paris musings – rules of the road

There are none.

Or should I say, there maybe, but they seem discretionary.


As a cyclist, it’s quite important to understand – Give way to the right, give way to those on the roundabout…give way to those wanting to enter the roundabout….never encountered that one before. But as I was cycling with gusto around a fairly large “Porte” I noticed that my fellow travelers were all stopping mid-roundabout to let new vehicles enter. I got to work (in one piece thank goodness) and asked a colleague who drives: “Those on the roundabout have right of way.”

I recounted my near death incident and he amended his statement…”Ah yes, some roundabouts you have to give way to those entering…”

“How do you know which type of roundabout you are on?”

“You just do!”

Zebra Crossings

Don’t EVER expect a french driver to stop for you. Even at a cross walk, even with a child, even near a school, even in the pouring rain. Rarely will a Parisian driver yield to a pedestrian. Move forward with caution.

Curbing & poop-a-scooping

Parisians don’t give a shit.

On a street between my bus-stop and the office (400 meters) I have counted up to 20 poops on one pass. Incredible! It’s a dodge and a weave dance all the way down the sidewalk passing the most incredible variety of messes. The same is true on my way to school – which annoys me even more- what about the kids running, tripping, falling with gay abandon??!!


If the car fits, hell, even if it doesn’t fit, Parisians will park their car there. At an angle, on a cross walk, sticking out, 2 foot away from the curb…stop the car. get out. see you later.


On the highways, long vast open stretches of road, your favorite soundtrack playing …. don’t!

I’ve never had a speeding ticket in my life, yet last summer I got zapped with three from their speeding camera system. luckily the fine correlates to how much over the speed limit you were going, so I was only in teir 1 – still…



paris musings – the locksmith

There are times when I feel literally overloaded with thoughts… what I need to do, what I need to remember to do, for home, for work, for school; what I want to do, what time is it, am I on time, or not… usually the latter…. and it means that not everything happens as it should!

I was happy that I had found a local place for S. to do some sports on a Saturday. As a result, I now had a sacred me-hour in the morning! Running late, I raced to get S. ready for judo, so I could go and have my nice relaxing coffee & reading for the hour. All went according to plan until we got home. Where the hell were the keys? I emptied my bag and stared and the content rubble… no keys.

Thank god I had my phone…but the battery was low. I called my landlord who I had become aquainted with due to the flood a month before. He didn’t really speak English, but I managed to establish that he didn’t have a spare key- I had both the keys … in the apartment. So I called my French friend- what do I do? who should I call. She offered to call a locksmith on my behalf, saying she would call back once she had sorted it out. I sat in the stair-well and explained to my four year old that mummy had very foolishly left the keys inside the apartment and as there was no way to scale the building and climb through a window like Spider-Man, we needed to wait for the locksmith to come and help open the door. My friend called back. she had identified someone who should be with me within the hour.

With the phone battery at an un – optimistic 10%, I told S. that we had to go to the cafe and see if they would be willing to help. Up the road at Les Ondes, I explained our plight to the waitress and waved the dead phone in front of her. How would I know when the locksmiths arrived with out juice?! She took sympathy and plugged the phone in to her adapter behind the bar, so we sat in ears shot for the anticipated call, and had a drink to pass the time. About 50 minutes later, phone working, locksmiths arriving, we returned to the apartment.

The two men met me in the hall way and without checking any ID or asking any questions, they got out a drill and quickly zapped the lock. The door didn’t open. They then got out a tired looking piece of X-ray film… slide it into the frame of the door, down to the lock, kicked the door and it popped open!

On examining the opened door, they said they needed to replace the lock unit, and this quickly evolved to needing to change the entire door frame… one of the men was already unscrewing the metal frame whilst the other was telling me that this was all necessary… But why? and how much money are we talking about … 2000€ – WHAT??!!  I exclaimed – oh you’re insurance will cover it… “but I don’t know that” I cried, “I need to call them…” Interspersed in the activities, I had been txting the trials of the day back and forth with another friend. I texted him this latest update and he immediately called me and said this was a joke and told me to put him on the phone with the men. I’m not sure what they said to each other, but voices were raised – the phone got handed back to me, the unscrewing of the door frame stopped, I was handed a piece of paper to sign and pay 500€ because they had “had to ” drill the bolt, and they were waiving the “visit” charge so I should be happy, then they left, leaving be with a dodgy lock, screws and metal frames on the floor. I called my friend back who said he was looking for another locksmith for me.

With a couple of names, I called the newly identified locksmiths for a quote. The challenge here lay in the fact that they both said they had to come and see the door before they could quote. I told them I didn’t want them to come until they told me approximately how much it would cost to replace a lock. I managed to agree with them both that i would send them photos of the lock and door for an estimate. The next challenge was that my phone memory was full and wouldn’t take any more photos. I deleted images, took new images, and finally sent the images to the two potential locksmither’s to aid in quoting. One of them called again and insisted he should come and look – I reiterated that I wanted a quote first, but that if he didn’t charge me for coming, that he could come round, so he said he was on his way.

Whilst waiting, I re-screwed the doorframe back together. As locksmith #2 turned up, I received a quote from locksmither #3. #2 quoted 200€ more than #3 so I thanked #2 very much for coming round but I was going to use #3. #2 then insisted that I pay him for the house call… “No, no” I said… “on our phone call I had told you not to come without providing a quote, but you had insisted… I told you I didn’t want to pay for a house call without a quote…” He grabbed his papers and stormed off saying it just wasn’t right… it was in appropriate not to pay… my goodness this day was an ordeal…

# 2 disappeared, and I waited for # 3. Whilst waiting this time, I decided to try and replace the existing lock, so by the time # 3 arrived, I had managed to reinstall the lock that had been removed by the #1s. A fairly polite and unassuming chap, #3 looked at the door, the lock, the key, that still actually worked despite the drilled lock face, then said while I could continue to use the preexisting lock and key, he still recommended replacing it as there was no guarantee it would continue to work based on the drilling that had happened.
he then also told me it had been totally unnecessary for the first guys to drill the lock. they should have started with the X-ray film then proceeded to show me how he could open the door with his X-ray film. Great! Remember to double lock in future! I decided to accept his advice and replace the lock. he didn’t have the right lock with him so he dissappeared off to buy the necessary type, but then he called to say he wouldn’t be able to get it until Monday.

So, using the dodgy door for the next couple of days, come Monday, I had a new lock, an insurance claim filed, and a war story of the 2000€ door frame proposal by some Locksmith con artists. What amazed me in the subsequent days were the number of locksmith shops I walks past in my neighborhood. I had been blind to them the week before.

Lessons Learned
1. Don’t leave home without your keys
2. Locate a local locksmith on moving into a new neighborhood in advance of needing one
3. Don’t let anyone drill the lock until they have tried the X-ray film

4. sign up for the key repository of Paris  –   !!



paris music – joe jackson

What the hell is wrong with you tonight?

Not much! What a great show by Mr. Jackson, Teddy Kumpel, Graham Maby and Doug Yowell.

Despite obviously having the bug that I think everyone in Paris seems to have, with discrete coughing between songs and a slightly nasal voice when talking in his most charming broken french, he sounded great.

IMG_0589.JPGOpening solo, we got to hear It’s different for Girls, Home Town, Be My Number Two, before he launched into a New Orleans Honky Tonk version of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi. He then moved into Fast Forward, his new album playing against a bass/drum loop, before Graham Maby joined on real bass to play Is She Really Going Out With Him…Doug Yowell, and then of course Monsieur Teddy Kumpel joined the stage for the rest of the hit packed show!

IMG_0592.JPGFast Forward was recorded in NY, Amsterdam, Berlin and New Orleans, and I think we got two songs from each location interspersed with old classics. A fabulous Scary Monsters puts the Grammy shenanigans to shame, and then when demanded back to the stage with a standing ovation, we got another mini show in and of itself. The audience remained standing to bop and rock along to the cover of Television See No Evil, two other songs, and then finally sitting to let the Slow Song  wash over us to close the show.

Given how bad he sounded when speaking, it was amazing that his singing was so solid. I hope he’s soothing his throat with ginger tea and honey as he goes to bed! Need to keep those vocal chords in order for a few more shows!


musical musing – love songs

In no particular order, though I admit, The Only Ones have a special place in my heart! Number 18 added per the insistance of S. 🙂 enjoy

  1. The Only Ones – Another Girl Another Planet
  2. Johnny Thunders – I Love You
  3. Blondie – X-Offender
  4. Flaming Groovies – Shake Some Action
  5. The Only Ones – The Whole of the Law
  6. Neil Young – Harvest Moon
  7. Rolling Stones – Wild Horses
  8. Bruce Cockburn – Celestial Horses
  9. Neil Young – Heart of Gold
  10. Blondie – In the Flesh
  11. The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
  12. The Mammas & The Papas – Dedicated to the one I love
  13. Sandy Denny – Until the real things comes along
  14. Amy Winehouse  – Someone to Watch Over Me
  15. Amanda Thorpe – You & Me in a Doorway
  16. Bedsit Poets – The Highs Can’t Beat the Lows
  17. Magic System – Magic in the Air



life musings – dogs and bones

Sam would often head-butt my leg whilst growling through his teeth, tightly clenched around a stick. If I moved, even slightly, to take hold of the stick, he would quickly pull away, before coming at me again. His head thrashing side to side, ears flopping, and tail wagging. I would grab hold, usually of a drool covered end, and yank and yank, and pull him up so high his hind legs would raise off the ground, and would he let go? No. Eventually I would feign disinterest and as he let go of the stick, I would lurch forward, swipe it away and then throw it as far as I could, Sam running joyfully after the ever shrinking stick, that he would catch, chew, and bring back to repeat the whole routine again.

As the evening wore on and the wine flowed, loosening tongues, I watched with fascination as Pierre relentlessly pursued our friend! It reminded me of myself, with a few glasses of wine warming my belly, the inability to let go of certain conversation points, feeling that either people were not understanding what I was saying, or that they were missing the point, or that they were not responding the way that I either wanted or expected.

Pierre, who also seems to get a certain amount of pleasure out of teasing (or torturing) his friends wife, just would not stop. Knowing that he was winding her up royally, he kept going and going, asking her the same thing over and over again, in different ways, trying to explain his reason for, what seemed more like an attack rather than genuine interest at some points, as “conversation”. Throwing up his hands up in the air he exclaimed “Alright, we wont talk about this, let’s talk about what ever you want to. YOU pick a topic”.

“Oh, I don’t know what to talk about! ” came her reply.

Leaping out of his chair, he charged at the book shelf and produced the “Century” trivia book . Thrusting it at her, he demanded “Find something!” Her husband, watching with an inane grin while nursing a tumbler of scotch, finally chipped in, “Let’s talk about the benefits and disadvantages of traveling across the alps in pajama bottoms.”

And we moved on to the Gods of Travel and Genish which then led us to Buddha’s and their various depictions.

I used to consider Pierre so black and white in his point of view, that he neither accepted nor tolerated shades of gray. Now I know he sees multiple points of view and our conversations demonstrate his broad awareness, knowledge and openness to exploring all and any subject and issue. Though still quite entertaining, full of informed points, and with some semblance of a logical path, after several glasses of wine, the discussions still tend to become more aggressive, less open.

Too little wine, not enough truth?
Too much wine, not enough of anything!!


paris musings – the flood

January 15th, 2014. We had been in Paris for 8 weeks. The apartment was finally getting some order to it; items had been assigned to rooms, pictures we slowly finding homes on walls.

We had upgraded from a 1-bedroom apartment in NY to the luxury of a 2-bedroom apartment in Paris, however, S. had decided his room was put to far better use as a play room vs. a bedroom. Originally contained to a defined area of our Brooklyn living room floor, his train track now extended in to a complex multi route structure that covered virtually the entire floor… a sight to behold… caution… wear slippers!

Sleeping soundly, at about 11:30pm, I was woken by the sound of heavy rain. It was loud and sounded like it was coming in to the room. I got up to examine the window and was then horrified to see that the incessant thud of water drops was coming down from the bedroom ceiling and the pipe in the corner. The dripping was getting more and more frequent and as I turned on the light (maybe not such a. smart move in retrospect) to examine further, a cartoon-esque pop and split left the dripping ceiling crack heading inward so now the bed was getting wet.

I quickly grabbed S. and carried the heavy sleeping body in to his room, navigating train tracks, lego pieces, and various toys and tucked him in to his bed; next were the guitars and various instruments, back and forth, putting as much stuff in the front rooms. Luckily I had a fancy mop and bucket my mum had bought when she was over so after dragging the bed as much out of harms way as i could, I strategically placed the bucket and created some towel dams, grabbed my keys and ran upstairs to knock on my neighbor’s door… ring the bell…. bang on the door… nothing.

Back down stairs, in a panic, I called my french friend and told her what was happening. She gave me a few key works and told me to call the Pompiers. 19. Hello, hello…. de l’eau…Beaucoup… le palfond…. de l’eau …beaucoup… it seemed like they understood but said, as it was not an emergency, they would get there when they could, hopefully with in the hour. I stressed it was an emergency for me …. beaucoup de l’eau… they sounded sympathetic, but as it was not a matter of life and death, I remained in the quasi -emergency list.

I ran upstairs again and banged on my neighbors door… still nothing. I ran downstairs, nothing. The water continued. Now, not only the bedroom, but the bathroom and kitchen ceilings were also dripping and the floors were becoming mini lakes. I got more towels to build additional dams and continued to move boxes and cases out of the bedroom in to the front rooms.

30 minutes later, the pompiers arrived-two strapping young men and a female partner. They examined the situation, eyebrows raised, then they quickly went upstairs… I followed them part way, but by this point the dark stairwell was a mini running water fall and there were other tenants with flashlights out and about, so given my lack of french language dexterity and ability to contribute meaningfully to the situation, I returned to the apartment. Water was encroaching the hall way. I tried not to panic. The bedroom ceiling was starting to peal away. Then the flow started to slow.

When the pompiers came back, water and electricity off, one of them took the mop and started poking at the ceiling until a large amount of plaster fell down on the the bed and the floor. The flow stopped; they wrote up their report, and left.

While not on biblical proportions, the apartment was still left in a state of watery chaos, and the repercussions lasted for months. I spent the next few hours mopping, sweeping and cleaning. Whilst I’m sorry S. missed the pompiers, I was very glad that he actually slept through the entire event.

Having never had home insurance for my entire time in NYC, I was really happy that in France apartment insurance is a mandatory requirement. Whilst a lot of paper work, it did mean that I had some coverage.

mandamusing_Paris The FloodFirst I had to meet with my upstairs neighbor – a 90 year old who had slept through all my door banging, but managed to awake when the Pompiers arrived. Then I had to meet with her insurance company, then my insurance company. There was nothing they could do to repair the walls until they were dry. So they came with their little device that they prodded in the plaster. No. Not dry enough. Again. No. not dry enough.

By May, four months after the event, I was getting really fed up with looking at the hole in the ceiling, and asked again if there was nothing they could do to speed up the process….eventually someone came round who then opened up all the wall (i.e.: removed all the plaster that had been damaged). I don’t know why they didn’t do that immediately. It seems logical now that that would be the best way to dry the walls out. The damaged plaster was extraneous and was going to have to be removed anyway. It seemed to speed up the process significantly, but it was still another month or so before the plasterers and painters came in to fix the three rooms. I have since discovered there are also various other devices that can help dry out the walls (that would have saved my using my hair dryer in attempt to speed things up!)… It must have been my linguistic challenges that meant they didn’t understand my questioning how to address.

I still think this was an oversight and have a niggling feeling that the subsequent bronchial and chest issues S. suffered through the spring and summer could have been a result of the damp walls and potential mould (the little black spots I noticed in the bathroom). The doctor was never able to explain all the shadows in S.’s lungs and the recurring chest infections. Thankfully, his lungs cleared up after he spent the summer in England.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Home insurance is mandatory in France
  2. Pompiers phone number 19
  3. Wet walls dry quicker when stripped and gouged


paris music – bachar mar-khalife

Bahar Mar-Khalife at La Maroquinerie, Monday February 8th

IMG_0414.JPGI wasn’t sure where I was going or what to expect. A friend had invited me along to listen to some music, so I said yes.

The discrete door was easily identified by the long queue of people, shivering, chatting, the couple in front of us sharing a bottle of Moët, waiting to open their jackets and bags for security inspection. Past security, we went into the court yard and then through the door to the right and down the stairs, entering the band-sticker-covered lobby and in to the performance space.

No seats?! I’m getting old, I thought. The room was already full as we made our way down to the mosh pit where we stood shoulder to shoulder with other attentive audience members listening to the solo female artist playing her jumbo guitar, switching between vocal mics and making loops to accompany herself with hypnotic repetition. She was good, but I found it a bit too repetitive to enjoy standing! Maybe if I was sitting, lying, letting it wash over me, I would have been happy. She finished, and we waited.

FullSizeRender (1).jpgBachar entered the stage, a small compact man, 30 something, Lebanese/Parisian, shaved head, beard, T-shirt and jacket. He started to play his keyboard. simple, quiet. unassuming. He started singing Hallelujah, repeating the word over and over, intertwined with Moroccan gwana rhythms. He dedicated the piece to children who have died young. From an interview (portrait of the musician) he explains “The hallelujah does not belong exclusively to the West. It is sung in the churches of the East in Arabic, Aramaic and Assyrian. So for me there is nothing contradictory about combining a hallelujah with a gwana rhythm!” When the band crashes in, full force, polyrhythmic, multiple key signatures, 5/4, 4/4, 6/8, combine with styles of classical, reggae, speed metal, disco …I don’t really know what it was. I haven’t done drugs or alcohol in over 10 years, but I was on a trip! I forgot that I was standing, that I was holding bags from work, that I had a baby boy at home, as I swayed and bobbed on top of, inside, along side this varied sonic landscape.

FullSizeRender.jpgThe drummer was awesome, such IMG_0471.JPGa great smile as he played – I can’t even begin to describe the rhythms that were coming from the drums and piano.  The bass player reminded me of the lovely and talented Brad Albetta 🙂 Solid, substantial, smooth!

It was great; powerful, complex, layered, textured, mystical, magical…. the energy on stage was intense, and mirrored in the audience.  It was a great show. Very, very happy that I ventured into the unknown!


london music – the zombies

Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent at Rough Trade East, London on Tuesday FebruaDSC_0674.jpgry 2nd

It’s not everyday you get to see Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent performing an intimate “acoustic” (ok.. it’s an electric piano) duo set as if they were in your living room… and, yes, they were great. Chris White (former Zombie songwriter and bass player) was also in the crowd along with old die hard, and new young, fans…

DSC_0689.jpgTheir songs have withstood the test of time. Colin’s voice was in fine form as it leapt and sprang over familiar melodies. And such great melodies! Comfortable yet tricky, the songs provide a range to be reckoned with, and Colin moved around them as if they are putty in his hand. It somehow doesn’t seem that surprising that both Rod and Colin were choir boys growing up! They are such lovely people… funny, charming and fascinated by the world around them and so willing to share. Rod’s piano playing was (and is whenever I have seen him) full of exuberance and joy. He always looks like he’s having a blast.


These are two lucky men! They have some fabulous songs to keep performing, She’s Not There, Tell Her No, Time of The Season, Care of Cell 44, A rose for Emily – 
and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, laughing and bantering…

The Q&A session was charming with a couple of stories, including the unplanned inclusion of mellotron all over Odessey and Oracle to take advantage of the instrument that John Lennon had left behind at Abbey Road. As Colin says “Now I know I’ll never get over you!” The Zombies live on!DSC_0915.jpg



london theatre – the book of mormon

BookOfMormon.JPGWhat to do when foot loose and fancy free in London…. go see The Book of Mormon!

Last minute ticket purchase put me in the center, six rows from the stage (thank goodness as I had left my glasses at the hotel). What a great show!

Very fast, funny, clever lyrics – I’d expect nothing less from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park writers)…songwriter Robert Lopez provided some classic musical bedding for the songs; impressive staging/set design by Scott Pask, combined with the costume magic of Ann Roth, and just wonderful direction and seamless choreography by Casey Nicholaw. I particularly loved the nightmare sequence, but each song had so many subtle and surprising elements, I feel I need to go back again just to try and figure out how the all the costume transformations happened.

I remembering passing through Salt Lake City in 1997 with my best friend, meeting up with her sister for a fun-filled week of camping, hiking, driving around Utah, Arizona, Colorado…but that’s another muse. We visited the Mormon Church, and had a tour around the Mormon museum…I must say, I found it fascinating but from an incredulous point of view.  The play touches many themes…faith and doubt, and the story telling aspect of the bible. Right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate, alone together, the seven deadly sins, all these teachings are shared with our children through stories and parables….why do we insist on saying that the bible stories are the truth?

Stereotypes, parodies, mocking, spoofing, referencing, borrowing….from the world around us as well as the wonderful Broadway shows and musicals of the past, combine to make a slightly irreverent, most entertaining, and ultimately optimistic show.