Sunday, July 23, 2006

Three days at home

28 rue Albin Delage 11/07/06

Three days in Saintes was not too long but it was perfect to spend quality time with Papi Jacques and Mamie Ese, and catch up with Marie-Odile, Jean-Pierre and Benoit.

Firstly I'll show off the house where I was born. It is very reassuring that in spite of never living in one place, I still get to come back to the bedroom which was mine till 7. I have few memories about the house ; like all those naughty things that kids do: drawing on the new wallpaper; getting my head stuck in the stair railings, setting fire in the waste paper basket of the bedroom, cycling in circles around the tree on the terrace and the hours spent playing in the garden.

A very old vineFor history buffs out there, this garden used to be a vegetable patch; during the wars (first and second world war) the people living in the house were growing their own food supplies including making their own wine; the picture shows a very old grape vine; we do not treat it anymore so it is not producing sweet grapes and would probably make an horrible wine; however it is beautiful to see the old vine and it shades the alley down to the garden.

Papi Jacques
Papi Jacques and Marie-Odile came to spend the afternoon of Sunday with us. Doesn't my Papi still look great at the age of 91? He has been living in his own past since Mamie Suzanne past away; only remembering the days of his engagement to my grandma; so I was very pleased when over the three days he was able to tell me a bit more about his past than yet again how he met my grandma. He told Alex about his year as a soldier (March '39-July '40) and how a British caporal saved him and his best friend from being taken prisoner on the 3rd of June 1940 when Dunkerque was taken over by the Germans. British boats came accross the channel to rescue French soldiers in Dunkerque and there were thousands of soldiers and only a few boats; my grandpa and his friend (also called Jacques) and the British caporal's boat was full, but he said ten more soldiers can come on board, my grandpa and he friend were the 9 and 10th to get on board and off to Ramsgate. He also told me a bit more about his involvement with the Church and that he was part of the orchestra of Rouems, playing the flute.

Eugenie's 30th

Eugenie at 3, in the dunes of Oleron Island

I've somehow always managed to stay close to Eugenie in spite of the distance separating us. She's a very cool cousin to have. So I was delighted to be able to make it to her birthday party.

The photo on the bottle of Champagne is her at the age of 3 (and today 30); she was always a bit of a tomboy, and at a younger age whe would rahter side with my brother to torture me. Thankfully I have no recollection of that; only her bragging about it.

On the phone is Eugenie with Lise and Marie

From summer parties in Oleron island, I knew her other cousins Rodolphe and Stephanie; and some of her teacher friends, not that strangers would have stopped me from having a good time, but it was lovely seeing old party buddies again.

The party was supposed to be "kitsch"; obviously Alex and I did not have anything in our small suitcase fitting the party motto. So we were judge of the contest instead. The contenders were to dance on a very silly song in their beautiful costumes. Eugenie won, her wig making her look 50 and orange top with pink leggings did the trick. Rodolphe did not have too much competition, but he looked good in those brown pants and orange stripped shirts. Lise also had a very kitsch dress, I would not even use it if it was kitchen rags; but she did put up a great dance performance.

Kitsch competition winner Eugenie with her kitsch prize; Rodolphe was voted best kitsch male and Lise won for best performer.

We then danced the night away on Eugenie's favourite tracks. She had prepared 11 cds for the party. The selection included her old-time favourite Jean-Jacques Goldman and Toto and even some songs from our 'terroirs'. That was another great party with cousine Eugenie. Next year I'll make it a date to meet her in Oleron Island for another one.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Football fever is over

I guess at a time like this everyone has got something to say about the World Cup.
Not only was the game providing hours of entertainment, it was also great for bonding with friends and colleagues. It provides hours of conversation, teasing, analysing, showing off and excitement.

Getting serious

The office had two bets, a local UK office one (organised by Martin) and a European one (organised by Germany' general manager Winfried). The UK one involved placing all predictions before the world cup started. I asked Alex to help me, as my knowledge was limited. He took this task very seriously and taught me a valuable lesson: you can love and cheer with your heart and faith, or you can trust and follow your head if you want to take it seriously. (Actually that's kind of the story of my life.)

Italy Versus France

So there I was, with my head (and purse) on Italy, and with France in my heart. I thought, whatever happens I win. If Italy won, I would have had the most accurate predictions for the world cup, if France won; it would have been my pride and patriotism that would have won. However, when came the penalties, I felt very scared and stressed, and France did not win. I was very sad and disappointed. I did not feel like a winner at all. I wish I had been wrong and would have rather lost the bet.

A valuable lesson

In almost every life situation we have to choose between our head or our heart, between wisdom and passion. They rarely come hand in hand. (This experience does not apply to me moving to England, because that's one project that both my head and heart agreed on).

You can either be happy to have have been wise, resonable and smart or happy because you have followed your heart, been true to your feelings, tried to reach your dreams. Head or heart, which do you live by?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Divine Comedy

Gorgeous London: London Eye, the Thames, Westminster, Big Ben

On the way to Somerset House, a grasp of the gorgeous views of London. If you ever only have two minutes to visit London, you just come to the London Bridge and you see the best of the capital.

I thought I would never have the opportunity to see the Divine Comedy live. They were awesome!I have a long love story with them. Not only because of their sometimes beautiful love songs but also because of the hilarious sexy lyrics of their other tracks.

I remember the very first time I ever heard the voice of Neil Hannon, it was a cold autumn day in Cardiff (mind you Alex' room was always cold because of the broken window letting in the cold welsh weather). It was a Sunday morning, on BBC Radio 1 and Alex and I were under the blanket; The violin caught my attention at first and later the funny yet deeply romantic lyrics:
"every body knows that I love you;
every body knows that I need you;
every body knows that I do...
except you."
I was leaving back to Paris a few hours later. Back then everytime I left; I never knew if I'd see Alex again.A few weeks later, I was back in Cardiff again, and Alex had bought me the album "A short story about love". That was the first present I ever got from Alex.

The Divine Comedy performing Don't want to die a virgin They played their new songs and some very cool songs from previous albums, like "my name is Alfie", "If you were" and of course, an old favourite "Charge". I made a video for my mom who also shares some happy memories of the Bang Bang song. For those who have not heard the song, it is about a war between the English and the French; with cannons on the right and cannons on the left that go bang bang bang all night long, and the British soldier that shouts "Charge!". My mom and I loved to sing the song very on the top of our voices in the swimming pool in Penang.

I highly recommend their latest album "Victory for the comic muse" which contains funny track "(I don't want) to die a virgin" and a song for all mothers in the world to let them know how much we love them and appreciate their love and devotion on a chirpy tune "Mother Dear". The concert had excellent review in the next newspapers, they are touring this autumn, I'm gonna go again.

An evening out in Frankfurt


I was down in the Eschborn office for our quarterly marketing meeting. The meeting is a great way to learn waht other regions are up to, exchange ideas and make sure I'm not going off-track or lagging behind. I am a bit more customer-focused than my colleagues; but I can see positive results, like customers purchasing our new/other product ranges. I like my boss sales philosophy and I believe that my work is more effective to meet the objectives.

Anyway, Maria and Rudiger promised us that they would take us out of Eschborn and into Frankfurt, so I had packed my camera. Frankfurt is a very modern city, with many skyscrappers. It reminded me of Malaysia. And the tour guide was obsessed about the Jews, she kept mentioning the jewish population and talked lengthly about the synagogue; is it remorse? Do they try to over-compensate by showing that they care about the Jews? Oh well, what's in the past is past... I wonder if Tante Madeleine ever forgot and forgave?

Moving on with the tour. We ended up in the old city centre, which was in fact completely destroyed in 1943 and rebuild according to the original style. That place was quite lovely. We paused in front of the town hall, like a well-behaved group of tourist. (From left to right: Torsten, Beth, Estelle, Rudiger, Me, Carrina and Fabrizio)

That church, called St Barthelomew Cathedral, has quite an interesting history (it is in fact a church and not a cathedral, because no bishop ever lived there); during the bombings of 1943, the whole church was destroyed to the exception of the tower, which is wonderful, it would have been such a waste if it had been destroyed. They only had to rebuild the annexes.

We walked along the Maine river to have dinner in a restaurant overlooking the river. Dinner was cool, I chatted with Jun about Tokyo and Manga films and about travel and parenting with Maria and Torsten; Jun and I share the same problem that the day after we got married our parents started expecting grand-children. We had a good laugh.