Cinderelly, Cinderelly

‘I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.’
Hermann Hesse

Back in primary school, we used to play a creativity game called Fortunately, Unfortunately. We would begin with a story starter, such as ‘fortunately, my parents bought me a car for my birthday.’
We would then take it in turns to think of alternating fortunate and unfortunate occurences to keep the story going. So, the above story might go something like ‘unfortunately, it was tiny and crappy like the car belonging to Simon from The Inbetweeners,’ ‘fortunately, I’m only 5 foot 2,’ ‘unfortunately, even a 5 foot 2 person can’t drive a car without any doors,’ ‘fortunately, my boyfriend is a mechanic,’ ‘unfortunately, he’s on holiday in the Bahamas,’ ‘fortunately, his workshop have offered to fix it over the weekend,’ ‘unfortunately, I want to use it tomorrow to go on a roadtrip,’ etc. etc. until the story got too preposterous to be a valuable learning activity and we would move onto something more ‘valuable’ like tracing around our friends’ silhouettes and colouring them in with pastels.

The reason I mention this is that I had my first French cinema experience the other day. The French were having yet another public holiday (I’m not complaining), but the weather was wet and miserable and not conducive to a nice evening picnicking in the park, so we decided to spend our alcohol-and-baguette money on movie tickets instead.

Pitch Perfect 2 has not yet been released in France, but not in the mood for violence or gore or horror or rather crappy looking cartoons, we chose to see Disney’s new Cinderella, or Cendrillon. It was a really enjoyable movie, and Ella was a little bit of a better role model than the traditional doormat princess of the animated Disney classic. Just a little.

But just because I enjoyed the movie, it doesn’t mean I enjoyed the entire French Cinematic Experience. On the metro ride home, I played Fortunately, Unfortunately with myself in my head, a transcript (with the constant Jamie banter edited out for your sanity) of which I will relay here.

To kick us off: unfortunately, the theatre needed updating, and was still using a projector – which, of course, froze part way through.

Fortunately, just being at the movies again reminded me of home and made me feel warm and fuzzy.

Unfortunately, the cinema didn’t sell frozen Coke, and the Coke that they did offer wasn’t properly refrigerated – not a proper Kiwi movie experience.

Fortunately, they did at least have the classic pic n mix selection of lollies, as well as a choice of sweet or salty popcorn.

Unfortunately, the theatre was not cleaned during the change over between screenings, and I very nearly ingrained sweet and/or salty popcorn into the seat of my jeans.

Fortunately, my popcorny seat did provide a warm and cozy haven from the rain.

Unfortunately, I’d had to pay a small fortune for the privilege of having a seat – cup holder not included. For two girls used to free movies at the Lido, this was a big deal.

Fortunately, at least I wasn’t paying a small fortune to watch a movie in a language I don’t really understand, as it was screened in English with French subtitles.

Unfortunately, the subtitles messed with my already-too-short attention span and I spent a lot of time looking at the funny words on screen, rather than watching the film.

Fortunately, the English language and French subtitles discouraged people from bringing their illiterate, non-English-speaking children to the cinema so the theatre was blissfully free of screaming kids.

Overall synopsis: Cinderella is worth seeing, but maybe not in a French theatre. The only other movie I’ll be paying that dearly for and surviving without my frozen Coke for is Pitch Perfect 2 – although by the time it is released here, I’ll probably be able to find it on DVD.

French Cinematic Experience: 3 1/2 stars.

Sexual Assault; or, When a Bit of Perspective Doesn’t Make Your Problems Smaller

‘If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.’
George Carlin

I hardly knew what sexual harassment was until I moved to France. Sure, I’ve received wolf whistles in New Zealand and the UK, hisses in Spain, and a sneaky thigh-grope from an old Italian man on a train. As a young woman, you get used to the sly remarks, the looks up-and-down, the unwanted physical contact, and I guess we’re brought up to think of it as normal. I happily yell retorts (accompanied by curse words), give them the finger (accompanied by curse words), and, as I have done on more than one occasion, physically defend myself while swearing at the offender in as many languages as possible until they back away saying ‘whoa, babe, it’s a compliment,’ or ‘wasn’t interested anyway, you slut.’ But it’s normal. Sexual harassment is acceptable in our society. 

But in France, or at least Paris, it’s different. It’s so much worse than I could have imagined. I don’t even feel comfortable wearing clothing that exposes my shoulders, a little bit of cleavage, or an inch of thigh for fear of being harassed. I’ve been offered money by a guy to let him drive me home because he didn’t want my shoes to get ruined. I get dirty looks from middle-aged women for daring to wear a pencil skirt than ends above my knee. Men seem to pluck invitations out of midair to walk with me and have little chats. Phrases like ‘smile, darling,’ ‘hey, what’s your name?’, and ‘I’d like to get you into bed,’ have become normal conversation starters at three in the afternoon. I’ve even had cars (multiple) back up as I walk down the street so that the passengers can continue to harass me.

And in Paris, I can’t retaliate. Not only because I haven’t mastered the language well enough to give suitable replies, but because then I would be ‘asking for it.’ If I say something back, I’m provoking him. If I swear and give him the finger, I’m more than provoking him. And if I dare to push him away or make any physical contact that he hadn’t initiated, I’m definitely asking for what’s coming. So I do nothing. I hold my head high, and I walk.

This does not sit well with me.

Worse, I’ve been told to ‘prevent it.’ I shouldn’t go out after dark, I should never walk the streets alone, I should never wear revealing or fitted clothing. Every time I complain about harassment or a close call with assault, I get asked the same questions. Why was I out so late, was I alone, what was I wearing. It was mid-afternoon, I was out with the kids, and wearing jeans and a hoodie? I must have made eye contact. Never make eye contact. And if I really hadn’t done anything wrong (because wearing a singlet is considered wrong), then he was just flirting, Jamie darling, don’t you know French men love to flirt.

Except in my country, we call that harassment.

In an attempt to come to grips with the facts and France’s mentality, I had a look at the stats. Of course, the issue with crime stats is that they only have a record of what has been reported. Crimes involving rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment are hardly ever reported for fear of a cultural stigmatism, victim blaming, or, if the victim knew the offender, the consequences. Not to mention that Sarkozy’s government wiped over 16,000 crimes from the books in 2011 alone. So, the stats for France are surprisingly modest. Sure, women weren’t granted suffrage until 1944, and rape wasn’t made a crime until 1980, but that’s not solid evidence to the misogynistic mentality.

Stats for New Zealand are clearer, however. 30 out of every 100,000 people report sexual assault, which is far higher than we would like to admit. 19% of women and 5% of men will be victims to these crimes, reported or otherwise. We can defend these numbers by saying we have a more accepting culture, that victims are more likely to report these offenses because there is less of a stigma, that we have trust and faith in our police force, and that the increase in reported rapes in recent years is also a reflection of this.

But then you look at the Roast Busters case of 2013. As early as 2011, a 13 year old reported her assault by the Roast Busters to the police. She was asked to reenact her assault with dolls, told that she was probably asking for it because of the clothes she was wearing, and then informed that there was insufficient evidence to investigate her report, despite allegations of sexual activity with a person under the age of consent creating the obligation to investigate. Other victims of the Roast Busters were told that they should have expected it, since they were drinking under the legal age. In another New Zealand case, a mother reported the rape of her 16 year old daughter – only to be told by police that the girl had probably just had consensual sex with her boyfriend, but had claimed it was rape to save getting in trouble.

These reactions aren’t just those of our police force, they’re of our people as a whole. New Zealand has a culture of misogyny and victim blaming, and there’s no denying it. It may be a lot less pronounced than it is in other countries, but it’s there. And the big issue is that it’s become normal.

That I had hardly considered sexual assault and harassment to be an issue at home until I moved to France shows just how socially acceptable it has become. Certainly, in New Zealand we at least have the liberty to wear denim shorts without being called a slut, to retaliate to harassment with some carefully chosen words, to walk down the street without an unwanted chaperone. But we should have much more than that. We should have the liberty to exist without being objectified, the liberty to report assaults to the police and our community without being blamed for someone else’s crime, and the right to have our reports taken seriously.

As with most aspects of our society, moving overseas has opened my eyes to what we’re doing wrong when it comes to equality and victim blaming. We may have come further than other countries, but just because we’re doing it better, it doesn’t mean we’re doing it right.

Joyeuses Pâques

‘Happy Easter, everyone! Jesus dies, comes back from the dead – and we get chocolate eggs. It’s like turn-down service from God.’
Denis Leary

I had many plans for where to spend Easter. Andalucia, where celebration is done properly and the weather is spring-like. The UK, where I’d be fed and looked after by a mother figure. I even had last minute plans to go up to Belgium, but that’s when I discovered the ridiculously severe limitations of my French bank card.

Cue another four hours of bank meetings.

So, I chose (or was forced, whatever) to stay in Paris for my long weekend. I should consider myself lucky that I spent Easter in Paris, as many people make a destination of it, and I just had to roll out of bed. But despite my slight melancholy that I was stuck in the city for the weekend, it was definitely nice to have three days off work.

But without further ado, here are a few things I have learned about the French/Parisian Easter over the past few days.

Even in the northern hemisphere, Easter does not mean spring. Since the French call it Paques, actually etymologically relating to passover rather than the Germanic festival of spring, I guess they can be forgiven. But I demand decent weather for this weekend. It’s supposed to be spent outside getting sand mixed in with your rapidly melting chocolate, not dodging between the raindrops to get to the next café. Thankfully, Monday was sunny enough to spend the afternoon in the Tuileries – but I would have appreciated a bit more warmth.

On the subject of chocolate, the Easter Bunny is a lie. Which means the kids were incredibly confused when I made their food into the shape of rabbits. Instead, the bells fly out of their steeples to go to Rome and return with chocolate in the shapes of hens, eggs, and bells for everybody. Other parents, such as the ones I work for, tell the kids that it is a hen that brings eggs on Sunday morning. So much more logical! The hen, not the bells.

Paris only lets you have Easter Monday off. What happened to Good Friday? I’m not overly clued up on Christianity, but I’m pretty sure that Christ was supposedly arrested and crucified on the ever-uncertain-date of Good Friday. Is that not worth taking a day off work for? If we in New Zealand take the day off, you would think the people of France, where Catholicism and bank holidays are more common than boulangeries, would take it too,

Another ‘bloody French’ complaint (side note – did I mention that ‘la France!’ has become my favourite expletive of frustration?), the French are so proudly French that they won’t let their Easter be improved upon by hot cross buns or Cadbury chocolate. Posh French patisserie and chocolate is all very well and good, but sometimes you just need a few colourful candy-coated eggs of deliciousness or a toasted bun slathered in butter. I baked some hot cross buns (and bunnies – see above) for my employers, and the ensuing conversation went something like this…
‘You eat these at Easter?’
‘At Easter time, yes.’
‘They’re delicious.’
‘Thank you, I like them too. They traditionally contain sultanas or raisins, but I thought the kids would prefer chocolate.’
‘They taste like chocolate brioche. Next time, would you like to make chocolate brioche instead?’
Forever denying that the English speaking world can make food worthy of consumption!

Finally, I learned that the Easter Mass held at the Notre Dame Cathedral truly is magical. I turned up half an hour early, but didn’t manage to squeeze inside until ten minutes after the service had begun, thanks to the hundreds of tourists and the lack of ability on the French side to organise any sort of queue ever. But it was amazing. It’s not my favourite cathedral (that honour goes to the Sagrada Familia) but it is majestic, a quality that was only enhanced by the chiming of the bells, the organ, the choir, the dudes in their funny robe things… Definitely an experience worth getting out of bed for after a night out.

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Tinderella? Pt 1

‘The most powerful weapon on Earth is the human soul on fire.’
Ferdinand Foch

A few weeks back, a Facebook friend of mine shared a link to an article or blog post about using Tinder to learn a language. The benefits of this method, the author suggested, include practising writing (an underdeveloped skill for most language learners), use of slang and text language, and getting to perve on fit foreigners with the excuse of education.

Genius.

Stuck in a job where I am contracted to use English (with kids of an age where their French is pretty unorthodox anyway) and where I have little time to study languages, I figured this would be the perfect way to practise my French with the local Parisians. Plus, according to statistics, men on Tinder swipe right 47% of the time, so there was a high chance of me getting a few decent conversations out of it.

So, I set myself up a fairly basic profile, using only photos that are already on Facebook accompanied by a short and soulless bio, and I get Tindering.

Despite the fact that I’ve been insisting to myself that this is about practicing French, I find my finger swiping left an awful lot. 18? Swipe left. 30? Swipe left. Name I can’t pronounce? Left. Pouting, posing, smoking, cuddling a domestic animal, or shirtless and with a ridiculous haircut in the first photo I see? Left, left, left, left, left.
At the same time, I swipe right on guys that I have things in common with. A photo on top of Machu Picchu? Swipe right. Literature or art mentioned as an interest? Swipe right. Bio reads that he’s an astronaut or a super wealthy banker? Right, definitely right.

I justify this by saying that we need common interests to talk about. I’m not good enough at French to understand his explanation of the mechanics of his Rolls Royce. But the fact that I swipe right on guys who claim they can speak English suggests that this is less about language learning that I originally intended. And I have no interest in banking.

I’ve hardly done any swiping when I receive a ‘coucou’ from Marc. With the social skills of a penguin, I can think of nothing to reply with – so I move on. A minute later, Anthony chirps ‘jolie fille! ;)’ An opportunity to use my French! Except he is obviously only interested in the contents of my pants, and I don’t think I’m quite at that level yet. What a shame, his pictures were so cute! My third message is as unoriginal as the previous two, but I’m impatient and decide to reply anyway with something equally unique.

With Google translate open on my tablet, I begin an awkward conversation with Clément – but my phone keeps buzzing. So many men, so much effort required to reply in French to them all! Bleiz’s introductory message makes me squirm – ‘tu es une fée?’ What sort of crappy pick up line is that? About to ignore him, I realise that two of my pictures actually have me dressed as a fairy. Well, that needs changing.

It turns out to be an excellent pick up line – we chat away about my ability to grant wishes, and manage to avoid too many innuendos. The conversation is incredibly halted and slow, due to my attachment to Google translate, but I hope Bleiz doesn’t notice – I assume most people take their time to reply on something like Tinder, especially when they have this many conversations to keep alive. I’m learning a lot already – that a generic compliment works on most female Tinder users, that internet translation sites aren’t always the most accurate, and that it’s acceptable to use the tu form when you’re trying to get a stranger into bed.

I realise how pathetic and flirtatious I must come across as when I find myself repeatedly explaining that ‘I’m sure that was hilarious, but my French is too awful for me to understand your joke.’ Given the calibre of men I am stumbling across, I think most of them are oblivious to the fact that I actually don’t think they’re hilarious at all, I’m just limited in my ability to keep up such unoriginal and uninteresting conversations. But still, I keep going. Swipe, swipe, swipe.

I’m only 24 hours into my French Tinder experiment, and I’m already partially converted. I’m starting to consider actually meeting up with some of my matches. Although only for the benefit of my spoken French, of course – another language skill that needs practice.

I’ll keep you posted.

A snapshot.

‘When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.’
Ansel Adams

I’ve been asked by a few people when my next blog post is coming, why I (a cat lady who likes words more than she likes her cats) am not writing more regularly, and how my latest piece of fictional writing is coming along. Despite all of this prompting, it wasn’t until this morning that it finally clicked that I haven’t produced any writing of note in the past few weeks.

To be honest, my silence is partially because of my inherent laziness and inability to motivate myself. I can blame this one on genetics – my grandad told me that my family motto is an ironic ‘procrastinate not,’ and whether or not he was kidding is now unimportant as I have wholeheartedly and unreservedly adopted the passivity of this mantra. But for the larger part, my silence is due to the state of minor unhappiness in which I find myself.

This state of mind is definitely not the fault of Paris. I have kind and generous employers and an ever-increasing group of friends who, although they don’t really know me well yet, always seem to be there for me. As a side note, and in case I haven’t mentioned it to you enough, I also happen to live in one of the most beautiful and inspiring cities in the world. Instead, in an odd and confusing way, it is my mental issues and the depressive tendencies associated with it that are in turn causing this instance of unhappines.

Creativity is often linked to depression or madness or mental instability. Van Gogh likely had bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, Fitzgerald was an alcoholic, Plath, Tolstoy, and Woolf had depression – and Hemingway had depression, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality traits, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. Without opening up on a public website about whichever mental issues I may or may not be afflicted by, I would like to claim that I too am generally a creative person – though not to the standard of the aforementioned people. I love to do art (of a sort) and make crafts and decorate my baking to look like the Tardis or a reindeer. I love reading and philosophising and dreaming up situations in my head, all in an attempt at escapism. Most of all, I love to write – and apparently, like most personality traits, all of this creativity is linked to the way my brain is wired.

This particular bout of unhappiness, however, is the opposite of the productive, creative kind. Instead, it’s pulled me to a stand still, and I’ve simply drifted through my recent weeks without achieving anything. My lifestyle in Paris is lacking in mental stimulation – I’m not forced to encounter new ideas, or think for myself, or be creative. I’m so used to completing set readings for university, doing calculations and formulating data systems at work, and having a cupboard full of the supplies needed for all sorts creative activities, but here, all that is required of my brain is to remember to catch bus 42 to pick up the kids on Tuesdays, and that I’m not to give them tomato sauce with their dinner. They say that one needs to exercise one’s mind (and refrain from smoking weed) in order to maintain one’s intelligence, and true to this prediction, I can almost feel my brain cells disappear as they self-combust from lack of use. There’s nothing happening in my brain, which means I can’t be creative, which means I’m not gaining the sense of success and happiness that I get from being creative, so I am unhappy in a non-creative way, which again means I can’t be creative… It’s a constant cycle of confusion.

The solution to this issue, I hope, is to stimulate my mind out of its slump of non-creative unhappiness and back into my general state of creative unhappiness. In an attempt to give myself purpose and stimulate my mind, I wrote a list last week of things I want to accomplish in the coming months. It includes small things like ‘sort out my home and contents insurance’ and ‘buy a leather-bound, overpriced notebook in which to write,’ as well as the things that currently seem impossible like ‘lose the Spanish accent when speaking French’ and ‘bond with the three-year old – and get him speaking English.’ It also includes little things that I want to do everyday, like write and read and take photos and learn something new. So far, it’s helped. This past week has been so much better – in relation to both happiness and accomplishments – than my first few weeks in Paris. Today’s small goal is to go and get that overpriced notebook, in the hope that it is more inspirational than writing on refill.

In the meantime, while words are failing me and my brain cells are in rehab, have some pretty pictures of the beautiful and soon-to-be inspiring city in which I live.

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What I see on my morning run

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In the name of Romance

‘Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labours of life reduce themselves.’
Edwin Way Teale

I am not a newcomer to life in a shoebox. My childhood bedroom wasn’t massive, and the space it did have was compromised by its pentagonal shape and the slanted ceiling. The room I lived in on my gap year was ridiculously tiny (too small to legally be given to a student) with fixed furniture so I couldn’t get rid of the desk. In Manchester, my room wasn’t much bigger – when I had guests to stay, one crawled in under the desk, and the other had to share my single bed. And in Valencia, my storage space was commandeered by the four-year-old’s belongings, although at least I had the room to put my bags on the floor.

So, in summary, I am accustomed to living in a shoebox. I have learnt how to store things (by capitalising on the surface area provided by the floor and desk) and how to survive without much space to stand up in (spend as much of the day as possible in bed). And, really, small spaces aren’t so bad. In my experience, they usually come with an OK view and the added bonus that nobody wants to hang out in your room and annoy you.

But never before have I had a shoebox with a balcony. And never before have I had a shoebox with a view quite like this.

Like most things in France, it wasn’t easy to obtain my bachelor pad. I spent hours trawling the internet for ads, I sent a large number of emails and made a hefty amount of calls, I visited places with ad boards because apparently the French aren’t very good at updating websites, I asked everybody I met about whether they might happen to know somebody renting out a chambre de bonne, or whether they knew somebody who knew somebody who was renting out a chambre de bonne… And then, when I finally had a small list of affordable, acceptably located studios, I realised how little I could get with my budget of 600eu per month.

The advertised window of one room I visited was the size of an A4 sheet of paper and was technically a skylight, seeing as it was buried in the ceiling a metre above my head. The same room’s ‘kitchenette’ consisted of a microwave balanced on a pint-size fridge, with the sink conveniently located inside the shower. Not the bathroom, the shower. There was no kitchen surface area, no stove top, no freezer compartment. Despite all of these awful shortcomings, I seriously considered renting this one. It was a minute away from Madeleine, how perfect a location can you get?

In other great locations, I saw studios with walls that reeked of smoke, some with next to no natural light, and one with a hole in the wall, which I don’t think was there for aesthetic purposes. I did see some perfect studios, with decent kitchens, double beds, and gorgeous views, but these were either over budget – 600 was my absolute maximum, no exceptions – or in a pretty crappy location, or both. I was starting to lose faith, starting to think that maybe I needed to rebudget or look outside of Paris or stay with my employers for ever and ever. And although they’re lovely and very generous, ten days of living with them was plenty. I work with the kids, I don’t need to spend my downtime with them too – I’m a nanny, not an au pair.

After what felt like nine months of searching but was really only nine days, I struck gold.

Twenty minutes walk from my work, and less than two minutes walk from metro line 8, a decent supermarket, a wine shop, and a Starbucks, in a central, beautiful, and tourist-free area of Paris, I found a little studio tucked under the eaves of a Hausmann building. It had a massive window with a balconette and a view, a mezzanine bed to save on space, and a kitchenette that could only be improved upon with the addition of an oven, a blender, and a whisk. It came with wifi and a TV (although I’m yet to figure out how to work the latter), a sofa bed for guests, plenty of storage space, and a very attractive landlord. Price: way under budget. Compromises I’d have to make: sharing a toilet with my neighbour, a shower with crappy water pressure inside my room, and seven flights of stairs with no lift access.

The only compromise I have an issue with is the shower; having a private toilet would mean more cleaning, and the stairs just force me to exercise. In the grand scheme of hole-in-wall, no-stove-top, no-window-or-balcony compromises, the fact that I have no water pressure and have to protect my place against damp is hardly an issue. So I seized the offer. I let the landlord know that I would begin paying rent immediately, waited while he discussed it with his wife (dammit), and moved in the next day.

I was very lucky. The landlord only chose me over another girl who had made an offer because I was foreign; his wife is Mexican and knows how difficult it is to move to a foreign city, especially one like Paris (I suppose it’s a good thing he’s married after all). I was also lucky in that it was the final property on my viewings list; if this one hadn’t worked out, I’d have been back to square one and only marginally better at French for my troubles.

It’s not a forever apartment – although the last tenant stayed for three years – but it’ll do while I learn French, meet people, and find myself a real job. It’s cosy in the nice sense of the word, has views to die for, and has an extractor fan so it doesn’t constantly smell of Mexican food and curry. I’m content. And I’m off to buy a pot plant for my balcony.

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View from my bachelor pad

Justification of Stereotypes

‘I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French.’
Charles de Gaulle

I’d love for my first post from Paris to be about the coziness of my studio, the cuteness of the children, the cushiness of the job, the quality of the food, or the romance of the lifestyle.  And my studio is definitely cosy, the children relatively OK (one even rates at cute), the job has its easy days and awful days, the food is to die for, and the lifestyle is what I dreamed of. But…

France is just so difficult.

Absolutely nothing is easy. You want to break a 50eu note by buying 37.24 worth of food at the supermarket? You’d better have the 7.24 made up in small change so that the girl behind the till doesn’t need to do any maths. Your transport app says it’ll take you 23 minutes to get to the kids’ school by bus? Allow 1 hour and 3 minutes, because the bus line won’t be running, you’ll wait twenty minutes for the bus because there aren’t any signs telling you, and you’ll have to carry the pushchair into the metro on your own, because no Parisienne would ever think to offer to help. You need to open a bank account so that you can rent an apartment and pay for your electricity? The bank can’t help you unless you already have proof that you have a permanent residence, preferably in the form of an electricity bill. And all of this is made even more difficult because despite the fact that you are fluent in one of the international languages, conversational in another, and not half bad at French, nobody seems capable of communicating with you.

I spent one of my mornings last week trying to sort out an account for my studio with an electricity provider. I’d successfully navigated the website and had filled in the online form – all in French, so I was feeling pretty stoked with myself. Every box was complete, every word had the correct accent, and the baby was still asleep. But the website decided it didn’t like my credit card – they couldn’t accept a card with a three digit security code.

So I called up the helpline, managed to sort out an English speaking assistant,  and described my predicament. She promised we could do it quickly over the phone – which may have been true, but she promptly hung up on me.

My next assistant was more helpful. We got further through the process, and all was going well until he required my address. I gave it to him. He told me it didn’t exist.

My street name is not a difficult one for the French to understand. It is named after a famous poet and novelist of the 19th century,  roughly the equivalent and contemporary of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. So a translation of my street name is essentially Lewis Carroll Road. And my assistant knew who I was talking about – I offered to spell out the address, and he laughed and said ‘oh no, I know who Lewis Carroll is.’

Maybe he did. Maybe he studied Lewis Carroll in high school, or maybe he is a literature major, or maybe he just likes to read. But I’m pretty sure he isn’t very good at spelling.

Because Lewis Carroll Road does exist in Paris. I’ve now been living on it for 10 days, and at the time I had been living on it for almost a week. I had walked past the street sign many a time, had my own keys to the door, had spoken to the landlord and had nodded to my neighbours. I had visited the wine shop on the corner, had admired the flower boxes and balconies of the building opposite, and had photographed the Hausmann rooftops from my window. I knew, with utter and complete and undeniable certainty, that I lived in Paris, on Lewis Carroll Road.

I explained this to my assistant, and after 10 minutes of near silence (I could hear muttering and mumbling and the occasional clack of a key), he abruptly announced that it was done, it was sorted, and I could connect the account to my bank when that was organised. Thank you, call if you have any issues, goodbye. And he hung up.

So I shouldn’t complain. Although it took me three separate attempts and a small existential crisis, I actually managed to sort out my electricity provider. Which is more than can be said for my bank account, my rent contract, or my French sim card.