April 23, 2010

Wee Ken (*)

A few days ago, as I collect our mail, I come across the most interesting offer of services in a long time.

As the economy is slow and a lot of people are out of work, flyers offering to come and clean your flat, walk your dog, feed your cat, paint your walls, silence your neighbours, water your plants, get rid of your in-laws, have started to jam the letter box. 

Usually, I just chunck the flyers in the bin, on account of the fact that, being unemployed myself , I can do most of this chores by myself. Except for the in-laws, but only because I happen to like them a lot.  On a side note, I am actually very busy with taking care of my baby and occasionally (pretending to be) cleaning and tidying up the flat, but given that being a full-time mum is unpaid work, it does not seem to count, in most people's eyes, as "real" work. I, myself, find I had much more time for myself and to chill out when I had a full time (well paid) investment banking job (ie a "real" job?) than now that I am a mum. Go figure.

End of side note and back to the point.

This particular flyer, however, is much more interesting that any others. 
It offers to do small work in my flat or my office, 24/7. 
Then it reads:

"WEE KEN included".

I suddendy have a vision of shirtless Ken, mopping the floor of my living room, small but with a tanned, toned, hairless torso (I don't mind hairs, mind you, but have you ever seen Ken with a hairy chest?).  Then when  Wee Ken is done with mopping the floor, he flexes his abs to hoover the bedrooms (on second thoughts, maybe I'll keep that one for myself, on account of havong still not got my pre-Malo abs back). The little man then goes on to cleaning the bathroom, emptying the bin and the dish-washer, sorting the laundry, all along keeping his trademark smile on, and his shirt off. 

Then the thought of a job interview I had a few months ago comes back to me (you may not see how the two events relate, but hold on, and it will all become clear). 

I had applied for this investor relations job. The job looked perfect, and I looked like the ideal candidate (obviously, such jobs don't exist in real life, but at the time, a few months back, I was still yound and naive). I sent my CV, got called for an interview, went to meet the headhunter. As I was sitting in her office,  and without asking even the first question about my job experience, she went on to tell me how she thought I was perfect for the job, because her client wanted to hire a good-looking woman.   Flattering? I think not: she then explained to me how, on her last visit to the client's offices, all the female staff were "stunning women who looked likes Barbies, or straight out of Playboy".

I looked at her, saw she was dead serious, thanked her for her time, and said I did not think I was the right candidate for the job: clearly, ten years of experience in the financial industry did not hold  any weight against the fact I was 5ft2, brunette, rather flat-chested,  and without a annual subscription to PlayBoy Magazine, yet too old to play with a Barbie doll.

But now, it all becomes clearer to me. This was a sign. A sign I was not meant to be a  Barbie-like investor relations executive with a Hefner-wanabee boss, but rather a stay-at-home mum giving orders to a little, fit guy called Wee Ken who had dropped a flyer offering to come and help with house chores.

Or maybe the deal with the flyer was just that the said guy could not spell.

(*) This post is, for all intents and purposes, more intended to be read by British English speakers rather than Americans, or even better, by Scots, who just love their wee drinks, wee men, and other wee bits. That being said, American readers, if you want to read about wee men, Barbies, Ken, mums, house chores, job interviews and Playboy, or if you just love quaint British English expressions, feel free to keep on reading!

April 13, 2010

Unidentified Running Object

In case I was craving for attention, I would have found the perfect "hey, look at ME" toy, the running mum's version of the macho's Porsche Convertible. Or Ferrari, given my toy is also red.

Except my Ferrari is a Chariot.

It may be the Chariot to me, but for most people here, runners included, it is just some strange URO, or Unidentified Running Object.

As I have discovered when I was expecting Malo, most French runners disapprove of running while pregnant, and I got more than my fair share of surprised / disapproving / plain nasty stares when running with my swiss ball-size belly.  Right, I admit I may have, sometimes, asked for them, like when running with a super tight, bright orange, tee-shirt over my 40-week pregnant belly. But I disgress.

So no running for French pregnant women then. As this was not tough enough on them, it also seems that French runners do not believe  in running with a baby either. Proof of the pudding is, you don't see one single Chariot or proper baby-jogger around. Parents with a normal, three-wheel prom fast-walking around, yes.  Sometimes. Proper runners with proper baby-joggers, no. 

So, obviously, when Malo and I are out for a run, we seem to be quite a sight. And, from the comments I got, I take it it is more because of the Chariot than because of, say, my athletic body.

There first seems to be a general disbelief that there could indeed be somebody "in there".
- "What are you carrying in this?", have I heard many times. And if I happen to be standing still , this is usually followed by a good look through the net, to make sure I am not pretending, and carrying my groceries, or my dod, or a teddy bear, instead of my son, as claimed.
The lazy crowd is also clearly interested in the URO, and not just because of its looks.
- "can I jump in?" I have heard quite a few times.  Yeah, right. Between Malo and the Chariot, I am already pushing almost half of my weight, and you think I may be considering taking a 70kg grown-up for a ride?
- "it is cool to run with this", said another man who stopped me on one of my runs to ask me about the URO and where to get one (given there is only one dealer on French territory, that was an easy one to answer). "you get to lean on it, which makes it easier to run.", he went on to say.
 Yeah...right... well... actually... no. Or maybe is it just me being a wimp thinking that pushing the 20 odd kilos that make up Malo and the Chariot is not that easy a task come the uphill portions of my runs.

The URO is also a great social device. Several times over the 6 months I have been using it, I have met people, who, upon being introduced to me, said: "oh yeah, I have seen you before, running with that big red thing by the lake / by the river / in the woods" (tick box as appropriate). OK then, I may forever be known across town as The-Crazy-One-Who-Is-Always-Running-With-The-Big-Red-Thing, but socially speaking, I take this over having total strangers wanting to be my Facebook friends anytime.

Last but not least... OK, this is getting sappy (SLG, you've got company!)... the URO makes people... smile at me. And, as much as it hurts the anti-social in me to admit it... I like it.

A few of the smily faces may be mocking, but, for the big majority, it is just a plain, nice, friendly smile. a oh-look-at-this-girl-running-with-her-baby-in-this-weird-red-thing-that's-cool smile.  Maybe a I-wish-I-had-been-able-to-do-this-with-my-kids-50-years-ago smile from slow-walking, white-haired grannies.  Or a here-am-I-walking-by-the-lake-and-there-is-this runner-coming-toawards-me-pushing-an-URO-and-she-is-clearly-enjoying-herself-as-much-as-I-do smile. Whatever their smile may mean, they make me enjoy my run even more... and too bad if this is sounding sappy.

About all this, Malo... could not care less. But if asked, he would probably call our Chariot-URO The Next Best Thing After My Bed:  two minutes in the Chariot, and he is fast asleep.