Unconventional

I couldn’t resist this WordPress challenge. Describe unconventional love, and post a picture of something unconventional? Deal!

I’m a pretty unconventional person all round; many would argue that I am one can short of a six pack. In any case, my acute case of Peter Pan Syndrome (my term for never, ever wanting to grow up) makes life much more fun for a pretend grown-up (shhh, it’s our secret).

Typical Playmobil scenario when I play with Little My. Copyright Multifarious meanderings.

Typical Playmobil scenario when I play with Little My. Copyright Multifarious meanderings.

My most unconventional love is therefore for playing. Playing hard, playing fast, and above all, playing silly buggers (as my wonderful Mancunian Grandmother used to say). I love playing Playmobils with my daughter, who sometimes rolls her eyes and tells me to grow up. But I won’t. Read more about the dark side of Playmobilia here.

My family is equally loopy: put them on a beach on Christmas Eve (the best time ever to flee conventions and play in the sand), and they’ll immediately find the only waylaid soldier’s helmet on the entire French coastline and combine it with a dustbin support on the beach to do something totally…. unconventional. I love it, and I love them.

Rugbyboy illustrating the "unconventional" family gene on a beach on Christmas Eve.

Rugbyboy illustrating the “unconventional” family gene on a beach on Christmas Eve.

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Shopping Sociology with Earth Daddy and the Dinkies.

It is common procedure to open the fridge within my house within two days of raiding the the supermarket and discover that it is barer than John Malkovich’s scalp. Feed a teenager the entire contents of the cupboard, and within two hours he will be rubbing round your legs like a famished tomcat, wailing that he is starving. Buy him a packet of cereal and it disappears within two days. Teenagers appear to believe in the Kellogg’s equivalent of the magic porridge pot: why is the box incapable of renewing its own contents?

That’s how I found myself wheeling my trolley around Intermarché for the umpteenth time yesterday. As usual, I had the one with the squeaky wheel. As usual, I had forgotten my list on the kitchen table. And as usual, all my favourite categories of shopper were there.

Giant Shopping Basket Feb 2006

An ideal shopping trolley for MM’s family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Show me the contents of your trolley, and I’ll tell you who you are. Here are a few of the species I met:

Earth Daddy. Earth Daddy is married to my nemesis, Wonder Woman, who is a regular victim of my ire and bad faith on this blog. As she spends her free time at Primary school meetings in the evening, making smarmy little asides to ensure everyone knows that she is on first name terms with the teacher, Earth Daddy does the shopping with his children. He trips enthusiastically down the aisles in his designer cotton clothes, filling his trolley with whole grains, granary bread, Ryvita and Scandinavian yoghurt that has never seen a pesticide, but has made a generous contribution to the hole in the ozone layer after travelling to the South of France by plane and truck. An appropriately sleeping baby is bandaged tastefully to his chest with so much naturally dyed swathing that he looks disturbingly like a child-friendly remake of “The Mummy”.

Baby’s big sister generally has a very tasteful name like Clementine or Prune. (Classy kids in France are apparently named after fruit. Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow is actually French; she called her kid Apple.) Clementine/Prune/Banana’s education doesn’t stop when they shop, as Earth Daddy believes in taking every opportunity to brainwash his child inform Clementine about the best possible choices in life. So he stopped at the chocolate shelf as Clementine enthusiastically pointed to a well-known brand of Swiss chocolate that we all know is made with milk from purple cows then wrapped in the aluminium foil by underpaid but happy marmots.

Milka in der Breiten Straße Potsdam

The purple cow meets a chocoholic fan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She enquired whether they could buy it, and Earth Daddy laughed indulgently. Scratching his designer stubble, he said that she could of course have some chocolate, but he was going to show her something better. I was curious, and tailgated my politically correct suspect and his cargo of organic bran like an off-beat Sherlock Holmes. Earth Daddy homed in on his destination, and beamed as he explained the concept of fair trade to his bemused offspring. I’m not sure she bought the idea, but he bought the chocolate anyway.

The stressed mother and her assortment of screaming kids are reassuringly normal.  They remind me of that family planning advert with the kid having a tantrum (check it out at the end of the post). Whilst a toddler with streams of yellow snot running down its face eats his way through a packet of biscuits in the seat of the trolley, a sibling imprisoned between the packets of pasta and disposable nappies tramples on the fresh fruit with one foot and hangs the rest of her body over the side, screaming “Muuum, want that, want thaaaat!” Stressed mother is haggard, determined and inches from sticking a price label on each kid’s forehead and leaving them on the discount shelf. 

Zero percent is generally female, appears depressed and is on a permanent guilt trip. Her relationship with food is borderline obsessive; she suspiciously reads every last letter of the packaging. She hunts down zero percent yoghurt, zero percent coke and beef that was no doubt gleaned from liposuctioned cattle on a health farm. Her trolley is so light you are surprised it doesn’t float up in the air before she gets to the till and disappear with her hanging on to it like Mary Poppins on helium.

Hot-air-balloon

Zero Percent on her way home with her stash of light food produce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The alcoholic OAP wanders slowly to the wine shelf in espadrilles, sagging trousers, baggy jumper and a felt cap covered with dog hair. His trolley contains two five-litre plastic containers of red wine, two packs of goats cheese and two baguettes. He beams congenially at everyone when he forgets his credit card number twice in a row, then waves goodbye before using the trolley as an impromptu Zimmer frame. He probably won’t see another human being until he does the same shop in a week’s time.

The DINKIES (Dual Income, No KIddieS) are the ones who need a stepladder to access the expensive rare breed of imported Italian pasta on the top shelf whilst you are mining  for the last packet of supermarket brand macaroni in the murky depths of the bottom shelf. Miss DINKIE wrinkles her nose on seeing any of the above supermarket population categories, and goes into anaphylactic shock on contact with children. She can be observed at the toiletries dept, suspiciously sniffing at shampoo bottles whilst her bored boyfriend looks on.

The YFSM: Young, Free & Single MaleEasily identified by the contents of his basket: pizzas, chocolate, pasta sauce, pies, frozen chips and a pack of beer. Heart-wrenching examples are the cute ones who have packets of Petit Prince biscuits and M&M’s to eat in front of the TV. I generally avoid queuing beside a YFSM, as I get inexplicable pangs of jealousy at the idea of being able to not only have the remote for myself, but eat as much rubbish as I like without being told off.

There are more categories to be covered, such as the retired lovebirds, but this post is getting way too long. So I’ll pass the talking stick on to you: who are your favourite shoppers? Here is that advert I promised you, complete with an epic Earth Daddy fail.

Waiting room witterings: a portrait of France.

One month ago, I was in the rumbling bowels of the local Préfecture, clutching a huge pile of paper justifying everything from my address to my bra size in a bid to exchange my UK driving licence for a Barbie-pink French one. I was rewarded with a paper stating that I will have an answer within two months, and that no answer after two months means that the application has been refused. Not that it has been forgotten under a coffee cup on someone’s desk, lost or wrongly filed in the depths of pen-pusher’s oblivion.

So one month later, M.M. is watching her mailbox like a hawk as the sand trickles through the egg-timer. Still nothing. So in the meantime, here is the sequel to the driving licence saga : the waiting room.

At the end of the previous chapter, I had been given a ticket and ordered to “seet downeuh ozzeur zère”. The system was a little like queuing for cheese in Waitrose: You get a ticket, then wait for your number to flash up on the screen. There was another likeness with the cheese counter: the man sitting beside me, who smelled like he had been massaged with a microwaved mixture of Munster, Camembert and a generous pinch of fox poo before leaving the house. There were 32 people in front of me. I found myself calculating how long it would take to see the bespectacled civil servant behind the counter. My courage wilted faster than a salad platter in the Sahara as I realised that even at an average of five minutes per person, that added up to over two hours of waiting.

After Losing His Red Card to a Ravenous Goat, ...

Typical French queuing technique. Note cockerel with file under wing.  (Photo credit: Sister72)

Big Brother stared out of every wall through shiny-white, technological snowdrops that recorded our every move. I was anxious. The Prefecture waiting room is a buzzing melting pot of people from all horizons who all have higher levels of adrenalin and testosterone than Lance Armstrong on the Tour de France. As the classic joke goes, the cockerel was chosen as the French emblem because it is “the only animal that can continue to sing with both its feet in the shit”. Yet the Gallic cockerel loses its infamous cock-a-doodle-doo when it crosses the threshold of Cerfa’s palace: it is tamed by the aura of Administromia, and this feeling of subordination peeves the French. They do not like waiting, and absolutely hate being dominated. (With the exception of some French politicians in their private lives, but that’s a whole different ball game. So to speak.)

They strutted around the golden administrative cage with ruffled feathers. Their beaks remained firmly closed, but signs of their frustration escaped in other ways. Papers were fiddled with, eyeballs rolled, pens were clicked and hisses of exasperation escaped from lips as watches were looked at for the umpteenth time. Knees jerked rapidly, feet tapped on the polished floor.

A line of neatly labelled counters stretched along the wall before us, eerily like the vivariums you see at the exotic species section of the zoo. A glass panel with a circular grill separated the civil servant within them from the tax payer on the other side.

A vivarium for the lesser spotted civil servant.

A vivarium for the lesser spotted civil servant.

I squinted to read the sign in the window, expecting to read: “Lesser Spotted Civil Servant. Common French species under no imminent threat of extinction. Timid, it only ventures out of its lair for 35 hours per week. Please do not tap on the glass”. I was wrong: the sign was a veiled threat to the humble tax payer, and read as follows: “Vous et nous : le respect du droit, le droit du respect.” This basically boils down to: “We’ll respect your rights – if you respect us”.

At this point, a prim and proper retired lady approached, and sat down on the seat beside me. She heaved a huge sigh, looked up at the screen, and burst the bubble of perfection by loudly proclaiming: “Oh, putaing. Je n’y compreings rieng. C’est quoi, ce bordeleuh?” In polite language, this would roughly translate as “Oh, dear, I don’t understand. What kind of mess is this?” Her foul language and loudness were a comic revelation of the real person beneath the improvised exterior. I grinned to myself.

The “lady” hummed anxiously. The smelly man rhythmically jerked his knee up and down, shaking the entire bench and sending waves of stench up my reluctant nostrils. Nausea started to take hold of me. A man glared in our direction, and ostentatiously flapped his file in front of his nose.

 I had come prepared: I pulled out a pen and paper and started scribbling down my observations. It was striking to see how people preferred fiddling with Facebook to  discovering the bored person sitting right beside them. Bang in synch with what was going through my head, Mrs Mutton-dressed-as-lamb prodded me in the ribs. “Are you doing your homework?” she enquired, pointing at my scribbles. “No, I’m just writing”. She gave me a quizzical stare. Apparently, it was not at all strange for grown adults to play Angry Birds on their telephones, but it was strange to write for no reason. I nodded my head sideways. “I think someone’s going to lose his trousers in a minute”. She followed my gaze, and burst out laughing. Here’s the vision that met her eyes:

How to "hang out" in administromia - in the literal sense of the word. Photo taken for your eyes only,  at MM's perils and risks.

How to “hang out” in administromia – in the literal sense of the word. Photo taken for your eyes only, at MM’s perils and risks.

We waited patiently, and as the man walked past us two minutes later, his aptly named “saggy” was sliding slowly and suggestively downwards. Our impromptu Adonis split his thighs in an cowboy-like stance, and his trousers ground to a halt midway between his groin and his kneecaps. He was forced to stop beside my neighbour, who beamed up in delight at the sight of his taut thighs and generous manly attributes, all delicately wrapped in designer undies. As her number was called, I think she had already decided to come back again the next day in the hope of a Full Monty. The Préfecture was not so boring after all….

Pam Spam and the decontamination chamber.

It’s rare for spam to make it though the impressive WordPress filter – it rarely gets things wrong. But you made it through last night, Pam.  (I have of course changed your name to rhyme with “spam” – your real identity is safe with me.) You slipped through the WordPress spam barrage with more ingenuity and prowess than Catwoman, and were waiting impatiently for me in my list of comments awaiting moderation when I opened Pomme’s browser this morning. Today’s « false positive » has given me the chance to write a post, whilst it offers you a unexpected moment of fame in an obscure corner of cyber space ruled by a half-potty hybrid of housewife, career-woman, book-lover and amateur photographer suffering from scribal diarrhoea and lost in the wastelands of the Languedoc. Lucky you.

I didn’t understand a word of what you wrote in your comment, which had nothing much to do with my blog, and have presumed that you are a spammer. I have therefore asked the WordPress immigration service to kindly escort you to my spam folder so that you can enjoy the company of your kind of people from now on. I imagine this place to be a little like an airport departure lounge, but one designed for passengers who need to be isolated from the others. A kind of decontamination lock-chamber for Village People who have lost the plot. Here in the spam folder, you can feel free to sell each other timeshare apartments and exchange tips to boost your blogging traffic to your heart’s delight, without using my humble blog as a springboard.

La mirada de CatWoman

Pam Spam meowed in despair. “Foiled again!” she hissed, as she sank to the ground in the bad girl corner of  the Spam Lounge.  (Photo credit: sukiweb)

I’m sure that you will all have lots of things in common, starting with your original use of the English language. I must admit that I was a little concerned at the idea of you promising to “inspect” my new posts. The verb “inspect” makes me anxious and is reminiscent of bad experiences like the tax office, airport customs officials, children with head lice and roofs with leaks. Whilst we’re on the subject of language, please put a space between “I” and “actually” the next time you write – you never know, that letter “a” may have smelly armpits. Or he could give “I” the eye.

You do appear to have some idea of appropriate language use, as you use the term “beautiful brides” and not “gold-diggers” in the link you provide. You apparently sell women to gullible western males run a dating agency with the sole purpose of providing happiness for sad and lonely people across the globe. Whilst your magnanimity is commendable, your spelling, punctuation and grammar really don’t do you justice. I therefore suggest that you take a few English lessons; it would be an asset in your bid to make your “products” and/or services more inviting.

If you sign up for English lessons, please do invite some of your other spamming pals along. Make sure that the sexily named “Mikebreedlove” attends, and suggest he takes an appointment with a psychoanalyst as well. His comment : “I was suggested this website through my cousin. I am not now positive whether or not this post is written by him as no one else understand such distinct about my difficulty. You’re amazing ! Thanks !” left me nonplussed and concerned about his relationship with the cousin in question.

Mikebreedlove is just one of a rather entertaining gang of weirdos imprisoned in my spam lounge. These include Elmira the serial killer, who finds that my blog is the « best place for knives »,  and a pseudo-philosopher going by the endearing name of “chronic pulmonary obstructive disease” who managed to upstage you beautifully with his profound statement: « A fabulous crony are probably not anyone, however an associate are forever your sibling.”

SPAM

The tastefully decorated exterior of the WordPress Spam Lounge. (Photo credit: AJC1)

My favourite spam lounge inmate to date, however, has to be “Church Fundraiser”, whose recent plea for help was heart-breaking.  His message was not intended to raise money for the widow and the orphan, as I had expected, but to enquire if I have any bright plug-in ideas so that the poor man could read my blog on his Iphone. Well, Church Fundraiser, I’m sorry to inform you that I don’t know anything about plug-ins for Iphones. I am an exceedingly boring technophobe who has a phone that just phones, and who prefers communicating with real people around me in public rather than hiding behind a smart phone to talk with the interactive Siri. (Ask Siri where you can dispose of a dead body. He will promptly give you the address of the local dump.) Mr Pious, I doubt that you will be taken seriously if you pull the latest Iphone out of your pocket during your crusade to crush rampant consumerism and defend the rights of the poor. My answer would therefore be that you should practice what you preach, sell the Iphone and feed an entire family with the proceeds for a couple of weeks. Unless, of course, you are not a church fundraiser, and are a spammer instead. God forbid….

So, Pam, there you have it.  Welcome to the spammers lounge. Have fun with sexy Mike, Church Fundraiser and a whole bunch of people who are impatient to feed you RSS (whatever that is), boost your traffic and otherwise make your blog the most popular event since Jesus parted the waters. I’m sure you’ll have a whale of a time. If you don’t, there’s a dictionary on the table in the corner. Read it.

Photo Challenge: From Above.

And another photo post! This week’s photo challenge:  From Above.

“Change your perspective on something. Share a photo of a subject which you shot from directly above.”

Here is a pic taken in the port at Looe, one of my favourite haunts back home in Cornwall.

Copyright Multifarious Meanderings

Copyright Multifarious Meanderings

Let’s change the picture….

I decided to do something a bit different today, and post my latest photography efforts. Those who follow the blog on a regular basis may remember that I won first prize in a writing competition recently. I thoroughly recommend getting yourselves over to the Expats Blog to read up on expats throughout the world, and exercise your writing talents without restraint in their two-weekly competitions.

After much hesitation about what to do with the prize vouchers, I decided on a lens for Candide the camera. I have been trying my hand at macro photography ever since – here are my first baby steps….