Marseille is under a cloud – literally

More musings from Marseillecropped-cropped-img_0072.jpg

Three huge fires today around the Marseille area and I mean huge. Whipped up, snarling and blazing full force with the angry mistral coaxing the flames and distruction.  Even in the city, the skies hang low part red and part grey and the air is acrid. A dirty barbeque without meat.

This almost describes the city itself: a total mixture of what is half beautiful, achingly beautiful but right now it is in self destruct mode.  My very first impressions of Marseille around 5 years ago  was that it was (and is in parts),  a wonderful city but with such shocking negatives that I would have  never considered living here. The ugly graffiti  is almost everywhere and I am not talking about artistic graffitti which does exist and is beautiful.  The two are not linked. The fact that most shops feel the need to have heavy metal shutters when closed to avoid vandalism, was an eye opener and something that I was not really used to ,coming more recently from a leafy London suburb.

Yet, I am not totally naive, I recall the Tottenham riots, the Brixton riots- a London constantly under threat.  I have lived in slighly dodgier parts of London before they too became more gentrified: Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith and between Wandsorth Common and Tooting Bec. Ok, I was closer to the Common but I used to run down to Tooting. I grew up having to use the Tube with the threat of IRA bombs.  Difficult times everywhere, then, now and forever I guess…

And so back to Marseille… the underbelly of this city is rotten, it’s dirty, it’s corrupt.  There is no respect.  People throw their rubbish in the streets, let their dogs poo without collecting, dump sofas, mattresses, wherever! There is no sense of service in many bars, restaurants or shops. One time, at the check out in a local supermarket, a product I had was lacking it’s barcode – the reaction from the person at the till was – do you really need this anyway? Really, really?? Would this happen in Waitrose- hmm, I don’t think so!

Solution time. It needs the equivalent of Rudy Guiliani to clean up this town as he did in NYC. It needs angels.  It needs a new mayor who is not surrounded by people chosen by  nepotism rather than merit (hopefully they are all about to retire). It’s too much of a melting pot, too many poor immigrants and angry drugged, armed people. A melting pot can bring wonderful  things but this is just water thin soup with no flavour.  It makes me sad. It could be grand. It could be magnificent. On Sunday, there was a shooting and two dead , 5 minutes from our flat..

Enough is enough but am still happy with Frog.

 

Advertisements

How the supper party nearly got scuppered…but then I learned a lesson!

cropped-img_0072.jpg
More musings from Marseille

So we finally got a date in the diary for a couple of friends of ours to come for supper last weekend. I had planned to do a delicious Moroccan tagine – chicken, olives and preserved lemons which is second to none apparantly.  I don’t like to boast but Frog lived In Marrakesh for 5 years, so he should know.

 

We met Frog’s brother by chance on Thursday at a local bar where we arrived for just one drink, get some fresh air and  to catch up on the week- just the two of us. Frog’s brother ( I have nothing against him) but he has the tact and sensitivity of a bull in a china shop or as they say in France “comme un elephant dans un magasin de porcelaine”.  I think that this image is actually  much more forgiving.

Suddenly our cosy evening for four, turned into a barbeque soirée, in the garden of one of their sisters, for nine people. I made mutterings about it how it might just be a tad rude to alter things especially since we had cancelled our friends last time when another sister was in town.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the way this family has welcomed me with open arms and I love spending time with them. There is always lots of laughter, great food, rivers of wine and a sense of belonging. I just didn’t want our evening to be hijacked. Our contribution was to be all the meat and some salads. No comment.  Frog said how lovely it would be to all eat outside.  Don’t forget that we have neither a garden nor a balcony attached to our teeny weeny pepperpot sized flat.  So I stopped making a fuss and just decided to go with the flow, not without, however, stamping my foot first by saying that I would not be preparing any food.

Needless to say, I spent Saturday afternoon preparing baby aubergine beignets (delicious) and Portuguese style carrots ( good but not the same as I used to eat in the Algarve.)  I gave in as we were stuck waiting for our new oven to arrive and thought that I might as well do something useful.  Oven never did arrive and do you know what ? I was  not even surprised, I felt it in my bones from the moment I woke up (inspite of an alloted time slot).  Thank you DARTY- it’s the last time you mess with me.  Oven hasn’t even arrived at the warehouse yet! For goodness sake – service, service? Happy to take money but not deliver…

However, the evening was great fun in the end. It was lovely and warm and for once I wasn’t attacked by mosquitos- are they getting used to my blood? Lesson learned: just stop trying to control everthing and get on with life….Still not sure why we had to provide all the meat though!

IMG_4076
aubergine beignets

 

IMG_4081

IMG_4083
Photo I sent to Frog’s sister saying what a nice evening we had in her garden during her absence.  She laughed.

Thoughts please….

 

 

August in a ghost town

More musings from Marseille

IMG_0001

August is here again and after the excitement of the annual jazz festival at Palais Longchamp the city has become eerily quiet.

The Seal concert that we went to  last Friday  at Palais Longchamp was just brilliant. It was a balmy night and the setting  was stunning.  Seal did not disappoint either: a mixture of old and new delivered with energy and real passion. I have been listening to his music all week ever since; in the gym as I have pounded away  and at also at home – full blast!  Frog, I sense, is becoming slightly bored and has resorted to wearing his headphones most of the time.  Maybe it’s just to drown out my off key warbling.  I never really know the words to songs anyway, which I admit,  must be totally annoying.   Just as well he has a good quality headset that drowns out both my “singing” and my talking.   I know, however, I know that he is listening to Shakira and Selena Gomez.  Perhaps I shall dedicate next week to singing along to Justin Beiber and then he will be sorry…

IMG_0008
Seal sang for a blissful 2 hours

Anyhow,” I seem to have digressed”, a nod to the late Ronnie Corbett  as I push my glasses back up my nose.  Marseille is particularly quiet in August, like so many cities in Europe, everything shuts for the holidays. So those that stay tend to be office workers, tramps and pigeons. I don’t think I fall into any of these categories but then I never did (forgive what I’m about to write next as it’s truly dreadful) like to be pigeon-holed . Yuk- get a grip!

So on Thursday morning, I set off for one of the local flower markets to find a replacement for the extraordinally beautiful orange lillies that had lasted me a whole week – 5 stems for 5 euros – a snip! No market. On holiday!

IMG_4061

IMG_4074
I did find some wonderful mini aubergines that will serve as a replacement for flowers until I cook them

Next stop -my favourite butchers that has a walk around counter with wonderfully presented cuts of meat. Unlike most of it’s competitors, not a feathered chicken,or rabbit head in sight. That  makes me heave and  I could almost consider the idea of becoming vegetarian.  The whole place is spotlessly clean and the  jovial staff are usually discussing recipes. Alas, they too were shut.  Ditto the fishmongers. Are we meant to fast this month? Luckily the supermarkets stay open and some until quite late but it’s not the same. They are even open now on Sunday mornings for those that aren’t organised enough to plan the weekend’s food on Saturday i.e. me!

IMG_4073
Closed metal shutters with “annual  holidays” to be found all over town.

Will I ever get used to shop hours here anyway? Like much of Europe, they tend to open late ( after 10.00am), shut for a longish or really long lunch and stay open until about 7ish or whenever they fancy. This includes La Poste. I should be greatful that proper post offices still exist here, unlike the UK but the timing just doesn’t suit me . I am not on holiday and I need to get things done.*

As the month rolls on in this blistering heat, only interrupted by the rather angry Mistral wind (it plays havoc with my already unruly hair) , I know that I shall get used to the emptiness around  and by September when people return to town, back to work and back to school, I shall feel a slight resentment for this noisy invasion.  Well there is no pleasing some…..!

*For those of you that read my previous blog – The Rant part 2 ” and are anyway interested, I did finally got my toothbrush charger but mysteriously I found a slip in my post box to say that the postie had tried to deliver my package on Tuesday. Yet this slip did not appear until Saturday.  Très bizarre! So another trip to La Poste to collect it, that is when they reopened after lunch.

 

 

Introducing Mr Chicken Wee-Pants

IMG_3545

So we had “metro” man and various other categories over the years . I would like to propose another one if I may … Mr Chicken Wee- Pants and at his very worst he will be Mr Chicken Wee-Wee Pants. This is a man that is definately masculine, forthright if not bullying in his opinions ranging from sports, politics, economics, the future of the world, gay marriage etc…. yet… He is also not adverse to a facial, a manicure or a pedicure during which he squeals like a piglet!  Put him infront of something slightly scarey on screen and I mean slightly and he turns into a mush of fear, cowering behind all cushions available, looking between scissored fingers and gripping on to legs of anyone next to him. Well really Mr Chicken….!

The Rant – Part 2!

IMG_4049

 

It would seem that getting a parcel from the UK to France is a very tricky affair, especially if the sender has paid extra to ensure it’s arrival.  I am beginning to think that the French customs at Roissy ( goodness knows where that is), see a package that is marked “suivi” and they clap their hands in glee …”allez on va s’amuser” as they twirl their moustaches!

Last year “dear friend” sent me an innocent package : a book and a lilac scented candle, knowing how much I love the smell of lilac trees in spring.  It was posted in April using a superior and  what I imagine to be  an expensive courier system.  I finally got to open my parcel in June after many visits to La Poste, phone calls and emails- grrr!

This time it’s a case of having left my toothbrush charger in London at my daughter’s flat.  Good daughter posted it immediately  by recorded delivery on July 9th .  It arrived in Rouissy again (the home of all confiscated parcels) on  July 12th.  How the hands of the customs men must smart after all their glee clapping and twirling of moustaches! So last week, realising that my toothbrush was fast running out of juice, I decided to chase up my package.  Many hours on the phone ensued: answering various automated options and surprise, surprise, I was actually understood; only to reach  a message telling me that there were no available representatives to help me at the moment.  They were obviously all off dancing with the twirling moustachioed customs men!  I persevered as is my wont when faced with a challenge like this, knowing all too well that I will end up red faced, cross and having achieved little else during the day.

Finally, I got through to a very charming lady of probably African decent and with both of us having foreign accents, it took us a while before she could track my package . Success it was in the system! Failure it was not a package but a letter after all and so she could not help me!  How can a toothbrush charger be classed as a letter? I would have to telephone the same number again and repeat the process. Bonkers! And of course all lines were too busy to deal with my call.  No doubt by this time, all phones were off the hook and every one was having a very merry time indeed! The next option was to send an email outlining my plight. I cannot tell you how hard it was to find the email link, so deeply buried was it in the website but years of watching detective series proved to be very useful indeed.  A couple of days later, a reply pinged its way into my mailbox.  A loose translation was “dear Madame” if you feel that your letter has been lost then please get in touch with the Royal Mail. Double grr and shaking of fists! A very apologetic and” I know this is ridiculous  but” message to Royal Mail  was sent and a very swift reply arrived. Basically if there is no sign of my toothbrush charger after 20 days after the day it should have been received, then a number of steps can be taken by the sender to get compensation from the UK.  All very clear ,so hat’s off Royal Mail or “chapeau” as we say in France.  Some translations are almost exact but not many!

So reader, if anyone has actually lasted this long, I gave in and bought another electric tooth brush – a basic one with no timer but the charger works on my slightly more flashy one.  Toothy pegs are shiny and squeaky clean but I have not given up.  August 20th is the day when a claims process can be put in motion, funnily enough my daughter’s birthday.  Sorry, I will double check not to leave anything behind next visit.

In the meantime, “dear friend” has sent me another “tracked parcel.  I might just have to invest in some moustache wax, a bottle or two of decent wine, don my dancing shoes and pay a visit to the depot in Roissy. A bientôt!

 

 

From highbrow to eyebrow….

 

Highbrow bit (well almost)

So I moved to Marseille just over three years ago from  a quiet residential area in south west London. A solid, 4 bedroomed house with loft extension, decent garden front and back and now…

A tiny but charming first floor flat above a restaurant that has now closed permanantly. The Italian that ran it has run off back to Italy leaving a string of debts.  Opposite we have a new family run pizza restaurant which is good, a trendy wine bar which is kind of New York style and a  Domino’s pizza for the cardboard eating youngsters of the area. It’s buzzy without being too loud.   None of these  eateries, however, reflect the wonderful French cuisine of Provence. Yet pizzas are a real  favourite in this town.  From  proper restaurants, take-aways  to  vans, there is never a problem in finding a slice of pizza to eat.  Not great for the waistline, so I tend not to indulge.

However,  there is something completely different at the end of  the road. It’s less than a minute’s walk away if you are from London and 5 if you are local. It is  the majestic  Palais Longchamp – a bit like having Buckingham Palace next door without the security or the Queen. It houses  the musée des beaux -arts and  a natural history museum. Neither of which I have visited …yet!  It also plays host to the annual jazz festival.  I have tickets for the Seal concert this year, so a picnic in the park and some good music  will be enjoyed. I can’t wait!   Th palace gardens purport to be one of the most notable in France. I’m not really sure that I’d agree with that although it provides a home for some of the city’s best fed,  smug looking cats.  Like furry Christmas baubles, they hang from the trees, sprawl across the benches and stand guard in the bushes.  The gardens clearly belong to them.

IMG_0001

IMG_0003
Only two cats to be seen but they all look alike anyway.  Not smug on Monday as the stages were being constructed for the concerts this week.  So miffed moggies of Marseille!

Our road  (actually its a Boulevard- how grand!) is on the route for one of two tramlines in the city.The trams start at about 5  in the morning and they call out ‘ting ting’ to me every time they pass our window- I love how friendly they are. If I were ever to feel the need to escape, I could just jump out of the window, land on top of one and arrive at Le Vieux Port where a speedboat would be ready to take me to wherever – like they do in films.  As if!

IMG_4037
The Great Escape
IMG_0037_9
Le Vieux Port

Eyebrow bit

 I have never really paid  much attention to my eyebrows,  although I did have a brief attempt at plucking them when I was about 15 with rather unusual results.  So I left them well alone after that, feeling that in this particular instance,  Mother Nature had given me exactly what was right for my face.

After many years of wearing  a fringe, I recently decided to alter my look , mainly because it has always flicked up in the wrong places. So the  side sweep!  Hmm .  I was  quite liking this new look but something wasn’t right.  I finally realised that the eyebrows were sad and crying  out for attention after years of neglect. No, they had not turned bushy but just a bit faded and depressed.  Can eyebrows look depressed even?  So I  did some research. Who knew that eyebrows are such a hot topic?  What next, earlobes?  I never give them much thought either. Anyhow, I  bought myself a brow  pencil with a special brushy thing   that has a name (can’t remember and not that bothered) and a waxy stick that sets the brows in place.  Now it takes me double the time to do my make -up and I have to put my glasses on to do the eyebrow bit as I can’t really see anymore . Yet  even with my glasses on, I do risk ending up looking a bit like Groucho Marks . It’s so hard too know just when to stop. Perhaps I should just go back to the fringe?

IMG_4040

 

Musings from Marseille

 

IMG_0591

Just over three years ago, I moved from London to Marseille to start the second half of my life.  A brave move or madness? Only time will tell but I least I won’t have the ‘what if?’ question gnawing inside my head.

I am hoping to find a voice to share some of my experiences in a mainly light hearted way: day to day happenings, recipes, thoughts on life etc. Let’s see where this all goes…