Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Hate Ikea...

...My first experience of the Swedish mega-store leaves a taste of MDF in my mouth.

'I need a set of drawers' I thought to myself. 'Furniture' I thought, 'Where does one buy furniture?'. Four years of being bombarded with case studies about the behemoth of fürni left only one name in my mind. Added to this I happened to be teaching (did I mention I started teaching?) in a centre not far from a modest sized Ikea store (only a couple of square kilometers) - the stars were surely all aligned and pointing me in the direction

Once I finished work at 4 o'clock I got a bus to the Ikea store about ten minutes away. To enter the place is like entering another world - a yellow and blue one. I'm apparently too negative a person but the trouble started nearly straight away. Having headed the warnings about people being lost for days in the place and nearly starving to death before reaching the café, I had the piece of furniture selected well in advance of my visit. Aneboda, or some such, was the name of this modestly priced chest of drawers but where the hell was it?

The showroom section snake on for ever before I came to the sprawling storage space area. All of a sudden there it was - the chest of drawers of my dreams. So this piece of furniture could be collected in the warehouse section of the building; row 25 dock 48.

Another twenty minutes of walking through beds, wardrobes, TV units, wardrobes, kitchen storage, shoe racks, kids bedrooms, kitchen wear, crockery, plastic tress and baskets and I finally found the warehouse section and with a small jaunt through the warehouse I located my chest of drawers.

They were heavier than I though. At 30kgs it was going to be a long hour long metro ride back to my apartment at rush hour but I assumed that a magical solution would present itself; perhaps I could buy this small yellow trolley.

Firstly though I had to deal with the check-out. I'm sure I've posted previously about the speed of service at any french check-outs. This ranges from a man buying a loaf of bread taking 10 minutes to a jar of pickles taking 5 hours. Imagine then French people having to check through hundreds of kilos of furniture. A long wait was in store as my flimsy yellow trolley (with a max load of 30kg) began to buckle. When I eventually paid for the drawers, I was told I could not bring my branded trolley any further. So I had to drag the box to through to the delivery area - stopping to get an ultra cheap bulk produced hot-dog on the way.

It was becoming apparent to me that Ikea did not want people without cars shopping with them as they didn't want people placing small orders and clogging up there delivery system. I was looking that my small set of drawers was going to cost €50 to deliver and that having already paid for it, I had no other option, save for giving myself a coronary trying to carry it on the metro. €100 for a chest of drawers that will probably barely last the rest of my time hear, no matter how short of long that is.

Bah, so there you go... that's how exciting my life is these days apparently. Without being directly exposed to the incompetence of Irish fencing I'm left to get angry at harmless multinational corporations (albeit ones with bizarre tax dodging religious status). I'm sorry Ikea, it's not you... it's me being negative...

No more whiskey after training...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Miss My Extra Kilos...

It's freezing in Paris at the minute and I'm only writing this entry to put off walking to training (see previous entry on strike).

Losing a stone over the course of the last year, I've obviously lost considerable insulation as well. I've never been much of a hat and scarf wearer but this is definitely hat, scarf and gloves weather. Anyway at least my figure tips have been warmed slightly from typing.

Discovering Paris By Foot

... In freezing temperatures.

For the second time in as many months Paris is in the grip of an RATP strike. I know, hard to believe that the French would go on strike (some info here) but it's happened. I'm certainly not going to debate whether the reforms are needed or whether the concerns of the €68,000+ a year train drivers are valid. Far be it from me to propose theories as to the moral imperatives in question but Goddammit this is a pain in the ass!

I walked an hour to work yesterday, after getting up at 6am only to find that my class was cancelled because my student couldn't get there. I was half-way to work this morning when my student cancelled leaving me with an additional two hours wait after my two hours walk before my next class. All the while we are experiencing the coldest days of the year so far - it's fantastic.

The strike seems set to continue I've heard talk of it lasting till Sunday at least. It's going to make my trip to the airport this weekend a nightmare not to mention trying to get back home on Sunday evening. After all that I have classes in Roissy (the town in which CdeG Airport is located) on Monday and Tuesday - I might as well stay in the airport if I want to have any chance of getting to those classes!

Ugh... I'm not digging this at all!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One year on... (Warning: Introspection Ahead)

It's exactly one year and a day since I've been living in France. Perhaps it's time for a stock-take. I'm tired of writing more or less about subjects about as tangible or relevant as the weather so perhaps it's time for a more personal confessional entry about my life so far in France and where it has lead me.

Tonight I celebrated with my friends and team-mates at my club my birthday (which happened two weeks ago) as well as, more importantly, my being in France for exactly one year. I arrived in France on the 6th of November last year - with the basic idea that I would spend a year in France to improve my fencing.

On paper I perhaps haven't really faired that well. I've lost a girlfriend. My world ranking has slipped where my focus on World-Cups and Grand-Pris has lead to a lesser involvement in easier competitions. I am pretty much completely broke but have finally found a job, to which I am quite indifferent to, which will do little except maintain my position as broke. My level of French while massively improved is still nowhere a level where I would feel comfortable working completely in French.

So... where have I performed memorably?... Hmm...

Why carry on? Why not end it all?

I suppose, I feel I am finally living. I have autonomy, freedom and no restraints emotional or physical. While my world ranking has slumped I feel like a far superior fencer and I feel that with even more work I could finally make myself satisfied in terms of results and achievements. I live in what I believe to be one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. I'm in the best shape I have possibly ever been. I am determined to become fluent in French if it is the last thing I do.

I'm generally enjoying life and continuing the path I have actually chosen to do and I suppose that is worth more than anything. While the call of a serious career is certainly beckoning I am enjoying this time and growing as a person. It's possible that both could continue in tandem and certainly that would be my ideal state - we'll see.


Well there it is. Confessional, heart-rendering, as ridiculously pious and self-inflated as any piece you will ever see for public consumption on the inter-web. Enjoy it or not... I'm glad to get it off my chest.

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