Saturday, 21 February 2015

My Anti-Bucket List

Following on from my last post listing five things I would really like to do before I die (and preferably in the near-ish future!) I now bring you the Anti-Bucket List: five things I intend never to do.

The Anti-Bucket List

Climb Mount Everest (or even Mont Blanc):  It's not that I don't understand the urge to be on top of the world, or on top of Europe, but the fact that so many people climb these mountains only for that reason really puts me off. The idea of stepping over dead bodies on the way up, or even acting like Parisians in the metro in order to secure a camping spot (as apparently happens on Mont Blanc) is a complete anathema to the way that I think people should behave in the mountains. I've been up Beinn Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK three times and the third time, I swore it would be the last because the sight of people smoking and drinking beers at the summit and then throwing their rubbish on the ground was so horrible. Plus, highest does not mean most beautiful, and chasing after statistics often results in missing the best bits.

Get a Tattoo: I don't hate tattoos on other people, but I'm really squeamish about the idea of ink on my skin, never mind underneath it. In primary school, I once passed out because we went on a visit somewhere and had to get a stamp on our hands, and I've never been one of these people that can write notes to themselves on their hands. I guess I'll just need to find another way to rebel if I ever have a mid-life crisis.

Be an Olympic Figure Skater: This was my childhood/teenage dream, but I started too late and wasn't nearly talented enough even to get very far at club level. At the time, it was heartbreaking, but looking back, I'm proud that I worked so hard to at least be as good as I could be. It's funny to think that even if I had succeeded, my career would be coming to an end now anyway. I sometimes wish I could go and skate like I used to, on an empty ice-rink, just for the pleasure of it, but I don't miss the bruises, the frustration and the early rises!

Smoke: Apart from the obvious reasons not to, I also know that if I ever did start smoking, I probably wouldn't have the willpower to give up. I'm a very driven person when it comes to working towards my goals (see the bit about figure skating), but when it comes to not doing things, I have zero self discipline. (This theory has mainly been tested with chocolate so far.) Plus, I've always thought that if I was going to do something that dangerous, I'd want it to be a bit more exciting than smoking. Weirdly enough, though, although I've never touched tobacco, I have had dreams about being a smoker and not being able to give up, which I suppose is a good warning to bear in mind.

Read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: I gave up on The Hobbit and have slept my way through two of the films, so it's not looking likely. I suspect the same probably applies to the Star Wars films. I have read the whole of Les Misérables in the original, though, which I think crowns both of the others as an achievement.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

My Bucket List and Anti-Bucket List

Holly over at Full of Beans and Sausages has inspired me to write about my anti-bucket list, the things that I will never do before I die. However, because I don't think I've ever published my non-anti-bucket list, I've decided to be a bit sneaky and start with that, so you'll have to wait until next time for the things I will never do!

My Bucket List

Travel to South America: There are so many reasons why South America is top of my travel wish-list at the moment. I would love to see the Amazon rainforest. And the Iguaçu Falls. Not to mention all those amazing mountains. I'm pretty sure I could pick up Spanish and Portuguese, and I love the idea of visiting countries which are so far away and foreign and yet being able to speak the local language. 

Learn a Hard Language: the last language I really learned (to the point of fluency) was Italian, and since then I've picked up a bit of Spanish. I'm really happy to know these two languages, but once you can speak one Romance language fluently, the others come so easily that it hardly feels like learning a new language at all. I would be terrible at Mandarin, because I'm good at grammar and vocabulary but not so much with picking up the sounds of a new language. I quite like the idea of Arabic (although that has hard sounds too!) because the writing looks so beautiful. Ideally, my new language would be spoken in a country I'd be likely to visit multiple times and use often. Unfortunately, from that point of view, it looks as if Portuguese will probably be next!

Have a Piece of Writing Published: Writing is one of my favourite things to do. When I was little, I wrote endless stories and poems, and I took a creative writing course as part of my degree and even won a prize for it. Words, grammar and finding the perfect way to express an idea make me deeply happy. Unfortunately, they say that everyone has one novel in them, but if that's the case, mine must be very deeply buried inside, because I have all the language I need to write it but no idea of what the plot could be. Maybe I'll have to go back to poetry, or just be content with my blog until inspiration strikes.

Volunteer: I haven't volunteered for any kind of charity work since I had my lectrice job and had plenty of free hours in my week. Living in Paris makes me so aware, on a daily basis, of how vast the gap between the least and most privileged in society is, and how lucky I am to be somewhere in the middle of all that, so I am currently looking for the best way to use my skills and give a little bit back.

Travel in Style on a Long-Distance Train: I've spent many a night squashed in a swaying, rattling couchette, and even enjoyed the relative luxury of a proper berth on the London-Edinburgh Caledonian Sleeper once, but my ambitions are less paper-sheets-and -be-happy-they-give-you-a-free-bottle-of-water and more Murder on the Orient Express without the murders. I had better start saving now!

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Joys, Trials and Tribulations of Planning a Wedding from Abroad

OK, so I promise I'll stop the stream of wedding-related posts and write about something else soon, but after keeping quiet about our engagement for four months, I've got a few thoughts that have been buzzing around in my head that I want to get out of my system.

When we first got engaged, Understanding Frenchman and I had no precise ideas of what our wedding would be like. In fact, both of us would have been happy with a quick visit to the mairie accompanied by our parents and a couple of witnesses, followed by a nice meal at a restaurant afterwards. In the end, however, we settled for our other preferred option: to marry in Scotland surrounded by all of our closest friends.

As it turns out, we have a lot of closest friends. And so we find ourselves coordinating a large, 3 day DIY wedding at a somewhat rustic venue from over a thousand kilometres away.

There are actually quite a few advantages to this setup. For example, I'm not the most decisive person in the world, and if I was in Scotland now, I would probably be spending every waking hour researching, visiting and finding alternatives for every aspect of the wedding. From a distance, it's more a case of, if the website looks good, the staff can communicate by email and it's available, we'll take it.

Also, there's an element of getting the best of both worlds in being able to source some things in France and other things in the UK. We made our own invitations, and ordering the card and envelopes from a British company and getting them delivered to my parents probably saved us a small fortune. (This kind of stationery is one of the things that only seems to be available at the luxe market point in France.) The UK high street also seems to have a good selection of simple wedding dresses that can be ordered online too. On the other hand, the cheap wedding shops around the Boulevard de Magenta in Paris will be a great source of paper decorations, we'll probably source our wine in France, and if I decide I want a high-end designer dress after all, there are some amazing dépôts-vente where I could buy one for a fraction of the original price.

There are definitely downsides as well though. One of the most annoying is the way that absolutely everything in the wedding services industry seems to be bespoke, which is like a secret code for "we'll only give you very vague information, accompanied by lots of pretty pictures, unless you come to talk to us in person". Given that even talking on the phone in UK office hours involves me leaving work extra-specially early (I know, I know, I should probably change my mobile call plan), and we haven't actually been to Scotland since we got engaged, this is pretty difficult for us.

The worst thing, though, has to be the waiting. We had to wait to start making the aforementioned invitations until we went back at Christmas and could collect the card from my parents. I am currently waiting to order a dress that I absolutely love online because it can be delivered free to a UK address and we won't be back for a few weeks yet, and desperately hoping that it won't sell out. Even our budget planning is blocked by the fact that we haven't visited the venue yet and don't know exactly what we'll have to pay for. As a major planner, this has me waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

At the end of the day though, I think we've made the right choice.. The decision to have our wedding celebrations in Scotland came as much from Understanding Frenchman as from me, and it means a lot to me that he wants to bring all his friends and family to my home country and make it the location of such an important event in our lives. Surely that's worth a bit of waiting and frustration?