Take me down to the ball game

They say you can’t have it all, and you know what? They’d be annoyingly right. Paris has provided for me with so many wonderful things, from the cultural to the culinary, but all the warm delicious croissants in the world can’t make up for the fact that France is a country with no interest whatsoever in the one subject closest to my heart; cricket.

IMG_1695You can stop that frowning in contempt at the screen right this minute. We all have our weird and wonderful passions, and for most of you out there I can confidently bet that includes some kind of sport (though if that means French favourite handball there’s really not much I can do to help you). Coming from a family full of sports-mad females, don’t you girls be thinking I’m tuning you out here, even if you don’t get into the odd game, I imagine you’re partial to the odd drink or two.

In the need to sate my sporting passion, I have done extensive research in the subject of finding a screen showing the action I want in a city where sport is secondary. And as we slide into February, the timing couldn’t be better to share my findings with the start of the rugby Six Nations on 6th, not to mention a full year’s calendar including the Euro 2016 football cup, Rio Olympics and Tour de France approaching soon after.

IMG_3078The good news is that there are plenty of options (though lesser south of the river), with a huge array of anglophone bars showing most sports, most days. The most obvious candidates are the big chain heavyweights Café Oz and O’Sullivans with several locations a piece, but cosier Irish alternative Corcoran’s lets me test my pool skills, and so gets my vote. McBride’s in central Châtelet in also a good bet.

On more independent level, the English crowd will feel particularly at home in The Coq & BulldogThe Bombardier, The Bowler or The Cricketer and the Scots at The Thistle, The Pure Malt, The Highlander or The Auld Alliance. In absence of any Welsh themed drinking holes, our British cousins will just have to pick a side.

IMG_3077For a more North American selection of games, The Great Canadian and The Moose win hands down and you can enjoy the action with a bowl of that chips/cheese/gravy combo they’re crazy about over there. Southern Hemisphere sports fans have fewer options, but South African bar Pomme d’Eve and charming Australian-run Prohibition-themed The Bootleg (with bonus pool table) are some of the best independent places in the city you could hope to find, whatever your nationality.

Beware the anglophone-looking French bar who have no idea what the Ashes are as I discovered to my horror very early on in my search, and don’t be afraid to call and ask just to guarantee they’ll be playing the exact game you’re after. Some will even tape games taking place in the wee small hours so you don’t miss any of the action. And if you steal my stool at the bar, the concept of fair play won’t even come into it…

 

 

I came, I sawed, I conquered

From this...

From this…

In both French and English, touching wood is seen as an insurance policy against bad luck. In America the superstition is taken one step further and concept is rendered a great deal noisier (knocking rather than touching), and given a disco soundtrack. Here at the Granny Flat we’ve been stockpiling luck insurance like it’s going out of fashion, not just touching, but rescuing, cleaning, measuring, sawing, nailing, screwing and reinventing wood, meaning that bad luck has not a slither of hope against us. The DIY bug has well and truly hit.

....to this.

….to this.

I promised you a while ago that I’d keep you updated with how Granny Flat’s facelift is progressing, and with frosty January supplying perfect toolbelt-toting-handywoman conditions, many a wooden project has been completed. And I’m not just puffing out my chest to show off my DIY skills here (ok, maybe just a little), all of this carpentry business has been underpinned by the Paris Small Capital ethos, meaning that I’ve been delighting in the chance to go back to basics and use my hands to create my own furniture, spending hardly a euro in the process.

Living room bad....

Living room bad….

Old Dame Paris has had a hand in the creative process too, kindly gifting me with all of the materials I need, invoking the magical spirit of waste-not-want-not. Since moving to the 18th, I’ve noticed that my fellow inhabitants are fond of abandoning unwanted furniture on the pavements, meaning that it’s not unusual to compete for space whilst walking home with wardrobes, sofa beds, offcuts and toilet bowls (not to mention crispy old Christmas trees). Head out of the luxury-gilded tourist areas, and you’ll see this is par for the course in the residential bits where us authentic Paris residents lay our heads. Don’t buy into that Amelie romance rubbish; if the film was true to life she’d be living in a tiny box room with a single mattress and just enough room to swing a starving sewer rat.

...living room better!

…living room better!

Honestly, I could have furnished my apartment ten times over with the spoils I’ve walked past languishing on the street. Sure, most folk make a beeline to Ikea, but Granny Flat is extremely picky in her sizing, so trying to find the right piece for the right hole is like to trying to find a Frenchie who doesn’t like wine. So imagination and an eye for design have taken over, and an abandoned oak unit has been rejigged into a smaller kitchen unit and a few sturdy shelves.

Kitchen shelf unit glory

Kitchen shelf unit glory

Building confidence with every screw screwed and every stroke of my borrowed saw, I decided that after hanging my shelves all by myself (I think I may have even punched the air when I filled them up and they didn’t fall down), the next logical step was, of course, to upgrade the poof I’d found and re-covered, into a curl-up-with-a-book comfy armchair. Enter stage left my Mum’s old blue curtains, an old duvet and some mongrel off cuts, and you can see for yourself what I managed to rustle up. With this and all my handywork though, it’s better not too look to closely or start brandishing about anything too heavy.

But I’m pretty chuffed with the results, and for a total cost of less than 15 euros for the lot (DIY megastores Castorama and Leroy Merlin supplied much needed screws and the like), I feel hugely virtuous financially, and importantly environmentally. Louis XVI furniture it ain’t, and you probably wouldn’t want to wobble any of it too hard if you’re keen to stay in my good books. But Paris isn’t all parquet floors and chandeliers you know. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Though after all that I wouldn’t say no to a bit of hand cream).

To be, to do, to have

IMG_3062Dear old January. A vacuum of celebration (and skiing opportunities apparently), where only good intentions and quiet reflection can attempt to fill the void. Most people dream of the path of 2016 paved with virtuous objectives, reflecting on hopes and wishes for the year ahead in a cloud of wide-eyed optimism. Well, I’m not like other people. At the close of this particular festive period, my thoughts have turned towards grammar.

Woah, woah, woah, don’t touch that dial! There’s an awesome point coming I swear it. See normally the differences between my home land and adopted country are blindingly (and mostly) endearingly obvious, but when it comes to auxiliary verbs (i.e. ‘helping’ verbs that are used to make other tenses for those allergic to grammar), we’re like two peas in a pod. Both languages use the duo to be and to have (‘I am writing’ and ‘I have written’ for example), though in the true spirit of English oneupmanship against our ancient Gallic rivals, English also adopts to do to form a happy trio of conjugation.

IMG_3061Seriously, do bear with me, this is going somewhere, I promise. Not just handy linguistic tools I surmised one tropical December day. No, no, no. Delve deeper into the inherent meaning of these three grammatical building blocks and you just might find the meaning of life itself (and it may be hard to believe but no wine was responsible for fuelling these musings). To be, to do, to have – isn’t that what forms the basis of our existence? (As I later discovered in research breaks during pauses in Grey’s Anatomy binges, that’s precisely reason why they’re auxiliary verbs in the first place…)

But somewhere along the line, the batting order has all gone a bit awry in the journey through modern life. Whereas ‘being’ and ‘doing’ used to feed the soul, now ‘having’ is all most of us can think of. Or at least the true nature of having, in that you can feel contented and fulfilled with the things that you already have. That’s been replaced with an insatiable compulsion to fill our lives with more and more, as if possession and consumption are the only ways to measure value.

IMG_3064So top of my 2016 resolution list (yes, I’m not at all embarrassed to admit I still make a ton of these) is to concentrate my efforts on more being and doing, leaving ‘having’ closed up in a static box, like an overused credit card battered and bruised after Christmas spending. And I’m exactly in the right place to do it – maybe one of the reasons the French stuck with an auxiliary twosome is because the concept of ‘being’ is such a huge part of the cultural fabric that an extra recruit wasn’t needed. Sitting in rattan chair on the terrace of a café in Paris watching the world go by? You couldn’t ‘be’ harder or happier than that if you tried.

Sure, have fun, have a bath, have dreams, have hopes. Have sex. Have that extra macaron. But I hope that 2016 brings you memories and experience with presence, appreciation and activity at the core. Take a moment to cast an eye over what you already have and you’ll no doubt realise that you probably already have everything and more that you really need (c’mon, be truly honest here). If you can take care of the being part, I’ll provide you with plenty of things to do over the coming year that will hopefully brighten your time in Paris, whatever your reason for being here. Happy 2016 one and all.

???????????????????????????????Ok, philosophical reflective moment over. It’s 2016, time to get wrestling with that to do list..

(PS. I sincerely promise this will be my last EVER blog post on auxiliary verbs. Brownie’s honour.)