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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