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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Antici ........................................................... pation? 

The first day of the training was good. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot.

One thing I learned, which wasn't pasn't of the syllabus, was that I shouldn't try to guess the ages of the other delegates before I've met them. I don't think I was the oldest there and if I was, it wasn't by much.

The anticipation of being the over the hill really got to me. That is food for thought.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Introspection 

Tomorrow and for the next four days, I will be on my first external technical course for many years. I have been looking forward to getting some up-to-date training for a long time but now it's almost here, I find myself having a little trepidation.

I suppose I'm worried that I will be the oldest in the training group.

Ageism is rampant in IT. Many are considered past it at 35 and are usually ushered into managerial roles. My company is odd as we have three programmers over 40 and none of them appear to be being pushed anywhere. I am one of them.

One of the reasons I am a programmer here is that I am one of very few people who know a programming language called Prolog, one of the so-called AI languages to come out of the eighties. I need to extend my skills, however, and tomorrow's course is about that. I will be learning a new language called C#.NET, the new flavour of the month. It's a young language and I am no longer young.

It's times like these that make me want to consider other career paths. I don't want to be a programmer for the rest of my life; I don't want to be doing this in ten years time. Nor do I want to be a "manager", to chase paper or shunt emails around the world. That has never appealed to me and I know I don't have the aptitude for it.

And yet, I have a mortgage, bills to pay, a car to run, things to buy. How can I support all this if I change careers?

I like writing yet I'd be fooling myself if I thought I would be able to live off whatever income I could generate from that. Only the most successful authors are able to support themselves solely from income from books they have written. Even moderately successful authors had to keep a day-job until they had become established. I'm far from being successful; I've yet to sell anything or get my novel past my most severe critic, myself.

Hopefully, I'll think of something soon. Time is running out. I will be 50 in just over eight years. 50. Bloody hell.

And woohoo! (This keyboard still does not have the ironic exclamation mark) I reached 15 stone this morning. Sodding chocolate.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Three days 

The length of time for me to lose the calm I gained on holiday.

A woman sat opposite on me on the train. She was already a peculiarly smooth orange colour yet had to put on more make-up. Then she talked to her boyfriend loudly on her phone.

Another woman sat next to me with bags on her lap (one digging in my leg) who wrote a novel in txt on her phone to some bloke who's number she had on a bit of paper. Then kept looking at it every two seconds to see if he had replied.

And the bloody suduko was too difficult.

The only highpoint was a man who had forgotten to do up his flies.

11,362 14s 12.75lb

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Wasp 

I hate wasps. Nasty evil creatures that sting for fun.

I found one in my house this morning, in the toilet. I thought it was dead until I tried unsuccessfully to flush it away and then I noticed it moving. I had to fish it out with a bit of card and throw it out of the window.

Even so, when I used the toilet, when I brushed my teeth and when I was in the shower, I was continually on the look-out for further wasps in the bathroom. Irrational.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Miracle of Saint Annie 

I was walking to work and listening to my iPod on shuffle. Just as Annie Lennox started on "Here come the rain again" it started raining.

How did she know?

12,966 steps 14s 11.75lb

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Paris 

I just posted a whole bunch of stuff about Paris. I took my laptop with me and while David was napping, or in the bath, I kept an off-line blog intending to copy it all over to here when I got home.

There are no pictures yet. I have downloaded them from my camera but have to sift through them to find some good ones and then I will post them as an on-line gallery. I'll let you know when that is available.

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Paris – the last day 

After packing, a horrible job, we left the luggage at the hotel and took a walk. This took in a number of places we visited last time we were in Paris so we didn’t spend too long at them.

We had a quick look at the church of St-Eustache however, due to the poor light inside and my new-found reluctance to photograph the inside of religious places, I have rather more pictures of the sapeurs-pompiers (firemen) practising in the street than I have of the church. Part of the church was enclosed in scaffolding, where it was getting a well-deserved clean.

Then we went to Galeries Lafayette, a very large, very fashionable and very expensive shop. We bought nothing there but we went up to the roof terrace which had some spectacular views of Paris in the bright sunshine. It also had a very Art Deco atrium that was difficult to photograph as it was inside the female fashion department.

We tried to do the same at Printemps but their terrace was closed, unfortunately.

We popped into the Madeleine, another rather grand looking church that David had not seen before. Oddly, it has no windows but I wasn’t interested in taking photos inside. I was happy to sit and soak up the atmosphere.

After lunch we dropped in on Place Vendôme where I took more pictures but not many. I had filled up my main card and my backup card and I was now on my emergency backup memory card that is only large enough for eight pictures. Obviously I need another 1GB card before I go anywhere else.

Lastly, we dropped in on the garden of the Palais Royal, a courtyard garden with a fountain and some strange art exhibits, namely piles of silver balls and some striped columns.

Around all this we fitted in some shopping. David dropped in at the Opera house to buy a book on the place and I went to Celio to buy another couple of shirts. I bought one earlier at Les Halles and wanted another one.

I’m now sitting on the Eurostar, seeing the French countryside speed by the window on my way to the channel tunnel and the way home. Today’s step count is 16,674.

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Paris 17/4/2006 

It has been a nice day today. There has been sunshine for most of it and blue skies.

We went to the Opéra de Paris Garnier. This is a large and very well appointed opera house. Very nice, very plush and dripping with gold. It was very difficult to take pictures there because of the low light levels but I tried and hopefully I will have some to put in my gallery. I had to crank the camera up to ISO 1600 and shoot at less than 1/40th of a second but the pictures seem clear enough in the LCD.

After that we took the Metro to Montmartre, where we took the walk up the streets to Sacré-Coeur. I got ambushed by some man who wanted to see me a hand-woven bracelet for 20 Euros. I didn’t have that much on me and took great pains to tell him that but gave him a handful of change for his trouble.

Sacré-Coeur was as beautiful as ever and the view from the top of the hill as impressive as ever. The crowds and the squads of aggressive artists were a little threatening. I was reminded of the last time we were here and my bag was raided near the Moulin Rouge. The prospective thief got nothing that time as there was nothing valuable at the top of my bag but this time I was wary and kept my camera bag in my hand on not on my shoulder at all times.

We took lunch in Les Deux Moulins, a café that featured heavily in the film Amélie. The food, as with anywhere in Paris, was good and they had a special dish of Crème Brulée d’Amélie. There was nothing special about the dish but the film, as it introduced the characters, said that one of the things that Amélie liked the most was crack the sugar on her Crème Brulée with a spoon. I took some photos of David with his Amélie-face cracking his Crème Brulée. We were laughing like school-children about that.

Then we took a brief walk through the Marais, taking in the Place des Vosges and some of the gayer parts of Paris on the way back to the hotel. The Place des Vosges was lovely, a small park surrounded by square-cut trees just starting to burst into leaf, with that subtle yet intense green that speaks of Spring and hints at Summer.

The streets of the the Marais were small and filled with people walking too slowly and cars driving too fast. The shops looked small and expensive and chic.

The gay area was pretty much like any other gay part of any other city. Lots of odd shops and bars with identical half-starved men sat outside, smiling at each other in that affected way that we sometimes have. At least the men in the Bear’s Den were real and not these mincing phonies.

After that, we stopped off at the Hôtel de Ville. Owing to the peculiarities of language and the vagaries of history, this is not a hotel owned by a woman with a penchant for Dalmatians. No, it is the city hall of Paris, a rather ornate building with some dramatic fountains that were picking up the bright sunshine in a truly magical way. Of course, I took photos. The place was calling to my camera.

After a brief rest at the hotel we took a boat ride on the Seine. We elected to travel with Védettes du Pont-Neuf from Pont Neuf, surprisingly enough. This took us down river to the Eiffel Tower and then back up river past the Ile de la Cité and the Ile St-Louis before returning to the quay at Pont Neuf.

The guide made the whole thing very entertaining by pointing out the sights alongside the river and some of the history behind them. The sun began to set during the trip and the light began to fail. I seemed to be able to get some interesting photographs of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. I was especially pleased with those shots as the sun had just set behind the Ile de La Cité backlighting the cathedral rather nicely.

Then we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. My guide book said it was best to go at night because the queues were shorter.. This was indeed correct and the tower was certainly impressive up close when lit. However, it also meant there wasn’t realistically time to go all the way up. They would sell us a ticket for the top floor but it was easy to miss the sign that said there was a half-hour wait for the lift to the top floor. We saved ourselves some money by just going up to the second floor which, by the end of our visit, was giving me the colly-wobbles. Goodness knows what I would have been like on the top floor.

Night-time Paris had a magical quality to it that my photos will not do justice. The light levels demanded that I increase the ISO level, open the iris as fully as possible and leave the shutter open for a long time. I used the tripod and that helped a lot although the wide-angle lens I was using meant that a lot of details were lost. It was too cold and windy at that time of night to fiddle around changing lenses. Also it meant that I wanted to go as soon as possible.

We got back to Le Châtelet at about 11.45 but we still managed to find a restaurant/bar open near to the hotel.

All in all we walked 22,303 steps.

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Bear’s Den 

We went. It was exactly as I remembered it two years ago but not as David remembered it. Mind you, I couldn’t have remembered it that well as I tripped over in the dark. We didn’t stay long and we didn’t even buy a drink.

Before that we went back to Le Trumilou for food. It wasn’t as good as when we went there on Thursday night but they were a lot busier tonight. There appeared to be a party of firemen in one of the rooms but we weren’t allowed to join them. They may not have been firemen but they all looked very butch. One of them had a very impressive beard which weighed the balance against the firemen theory.

Today’s step total is 21,000.

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Paris 16/4/2006 

We started the day with a visit to the Conciergerie. This was the place where the aristocrats were held prior to their execution by guillotine. I was alarmed to realise that all I know of this period of history has been gleaned from Carry On, Don’t Lose Your Head. Shameful. I bought an English biography on Marie Antoinette on the way out to compensate.

I can understand the proletariat’s hatred of the aristocracy at that time. They had everything while people lived and died in absolute poverty. How could that go on? Why should Kings and Dukes build grand palaces out of gold while the people starved? It was wrong and something had to change.

However, touring the Conciergerie, I was struck with how the prisoners must have suffered. How great their lives must have changed in those few short days before their deaths. Their lives of privilege were all they knew. They had their lives and the poor people had theirs. There was no connection between the two apparent to them and by the time that the poor rose up to claim some of the riches for themselves, it was too late. War had effectively been declared and the rich could do nothing except die.

Think about it, though. These people were used to grand palaces, fabulous clothing and servants to cater to their every whim. Then they were caught and slammed into tiny rooms with barely room to sit before having their heads chopped off. Little wonder it was called the Terror.

Marie Antoinette was, however, given larger rooms. Still nothing like her former home at Versailles, they were palatial compared to the rooms the lower ranks had to endure. Royalty still had its privileges even then.

The Conciergerie also contained a magnificent exhibition of photographs of Paris ranging from about 1830 to the present. Many were in black and white so you had to struggle to identify when the pictures had been taken. I loved them.

We moved on from there to the Institut du Monde Arabe via Notre Dame and its gardens with the trees that had been joined together now bursting into life. We nearly went up the tower but the prospect of the climb and the long Carte-immune queue prevented that.

We didn’t actually look around in the Institut. We looked at the fascinating metallic irised windows and then went directly to the roof to admire the view of Notre Dame. Then we took a short walk to the Pantheon where we briefly looked around before leaving for lunch and a rest.

After that we returned to the Musée D’Orsay for another look at the Impressionists and at anything else we had missed from our previous visit. I had a slightly more informed look at the Impressionists pictures than last time, having bought and read a book on them in the meantime.

At the bookshop on the way out I picked up a book on Van Gough and another book on one of my favourite paintings, Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884”. Just after Christmas, we saw Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” which was loosely based on Georges Seurat and his creation of this painting.

I have walked seventeen and a half thousand steps so far and eaten most of an Easter Egg. We’re about to go out again for dinner. I doubt if we will walk too much further tonight as we are both tired. David keeps falling asleep.

We may even make it to the Bear’s Den, a bear bar a few streets away from here.

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Petit Dejeuner 16/4/2006 

There was a man at breakfast from Eastern Europe who seemed to be eating everything. He had a huge plate of pastries and kept going back to the buffet for boiled eggs and cheese. I was amazed.

Madame (the breakfast lady is always Madame wherever we are) was a little rushed off her feet this morning. She asked us twice for our room number and forgot to get the hot water. I blame the young married couple wanting scrambled eggs.

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Dejeuner 15/4/2006 

The food in Paris is beyond compare. We went to L’Auberge de la Reine Blanche on the Ile St-Louis. The food was gorgeous although the restaurant was very quiet. This meant we were served very quickly.

David and I often play a game when we are out where we try to tell each other if we have seen some other gay men. Four men arrived last night in a group and I immediately told David that I could not see their piano. It was funny at the time.

On the way to the restaurant we went past Notre Dame where a service was about to commence. I always feel vaguely uncomfortable at such times. I am not Catholic, nor religious in the formal sense, but I respect the faith of others. I don’t feel it is right to watch a service when it means nothing to me or to take photos as if it were some spectacular arranged for the benefit of the tourists. It isn’t. It is part of someone’s faith and, as such, a private matter. I should not be there, nor David and especially not the little Japanese woman getting in the way of the group of priests as they were trying to get into the cathedral and she was trying to get a better view.

We were knackered when we got back to the hotel and fell asleep almost immediately. Little wonder. According to my pedometer I’d walked over 23,000 steps, roughly twice what I would normally cover in a working day.

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Paris 15/4/2006 

A day of shopping, art and rain. We went to Les Halles to do some shopping. Les Halles is a large underground shopping centre. It isn’t huge but big enough.

We bought each other Easter Eggs and I bought some shirts as well as a bar of chocolate that is 75% cocoa. In recent years I have grown to like dark chocolate more and more. Milk chocolate seems to have a disagreeable aftertaste and white chocolate is like eating soap.

I have begun making very good use of the phrase “Je ne parle pas français” to cover up my lack of interaction with cashiers. I used it in the supermarché last night and in the chocolatier today. I have also begun ordering my own meals, rather than relying on David. I even asked about the soap of the day: “Qu’est ce que le potage du moment?

That was at a rather pleasant café just off the Rue de Rivoli where we sat outside despite the risk of rain. It was a lovely place to sit and eat and watch the gays go by.

There seemed to be a great many people with surveys on the streets. I fended off one last night only to find David in stitches behind me. Apparently the researcher had asked me if I were in a good mood to which I had replied that I was English.

We visited three “museums” today. I put them term in quotes because I don’t really think of them as museums. The first was the Pompidou Centre, the famous inside-out building housing collections of modern art. We found the building difficult to navigate and the art incomprehensible. There was some awful exhibition where the artist had had some fixation with shop dummies that he assembled with two bottom halves one on top of the other with added lady’s bits. This exhibition was arranged in a sort of labyrinth from which we had trouble escaping.

I wanted to visit the Pompidou Centre because I went there when I was 15 for our art trip. I remembered nothing of that visit other than we bought crepes from a café outside. I can understand why now. Our teacher, Mr Carlyle, had been very keen for us to visit there. Thanks.

From there we went to L’Arc de Triomphe and went up to the top. Lots of spiral staircase. Joy. At least this time the stairs weren’t enclosed, which made a great deal of difference, although the journey was knackering. This obviously isn’t a museum, however it, and the Pompidou before it, gave us free access on production of our Cartes, bypassing the long queues waiting for tickets. The view from the top was a little disappointing as there was rain but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The final museum was the closest to what I think of as a museum and that was the Louvre. Given its size, our plan was to go in, see a selection of artefacts that we wanted to see and then leave. I am glad we decided that. The place was heaving. As I said to David, I have seen quieter airports. Obviously people had gone there knowing that it was the place to go and were looking at everything with the same bored expression.

We saw the Mona Lisa (La Jaconde), naturally, as well as the Venus de Milo and the Raft of the Medusa by Géricault. We saw a lot of other Renaissance works but none really grabbed my attention. It was difficult to see much of the Mona Lisa, to be honest due to the large crowd in front of it. Despite notices to the contrary, a girl in front of us tried to take a photo and a guard got very cross. He took his job exceedingly seriously.

I’m curious to know why the Mona Lisa is so highly regarded. Why did history single that painting out of so many others for fame?

By the way, I changed my mind today about taking photographs of sculptures. We had just seen Ms de Milo and were on our way to see Mona when we stopped for a moment near another statue, an ancient funereal maid, I think. David had a sit down while I admired it for a few moments. The detail on the face was incredible and captured a great sadness. I was captivated. When I moved away, a Japanese tourist swooped in behind me and snapped a picture. He hadn’t taken any time to admire the piece. He just saw it and started snapping. Someone spent a significant part of their life creating that thing. Surely it demands more than a cursory glance setting up a shot for a picture that is unlikely to be looked at?

Hmm, I am running out of things to photograph. I am left with architecture, landscapes, people, plants and animals. That will have to do.

I didn’t really enjoy the Louvre. I am glad we went and I am glad I have seen two of the most renowned works of art in the world yet the experience has soured me. The place is too big and there are too many people wanting to see it. It has become production-line Art, something for visitors to Paris to shamble around and not appreciate what they are seeing. It is as if the Louvre is trying to shovel as many people though its doors as possible and not teach them anything. They could learn something from the Musée D’Orsay.

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Paris 14th April 2006 

This is the first in a series of blog entries (posted en-masse) written à Paris on my ageing laptop whilst I am sitting in our hotel room, listening to the sounds of the city and working my way through the complementary sweeties provided by the hotel. Hopefully, I will have the presence of mind to not post this and the remainder of the series of articles in one huge indigestible blob when I get home.

There will be photos. I have taken many but I will have to stuff these in a separate gallery. There are too many to sensibly add them as parts of the body of the blog. Look out for a note saying that they have been added to my galleries. It'll be a while.

My laptop, second-hand when I bought it many years ago, appears on its last legs with only the threat of me buying a newer model and hitting it in exactly the right spot keeping it going. The screen has a tendency to go a bit psychedelic without therapeutic violence. I brought it with me to Paris along with the intention to work on my novel, or rather the second set of revisions to my novel. I did indeed spend some time on the Eurostar yesterday applying the revisions to chapter one that I had recently penned. However, after this afternoon’s nap (tourism and chocolate do take it out of one don’t they?), the muse decided I should write some pithy observations on our visit to the French capital. So, here we are.

Paris is, sans doute, a very beautiful city. Even the most boring and mundane government building appears to be adorned with statuary and dripping with gold. Many hide hidden treasures, guarded by terribly macho Gendarmes, looking young, fit and exciting. I think the French police hide all of their ugly officers away in desk jobs. “Sorry, Pierre,” they must say, “your face is just not good enough to be seen on public duty.”

Today, David and I first went to Sainte-Chapelle, a church that appears almost negligently placed on the Ile de la Cité enclosed by the Palais de Justice (avec Gendarmes) and the Conciergerie. This was our first use of our Carte Musées-Monuments, a neat little thing that you can buy almost anywhere (we bought ours at Waterloo International) that gives you entrance to many museums and art galleries in Paris. The benefit of such a thing is not that you avoid paying as the card itself costs £26 for three days but that all the queues are of no consequence. There was a moderately large queue outside Sainte-Chapelle but we bypassed it rather neatly by waving our Cartes at the people manning the entrance. I’d like to say that we swept in grandly but it was more the case that I stood in the queue while I sent David (with his infinitely better French) to ask, in a typically British way, whether it was okay if we used our cards.

Sainte-Chapelle is interesting as it was constructed as a two-tier church with the lower level made available for the unwashed commoners while the king and the royal family worshipped in the upper level. The difference is astounding. We stepped into the lower chapel and found a nicely decorated room adorned with a beautiful ceiling and, strangely, a souvenir shop. Then we realised there were some steps leading upstairs and so we followed them.

I’m never very good with spiral staircases, especially stone ones that are narrow and enclosed so that it appears that you are climbing the same never-ending set of steps over and over again. I tend to very quickly get an odd mix of phobias, a fear of heights and enclosed spaces that is probably triggered by the realisation that I will not be able to get back down again very easily. This fear was just flirting briefly with the back of my mind when we emerged into the upper chapel. It was almost like emerging into heaven.

Imagine a large room, no larger than that, you’re just not trying are you? Give the room an immensely high ceiling and place stained-glass windows all around the room so that it looks like there are no walls. That is the upper level of Sainte-Chapelle. The entire upper chapel is surrounded by a set of windows that are a pictorial bible. You don’t need to know that, just marvel in the sunlight streaming through and be awed by the majesty of the windows. I was.

Afterwards, we walked along the river to the Musée D’Orsay, an art museum that used to be a train station. There were queues outside that you would not believe that we bypassed again with our miracle Cartes.

I was especially interested in seeing their collection of Impressionist paintings. The Impressionists and the Neo-Impressionists have been favourites of mine ever since school when I did a history of art O level. Their work is more down-to-earth and daring than the rather staid and formal work of earlier times. The paintings have more to do with the play of light on things rather than the things themselves and the people in the paintings are ordinary people in candid poses rather than Lord this or Lady that carefully arranged and looking dispassionately out of the painting. The people in these paintings have life.

Later work became abstract and detached from reality. Clever but a little up its own arse. I prefer the colour and vibrancy of Monet, Gaugin, Van Gogh and Seurat. I have decided that my favourite painting of the day (Art du Jour) was Monet’s La Rue Montorgueil, à Paris, Fête du 30 juin 1878 . It shows a rather grand procession with joyous crowds and many flags waving. It just captivated my sight as soon as I saw it.

We looked at many other works in the museum as well as the museum itself. They have made a feature of the building’s previous existence by setting up on the fifth floor a viewpoint over the ground floor and the exhibits arranged on what was so obviously a station. The old clocks on the outside walls are now windows from which one can peer out, past the hands and numerals, at the white shape of the Sacre Coeur in the distance.

One thing I found both amusing and infuriating was the habit of people to take photos of the paintings on display. I love art and I love photography but I feel that taking photographs of someone else’s art is crass. Photography is an art in itself. A photograph records a scene at a particular point in time, the light, the mood. A painting does the same but, more importantly, imbues the artist’s own feelings of the scene and their interpretation of what they are seeing with their own eyes. The name of the Impressionist movement gives a little hint of that. So what is to be gained by taking a photograph of a painting? There is no artistic merit in such an act, only the reduction of art to a mere souvenir and a free one at that. There are some works of art of which I would like to have a memento but I would buy a book, in that case, or, at the very least, a fridge-magnet. There’s no way I could afford a reprint let alone the real thing. Taking a photo of paintings just seems wrong.

After lunch we walked to les Petit et Grand Palais. As it was two years ago on our last visit, the Grand Palais was covered with scaffolding while the Petit Palais, freshly renovated looked lovely but had little in it and photography was not allowed inside in any case.

Photography of architecture and sculptures is allowed in my book. They are works of art but, importantly, they form part of the real world, they are altered by light, looking different in angle to another or taking on a different character at different times of the day.

We rounded off our day’s tourism by a visit to Angelina’s, a miraculous chocolatier in the Rue de Rivoli, where we had Chocolat Africain (very dark, almost bitter hot chocolate) and Chocolat Liégeois (chocolate ice-cream). Both were gorgeous and even the presence of a trio of chain-smoking Parisian youths nearby did not spoil my enjoyment. Honestly, I am sure the French are born with cigarettes in their mouths.

We had our naps then. I was wearing my pedometer and discovered I walked nearly 16,000 steps today, a full 5,000 more than a normal day in London.

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I'm back! 

I have spent the last six days in Paris. Amazing place. I kept a written diary while I was there and I will copy it over to here in the next few days.

Talking of tons - although I ate for Europe while I was there, we did walk a lot so I didn't put on as much weight as I feared. Currently at 14s 13.25lbs. When I'd got home last night my step total was 20,130.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Discretion 

At the showers in the gym, two guys were getting heavily intimate. They could have waited and snuck off somewhere private but no, they had to get down to it there and then. I suppose that was part of the attraction.

Yes, it's a well-known gay-friendly gym. Yes, the guys in question were very good-looking. Yes, they obviously were attracted to each other and the heat of the moment took over.

However, was this the best course of action at lunch-time and in a gym that is not exclusively gay? For heaven's sake, I have seen kids in there before.

They did have the presence of mind to, at least, pretend to not know each other when they came out to get dressed although they did look bloody smug.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Annoyance 2 

I have to add something else on the train that annoys me ... girls (yes, I know, misogynist, blah, blah, get over it) who laugh when they speak even though what they are saying isn't especially funny. It's worse when the laugh is obviously artificial and, more importantly, AS IRRITATING AS HELL.

I think the laughers think that laughing in that self-deprecating way makes them sound innocent and carefree or perhaps charming. Try stupid.

The woman this morning laughed at the end of every spoken sentence. Her colleague, a man, did not laugh with her. She did not take this as a hint that nothing was funny. When he got off the train, she was quiet (hooray!) and started reading The Sun. Says it all really.

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Annoyance 1 

Why is it that half the western world can't seem to spell the word "lose" without adding an extra erroneous O?

The word is spelt L-O-S-E and not L-O-O-S-E. That spells loose as in "Hey, Pa, the cow's loose!". If you are going bald, you don't say, "I am loosing my hair" as that would mean "I am setting my hair free". Instead you say "I am losing my hair".

I know, or know of, a number of people who do this consistently yet fear pointing it out to them I case I sound like the picky pedantic hair-splitter that I am.

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Weather report 

We had snow last night. Snow! In April! I don't mean the odd flake here or there, I mean enough of it on my road to make the approach to my house "interesting". What is going on?

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Health 

I rang for my results yesterday. They were a bit mixed to say the least.

My haemoglobin levels (13.4) were a bit low. The low end of the "normal" range is 13.5. I should eat more red meat apparently. I'll give it a try. It doesn't form a great part of my diet at the moment.

My ESR levels were also a little low which indicates that I have had some sort of infection but, as my white cell count is okay, I don't have it now. ESR is a measure of the red in the blood, I think. I looked it up yesterday but have forgotten it now.

My cholesterol levels were a little high but I hadn't been fasting before the blood was taken so that isn't a surprise and I had a test a little while ago which was okay.

So no conclusions there. They want me to go back in a month to see what's going on.

I bought myself half of Boots selection of dietary supplements yesterday so I'm now taking vitamins B & C, zinc, magnesium, selenium and ginseng. I should be rattling now.

Yesterday afternoon was fraught with frustration at work and I was immensely tired so I bought a chocolate bar and Lucozade on the way home and David and I had fish and chips last night. Small wonder that I weighed 14s 11.5lbs this morning.

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Great sock graveyard 

I have been harbouring a suspicion for quite some time that the space behind the hot water tank is the legendary lost graveyard of my socks. I lose single socks every so often and there is nowhere else for them to go.

This morning I put some underwear in the airing cupboard and I saw a pair of boxers slip off the shelf and fall behind the tank. I managed to fish them out but in the process found more pair of pants and a sock. How to even see behind the tank is a puzzle. How to get out whatever I find behind the thing is another.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Olympics 2012 

People are just beginning to realise that the 2012 Olympics need to be paid for and that the cost is going to be met from our taxes. There are also reports that we will be paying for the Olympics for a long time after 2012.

Now, I don't like to say I told you so, as I see I didn't, but for those people who might be reading this and to whom I ranted about this subject last year ... I TOLD YOU SO.

I can only see one substantial benefit from us hosting the bloody Olympics. Out of misplaced gingoistic sporting pride and so that we don't pull our usual trick of winning all the tin medals, we will, no doubt, be spending lavish amounts on new sporting facilities so that potential athletes can receive training that will give them some sort of chance. These facilites will hopefully be made available to the general British public, a generally unfit bunch who need every incentive they can get.

Perhaps that was the reason behind our government's enthusiasm for the event. I doubt it somehow.

14 11 11386

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's a riot! 

We're going to Paris at Easter! Looks like we picked a great time to go. We didn't order riots.

The Foreign Office isn't that jumpy about the rioting in Paris and is just telling people to avoid areas where demonstrations are happening.

You can be sure we will be doing that. I doubt if we will be bothered by any of this too much and we will be able to get out of the way quickly enough if it becomes necessary.

These riots have been a bit of a surprise. I don't follow the news very much. I stopped reading newspapers over a year ago to give me time to write my novel and our television habits don't really include news bulletins.

Having read a little about it now, I have some sympathy with the protestors views. If I understand it correctly, young French people are protesting about new labour laws that mean that it will be a lot easier for employers to sack younger employees.

Could this be the start of a horrible trend in an aging society? What will be next?

Couldn't they have done this after we get back?

9220 14 11

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Hypochondria part two 

The Medicentre have taken some of my blood to be tested and I'll get the results in a few days. They expect nothing to be wrong and that my winter bout of ill-health is just "one of those things". Deep-down, I probably agree with them but I wanted to be certain that nothing was going on that shouldn't be.

They offered me a 15-minute HIV test. It was negative. There was no reason it should be otherwise but it was worth the wait.

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Hypochondria part one 

Is it me? Is it this country? Is it the germ ridden populace of this place? The trains filled with people coughing and spluttering their germs into air that cannot blow away?

I am ill again. This pisses me off.

I tried an on-line doctor the other day and put in all my symptoms. It told me I was overweight. No shit. It also mentioned a few other worrying things that may be the problem or may not. Anyhow, I have a few hypotheses I need to eliminate. I doubt any of the more serious and extreme possibilities that the on-line doctor suggested. I have yet to hear of any serious illness that causes weight-gain but I would be wise to get them eliminated.

I am not taking time off work to indulge my hypochondria so I shall go to the Medicentre in Oxford Street at lunchtime.

Thurs 14s 11lb 9964
Fri 14s 10.5lb 10399
Sat - 9831
Mon 14st 11.25lb 10943

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