The Podium Perspective

20 May

Podium Dancer

On Friday night, I danced on a podium in a nightclub.

Now, my dear loyal readers (I mean you, Mum), allow me to assure you that no, I haven’t started turning tricks on the side because the life of a writer isn’t lucrative enough.

Before Friday night, I had never been the girl who dances on the table. In fact, I wasn’t even the kind of girl who goes to nightclubs. My ideal Friday night of late consists of getting a jump start on my clothes washing and watching episodes of Gossip Girl with my husband (sorry Max). The last time I had been in a nightclub was probably three years ago. And even then, it was an Afterwork in Paris, and I’m not sure that even counts.

But, we had been invited to a friend’s surprise birthday party, and in the spirit of doing things outside my comfort zone, I agreed. The arranged meeting time was 9pm, which I’m told is early in the nightclub realm. In my realm, 9pm is firmly slippers-and-peppermint-tea-time.

Slippers and tea

And so, it was with a little apprehension that I approached the evening. I agonised over what to wear (you know, more than usual). I am a hopeless comfort-dresser at the best of times, and the thought of anything vaguely short or sleeveless in May in Melbourne was enough to send me running for cover. Eventually, I decided upon a brightly coloured, long-sleeved silk print dress, over opaque black stockings. I added a black blazer and my coat, for warmth, but the shoe situation made me hesitate. My three-year-old black boots are on their last legs, fine for my somewhat casual office job, but not, I feared, chic nightclub worthy. I figured heels were the only safe bet, and so I coaxed my reluctant slipper-coddled toes into the patent black stilettos I’d purchased in the Christmas sales. More proof positive that I am not accustomed to this nightclub thingy.

Spice Market

We arrived early enough for the maze of red barrier ropes outside Spice Market to seem superfluous and a little hopeful. The over-exercised security guard branded me quickly with the word ‘SPICE’ in smudgy black stamp ink and that was it, we were admitted.

The other invitees arrived, the champagne flowed and the DJ somehow managed to play only songs I liked and knew the words to. Before I knew it, the birthday girl and friends were clamouring up onto one of the podiums to dance. They put out a hand for me to join them.

My immediate reaction was to say no, to shake my head and smile and tell them to go on without me. And then I realised, that was bullsh*t. And so up I climbed, somewhat awkwardly, my back heel sinking into the cushioned seat as I stepped onto the platform. And whilst there’s nothing I like less than being the centre of attention, something strange happened while I was up there. I realised that the attention was nothing to do with me. I noticed a girl in the crowd nearby, shuffling from foot to foot, watching us nervously. I knew exactly what she was thinking, because that girl, she’s me. I caught her eye and offered a wide smile, trying to convey with one facial expression that I understood, that I got it, and that the only difference between the girl on the platform and the girl in the crowd, is perspective.

_______________
Podium dancer img courtesy of Aran Chandran on Flickr.
Slippers and tea img courtesy of
emdot on Flickr.
Spice Market img courtesy of
avlxyz on Flickr.

Lazy Sunday Façon Parisienne…

13 May

Paris

Every now and then I like to play a game called ‘If we were in Paris today…’ For example, on drizzly grey days, I imagine taking myself to La Mosquée de Paris for a glass of mint tea and some quiet reflection.

Mint Tea

On sunny Saturdays, I picture Max and I picnicking along the banks of the Seine, and perhaps afterwards, strolling through the Ile-St Louis, Berthillon glace in our hands.

Berthillon

Yesterday, we awoke around 8am, and knowing that a lengthy to do list awaited our attention we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of bed. After breakfast, we returned to bed for a quick fifteen minute snooze. Two and a half hours later, we awoke again, refreshed and relaxed. I began feeling guilty about all the things I should have done that morning. I should have written a chapter of my novel. I should have made a start on our wedding thank you cards. I should have written this blog post. I should have done the washing. Washed the dishes. Gone grocery shopping.

Snooze

But I thought back to all the Sunday’s Max and I had spent together in Paris. Almsot without exception we would sleep in until 11am, springing out of bed only to make a quick dash to the Franprix before it closed at midday, then returning to the couch for a lazy afternoon watching movies. Later, perhaps we’d walk around Montmartre, or welcome friends for an aperitif.

And so, instead of spending the rest of the day running around like maniacs doing all the things on our list, we decided to head out for a leisurely lunch in an Italian restaurant. Over plates of fresh pasta, we worked out that we could combine some of the less-fun tasks with some of the more interesting ones, and decided that several things could wait for another week.

To do list

After all, it’s what we would have done in Paris.

___________
Paris image courtesy of filipealberto on Flickr.
Mint tea image courtesy of
P Donovan on Flickr.
Berthillon image courtesy of maki on Flickr.

Snooze image courtesy of MacUK on Flickr.
To do list image courtesy of vvvracer on Flickr.

Finding Your Passion – Am I Creative?

6 May


Quote

Towards the end of 2011 I started feeling restless. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. Over lunch one day with two close work friends, I tried to articulate how I was feeling. Next to the two of them, one, a talented guitar-playing-singer-songwriter, and the other a former art gallery owner, I felt hopelessly dull.

What about doing something creative, they suggested helpfully. I nodded, but inside I was thinking, easy for you to say, but I’m not creative at all!

But throughout the week, their words stuck with me, and I decided to give some creative-adjacent things a go.

Knitting

I thought perhaps I would be good at knitting, so I made a beeline for the Lincraft store on Bourke Street to pick up some needles, wool, and a beginners guide to knitting. Indeed, the methodical nature of the task appealed to my logical brain, but the perfectionist in me grew quickly frustrated when stitches mysteriously disappeared, and I abandoned my scarf before I’d really begun.

After admiring some decorated calico bags for sale on Etsy for $20 apiece, I decided that was something I could definitely do, and maybe even make some money while I was at it. I dreamt of my pop up market stall at the Queen Vic Markets, and my future working form home as my online business took off. This time my efforts lasted just long enough for the Spotlight salesgirl to tell me they were out of calico bags.

Carambar

One Tuesday I flirted with the idea of becoming a trained masseuse, and working for myself, and by Wednesday I had decided I was starting a carambar import business.

In short, I was all over the place. What seemed like a brilliant idea one day would be revealed the next to be silly, or impossible.

Then, a friend sent me the following link.

Stuck? 25 Questions That Will Help You Find and Follow Your Passion.

Of course, the first time I read it, I skimmed the whole thing without writing anything down, sure that I would find the answer out my osmosis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. You actually have to answer the questions. Like, on paper, with a pen. I know. What. A. Drag.

List

It isn’t the kind of online quiz where you answer a bunch of multiple-choice questions and it spits out a disparate list of occupations you might enjoy (usually spanning everything from hairdresser to scientist). The questions are designed to help you determine where your passion lies, and the answers, for me at least, were not clean cut. But what did emerge were a few key themes.

Food. Independence. Writing. The first one I knew about before I even started the questionnaire. But interestingly, while I was answering the questions it became clear to me that I didn’t actually want to work full time with food. But things a little bit removed, like food writing, hosting gourmet tours and writing meal plans for people sparked my interest. And realising that I could cook just for fun too, was a bit of a revelation. I seemed to think that I needed to manically combine all of my passions into a well-paid career in order to be happy.

Cookbooks

Independence was one thing I had been feeling for awhile, yet unable to properly articulate. I often felt that I didn’t want to manage anybody else, or lead a team. But I also wasn’t 100% comfortable working directly underneath someone either, taking orders. I felt that perhaps this desire for independence might indicate I’d be happy in a freelance type position, or working as a consultant.

And as for writing, I almost laughed out loud when I realised that was it. That was the thing that had been hovering in my peripheral vision, just beyond my reach. As a little girl I would stay up late, straining my eyes devouring books by moonlight. I read quickly and avidly, and told anyone who would listen to four-year-old me that I was going to be an author. I liked to write, and my short stories earned me praise from my schoolteachers. But, as I got older, without consciously acknowledging it, I’d come to understand that authors didn’t earn any money, and that if you wanted to make a career out of writing, you had to be a journalist, and I didn’t want to be a journalist. Therefore, I couldn’t write.

But the real power of these questions is that they made me realise what was stopping me. Fear, of course is a pretty common reason for not changing things up, for not trying something new, but was I was afraid of, wasn’t what I thought. I wasn’t scared of finishing a novel and having it never be published. I wasn’t frightened of going into business for myself. What was stopping me, ironically, was the fear of waking up in five years time, and realising that I had never tried…

Try

And once I’d worked that out, making a start was actually pretty straightforward. All I had to do was try.

_____________
Passion image courtesy of deeplifequotes on Flickr.
Knitting image courtesy of
underthesun on Flickr.
Carambar image courtesy of
Sylvain Naudin on Flickr.
List image courtesy of
Flood on Flickr.
Cookbook image ocurtesy of
abakedcreation on Flickr.
Try image courtesy of
purplejavatroll on Flickr.

Dancing in the Dark

29 Apr


Self conscious

I am quite self conscious. I am easily embarrassed, and I hate feeling out of place. I like to know all the details before I head into a new situation, and fear of embarrassment can see me opt out of activities I’d actually probably enjoy.

Sometimes on the train home from work, I’ll miss my stop because I am wedged into the corner seat with three other people sprawled across the aisle, and in order to get out at my stop I’d have to make a bit of a fuss and ask them to move. So I stay quiet, and hope their stop comes soon.

Yoga

But recently, I’ve tried to push myself out of my cosy, insulated, predictable comfort zone. I signed up for a yoga course at work, even though it meant a change in my well-established routine and involved some awkwardness with a bunch of people I didn’t know.

And last Wednesday night I went with two friends to No Lights No Lycra in Brunswick. I had read about this activity in an issue of Women’s Fitness and thought it sounded like fun for someone like me. The principle is simple, the event takes place in a hall, they turn off all the lights and play daggy music, and everyone dances however they want, because noone else can see you.

We turned up, a few minutes late to find the event already in full swing. Weaving our way through the shadowy figures, we found a spot towards the back of the hall. I spent the first five minutes feeling supremely uncomfortable. It was a cold, drizzly night and all I could think about was how much I would rather be at home, warm in my pyjamas in front of the TV. It really wasn’t that dark and I wasn’t digging the first few songs. Nevertheless, we’d come all this way, so I was determine to at least give it a red hot go.

Dancing in the Dark

We spread out a little, giving each other space to do our own thing, and I found I could let go a bit more if I closed my eyes. Soon, some old school r’n’b was playing and I had forgotten all about my embarrassment as I got on down to Mary Mary. I opened my eyes to check where my friends were, just in time to see my usually reserved pal stride dramatically into the middle of the crowded dance floor, throwing back over her shoulder ‘Ladies, I’m going in!’ Emboldened by her bravery, and perhaps the blueberry amaretto sours we’d quickly downed pre-class for courage, I turned it up a notch and lost myself in the music. By the time a Britney Spears song came on, I was in the zone. Limbs flailing this way and that, hair in my face, jumping in the air – I was having a ball.

The night before at yoga, I had struggled against the meditation at the end of the class. I didn’t want to listen to the instructor’s voice as she told me to imagine my left kneecap relaxing. And when she handed each of us a flat stone to gaze at, I almost snorted with derision. But, in the middle of my third consecutive twirl, hands drawing wide circles above my head while I kicked my right leg into the air, I realised I had finally managed to live just in the moment, lost in the song.

Peace

Who would have thought that in the midst of all that noise and movement, I’d find peace.

_____________
Quote image courtesy of Rob Meredith on Flickr.
Yoga image courtesy of GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS on Flickr.
Shadow dance image courtesy of sean.casaidhe on Flickr.
Peace image courtesy of MojoBaer on Flickr.

Gaufres de Chez Meert

22 Apr

Meert, une institution rue Esquermoise

As the cold weather begins to envelop Melbourne this week, I’ve been thinking about Lille. For me, visiting Max’s hometown means a great many things. It means cold weather, sometimes snow. It means comfort food and hot drinks and long, indulgent meals en famille. It also means eating the gaufres de Chez Meert.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. From delicate macarons to thick slices of brioche studded with sugar crystals and spread with nutella, visiting Lille is a little bit like a trip to your grandparents house, where all the things that are off limits in normal life are allowed.

When max first told me about the waffles on offer at Chez Meert, I was unenthusiastic. As a child in Australia, waffles came frozen in boxes, and on rare occasions we were allowed to pop one in the toaster and eat it drenched in maple syrup with a scoop of Peter’s vanilla ice cream. Delicious, yes, but not in comparison to all the other finely crafted sweet treats France has to offer. I had also tasted a waffle in Belgium a few months earlier, and whilst I enjoyed the nutella-smeared, whipped cream-adorned concoction, I wouldn’t have returned in a hurry. Max simply shook his head at my reticence and said ‘Tu verra’.

And see, I did.

Gaufres de Chez Meert2

These ‘waffles’ could not be further from those of my childhood, or the one I’d eaten in Brussels. These were long, delicate, pliable tongue-shaped wafers, sandwiched together by an intoxicating vanilla bean paste. They were as moist as other waffles are dry, and require no accompaniments whatsoever, except perhaps a strong espresso to cut through the sweetness.

In the interest of research, I tasted not only their classic flavour, but their speculoos one too. And though we all know how much I love speculoos, I think the classic just wins out in the flavour race.

Getting to eat a gaufres from Chez Meert has long been a treat exclusively reserved for trips to Lille, and the only way to enjoy them back home in Paris’ 9th arrondissement was to buy up big on our last day in Lille and practise extreme self-control on the car ride home.  But, with the 2012 opening of a Meert café in Paris, this is no longer the case.

So be sure to check them out next time you are in Paris, or Lille. You’ll never think of waffles the same way again.

____________________

Chez Meert image courtesy of fred_v on Flickr.
Waffle image courtexy of
bionicgrrrl on Flickr.

French-Australian Wedding Part One

16 Apr


Wedding Photo1

As many of you know, I recently married my French fiancé Max. Putting together a wedding with two sets of cultural norms to consider was a little bit of a challenge at times, but mostly it was a whole lot of fun.

As we are having a second wedding in France in July, the February event had more of an Australian flavour, but with some nice French touches. We were married at Leaves & Fishes in the Hunter Valley, in their function space ‘Feast’, which we picked for its distinctly European feel.

Wedding Photo2

I walked in to the song ‘Intermission’ by French-Canadian singer Coeur de Pirate, and we signed our registry to the hauntingly beautiful strains of Aboriginal artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who Max and once I saw perform live in Paris. My mum did a reading in English, and Max’s godmother, in French. The entire ceremony was conducted in both languages, and afterwards, we toasted with a French-style Australian-made sparkling wine.

Our wedding cake was a delicious fusion of the two cultures, square chocolate and vanilla cupcakes decorated with an assortment of iconic images from the two countries. The lovely ladies at Kiss Me Cakes in Sydney did an incredible job, and in the days that followed we were glad that we had over catered! We also had lolly jars filled with sweets from our childhoods, Caramello Koalas and Carambars (yum!).

Wedding Photo3

The following day we held a brunch at my aunt and uncle’s property, with sausages on the barbeque and a game of backyard cricket on one side; and delicious croissants and an intense match of pétanque on the other…

Wedding Photo6

Wedding Photo5

The perfect weekend!

Les Intouchables

8 Apr

Les Intouchables

Usually when someone tells me I MUST do something, it really puts me off. I’m not sure if that means I have inherently wilful nature, or what, but there is no surer way to make sure I don’t do something. I am even less motivated if the thing in question has taken the world by storm (i.e. Twilight, 50 Shades, cake pops…)

But, as I’ve admitted before, sometimes when I give in, the results are truly amazing (like when I finally decided to give Il Solito Posto a go). And so, a month ago I finally gave in and watched Les Intouchables. Everyone from my old friends in Paris, to members of Max’s extended family, to English speakers who had seen it at the film festival had raved about it, practically non-stop for a year. But for some strange reason I just didn’t want to. I guess I didn’t imagine that any film could be THAT good, and that I’d inevitably be disappointed. I know, I know, it’s not like every movie I watch is of impeccable standard or anything (I have seen both the Sex and the City movies more than once), but on this topic I would not budge.

I made excuses not to watch it. We were actually in France when it was released at the cinema, but I wanted to wait and watch it with French subtitles. Then, when Max brought the DVD back with him after his latest Paris trip, I let it languish in the cupboards. And when Max dragged it out to watch one lazy Sunday afternoon, I settled in for a snooze on the couch.

Puppy snooze

Now, it isn’t often that I’ll admit to being astoundingly mistaken, but this was one such occasion. I am about to become one of those people I hate, who tells everyone they MUST watch this film. For this, I apologise, but really, you must.

It is the spectacular opposite of politically correct, simultaneously bound by and gloriously free from stereotypes. It is a no holds barred, deliciously vibrant examination of how rich life can be, irrespective of circumstance.

I know that you aren’t convinced, because I wasn’t either. But go on, even if it’s just so you can come back on here and say ‘You were wrong, I hated it!’ – just watch it.

Go on.

______
Puppy snooze image courtesy of Josh Koonce on Flickr.

%d bloggers like this: