Monday, May 07, 2007


A Thought On Nicolas Sarkozy: How did a conservative, pro-American sympathiser win the presidency of France, a nation "bitter at American dominance"? Not only that, but he has a tough anti-immigration stance, and his victory caused little stir in the banlieus.

Although, I did note the irony of France reflecting the USA again*, in the first occurrence of a female and a minority running for president in both nations.

French revolution inspired by the American one.


Yes, pigs fly, Olivia has mentioned politics in her blog. Well...I don't usually like the vehemence of the discussions, that's all. I don't mind debate, but some people really take this stuff personally.


The busy past week:

At the start of the week I discovered that another, possibly more distinguished academic organisation wants to interview me for their same department that I am in at the arts org. International Strategy - and it's from a totally different agency as the one that put me here...what a coincidence. So, interview possibly middle to late this week, as the head of the department is away.

The week at work will start off stressfuly, as there are two events, which have remained muddled in my mind for the two weeks I've been there. Friday afternoon was tough because my boss left as she always does, at 4pm, leaving me to allocate money for an event from a budget even she couldn't find on the system, and the London office had no idea. So I just went through and (carefully) PICKED ONE that looked somewhat related to the department and the purpose and had enough funds available, and emailed all concerned, including one of the budget holders...who approved it a few minutes later, to my immense relief, as it was nearly 6pm on the eve of a long weekend.


Wednesday I met up with some bloggy friends and acquaintances at the bar under the Soho Curzon cinema. Or movie theatre, just to wind some people up...

Thursday, that was a night to remember. I went on a [should I admit it?] dinner dates event at Gilgamesh in Camden. Good Lord. You've been to a palace, and you've been to a restaurant. Well, this restaurant was more of a palace. Come to think of it, no detail was overlooked, but then that was the way at the turn of the 20th century in the "pleasure palaces". That thought has only just occurred to me. Take for instance the Egyptian-themed Cafe Royal on Piccadilly. The ceiling is of gilded papyrii..sorry - off topic.

Have you read the Epic of Gilgamesh? (Wiki summary here / Online text here.) You should, it is the oldest written legend.

Ian Pengelley's Gilgamesh (the venue) leaves no surface untouched. Every wall is made up of carved and sculpted friezes of curly-bearded Mesopotamian warriors and camels and palm trees. It was like being at the Assyrian section in the British Museum. The tables are inlaid with brass foliage. The chairs, that's another story. They are like small thrones, plush, velour, damask. The arms really are arms with hands that wrap around the front legs which come up to arm level and end at a knop. Were it not for the knop, the throne would fit under the table and we girls wouldn't have to sit on the edges of our immensely comfortable seats. The DJ music was chilled and never overpowering. The only thing that disagreed with me was the LED lighting on a continual slow cycle of pink, green and indigo, which hurt my eyes.

Not a morsel of middle eastern food appeared on our set menus. We had chopsticks from beginning to end as apparently the menu is Pan-Asian (my fave!), starting with salted edamame, shrimp tempura sushi, Thai green curry chicken, and finally fruits and dessert. Every dish was truly delicious. Edamame is pretty foolproof, so I'll skip that. The sushi was delicious, and they provided pleasantly light soy sauce, rather than the usual dark salty one. I think I will buy light soy in future. I usually avoid Thai green curries as I find them too heavy on the coconut milk and too light on the fragrance, but this one was just right, and spicy too. They used pea aubergine and egg aubergine. (Both shaped like their namesakes.) Even the jasmine rice was perfectly steamed, not too sticky, and fell apart with the right pressure. The dessert was cleverly done. Large sharing bowls of totally exotic fruits sliced into finger food sizes: dragonfruit, starfruit, kiwi, pineapple, melon, passion fruit. In addition, small boats of banana and peanut butter crumble. Yes, you read right. Banana and peanut butter, and it was delicious.

Now on to the dinner guests. We had assigned seating with placecards, alternating males and females. Across from me was a very cute and pleasant young lady, who I am sure received a lot of interest the next day. At the head of the table to my left was an intellectual and talkative young man in advertising. He knew a lot about the sorts of things I can talk about, so we got on well, except he talked too much about it all. You know, he could tell me all about the history of the Persians' beards and the whole Spartan mentorship of young boys, etc. Just wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise about it, so therefore didn't realise I knew almost as much. So, intelligent, but a bit too much so and as a result a fringe-nerd.

On the other side of me was a fellow with whom I had only one exchange after shaking hands, and that was when he ID'd my surname as being Greek. Other than that, he was a sap with a terrible lisp, and he talked mainly to the other side of the table. Across from me next to the other girl was the guy I had chatted with during the drinks reception, something to do with telecommunications and living in Kensington.

The guys make the swap before the dessert course. Name cards are flipped over, but unfortunately someone messed with ours whilst we girls were on loo break. I was disappointed that the guy who was assigned to my left had been moved opposite but one because I found that he emanated so much kindness - I don't believe in auras but am sure he had one. I don't think I have ever said that about anyone. He was Serbian, born and educated here, tall and fair, and really easygoing and just really nice.
I was stuck instead with a calm guy who made no impression on me whatsoever (unfortunately he was interested in getting my number the next day), and then on my right a fit and compact type-A high-powered banker who was a bit drunk (obviously buying beer apart from the half-bottle wine allotted to each guest) and kept hitting on me. He asked me three times in the space of 15 minutes: a) what's a beautiful girl like you doing at an event like this? I said I wanted to expand my social network; b) why haven't you got a boyfriend? I said I could not answer that; c) Why don't guys chat you up? He answered that one himself. He said guys don't chat up girls like me because they're cowards.

After a while he realised we were not on the same wavelength, what with him being drunk and all, and started apologising profusely for offending me or having any other unsettling effect on my sensibilities. Not his words, but that's what he meant in a roundabout way. The calm guy on my other side took him - hehe - very calmly - even did his cufflinks up for him on his giant cuffs that came below his cashmere jumper sleeves (get the idea?). Apparently many of the guys know each other from previous events, and go skiing together and the like.

The reason I said earlier that the dessert was cleverly done was because we had to share 3 small banana crumbles between 5 people. Somehow the Serb offered to split with me. I dished out a bit at first, and he did that comfy thing that nice people do where he winked and wrinkled his nose and nodded in that kind way, whilst indicating I should take more. So I did, and we joked about the shape of the little boat being suitable for sliding the dessert out like an oyster, to which he replied he had had oysters the day before. Oh la.

When first introduced, the drunken banker had started off on the wrong tack with the Serb, with a reference to the old Yugoslav conflict, and the poor guy had to rebuff with nearly the exact thing I would have said, that basically that is so passe and that the new baddies are [from another part of the world]. I agreed and said that bringing that up was such a 90s thing anyway.

So, the 4 hours passed quickly, and I made my getaway at midnight, after everyone had moved to the bar and drunken banker had come over to me again and said we were being "continually thrust together". Sheesh.

Would you believe that to sit at the bar tables there is a minimum spend of £250? And all the tables were full. AND this is not Mayfair or Chelsea, it is Camden.

When I got outside there was a young homeless fellow ending a passing comment with two men who had left the restaurant about sinking and rising and heaven and hell...then attempting to bring me into it, he said how can you sink lower if you're already in hell/rise if you're not in heaven (I forget which). Walking slightly ahead of me as I went at a purposeful pace, he asked if anyone was bothering me (yes, him); I said no. He said, Would you like me to walk with you? I said no thanks. He said, If anyone tries to bother you just holler and I'll come. As he departed he said, "Homeless people can be nice you know." I would have liked to say that I didn't doubt him, but that I didn't need protection from anyone - as he was the only person on the street directing attention towards me - and that I had just spent the last 4 hours talking non-stop and didn't need another person to deal with...

Anyway, I have booked the next event at Taratai (where I nearly booked my birthday!).


TWTWTW = that was the week that was. Did you guess?


Beenzzz said...

Now I know what TWTWTW means. I'm a little confused about the French election as well. Stranger things have happened. Perhaps one day, we Americans might have a leader with a brain. Eight years is a long time....
As for the homeless guy, I would have been uncomfortable too. I know some are nice, but so what?

L B said...

I am just too brainless after another Monday to follow everything in your post (sheepish admission of guilt), but I still wanna send you all the best hugs from Italy, ok? *grin* Viva la Francaise!

Olivia said...

Beenzzz - I believe TWTWTW was a TV programme in the 60s/70s over here...


Albie - We're on holiday today, so haha.

Yes, I did write a bit too much, I admit...It's about food and people.

tooners said...

phew, wow... what a week.

your boss leaving you to deal w/ finding out the info... just a little too much i think... but maybe she was testing you in not so pleasant a way. good that it worked out and kudos to you for being so bright and not panicing and failing miserably.

the event sounds interesting, to say the least. so... if the serb calls you, do you think you'd go? maybe in a different setting, he wouldn't appear so overly nice. do you think?

the drunken guy... well, aren't they all the same!! ;)

the homeless guy... eeeekkkk, i prob would have said all the things you were thinking and then wish i hadn't. thankfully i've never had to deal w/ such at night.

here's to the new job lead. i hope it goes swimmingly.

amillionpieces said...

I don't get all the American hatred of French and vice-versa. Their histories are so irrevocably intertwined. The French may have taken inspiration from the Americans, but for their part they had also helped the Americans in their revolution, the two had good relations for quite a lot of time. I can only think that the real problem has been the emergence of the far right in America, which is so to the opposite of what France post-revolution stands for. While being right wing Sarkozy lacks the religious zeal of his American counterparts, which I think is part of the reason the French dislike them.

Olivia said...

Tooners - hehe, wait till you hear about next week :)

Thank you for reading, apologies for the length of it; I shouldn't do that again.

I think the setup is that the guys ask for the girls' numbers - at least, the lady at DD didn't ask me if I was interested in anyone. Maybe the serb will be at the next event; maybe he'll be at another table; maybe I'll sit next to someone even nicer.

I'll let you know how the interview goes, when I go to it.


Pete - because when La Republique was founded, France swept aside its religion, created the Pantheon, and held a ceremony of Enlightenment to the god of Reason. I read about it many years ago in my French philosophy class and it made an impression. If I find anything I'll let you know.

Olivia said...

The Cult of the Revolution

And check it out, a Western Civilisation class assignment from a school in Wisconsin. All hope is not lost in the American educational system, this impressed even me.

The Terror

The Moody Minstrel said...

Roll up...
Roll up for the Gilgamesh Tour...

Your experience sounds a lot like one of these "matchmaking event" TV programs they have here in Japan. Those characters can't possibly be real people. Are you sure they didn't have a hidden camera somewhere? What will you do if you turn on the telly and see yourself politely trying to escape from El Banknoid?

Anonymous said...

wow, long long post. I will admit, I only read some parts, but will read more later. Have to go to school now...blah


amillionpieces said...

That is a pretty darn impressive piece of work. I understand why they disagree on religion, I still think it's all a bit childish though, they're like to enfant terrible's of world politics who can't get on because neither can accept the others virtues, and are all too quick to point out the things they do badly. Theoretically, despite the revolution and the anti-religious fall out, they're both still western democracies with freedom of worship and a long history of helping each other out.

The Moody Minstrel said...

In the 1980s a French exchange student once said to me (American) and my (American) friends (in response to a comment about France's lack of support for NATO):

"No one is closer than France and the U.S.. We are like brothers, and as you know brothers often disagree!"

In the 2000s an American friend of mine once said to me (in response to my criticism of the "freedom fries" absurdity in the Capitol):

"If you're siding with the Frogs, you've obviously been living overseas too long. You've lost your patriotism. You're no longer American. Stay in Japan and don't come back."

Some brothers, huh?

AmitL said...

Hi,Olivia...nice thought on Nicolas S...I guess the 'electors' minds are unpredictable.Wow..u're going to be interviewed? do we hear/read the interview??TWTWTW was a nice about TGIT?:)

AmitL said...

Response to reply to my comment in ur last post...err,tks for letting me know I'm a 'bloggy peep'too.:)

Olivia said...

Minstrel - I have seen some of those Japanese shows, and this was tame in comparison.


Jia Li - I got your email, and replied. Poor you.


Pete - yes, I am interested to see how many bridges are mended during the Sarkozy and new US presidential terms.


Minstrel (again) - I am not sure what to respond to that, other than that a sample of only two respondents does tend to skew results a bit...
It's the same with the Brits anyway.


Amit - you're funny! It's a JOB interview :P

Mind you, on the way to that event last Thursday night, I was stopped on the street by a sort of reporter with a strong mideastern accent, asking me whether I am against women wearing head scarves, if I think they are oppressed in their countries, and whether I have heard of any famous Muslim women. I have some opinions on these questions, but I was running late and all I wanted to do was go - my mind was totally blank!