Monday, 19 November 2012

Appreciating that special person

Jean-Claude has been a godsend over the past year. There have been so many difficulties and frustrations with French administration and systems, moving home debacles, many missing parcels a la poste and stresses at work. Leaving the later aside, it's clear that without a French friend available to help I'd have been in impossible situations, unable to help myself. These challenges have been tricky to sort out even with his aide. Indeed, some of them are ongoing still to this day such as my titre de sejour, my health card, my furniture. So as his birthday approached it was natural for me to consider how I could do something for him to show he's special and appreciated.

Christmas and birthdays are not important events in his life. He grew up not having a lot of attention paid to them and so it's not a big deal to him, his or other people's birthdays-just another day of the year. I pointed out that these are occasions to take time out and celebrate, to add colour to the year and he agrees with this-it's just not his practice, not important to him. I organised to celebrate his 68th birthday as an evening at my apartment.

It consisted of arranging a rather unconventional 'variety concert', a meal, romantic surroundings and a pressie. He'd never spent a night at my apartment in the 4 months I've lived here, despite previous invitations, so that was specified. Heart in hand I plucked up the courage to commit to playing two pieces on my violin to kick things off. Lots of practice required, lots of nerves when the moment came as the violin is very technical and I'd only had 6 lessons after a hiatus of 40 years. One of the pieces was chosen because it features on one of his Corrs CDs.

This was followed by a couple of videos of my performing bellydance in the past. He seemed to enjoy these a lot but I realise I have very little of this sort of thing of decent quality and that I miss the days when I could perform professionally and have private lessons, back in NZ.

Jean-Claude likes to listen to music but doesn't retain the names of artists or their songs, but I do. I took note what what songs he likes to play on his car CD so I programmed several YouTube viewings of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and threw in others of our generation like Lionel Richie, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, finishing with a French artist Etienne Daho. He recognised some of the music but in most cases had never seen a video of them in action. Downloading the tracks can be tricky with the buffering problems but we got there.

The meal identified the restrictions of my little kitchen. There's little space for equipment as such. I don't have a real oven. Instead I use a combination microwave and oven which is not all that powerful, or large. The pyrex dish I bought to roast the vegetables proved a wee bit too big for the oven. Impossible to cook a casserole and vegetables at the same so I improvised.

 It wasn't ideal. I have a mobile induction cooktop- it's not built in so it takes up precious bench space and it means conventional cookware doesn't work. Even some pots that say they are compatible with induction cooking can prove competely useless. Unless a pot is designed for induction cooking it never heats up and instead the cooktop switches itself off. Tricky when trying to cook several items and courses.

We ate but it wasn't what I had in mind. Lessons learned- must find ways around these limitations, especially lack of a powerful oven of a decent size and don't have a lot of guests. One's about the limit.

But it was great to share my environment and a bit of my culture and life with him, otherwise it gets pretty one-sided at times. It was also good to have him over where he didn't need to do handyman stuff. However, he just couldn't help himself in his urge to change the height of one of my dishwasher drawers or remove a defective light bulb.

As a pressie for the man who wants or needs little I gave him a large digital photo frame and a USB stick loaded with photos to enjoy.

So, we had a lovely, relaxed evening pottering around with what I'd organised, and some time spent in my candlelit bedroom. Viennoiseries for breakfast and then he had to leave to feed his dog.

We lead separate lives that are interconnected at times. I'm learning to lead this sort of life and relationship. It's not what I had envisaged finding but is the current reality. He's a lovely guy who operates differently from me which is not a bad thing. He came into my life at the right time and we each offer the other something important I believe. I'm looking forward to lots more weekends together. He's always the bright spot in my week.


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