Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A nanny picked up a wrong boy

For most Parisian parents summer break means desesperate searching for a nanny to take care of the children after the holidays. 

Parisian parents search for more and more cost-effective solutions and an ever-changing Moroccan or Senegalese nounou had become a rule. It goes whitout saying that the nanny's hourly rate is very small, around 3,5 - 4 € in Paris ares, in the countryside even less. The poor kid never knows who is waiting for him at the school gate. 

My daughter's school director especially advised parents to present the nanny and the child to each other beforehand to avoid what happened the first day of school last September: a nanny picked up the wrong boy. For the nanny all white blond haired six-year-old Jean-Pierres with striped shirts and navy-blue pants looked somehow similar. Also the boy was used to changing black faces and didn’t protest either.  He thought he was in the nanny’s house when he was, in fact, taken to the other boy’s home. 

As far as the right boy was concerned, the school director, used to some dysfunction at the beginning of the school year, kept him busy in an after-school sports class, confident that somebody would collect him sooner or later. What a shock for the parents coming home and seeing an unknown boy at the dinner table instead of their own dear Jean-Pierre!  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The very last Pot au feu 

After many unpleasant surprises, this time the bank balance cheered me up. The Bank Mediator had done his job and my own bank had reimbursed the unfair commissions. A nice amount had dropped into my account. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day. We decided to celebrate this and go to a restaurant. We haven’t been dining out for a long time now and Laura was exited. We headed to a small restaurant not far from home, famous of their pot au feu. We had passed many times by the window and looked at the happy customers inside. We have glanced at the menu dreaming to go there one day. We sat by the window, happy to now be those lucky ones inside. We had just taken a sip of our aperitifs when we heard an angry man’s voice from the kitchen followed by woman’s plaintive voice. We thought an unhappy love affair was taking place in the kitchen. 
   Small Parisian restaurants are often run by a couple; a husband cooking and the wife serving tables. After a while we saw our waitress running down the street. A few minutes later we saw her heading to the kitchen’s back door with salad leaves in her hands. We hoped that the marital problems wouldn’t spoil the cooking.

Some other clients had just sat down, when a man in a black suit, carrying an attaché case entered the restaurant. He was followed by two gorillas. They headed directly to the kitchen, and we heard violent shouting and arguing. When our waitress came out from the kitchen she had fallen mascara all over her cheeks. She said pot au feu was on its way but the oven had just broken and they couldn’t make the day’s entrée which was hot croutons de chèvre. With a smile she proposed salad instead and poured me one more Kir for free. Even Laura got another orange juice. The baguette à l’ancienne was freshly baked and Laura couldn’t help taking a fourth piece of bread. I advised her to leave some place for the salad and main course. When I glanced out the window, my eyes caught the two gorillas. They carried something metallic and heavy to a van parked on the other side of the street. I realized it was an oven. So far so good. Pot a feu is cooked on a stove, so no oven was needed. It would be ready before the bailiff came back, in case he would like to take the oven as well.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In pyjamas in the corridor

It was around eleven p.m. when my mobile phone rang. It was Jee Eun Kim who urgently needed my help.
-          Take a taxi immediately. Once on your way call me back so that I can give you the correct address, Jee Eun Kim said.
-          Look, Madam, I am sorry but I don’t have any cash to take a taxi and I can’t use my credit card either. I’m below my balance, I objected.
-          Well, then I’ll send you the car, she said.
Twenty minutes later I was sitting in the Jaguar. The driver was listening to some Sri Lankan music and sang along now and then while driving. He was seemingly used to takeing the car out of the garage in the middle of the night every time Jee Eun Kim called. We were heading to rue du Bac where Jee Eun Kim’s young nephew had moved from South Korea two days ago. I was already used to my boss’s young relatives, all from rich families, who stayed regularly in Paris and needed all kinds of practical help. They seldom spoke any other language than Korean and were all on their way to be movie stars or fashion designers. All alone in Paris without family support, they became vulnerable and easy targets for crooks and pickpockets. This one was called Jo Soon Sook and he was in Paris in order to study at some expensive international university where you don’t need any French or even English skills, and of which the diplomas won’t give way to any serious job in France but are exotic souvenirs once back at home.

   When we arrived at the chic property an adolescent looking young man in pajamas was arguing half in English half in Korean with a locksmith. To compensate the missing common language they gestured wildly towards the apartment’s locked door. The unscrupulous locksmith was requesting no less than several thousand euros for unlocking the door with his bump key. It is a common habit in this industry to take advantage of a panicked foreigner’s delicate situation. However, it is illegal and can be reported. I got involved and finally managed, by threatening the locksmith, to bargain the price down to five hundred euros. I was curious to learn how the young man ended up in pajamas in the corridor. He explained something confusing about bad dreams. To make sure he wouldn’t do anything stupid, I accompanied him into the apartment. Whereas most foreign students live in a seven square meters rat hole on the sixth floor with no lift, this fils à papa had not less than two hundred square meters for himself only! And all the space was nicely decorated.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Chairs broke in AirBnB appartment

When searching an AirBnB appartment in Paris area one can find more than 10 000 proposals. My best fried Kate, an american, works in AirBnB and makes tourist check-ins and check-outs  in five different luxurous appartments. She called me to tell me about the accident that happened to her previous customers, a Dutch couple who rented the Quai Montebello apartment for a romantic week-end. The apartment is located in a three hundred year-old building with exposed beams and decorated in medieval style to attract tourists. The showstopper is a gothic style mahogany wooden dining table with throne like chairs at both ends. The replica chairs possess a high arched back with a curved, pointed top and ornate cutouts. Kate is convinced that the apartment is always fully-booked because of this impressive dining set. Anyhow, the young Dutch couple had ordered a nice dinner from a French caterer, which they enjoyed in candlelight. The night was cold and they had put the electric heater on next to the dining table. Each sitting on their throne like a queen and a king they could only hear a slight creaking before they both found themselves sitting on the floor. Fallen down like in the French revolution. Both chairs had broken into pieces. Kate told me they had already been broken before and the owner’s cousin had repaired them with superglue. The Dutch couple were not overweight but both were very tall. Close to the electric heater, the glue started to melt and the chairs couldn’t carry the heavy holidaymakers any more. 

Kate had already pointed out many times how hard it is to keep all the furniture intact as well as the kitchen and bathroom equipment running because most of the tourists are used to modern buildings with more up to date installations. They don’t flush the toilet with the same delicate touch the French do. Once pushed down by a barbarian it is broken. Foreigners can’t stand a dripping faucet either. They over tighten it until it turns all the way around. This is added to the fact that, the Greek owner is more willing to gain money than spend it on maintenance. According to Kate she gets mad about any repair request. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Big boy's toys showcasing in Bourget
-          I would like you to accompany me to a meeting this afternoon to take some notes, my boss Jee Eun Kim said when I arrived in the office this morning.
-          Sure. In the Athena Palace Hotel’s bar as usual? I asked knowing that she seldom met her business part ners in the office.
-          No, this time it will be at the Bourget Air Show, she replied.
-          Excuse me? You are talking about the international fair where the French defense industry companies present their latest toys to foreign armies? I asked.
-          Yes. Big boys’ toy shop, she smiled satisfied at my astonishment.
-          Do I need to book tickets? I asked.
-          I have two invitations here, Jee Eun Kim said holding me the cards.
She drove her Jaguar by herself in the afternoon when we headed to the Bourget Air Show. After a security check we entered the military airport, showcasing the latest military products of French and foreign companies. We soon realized it was a no woman’s land. Literally, as I and my boss were the only women around. We walked through full size cockpits where ultramodern flight display solutions were presented by defense companies’ male representatives to their male clients. It was not like a car show with half-naked women lying on the engine bonnets. It was more serious except that some clients couldn’t hide their childish joy when testing the latest flight simulators.

The day was shiny and my boss had her white lace umbrella to protect her ever-young skin from the UV-rays. Finally having my social Navigo card I had stopped scooter biking and started to wear skirts again. As I didn’t know beforehand that I would be attending an air show, I was wearing a skirt too short for the occasion. I was now asking myself whether we looked like serious war makers, my boss with her umbrella and I in my skirt. Or rather a pimp with a Ukrainian hooker. Strange enough, men didn’t look at us at all. Too charmed by the glittering army toys. We crossed delegations from Middle and Far East dictatorships. Asian delegations were as big as whole army sections or even squads. They walked in military formations in their Mao-like uniforms and looked down when passing us.

 Jee Eun Kim was supposed to meet French defense company representatives. But something went wrong and the meeting was councelled. We wanderied between fighter jets, combat helicopters and air crafts. Some army representatives politely explained to me how their peace keeping equipment was supposed to be used. Some others waited until male customers showed up before starting their sales pitch. ​My boss looked bored and the sales officers couldn't guess that I hadn’t brought my shopping list either. Because, according to a military point of view, I was representing a neutral country. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tourist get crooked by fake petitions

Paris is the world's most visited place, but the square behind Notre Dame was now empty of tourists. 
I still saw some children having fun on the playground behind Notre Dame. I first though they were holidaymakers from India wearing Saris. When I got close I recognized the Romanian gypsy pickpocket gang. They were eight girls of about ten, some of them maybe twelve. It is difficult to tell their age because they are constantly undernourished and don’t grow tall. The new comers were wearing long flowered skirts, headscarves and colored socks in their sandals. The others looked like any Parisian teen girl in their skinny jeans and leather jackets. They try to abandon their traditional looks as soon as possible because it is neither easy to run away fast nor merge into a crowd when wearing a longue skirt.
   This gang is acting close to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Their tactic is to ask tourists to sign a petition for a fake organization. Both to avoid any speaking and gain more sympathy the gypsy girl pretends to be deaf-mute. She holds a paper on which she has photocopied known handicap organizations logos. Right after signing the tourist realizes, too late, that next to the signature there is a blank place for an amount to pay. This is a kind of a double-scam. In addition to the fake charity money they place the list against your belly in a way that they can lift your wallet or mobile phone while you are occupied to sign.
   Now the fake petitions were negligently thrown on the ground. One of the girls snatched another's flowered scarf and ran around the playground like mad. Others tried to catch it and followed her laughing out loud.
Million euros a year
I used to look at these teen mothers with hate and anger when they carried babies and begged for money in plaintive voices in the metro. Like most people I couldn't understand why they would have babies when they were living a miserable camp. Then I heard about the collective rape punishments to those who didn't bring enough stolen money at the end of the day. Some time ago French police dismantled a Europe-wide ring of organized pickpockets called the Hamidovic clan. Mister Hamidovic and his sons purchased young girls from poor families in Bosnia Herzegovina and brought them to Paris to pickpocket every day form 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The girls were told to give Hamidovic every time the police asked their name. Mister Hamidovic himself was living in luxury thanks to these children who brought in altogether more than one million euros yearly income.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Special Forces guy protecting bagel store
I almost broke my arm when I hurried back from work and rode the scooter bike too fast. I took a short cut through an oyster stand on the street corner and my front wheel slipped on an empty shell. I was lucky to escape unhurt and the oyster man helped me back on my wheels. I collected the empty lunchbox that was ejected from my handbag by the shock and had found its way to the oysters.

It was one of those cloudless starry evenings. A couple of white swans followed each other down the Seine River while I rode across the bridge. Illuminated buildings looked golden contrasting the black velvet sky and the black flowing water. An armed patrol of six soldiers in camouflaged battledress had stopped in the middle of the bridge to admire the view without loosening their grip from their semi-automatic rifles, deeply touched by the beauty of their new battlefield. I couldn’t help thinking that they wouldn’t be like that on this bridge now without Dietrich von Choltitz, the general who disobeyed Hitler’s orders in 1944. He was supposed to destroy Paris but even a career military officer can have such a strong affection for this magnificent city that he risked his life and reputation for it. 
Since the beginning of the Paris terrorist attacks around six thousand soldiers patrol the streets of Paris every day. Their main duty is to secure monuments and railway stations. Most soldiers come from the countryside and some of them have never been in the city of lights before. They can be as lost in Paris’s streets as in a foreign country. After the terrorist attacks most of the soldiers patrolling the streets of Paris are sent by the Ultramarines legion or the Carcassonne parachutist troops. But then again I wonder how a Special Forces guy feels standing all day long in front of a Jewish bagel store.