. I was presenting, she was supporting. We spent a good couple of hours sitting next to each other, very close, working on stuff.

Our mutual friend Patrice made a point of embarrasing us, calling us 'les amoureux' and generally stirring it up with the L word. By Friday we were both behaving like nervous teenagers anticipating their first (our second) kiss.

Sunday was the first day we were both back in Toulouse. We met up and went to a very English Salon de The. Things got super flirty and went from there. One week and a day now. Passion and fireworks. Sensitivity and early morning cuddles. Intimate confessions and mutual acceptance. Great stuff.

I just hope she keeps her twitchy feet under control.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More strikes
I see at BBC news that the French rail workers are striking again. Apparently they are striking in protest against plans to privatise the French rail company SNCF.

Not that anybody actually has any plans to do such a thing. The transport minister Dominique Perben apparently said, "I put in black and white what I have said on several occasions over the last 10 days: there is no plan for the privatisation of SNCF".

This reminds me of an interesting conversation I had with my French friend Fabien the other day. He scoffed at the British railways for having such old trains, giving this as a reason for why SNCF is better.

Well firstly, he obviously hasn't been to the UK for a while - the trains are getting newer. And secondly, what matters most? The age of your trains? Or whether your trains are actually being driven in order that passengers can be transported from A to B at the times advertised?

Free trade and competition are practically articles of religious faith in the UK. Definately not the case over here. Protectionism and laziness seems more the order of the day sometimes, although I would love to hear alternative explanations from my French friends.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Disgruntlement
Don't know quite what to say about all these riots and car burnings that are reported to be happening all over France. I haven't seen anything myself, but then I live in the town centre. The estates of tower blocks where these things are happening are located as far away as possible from the town centre.

I've thought for a long time that the location of these places is pretty symbolic. It's very much as if these blocks were constructed where your average 'native' Frenchman could pretend they didn't exist. Well away from all cultural amenities, well away from everything except the noisy motorways and the stinking factories.

Racism exists in my own country as well as here, it is true. But I think it's instructive to reflect about the ethnic mix of the company where I work at the office both here in France, and in the UK. Definately, compared to here, there is a much better mix of ethnic backgrounds in the UK side of the company. And the mix is spread all throughout the levels of the hierarchy. I would personally conclude that the minorities have more restricted opportunities here.

But racism is a two way street. It's difficult not to carry hate in your eyes when you experience prejudice on a daily basis. But if you carry it and look at people with your hatred, you are only perpetuating a viscious circle, provoking the reactions you don't want. Hatred is not an effective way to challenge and change prejudice. You just end up looking like an angry malcontent. The sort of guy that politicians like Sarkozy can stick a label on.

And then there is the clash of religious versus secular societies, and all the identity issues that go with it. I'm not gonna take either side. We could do with a bit more moral guidance and less materialism at times, in the same way as many other countries could with a bit less pointlessly restrictive judgementalism. No society or culture is perfect.

Certainly blowing each other to bits is not the answer, whether that is with laser-guided missiles or with petrol bombs.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Post-war diaries
I have just finished reading a book called 'Our Hidden Lives'. It's the diaries of 5 people living in Britain during the period 1945 to 1951. A bit like condensed blogging from another time.

The diaries were written as part of a project called 'Mass-Observation', in which 2000 people sent regular journal entries into the project HQ, to be recorded and analysed as a type of anthropological experiment. There is a website about it here.

The period selected by publication in the book is pretty intriguing. Britain and the world are emerging from WWII, the Labour Party is making the theories of socialism reality in the economy of the UK, the Jews are moving into what was then Palestine to create Israel, the Russians and Americans are on the verge of starting the cold war, and Britain is starting to become a multi-cultural society with a crumbling empire.

One of the funniest things I read though, was a throwaway comment by middle aged housewife Edie Rutherford. She remarked, "Strange that in a cold climate like this curry isn't popular".

Curry is now the favourite national dish!

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cigarettes and Alcohol
So, the BRitish government is changing the laws governing the consumption of both alcohol and cigarettes.

Cigarettes are being banned except for in pubs that don't serve food, and clubs. This is supposed to be a major effort to improve the nation's health.

Meanwhile, alcohol 'licensing-laws', the laws which decide when and where alcohol can be sold, are being extended. This will mean round the clock drinking, and is apparently an attempt to tackle the British binge-drinking culture, replacing it with a more relaxed 'continental' attitute to alcohol.

The cigarette ban obviously seems like a step in the right direction health-wise. Extending the licensing hours is so obviously just going to be like pouring petrol onto a fire.

I guess that when you ban smoking, you are making a big dent in your tax revenues. You have to fill that hole up somehow don't you?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The load gets lighter...
This afternoon I went along to my bank in Blagnac, and sat down with my account 'advisor'. I asked her how much I had left on that loan that has been a real pain in the ass. She gave me figure. It was less than I had in my bank account. Result = no more loan. Yippee!

I got home this evening and looked in my post. There was a collection of flyers advertising pizza and the like, and one letter. It looked a bit special and had definately come from the UK. I opened it up and sure enough, it was from the Student Loans Company. Balance paid in full, account closed. Yippee times two!

Now except for a little bit of credit card that is a piffling piddle in the previous ocean of debt, I am Mr Debt Free of Toulouse. I have to tremendously thank my parents who sorted out that financial operation.

All that debt was largely the result of 1) Drinking beer at university, and 2) Credit card financed consumer consumption. I have learnt my lessons on spending, I can tell you.

Anyway, now for that mortgage ;)

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cocaine
The BBC are reporting that Boy George, 80s musician and general fading star, accidentally invited the New York police to his appartment and got himself arrested for possession of cocaine. Accidentally my ass.

Meanwhile, having organised an press conference to get his point across, Robbie Williams commented on Kate Moss' use of cocaine saying that it was her business and people should leave her alone (poor Kate). Oh yeah, there was a something about his new album and T-Mobile who sponsor him but I'm sure that was incidental.

Personally I prefer the line from Rebecca Cheshire of the Addaction drug treatment centre, who said: "Rock stars and models can afford to go to rehabilitation clinics but the average person cannot. Teenage girls look up to Robbie Williams as a person to emulate and he has not considered the effect of his comments on the wellbeing of his fans."

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Monday, June 13, 2005

am I blogging?
I notice that I started this blog nearly a year ago, in July 2004. At that time I needed a blog to help me get thoughts down on paper somewhere, to give me a place where I could get the bottom of some very personal things. Those of you who were here will have seen some of my moments of both darkness and light as I worked hard to unravel the subconscious mysteries of my cultural conditioning and family background.

Aside from just being busy, the main reason I have been doing less blogging recently has been that after my trip to Japan at Christmas, and after dealing with some loose ends of cultural clutter, I have felt that I have largely solved the riddles that were puzzling me. So blogging has been unnecessary from that point of view.

But the other reason I haven't been blogging is that a great number of things have been on my mind, and I haven't been ready to write about them.

By solving the riddles of my own identity, I have come to appreciate that we have systems within our cultures from which we derive our identities in relation to the people around us. I have come to consider that our countries themselves also have identities, and their identities are formed in relation to other countries. Our personal and national identities are supported by our consumption of goods and materials, and our consumption is ultimately supported by the planet.

When we mentally possess our identity as a fixed set of ideas this is always against the backdrop of a continually changing reality. When we compare our ideas about ourselves to reality we will always get some discrepancy. The conceptual level of our identity is what I have come to understand to be 'ego'. The reality of our identity I prefer to leave a mystery in order to reduce my ego. The consequences of too much ego can easily been seen either in office politics or in international politics: fractionalism, obstructiveness, conflict and war. Ego-identity is competitive and not co-operative.

When I look at the world around me, I see it integrating itself at a frenetic pace. Everything is becoming connected by either a phone line or an aeroplane, an international regulatory organisation or a supra-national collective. We are all trying to either stay or to become rich, and the numbers of us trying to become that way are rising exponentially. Our wealth will ultimately only ever be derived from the planet that we live on.

It seems clear that the planet isn't going to provide sufficient resources for us all to get rich Western style. Without a shift in our paradigm, we will see inevitably conflict for resources and a hardening of national identities as we participate in conflict. Take a look at the current politics between China and Japan if you doubt what I'm saying.

How are we going to raise all nations out of poverty without either ruining the planet or blowing ourselves to bits? How can we learn to co-operate together in a world without political hegemony? There are no easy solutions, but for me, identity and the processes and systems behind it are critical issues in solving these problems. We are all going to have to take a look at ourselves and give something up if we want to survive.

I have the same burning interest to get to bottom of this mystery as I did to get the bottom of my last mystery. The news is then, that this is what I will now be blogging about. If Glacons was previously about discovering the bit of the icecube that was hidden under the surface, Glacons is now about why an icecube should choose to melt into the watery whole, and how it could do it. It's a strange mixture of the political, theoretical and practical, technological and spiritual.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

the French NON
Needless to say I find it a bit disappointing that there was a NON of 55% to 45% in the French referendum on the European Constitution yesterday. But in some ways it's not surprising.

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The reasons for the non must be many, and I'm certainly no expert on them. I haven't actually met a French person who was against the constitution so I've not really had the chance to clarify why there was such a strong no. Nevertheless, the reasons I've picked up on seem to point to the fears of being overrun by Turkish immigrants who will steal jobs, and by being invaded by a 'liberal' Anglo-Saxon economy where social benefits are cut back. Then there is apparently a large number of people who voted against the government and the president in order to register a protest vote out their general disgruntlement with French politics. Another factor is that the point of the constitution and of the European Union generally has not been well explained and so people aren't buying into its development. I think this is true all over Europe. Until I started reading the constitution, I certainly wasn't certain what the Union was looking like. What I have learnt is this.

European integration started after WW2 as an effort to pool economic resources, with the logic that if you integrate your countries economies and make them dependent upon each other then there will be no war. Things have steadily progressed and now it is clear that, embracing 25 countries and with a common currency and a collection of institutions and procedures, Europe needs some streamlining in its decision making processes. Another significant factor is that we face political and military hegemony from the US, and are seeing a dramatic increase in the influence and power of China. European nations which once ruled the world now face the possibility of marginalisation in world politics. It is against this backdrop that the leaders of the EU are working to build a power block that will be of sufficient size to compete on the world stage. Similar efforts are underway in Asia and in South America, although we are by far and away the trailblazers in this process.

For me, the simple truth is that our best future does lie as part of federal Europe. I am happy to accept this idea. But I know that this will never be achieved until we can figure out how it can happen without overly traumatising or even destroying our national identities. Our nations have long histories of which we are proud. How can Britain, which ruled over half the globe until 60 years ago, be happy simply co-operating in a power share arrangement? How can France, which started a project with its neighbours as a means of self-protection, be happy as the project threatens to engulf it? I don't know, but some of the answers lie in the direction of a science of culture and identity - something we currently lack. Other answers lie in improving our understanding of the project, dispelling the thousands of myths and fears, and explaining why it is our best chance for self-preservation and improvement. There is also a strong need to increase interest in the democratic process, so that the people of Europe participate and sense that they are represented by this Europe, and so that scaremongers and racists can't hijack politics with their opportunist populism.

I'm sure that some of you there reading this will be squirming and feeling that I'm stupidly idealistic. But since I am a Brit living in France and working in the first European company, everyday I live and experience the benefits of European integration.

In the 1970s the European aerospace industry comprised of a handful of tiny national companies compared to the American giants of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. In the same way that our individual nations today lack the size and clout necessary to stand up to the giant nations and are grouping into the EU, four national aerospace companies of France, Germany, Britain and Spain slowly came together in a co-operative venture under the brand 'Airbus'. A headquarters was established where representatives from each nation formed the employees and headed up the high level functions of the new venture, including marketing, finance, training and support - basically all the functions which required contact with the customers in the outside world. The synergy of different talents and ideas that is present in such a cultural mix has driven Airbus forward to the point that it is now market leader and McDonnell Douglas has been driven out of business. The national companies still hold considerable power in the company and although their identities have changed, they still retain an identity of their own, distinct from any other. If they had stayed apart, its unlikely they would even exist.

It's because of this industrial rejuventation that I am comfortable with the idea of European integration. As long as we can combine our talents and ensure our federal government is truly run by a mixture of cultures and nationalities, and as long as we involve ourselves in the government so that our voice is heard, then surely us Europeans can find that this is the best way to retain our prosperity and influence in a world of giant nations. We do actually have a lot of common interests despite our differences in perspective.

We've done our stint at global domination and are ready to see a different world, a world in which nations co-operate and communicate peacefully and in which resources are shared. The EU model is by far the most developed in bringing this world into existence.

More so than the domineering US or the developing and hungry China and India, we are concerned about such issues as environmental change, sustainable development, third-world poverty and disease. Aren't these are the issues that humanity needs to face?

With our long long history of engaging other cultures and languages, having already made all our mistakes on the world stage and resolved on diplomacy, aren't we uniquely qualified to bring out concencus and solve conflict?

My personal faith is that together us Europeans can really make a difference to this world. I hope that France's NON will cause us think for a moment, and to wake us up to this possibility for our future.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Thomas and Karine
I reckon that a good measure of being established somewhere is when the people you know there start inviting you to their weddings. I was very happy to get an invite to Thomas and Karine's wedding a few weeks back, but hardly imagined what a wonderful day it would be.

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The settings for the ceremonies were very intimate, chosen as they were to be in or around Karine's hometown about 30 minutes outside Toulouse. The sun shining upon the rolling hills of the open countryside, the reddish brown earth of the ploughed fields, just added to the pleasure of the day.

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This was the first wedding I had been to in France, but it's difficult to describe it as French wedding. The pattern was according to the French tradition, with the ceremonies starting at the townhall, going on to the church, and finally for drinks and food at a restaurant to celebrate. The guests however were a real melange of nationalies, Danish, French, Spanish and English and probably a few more that I didn't notice.

The coolest thing was the mix of wedding traditions this brought, including the brilliant Danish 'Cutting Of The Green Socks'. It seems that way back in Danish history, when a guy wanted to declare his love for a girl he did it by wearing green socks. As soon as he and his lady got married, the wedding guests would cut the toes off his green socks so that he couldn't go around chasing any more girls. Of course, that would never be an issue with Thomas, but cutting his socks was a good laugh nonetheless.

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I had a great day, seeing their marriage and meeting all their family and friends. It was really a privilege to have been invited. Watching Thomas and Karine, so obviously sorted and happy, I felt proud to be their friend. Congratulations guys! :)

As for my own love life, I think I shall keep you all in suspense a little longer. Needless to say, I now have one and it is going very well :)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

madrid
Blogging does seem to be taking a bit of a back seat these days. I have to confess this is partly due to having a lack of stuff that I want to write about. I have a load of ideas swirling around in my brain but now is not the right time for them to be thrown out into the world. I'm not even sure blogging is the best way. But anyway, that's only one reason for not blogging.

I've been away again, this time to Madrid for a long weekend with my Spanish friends. Needless to say I had a great time and it was wonderful to see my mates at home in their country and neighbourhoods, to meet their families and see their appartments and stuff. Jacqui and I also went down to Toledo for a day to meet Jorge. Toledo is the old capital and was a real eye opener - a mix of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures that I have never seen before in Europe. Here are some photos.

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Finally, the other reason I've not been blogging so much is that I've been spending a lot of time with a particular person and hence have not been at home too much. It's early days but things are pretty good so far :)

Must dash. Catch up soon with news of my GISBE parcel that arrived today, and also, Thomas' wedding on Saturday! Good luck mate!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

the beast of blagnac
It's a bit jammy that I'm having some training at the aircraft factory this week, and so I had all the passes I needed to secure my entry onto the runway for the first flight of the A380. This beast took off from Blagnac airport in Toulouse at 1030h this morning and I was there, one head in a crowd of tens of thousands.

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The plans to build the A380 were the first things I learnt about Airbus, and it that that persuaded me to leave England and take my University Industrial Year with them in Toulouse, back in 1996. Watching the whole project coming together has been quite exciting over the last couple of years, whether it was pieces of the aircraft itself, the gargantuan factories it is built in, or the boats and planes and roads that were needed to transport the massive sections of its 550 passenger holding, 600 ton bulk.

I was watching from less than 100 metres away as the beast ran past me on the runway, with me frantically jumping up and down and cheering and shouting "aller! aller!" as loud as I could. It was only a second or two later when the A380 started to rotate into the climb. Seeing the thing lift itself into the air was truthfully a very emotional moment, containing a large share of amazement and a fair dollop of pride. A huge cheer went up from the crowd, with arms flung into the air and smiles a mile wide spread across our faces.

Without a doubt, it is on days like this that being European, experiencing the fruits of European cooperation, is just bloody fantastic. I shall certainly not be voting British National Party in the UK General Election next month.

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Flickr Photo Album

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Friday, April 22, 2005

a night in
I see some of you have been wondering where I have been, and I'm not surprised since I notice it has been nearly a whole month. Thanks for the concern and the questions, but no need to worry, things are cool over here. I've just been stupidly busy, tis all.

It was the Tuesday after my last post that I flew out to the UK for a day of technical meetings. I was supposed to leave at 1630, but the flight got cancelled so I grabbed the company credit card and booked another flight to Gatwick instead of Bristol. This one was scheduled for 2130, which was going to get me the UK at 2230. I was of course overjoyed to know that it was delayed for an hour. Arriving at Gatwick at 2330, I then grabbed a car and drove the 100 miles up the M4 to Bristol, arriving about 0130.

I left Britain again on Thursday morning on the 0630 plane after getting up at about 0500. I went straight to work and slogged it out all day trying to get loads of stuff done since knew I only had one complete day at work to prepare myself for the troubleshooting trip I mentioned two posts ago. Saturday I chilled out, but Sunday I went snowboarding which again meant getting up at 0500 again.

I was in bed on Sunday night by 0200, after completing my taxes and packing my rucksack for a weeks holiday back home. The plane left at 0730. It was on time. I got to my parent's place about 1100 and spent the next few days chilling, drinking with old mates, checking out my sister's new house, celebrating my parent's 32nd wedding aniversary, mucking about with my neice, and eating too much curry and Easter chocolate.

Friday saw me travelling the breadth of the South, going down to the English surf heaven of Newquay for the three day stag weekend of a guy I lived with at Uni. I have very few pictures due to not trusting my drunken self to carry my camera around. But believe me, you really don't want to see the ones I do have. Neither my mate nor the strippers were a pretty sight naked.

By the time we left the caravan park on Monday morning I had eaten another curry, three English breakfasts and a kebab, and drunk about 20 pints of beer, numerous Vodka Red Bulls and all sorts of other rubbish. I felt great. After sitting at Gatwick for most of the afternoon, I got back to my flat in Toulouse around midnight.

Tuesday morning I got up early to pack my suitcase before going into work. While I'd been in the UK my colleagues had called to say that my troubleshooting trip had changed - I was leaving a day earlier than originally planned. This meant I had only 16 hours back in France before leaving again. Managing to get a bit of work in before leaving, I got to the hotel in Farnborough about 2000. I used to live in Farnborough so there were plenty of people to see, but I decided to spend the night watching TV and dining courtesy of room service.

The next morning saw me out on the airfield, both under and inside the aircraft. It was pretty cool being there like that - I left the town in a run down old Citroen to move to Toulouse, and came back in royal jet. We instrumented the fuel tanks and completed successful tests on the ground. Then we went for a squiggly flight around South West England, around and around, climbing and descending. I was in the cockpit for takeoff and landing, watching the pilots pushing buttons and levers, listening to them taking directions from air traffic control. So unbelievably cool, if you like that sort of thing. The next two days were taken analysing data, hypothesising, drawing up action plans and writing presentations to explain our ideas to the airline. I managed not to eat a single English breakfast at the Holiday Inn, despite the sausages and bacon smiling at me every morning just beyond the fruit salad.

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I flew out to Dallas on Saturday afternoon to catch up with the jet which was going there for it's 5 year service, costing over 2 million dollars. Saturday afternoon wandering around downtown, eating Mexican and looking at Kennedy's fateful grassy knoll. Sunday was iPod shopping day down at the mall, with melon for breakfast, lunch at Souper! Salad!, and steak for dinner.

Monday, I was up at 0700 to check my emails and have a call with the guys back in Europe who were working the last couple of hours of their afternoon and had therefore already had a morning to consider my plan. I met up with the guys from the airline and went to the aircraft, now being fiddled with by the guys in the shop. I gave my presentation, and we scheduled another test for the next day.

That night we went to Al Biernats restaurant where we had some wonderful food. The others had steak but I had delicious Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi Salad. I munched it happily while joking with the crew and watching affluent Americans relaxing in the huge stylish hall, a decorated mix of classical columns supporting domes painted colorful and geometric modern. Driving around the city in a cow horned taxi I loved the States, it's imagination and its energy, its activity and vision.

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The next day saw me donning a set of overalls, gloves and shoe covers and climbing backwards into the aircraft's fuel tanks through a tiny diamond shaped hole in the belly of the beast. Although ventilated with an air cannon, it still stunk in there as I listened for noises and looked for movements. The inspection proved useful and I asked the guys to remove a couple of parts, chatting with them in their thick Texan accents y'awl, warming to their cheerful and relaxed nature.

Tuesday night was calm, just steak again for dinner with the airline technical manager, a man with a wealth of knowledge about planes and ex-pat life. Wednesday morning I packed my bags and headed back off to Dallas For Worth airport in a cab driven by Dr James, a man of tall stories and dodgy trousers. He might have had a silly name, but it was the Embassy Suite's Bell Captain who won the prize on the trip, with his black and white hair making him the very aptly named Mr Napoleon Badger.

British Airways business class may have wonderful seats that recline until they're flat, but sleep was fitful and light as my mind churned over the experiences of the last couple of weeks and filtered out the noise of air rushing past outside the cabin at hundreds of miles per hour. Two films and two airline meals later at 0730, after some chat with Carol from Texas Instruments, I was at back at Gatwick again for the sixth time in three weeks. Like an old friend who wanted to spend a bit of time with me, she kept me there for a few hours as I waited for my 1400 connection back to Toulouse.

Toulouse. My home. Nothing much had changed. The awful driving was the same, the parking just as bad.

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Less than an hour and a half after opening my suitcase, I was back out the door and off to the pub to watch the Jacqui Chan Band. Almost everyone was there. So many people I was glad to see and to joke with. Tonight after another day's work and a couple down the pub, I was going to go back out again. After all, it is Friday night. I hope you won't think me square and boring if I tell you that I have decided to stay in. I'm chilling out at home for a change, catching up with y'awl.

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

biking
Aymen rang me this morning, and asked how I was in his usual sunny voice. I told him I had a pain in the ass. For some reason my butt was aching this morning, two days after going jogging with Thomas. Not that anything funny happened, you understand.

Anyway, slight bum pain didn't stop me spending an afternoon cycling along the Garonne today. The four of us covered over 46 clicks. The bike I hired from the town hall wasn't exactly the right one for the job. That's it in the front of the picture.

It could've done with more suspension and less granny basket. But hey, the super padded saddle protected my tender bottom from too bad a bashing as we thundered up and down the track.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

it's an outrage
I have had to complain quite strongly. I can't believe the way they're treating me. I am going to be forced out of the King's private jet, with it's gold double bedroom and platinum executive lounge area, and into a first class seat on some disgustingly normal plane belonging to an airline instead. I'll be like, with other normal peasant people and stuff.

For one work reason and another I have to accompany one of the most luxurious and bespoke planes in existence from the country of its owner, who owns the country and the plane, fly to London and then take another plane to Dallas. The whole thing will take a week before I get back to Toulouse. Hopefully I'll get a free moment to visit Southfork Ranch.

This is my first trip like this for work and I'm dead chuffed. Work is going so well at the moment. The change of department back in December has really paid off.

Oh and yeah - I got a letter this week saying that my application to become a Chartered Engineer has been accepted. Although I don't intend to use the letters much, and not that they are of an awful lot of use, it is nice to know that after 10 years I will finally be Mr D FamilyName CEng MRAeS.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

oblogations
So I signed up for the BlogXchng webring, which is the brainchild and result of apparently considerable effort by Angela from Miss Sassafrass and Ana whose blog I don't know. I promised Angela I'd give BlogXchng a promotional plug, so here it is. In their own words...

BlogXchng is a free service designed to promote blog readership and community through a WebRing and Email Xchng. The focus is not on site hits or popularity contests but instead on helping readers find blogs that appeal to their own personal interests and life experiences and creating a comfortable atmosphere so that they may join in on the discussion."


And with my best dazzling white smile I can tell you from personal experience that the thing I like about BlogXchng is that as many days a week as you like, it will email you the address of a new blog or two to visit, according to your likes and interests. Since I'm a bit on the lazy side exploring blogland, this is pretty handy.. like being an couch potato blog surfer. Pass me those crisps and a can of beer, new blogs here I come! The flip side is, people come and visit my blog too.

So anyway, off you go and sign up now you bloggers. Chop chop.

And as for Vivi's Great International Secret Blog Exchange, I have to admit I have been a bit slack. I have atleast bought the gift, and to the exact specifications of my correspondent in Canada too. But I haven't sent it yet, mainly due to sleeping on Saturday mornings.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

a bit more Japan
Well it's just flying off the keyboard now! Here's another couple of paragraphs from the Japan story.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

SPRINGING
Seriously nice hot summeryness around here this weekend. Beers in the beer garden down the pub after work on Friday, and outside cafe's yesterday afternoon, watching the shoppers walking past. Today it was a stroll along the Garonne with Thomas, past the student bongo players wafting their rhythms across the river, and past the scruffy urchins scavving money for beer and to feed their dogs.

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After my fridge got its first clean a few weeks back, my windows got their turn today. With all the brilliant sunshine outside and stuff, I noticed that the quality of light coming through the glass into my front room was more than slightly jaded by a thick layer of street grime and dustyness that has built up over the last two years.

I'm not used to the idea of having to wash your windows. In the UK there was always some bloke that just appeared once a month or so. The Windowcleaner, we called him. He'd just start cleaning the windows, so the first you knew of his presence was usually when his face suddenly appeared at your upstairs window. I bet he always had a story to tell when he went home, if he wasn't so shocked by the things he saw that he fell backwards off his ladder into a pond or onto a privet hedge.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

st patrick's day
So I'm blogging early 'cos tonight is gonna be along one. Starting in about an hour I'm off with Oscar to some basque bar for some drinks before we go to band practice for a couple of hours. The Jacqui Chan Band has sorta tentatively let me in their group to do a couple of Travis songs and stuff which is pretty cool. I'm actually sitting here singing right now practicing my line-up and terrifying my neighbours.

Anyway, after that finishes at midnight I'm off for St Patrick's day celebrations at the De Danu pub, where I was last seen looking like a bearded freak.

I asked my boss for the morning off so that I don't have to turn up with a viscious stomach churning and head spinning hangover. "Fine...", he said, "...as long as you don't mind moving your Annual Interview to the afternoon". Hmmm, maybe this wasn't the best way to start a discussion about the future of my career ;)

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Japanese night
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I started this evening with a Japanese lesson, which I admit I sometimes need to force myself to go to after a day at work. But I do really like submerging myself in the language so I try to make the effort. Tonight I was lucky, and for some reason a group of five university students were brought by at the end of the class for a little bit of 'internationalisation'.

We did the usual polite introductions, and then dived into drinks and nibbles. They were all quite chatty and open, and one guy was particularly informal which is brave for a Japanese in these sort of settings. But it was the guy who announced that one of his hobbies was taking pictures of trains (yes, a real trainspotter!) who was paradoxically the most interesting. We had a good chin-wag about culture, how he thought modern Japanese culture was spiritually void, and how he wanted to live abroad, stuff like that.

Anyway, spurred on by that experience, I finally finished the next installment in my Japan story.

I've had a couple of comments from friends recently. One said that they wanted more personal feelings about stuff. Another said that they wanted less descriptions of buildings. All I can say for the moment is 'trust me'. If you are interested in the story and my personal feelings and experiences, you guys need to know the stuff I am writing about. These are early days and I am scene setting, so that my experiences will make sense. I will only apologise for taking so long to complete an episode ;)

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