La Vie ‘en Bureau’


It’s official – All architects wear black – or taupe, which is the new black! All architects also come to the office in jeans – black ones of course, or maybe grey as long as they’re teamed up with a  pair of bold  framed black-rimmed glasses. Well I can’t speak for the whole of Europe of course – but in France and England ‘black casual’ is synonymous with ‘architect’. Need I have been concerned about dress code? –  Well I have the jeans but I’ll have to nip out and invest in the glasses!

Now down to business:

One of the delights of working with architects is being among people with the ability to plan, which is heaven after being in rather close company with my family (bless them for their careless ways – and ‘husband à l’etranger excluded) whose prime skill in planning is the ability to organise as much time as possible to spend on an Xbox but not a lot else!  In architectural heaven, these fabulous people spend their morning planning everything with a minutiae attention  to detail, and before the morning is out have also planned where we are going to be eating lunch, who will be eating lunch,  booked the table and arrived on time!

So as all the blackly (or taupely) clad architects gather round the table  it is interesting to see how the french architects take to their menu of choice.

Today we have headed off for a Chinese buffet. For a midday, the Chinese restaurant is doing well for a small town. Chinese, it appears is a popular choice with the French. Inspecting the buffet it doesn’t take long to notice that Battered Frog’s Legs in Sweet and Sour sauce are included on the menu and the conversation inevitably turns to food.

Having spent the morning studying the ‘Plan Cadastre’ (Land Regisistry map) we find ourselves analysing how geographic location influences taste. We determine that those from the  marshlands and damper regions of France – ie the Marais de Poitevin, have an affinity for ‘grenouilles’ (frog’s legs), even though they are increasingly difficult to find these days in France, and tend to be imported nowadays from the Far East.  Those with an ancestry which lurks in the more Southern regions of France have a preference for Escargots (snails). Snails being introduced to the Mediterranean regions by the marauding Romans.  Only R (Armenian) and I, both of whom are ‘imported architects’  have of course tried and like both and we were placed firmly in the category of ‘foreigners will try and like anything’.

P  raises the question –  ‘why do the English refer to the French as ‘froggies’ and I feign incomprehension and quickly slip away from the table to refill my plate.

It was A who went on to discuss how escargots cooked in Garlic and butter in their shell were infinitely nicer than those cooked without their shell. Several fell into the trap of suggesting that this was for the most part probably because the shell retained the garlic butter, leaving them juicy and delicious, before A went on to reveal that he was actually talking about ‘Limaces’. It took a little more translation before I cottoned onto the fact he was actually referring to slugs!

On that note we all fell into a pensive mood and busied ourselves by taking a ‘slug’ of our preferred beverage to cleanse the palate. The truth then, about the French drinking at lunch. The inebriated frenchman sloshing his way back to the office tanked up with red wine? A fallacy, i’m afraid. In all my lunchtime sorties with this crazy bunch of architects, not one has touched a drop of alcohol at lunchtime. The truth is that generally the  bottle of wine downed by the average Englishman at a business lunch would be shared between the entire table for a French lunch. The same goes at a French dinner party. So the truth about drinking –  quality but not quantity, and quite often none.

And the quality of the architecture in the afternoon? As detailed as the morning of course….

but a bit more garlicy!

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