Published: August 16th 2011August 13th 2011
Me and the view
The wedding. The very reason for being in the sud de la France, was to see my good friend, Lizzie J, tie the knot. Could this quiet and unassuming young girl in my class, wearing a brown and green uniform, really be getting married? Weren't we talking about Phil and Grant arriving in Albert Square in Eastenders the other night? Wasn't I comforting her over the split of Take That the other day? Weren't we still sniggering over the Agony Aunt section in Just Seventeen magazine? Surely, at 11 years of age, Lizzie J is a tad young to be marrying? But that was 20 years ago, K! Wake up! She's all grown up now! And you know what? All of this reminiscing is just making me feel old! Argh!
Anyhooha. The wedding took place in a beautiful church, perched on the hilltop of a picturesque French village. The ceremony was a blast. Pere Basil, who led the proceedings, kept us entertained. Luckily for me, I was able to follow most of his jokes, being as they were, in French. He had a real charm, and put everyone at ease, the bride and groom, and the guests alike.
Me on the beach
wedding photos, the reception (aka the party) was held in another typically elegant venue: a large chateau with a stage out front for the wedding band. The amuses-bouches were tasty, and I spent a lot of time talking with Lizzie's family. Then we headed into the marquee for a wonderful meal and plenty of drink to wash it all down. After the speeches, the guests were ushered over to the stage to watch the groom's brothers' band, Doll and the Kicks, literally, rock the chateau (or house!). They covered favourites, played some of their own material and gave away some CDs. What a wedding! Finally, we were all ushered to the dancefloor to throw some shapes and wiggle around to some golden oldies and some of the latest choons.
Marseille. The day after the wedding, we returned the car to the airport and dropped off Tom and Sara. That left Zehra and Andy to hang with me in Marseille until their late night flight. So we took the bus into town and walked from the train station down to the port, which marks the centre of town.
After saying goodbye to Z & A, I headed to my
Amazing panoramic views of the port of Marseille
first hostel. And I have to say I was impressed. It was a luxury hostel. Newly decorated. Large rooms. En suite separate shower and toilet. Security lockers. Breakfast included. Large common room, with Wi-Fi throughout. To be honest, I could not fault it. Indeed the only fault lay with me who did not book her accommodation in advance, which meant I had to change room three times and then spend my final night in another hostel! Anyway, the first night I was in a 2 bed mixed room. I had a girl who arrived around midnight, but what with the ear-plugs I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I met her in the morning and we had breakfast together. The next night I was in a 3 bed female room - an American girl and a Chinese woman. We had dinner together, and they both left early the next morning. And the final night there I was back in a 2 bed mixed room. Again, another girl, from London, of Asian origin though. So I was very lucky with all of my room-mates. And during my stay I managed to fit in a trip to the beach, a
The Zobel family
visit to Notre Dame de la Garde (church on a hill) and I spent a long time reading in two lovely local parks. Oh! I spent my final night in the sister hostel, which was also very cool. I was in a 4 bed female room. Luckily for me only one girl turned up, a Korean, who was sweet. However, I spent most of my time eating pizza and hanging out in their resto/bar area and enjoying my Wi-Fi access!
Anduze. My four days in Marseille were bliss. And I was glad that I did not go and see everything there was to see, keeping some places for me to visit time I am in the area. Hopefully this time next year! Anyway, from Marseille I hopped on the train to Nimes, where I was picked up by French Charlotte and her daughter. I stayed at her place for a couple of days, but spent some time at her mother's house too, which was just up the road. For my birthday, we had lunch at Charlotte's mother's place, with her son and daughter, her brother-in-law Paul and one of his sons. After lunch we headed into town, where Paul
Birthday gifts. IKK T-shirts.
and Charlotte insisted on buying me a birthday present! My cries of protest fell on deaf ears, and I ended up conceeding to two really nice T-shirts from IKKS . I had never heard of that label before that day, but now I am a fan! So I was only with Charlotte for two and a bit days, but I have every intention of staying much longer next time. Again, hopefully, next summer.
Caen University. From Nimes I boarded the train once again to Paris! It was to be another short stop - only about 2 hours. Just enough time to reminisce over the time I lived there, to traverse gay Paree and then catch the train eastwards to Caen, and before I knew it I was arriving on Caen University campus. The accommodation was pretty good. Single room en-suite, with the tiniest bathroom in the world! No seriously, even smaller than the one in Hong Kong last year!
Anyhoo, my week at the university was excellent fun. Having already spent a week or so speaking French along my travels, I was pleased to hear the head of the programme announce that we were to speak French 24/7
The Bleu Etoile team
during the course! It was very strange at first, what with speaking French with so many native English speakers. And I can tell you that, for a lot of students, it was the first time that they were launching into the mad world of parlez-ing francais. But I really appreciated their efforts and felt I learnt a lot from my peers.
On the first day of the course we were sent out into the town to interview the local people. We were all very nervous! We had to find out what Caen, as a town, was missing. What could be done to make it a better place to live? It was hard work, and not without many embarassing rejections. However, we did manage to interview about 5 people, and we got a valuable insight into what the local people felt about their own town.
Throughout the week we worked in small groups to, firstly find out what Caen was lacking, to develop an idea, and then to prepare a presentation. We were also offered a 'menu' of language learning options - grammar classes, culture classes, French films, as well as the opportunity to visit popular tourist spots. I
skipped the grammar for a cultural top-up and two French films - Potiche (Trophy Wife) and Coco Avant Chanel.
On our final day all of the groups made their presentations and at the same time, we were able to go and see other groups presentations. As a team we gave our favourite groups our votes. We saw some excellent ideas put forward. And we thought that our idea, to improve anglo-normande relations through the use of a cultural centre, would maybe pick up a vote or two. In reality, we won the 'People's Award'. In other words, it was the most popular project! I don't think it had anything to do with the idea , and more to do with the schmoozing that myself, and classmate Wendy did at the very end of the presentation. Basically, at the end of our presenation we gave our visitors a taster of what our cultural centre could offer - fun activities like juggling, singing, dancing and miming! The most popular was the dancing, and if you check out my pics and vid you will see how well it went down!
Interviewing Nan. Finding the right time to visit my Nan proved
Late birthday dinner venue
to be quite difficult. She was always 'behind schedule' when I arrived, and I didn't want to hurry her into sitting for the interviews. So, more often than not, I decided not to film. But one good thing that came of my frequent visits was unearthing some of her old photographs. I was able to scan them and save a copy on my computer. Finally a clear idea is forming on how I can put the film and photos together to make a mini-documentary. Watch this space.
Little Bay. One of my favourite restaurants is a small, unasumming place in South Croydon called Little Bay. It has a Romeo and Juliet inspired interior, with cosy, elevated balconies and an opera singer on most nights! If anyone comes to visit me in London, we will surely dine there together.
Jordi. Mother dearest had a lovely Spanish student who wanted some company on his visits to London. So, armed with my travelcard, I went obligingly. I took him for a power walk from London Bridge to Victoria, via Waterloo. This is my favourite walk, and we took in the views of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and Canary Wharf
Jordi and I at the Emirates Stadium
from London Bridge, before heading westbound along the South Bank. Shakespeare's Globe? Tick. Gabriel's Wharf? Tick. The National Theatre? Tick. The British Film Institute? Double tick for having a free mediatheque where you can watch any film contained in the national archive in a cool, quiet room, with your own large, flat screen TV and comfy chair. (I haven't actually tried it yet, but I hope to before I go!). After a brisk walk past Buckingham Palace, we headed back to Croydon.
Jordi and I also enjoyed a trip to the Emirates Stadium to see Paris Saint Germain vs. New York Red Bulls and Arsenal vs Boca Juniors. Arsenal were crap. Nuff said. But I was really impressed with the American team (for whom Mr Thierry Henry now plays), and Boca Juniors had the best supporters, hands down. Finally, I was handed some athletics tickets by my cousin, so Jordi and I soaked in the sporty atmosphere at Crystal Palace stadium. We had excellent seats, being right next to the starting line, and the sandpit. My hands ached afterwards, what with all of the clapping. But I really enjoyed the event, and it reminded how much I really do
like athletics. Roll on, London 2012!
Mariam. Fatima Junior, aka Mariam, was welcomed into the world this month! Another Cancerian! Yay! And she is the cutest little thing. In true Fatti style, she laid on, with the help of her hubbie Bernd, a garden party to remember. Food, drink, laughter. You know - the usual ingredients for a good time. A lot of old faces. Some new. And a lot of picture-taking!
Book. Music and film of this month has been replaced with a book. Well, two books in fact. Yeah, I know! I can't believe it myself. I actually managed to get through two whole books. It could be the start of something. And what did I read? First up, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. In this Orange Prize winning tome, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honour of a visiting Japanese industrial titan in an unnamed South American country. Alas, at the end of the party, a band of terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air-conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favourite soap opera--and thus things go awry. Among the hostages are not
K with child
only Hosokawa and Roxanne Coss, the American soprano, but an assortment of Russian, Italian and French diplomats. A Swiss Red Cross negotiator named Joachim Messner is roped into service while on holiday. He comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands, and the days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. Ultimately it is a love story. Or several love stories. That's why I got suckered into it! If you have time and patience, you will be richly rewarded by this unusual story.
Secondly, Black Shack Alley (original French title, La Rue Casses-Negres) by Joseph Zobel, grandfather of French Charlotte, with whom I stayed in the south of France. Black Shack Alley is the semi-autobiographical tale of Joe Zobel growing up in Martinique. Young Joe lives with his grandmother in a village where almost everyone works on the canefields. Thanks to the selfless devotion of said grandmother, Zobel excels at schools and manages to escape the cyclical poverty through education. This book was a revelation. And as Joe develops a deep appreciation of reading, so to am I inspired to read more. Let's hope I can keep this up.
There are more photos below