Wednesday, 9 November 2011

L'argon & the jargon!

I live in a house with eight young french people.  
                                  Perfect for improving your all over french knowledge from best bars to cooking skills! 

But naturally I have picked up some of the slang, bad habits, street verlan that surrounds me on a day-to-day basis. As always in the process of learning, I have made some rather humiliating mistakes along the way... 

I feel another post exposition of 'faux-pas's coming along...

We're using my laptop to play music through the guitar amp, it's much too loud so one of my flat mates asks:

Vincent: " 'Azel, comment est-ce qu'on peut baisser le sens?"
Hazel: "Donne-moi une seconde et j'arrive pour baiser le sens."

This sentence is followed by a dramatic silence.
 The kind that makes you know something you've said is not quite what you had in mind...

                                                           All my flatmates burst out in laughter! 

Honestly, I was completely lost at this point:
"Bah, quoi?! Qu'est qu'il y a?!"

Moral of the story: Pronounce a single 's' like a 'Z'...

"Baisser qlqch" - To lower or to turn something down.
"Baiser qlqch" - To fuck something.


Vincent: "Hazel, how can you turn down the volume?"
Hazel: "Give me a second and I'll fuck the sound."

Quite a violent reply really when you think about it.

Lesson Learnt.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Les Petites Choses qui me font sourire :)

Somedays you find love everywhere you look :)
It's the stupid things that make my day...

Marmite I love you! I woke up one morning only to find that my dearest marmite loved me dearly too! (In all honesty I just opened the jar and there was this sign of devotion!)

Yet again, it wasn't me who has carried this out! It's just things I've found around which made me smile uncontrollably for the next 24 hours!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Flying Deer, Riding Bears & Shooting Tigers in Paris!

It goes without saying that as a foreign person moving abroad without considerable efficiency in the native language, you can be certain of some inevitable language barriers.

To say the least I have had my fair share of these moments that make you cringe and go so red that someone could easily cook a million french frogs legs on my face let alone one boiled egg!
So the natural reaction is to glorify the most absurd, comical and embarassing one's on the internet right?

This isn't a blog post.
                  This is a Wall of Fame Shame!

1) It is essential to note: When you first arrive in France and the french people you meet understand that you can speak 'Eeenglish', they will proceed to speak english whilst continuously reverting back to french subconciously. This concludes in a rather daunting soup of languages - especially if you have just arrived, are completely not acclimatised to the french accent and are unaccustomed to the unusal 'franglais' used by the majority of the french population!

One of the best examples I can give of this is an experience of my friend Rachel:
Picture an american politely making conversation with a family friend who says:
"Je vois you like to ride 'ours', Rachelle?"
Rachel by this point is replaying this single sentence in her head, chopping it into bite size pieces & struggling to find the meaning! Not as easy as you may think for the simple reason:
'Ours' is the french word for Bear. And coincidentally it has the same sound as a french man pronouncing the word 'Horse' in english - "Orse"!
So Rachel naturally replies: "No not at all!!"
The french men is terribly perplexed: "Mais, tu as pictures of 'Orses' dans ta chambre, non?"
Rachel rapidly double checks herself and replies: "No, I don't believe there are pictures of bears in my room!"
The french man by this point is smiley widely at the obvious and common foreigner 'faux pas' and marches Rachel into her own bedroom, points at a picture of her riding a horse and says smugly:
"Non, non! Not 'Ours' but 'Orse! Vous savez, 'Clip clop clip clop!'"

My own experience with this combining of languages was with Stephane from my host family here enthousiastically recounting a story:
"'Azel, j'ai un ami who works selling guns - il est fou quoi! Mais, his son at school one day got into trouble because le prof asked tous the children to draw what they had done at school au weekend. Tu peux imaginer the surprise when le prof saw the drawing my friend's son had sketched! He had drawn him and his father, mon ami, shooting tigers in Paris!"

"....Errrr...! That's possible?! In Paris?!"

"Ouais, bien sur 'Azel!"

"But....It's Paris! Where do they hunt the tigers?!"

"Tigers?! Who said anything about tigers?! I said they were shooting TARGETS 'Azel!"

Tigers & Targets. The french pronounciation of Targets sounds very much like the work 'Tigers'. Very different. Not to be confused!
With a doubt my french comprehension has improved dramatically since those early painful days of "I'm sorry, I do beg your pardon, What did you say? And what does that mean?!"

But, even after I have been living in Paris for approaching 3 months (!) today I had yet another language 'faux pas' moment! One that deserves it's place amongst the greats!

My host family proposed to me today:
<< Il y a du vent! On doit aller au sentier près de la rivière avec le cerf-volant 'Azel!>>

I speed translated this sentence word by word:
Cerf = Stag
Volant = Flying  (Present Participe of the verb 'voler')
Hence, my lightning speed french-english translation resulted in this unfortunate translation:
"It's windy! We should go to the path near the river with the flying stag Hazel!"

Justly my response was a little off the target subject:

"You have a flying dear?! ...Is he called Ruldolph?!"
"Vous avez un "cerf volant"?! Son nom est 'Ruldolph'?!?!"


Perhaps a strange conclusion to draw from a remark about the weather!
Sometimes I wander why the parents trust me to look after their children!

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Potentially Dangerous Story of: Noisette, A Moped & A Chainsaw...

Q. What can be more French than driving a left-hand drive Twingo on the right side of the road?
A. Driving a Scooter.

Q. And what can top my 'First Parisienne Driving Experience' episode with the bike and the open boot?
A. Riding on the back of a scooter....After purchasing a chainsaw bien sûr...

And this is exactly what happened.

I had just woken up, wandered into the kitchen, put the kettle onto boil and was asked by Stephane:
"Good morning! You want to come buy a Chainsaw with me?"
"Oui, why not?!"
I take out my beloved Marmite from the cupboard and reach for the baguette...
"Car or scooter?"
"SCOOTER!!! Definitly scooter, it'll wake me up!"

Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these situations...
And then I remember the morning I confused my post for bread and all my questions are answered..
A bank statement isn't always good news I'll give you that, but is there really any need to spread butter on it and put it in the toaster...?

We head out on Stephane's scooter, (don't worry Mum I was wearing a helmet!) And make our way towards the DIY shop; as always Stephane hasn't the foggiest idea where he is going and relies on his i-Phone to guide the way.
We arrive, purchase said Chainsaw and walk back to the parked scooter.
Up until this point I haven't put two and two together. Infact, it wasn't until we approached the moped that realisation started to climb through the thick cotton of sleep and my brain started to perform several quick estimations:
Two People + One Rather Large Chainsaw + One Scooter = ...

"Ermmmm, Stephane..."
I stop in my tracks and look at what I'm holding: In addition to the Chainsaw that Stephane was carrying we had brought a 50m extension wire and a large bottle of oil.
"I don't mean to be pessimistic but I really don't see how all this is going to fit in your boot...and for that matter, the boot of your scooter..."

After a little bit of encouragement and various tetrus calculations, the chainsaw slides into the footwell. We climb on also and I shove the oil and the extension cable into my coat and zip it up quickly. We pull away, the engine straining a little bit but YESSSS!!!

2 Adults, 1 Chainsaw, 50m of wires and a rather heavy bottle of oil later and we're on the move!

I sit in amazement on the back of the scooter, cradling the wire and oil to avoid them sliping out the bottom of my coat and think: "And we have overcome the worst..."
But, as soon as this thought has floated it's way through my skull Stephane calls back to me:
"If I say 'jump' Hazel, you jump!"
"What?! Jump?! On a bike! It's already heavily loaded without me bouncing up and down on it too!!!"
"Non, the Chainsaw's on my feet. If there's a red light and I have to stop, it is highly likely I will not be able to stabilise the scooter by putting my feet down..because they're stuck.."

A vivid image of me jumping off the back of the moped and having the oil and wire escape from my coat has I fly back towards earth is conjugured. 
"Sauter. Sauter. Sauter!" is my only thought as I readjust my position for an easy launch exit...!

As we pull into the drive of the house safe and sound and all DIY equipment accounted for, I feel a slight disappointment for not getting to act out my 'self eject' evacuation scenario from the scooter!

Either way, nothing like an adrenaline-filled-scooter ride to wake you up on a Sunday!
It definitly reaffirms the rule of 'anything goes!' on the roads of Ile-de-France, non?

Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these situations.
But for the most part, I'm grateful I do :)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Donkey, Santi & The Elevator McFlurries!

If your name begins with a 'H' in France and you're introducing yourself to French people, I wish you the best of luck!
The letter 'H' is usually not pronounced in the French language and so my double 'H' attack name is alittle difficult.....No, let's be fair! It's impossible to comprehend for the majority of the French population is seems!

"Bonjour! Je m'appelle Hazel Hurst"
                                   or "Azel 'Urst" en français has resorted in much confusion.

Here are some replies:
"AXEL?! Your name is not really AXEL, non?!"

"Anzel? You are German then?"

And my favourite:

When I went bowling recently with some friends, the majority of whom were German, the man spelt my name as 'Hazen'...Which is the closest yet I'll give you that!

Perhaps, reassuringly, they also spelt Doreen's name incorrectly! Though personally I prefer the spelling of 'Dorine'; it reminds me of a brand of magarine! :)
After much hassle with this supposedly simple part of conversation (!) I have begun to clarify my name by resorting to: "Oui, Hazel, comme le noix, 'Noisette'"!
                         "Yes, Hazel, like the nut, Hazelnut!"   

And this seems to be catching on as some sort of a nickname! Though recently, another nickname that I have gained from my friend seems to be crushingly popular...

Santina is another 'fille au pair' and she comes from Germany.
She has helpfully pointed out that: "In German, 'Azel' means Donkey!"
Me: "....Eeeyoreeeee! Anyway as Donkey was saying: She is hopefully going to be living in 'La Defense' area, y'know where 'La Grande Arche' is?"
Santina: .......*Cackles with laughter!*  “...In German, ‘La Grande Arche’ means the big arse! And Hazel means Donkey...So...”
Hazel: "This is my future home!!! I'm going to be a Donkey living under a Big Arse!

What else are friends for?
Well, in Santina's case making interesting cake combinations, (Roll on our Peanut and Malteser Muffins!) and who else would I share my Elevator McFlurry Moments with?

:) Bon Nuit!
From, Donkey aka. First Mate Navigator Enzo aka. Noisette aka. Commodeur Frazzle aka. Axel aka. Hazen :)

Monday, 28 February 2011

Scooting about La Tour Eiffel!

 A must see for any Tourist is La Tour Eiffel!
And though technically I am now a resident in the Ile-de-Paris, that is exactly what I spent my second weekend gawking at!

Yes, I have seen the Eiffel Tower before and I have climbed up to the top and taken dozens of millions of photos! And then my Mum also joined me and regretted it later due to muscle fatigue! Granted! But I have never taken the metro to Trocadero before and jumped off only to be greeted with the most stunning views of this impressive bit of architeture this area has to offer!

But it wasn't only the fact that the sun was shining, the birds were singing or that La Tour Eiffel was striking against the stormy clouds and contrasting blue sky! :) No, what really made me like this place were the people!

There were the usual tourists posing awkwardly while simultaneously keeping an eye on their precious cameras because of the nearby tacky souvenir merchant sellers and the habitual children screaming and traffic growl that is the base of any city 'buzz'!
But on top of this:

There were skateboarders! With skateboards of every shape, size and colour!
All performing: Jumps, Kickflips, Ollies, Fakies...!

There was a BMX rider performing the most impressive combination of 'Parkour' & Bike Stunts!

People dancing in, if I had to guess, a Spanish Style!

And there were rollerbladers everywhere!
All plugged into their MP3 Players and jumping and twirling safe in their little bubble of music!

The most unbelievable stunt I saw was performed by a Man who had to be atleast 55 years old.
He laid out cups in a line and before you had time to ask "What is that old man doing??"
He had raced up and down - slaleming all the cups without missing one!
It was all over in less than 5 seconds!
It was so fast I didn't even have time to film it!

We did have a nice chat with the Spectular-Speed-Slalem-Man which started with the most important question of all:
Hazel: "Why do you have a rubber weasel hanging from your belt?!"
S-S-S-Man: "Just so you ask that question! And next time ask permission before using my Slalem Course! ...I'm joking!" 

 Yes, it wasn't the children that couldn't resist the urge to try out this slalem course, but the adults who eagerly hijacked the kids scooters! :D

He did tell us that every Saturday they do rollerblading lessons....
Watch this space!
As soon as I can get my hands on some roller blades, sufficient safety gear so I could wrestle a tiger without getting a single bruise and possibly some adequate balance!

I'm there!
:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

La Galette!

The French have a period of Cake after Christmas. Nope! No ridiculous english diets! No endless celebrities advertising DIY 'Dance yourself thin' DVD's! Non!


'La galette de Rois' is the cake for celebrating the Epiphany (ou 'La Fête des Rois') and it's sold throughout January in all good bakeries near you! 
*As long as you're living in France or somewhere with this tradition naturally!*
And as good fortune would have it, I arrived in France the tail-end of January which is, coincidentally, the best time to purchase this 'Wafer of the Kings'! 
Because it's near the end of the King Cake Period so when you buy a cake, you get a free bottle of champagne!
...Well, we did in this case! :)

Not only is this cake delicious! But it's fun!
The tradition with this cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany and The practice is to have the youngest person present to hide under the table and as the cake is cut, she/he assigns the slices to the members of the family without bias.
so it is customary for bakers to hide a widget, or “la fève”, inside the batter! And throw in a paper crown too! 
*It is also good practise to cut an extra slice for the "share of the poor" as it could then be offered to the first poor person to arrive at the house.
The one who finds the fève within his/her slice is the King/Queen for the day and gets to wear the paper crown!

And that is exactly what happened on my second day in France and as sentimental as I know it is I saved the fève.
...Oh alright, yes... And the paper crown....

France, you are unique! Everything little part of the culture I like! :)
Though, I'm not hard to impress right? In my book, any country that includes cake as part of celebrating a holiday is onto a good thing!

Driving on the Right! It's so Wrong!

I think it's fair to say that my first drive in France went fairly smoothly!
I didn't stall once!
                    No one swore at me!
And considering that Stephane was completely lost and using his iPhone to direct us through traffic!
And bearing in my mind the fact that:
                        "Tout droit!" & "Tourner à droite!"
 Can sound very similar when said in a hurry :)

We made it to our destination! :) Je suis fier! :)

The Bike Shop was were we had arrived and after about two hours of trying to understand the intense discussion on bikes, electric bikes, bike pedals, bike chains, bike tyres & being sent off down the road to try out various bikes - we purchased guessed it bikes!

I felt very french during this episode: Cycling down the road on the right hand side, with a basket on the front, greeting passer's by with a friendly "Bonjour!" and then turning full circle to return to Stephane and the shop assissant with my verdict which was always something along the lines of: "C'est pas lourd et je l'aime!"

I had arrived in France only 4 hours ago and was loving it! Bikes - Check! Intense french discussion! Double check! All I need was a bagette to put in my bike basket!

We took one of the bikes back home with us. This isn't as easy as it sounds! I was driving the Twingo...

So on the return journey - seulement my second attempt at driving 'sur le droit': The boot was wide open, I could see it bouncing up and down as we went along in the rear view mirror! Stephane was on my right clinging to this brand new bike incase it slipped out of the back open boot! And I was sat there in the drivers seat...You guessed it, in my habitual giggles because of the whole situation!

It's true: The french drive like crazy people!

The 'give way' piriority can't make up it's mind and constantly changes sides!
                Some roundabouts are literally a 'free for all'!
                                                                  And they park anywhere they can! But if parked on a pedestrian crossing, the usual action is to: "Just leave the 'azard lights on 'Azel, we won't be long..."

No wonder the French are renowned for making rubbish cars; the manufacteurers don't expect them to survive long anyway before a collison with another vechicle. Why make them time resistant in a city where the rule is 'anything goes'?!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

J'ai arrivé! :)

"Mon dieu il fait si froid que mes dents sont la danse!"

The guy next to me attempts a smile while his teeth gently chatter against each other. We are squashed in the bus heading towards Charles de Gaulle Airport after having been herded from the warmth of the plane like sheep.

"Je suis d'accord" is all I can muster to say to my airport aqquaintance before burying my face back into my scarf quickly.

It was cold but not in the depths of my coat, where it occured to me that it would be highly embarassing if I could not remember the face of the man who was picking me up from the airport. And the harder I tried to picture it, the more the face blurried infront of me!

My airport aquaintance felt my aniexty and after a game of '20 Questions' I had forgotten the worry entirely. We parted ways after collecting our suitcases and I set off to the exit point where I hoped I would find Stephane, the father of the children I was looking after, with I hoped, a car with a boot large enough for my suitcase to fit in!

All these worries I had conjured up during the build up to this moment were short lived; I received a 'Texto' from my lift, of which I had to obtain a translation for from a Taxi Driver as I'm not well-rehearsed in 'shorthand-french-text-speak', saying:
"No problem, I'm in the wrong place :) The girls are eager to meet you! Just stay were you are I'm coming!"

And that was that. 15 minutes later I had spotted a worried man in a car with two girls in the back waving frantically at me! And within moments of that, I was sat in the car discussing snowmen with the girls.

Stephane seemingly wasn't having much luck today - We got stuck inbetween two barriers at the airport for having lost his ticket, he then fell out of car and lost his shoe simultaneously when trying to find help! Meanwhile, during this episode we had created a rather large audience and a long queue of traffic behind us! Who, helpfully, were honking their horns and let out such a roar of laughter as Stephane freed his shoe from the crack in the pavement!

Finally we were on track to the house and all he had to say was:
"On the radio, my horoscope today was: 'Fishes, don't go out today...' And what did I say to you Gabrielle?"
The voice in the seat behind me says: "It's all bullshit!"

And with that any concerns had vanished;
I had a feeling I was going to like living here!


Friday, 11 February 2011


I love airports!
                    I truly do!
                          The weird shaped suitcases!
                                                   The hurried, worried passengers running for their plane!

And on Saturday the 29th January 2011, that was me!

Yes, despite getting to the airport early enough so as to have time in which one could squeeze in a farewell laugh with an unforgettable friend and have one more cuppa tea with her and her family:
                                         I was running full pelt for the plane!

The sad truth is: many people back home won’t be surprised at this; timing has never been my strong point! In fact in England, people abide by the “ ’Better tell Hazel 30 minutes earlier just so she arrives on time...” rule.

But why
was I
you ask?

Well, picture this:
Dragging your suitcase down the departure tunnel heading towards Gate Number 11, in the quiet but understanding company of 5 others from all over the globe.

A squad of travellers who can't exchange a word in the same language but all united for an instant! 
Just as this strange party of people pass Gate Two, two airport employee pass-by, walking in the opposite direction...They stop suddenly and call:
"You're not all for Paris? Charles de Gaulle?! It's leaving now! The gate is closing! You'd better run!"

                                                                    So there we were;
                 Gasping for breath! 
                                                 Cursing our 20kg suitcases in all manner of ways and in all five different languages!

All together, as a team we raced down this tunnel, making sure that if one of us got to the plane we wouldn’t let it leave without the others!

Finally Gate Eleven is insight! New life shoots through the Chinese Man's veins who's jogging to your right and he takes the lead! Rounds the corner! To the entrance finish line!!

And there.... he stops dead. His shoulders shag and he joins the end of a large queue for boarding the plane.

Now, whether or not the airport staff were watching our 'International Suitcase Sprint' on the CCTV cameras, with their feet up & bent over from laughing at how gullible we all were!
Or, whether they were correct to inform us of the potential departure of our plane - 5 passengers down or not.
                                                       I don't think I will ever find out!

But, y'know what?
                 Two things occured to me while running:

1) 'Suitcase Speed Sprinting' should be in the Olympic Games.
             (Afterall, Airport Employees would tune in I'm sure! And looking back, who can blame them? At the very least our rush in the airport would be undoubtedly more entertaining to watch than Bowls afterall. Watch this space for a new spectator sport!)

2) How much I really wanted to go! I couldn't miss this plane to Paris!
                       I ran so hard, for so long!

Looking back, maybe it was a sign to kick me out of my circle of uneasy thoughts that had begun to manifest themselves & were on continuous repeat around my skull: 'Am I doing the right thing in leaving my luxury 4 walled life behind me? I have every I need right here...!'

Whilst in that moment of adrenaline filled panic, it became quite apparent to me:
The regret of not trying in the first place would be worse than failing.
"For Your Not A Failure, Until You Fail To Try"
(Quote from Poem: Don't Quit  - Anon)

Saturday, 5 February 2011


You think it'd would be easy, wouldn't you? I went out, brought a large suitcase and said with such confidence: "Easy, I can fit everything I need in that!"

How wrong!

"Suitcase, can't you pack yourself? You can come to Paris with me if you do!"

I laid all my clothes out on my bed and began the process of packing...which lasted for about 2 weeks! 

A city landscape,
                  Towering skyscraper's of clothes!
                                                           That was the only progress I made!

Infact, it was only on my last day in England that I filled the suitcase and zipped it shut sucessfully for the first time! I had to leave so much behind all due to the Luggage Weight Restrictions of the ironically named 'EasyJet'. Who conjured a smile from me only by this badly written rule on their website in the 'Baggage Allowanes Rules' Section:
 "This weight allowance applies to the passenger rather than to the bag..."

God, I hope their pilots are more intelligent!

Friday, 7 January 2011

"Nul ne s'egare sur le droit chemin.."
Nobody gets lost on the right road.
It's one of those pointless quotes that I have picked up. But somehow, subconciously it's become something of a reassuring personal mantra.

In 22 days I am moving to Paris.
For the first 6 months I'll be au pairing.
Followed by 3 years of studying and living full time in the the most romantic city in the world!

Exciting? Definitly.
Nerve racking? Well, truthfully I hadn't thought about it! Infact, to me I wasn't 'moving out' just taking a working holiday! That was, until my younger sister mentioned how she was going to be taking up residence in my room and changing the wall paper.
And it was these changes and all the moments I was bound to miss out on that made me realise: I was leaving. Leaving the comfortable, front row seat I had where I could recline, watch the 'reality TV' show that is all family lives!
And, in my house, if you leave your seat for a second - it's no longer your's. 
Three second rule? Try three year rule. That's the time scale I was working with! 
And all I was worried about? Missing the spectator view I had of my little sister growing up and generally all the tiny snap shots of everything I had begun to collect and cherish.
Sad right? For someone who doesn't watch TV regularly because she is useless at keeping up with the latest episodes, I was still a couch potato.
Too comfortable, but not for long.

I'm days away to living in the capital city of France!
Need I go on?!
Nobody get's lost on the right road, right? 
So here I go, running down a road that might be the right one...but if I do get lost?
Kim said she'd let me have my bed back whenever I come home.