30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 22

Posted by Lou. The time is 4.00pm here in London UK.

What makes you different from everyone else


To be honest I think the overriding uniqueness in my life is the fact that I sort of have a weird set of interests and sub-cultures to which I subscribe that all kind of contradict each other, and add up to an existence in which I never feel completely comfortable of part of anything, but also without ever feeling entirely uncomfortable or removed from something.

This runs from the fact that I'd be just as comfortable at a fantasy board game afternoon as I would be at a theatre after-party; which is just as comfortable as I'd be at a Cuba St retro-chic crafternoon or a wanky television event; which is just as comfortable as I'd be amongst the old ladies at a Michael Ball concert or dancing along to Gogol Bordello in a sweaty Camden venue; which is just as comfortable as I'd be passionately discussing my beliefs at a feminist meet-up or drunkenly chanting "youfuckedup! youfuckedup!" a rugby match; which is just as comfortable as I'd be at a barn-dance or a drinking champagne at a film premiere.

Okay when I write it down like that it just seems quite normal and much like everyone else - but sometimes I feel very aware of how disparate my interests, hobbies and tastes are and how none of them entirely seem fully like me but how as a summation they sort of add up to something that works relatively coherently towards describing me as a person. And I guess that's what goes for all of us, right?

Oh, and there's that whole "irrational fear of bicycles" thing.

{I was going to insert an image here of a comically
smashed up bicycle... but it turns out that
"bike crash" is not an advisable thing to do. At all.}

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 22

Posted by Bel. The time is 10.10am here in Wellington NZ

What makes you different from everyone else

Often, it is being vegetarian. I am that annoying one at dinner who has to double check everything and refuses to have a taste of your delicious bacon and egg pie, even though you're offering a "non-bacon-y" bit.
Other times, it's that I believe in God. Christians these days do a lot of dumb shit, so chalking your name up on that list generally means the rest of society is a bit bemused and concerned about your need for a "crutch" or obvious lack of knowledge about Science. I find it an awkward fit, because I don't go to church and can't stand so much of what is done "in God's name", but still look for somewhere on that spectrum for my faith.
Most obviously, it is that I am overly tall with ridiculously big feet and orangutan arms. Shoe shopping is a nightmare. Finding cardigans that don't expose my wrists is near impossible. And all of those cute flirty short skirts look positively obscene once I get them up over my hips. It's also problematic in group photos, where I either have to choose between killing my quads by crouching down to normal height while people snap away, or risk looming over everybody else like Godzilla in the Tokyo streets.
More subtle is my unique propensity for mispronunciating the word "wary" no matter how many times I am corrected. (I think my way is better.)

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 21

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am here in London UK.

A picture of something that makes you happy

Rather than boring you with pictures of kittens or Les Miserables or The Beatles or cupcakes, here is something that always makes me laugh:

Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks

Michelle does a cracking good Silly Walk and is generally willing to give me a burst if I beg hard enough. Mine has unfortunately never quite managed to be silly enough, but maybe one day I'll gain certification.

Here is the skit for anyone who has been deprived of having it in their lives:

Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 19

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am here in London UK.

Nicknames you have; why do you have them

All plays on my name:

  • Lou-Lou

  • Louie Baby

  • Weezer

  • Weeze

  • Louweegie

Oh wait, there is another not related to my name...

  • Lobster

This one is from a specific group of friends amongst whom everyone has a silly nickname (ranging from Duck Face to Turnip) - I had the misfortune of getting very sunburnt shoulders at around the exact time I had become part of the group enough for a nickname to be on the make...

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 19

Posted by Bel. The time is 4pm here in Wellington NZ

Nicknames you have; why do you have them

Well, "Bel" is a nickname, I suppose. So does that count? I have never had any cool nicknames really. Or mean ones. My brother called me a bunch of names growing up no doubt, but nothing that ever really stuck. Mainly because I would give him THE PUNNIES if he ever dared.

Eddy, back when he lived in a box
My dumb brother, looking like he needs the punnies


I just remembered: I do have a nickname! Wow. (That is not the nickname, that is me exclaiming.)

By my 6th Form Cert year, there was only four of us in my French class. The desks were in pairs, so we sat right at the front by the teacher's table, just the wee huddle of us.

Bridget and Simone sat together at the very front; they were a well suited pair, as Bridget had a freak genius mind and was also taking German and maybe picked up Spanish that year too, via correspondence, and Simone's mum was French, which I think is also known as CHEATING.

I sat in the back row, of course. (Ahem: second row from the whiteboard.) My buddy was Paul, who was also in my Drama class, and my cousin to boot. Paul was hilarious. A definitive class clown. He did the best Austin Powers impersonation that my small provincial town was ever treated to in the mid-90s.

He made class not just tolerable, but enjoyable. And just as well, because our teacher sure wasn't focused on that. She had an authoritative and prescriptive teaching approach, meaning that we wrote out many a verb conjugation, and copied down pages of notes on grammar rules, but got little understanding for the flow of the language, or much of an ear for it.

(I did a semester of Te Reo Māori at university and was revitalised in my love for language by the holistic, conversation-based techniques that my tutor used - a complete contrast. And it's not just a "cultural thing", as I have had French teachers since who have managed to create the same positive atmosphere, where learning is encouraged and shared.)

Anyway, so.

Paul barely had to twitch an archly curved eyebrow or whisper one word in a funny voice to send me into fits of giggles when we were in French together. I was starting to get sick of high school, and although a very good student, was developing a subversive streak that - partnered with being very sick for a long time - would make 7th Form a real battle. Good company like that can make all the difference, and I really don't know how I survived his going on a year-long AFS exchange.

One day, transcribing vocab lists, we came across the French word for "rubbish bin": la poubelle. In English, this sounds like "poo - bell".

My name, but with "poo" on the front. And the translation means trash can. It's even a feminine word! (As in la, not le.)

As you can imagine, this went down a treat with Paul. He was given a nickname in return - I would call him Monsieur Pamplemousse as he'd declared it his favourite word. "Pamplemousse" is the ridiculous French way of saying grapefruit. It is a great word really.

We would also torture each other by suggesting these words as vocab whenever an example was needed by the teacher:

Teacher: "Le petit garcon est monte dans... uhhh..." [The little boy climbed in (/inside)...]
Paul: "Dans la poubelle...?"
Teacher: *glares*
And so on.

But of course this was years ago now, and I haven't even seen Paul in an age, despite the fact we live in the same city and all.

But I made the foolish mistake of mentioning this mistake at home one day. I have the obnoxious habit of speaking in French sometimes, you know, just for funsies. I often get replies from my family members, sometimes in surprisingly accurate Pepe Le Pew accents. We are all lovers of French food and movies and empirical colonial tactics, so they let my pretentious bilingual waffling slide.

Thus, I am 'La Poubelle' once more, and the hilarity continues.

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 18

Posted by Bel. The time is 1.09pm here in Wellington NZ

Plans / dreams / goals you have

I want to go to France. That is pretty much what I am all about. I would like to live there. I have a UK passport, so it is actually a valid option, bureaucracy-wise. Unfortunately I am absolutely flat stoney broke and up to my eyeballs with commitments so even a trip is out of the question in the short term / medium term / anything except fantasy land.

But I am quite happy to live in fantasy land and dream of the day me and my family will be cheerily munching on baguettes as we enjoy our high quality health and education system, wearing stripey shirts and no burquas, while a piano-accordion plays in the background, drowning out the sounds of striking transport workers and a burning, overturned car.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 17

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am here in London UK.

Someone you would want to switch lives with for one day and why

Contrary to Bel, there is no freaking way I would let someone be me for 24 hours (I can't even stand people picking up my mobile phone, let alone having free reign over everything). So I'm coming at it purely from the perspective of what I could do/ experience/ learn as someone else...

I would absolutely do the old cliche and spend 24 hours being the President of the US of A.

I would nose through the files to see who really did kill JFK, whether Marilyn did really top herself, if there was actually an alien landing back in the day, and if they did for reals make it to the moon. If any of the conspiracy theories turned out to be true (ie, when it turned out the CIA killed JFK and the moon landing was filmed in Utah) I would totes call a press conference and reveal it to the world.

After I'd stirred up some shit I'd then use my powers to their maximum in effecting positive change... but I dare say that in attempting to do anything I'd discover just how much the President's hands are tied. BUT as long as I had access to the truth of Who Runs The World I could blow the lid...

Then after a long day of havoc and leftie idealism, I'd go find that infamous red button and pretend to push it just to see everyone's reaction.


Oh wait, I forgot something important. I would drink a LOT of water so that I could gain maximum experience of peeing standing up.

AND, I'd get really, really drunk knowing that someone else would have to deal with the hangover - HIGH FIVES.

(Ooooh, and I'd also try a deep-fried mars bar - something I have studiously avoided in fear of what it would do to my insides.)

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 17

Posted by Bel. The time is 1.59pm here in Wellington NZ

Someone you would want to switch lives with for one day and why

I would switch lives with anyone who is guaranteed to come sort out my life in that 24 hours. No point in getting to be a rock star for a day if you come back to your own life and find out they've trashed the place while you were gone.

What? I am taking this on too much of a 'Freaky Friday' angle? Whatevs. Here's a list of some women I would happily put in charge of La Vie En Belle for a day - even though I think I would struggle to be able to achieve anything near what they usually do.

Michelle Bachelet

Chile's first female president, a pediatrician, a socialist and speaks half a dozen languages. She's survived torture under Pinochet, exile to Australia AND being a solo mother of three. Bachelet composed her cabinet of 50/50 men and women, narrowed the rich/poor gap in her country and announced decrees such as free access to the 'morning after' pill.

She has just been announced as the head of a new UN agency developed to promote women's issues and tackle inequality head on. This lady's got our backs!

Jean Batten

New Zealand's own Amelia Earhart, Jean Batten, set many aviation records for distance and speed in the 1930s, and even broke and re-set her own - she was the first female pilot to fly from Australia to England and back.

Being a pilot was a man's world, but Batten never let this stop her being glamorous, keeping a white frock in her cockpit so that she could change upon arrival. BONUS FACT: She also used to fly around with her cat, Buddy, in the luggage compartment.

Frida Kahlo

This woman never let having a disability or a mess of a love life hold her back. She intwined her culture, sexuality and intelligence into artwork in a way that the world had never experienced before, letting her personal contributions become universal musings.

I would happily let Frida paint, cook, wardrobe-makeover and interior decorate her way through 24 hrs of my life, but she would have to stay away from the menfolk!! And ladies. Hmmm.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 16

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am here in London UK.

Another picture of yourself

I've gone with whatever was the most recent photo of me tagged on facebook - which turned out to be this one...

...in which the photographer was flash-happy and shoved it right in my face, completely blowing out my skin and hair.

It was taken a couple of weeks ago at the start of a pub crawl to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 15

Posted by Lou. The time is 11.05am here in London UK.

Day 15- Put your iPod on shuffle: First 10 songs that play



"Love Me Do" - The Beatles

"Man in the Mirror" - cover version by an American Idol contestant (wtf?!)

"Mr Brightside" - The Killers

"Handbags and Gladrags" - cover version by Stereophonics

"This Boy" - Franz Ferdinand

"All My Loving" - cover version from Across the Universe film soundtrack

"Hand in my Pocket" - Alanis Morissette

"My Mistake" - the version from ENZSO

"Sir Psycho Sexy" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

"Amsterdam" - Coldplay

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 15

Posted by Bel. The time is 10.43am here in Wellington NZ

Day 15- Put your iPod on shuffle: First 10 songs that play

Whoo! I have been looking forward to this one. I don't why. Maybe 'cause it's easy? Haha...

But can't start without a quick rant on what an assumption of privilege is going on with this prompt. And also blatant product placement. Anyhoo! Embarrassing shuffle reveal ahoy!

  1. "Lick Shots" by Missy Elliott, from Miss E... So Addictive
  2. "Boplicity" by Miles Davis, from Melissa's hard drive, I think
  3. "Une Notte A Napoli" by Pink Martini, from Hang On Little Tomato
  4. "Straight to Hell (The Clash cover)" by Lily Allen feat. Mick Jones, from some charity compliation album
  5. "The Hustle" by The Pharcyde, from Labcabincalifornia
  6. "Veteran" by Doomtree, from False Hopes
  7. "Holy Water" by Gossip, from Standing In The Way Of Control
  8. "Matches to Paper Dolls" by Dessa, from A Badly Broken Code
  9. "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington & Orchestra, again possibly via Melissa or a compliation CD from the library
  10. "Houses" by CocoRosie, from The Adventures of Ghost and Stillborn
(Wow, does my black and white theme make it seem like my playlist is quite serious and poignant, rather than mostly just out of date and/or obscure hip hop, with some token jazz and Brit pop thrown in? Yes?? I'M FEELIN IT.)

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 14

Posted by Lou. The time is 3.41pm here in London UK.

A picture of you and your family

Can you believe that I actually don't have a photo on file of me and my family?!

The closest I can do is this one of me and my niece (throwing a strop) sitting in the fireplace of what was my mother's childhood home. My niece is the first of what will be the 5th generation to have a connection to this little Southland sheep farm.

This chimney is all that is left of the home built by my mum's dad's dad after he and his parents and siblings emigrated to New Zealand from Galway in 1886.

Though my mum is the oldest of her generation, it was my uncle - the eldest of the boys - who took over the family farm, and has a house just behind the hedge.

In the late-90s we moved Grandma and Grandad off the farm into a smaller home in Winton. Both passed away in the ensuing years, and the house was demolished. The core wood was used to make us each a furniture item. (I got a coffee tray - though have been promised a chest if I move back to New Zealand...)

My uncle then sold off half the farm a few years ago and leased out his land as a form of semi-retirement, then realised that he is a Farmer through-and-through and took the remaining half back over.

I think we're all hoping that his daughter will return to her roots and take it over once he is ready for real retirement, keeping the farm in family hands for another century.

PS: I think this is one of the very last photos of me with brown hair!

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 13

Posted by Lou. The time is 9:00am here in London UK.

Tell us about some recent baking expeditions

I've decided that today's actual topic is lame, so am instead catching up on my baking posts, including an accident involving too much baking soda and a Chocolate Guinness Cake (recipe from Nigella), and a happy experiment making Cookie Monster Cupcakes (no recipe).

Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake

Nigella is one of my fave chefs as she is a woman who appreciates the importance of indulgence being indulgence - none of this "low-fat" and "sugar-free" guff when it comes to making decadent cakes and desserts. I've been wanting to make her Chocolate Guinness Cake for a while, so used Cara's 30th Birthday as my excuse.

Basically it is a very dense chocolate cake containing Guinness. The Guinness makes it a very dark brown which, when topped by cream cheese icing, gives a visual nod to a pint of Guinness.

But I made probably the worst amateur error of my baking life - I mistook teaspoons as tablespoons. In relation to baking soda. The worst possible accident to make. BUT I fixed it! Luckily I had no yet put the cake mixture into the cake tin when I realised (I had tasted the raw mixture as a last-minute check, and knew instantly what I had done), so was able to fly into recovery mode.

I quickly figured out how much extra mixture I could make based on my ingredient stock. Butter was my item in lowest supply, so I took the maximum amount of butter available to me and adapting all the other ingredients to match the correct ratios, and created a batch of mixture minus baking soda. At this point I should have taken out as much of the faulted mixture as I had replacement for, but I didn't think of that till later on. Instead I added my baking-soda-less mixture and hoped it would diffuse the mistake enough to cover the taste. Luckily it worked and the cake tasted fine.

Feeling quite happy with the result I bunged on some candles and carried it up the street and round the corner to Cara's flat. Colleen and I then completed the fun by giggling to ourselves outside her front door as we tried to light the candles. When we finally knocked Cara opened the door upon a surprise visit of two friends and a lit Guinness Cake.

Cookie Monster Cupcakes

A while ago I saw a photo of some Cookie Monster Cupcakes and of course instantly fell in love and felt the over-whelming need to make them. There is no recipe available that I was able to find, which is great as it leaves it open to creative license.

For the eyes I held milk chocolate chips against the fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin tray to get the base melting a tiny bit, then pressed them on to white chocolate buttons to create a variety of expressions:

I used a basic chocolate chip muffin recipe for the cupcake base, and then cut the tops off to create a flatter surface on which to put the faces:

The icing was chosen for taste (cream cheese - my fave!), but turned out not to be best for appearance. I had wanted to be able to create a more textured top (like the Cookie Monster's fur) and I think in retrospect butter cream icing would have worked better. But they turned out fine and ohmygod tasted delicious! (if I do say so myself...)

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 13

Posted by Bel. The time is 1.17pm here in Wellington NZ.

A letter to someone who has hurt you recently

Dear crappy, lazy, good-for-nothing tradesmen*,

*Please note this is not a diatribe against tradesmen as a whole. This is very specifically directed at the tradesmen who have been "working" on the house we moved into on the weekend.

Moving house is a difficult business. People say that it is one of life's most stressful events, up there with the death of a loved one and divorce. (In some cases, the three events are intrinsically linked, due to the stress levels.) Even when you prepare yourself for it, and plan ahead what you can, there is still an element of unpredictability to shifting house.

I've dealt with broken crockery, forgotten keys, wrong directions and losing the bolts for the beds before. If fact, I would even count these as the things I plan for now. (Remember people, 7 moves in 5 years - this is old hat.)

But I was not expecting to walk into a house with an unfinished kitchen, laundry and bathroom this Saturday.

I was not expecting piles of tools to be heaped on the floor in the dining room, and for access to the kitchen to be blocked by the disconnected fridge left across the doorway.

Nor was I expecting exposed wiring gaping from holes in the bathroom walls, or to be told that one of the bedrooms needed to have its carpet replaced because of water damage.

The unpainted walls in the hallway don't phase me at all really, not compared to the fact that I can't install our washing machine, that we had to scrub every surface in the kitchen to get rid of all the dust and debris, and that the bathroom floor is raw wood and has to be covered in towels every time to protect it from splashes.

The charming cherry on top was having to pick up your half drunk and grimy fingerprinted bottle of Bunderburg Ginger Beer from where you left it on the middle of the kitchen bench and tip it down the (filthy) sink and chuck it out for you.

Dear tradesmen fellows that will be returning to my new home this week, to supposedly finish off what was due to be done last week, please don't be offended that I have neglected to leave out chocolate bikkies and fresh milk for you. You have hurt my feelings, with your disregard for deadlines and inability to work to schedule. I am glad that I am not the ones paying you for all this, but I do feel sorry for my landlord, because he is going to have difficulty getting rent money out of us this week.


The new (exhausted and angry) tenant of that place you haven't bothered working on over the last month

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 12

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am here in London UK.

How you found out about Blogger and why you made one

I found out about Blogger via, I would guess, Bel. It was suggested to me - again, I would guess by Bel - that when I moved away from New Zealand I start a blog to keep people in the loop with what is going on, and I'm sure I went with whatever website was the first suggestion.

As well as the above reason of keeping people in the loop, having a blog also allowed me to feel like I had company while I was doing 6 weeks of tripping around the US of A, and also gave me somewhere to record my travels in words and pictures. (Thank goodness - I lost a lot of my photos from that time due to the switchover from the online photo website I was using to google images.)

I went from posting frequently (sometimes drunkenly and over-sharingly) to only posting very occasionally, and generally with minimal thought. Around that time Bel suggested creating this inter-continental effort - et voila.

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 12

Posted by Bel. The time is 10.57am here in Wellington NZ.

How you found out about Blogger and why you made one

Much like the diary keeping mentioned back on my Day 1, I have had various blogs on and off over the years. Blogger is easy because it links with Google accounts login, but to be honest, I'd probably rather have it set up with Wordpress, from a nerdy point of view.

Maybe one day when I am procastinating really, really badly, I will pack up shop and move this blog over there - Lou is lovely about letting me have free reign to tinker about with the behind the scenes stuff like that.

I am sooo not in the mood to write about "Why I Blog", so this will do for now.

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 11

Posted by Bel. The time is 4.57pm here in Wellington NZ

Another picture of you and your friends

Matching outfits = BFF

This is me and Cam. At the time (about 5 years ago) he was my closest friend. We are not very close now, and he is living overseas to boot. But looking at this picture, and how unrecognisable our lives are now to that fuzzily captured moment, it is so understandable, and not to the detriment of anything.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 10

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am London UK.

Songs you listen to when you are happy, sad, bored, hyped, mad

I have no specific happy music, as I like to think that "quite happy" is my basic state in life (?!). I guess if I was at home by myself in a good mood and wanted some music on loudly to sing along to in a happy state of mind, I'd probably put on the Beatles Love album.

Radiohead's No Surprises and The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps. (Or maybe Josh Groban's version of Smile, if I was sad and wanting to feel cheered up.)

I would go for a shuffle of all my music if I was bored, or if at home I might put on Les Miserables (10th Anniversary concert version).

Missy Elliot's Lose Control, or Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind. Note that these are actually the only two hip hop songs I have on my entire iPod yet are the songs I would reach for, which does make me wonder if actually in making a little effort I could become a fan of the genre?

Glee. (The uppity songs, not the "heartfelt" selection from their "issues" episodes.)

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 10

Posted by Bel. The time is 2.17pm here in Wellington NZ

Songs you listen to when you are happy, sad, bored, hyped, mad

(The phrasing of this prompt confirms to me that this meme originated in the tween world.)

This song makes me happy and reminds me of dancing in the kitchen in Thompson Street:
"Postcards From Italy" by Beirut, from Gulag Orkestar

You can go to the Beirut website and download their song "Sunday Smile", which is also lovely.

Sad song? Yeah, dunno. I get a bit sad and anxious these days listening to Mos Def because I am terrified he is going to come here solely with the Gorillaz and I am going to miss out on seeing him live? Does that count?

Bored. Hmmm. When I'm at work and doing something mindless enough that I can wear earphones (I'm not one of those people who can listen to music and work, nope, never, it throws me off) then I head to myspace. Dessa Darling from Doomtree crew has lots of my favourites on her player, I am quite happy to have them on repeat.

"Mineshaft" by Dessa Darling, from False Hopes

"Hyped"? Try this song. I love to play it loud. I have fond memories of jumping up and down on the couch dancing to it on the night I got married, with my stepdaughter and my best friend.

"Je Veux Te Voir" by Yelle, from Pop Up

There's another version on youtube, with the French lyrics. You can google the English translation yourself, but WARNING: she might look cute as a sparkly wee button, but she has, 'ow do you say? LE POTTY MOUTH.

And for a song that is great to sing along to and get some cussing out of your system (Anglo-Saxon style), you can't go past these guys. Well, you can go past them these days, as their latest albums are awful, but let's not discuss that.

"Sink, Florida, Sink" by Against Me!, from as the Eternal Cowboy

PS Lou, have you checked out Against Me? You might like?

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 9

Posted by Bel. The time is 2.33pm here in Wellington NZ

Something you're proud of in the last few days

AKA Bel's rant (and tips) about learning French language

My French lesson last week was a disaster. I was stressed out and tired by the time I got there, and switching over to another language for a two and half hour class after a full day's work is usually draining enough. Then it turned out we had a different teacher, as our usual prof Luc was away because his baby had been born the day before.

This stand-in had only ever taught once before. The day before. To children. I have no doubts that she was qualified and intelligent and all, but she was yet to find her confidence in the classroom, or to discern what techniques work well.

As a result, she spoke quickly - too quickly - meaning most of her instruction was lost on us. Also, she was brutal about forcing us to speak only en francaise, even when we struggled to find the vocab or syntax to ask her questions because we couldn't understand.

We're used to an immersion environment, but we're also used to being able to say, "Wait, attend. So this means that with être the past participle agrees, but with avoir, non?", or whatever. That didn't fly with this lady. She acted as if it pained her physically to hear English spoken in the room, ignoring the fact that you'd finally cracked through your confusion and summed up the courage to ask the question. (I don't care how long you've been working with a group of people, it's still somewhat embarrassing to be the first person to admit you don't get it.)

The absolute worst of it was when she was getting us to spell out conjugations on the board for her to write up. The alphabet is said differently in French; there's a couple of real tricky ones, like 'j' and 'g' for which the sounds are reversed, and most vowels sound kooky too. I was trying to say 'e' and she just kept writing up 'r'.
Me: "Uhh... mais, non: e."
She writes 'r'.
Me: "E" [Eeeuuhhh]
She writes 'r'.
Me: "E" [EeeeeEEEeeeuuhhh]
She writes 'r'. Or 'h', or something.
Me: "E" [AaAAAaauuhhh]
She writes 'r'.
Me: "E" [EeeuuuUUUUuuuhhh]
She smiles at me like I'm a kid who just used the potty for the first time, and writes 'e'.
So, congrats, lady. You feel awesome and I feel like an idiot. Learning achieved? Zero.

I'd been feeling apprehensive coming into the class, because I knew we were due to tackle the subjunctive, a tense which doesn't even exist in English, but is used in French to express a 'mood' - something uncertain, not a concrete event, such as when you want someone to do something, or you doubt something will happen, or BLAH BLAH BLAH. Goddam French, why must you be so complicated and why do I love you so?

Anyway, you can imagine that this class did nothing to set me straight. I took less than half a page of notes and that included conjugating two irregular verbs. I am a visual learner, with a bit of kinaesthetic thrown in, and therefore learn best by writing things out in my own hand. I need to take notes, for my own reference and also to seal it into my brain.

I bailed at halftime, which I've never done before, not in the whole last two years. [This is not the thing I'm proud of, BTW. That's coming up and it's about as lame as this whole obscure, nerdy post.] She was intending on covering les arts in the second half, and that's vocab I have sussed.

But I didn't give up completely. (Insert here joke about the French and surrendering.) I dealt to some of those other things that were stressing me out, and got in touch with a lovely French friend of mine. My SOS was very kindly responded to and some tutoring over a lunchtime coffee was offered.

However! I was then foiled at the last minute, when mon amie was forced to cancel. This was on the day of my lesson for this week. I really wanted to get my head around things, so went to your friend and mine: The Internet.

The internet has some really crappy websites for language learning, and other brilliant ones. It takes a bit of clicking around to find what suits you, but it can be easy to find an out-right lesson or snippets here and there to work into something suitable.

This is the place where I found a great video and text about the subjunctive: http://www.frenchspanishonline.com/

And if you're wanting to work on numbers - I stop short everytime I have to say a date aloud - then take a look at this: French Numbers Listen and Repeat I right-button clicked and saved their files to put on my ipod.

Another great site is the BBC's Ma France. I didn't keep up with the weekly online activities, but even just dropping in when I remember and doing a few things is good for polishing up things. And I figure as many varied approaches as possible will really strengthen my understanding.

I wound up writing out pages of notes, printing out a nice little verb table as a reference and doing some fun highlightation as well. I filled in and padded out the gaps left from what clues I'd snatched from the mind-boggling week before, and actually even felt confident about the structure. (Not that I could actually yet carry it out on paper without the assistance of my work book, text book and dictionary - let alone speak it aloud!)

It turned out to be excellent prep work, because when Luc went over it in class that night, it turned out what I'd done was more comprehensive that is expected of us for this term. The idea was we'd just get an introduction, whereas we'd been thrown in the deep end - and my busy little catch-up session had meant I'd paddled most of the way out.

It really made me realise how much difference that extra work makes, and how important it is to keep on top of mes devoirs and maybe even invest time in extra work - other than the usual things I count as "homework", such as eating yummy snacks from Le Moulin and watching movies with Romain Duris in.


30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 8

Posted by Lou. The time is 11.20am here in London UK.

Short term goals for this month and why

Not killing anybody at work
It would be more trouble than it's worth (probably), and I'm not really one for violence, but you know how sometimes you just want to... well...

Buying a ukulele
I've been meaning to do this for nearly 4 years - ever since I first saw the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform. It is one of the things I want to do for turning 30 - in fact, ideally I'd like to learn the bare bones of a song before the big day...

Actually doing the 10 minute routines on my pilates DVD on a regular basis
Turning 30 = slowed metabolism (and far too many big nights out as friends also turn 30) - so I bought this "pilates in 10 minutes" DVD which sort of sat on my shelf unopened for 6 weeks... but it is now opened and positioned near to my DVD player...

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 8

Posted by Bel. The time is 10.54am here in Wellington NZ

Short term goals this month and why

  1. Move house (this weekend) without murdering myself or anyone else. It's my 7th move in 5 years, and you know what? All that practice does not make it any easier.
  2. There's a huge project at work which I need to knock off by the end of the month. I'm on contract which ends in a year and I want to get as many notches in my belt as I can. I really need to up my focus and stop, um, fluffing around on daily updates and pointing monitoring of Twitter.
  3. Go to the gym on a friggin regular basis. I have put in my work calendar the yoga and pilates classes that are doable in a lunchtime, as well as the "X55" classes in the evenings which pretty much kill me but might actually get me fit.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 7

Posted by Lou. The time is 4.30pm here in London UK.

A picture of someone/something that has the biggest impact on you

Seeing as Bel is doing a something, I'm going to do a someone - one of my personal heroes:

Kiwi filmmaker Brad McGann

Brad was an award-winning writer/ director of short films who channelled all that he had to offer into one absolutely magnificent feature film, In My Father's Den.

Sadly he passed away from cancer in May 2007, so I count myself extremely lucky to have spent some time with him in 2005 when he was doing a workshop with my former workplace.

He was encouraging, positive and wise; and very much taught me that there are no limits on what we do with our ambitions and talents (except those we place upon ourselves!).

On days when I'm mired in the blah-ness of a non-career job outside of film I think of that and know that one day I'll make it happen.

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 7

Posted by Bel. The time is 2.58pm here in Wellington NZ

A picture of someone/something that has the biggest impact on you

The intimate art of filming a love scene

I love cinema. From The Philadelphia Story to Scott Pilgrim vs The World, you can count me in. Watching movies is my main leisure activity and I have a disturbingly encyclopedic retention of knowledge for filmmakers and their oeuvres.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 6

Posted by Lou. The time is 10.00am here in London UK.

My favourite super hero and why

Buddy the Elf!

He counts, right? He's a human who can make toys and decorations with lightning speed, requires only 40 minutes sleep, and is powered on a diet of syrup and candy. He even manages a twist on the traditional super hero tights by adding nifty shoes and adorable hat.

He is my favourite for the joy he brings to my life (and yours!).

(As you may have guessed, I'm not much into super heroes...)

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 6

Posted by Bel. The time is 1.46pm here in Wellington NZ

Favourite superhero and why

There has been lots of twittering today as the #30daysofme tweeps cast about for superhero inspiration. It has lead to the inevitable discussion about the gender imbalance in the world of comics and cartoons, with men getting the muscles and laser beam eyes, and ladies generally standing about looking helpless and/or smitten.

Even when a female comic book superhero does manage to fight her way through patriarchal confines and onto the page, her looks and proportions are analysed in greater depth than her powers and secret identity.

As tiresome as the tiny waists and over-inflated boobs are, I would say that unfortunately the disproportionate body shapes are in line with the ridiculous broad shoulders, barrel chests and taut thighs of their male counterparts. It's the ridiculous creation of a fantasy world, and a representation that we should take no more seriously than the thought of flying around in an invisible Amazonian plane, or the assumption that no one recognises you when you whip off your spectacles.

(Apparently this is a real comic hero, powered by lollipops)

If you are wanting to read comics, and to enjoy those fantastical scenarios without the overly cliched physical stereotypes, then there are other options. One of my favourite authors is Brian K Vaughan, and yes I have met him, and yes, I had to go to Armageddon to do it. Shut up.

His series Runaways (created with artist Adrian Alphona) is about a group of teens who discover their latent secret powers and have to defeat a group of super villians that consists of their own parents. Heavy stuff, but this is also as snappy and funny as any prime-time comedy - and braver about dealing with the issues that you actually do when you're that age (regular teens dramz, as well as that whole super powers thing).

(Just did some intense nerdy googling and discovered a film adaptation is in pre-production and the director of Raising Victor Vargas is attached. SWOON!!)

On the other end of the 'family friendly' scale is Vaughan's Y: The Last Man, created with Pia Guerra. The post-apocalytic setting of this series is overhung by a global disaster which has wiped out everything with a Y chromosome - except our rather lacklustre protagonist, Yorick and his pet monkey.

This is a great read - less depressing than The Road, more relevant than Girlfriend In A Coma, and sexier than Children of Men. Get a sneak peek over at Salon of some of the first book.


Comics are just the thing for reading when illness/a hangover is keeping you trapped in bed but you can't quite summon up the energy to keep ploughing through that Virginia Woolf you've been so dedicated about.

reading one of my faves