As the title suggests, this is a bit of a rewind to cover the various little events worth noting since my last regular post in January.
Way way back at the beginning of February it was Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day. While this is not the most festive of holidays, for those of us far from home it is nonetheless a good occasion to get together and celebrate our roots. Naturally, this developed into a whole roast-lamb shebang chez moi. The Kiwi tunes were flowing, and as you can see below we even managed to accumulate a wee shrine to Aotearoa as a centrepiece. I took on the challenge of preparing the main event – the leg of lamb – and it turned out perfectly if I may say so myself. To be honest, I found the flavour a little disappointing, but it was beautifully cooked which is what I had control over, so I’ll take it! I highly recommend Jamie Oliver’s ‘place lamb directly on oven rack so juices fall onto potatoes below while everything cooks’ technique. Definitely worth the elbow grease required to clean up afterwards. Spuds, pumpkin, peas, pavlova and tiramisu, what more could you ask for on a Sunday evening! It was so nice to have people over not for a party but a civilised dinner round one big table, and sharing a taste of home with a select few non-Kiwis. There were a lot of cultural references which went over their heads, but I think everyone had a ka pai time. Merci les amis!
Attentive readers of the blog will remember that back in October I supposedly made a resolution to eat less meat. Well, aside from the obvious exception above, and the meat-fest in Scandinavia, it really has been going well! I usually eat fish twice a week at work, and chicken once at home, and that’s generally it unless there’s some kind of special occasion that pops up. I’m really proud of myself! It’s been a lot easier than I expected, and I really don’t think about the fact that I’m not eating meat. Au contraire, at the risk of TMI, the sudden Scandi meat marathon was a bit of a shock to my system which did not leave me feeling great. That was affirming at least!
As if the quasi-vegetarianism wasn’t enough, February brought with it another challenge when my flatmates Mathilde and Gus announced they would be abstaining from alcohol for the month. For them, this was A Big Deal. With another friend giving up alcohol as well, and another coffee, the pressure was really on me from all sides to join in the challenge, and with something that really WOULD be a challenge. I thought about giving up meat entirely, but as I mentioned last post that just wouldn’t have been doable in Scandinavia as someone with a very limited palate for fish (though I’m getting better!). In the end, I ended up with…chocolate. Not just chocolate, but anything chocolate related – I had a blanket ban on anything with the slightest whiff of cocoa in it, and this is where the real challenge lay. I’m a total chocoholic, but in the sense that I will always go for the chocolate option, more so than actual chocolate itself. This year has changed a little as my colleagues ALWAYS have chocolate in the office and it’s just there asking to be absent-mindedly snacked on (a driving factor for this challenge), but really, I never buy it. No hot chocolate while sitting in the snow while watching the northern lights though? No lovingly home made chocolate cake to warm me up after dog sledding? No dessert 11/12 days I was on holiday eating in a lot of nice restaurants because I couldn’t have the chocolate option and nothing else appealed? THAT was tough. But, as I am stubborn before almost anything else, I stuck to my guns, and did it! I am totally on the rebound now though as my parents brought me a shoeboxfull of Whittakers/Bohemien chocolate from NZ that I am still working my way through. Sharing is caring but it’s just not diminishing! I have little choice but to eat my way through it all to get rid of it once and for all…
Poupou Huia Te Reo
I don’t think I have actually mentioned this at all but since February I have been taking a Te Reo Maori course online. It’s through Te Wānanga o Raukawa, based in Otaki, and totally free for New Zealand citizens. It’s 13 weeks all up and we’re currently half way through. It started the week my parents were so I have been perpetually behind…that is until last weekend I finally caught up, to the point where I can’t do any more because they haven’t put the materials up yet. What a feeling! It’s definitely interesting learning a new language totally from scratch, with no other knowledge to help as a shortcut. Of course I know some basic vocabulary already, but in terms of grammatical structure and everything it’s totally different. I feel like we’re finally getting into the swing of things and starting follow patterns from one thing to the next, whereas at the beginning it was more introducing discrete vocab that we didn’t really have the means to sew together past the phrases we were being taught. Though I am diligently writing in my vocab notebook I’m under no illusion that I’m not retaining much. I know I’ll be fine for the assessment and getting through the course but for ‘real life’ purposes I definitely need to make more of an effort to productively use the language. Obviously, this is not so straightforward when living in France! But my Kiwi friend Lucy here is doing it too, and we are full of good intentions to get together for a kōrero , we are just yet to make it happen… If anyone else is doing this course, or can speak some Te Reo, please let me know! And for anyone interested, I definitely encourage you to consider taking this course – there’s a second intake in July. It’s not easy, and definitely requires commitment to stay on top of things, but will for sure be worthwhile! Unfortunately the website is under reconstruction at the moment but keep an eye on it if you’re interested.
One of my extracurriculars that I have mentioned before is the choir I’m in at work. It’s been going really well, and we had our first concert a few weeks ago. This was a fundraising concert with two other choirs out in the wops of smalltown France, about 40 minutes from Lyon. It was (surprisingly) a really fun night! Despite the fact that the average age of my choir is about 50, we were the youngest and most sprightly ones there. My fellow choristers are all young at heart and were really quite naughty when it came to ummm commenting on the other choirs. We were the second group to perform, with a set of 7 songs that lasted about half an hour. Feedback from the audience was great and it was honestly just such a great bonding experience for the group! We had a practise beforehand, then time to sit around and eat before the concert, which was the first time a lot of us actually had the chance to talk to each other. It was especially nice to spend more time with Tanguy our director as well. We’re now working towards another concert in June, celebrating 15 years of the choir. We’re already working on two more songs to add to our repertoire. Unfortunately our practise day is Monday, and there are about 38423846 public holidays on Mondays this year, that’s probably as much progress as we’ll make. Watch this space…
Something that’s been absent from the blog (and my life) for a while is visitors! Tourist season is cranking back into gear though. Kicking it off in March was Eleanor, a fellow QMC old girl and – more notably – alumna of the national champion Sweet Margaritas barbershop chorus (now that is a throwback to a past life). She was really lucky as we had a beaut weekend with sun properly coming out for the first time, which made it so easy to spend the whole weekend just wandering round the city. What’s more, this meant that she projected an excellent impression of Lyon back to all her
Parisian acquaintances. Success!
Eleanor was followed a couple of weeks later by Ania, one of my buddies from summer camp who is still working in Leysin. Unlike Eleanor, Ania has had a few flying visits to Lyon, and had extremely bad luck with the weather each time. This time at least she was here long enough to get a basic Lyon 101 tour, even though it was close to bloody freezing. After not seeing each other for six months though spending Saturday night with face masks, a chick flick and a rather large bottle of wine was absolutely perfect. A sunnier visit is already on the cards..surely, surely, persistence has to pay off?? A rotisserie chicken in a park is riding on this! Also in the past couple of weeks plans have fallen into place for two separate visitors from home June which I am very excited about. Think of the blog fodder!
Change has been afoot chez nous with Léna moving out at the end of March and Noémie moving in. She has done an admirable job of fitting in with the rest of us crazies! Unfortunately, her arrival coincided with two separate plumbing leaks that have taken weeks to resolve, so it has been a bit of a baptism by fire. Hopefully things will settle down now. I shall have more to report after we have her flatwarming in a couple of weeks.
Today is Easter Monday and the start of two weeks of school holidays. I didn’t do anything special for Easter except for maintain my annual tradition of making hot cross buns. This week I don’t have much on the agenda except for sleeping and getting on top of the work I have to do for the rest of the semester. Next week I am off to London for five days which I’m looking forward to! I don’t have much planned as I am mainly going to see friends, but I’m looking forward to a change of scene (and one that is a bit more relaxing than my last holiday…).
So that’s what’s been happening in my life! As always, no idea when the next update will come. Perhaps at the end of May once the semester has finished, which I’m sure will be here in the blink of an eye…