Monday, 16 April 2012

Poisson d'Avril - Watch your back!

So we celebrated April Fools Day this month but it got me thinking: What is April Fools? Why do we celebrate it? And thanks to google I discovered my answer easily enough: because dear Charles IX changed the start of the year to January 1st from April 1st.

In those days apparently it became tradition to give joke presents to people according to their jobs so a chef would be given a sieve without holes, a farmer would receive a access his fields etc

And in Scotland it became normal to send people to carry out irrational, impossible and completely ridiculous chores: "Go fetch the milk from the pigeons dear!"

At my house in England, April Fools Day can be dangerous! It triggers a booby trap war between my sisters and I resulting in such pranks as filling the sugar pot with salt... The worst surprise in the morning and equally the worst cup of tea of your life. Could be the reason why I no longer take sugar in my tea...Safelty first after all!

Anywho, last year for April Fools Day I was in France, au pairing. (Joy..) And I was quite disappointed as the kids I was looking after did not share in my delight in this holiday. So this year, working as an english teacher in and about Paris I still have alot of contact with children. But because of the way 'Poisson d'Avril' was forgotten about last year I let down my guard...

In France, they do 'April Fools' differently: instead of pulling practical jokes on people, the tradition is to stick paper fish to people's backs.

Me, I cycle to work everyday so whilst on the way home pedalling through the outskirts of Saint Denis like usual,  I am a little confused as to why each passing car sounds it's horn at me... I get paranoid and do the various self-conscience self and safety checks:

  • Skirt tucked into knickers?  NO
  • Riding on the right side of the road? (I'm English and somedays forget that it's the inverse to the UK)
  • Flat tyre? NO
  • Dropped bag? NO
  • Unknowingly ran over a pigeon? ...I don't think so!

At the next set of red lights a man in a van pulls up beside me and winds down his window with a sheepish grin on his face...He yells with great delight: "Madame! Vous avez un poisson sur votre dos!"

Me, completely oblivous reply: "Un quoi????!!!!"

The light turns green. Go! He accelerates past me shouting with rellish "Joyeux Poisson d'Avril!"

 'Poisson d'Avril'...Bien sur!

Lesson Learnt. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Humpty Dumpty in the frigo!

Happy Easter 2012!

I love Easter! I think it is really special! It's one holiday where you have to get people to work for their treats. What I mean to say is it's not like Christmas or your birthday where your presents are handed to you, you open them and before you know the best parts over!

Easter the fun is dragged out. The suspense is what I like! I remember last year for Easter I was an au pair and I made a treasure trail for the kids I looked after to find the eggs, there were clues! And challenges! I had great fun organising it! I hid eggs everywhere! And so this year, finding myself now not as an au pair and without kids, don't get me wrong that's a great thing! I had to find another way to celebrate easter.

So I decided to make my own easter eggs. Well to begin with this idea was plural. Eggs. But after two hours of attentively trying to fight physics a little drop of chocolate at a time, I was quite relieved to have even succeeded in finishing one egg! But finished he is!

Say hello to Humpty Dumpty!

I emptied out an egg shell so that I could lovingly fill it full of chocolate for my boyfriend, hide it on the shelf in the fridge for when he came back from visiting his parents for Easter! And it worked! One egg is enough seemingly as I managed to squeeze two bars of chocolate into this one shell!!!

(Well, I melted two bars anyway whether both two ended up in the wanted destination is another story!)

The motivation for making 'Humpty Dumpty', as I knighted him, originated from it being Easter obviously but equally whilst I was away for a week celebrating the carnival in Cologne my boyfriend got creative...

When I returned from my week in Germany I was greeted by this 'boite a manger'!!!

And inside he had made me this necklace... Humpty Dumpty was the least I could wasn't it?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Skiing !

I'm not sure what spurred me to go skiing with ULIP but go I did, and frankly, I'm rather glad!
I have to admit I have never been skiing before in my life. So after unknown forces motivating me to say YES, sign the papers and hand over the money, I had many restless nights while my brain concocted various different scenarios of what skiing might be like.

It's insane but I have an over active imagination so trying to picture something I knew very little about makes way for a number of bizare possibilities.

I knew the basics: you slide down the face of a mountain with planks of plastic strapped to your feet.

And I had one childhood memory of skiing:
The ending scene from a Wallis and Gromit film, you know, the one where they go to the moon to collect cheese and they find that robot and they are so scared of him that they take off hastily in their handmade rocket and almost crash so the door falls off...Good film.

Well, to spoil the ending for you, the robot makes a pair of skis out of this piece of metal and the movie finishes with a rather content robot skiing gayily about the moon's craters. Paradise!

One thing was worrying me: this memory was of an animation. A cartoon. In cartoons, the characters can regrow limbs, fall off cliffs but manage to climb back up and get squished flat by falling pianos before popping back to life to play 'Mary had a little lamb' with flat fingers.

As a result, one week before the departure date I had a particularly frightening and ridiculous dream where skiers were dropped down from an airplane into a tube which was above the snowy mountain slope and so you had hope to death you'd be able to find your feet when you landed to ski back down!

 During the build-up to the ski trip I got nervous from all the stories of broken bones, chair lift accidents, unfortunate crossings with bears, caught in snow storms... But also immensely excited!!!!

The day of departure I packed my bag full with borrowed skiing clothes and too many tons of socks and set off for an Indian meal with my boyfriend. I left a little bit later than planned from lunch and almost had a heart attack when Daniel text me saying the train was 30minutes earlier than previously thought! After running though Paris with a rucksack for a train I was never going to be on time for, I had that feeling of 'PLEASE LET ME CATCH THE TRAIN I REALLY WANT TO GO SKIING!'

Fortunately, Daniel was mistaken with the train time and all six of us ULIPPERS boarded the train and sped off towards Alpe d'Huez. On the train we speculated what the accomodation would be like.
"Hovel, like a small hovel" was the agreed verdict and we couldn't help but laugh when our guide met us off the coach to say that potentially 'there will not be electricity'.

However, luckily the flat was cosy - even with electricity! There were cold showers from time to time but there was the essentials and the week flashed by! Good morning music was blasted to wake us up, we went skiing everyday in the sunshine! Getting tanned, having fun, eating lunch up on a mountain at midday and being blown away by the amazing mountain views. Honestly, that is the best way to holiday. Laying on a beach is no fun at all compared with slalemming around on skis!

The days of sport were followed by the good old evening ''trough meals'', (or the equivalent to a communal food dish to save on washing up!) and sometimes a deadly 'Ring of Fire’ game before heading out to dance and drink away the muscle fatigue! Well, that would be a good excuse for the immense amount of alcohol consumed.

Honestly, if you didn't go on the ‘OUI SKI WHISKEY’ ski trip this year - go next year! It is great fun! You are in beautiful surroundings, catching the sun rays whilst having fun and getting a good kick of adrenaline from time to time.

Skiing is easy to learn if you're a beginner like I was. As for the stories about serious accidents and people being taken off the mountain in black Gondolas well all I can say is:

If a plasticine robot from Wallis and Gromit can ski so can you.
Oh, and I even saw gullible written in the snow. It's true.