Anti-grumpy Investigations

how to be less grumpy: my findings

Like most grumpy people, I am fully aware of the fact that I am irritable at best, feckin’ awful at worst. I have my bad days and my badder days. As I am also aware of the fact that I am not the only person in the world (and I do appreciate enormously my family and friends) I am very interested in understanding ways and means to be less grumpy. And making their lives easier.

I have done a bit of a trawl on the internet and come up with some interesting articles.

side-note: it made me very grumpy to see the title of this article, but then I did type “grumpy woman” into google so I only have myself to blame.

Women spend 10 days a year in a grumpy mood: But men say it seems rather more than that! (Daily Mail)

Apparently the things that make us grumpy are amongst the following :

  • Feeling fat
  • Money worries
  • Men who don’t listen
  • Bad weather

The poll results came up with a lot of women saying they were moody a lot and spend a lot of time huffing. I also learned about the term manopause, where men say they get grumpier as they get older (hormones apparently are the culprits here). Men also maintain that women are a lot grumpier than they are letting on. But then they would, wouldn’t they.

Next list is “Things that help overcome grumpiness”:

  • Me time
  • Girlfriend time
  • Shopping
  • Exercise
  • Chocolate
  • Glass of wine

good wine

(is that a gorgeous looking glass of wine or what?)

The rest of the article lists all the other things that make us grumpy (time of the month, having nothing to wear, having a bad hair day etc.) – basically thing that happen to you when you are alive. Which get worse when you have kids and/or get older.

One thing that didn’t appear in the article, but which has come up in discussions with my lady friends is guilt. Guilt about

  • being a bad mother/wife
  • not having kids/husband
  • being a bad employee
  • getting old and ugly because one is
    1. getting older
    2. swilling too much wine
    3. not doing enough yoga etc. etc.

guilt monster

On reflection, it also seems like a vicious circle, because the grumpier you are the more you will look for quick fix solutions. And from the list above, those are guilt inducing monsters. As in:

  • I ate too much chocolate and now I have an enormous spot and an enormous belly and my jeans don’t fit.
  • I drank too much wine and now my head is sore which makes me grumpy and sad.
  • I did too much shopping, thought only about myself and now I have no money left (and the children need new pyjamas).
  • And so on (list is endless)

So grumpy makes you search a quick fix solution and that makes you feel guilty which ends up making you feel even grumpier.

Personal experience moment

Personally I am currently a disaster. I don’t do any exercise, I have a very stressful job and I have zero “moi” time. My quick fix solutions are as follows: first the shopping option with minor forays into the second option, i.e. glass of beer in the evenings. I tend to limit the beer now though, as with years of experience I have found that getting through the week with a continuous minor hangover is a pain in the bum. And that makes me a pain in the bum.

resolutions

So, I have made some new year resolutions this year. Exercise and healthy eating are my focus points. Am cheating a bit as I already started by mistakenly eating a lot of fruit last year. We have a “blended” family and united the unit mid last year. My boyfriend is French and big on eating fruit. To him, they are like sweets. So by default and very much despite myself I got into the habit of munching on fruit with him and the kids.

Cue less spots, better hair and a general feeling of having more energy.

5-a-day

I didn’t make the connection until one week when we didn’t have the kids and I ate nothing except pasta and pizza. It was a tough work week and I didn’t have much time to cook and eat. By the end of the week I felt like a piece of old poo. The kind of tired where you wake up and want to spend the day in bed.

Being of an analytic ilk I pondered the question and realized the only thing that had changed was that I had eaten zero fruit and very little veg.

What else?

So, exercise is the next step – I have been fairly sporty all my life but since I came to the most sporty town to France I have rebelled against it. This is probably because all the cheerful, muscly, skinny (smug?) people who run up mountains make me incredibly grumpy. So anyway, I think this will be a major upheaval but am fairly convinced that is necessary.

I have no muscles left in my body, or at most 6%; 5% of which manage to keep me upright – the other 1% which are concentrated in my hands and arms and enable me to type.

I intend to start slow, but build it up during the year so that I can go back to snowboarding next winter.

More energy = less grumpy?

Anyways, I suspect that energy levels may be linked to grumpiness levels. If you have more energy in general, you are more likely to have more energy for smiling and being happy (right?). Core body functions are taken care of de facto and all the “nice to have” stuff is easier to achieve. As in being outside of your own head and thinking more about those around you.

Apparently that makes us all feel great too – human interaction and all that.

Sewing circle

Also have more energy means things like having some extra “projects” outside of work doesn’t seem completely impossible. It seems to be unanimously agreed that work does not act very efficiently as an anti-grumpy mechanism. Unless you love your work, which is rare.

However, having one’s own projects in one’s life does. Projects can be anything from learning how to sew/knit/draw/run/cycle to setting up your own company. Basically anything that gets you out of your armchair staring at your bellybutton.

DSC02180-smaller

And it is not the actual fact of achieving of your project that gives you satisfaction either…it is the path you take getting there.

The path being the people you meet, the hurdles you overcome, the laughs you have and the general changes it brings about in yourself and your life.

Reality check

So today we were supposed to go for a walk in the snow in a nearby valley…but it is fecking raining. This was supposed to be my first step towards getting fit again. I had even made the effort of checking out a path which wouldn’t be too steep and wouldn’t last seven hours. Sheesh. (150m height and 2 hours walk, the easiest one I could find)groggy

Options now:

  • shopping (can’t its Sunday and we are in France and all the shops are bloody closed)
  • chocolate (can’t this is france there is no chocolate in the bloody house)
  • glass of wine (holy god, not at 10 o clock in the morning quand meme!)
  • me time (ok this works)
  • hobby / project (weeeell, I suppose blogging is your modern day equivalent of a mix of me-time and having a wee project)

Either way, as a grumpy person determined to be less grumpy I reckon anything is better than sitting around waiting to be less of an oul grump..except today maybe I am allowed to go back to my armchair (?)

DSC02182-smaller(it is calling to me)

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Crossing Pedestrians…

As part of my « survival in France » series

Crossing the road, so simple yet not.

This is a minor quibble, but seriously it would be a shame to come all the way to france only to squished on a pedestrian crossing…

First rule:

  • always use a pedestrian crossing
    • even if you see other people hurtling across the road, throwing themselves willy nilly in front of moving vehicules
    • this means nothing – NOTHING
  • one of those situations where one should not “do as the romans do”

first principle:

  • do not walk out onto the pedestrian crossing immediately
  • generally speaking cars in france do not automatically slow down when approaching a pedestrian crossing
  • if you are lucky, drivers will see you and look at you in order to assess your level of engagement (while probably speeding up in order to get there before you do)

engagement

  • this word is used in the french text below
    • manifesting your intention to cross the road

Personally, I am up for a debate on what that means. Should I carry a “crossing-the-road-now-people” sign with me? Is there a secret hand wiggle that every French person learns in a dedicated ceremony in their fourteenth year on a full moon waning?

whatever, here is my guide to self-manifestation

  • plant one foot on the big white lines
  • fix the windshield of oncoming cars with a winning smile and an I-mean-business expression on your face (which while stern suggests you are not anal)
  • as the cars pass by in front of you, continue to parlay gently onto the crossing
  • after about three cars go by one will probably stop, hopefully before it squishes your toesies

second principle

  • don’t be surprised if cars then continue to pass behind you once you have crossed one side of the road
  • try to enjoy the slightly disconcerting wind as the car skims your sweet buttcheeks
  • chin down and keep going

follow through

  • once you are engaged, i.e. in the middle of the road – cars will stop for you
  • whatever you do, keep going
  • Otherwise you will get stuck in the middle of the road as drivers will be impatient with your dithering

Personal experience moment

Good experience

While crossing the road, the driver waved me across vigorously and gave me a huge smile – then I realized it was a colleague from work and literally skipped across torn between the pure bonhomie and the satisfaction of a happy coincidence

Bad experience

Nearly stepped out after engaging, realized the car wasn’t stopping, stepped back just in time, looked in the window and saw the driver studiously texting on their phone

  • They hadn’t even seen me

Felt like jumping on the car van damme style and hanging onto the roof by my fingernails to somehow prove the point that drivers should watch where they are going.

Some backup info: https://survivalskills.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/heading-to-france-pedestrian-priority-laws-have-changed/

From an Irish Road Safety Website (god bless the innocence of that nation)

You must approach the crossing ready, willing and able to stop if a pedestrian steps onto it, so your speed must be reduced to enable you to do this. You must not approach the crossing so fast that you are not able to stop safely if you have to but on the other hand you must not drive needlessly slowly up to it. Sometimes simply easing off the gas pedal will be sufficient to allow a pedestrian more time to cross before you reach the crossing. If you have stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross and they appear hesitant and undecided give them time to make up their mind. Do not beckon to them to try or to make up their minds for them, also when you enter the zig-zag area you must not overtake the leading moving motor vehicle on the approach to the crossing or the leading vehicle that has stopped at the crossing to allow pedestrians to cross.

And from http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passage_pour_pi%C3%A9tons_en_France

Le Décret no 2010-1390 du 12 novembre 2010 (JO du 16 novembre 2010) introduit dans le code de la route de nouvelles dispositions relatives à la traversée des chaussées par les piétons :

Art. 12. − L’article R. 412-37 est complété par l’alinéa suivant : « Les dispositions du présent article ne s’appliquent pas aux aires piétonnes et aux zones de rencontre. »

Art. 17. − Le premier alinéa de l’article R. 415-11 est remplacé par les dispositions suivantes : « Tout conducteur est tenu de céder le passage, au besoin en s’arrêtant, au piéton s’engageant régulièrement dans la traversée d’une chaussée ou manifestant clairement l’intention de le faire ou circulant dans une aire piétonne ou une zone de rencontre. »

L’article 17 était auparavant rédigé de la manière suivante : « tout conducteur est tenu de céder le passage au piéton engagé […] » ; le conducteur est désormais tenu de céder le passage au piéton s’engageant, c’est-à-dire « en mouvement entre le trottoir et la chaussée, en faisant un ou deux pas sur le bord du trottoir ou sur le bord de la chaussée ». D’autre part, le décret introduit la notion de « manifestation de l’intention de traverser » : « ou manifestant clairement l’intention de le faire ». Ce peut être en faisant un pas soit sur le bord du trottoir, près du caniveau, soit sur la chaussée au bord des voitures en stationnement et en regardant le conducteur, et dans ce cas, le piéton s’engagera ensuite si la voiture s’arrête : c’est la consigne qui est donnée dans quelques pays étrangers[réf. nécessaire] et c’est ce qu’on enseigne couramment aux enfants en France[réf. nécessaire].

Un piéton « régulièrement engagé » doit cependant avoir évalué la visibilité ainsi que la distance et la vitesse des véhicules (article R. 412-37)[1]. Il ne dispose pas d’une priorité absolue comme dans une aire piétonne ou une zone de rencontre.

Grumpy Woman of the Week (nomination)

and the winner is?

Even though it is only wednesday I am fairly confident that I have found a winner for the weekly most grumpy woman on the street competition.

This is a very exciting and a nice moment of the week, when we realise that we are not alone and perhaps not the grumpiest people of all.

nomination “Grumpiest Woman while Driving”

On my way home yesterday I came across a lady “d’un certain age” as they so elegantly say here on the footpath (normally reserved for pedestrians) in her car. She was revving away and moving at a fair pace towards myself and another pedestrian just in front of me. And she looked very grumpy.

squish

As she came upon us, we both skipped lightly to the side. There wasn’t that much space to skip into as there were cars parked on the road beside the footpath. So we found ourselves sandwiched between her wee car and the other stationary cars.

The pedestrian lady person in front of me engaged the driver in conversation to see if she would like some help. Here followed a stream of expletives and door slamming, her rage mostly directed to those who had boxed her in.

We nodded understandingly and tried to indicate via hand gestures and eyebrow wiggling (she refused to wind down her window) that she could exit further up the footpath. Cue further expletives, these time combined with obscene hand gestures.

footpath rage

Here I realised she didn’t want to or couldn’t reverse that far back. Whilst I understood her anger against those guilty of bad parking, I also realised she was quickly transferring her growing rage onto us innocents as we were a) available b) standing in front of her.

Another worrying realization was that she wasn’t paying much attention to what she drove on and that myself and my new pedestrian friend were running the risk of having squished toes very soon.

So she continued on her way up the footpath towards a lamp post. Seeing as she had been rather rude and had refused all help, my grumpy side took over and I headed home to spend some quality time with my kids. Might as well get abused by them rather than a grumpy stranger.

well done

Hats off to my pedestrian friend however, as I left I noticed she was heading back over to our nominee to help her despite herself.

outcome?

Our nominee wasn’t there this morning, so she probably made it home alright.

Conclusion & regrets

Unless something really spectacular happens between now and Friday I am fairly confident that I have found my winner. My only regret is that I didn’t take a photo.

 

 

Scoopy-Doo

Pet hate: dog poo on the pavement.

I like animals. We have a cat that lives in and around our building and he is a wee pet.  I get a real giggle out of facebook animal videos shared by friends. The rhino who thinks he is a sheep is one of my favourites.  The sheep who thinks he is a dog is another favourite.  straying off topic now..

Anyway what I don’t like is picking my way through dog poo on pavements. What I like even less is trying to guide my kids through the minefield.

This morning I was walking behind two women with buggies, and at one point they had to organise themselves into a single file formation to make it through a particularly dense battlefield peppered with splattered poopy.  This prompted some vociferous reactions involving goddamn dog do and the unpleasantness of it all.   They were particularly grumpy and I totally got it.  I particularly enjoyed the term “poo slalom”.  (With a buggy, that is what it amounts to.)

I suspect most people are probably like me and have nothing against the dogs, but we are wondering what the hell are the owners thinking?

One day about a year ago I came out of my apartment building and nearly stepped on a newly released production. It was literally 10cm outside the front door and while it was quite small, its location was deadly.  With the laws of nature/probability and all things physical everybody in the apartment block was going to end up with dog doo on their shoes within twenty-four hours.

That particular day as I continued on my way stepping carefully around the offending pungent pile of goop, I looked up and saw a man with his dog. They were strolling along nonchalantly and the dog had that “je ne sais quoi” spring its step.

As it happened, it wasn’t the first time I had come across such offerings on our front door step. I suspected this was their haunting place and I was curious to know whether this was his favourite spot and more importantly whether he realized that it was our front door.

So I approached the happy couple, and asked the human to clarify the situation.

He bared his teeth at me and said that he did indeed realize that it was the front door of an apartment block but that he didn’t care at all (not his apartment block, not his problem). And then he continued on his way.

I was considered picking up his canine friend’s abandoned fecal matter and throwing it at him. But weighing up the pros and cons I just headed to work.

Then I wonder, why don’t we have the same problem in Ireland?

Perhaps it is just the fact that it rains so much that it cleans the pavement immediately? I have no idea.

Either way, I would like to send this plea out into the ether – please gather your dog-doo if not for us, for the children!!! They don’t look where they are walking and they are always putting their feet in their mouths….

Ah G’wan!!!

Ah g’wan!

 

Everybody in Ireland knows what I am talking about.

 

Ah ye will!

> No I’m grand thanks.

Are ye sure?

> Well….I wouldn’t want to put ye to any bother now…

Ach sure I’m making one for myself now

> Ah well in that case g’wan then.

 

What am I yapping about? Tea, and the drinking of.

Where? In Ireland.

 

Irish people love drinking tea. Once upon a time there was always a pot of tea going on the hob. Teapots were large affairs with a lot of encrusted tea on the inside. That adds taste by the way. Tea would start it’s day as a fresh youngster and consist of boiling water and 2-3 teabags. Then as the day wore on it would mature nicely until in the evening it would become “a bit strong”. As it got drunk, extra teabags would be added of course. Irish mammies know just how many teabags go in and when. Irish people as they grow up refer always to the Irish mammy to see if it’s the right time to add a teabag.

 

When you “call over” to someone or if you are doing a bit of “ceili-ing” you always get asked if you want some tea. And it is perfectly normal to say no the first time. This gives the person you have called over the opportunity to not give you the tea and that indicates how long you should stay. If the discussion goes as above you are good for an hour or two of chat, craic and who knows what all else.

 

When you move to a different country it all changes. In most cases, if you say no, then you don’t get. This is something I and most Irish people realize fairly quickly, but it is really difficult to get the hang of saying “yes please!” immediately. When you have grown up with the initial 5 minutes of discussion to decide how much you really want something it is a real culture shock to decide within 5 seconds if you want or don’t want something.

 

Take France for example, everything related to food is mostly very well organized. Food is at certain times and there is no snacking so either you have missed a meal and are hungry or you haven’t. So when someone offers you something to eat/drink it is quite simple to decide whether you want something or you don’t. Because if you have missed a meal, that means you haven’t eaten in eight hours. The only time when there might be a bit of hesitation is in the late morning (a wee coffee perhaps?) or in the evening around aperitif time.

 

If you combine this beautifully synchronized nutritional organization with the irish tendancy to say ah no sure you’re alright, it can lead to some very hungry newcomers in the first twenty-four hours in France. Survival instinct is a great thing though so most people do ask for some bread (and tea) before going to bed. And then feel incredibly awkward for the whole night and wake up very tired the next morning, and quite resolved to say yes please the next time.

 

Some people have a theory that this high-discipline-no-snacking mentality is part of the reason why a lot of French people are very slim. I don’t know myself and I would not purport to be a dietician. What I have noticed is that mealtimes are rigidly adhered to and generally one eats small amounts of a lot of different things. And that French people talk a lot about how nice everything tastes.

 

Breakfast

you are allowed to eat whatever you want. Mostly people have yoghurt and fruit, or bread and fruit and a hot drink. Hot drink can be tea, coffee or even hot chocolate. When French people are feeling very “gourmand” i.e. greedy, they might plunk for a bit of ham and cheese.

 

Lunch

is a grand affair. One always eats a full lunch and for newcomers it can be a bit intimidating. Especially if you are at a large canteen and you have to pick things out to eat. What I have seen as a general trend: there always seems to be a bit of salad at the beginning. In the middle there is meat and a bit of veg (not necessarily a potato) and for dessert there will be fruit/yoghurt or a bit of cake.

 

Dinner

tends to be late in the evening and as it often follows an aperitif may tend to be quite a light collation. If you invited to a meal at a friend’s house, don’t hesitate to tuck into the aperitif fare as the meal might be quite late. One time I landed over to a mate’s house for a meal, and at 9 o’clock they started cooking. I nearly died that night as I had been thinking since 7 o’clock “well now I won’t fill myself up with those tasty looking carrots and tomatoes, and sure they will be giving us dinner soon”. So, having lived to tell the tale I can say that if one has a small tummy/large appetite and hasn’t eaten since lunchtime, a wee snack does not go amiss before a dinner “entre amis”. At least at the beginning of your stay in France. Then as you get used to the vagaries of French living and things like “being polite while being hungry” it all becomes much easier.

 

Having said that, dinner chez one’s French friends is a fabulous occasion. Between the adventurous cooking and the hours of convivial chat (frequently about said adventurous cooking) it is a moment of pure pleasure.   It lasts forever – you could be sitting at the table for hours, and most of the people I know have an innate sense of timing. I always seem to be swirling the right red wine which somehow goes perfectly with the new and exciting mouldy cheese that is begging to be tried. So it goes very quickly and because one doesn’t eat huge amounts in general, when one leaves one doesn’t feel like one should be rolled home. Of course, as an occasionally tired and grumpy individual there are times when I am fit to be tied and am so tired I just want to crawl into my leaba. But I have to admit those are rare occasions.

 

In any case, making up the whole 5-ugly-fruit-and-vegtables a day has been easy here over the past few years since I started getting into the general flow and mealtime brainwashing. Needless to say I miss Irish fries terribly and I still don’t understand why people don’t eat more potatoes. But perhaps that wisdom is yet to come.

To Bise or not to Bise

Definition: La bise – To kiss somebody on the cheek

Ever wondered why people are always kissing in France?

Well, this something I have wondered about (and occasionally panicked over) since I arrived here.

What to do? How to do it?  Here follows a few of my half-baked theories based on trial and error.

disclaimer: I am no expert and consider this a live and learn exercise with alot of learning left to do – as I suspect most French people do….

When does it happen?

French people bise each other all the time. When you arrive somewhere it is pretty much mandatory to bise the people you meet.

This can be when you arrive in the office in the morning or at a social gathering. Never mind that you are half awake or that you are feeling a bit smelly, you shall kiss people.

However, know that there is etiquette associated with the kissing..

Ze Rules

Of course, as with many things in life the rules are different for women and for men. Having said that there are no set rules.

As with many aspects of life in France it is more a set of exceptions. (ever done french? think passe compose with the verb etre)

So women are more likely to exchange la bise with their colleagues. Men are more likely to shake hands. Men may exchange la bise with other men, but in general this is due to a previous well established common historical bond, for example we grew up together, we worked together for 10 years in a different county, you saved my cat from a mudslide, you saved my sock from my cat etc. etc.

When?

How to know when to bise and when not to bise, and how does one bise others? Well I asked this question after a couple of years of utter confusion. Answer was, well you just have to kind of go with the flow. So if someone looks like they are willing to exchange bises, go for it. This can be indicated by a tilting of the head, big smile and incoming approach to your personal space.

However, if the person you are greeting holds out their hand, this is an indication of non-willingness. They may do this because they suspect you don’t want to bise, so don’t take it badly.

What not do do

Warning: sometimes you may end up in the strange situation where you start to shake hands and midway both people realize they want to exchange bises and then you end up doing both. Which is in fact is quite an intimate embrace. Lock and hold kind of situation. Here the best thing to do is to disengage as gently as possible and so far as I can make out, eyes down, sidle to the left and continue to converse as if lock and hold neeever happened. (suggestions welcome here)

How does one do it?

To bise someone, you tilt your head to the right (very important to avoid headbutts), move your face forward, place your cheek on the other persons cheek and do a quiet kiss sound. Loud mwah mwah darling is not really the done thing here. It seems that actually kissing someone on the cheek i.e. planting your lips on their cheek is bit of a no-no too. Having experienced this a few times I can confirm that it is mildly unpleasant (kind of sticky), whereas the quiet mwah mwah version is quite pleasant – peoples cheeks are so soft, women’s especially (sorry but its true).

Advantages/disadvantages

Associated with all this, there are of course pros and cons.

Advantages are that you really you get a good sense of how people are doing when you meet them. The human contact is very grounding, and in some circumstances can help dissipate tensions whether it be a family or work context. It is also quite simply a lovely way to make human contact.

Disadvantages are that in some situations you may encounter some sleezes who make it their business to bise you as much as possible. This of course applies to both sexes and in all directions. Also you may find yourself in front of someone who obviously hasn’t had a shower in three days and you are confronted with possible diplomatic incident. Also three day shadow is prickly!!! And there is the bise-rate (we missed!), where you headbutt someone or end up in a lock and hold situation with your boss and other similarly cringeworthy situations.

A few technical points to note:

    • Depending on where you live in France, the number of bises are different, varies from 1 -4, although don’t worry there are maps which indicate how many per region (like this one!)
bise-map
No. of kisses per region in France

 

  • French people think that Irish/English/German/Swedish/Finnish/American etc. do bises
  • When you think about it, we do – but mostly with family and maybe some (close) friends
  • When foreigners arrive in the office or the family they will be the happy recipient of many bises
    • this may cause neck spasm or crick in the neck to the unprepared

Overall, I must say I recommend whole-heartedly as it is a very positive aspect of French living. So if you are hesitating or a little bit ill at ease, my recommendation would be – go for it! After a few weeks you will be totally at ease.

However, if you really don’t want to – then that’s fine too. Shaking hands and big smiles are grand. Whatever keeps you relaxed and happy….

a grumpy woman's reckonings and half baked ideas

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