Back to the real world, siiiiigh...
I had such a great time in Paris and Brussels. The weather was amazing, particularly given it's Autumn; the sun shone every day, I got some colour in my pasty pommie skin and I got to model all my new tshirts. Plus I got to spend an entire week with Salette, sleeping in every day, staying up late drinking cocktails, and getting tangled up and lost in each other. Paradoxically, we lost all track of time but the week just seemed to fly by. I was surprised (and delighted) how well we got along given we were never out of each other's company the whole time AND she got the flu towards the end. Coming back to gloomy old London was something of a let down, compounded by the separation anxiety I felt when I had to go home on Sunday night, and then I got sick on my first day of work.
Paris was Paris, only this time I got to see another side of it than the through the purely tourist lens. I didn't realise quite how many tourists there were until I started seeing other parts of the city, although there suddenly seems to be a law in France requiring everyone to smoke all the time and stare at my girlfriend. What the fuck, Frenchy? We stayed in a lovely hotel in the Marais with lots of windy little streets and cute cafes nearby. I got to meet Salette's brother who was on a detour from a work trip and I got the whole "what are your intentions with my sister" routine (luckily I had anticipated this and was prepared with a suitably laconic response). We ate loads of fabulous French food and got a hot tip from one of Salette's artist buddies on the best Italian place in Paris. We saw an amazing artists-in-residence centre that used to be the city funerial depot in the 1600's, so it was already a magnificent building, but they ripped the guts out of it leaving two massive open areas with modern workspaces and living quarters scattered throughout. It seemed like the whole of Paris turned out to see it on the open day and the bulk of the funding came from government which really gives you an idea of how importantly the Europeans view the arts. Contrast that with England where there's nothing even remotely like that kind of centre, let alone that level of funding for art, contemporary or experimental or otherwise; here it's all musical theatre and pantomime.
The highlight of the trip for me would have to be Brussels. It's a really wonderful city, quaint and clean and beautiful. The architecture is gorgeous and the streets are cobbled and plus there's hardly any tourists so you can walk around pretty much everywhere without being buffeted by the rampaging hordes or molested by armies of African dudes selling trinkets. We stayed in this lovely B&B with exposed beams and a mezzanine bedroom which was right across the road from the main prostitute pick up zone, although surprisingly it wasn't the least bit tacky or sleazy. We saw a brilliant live performance piece by a New York theatre company called 'Rambo Solo', where this guy described the book "First Blood" in it's entirety while behind him three video screens showed him doing exactly the same performance in his apartment at three different time periods. Seafood is big in Brussels, much to my delight, and the food was perhaps even better here than in Paris. We drank a staggering array of beers brewed by insane monks in ridiculously elaborate glasses and only barely made a dent in the available options. Salette did her annual clothes shopping pilgrimage to her favourite fashion designer and even let me pick out a couple of things for her to try on (she didn't end up buying any of my choices, though).
Can you believe it, Xmas is fast approaching and it looks like I'll be stuck in merry old England this year. It's stupidly expensive to fly back to Oz at that time of year and I'll only have accumulated 3 or 4 days of leave in the new job, so even if I could I couldn't. Salette is heading home to do family stuff in a cabin in the woods of Minnesota so it looks like I'll be hanging on like a solo...it's been a long time since I spent Xmas on my own so I'm not sure what to do with myself. They've just cut the price of an Xbox to £100 over here so perhaps a week of nerdy gaming locked away in my festering dungeon of manly funk would be a fitting xmas pressie to myself. I'm meeting Salette in San Francisco on Boxing Day so she can show me around her old stomping ground and show me off to her friends. We'll be there over New Year's as well so that will be cool. Have to start doing my research on all things San Fran...if anyone knows of anything worth seeing, help a brother out.
I started my new job this week and so far it's going swimmingly. Everyone's so nice! They've really welcomed me and gone out of their way to help me settle in. Granted, it's only day 2 so no doubt by this time next week they'll pull off their people masks and reveal themselves as the hideous alien fiends they are and attempt to lay eggs in my stomach. As you might have guessed, I'm still struggling to shrug off the robes of cynicism and suspicion of people who are being nice to me at work. It's been so long since I encountered genuine niceness and people pay attention to me because they're interested rather than acting out hidden agendas or using me to further their own ends. There's already a project lined up for me to start on, plus I've volunteered to write a pitch for some research work in the Czech Republic (which I've tentatively titled "Czech it out!"). I've got two weeks to settle in and get up to speed before diving in head first, which is exactly the way I like it.
Things couldn't be going better at the moment and the surest sign of that is I'm not in the least bit suspicious or expecting the other shoe to drop. I'm just making the most of the these good feelings and enjoying the change in fortune while it lasts...