Oh Là Là! French Progress Report

So here I am. I thought I’d give you the heads-up on my French progresses, that apparently are pretty remarkable (at least according to my course organiser, but then again, she has never heard me speaking my Frenglish, so I don’t think that counts. But I’m just going to pretend it does, for my own mental health and the sanity of everyone around me, including your lovely selves). On the bright side, my marks are quite wonderful at the moment, which I’m sure is determined by my superior French skills and not at all affected by the idiot-proof structure of the tests. Well, whatever the reason, one less thing to worry about. Though if I was taking this class to actually try and learn anything even remotely useful to me in the not too likely but still very possible chance I got stranded on a desert island, completely alone except for the dramatically dangerous presence of a francophone cannibal who pleaded to spare my life only if I could recite to him the entire Divine Comedy in French, well–then I’d have to revise my strategies I guess. Because right now, I’d be fucked. And that would be one full and happy cannibal. Lucky guy.

Anyhow, I am still getting something good from this course (though not properly what I was expecting): I met some really charming, loveable people (and I mean this. Who else would have accepted my crappy baking and tasted it without pulling a face? Plus, they were kind enough to lie and say it was good. Jee, people in this country are so friendly!). We hang out before and after classe, complain about the amount to work we have, and generally bitch around. How pleasing! I mean, I know I always have my adorable best best friends (N, if you are reading this, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ll see you again soon. Know that I love you even if you probably don’t remember my face anymore. Next time we meet, I’ll be the one carrying a red rose, with the pathetic sad expression in he eyes and weighing about 5000 kilos for having eaten 700 homemade chocolate chip cookies. If you aren’t reading this.. HOW DARE YOU? ADIOS!), but it’s nice to have people taking your same classes, people you can discuss lecturers with and that can give you a hand when things go wrong. And trust me, at some point, they will go wrong.

Everything else is just fine. Lectures are boring, work is way too much for a single human being to deal with, deadlines are too close to one another, students are having a nervous breakdown. Everything seems to be going exactly the way it should be. So this would be the point in which I showed you just how great an improvement I have made. Yes, well.. Sorry to disappoint you. See truth is, I had a small piece about family I wrote for one of my assignments, and I was going to post it here. This before I was struck by the lightening bolt of caution (yes, incredible but that actually happens every now and then. Only never when I’m trying to throw my love life to waste. Bastard). I am not sure if that kind of stuff is checked for plagiarism but what a sad sad joke would that be if I got busted for having published my own paper? So you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer, I’m afraid. I’m betting you’re really disappointed. Bummer, I know. But what can you do? I guess all those psychological games about plagiarism lecturers keep play finally got stuck into my head. Well down university staff. One more terrified writer in the world tonight.

Is any of you fascinating people studying French? How are you finding it? Can you speak any other language?

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On Relationships

When it comes to relationships, the world can be parted in three different, clear-cut categories: the ‘serial monogamists’, that jump from one relationship right into the next with a break merely long enough to be reputed respectable; the ‘sex addicts’, who don’t really look for relationship as long as they can find a willing partner to spend eternal nights of debauchery with; and, finally, the ‘eternally lonely’, the Bridget Joneses of the circumstances (and I do mean the original Bridget Jones here: the Mark-Darcyless, sorry excuse from a human being Bridget Jones), who find themselves drowning their sorrows in alcohol and hot chocolate solitary night after solitary night. Guess what category I belong to? But the last one, of course! Only I like to replace alcohol with hot chocolate.. doesn’t do any good to mix flavours (plus, liquor and I don’t get along very well. He’s mean to me, and so annoying as to unfailingly leaving me with a feeling of having unintentionally done some irreparable damage to my social life. And a nice, stinging headache in my right temple).

If you analyse the three aforementioned categories, you will notice that while the first two have, at least in some capacity and accordingly to the various situations, some sort of , if not resemblance to fun and happiness, and least an innate closeness to pleasure, whether it be physical or emotional, the last one is, in its innermost essence, basically and genuinely an horrific way of experiencing your love life. And having said that, how could I be tempted by the promising joys of boyfriends or sex-friends when I could be perennially and undeniably miserable for the rest of my days? I could not pass on that brilliant opportunity. So, since the age of twelve, I have basically made it my point to grow up to be a pathetic spinster, someone who will wake up at the crack of down every morning to go get the first newspaper (because who would want to get used news?), form the same pimply teenager with an oily baseball cap, just to run back home and start baking a whole lot of incredibly distasteful food no one will ever eat anyway. Apart from the herd of domestic mouses I will have adopted, that by that time will be completely house-broken and trained to chase away any human form that shows even the most remote form of impulse of coming near to my door. How does that sound for a bright future?

Alas! Who am I trying to fool? We all know that is only a plan B (and a particularly ingenious one, if I might add. Who else could come up with such a marvellously decadent, low-maintenance, Tim Burton-esque idea? Oh, also, now that I think of it, I want to be dressed like Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd while doing all the stuff I mentioned above. So gothic!). Obviously, plan A involves what every single girl on this planet (and I mean it, every single one, even those that swear it is not true, even the declared, hardcore feminists that claim it’s an insult to our feminine nature. Literally every single girl) and maybe some on other planets as well dreams of: Prince Charming on a white horse, come to save me from my prison bringing a shiny sword and armour. But my prince will have to come on a Harley Davidson (secret passion. Actually I could probably do with no prince if only I could have the motorbike..), save me from my self and my repeated attempts to crack my head open by bumping into furniture, and a big, old box of chilly chocolates.

You think that is not likely to happen? So do I, but hey, a girl has got to dream, right? And for someone whose most ardent dream has always been being a writer, finding Prince Charming actually seems like a piece of cake. Oh and Zeus, just so you know, it’s not like I believe looks are everything, but it’d be very very nice of you if just for once you could send someone that doesn’t look like a mad plastic surgeon decided to use him as a guinea pig for unearthly experiments. Much appreciated, pal. And it wouldn’t hurt to find someone who could actually read a whole sentence before falling into an enchanted sleep that can only be broken by the kiss of true video-gaming, because I may not be a smart kid, but I love to pretend so, and I’ve learned in time that surrounding yourself with smart people is a great way to look intelligent. Thanks, Zeus. I’m counting on you.

How do you all stand in the whole relationship business? Happily paired or in search of your soul mate? Any recipe for finding true love, or, at least, surviving the search?

On Baking

Sylvia Plath committed suicide at the age of thirty by sticking her head into the oven. Apart from being an interesting anecdote to pull out of your sleeve when dinner conversation is leaning on the humdrum side, this story illustrate with clear authority the fact that oven actually have many perks beyond being perfect storage places for books (you know, the inside of ovens is usually dry and dark. Perfect for preserving the natural quality of ink on paper). Personally, however, I’d rather use my kitchen appliances for more productive purposes than those perpetrated by dear Sylvia. After all, not only is a suicide in per se a singularly selfish way of behaving, but it also causes quite a great deal of hassle for the survivors. So don’t be so self-centred guys. Keep calm and bake on!

Yes, that’s true. I have just recently (and for recently I mean about 10 hours ago, when I woke up to my first day off in about a month and desperately craving chocolate-chip cookies. And you know how the world works, we’ve already talked about this. The gods are particularly nasty when you’re longing for something. They enjoy seeing you be continuously and repeatedly disappointed, so they make sure the fat old man standing in line in front of you decides to buy the last bag of packed happiness in the entire shop, even if we all can agree he probably wouldn’t even survive one bite before dying of diabetes. So unfair) started to appreciate the joys of baking. And let me tell you something, it’s such a sweet sweet pleasure. It’s not only about the fantastic taste of deliciously homemade goodies that make your spirits rise high above the clouds covering the oh-so-grey sky, it’s about the satisfaction of being able to taste a delicacy you’ve personally made from scratches, of knowing you have achieved something worthwhile. Could there be anything better? Well, yes. A naked young version of George Clooney (I’m thinking of the not-too-green but incredibly sexy E.R. version, with hair only slightly starting to turn to grey and not one wrinkle in sight, but the air of having lived so much life and seen things others couldn’t even imagine. YUMMY!) would be nice enough, but I’m not being too picky here.

One little spot of bother is that, contrary to what everyone says, cooking does not impede your appetite from violently showing up at inappropriate times of the day (or all times of the day. Every second of every minute of every hour of the day. What is wrong with you, young lady? You know, soon you will not be so young and so relatively fit, so you better start to keep your stomach in check). I mean, it does to an extent, but not in the sense that everyone usually understands. After you’ve been baking for hours you probably won’t feel hungry anymore (read ‘you’ll probably feel so stuffed you will want to die, and throw up on the food you’re preparing. Or the other way around, most likely), but that’s not because the mere act of handling ingredients suffices to your every culinary desire and affects your body as well as your mind. Not at all. You’ll be full because you’ll have been nibbling on every ingredient, raw or cooked, healthy or unhealthy. Anything you can reach with your dirty little hands, you’ll grab and stuck in your mouth (now, don’t be naughty. Not trying to be dirty here). And that is not hygienic. Nor healthy for that matter. And remotely disgusting, also. Don’t try it at home, kids.

So the result of my Great Frannish Bake Off is the following: one delicious Margherita pizza (plus a freezer containing the equivalent amount of pizza dough that would keep an entire six-people family from ever desiring pizza in their whole life-span), a quantity of cookies that would be considered fit to feed the American army in its integral reunion, one very very very full belly and no one to eat all the left-overs. Any volunteers? I thought so. I would gladly send a cookie to each and every one of you (trust me, I have that many) but, unfortunately, that won’t be possible. So I guess I’ll just have to make the sacrifice and eat the whole lot myself. What a pity. Well, if you see me next month weighing about 15 pounds more, you’ll know the reason. And you’ll know I had no choice. And you’ll know it was well worth it. Delving deeper into any kind of art has its price, and this time I am ready to pay. For the sake of succulent cuisine, of course. It’s a service to the entire universe. Zeus will understand.

Do you all like cooking/baking? Any interesting recipe to suggest?

On Not Being Up to the Task

I read somewhere (i.e. Facebook, but saying ‘somewhere’ makes it sound much more intellectual than it actually is: ‘Oh yes, I read so much stuff I can’t really be expected to remember where I get the infinite amount of information in my absolutely brilliant brain from’) that people that tend to be extremely punctual in life, especially those that are often early, suffer from a particular kind of neurosis. Well, I guess I always knew something wasn’t completely right with me, didn’t I? Yes, I am one of those annoying people that wakes up at three in the morning to get on a flight departing at 10, and that unfailingly submit the hard copy of their essays at least the day before the due date, just to make sure in case an asteroid fell on their flat, they’d still have the possibility to hand it in on time (and before you go ‘well, she’s just taking the idea to extremes’, you should be aware that for once I am not taking any literary licence: I do submit my essays one day early, and the chance of asteroids is indeed the primary cause for such behaviour). 

Punctuality is not merely strictly related to how long you make you’re friends wait at the corner of the street before they come to your place and drag a half-naked, scruffy-looking you down the street by the hair. It has lots to do with everything else you do in life: do you buy groceries regularly, or do you wait until your last chance to get food for the night is to ask the tramp who lives three block away for some stale bread? Do you have a laundry day every week or do you just but new underwear for a month before washing your clothes (apparently, my neurosis does not encompass all areas of my personal life..)? I realise, of course, that there’s a very fine line between organisation and OCD, and I may be crossing it every now and then, but I abide to the philosophy of ‘better safe than sorry’, and that has always worked out just fine for me. 

Which is why, on the eve of a quite important mid-term exam, with the terrifying knowledge of not having prepared enough, I am sitting on my bed typing away instead of coming up with some sort of makeshift quick-fix to an otherwise imminent disaster. What I mean is, when you understand there’s no way you can be ‘safe’, when it’s too late to ‘take no chances’, when your eyes are closing under the power of two sleepless nights (don’t let yourselves be fooled, excess of study is not the only cause of insomnia. Ask the idiotic neighbour who decided to set his kitchen on fire at three o’clock in the morning, forcing the whole building to evacuate. That if he is not dead by now. Very unlikely given the number of courses that have been uttered against him), and you see there’s nothing more you could possibly do to avoid colliding with fate, then.. What the hell! You can either give yourself a bleeding ulcer by spending the night worrying or you can say ‘fuck it’ and et on with your life. And in all honesty, I can think of about a thousand better reasons to give myself a huge hole in one of my major organs. So I’m going to stick with the ‘keep calm and carry on’ option.

It’s not that I don’t care, and I am painfully aware I created my own circumstances, but you know what? It’s not the worst mistake I’ll ever make. Actually, there’s not a worst mistake. You can always surpass yourself. Trust me, I have quite a record when it comes to that. Had I accidentally spilt coffee on my sister’s white trousers, now I’d be genuinely worried (not only because I wouldn’t probably survive such an occurrence, but also because I wouldn’t want to see my sister die of a heart-attack, and I don’t exclude it could happen). But this? I can fix this. I can fix almost anything (apart form my sister’s trousers. Coffee stains are extraordinarily stubborn, did you know? Though I could always dye them beige and pretend they never were white in the first place. Mmmh.. I’m not sure she’d go for that, but it’s worth a try. What’s a tiny little white lie to save one, maybe even two, lives?). So I’m going to tell my self I’m sorry, and that I’ll do better next time. And I’m going to take a look at those notes, because maybe I can’t really out my OCD aside completely. 

What do you all do when you know you haven’t done what you should have? Do you sit on the floor and cry or do you stick to being positive?

On Humour

Having a sense of humour is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Just look at that Leopardi guy. I mean, poor chap, he had a hump on his back and reeked (words of his one true love, apparently. I’m guessing she wasn’t particularly impressed by the man.. Pity, she would have saved generations of Italian students from the tragic endeavour of studying his poems), but still, don’t be so self-conscious! Take it easy and have a laugh, ’cause tomorrow you could wake up dead (one of my high school class mates used to say this all the time. I don’t really know what it actually means, though. How exactly do you wake up when you’re dead? Does your soul float above your body looking at it from the ceiling of the shabby room you sleep in, or is it just a general perception that doesn’t involve the senses but merely the emotional/psychological dimension? And does your psyche really survives the death of your physical essence? Zeus, I’m getting deep here). 

I have always been blessed with a very self-deprecating, sarcastic, ironic sense of humour, that has managed to get me through loads of difficult situation virtually unscathed. Well, I say blessing, because most of the time it is. Only sometimes it’s not. Like when I have a knack for figuring out people’s true weaknesses and then forget I shouldn’t be making mean jokes about them. Let me tell you, not the best way to make friends with someone. Or to cherish your health, for that matter. The truth is that there’s a fine line between playing around with meaningless words and spilling the beans on the ugly truth, and we should be very careful about what we say, and when. Real-life example? You don’t go about telling the boy you like he’s a drunk and he’s wasting his life. Hardly flirtatious. Blatantly very very dumb. And potentially part of the reason why you’re heading down the path of becoming an old maid, living in an isolated ranch with chickens as your only friends. And I’m speaking very hypothetically here, no personal reference whatsoever. Just a story some friend of mine told me. Uh-uh. 

Of course, you can use humour to make a point, and some of the best works of literature are living and breathing proof of it (thought I should really get over this idea that books are human. They are not, F. Mr Darcy is never coming to get you. Get yourself together and move on with your life. And possibly stop talking to yourself in the third person, because you’re freaking me out, girl). However, you should be aware that rather than being delighted by your cunning use of wit and phraseological skill, your addressee will generally feel quite pissed off. On a scale of one to ten, probably a good 25. If that’s your goal, than please do feel free to go ahead. Nothing more refreshing than a nice, long laugh at the expense of some pompous cunt that takes himself too seriously. But, in case you, just like me, don’t reflect to much before you snack.. oops! act, (Got the Mulan reference? If not, I’m incredibly sorry to tell you you have just failed your Disney animated motion picture exam, and will have to take an intensive class in order to make up for this outrageous void in your general culture) well then you might want to start thinking twice before you open your lovely mouth (and I literally mean twice, for we all know the first time you’ll be too distracted to consider the issue seriously, right? And yes, I said you wouldn’t be concentrated on the first attempt).

The things you say, whether they are calculated bullets whose trajectory has been accurately studied or clumsy half-words murmured without much thought, have one thing in common: you can’t take them back. And even when you’re just poking fun, you could hurt people, irritate them, make them wan to cut your tongue and have three billions ants feed on it. Just the normal sort of things. So pay attention. CONSTANT VIGILANCE (okay, don’t tell me you didn’t get the Harry Potter reference here, or we won’t be able to be friends anymore. And I really really want to be your friend, but I’m not sure I could possibly be able to keep from being cruelly sarcastic towards you after this shameful confession)! And just to be on the safe side, when in doubt, keep your lips sealed together, and ‘practice being kind, not right’ (fine, I’ll give it to you that this reference may not be particularly obvious. If you have recognised it, though, please know that we are soul mates, and I’l be waiting for you in Edinburgh, so that when we finally meet we will get married and have lots of children who will love clouds and end up being adorably screwed up adults). 

So, what do you all think about humour? Is it always used licitly or do we, sometimes, take it a bit too far? How long can you insist on a joke before it becomes nasty?

On Being Creative

As you may or may not hat gathered from my previous post, I like to think of myself as a creative person. That doesn’t mean I make incredible art which, when I eventually perish, and after the world will have mourned the loss of such a brilliant individual, will be sold for millions and millions of dollars (don’t ask me why, but these kind of things are always measured in dollars. It must have something to do with all that economic talk I am utterly uninterested in..). Far from that, I just pretend to do something of my life by means of putting down on paper (and, for your, i am sure, immense pleasure, in the cyberspace) a couple of weird ideas and doodles every now and then (yes, my astonishing talents extend to the world of the figurative arts as well as to the literary one. Encroyable!). This gives me the excuse for not having to bother with finding a part-time job, or dealing with real life: see, I am way to busy being the next Leonardo da Vinci to care about such ephemeral things like money and, I don’t know.. Physical exercise?

Fine, end of the self-indulging suspension of modesty. Truth is, I am not much of a creative spirit. Much as I would like to be original and inventive, I quite suck at it, to be honest. I often wonder how the great people get so many breath-taking ideas, where they get inspiration from, because they see things I would never be able to see, not even in a million years. But what can I do, it probably just wasn’t meant to be for me. Which is why I will end up spending my life trying all of the drugs on this planet in order to figure out the right combination that will allow me to soar beyond my mental limitations to reach the heights of philosophical and artistic thinking. That, of course, if I don’t die of overdose aged 26, leaving behind my fat, chocolate-fueled body, to be eaten by my 346 pigeons, that I had adopted in the hope of filling the void the lack of friends had left in me. Sounds like fun, huh? I bet you’re jealous now. I mean, who has such a detailed idea of what their life will be at the tender age of 21? I know, I’m lucky.

But, that is not the point (I bet I could make a career as a ‘digressor’. People would love me, appreciate me for who I really am, finally. People would call me up at lectures, and talks, and have me blahblahblah-ing my way to the end of functions without saying nothing significant, saving them from the painful experience of having to hear actual speeches given by boring individuals wearing expensive suits and Italian leather shoes, who don’t give a damn whether their audience have fallen deeply asleep and is snoring and drooling). The point is, it’s not easy to be creative. Maybe (and I’m using ‘maybe’ here just because I don’t want to sound like a pretentious bitch and go for the slightly stronger ‘there’s not way in hell this is the actual truth, so whoever believes this is a fucking idiot’. I am a lady after all) creativity is a quality that is inscribed in our DNA, and there’s nothing we could do about it. But maybe (and this time I mean ‘this is an objective reality, and any discussion on the matter would be completely pointless, because we all know I am right. But then again, I always am..) we could help our brain cells develop a strategy, stimulate them in order to make them work harder.

I guess the process of creating something new and authentic, like any other endeavour, has its own rules, and could not be completed (nor started, for that matter) without the right circumstances. It’s a little bit like trying to get laid, I guess. I mean, we all have it in ourselves (and I say all of us, literally, because if Berlusconi still manages to have sex, then we all can). But we need to set the right ambience, make some research, make time, take it slow, find the right light, and space. What I am saying is we have to make love to our creative side, indulge in the things he likes (and if likes cookies, so much the better! What can a girl do about it?), make him fell comfortable and desired. And not because he is a jerk and won’t show up unless we cherish it and pray for it to make an appearance, but because he is giving us the thrill of the chase, and our pleasure will be ever sweeter when we eventually catch up with him and go: ‘wow, I did not think I could actually do this!’. 

How do you all get in touch with your creative selves? To you have specific rituals or to you go with the flow of the moment?

On the Best Ideas

Have you ever noticed how the best ideas always come to your mind when you absolutely can’t (or won’t) put the pen down on paper and write them all down? It usually happens to me when I am in bed, lights out and trying hard to sleep, because really, I am aware that missing all of my ten-o-clock lectures is not the greatest idea ever. Ideas don’t give you any warning. I always had the strange thought that if something big was going to come, I would be able to feel it, that my mind would send me signs, and if I were good enough, I would be able to interpret them right. But the truth is, you don’t get any warning. Ever. I lie awake in my bed, eyes closed and mind babbling incessantly (my inner self is annoyingly talkative. I wonder where it gets that from..), and then all of a sudden it’s like a bomb goes off into my brain, but it’s a radioactive bomb, and I begin to see things that I would never had thought could be there before. Just like that. It happens just like that. 

What I really don’t understand is why our minds try to keep us on the edge, never knowing whether we are going to get a good idea or we’re going to break down and fail miserably. They like to play with us and let us believe we are a lost cause. But they never really let us down, do they? I guess we have to be pushed to the brink of collapse before we realise we have it in ourselves to save the day. And bloody hell, we really really do. It’s like in one of those Richard Curtis’s romcoms, when the hero has fucked things up so badly he seems to be utterly unable to pick himself up and do something about it. And you really feel sorry for him, even though you know it’s going to be fine (for fuck’s sake, it’s a comedy. It has to end in ‘happily ever after’ or they’re going to have to give me my money back. Plus a big allowance to cover for my emotional damage. And a house at the Bahamas. Oh, I’d love that! Fine, maybe I am getting a little bit ahead of myself here..). You can’t help being a little bit sad. But then something happens. A miracle, a breakthrough, an enlightenment (a stray dog guiding the hero straight into the arm of his heroin, a car engine dying right in front of the heroin’s house and so on so forth). Call it whatever you like. It’s not much of a surprise, but it still gives you that pleasant shiver running down your spine and makes your face open up in a big big smile. ‘There you go, I knew it would happen’, is what you think. And it’s an oh-so-lovely feeling.

Whoever says that life is nothing like films or books understands nothing about life. Yes, I do realise that basing my moral compass and code of behaviour on that of my favourite characters does not always guarantee the best results (ask my credit card. It was never quite the same after I decided that going on a shopping spree worth of Becky Bloomwood would be good for my health). However, the stories we see and read can teach us a thing or two about life, because they are a pretty accurate reflection of it. And one of the things I enjoyed learning the most, is that no matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how much I screw up (and trust me when I say that I’m incredibly good at that. And I mean better than average. A talent I am hoping I won’t be able to pass on to the next generation. Oh ,imagine lots of teeny tiny me bumping into furniture and scratching their knees every ten minutes. Oh, Zeus help us all!), there’s going to be an happy ending. And sometimes it won’t be what I expect, and I might not like it at the beginning, but I’s an acquired taste, and I’ll grow to adore it, and cherish it.

Be determined in your desire not to give up on the film of your life until you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if dim, even if sort of shadowy and strangely creepy. You never know what is going to bring you, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be okay. I know, I know. What does okay mean? Will I get the guy or will I end up sitting on the floor, eating ice-cream and chocolate-chip cookies with my girlfriends while I try to move past the worst break up ever? Will I be a doctor, a lawyer, a writer, or will I fail and be a stay-at-home mum? Does it really matter? It will be okay. Kids turn the lights off and sleep, no matter how scared they are of the monsters under their beds. Because it will be okay. So hit the switch and hop on this ride. Because it will be okay.

 

(With lots and lots of love to my adorable T. <3)