Saturday, December 23, 2006

French Nationals Final

As promised I've uploaded the Final of the Men's Sabre from the French Senior Nationals. It's just like Maynooth in May I swear...

Julian Pillet (left) Vs. Nicolas Lopez (right), world #3 and #12 respectively. The footage begins with the score at 8-7 to Pillet. Pillet has been around for ages and Lopez is the up-and-coming young pup on the French team (he wore a beret when he was being presented to the crowd - what a character!?)

The rest of the finals were incredibly disappointing and mostly noteworthy because of the absence of many of the national team fencers who had been beaten before the final. In Men's sabre the 4 national team members all made it to the semis making it a very high standard.


Here's a few pictures mainly to show the impressive venue but also how terrible the Men's Foil Final was - don't even get me started on the Women's Foil final.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Voodoo Chile Brief Return

Well I'm home for Christmas. It's on my mind to add a few pictures and the like to my blog over the next few days. As well as this I'll hopefully be updating you all on my last couple of days in Paris for the year.

This should all be very much easier when I remove this ridiculous bandage from my hand tomorrow.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Stupid French Keyboards

Iù, zriting this in the Centre Georges Po,pqdu on q french keyboqrd aithout looking qt the keys.

With only one fully functioning hand and typing on a cra...(where the hell is z)...zy french keyboard I don't really have any time to say any more.

à plus...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Day In The Life Of A Private Health Clinic In Paris

I returned to the clinic Mont-Louis the next morning at 10.30am when the appointment had been made for. Bupa Ireland had yet to get back to BUPA international who could not give a definite answer to the hospital (perhaps not surprising given the day that was in it BUPA to withdraw from Ireland). It was 12.30 before I decided enough was enough and I would pay for the operation and then get reimbursed.


I was taken to the top floor of the hospital where I wrote the cheque for €1500 for this minor operation and was directed to the waiting room. My operation was to be at around 2pm.

Shortly before that I was lead to a room to prepare for the operation. The nurse told me to strip absolutely naked. I explained this was an operation on my little finger but she reiterated and I got into the see-through gown and covered myself with the sheets.

Eventually I was brought downstairs to wait for an OR to open up. While I was there a six - eight year old Muslim child was having a circumcision. I remembered him from upstairs resplendent in the equivalent of a holy communion costume and mischievious giving cheek to his mother who couldn't help but laugh. I can't understand this practice to begin with in any religion - why would God give us a foreskin by mistake? But at least the Jewish tradition is perform the operation a set number of weeks after birth - not at an age where the child will likely remember it the rest of his life.

The screams of terror and pain from the poor child are something that I will not forget in a long time. This was the soundtrack to which I approached my own operation, which passed off without a hitch. The doctor spoke good English and was the first person to explain things properly to me in the last two days. A local anesthetic was applied and a curtain was set up in between myself and the doctor as he pottered away.

I had no idea what he was doing. I could only feel the occasional tug on a part of my hand that wasn't numb which suggested a finger was being moved. I decided it was best not to think about it and rode out the rest of the operation to tyring to manipulate my heart rate on the monitors above my head, to no avail.


So, my hand is in a tight wrapping to keep the fingers bent while the tendon heals. The tendon and would are sutured and the stiches should be out in just over two weeks. I still can't feel my little finger or ring finger on my write hand. You wouldn't believe the struggle it has been to finish the Longest Weekend and this entry.


My Love Affair With Sushi Knives is Over

As I cut into a bagguette to prepare a sandwich for my tea before training, I reached a point where the consistancy of the bread changed and felt painfully like my own flesh.

I had in fact sliced into the little finger of my left hand. Having never had such an injury inflicted on myself before, I quickly washed the wound, clenched my fist around some kitchen roll and elevated it before running around in pain and confusion.

My thoughts came like a kelydoscope -
"Where the hell is the nearest hospital? Do I even need to go to hospital? How the hell am I going to pay for this? Is that bone? Oh good God, that is bone, isn't it? I feel sick"

I was speaking on Skype to both Rachel and Marcos at the time. Marcos suggested sticking a plaster on it but Rachel went for the hospitalisation route. I chose the path less travelled (round the corner to a clinic) and it made all the difference.

The doctors spoke no English at all - hoorah! While I was pretty sure I understood what they were saying, I wasn't completely certain of some minor details and when they started talking about tendonne and operation I was slightly spooked. Eventually the bandaged my hand and told me I'd have to come back the following morning for a minor operation to repair the tendon.

All the while that this was happening I was trying to sort out insurance details with my parents over the phone. It was not a pleasent evening at all - even aside from the pain. To make things worse I had told my team-mates at USM that I'd be bringing the drinks that evening, so I was deathly afraid that they think I was actually some cheap Scotsman rather than a self-mutilated Irishman.

Back to training...

The return to training wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be. That day I went out of my way to eat as much fruit and salad as possible to lessen the blow that serious exercise was no doubt going to be.

As it happens I had a great training session and got a lesson from one of the coaches... maybe I should do that every weekend.

The Longest Weekend Part 5: Hidden Bonus Track or Monday

Monday Keith and David were to leave for Madrid and deliver me from the hell i'd been living in for the last couple of days.

As it happened Dave had to stay behind to give his keys to his parents on Tuesday...

That evening I'd agreed to sit for Mick O'Dea in the Irish College, so at least that delayed the onslaught somewhat. I posed for two drawing in my fencing gear. Funny things happen to your body when you stand still for that long. The blood pooled in my feet and my arms ached from supporting the mask. While all this was going on Kerry as me questions around the night she had spent at training and about fencing in general. These artists were determined to capture every interesting detail of me - in return I demanded 10%. They still haven't got back to me on that.

The result of the evenings work were two fantastic large pencil sketches on hand made paper. The first one is a fantastic drawing (pictures to follow shortly) of me looking particulalry serious and menancing, the second is a variation of this from a different angle. What is particularly exciting about the seconf is that Mick is allowing me keep it.

At about 11.30 we decided to call it a day and have a pint to relax for a bit. David joined us and we enjoyed some of the excellent Leffe bear Mick had in his fridge. Just to draw a line under proceeding we went for one down at the Bombardier down the road. After a half-hearted attempt to think of another pub open nearby and with no results, Mick decided that was enough for him and we probably should have done the same.


There was apparently only one pub open in city centre Paris at that time. The highlander. We sat back reminiscing on what seemed like a decade of in-jokes and memories from the weekend until it was finally time to go.

Just for old times sake we had one last steak au poivre at an all night restaurant at 5am. In hindsight that may have been a steak too far...

The Longest Weekend Part 4: Sunday At Le Stade

Sunday awoke a bright but chilly December morning. When we awoke Sunday morning was long but the chill had remained. Furthermore, it was nearly time for the Stade Francais Vs. Sale Sharks Heineken Cup match at Parc de Prince. The other two had bought tickets several weeks earlier and I intended to try and get one at the gate.

We were packed like sardines on the long metro journey back to Porte De St. Cloud as the crowds swelled because of match day. As if by magic, I found a man selling unwanted tickets at face value right next to the gates and gladly parted with a poultry €10 for unreserved seating. I was in a segment on my own for the match, in my thin fleece, but it was a great atmosphere and quite an exciting match.

When given the choice between supporting Le Stade de France or PSG over the coming year, I think I'll side with the prawn-sandwich brigade rather than the anti-semmatic murderous facist hooligan brigade. This decision ways heavily against the chip on my shoulder developed through a hatred of South Dublin rugby playing schools but I feel that this situation is sufficiently detachted so as to reduce much of the inner turmoil which would otherwise exist.


We stopped for a few bites of sushi as an entree to our main meal of steak au poivre in the Old Navy. Two Parisien guitarists and €5 bottled water (after the last place's warm tap water) accompanied our meal. It was all very pleasent.

It was unilaterally decided that we needed to take it easy that night. So myself, Keith, David and Phil went bowling with a few beers just to ween ourselves off rather than going cold turkey. The bowling alley was in a basement off Moufftard and was excellent value compared to the Leisureplex(i?) back home.

This was the first time since Thursday that I'd got to bed before 1, just barely.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Longest Weekend Part 3: Saturday Fencing and Drinking

The next morning David and Keith awoke on a floor in the Irish College to discover they were covered in pink permanent marker. A crude drawing of a penis seemed to be the most popular design with one or two each adorning their foreheads. There was also an address to a Bebo site scrawled down one arm and multiple penis down the other. It wasn't until the next day the Keith spotted the large pink swazkita on his shoulder, however. That being said he didn't realise about his forehead till well after he'd enter a bakery to get a baguette at 8 o'clock that morning.

I had spent the night in my own bed (which was still a sleeping bag on top of a bed, as they had interupted my house shopping on Thursday). My plan for the day was to head for the French National fencing championships which were to be held in a large stadium near Parc de Prince at Porte de St. Cloud (home of Paris St. Germain Football Club and the recent riots after the shooting dead of PSG fan as he was part of a mob attacking a Jewish Tel Aviv fan by a plain clothes police officer).

But I digress. The top 32 in France were fighting it out for bragging rights over one another. I arrived around 2pm with the finals at four so got to see all the semi-finals across the six weapons. By the time of the finals it was amazing how few of the national teams across the weapons had actually reached them. All in all the finals were disappointing, save for the Men's Sabre. The lads who had dragged themselves in just before four and who had found me during a break in the women's epee agreed. When I get a chance I'll try and post the final of the Men's sabre somewhere (Julien Pillet Vs Nicolas Lopez) - it was a very exciting match.


Once the dust had settled, it was agreed that we all needed sushi. Paris is littered with sushi restaraunts of various standards, we found a cheap one and tucked in.

There was business to be taken care of however and we were soon back at my place for an impromptu house warming and some wine. With the six of us in my tiny apartment it was pretty much packed so at around 11 we decided to seek out more space. Keith and David returned to the Long Hop (where the staff there would continue their attempts to kill the two of them). I decided to go with Phil, Liz and Rachel to a Reggae club that Phil had heard of.

Thinking that the club was only at Nation I decided not to bring a coat and wore only a light fleece instead. The club was actually near Mo Nationale, which is much further away in the South of the city. We found it slightly amusing that there was a reggae club on a road called Rue Des Noirs (french racial segregation in full flow), less funny when the road actually Rue Dunois and even less funny when after travelling the length of the road we found nothing resembling a club or even an open pub on it's entire length. On the return voyage the result was exactly the same.

Phil rang his friend from the jazz club to find out where it was. Apparently the small community hall we had passed was the place where the gig was on and it finished at 11 O'clock, not started at eleven o'clock. Either which way it was very much closed when we reached it at twelve. Suspicions that the rasta who gave him the information may well have bin praisin' de almighty Ja wit dem holiest mari-ji-juana spread quickly about the group as we wondered how the hell we'd get back to civilisation, or at least the proto-civilisation that was the Long Hop.

We ventured forth to Place D'Italie where a massive taxi queue left us pondering our next move - until we saw a bus to Gare de Lyon. This was in the general direction that we were going and we thought we could get that towards the Long Hop. Although the bus said Gare Du Lyon on it several stops later we realised we were heading out towards the Banlieue. Rather than go through a midnight stroll in some of the most dangerous areas in France, maybe in Europe, we decided we needed to get off the bus. The minute we had, we saw another bus for Gare Du Lyon heading the opposite direction and hopped onto it without a second thought.

On this extra-pleasent, journey a woman threw-up at our feet and a drunk who smelled of petrol approached us for a light. Declining we got off at Place D'Italie, where we'd started, and began to walk. Highlights of the walk included the Paris zoo where we saw some ostriches and the several times where I felt I might be coming down with hypothermia (see my mention of only wearing a light fleece).

Eventually, we reached the Long Hop only to find it closed. David and Keith were at the lock-in ongoing inside. While the staff of the Long Hop did their level best to end the lives of my two friends, the rest of us went to the Pomme D'Eve to wait for them. It was at this point, as I sat down in a chair in the cave that three nights of excess began to catch up with me and my eyelids became intolerably heavy. When the lads arrived they were in a similar state perhaps induced more by having vodka poured directly into their mouths rather than tiredness but none the less the spirit of the evening had turned distinctly tired and/or emotional.

Whatever was going on in David's head he decided that we should leave, minus Keith, and having no more energy to resist I gave in a followed him out of the bar. We paused briefly to have a photo taken with the South African flag outside and then headed back to David's for a respite before tomorrows fun. Keith eventually followed after an hour or two later with the assistance of Phil. This didn't stop him from trying the door code on the wrong door for a good while but that is a story for another day...

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Longest Weekend Part 2: Friday Night

Friday began with the stiffness of a night lying on the floor, it also began around 1pm.

The search for food began immediately and lead us to our first steak au poivre of the week. David knew a little place just off the Champs Elysee which did €14 steak au poivre with unlimited chips (yes, that's right, unlimited). By the time we had walked there from the Assemblie Nationale we were all starving.

After asking for a non-smoking table we were directed upstairs where we stood waiting for about ten minutes. Eventually we asked the young thin waiter with greasy slicked back black hair, dressed all in black with far too tight trousers for a seat. He gestured vaguely towards some seats directly in front of us besides the stairs. Spying the large comfortable booths behind him by the wall we asked could we sit in there instead - we were informed that that area was closed.

With no other choice we sat in the small table and began looking at the menu. A fruitless venture since we were all going to get the cheap steak and chips but none the less it turned out to be a lengthy one as our friend in black systematically ignored us. At one stage David nodded and waved at him to get his attention and he nodded and waved back, then just turned around and continued with what he was doing - which may as well have been cloud-watching for all the work he was doing.

Eventually a waitress who had been frantically running around are section picking up the slack left by the moron in black. Came to take our order - "Three steaks and chips please."

Hours seemed to pass before the steaks and chips were delivered on a large platter. We were also given tepid tap water to drink when we ask for a jug of water so struggled through the feast with little or no rehydration. When we had a fill we settled down for the wait for the bill...


That evening our plan was to return to the Long Hop. I headed to the Irish College to gather a possy while David and Keith checked there bank balances at a local internet café. With David, Liz, Phil, Rachel and Suze in tow I headed for the Long Hop to meet up with the lads - who weren't there.

They arrived after a brief trip to VD's where a friend of David's had provided an early jump-start to the nights festivities. The night began to pick up momentum as the bars profit for that night was being cancelled out by the free drinks and shots which Dave was receiving.

It was getting late by human standards but as we left the Long Hop spirits were high and we were all miraculously still standing considering that enough alcohol to kill a rhino had probably been consumed. The Villen Dingue (VD's) was the next port of call. The weirdest and possibly seediest little cave club in Paris was probably what this pub was but not without its charm as David once again new a barman.

The night was whiled away with witty stories and occasional polite jokes until it was time to leave. Back to the Irish College for some tea and crumpets. As my senses returned to me I realised what a terrible mistake I had made bringing these drunken fools into a place where people like to sleep at 3am in the morning. I tried for a while to convince them to leave but pinning me down to draw genitals on my face was the last straw and I decided to leave them to their own devices.

A brief interlude...

There is some construction work going on outside my window. At 7am, they started using a jackhammer. Wanting to regain my strength after the long weekend, I wanted a bit of a sleep-in and tried to ignore it up until 11am when I could bear it no longer and had to get up. At 11.20am they stopped and have not done any further work on the site since.

The Longest Weekend Part 1: Thursday Night After Training

...Some friends visit and I undo any training I've done over the last 6 months.

Although I was aware of their impending arrival, nothing could prepare me for the exhausting terror that lay before us.

After training on Thursday evening, I received a text from David and Keith prompting me to meet them on the quays by Notre Dame. At about 10.30pm I reached the agreed spot on the Seine to find them enoying smuggled contraband. Yes, that's right... Red Bull (it's illegal in France and rightly so). There may have been some Aldi or equivalently cheap vodka in their Volvic bottle but I neglected to ask them. Either way they seemed pleased with themselves.

Our first port of call was to the Long Hop, a bar where David used to work. His friends there (friends I would later compare to being friends with your heroine dealer) were so pleased to see him they decided to try and kill the three of us with alcohol.

As the evening wore on and the Long Hop was preparing to close we began to plan our next move. David lead us to a night club with a student night somewhere near the 7th via another bar with some friends of his, the Vileune Dingue (or VD's -lovely). Unfortunately, the lovely bouncers on the door informed us we couldn't get in. This all lead to our first taxi journey of the evening and undoubtedly the most ridiculous.

I knew that my friends from the Irish College were heading to a big student night in a place called Mix by Montparnasse, so I suggested we try and head that direction. Eventually, we got a taxi and we tried to explain where we were going. He seemed to make up his mind after a while and started off. He dropped us a very small bar. Our suspicions should have been raised when the bar only had a small porthole window in it, through which the bouncer looked out. We walked in the door, myself in the rear. The taxi driver had brought us to a brothel, we made a sharp u-turn, we walked out of the door.

After several minutes of hysterical laughter, we paused to wonder what to do next. In the end we did what comes naturally to people at that hour of the night - we went to get a kebab.

As myself and Keith tucked into our Kebabs it became apparent to us that David had disappeared. As I reached for my French Mobile to call him it also becamse apparent that my French mobile had disappeared and as Keith reached for his, that his mobile was out of credit. I tried calling him several times on my Irish phone but couldn't get a connection. I sent him several texts in the hope that he couldn't answer because he had no credit and told him to meet us at the Irish College, which was nearby and which we all knew how to find.

When we got to the Irish College we managed to get in and to regroup for a while in the Kitchen - it was now pouring rain. Eventually, I heard someone calling my name from outside the window. David had found his way to the Irish College - he didn't seem best pleased. Apparently public urination is frowned upon in France, along with most of the western world. When a plane clothes policeman approached Dave and told him as much, David's natural reaction was to suggest that he should go away in no uncertain terms. David spent the next hour in a room in the police station.

With the three of us united once again we set off for David's where I spent the night sleeping on the floor. In the morning David explained there was some cushion which could be arranged into a mattress in the wardrobe...

Monday, December 04, 2006

So little time...

After a month in Paris; while my family, Rachel and friends were no doubt glad of the extra storage space my absence left for them on this tiny island of ours, a surprising compulsion of being glad to see each other seemed to sweep uniformly over us all.

Aside from a lot of catching-up and some errands to run there was only one small piece of business to attend to - the Irish Open. In order to amuse my self and mess with others' heads, I hadn't told anyone I was going to be there - I hadn't even entered myself. I chuckled quietly to my self while people asked if I was going to enter and I said "No". I am truly hilarious.

The competition itself passed without too much fuss. I was pleased with how i was fencing and found myself in a different rhythm to my previous hectic state on the piste. In the end, I reached the final only to be beaten by David Downey, who was the better fencer on the day. Giving up the nice piece of mantle-piece clutter that is the Irish Open Trophy stung slightly but then again I have only been training in France for three weeks and I'm already feeling a change for the better.

I feel I'm facing into the packed half of the season in good form and confident that I can reach my goals for the season.


I'm sitting finishing off this post in Dublin airport while I wait for my plane back to Paris. There probably won't be any more updates over the next week, not until Saturday at least when I am getting my Internet connection installed in the new apartment.

If I missed you on this visit, I'm very sorry but I'll be back over Christmas and hopefully we'll get a chance to meet up.

Until then...

Where Were We?

I move into my new apartment with a brief detour via Ireland.

Thursday morning the new sofa-bed was to be delivered to my apartment. My landlady had suggested sleeping on the floor for the night and waiting for the bed to be delivered sometime between 7am and 2pm. In the end, I chose the comfort of my bed in the Irish Centre over the floor and sleeping bag and I felt quite vindicated in my choice.

That Wednesday evening, Kerry had come to watch fencing training. A good night for it too, as it was a busy night's training with a lot of fencers, drills and even champagne afterwards.

When I got back to my now-empty room in the Irish Centre, Phil was just on his way out to a jam at a jazz club so I tagged along for a bit of listen. It was a really cool spot – absolute stereotypical Parisian basement jazz club (if you can't imagine that then you have no culture). I even got an opportunity to practice my Japanese on Phil's two Japanese friends; it was just like that scene from Austin Powers. A good night was had by all, as far as I was concerned.


I slumbered peacefully until, at 6am, it was time to head across to the apartment to wait for the bed. Once I reached the apartment, I decided to doze for a bit while waiting for the Swede from Ikea to arrive. There was no chance I would have been able to sleep on that parquet floor for a whole night[[?]], but just after about an hour of struggling to find sleep, just when my head was filling of dreams of home (like some Erin hotcup ad), just then the buzzer rang.

My disappointment was compounded further when there was nothing Swedish or even remotely female about the French Ikea delivery man, but not wanting to hurt his feelings I hid my resentment towards him well.

I hate whiney observational comedians who complain about flat-pack furniture. Within an hour I had constructed a sofa-bed, a foot locker and a standard lamp. This was the most manly I had felt in weeks. With my natural instincts to use tools appeased, I spent the rest of the day strutting between the Irish Centre and the apartment, moving the rest of my belongings over.


I decided to leave training a bit early that evening to have time to pack for my return to Ireland for the weekend.

This return required an early start on Friday to get to Charles de Gaulle by 8am for my flight at 10am. Charles de Gaulle terminal one is currently undergoing a massive renovation to restore the look of the insane structure, which looks as if several motorways are trying to strangle one central hideous tower of concrete –so good luck with that.

My plane was ten minutes delayed coming into Paris, so it was twenty minutes late for departure and in turn we lost our place in the queue and spent an hour on the tarmac. Eventually, however, we reached Dublin.

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