Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pompidou & circumstance of my birthday

Rue MontmarteI'm twice as old as I was at my 21st, celebrated in Shirley Thomas' backyard in Petersham, Sydney at the beginning of my honours year of my Bachelor degree. Fast forward, and I'm in a wee studio in Paris, and it's the end of my first day of my 9 week French course.

I waved Chris off last night at the RER station so he could fly back to London. I later realised that he left after the hour of my birth, taking in the time difference with Sydney. It was nice having special ferny and furry companions then.
So this morning, it was off to the 9th (arrondissement) for class. Without Bondi, it's only about a 10 minute walk - with (having checked out the location on Sunday morning) it's about 15-20 minutes of pole-sniffing.

The new students gathered in the salon, talking mainly in English (3 Aussies*, a bunch of Americans, some Japanese and a sprinkling of Dutch and Spaniards) until the school director and some of the professors filed in to greet us, run us through the month's special activities and generally set us at ease. Our names were read out by respective professors, and we dutifully filed off to class. I joined a group of "faux debutants" in the kitchen - so called because that's where the cooking is done. Boom boom! ..... so called because we have enough French to know it isn't the opposite of "friendly debutants" but not enough to spell it consistently or get the genders right. My new classmates were mainly true beginners from a month before, and I was dropped into a lesson on conjugating various verbs in the past tense with auxiliaries etre or avoir. It was all very relaxed, and - in contrast to my Spanish lessons - you were allowed to ask a question in English to clarify a point immediately. Thankfully French seems to be more regular than Spanish as far as this part of the language goes.

*One of whom asked if I was over 30. Bless his little cotton y-fronts.

Pompidou Centre (5)Class finished soon after one and I returned to the studio to pick up Bondi and thence to sort out my parking. When I arrived at the parking station, and re-explained my wish to get 2 months parking (which appeared to be a standard option as weekly through quarterly rates were posted). I was then given a form to complete, and this asked for my passport, insurance details etc etc etc. I offered the passport for copying then, but was asked to supply all documents in one go, which entailed me going back to the studio to get them. Why I was not given this on Saturday I don't understand. I returned shortly but was told that the manager had left for a while and I'd have to try later. So I came back (this is now my 5th visit to their office, just to pay for parking!) and then spent half an hour in the manager's office going through some incredible saga of paperwork and computer-form completion.

First there was an issue that they couldn't photocopy my passport because they only had a fax-machine-copier (this wasn't brought to my attention when I got out the passport two visits ago, so I had to promise to bring my own photocopy another day). Next the parking had to be broken down into several tranches. Although I was asking for parking to April 8 (2 months + 2 days), their system only worked off months beginning with Mondays (which was why I had to delay this procedure until today) - BUT for some reason or other it was going to be done as some weird combination of calendar months and possibly druidic calculations of tides in the Seine. Everything was transcribed onto a very slow and arcane looking computer application, and then forms were printed and signed in quadruplicate and I had to write a short note (in English hurrah) saying that I wanted my contract to end on April 8. It appeared I was getting a truncated annual contract. During all this, my VISA card was run through their reader in the next room (multiple visits, as I had to pay for each tranche separately and get quadruplicate receipts notarised) until all the paperwork they needed for my handsome new file folder was complete. I think I have bought and sold houses with less effort, ink and paperwork.

Pompidou Centre (1)Pompidou Centre (3) Pompidou Centre (6)

The day concluded with an evening spin with Bondi around the Pompidou Centre and then to rest these old bloggerbones. It has been suggested by Geatch minor, of the upper 5th, that I translate each day's blog using my state-of-the-tongue Français, but that would end up being along the lines of "Bon jour nuages, bon jour ciel" and I don't want to end up a bûcheur comme une fille trying to hurry it along.

PS: For the Year of the Dog, Transport for London is displaying pictures of people with their dogs across London Tube stations. It’s being run in conjunction with Platform for Art programme’s installation of work by Suki Dhanda from “observing dogs interacting with their owners at home and in public spaces.”

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