I bought a book nearly a year ago called “The Procrastination Equation”, designed to help people understand the reasons why they procrastinate. It has just come to my attention that I have as yet failed to make time to read it. Oh, the irony.
Monthly Archives: January 2012
Thoughtfulness makes the world go round
Yesterday not one, but two lovely gentlemen noticed that the Froggy and I were travelling together and moved seat in the métro so he and I could sit next to each other. This simple gesture from both of these men brought a massive grin to my face and really made my day. It was refreshing to have this thoughtfulness & kindness shown to me by strangers.
This morning whilst riding my bike, as though deliberately giving me an opportunity to repay its services, the world presented me with a child’s toy lying on footpath. Connecting the dots between the toy and the lady pushing the pram I had just ridden past, I brought my bike to a halt, picked up the toy, about-faced and, after several “excusez-moi”s managed to get the lady’s attention. “C’est à vous ?” Her look of suspicion at being approached by a stranger morphed to a lack of comprehension as to why I had her child’s toy & then finally to a semblance of gratitude accompanied by a surprised “merci”.
What did strike me about this interaction was the element of surprise, and I don’t think it was related to the child having dropped the toy. This lady was actually genuinely surprised that I had taken both the care to make the connection between her and the toy and the time to return it to her, just as I had been surprised by the kind acts I had benefited from yesterday.
It didn’t cost me anything except a small amount of time to return the child’s toy, just as it didn’t cost the men in the métro anything other than a small amount of movement. It is a shame that such acts of thoughtfulness that take so little seem to have grown somewhat rare, especially in big cities.
In these times of mobile phones and portable music devices that often keep us entirely absorbed in our little worlds, completely oblivious to needs & wants of others, there is a lot to be said for getting out of our heads and observing what is going on around us as we go about our daily routine. Making an observation that creates the opportunity for a little thoughtfulness and kindness can make a big difference to another person’s day.
Sitting in a café overlooking Canal Saint Martin, sipping on a glass of rosé, WORKING & watching the world go by… this is not my definition of a tough life.
Learning 2, 2012
Never trust a stranger with your mobile phone… not even when he works for your phone provider!
You have been warned… the man posing as a friendly Virgin Mobile staff member, apparently ready and able to help you fix the problem you’ve been having with your internet connection on your phone may in fact be an evil monster who re-formats your phone without asking, losing all of your contacts, memos, calendar entries… and beloved messages.
In defense of said monster, apparently he was operating under instructions from a faceless voice on the other end of a helpline. And he did have the good grace to remove my mini-USB card, saving my photos, for which I can be nothing but thankful.
Most of the losses I can deal with relatively easily… it is more of a pain than anything. But the loss of 6 months of my beloved text messages, those little snippets of my interaction with the world that I love to keep, effectively the story of my life, causes me heartache.
I have reacted with a rather more “such is life” attitude than I would have previously thought myself capable of, keeping my disappointment in check by telling myself that they were but text messages. But I do feel it necessary to pass on the warning to others… trust not your friendly and seemingly well-intentioned phone shop assistant!
One of my highest hopes for this blog is that I never become someone who complains constantly about their host country. My usual outlook on this matter is quite simply this… if you don’t like it, don’t stay!
However, I have a gripe with the European concept of daylight that I am going to express here… it’s 8am and it’s still pitch black! I’m being robbed of my daylight!!! (Oh please excuse the pun, haha).
A lack of morning daylight is far from my ideal situation… The alarm goes off. I groggily register the light in the room. Or lack thereof. Confusion arrives. “Why on earth did I set my alarm for 2am?” I check the alarm. Worst fears confirmed. It is actually 7am. Insert matchsticks in eyes. Drag myself out of bed, desperately awaiting the moment the sun appears and I actually feel like it’s time to be awake.
That moment today is scheduled to be 8:43. I await this time with eagerness… if the grey clouds would ever go away so I could actually see the sun! Oh, that’s right… commitment in place to not complain (overly) about my host country… maybe I shouldn’t have started on the subject of European winter!!!
A moment of appreciation
One of my goals for 2012 is taking small moments to appreciate the things I achieve. Here is one of these moments I prepared earlier today…
When I first arrived in Paris, an approach from a stranger was regarded as something akin to a missile attack, provoking the old deer in the headlights reaction… eyes wide with fear, palms sweating, my mouth would have time to open slightly before freezing, lagging noticeably behind my brain (which had frozen the second the incoming enemy fire was noticed). The words to answer this innocent stranger’s question were not caught in the back of my throat, they simply did not exist!
Sometimes the stranger would mistake my open mouthed terror for simple mindedness, shrug their shoulders and walk away. Sometimes they would look curiously at me and repeat their question. If they hung around long enough, the brain would eventually kick (lethargically) back into action and they would invariably receive a stilted “Je ne comprends pas, je suis désolée”.
Full-scale terror eased, I would continue on my journey in a state of high alert, eyes darting to all sides, with the sole purpose of identifying and avoiding future incoming threats.
Fortunately these terrifying experiences are a thing of the past. Today in the meat aisle a lovely elderly gentleman asked me if I could see the price of an item he wanted to buy. After confidently scouring the labels in near vicinity, I pronounced that I couldn’t. I then added that it was a bit silly of the supermarket… that if they are offering a second item for free, it would have been a good idea to list the price of the first! To which he laughed (desired response achieved!) and suggested that he would go and ask a nearby member of staff to help him.
No incoming missile threat perceived. Rather, the conversation resembled a friendly tennis rally, the ball being comfortably received and returned, neither looking to hit a winner the other couldn’t return.
Fast-forward to the tinned vegetables and the “friendly” member of staff perched on the ladder, unabashedly looking me up and down, before remarking “Vous avez une liste” (“You have a list”). Several possible responses sprang immediately to mind, most of them not particularly complimentary. But I put on a winning smile and went with the most polite “Oui, sinon j’oublierais beaucoup de choses” (“Yes, if not I would forget lots of things”).
A simple exchange, but it made me stop and really appreciated how far I have come with my French … advancing from zero response ability to unexpected questions to having to sort through multiple response options to find the most polite and appropriate is not bad progress!
I had to wait a little (patiently, of course!) for my Christmas cadeau from the Froggy… but it was worth it! We’re off to see Monsigny’s Le Roi et le Fermier (The King and the Farmer) at the Opera Royal, Chateau de Versailles in February. Awesome present, merci la grenouille!
Warning, warning… war approaching?
France is under attack! Or at least that’s what it sounds like at midday on the first Wednesday of every month when the Réseau national d’alerte (National alert network) undergoes regular testing. Developed before World War II, this network of about 4,500 sirens sounds (unsurprisingly) exactly like the old films of air raid warnings during the war, and every time it goes off I expect to look out my window to see people scurrying to their bunkers.
Coming from Australia, I really didn’t have any sense of proximity to the World Wars before moving to Europe. But hearing this sound every month, along with having visited sites such as the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Mauthausen, the beaches of Normandie and Gallipoli, and the battlefields of the Somme, I am reminded that the tragedy of these wars are a very vivid part of history here, and even form part of living memory albeit for an ever-decreasing number of people.
Let’s hope that it’s a reminder that the people and governments of Europe also heed, and that the sirens of Europe’s population warning systems need only ever be sounded again for peaceful testing purposes.
Learning 1, 2012
The written word is not always more accurate than the memory…
The Froggy advised he had scheduled a dentist’s appointment on Wednesday morning which I (unbegrudgingly) duly noted as requiring an early wake-up call . A piece of paper then appeared on the dining table last night, in the Froggy’s own handwriting, stating that the appointment was in fact on Tuesday morning.
And so we fell for the old “if it’s written it must be true” trap. We readied earlier than usual this morning and went out of our respective ways to get him to the dental surgery on time… only to find that his memory was the more correct of the two accounts of the same event! We now “look forward” to repeating the exercise tomorrow…
A new year, a new beginning
I love the feeling of a fresh start that comes with a new year. It always seems like such a wonderful opportunity to put the bad habits of last year behind, turn the page and start anew.
When I think about it logically, there is absolutely no reason why 1st January should be a better day than any other to implement healthier living practices or better organisation or whatever my goal of the minute happens to be. I mean, what is wrong with 17th July??? Why does he get left out of all the fun? If I had started one of my current projects last 17th July, for example, I would have had close to 6 months head start compared to saving it up until now!
But it is what it is. And I can’t help but love a new year! This year, the list of New Year’s Resolutions is extensive… but I think I am approaching them very realistically – as a list of goals to be ultimately fulfilled by the end of 2012, not a list of changes I am planning to make overnight.
The main categories for my goals are health, finance, relationships/communication, organisation and business. Travel is sadly not amongst the contenders this year, but I am sure I will manage to slip some in nonetheless.
So far progress is impressive. By Day 2 of 2012 I have already rewarded myself with a full day of relaxation, a healthy quantity of communication with loved ones, some time organising old emails, a moderate quantity of exercise and… the piece de resistance… started my blog. Here’s to a 2012 full of positive forward momentum.