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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

First Job

Blog every day in May, day 8: Tell us about your first job. Did you love it or was it horrendous?

The first job I ever had, as a teenager, was stripping maize (or “castrer le maïs” as the French say). It’s what every teenager did where I grew up. It’s what my elder brother did before me, and what my little brothers did after me. It involved walking up and down rows of corn, pulling back some leaves at the top of every other plant (if I remember correctly – or maybe it was every plant but every other row…) and snapping off the… snapping off a… snapping something off (I have no idea what it was called anymore – maybe the stamen? Anyone?). I remember my first day, thinking I should look nice. I put on my favorite jeans, new pumps and my smartest t-shirt. My mum took one look at me and just shook her head: “no”. After most likely scowling at her for a bit, I eventually relented and got changed into something a little more appropriate for trudging up and down a field all day, in the naked heat of the southern French summer. It was really hard work. And I probably wasn’t all that good at it. I did my best. I’ve always been a teeny bit competitive. Being mostly up against adults who spent all year traveling round the fields of Europe, though, I had to run to keep up. But it was my first job and I was very proud of it. I wanted to tell people about how I had joined the world of the working woman. So I rang my gran…

Now, you have to know that my granny was a very prim and proper woman. She lived in a Laura Ashley world where everything was always smelt of her Estée Lauder perfume. She never had a hair out of place or an unintended crease in her clothes. Her house was a completely spotless haven of magnolia and chintz. She wore beautiful shoes and discreetly expensive jewelry. She was a master flower arranger and meringue maker. She did not have bodily functions and did not want to be presented with any evidence that you did. Her favorite word was “exquisite”. I loved her to bits. For most of my childhood, I was her only granddaughter and she spoiled me rotten. She celebrated girliness and femininity in a way that seemed marvelous and mysterious to me, growing up surrounded by boys. Anyway, she was one of the first people I wanted to tell about my job. It didn’t occur to me, back then, that the idea of her only granddaughter being a manual laborer was unlikely to fill her with joy. Fortunately,  by the time she understood what it was I was actually doing, she was mightily relieved. Because when I called her and announced – translating literally from French – that I was castrating maize, what she heard was that her sweet, innocent little granddaughter was castrating MICE for a living.



9 May 2013 - 2:48 PM Adeline - J'adore Cass!! "castrer le maïs" je l'ai fait chaque année de mes 15 à mes 19 ans. Ca fait parti des meilleurs souvenirs de ma folle jeunesse!!! bien sur il fallait se lever tôt, bosser hyper dur, subir les traces du bronzage "agricole" mais quelle ambiance!!! merci Cass grâce à ton post je replonge dans de très bon souvenirs!! Plein de bisous

9 May 2013 - 8:10 PM amanda - haha poor mice :)

10 May 2013 - 2:14 PM Aaron - In Southern Indiana we called it "detasseling" corn b/c they looked like, well, tassels.

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