Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I'm a catherinette today

So, as I was saying yesterday, I become a Catherinette today as an unmarried 25 year old woman. I had to give my age this morning at an appointment and when the lady in front of me realised I was 25 and it was Saint Catherine, she wished me a bonne fete and went on to explain the tradition of the hat wearing to me. She explained that I should wear a hat of the colours of Saint Catherine, that of green and yellow and people should attach objects to my hat which represent my life...profession, hobbies etc. It got me thinking what objects I would have on my hat. Chalk? A board marker? A dictionary? As for hobbies....a wine glass, chocolate?

What would you have on your Saint Catherine hat?

Monday, 24 November 2008

The three point anti-stress plan of today

So, I've not been blogging 'cos if I did, it would just make bad reading and I would probably depress you. All you need to know is that I'm alive, not feeling great at all and wondering how the hell to get out of the black hole.

Anyway, I don't want to talk about it so instead I would like to share with you three things that made me laugh, smile and cry (but in a good way for a change) all today.

Laugh. Sorry Crystal, but your last post just cracked me up and this is particularly hard to do at the moment so thank you for sharing your not so elegant face mask experience with us. I have a heap of Christmas present ideas for you now.....hehe.

Smile (and be super jealous) Leah has recently shared with us the most adorable video of her kittie cat. It is an antidepressant pill in video form. I've always loved cats, always had a cat and now I'm desperate to have one right now in France. I personally think cats need a territory ie, a garden so this is why I've been holding out but if I keep watching this video I might just crack and demand Santa for one. Thanks for sharing this with us Leah, please tell me all about her when you get the time...

Cry. Tomorrow is Sainte Catherine's Day. I hope I've referenced to the right one...there are lots of pages. She is the saint of all unmarried young women. (this is not why I'm crying!) Since moving to France, this is one of the saint's days that I remember. Partly because there is always a big fayre in Cambrai (my French homeland) where the town in blocked and filled with market stalls and partly because the grandmas explained it all to me so well. The tradition for those not in the know goes like this: When a woman reached 25 years old and is unmarried on Saint Catherine's Day in that year she becomes a Catherinette. She gets to wear a hat (?) and there, that's that. No, there is obvoulsy much more to Sainte Catherine than that but I will let you read up about her on wiki if you wish. I have no idea why the idea of Sainte Catherine stuck with me but I liked it I guess and today in the post I received a 'Happy Saint Catherine Day's card from my parents in law. It really touched me that they thought of me that a tear or two were shed. So here is a photo of the card.



It's even more amazing that they sent me a card as the French don't 'do' cards like we do in the UK. Even Happy New Year cards are actually postcards. So, when I'm done displaying the card ... is it like Christmas...12 after the date? Well, whenever, I will be able to detach the hankie that is on the card and keep it as my Saint Catherine hankie. How many people can say thay they have a Saint Catherine hankie?! Not many in my opinion. Which leads me to a question...why IS there a hankie on the card? hmmmm.

Thanks to all the people mentioned in this post for bringing a little cheer to my day.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

bus STOP


So, I just waited for the bus to go to work for 50 mins (this is not a typo) and had to resign myself to the fact that I would not be teaching today. There is a grève. Quite a serious one it seems as I only saw one seul bus in the 50 mins I was waiting. There is usually a bus every minute or so going in either direction.

This is the first time this has affected my work. I made do last year, I walked when there was a bus strike as it was just about do-able but that's not the case this year. It would take me at least an hour to walk it to uni. So i had a dilemma....what was the etiquette for such events? Do I come in super late? Do they expect me to walk? Take a taxi?? I rang my number one source of info, my Frenchie, and then I rang up the secretary of my department to explain, plead ignorance and ask what I should do....but she wasn't there so I had to leave a message with someone else who didn't seem to mind one escargot that I wasn't coming in. No questions asked. Fingers crossed that's ok with the powers that be.

Another lectrice just rang me and said that she was in the same situation, so at least I'm not alone. I figure that most of the students won't be there either because of the greve so maybe that's makes it ok? I feel guilty but it's out of my hands.

Now a few questions are apparent.....will I have to reschedule the missed lessons (2 hours today) for some othr time? What happens tomorrow if the strike continues? On verra, yes, we'll see. I'll take the strike in my stride like a real Frenchie. Yes I will. Then again, maybe I'll get really cheesed off and moan about how pants France is....You'll see.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Guess who classic moment

Last Friday on my last lesson before the holidays, we had 10 minutes to spare at the end of the lesson and I decided to play an old favourite with them...."back to the board", or "guess who" where a student has to guess which famous person they are (the answer is on the board). They can ask questions where the response is either yes or no but nothing else.

The first student had to guess that she was Stephanie de Monaco and did so in a few minutes. The second student I picked on because she had done no work at all in the lesson (meanie that I am) and I never imagined that she would make us all laugh like she did. She had to guess that she was Homer Simpson. After a few tentative questions (she found out she was American and male) this was the the transcription of what happened (I couldn't make this up)

(me, suggesting that she should ask questions about her (or his) personality)

Student: Ok, am I stupid? (why the hell she chose this adjective first is beyond me)
Class: Yes
Student: Am I George Bush?

hahahah

(me suggesting that she should ask about the appearance after recomposing myself)

Student: Am I black?
Class: No

Student: Am I white?
Class: No

Student: Am I Micheal Jackson?!!

Honestly, what she said couldn't have been funnier and the thing is, she was being totally honest and serious. The fact that in her own questions she almost repeated the line to Micheal Jackson's song Black or White just made it even more comical......

She did finally guess that she was Homer Simpson, but she was left feeling a bit bewildered to why we were laughing. Classic Comedy Moment.

Friday, 24 October 2008

My Frenchie works for free

Before I start my rant....it's the holidays! woop woop. To celebrate, I just took a two hour afternoon nap. Yes, the holidays are badly needed! For the next week I'll be scheduling in lots of naps me thinks!

It's 5.15pm on a Friday and my Frenchie should be home, but you've guessed it, he's not. He has a 35 working week like most other French people, but this doesn't stop him working way beyond the hours he is paid for.

My Frenchie should work the following hours: 8am - 6pm Monday to Thursday and 8am - 12 noon on a Friday. Don't forget the two hour standard lunch break in this, that's why the day seems a bit longer. If he does these hours, he works 35 hours a week. The norm in France. The problem is, he does so much more than this and is not paid a penny, oops, a cent more. We frequently have heated discussions about this. He argues that he gets a bonus twice yearly, and his boss will (magically) take into account all the extra hours he works in calculating his bonus. I say 'magically', because my Frenchie does not clock in or out. Why would he need to? He works 35 hours a week right?! So how would his boss know how hard he's been working his ass off? He also points out that he spends a lot of his time in the car going between clients. He does up to 1000km a WEEK.

I point out that his boss wll not take into account how many extra hours he works, and the fact that he spends time in the car is because his company has decided to do a project in Paris, Lille, Rennes or Reims and it is not HIS commuting time. His car is his office. He is constanty on the phone to clients, organising things ie, working.

This week he has left the house 3 times at 6.30am and gets home at 8pm. 13.5 hour days. x3 = 40.5 hours, (34.5 hours if we count the non existent 2 hour lunch break, he eats a sandwich in the car) One day this week he got home at 6.15pm and I nearly died of shock. So add another 8 hours to his working week....48.5hrs or 42.5hours (with lunch). Today is his half day, imposed by the government to keep to the 35 hour week. Here's the catch...he just rang me and he's still in Paris. On a Friday, at 5.30pm. He'll be home in 2 hours if the traffic isn't too bad. Today he will have worked 13 hours (ok, 11 hours, let's be generous with his lunch break). He is meant to work 4.

The grand total of hours working this week ranges from a bad 51.5 hours (if he took all lunch breaks) to a ridiculous 61.5 hours if he didn't.

Who's more stupid, me or him? Me for being angry with him, or him for accepting to work fo 26.5 hours a week free of charge?! I honestly can't decide.

Is there anything I can do? Does anyone have a similar experience?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Ice hockey....allez amiens allez

At the weekend we went to an ice hockey match in Amiens. Amiens has a very good ice hockey team so we thought we'd go to see what all the fuss was about!

I had such a good time despite not really understanding the rules! I kind of guessed them as we went along, We were sat in the Amiens supporters area and the atmosphere was great! 10/10 for effort...there was a group of about 30 people with flags and drums that chanted and sang for 2.5 hours nonstop! Even now I can remember the chants!

Unfortuntately Amiens lost 2 - 1 to Tours and I must say, the supporters were not graceful in defeat! Everyone booed and stomped their feet in disgust as the Tours team celebrated their win.

The atmospehere was great and it's clear that people are really into it. There were a few fights on the rink which was quite exciting too.

I've always liked contact sports like Rugby and Karate and I think I could get into Ice hockey! It's really physical, quick paced and easy to get into. Just don't hold your breathe in seeing me on the rink. I can barely stand up on ice skates, never mind play a sport! Definately a spectatotr sport for me!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Egg in the eyes

Just thought I'd share my fantastic French fault of the day. Was talking with my class about food and one girl was talking about a dessert I think we'd call egg custard in English. In French I think it's crème aux oeufs (she didn't know the word for it in French...she's not French) and I said: 'Oh yes, I think she's talking about 'crème aux yeux'...... dam it. It just slipped out. You try it.... crème aux oeufs or 'crème aux yeux' Please tell me it's not just me!!

In any case, it amused the students.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Exhaustion with a cherry on top!

I'm sooooooo tired. Was at uni for 10 hours today, teaching for 5 of them, sorting stuff out for the rest. The lessons aren't too bad if you like juggling 10 fire balls at a time I guess.

I had a mixed bunch today. Goldfish and animated arguments. I prefer the latter. At least they were SPEAKING (in English !! Believe me, that merits exclamation marks) Getting the goldfish to speak even in French is hard. pff

The cherry on the top is that I signed myself up for free French lessons! If I had the time I could have 5 hours of lessons a week - 2.5 of civilisation and French culture (might help me understand Frenchies more eh?) and 2.5 hours of conversation and grammar. I can fit the grammar and conversation class into my timetable so I start next Monday! I'm quite excited although it'll be really odd being the other side of the desks! I know I'll be a well behaved student!! There are 25 in the class, all of who are international students. I'll be in the highest level class (C1) and it'll be interesting to meet other people learning French. Apparently there is only one other English speaker, an American, so little chance of me 'cheating' in class!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Three years in France...the fourth starts here.

I can't honestly believe I've been in France for three years now. Officially, my three year anniversary was on the 23rd September. I remember thinking a lot about the last three years that day but didn't get round to writing abut it as I'd just started my lectrice job.

I've been through a sort of roller coaster ride in three years. I've realised through writing this blog that all us ex pats seem to go through the same peaks and troughs. Booo to French paperwork, closed friend circles, struggling to get to grips with the 'real' French language and not the one we learnt at school.....the list could go on and on and on. but I would like to be positive here.

I have learnt a huge amount about my inner strength over the last three years. I know what is important to me too. I am still sensitive and maybe still too sensitive, but I know I have developped a thicker skin, if oly a few milimeters thicker. Being away from everything you know, finding your own path does that to you. I've learnt to take knocks, and I'm stronger than I thought - I'm still here, still fighting. For those of you that knew me for my first year in France, who would have thought I'd have stuck through attacks from a certain English teacher.....somehow she didn't put me off living in France.

Last night I was talking to Ju and suddenly switched conversations to something that was being said on the tv. Ju was impressed that I could do that. He's been with me from the start and I think he realises now just how good my French is. And it is. I am sooo proud of myself that I came here with only GCSE French (age 16 exams in UK) and now am a level C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Language. One more level and I will be as good as natives. haha. If only it was that simple. Unfortunately, going from a C1 level to a C2 is going to take a long time. Maybe a decade? More? Maybe I will never achieve that level, it doesn't matter. People compliment me on my French, just today a lady at the bus stop did. I know it doesn't matter what others think of my level of French, but it is nice to hear all the same, and it proves that I can more than get by.

To think that I used to write a script each time I had to phone someone....Julien had to order for me in restaurants....sometimes he still goes to do so and I step in and reclaim my part in the conversation. You see, he got so used to talking for me that sometimes he forgets that I am capable now...sometimes more so than him. It's been known in the bank/insurance brokers that I have had to explain something to Ju when he didn't understand what the bankman etc was trying to get at! ha

France has been a nighmare and a dream. People ask me if I am going to stay in France and the honest answer is that I can't see myself leaving, not at the momet. The problems I encounter here are the same I would encounter in the UK. Speaking to my friends back home only confirms this, so why not stay?

After all, I've come this far.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Having long holidays isn't good for your health on the flip side

I am still alive, just. I started my lectrice job on Monday and have been hit by a wall of work and exhaustion. A million and one things to remember, each class with their special needs, exams, mentors. I'm swimming. Just about keeping my head above water. I came home today and sat for over two hours. I didn't move a muscle in all that time (ok, internet surfing on laptop on lap doesn't count as muscle usage - is a reflex trained action) and when I moved, I felt nautious. I'm no doctor, but I'm guessing that's not a good sign. I have zero appetite. I'm hungry and when food is put in front of me, I can't eat it.

All that aside, I'm sure these feelings will pass. Being on holiday for 11 weeks makes you lazy and I'm suffering from the change of pace. The students are as I expected, nothing that I haven't seen before although dealing with classes that have both bilingual students and ones that can hardly string a sentence together will be challenging I'm sure.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Poll results and starting a fresh for 2008 - 2009 season

Thanks for voting in my poll. I was really interested to see what other ex pats do in France and here are the result:

Teach English
9 (39%)
Work in tourism/hotels/cafés
1 (4%)
Translator
1 (4%)
Artist of any sort
0 (0%)
Scientist/Engineer
1 (4%)
Teacher (not of the type Ingleesh)
2 (8%)
Work with Animals
0 (0%)
In the city (bank, lawyer etc etc)
2 (8%)
Don't work, can't find a job
0 (0%)
Don't work out of choice
1 (4%)
Other
1 (4%)
I don't live in France/Not an ex-pat
5 (21%)

Votes: 23


So, like I predicted, there are a fair few of us who teach English. It's obvious that it is a talent of ours, speaking English I mean, but I wonder how many of us actually planned to become an English teacher. I'm betting not many. I certainly didn't. It was something thrown at me when I moved to France. Don't get me wrong, it has its upsides, like the frequent and extended holidays allowing me to visit my family on a regular basis. I am so grateful for that, but teaching English wasn't on my list of 'things to do' when I was growing up.

Je fais avec for the moment. I start my new job as a lectrice at a university next week which involves holding conversation classes, teaching phonetics and creating and marking exams of English students. I've been so long on holiday for the summer (10 weeks ahem) that I'm a little worried about going back getting into the rhythm again. Now it's quickly slipping out of the grasp, I want to stay on holiday for longer.....ha.

I have also signed up to teach children a few hours a week. I know I know. I said I hated teaching primary school children, that it was exhausting and I got no reward from it, but here I am again. I'm hoping it will be a bit different. These classes are payant. I can't imagine parents would pay for lessons if their children weren't interested. I will let you know on that though soon. I always say that being able to get work experience in France is difficult so I couldn't pass up on this opportunity. You never know where it might lead me.....

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wales, a country apart

As I am home for the week, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about Wales.

Wales is a country and not a principality of England as a lot of people think. It is part of the Great Britain along with England and Scotland and part of the United Kingdom with Northern Ireland included. Wales has a population of about 3 milliom people (Great Britain has a population of about 60 million).



The Welsh Flag

There are two official languages of Wales - English and Welsh. About 20% of the population speak Welsh. Contrary to belief, the Welsh language doesn't look anything like English. For example, Bora Da means Hello and Dioch means Thank you.
We have our own governement but ultimate control is in the hands of the UK government, power held in London, England.

Our national sport is rugby. We have won the six nations rugby tournement twice in recent years.

The following celebrities (dead or alive) are Welsh:

Catherine Zeta Jones
Ryan Giggs
Anthony Hopkins
Shirley Bassey
Tom Jones
Roald Dahl
Richard Burton
Dylan Thomas

The Welsh are known for their singing. Aside from Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and other bands such as Stereophonics, there is a strong tradition of Male Voice Choirs which frankly puts the hairs on the back of my neck on end when I hear them sing.

Our National Anthem (children singing it) is sung in the Welsh language and translates as 'The Land of my Fathers'. This is another video of our anthem sung by a male voice choir. Ok, I'm getting carried away - here's Katherine Jenkins singing it. The English translation is here. You might notice I'm quite proud of the anthem. Most Welsh people will say that it stirs something inside them. It gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

Our National Day is on March 1st where we celebrate our patron saint, David and induldge in our traditions.

Traditional food from Wales include Lamb (there are about 11 million sheep in Wales - they outnumber humans 4 to 1), Beef, Welsh Rarebit, Bara brith Cake.

Wales is famed for having the longest place name in the world. Its full name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch which means The Church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio near a red cave. No joke. Locals usually shorten it to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG which is much easier to say. People come from all over the world to have their photo taken next to its signpost.



France and Wales

Having lived in France for three years now, I have a pretty acurate opinion of how the French 'see' the Welsh, or not as the case may be. Firstly, practically no one knows where it is. Then, they genuinely believe it's part of England. They are taught in school that Wales is a county (or region) of England, the French, as many other nationalities, call the UK 'England' so what hope do the Welsh have to be recognised? I've even seen Wales written as 'Whales' in a school text book.

I am introduced to practically everyone as 'anglaise' (English). So much so, that I have started to say it also. Saying that I am 'galloise' just leaves most people with a look of 'what the hell is she talking about' so I prefer to avoid this insult. I can introduce myself as Britannique but then they will usually follow that up with 'where in England do you live?'. Yes, Britain and England are interchangable. Sorry Wales and Scotland. I can't even imagine how Northern Ireland manage.

In a lot of restaurants in France you can order 'Le Welsh' which is our Welsh Rarebit in French form. Imagine my horror when on one menu it was described as 'an English dish that......' I mean, I give up.

I honestly don't think it'll ever change. It's hard enough keeping hold of my idenitity being in France, but when no one recognises your country, what I am supposed to do? Whenever it is brought up, I always point out that Belgium in 'just a region' of France. That usually brings them to their senses....if only for a little while.


Cymru am byth - Wales forever

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Enemy #1 - The Mosquito

I will never forget my first encounter with a moustique. It was in my first year in France and I remember hearing a buzzing noise near my face during the night. Thinking it was a fly, I ignored it only to wake up looking like the elephant man. I had been bitten on my eyelid and three times on my forehead. My eyelid got swollen so I coudn't open my eye fully and the whole experience was unbearable for a week. I couldn't put any cream on the eyelid bite because of its position and antihistamine tablets didn't take the edge off the itch at all.


Since that moment I have genuinely feared the buzzing noise and anytime someone says that there is a mosquito in the room, I flee. I've had the odd mosquito bite since of course but I always thought my first experience of them would be the worst....until now.

I wouldn't say Amiens, being in the North East of France, in Picardie, would suit mosquitos. Surely they would prefer to live in the warmer climate of the South?? It appears not. A few nights ago I saw one on the bedroom wall but missed it with my slipper. We went to bed, the beast still in the room and when we woke up, you guessed it, it had feasted on us. I personally would like to think I was dessert. I was bitten in my armpit and on my back whilst the mosquito had munched on Ju's back and arm for the main course. My bites have since turned into what I can only decribe as love bites or bruises and still itch like mad.


Last night the beast returned. I know this as Julien woke me up shouting 'I can hear it'. merci chéri. It might sound ridiclulous, but we put on some anti mosquito cream that Julien had when he went to the Reunion island and we thought that would do the trick. Not really my idea of 3am fun but hey. The rest of the night was spent under the duvet playing hide and seek with the beast. Stiffling hot under the blanket, I braved the cool air only to hear the evil buzzing. I honestly didn't sleep much at all. I woke up this morning to find out I had been bitten 5 more times. I think I'll be asking for my money back on the ANTImosquito cream.


So today I went to the supermarket to look at the anti mosquito products. There was a choice of sprays (might as well say on the packet 'kills them, kills you'), an anti-mosquito candle ('romance the beast') or some plug in thingies. I opted for a plug in thingie. 45 nights mosquito free (if you remeber to unplug it in the day, otherwise it's 15)



Do you have any experience of these plug ins? Do they work? Or will I be posting tomorrow that I now look like a giant dot to dot??

Sunday, 24 August 2008

What do you do in France Blog Poll

Bonsoir



I've often wondered what other ex pat bloggers do in France for a living (or not) and so I've put a poll on my blog. Please take the time to answer it and pass on the link to other ex pats in France. Any bets on the outcome?



merci



Emmy

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Pékin or Beijing, the plot thickens


Further to Jennie's post on the fact the French call Beijing 'Pékin' despite Beijing 2008 being written EVERYWHERE on the tele during the Olympics, I have proof that I will frankly never *get* the French.


Julien got home last night from work and on handing me these stamps, said 'tiens, des timbres de Pékin'. I looked down at the colourful images and was baffled to see that it had Beijing written in huge letters at the top AND on each of the 55 cents stamps. I had assumed that everyone in France used the word 'Pékin' but now I have proof that this is not the case, I just don't get it. I mean, you can trust la poste to give precise, up to date information on their commenerative stamps can't you ?? So what gives?


Is the word Beijing pronouced 'Pay-ca' (pékin)?? Maybe in France, yes. Or is this just another example of France, stuck in the past and holding onto 'tradition'. Answers on a postcard please but don't forget the Beijing, oops, Pékin stamp.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

BAB and Toulouse

Our apartment was in a small commune called Anglet (i thought of it as half of Angleterre) which is part of the area of Biarriz - Anglet - Bayonne or BAB as it's written everywhere! The apartment itself was great, refurbished and we were the first tenants. Great for cleanliness etc etc but not so good when the neighbour knocked on our door to tell us that our shower was leaking and so had flooded his bar. oops, it was sorted out though sharpish. Lucky man, i thought, you have a bar.

The apartment wasn't in walking distance to the beach/town so we had to get the bus as the car parks weren't free. This didn't bother me as I bus it everywhere, but Julien never catches the bus and quickly got cheesed off with buses that were late (by 3 minutes) and I can't even write what he said when two buses went past us too full to pick us up.....

There wasn't much really to see in Anglet apart from the beach which was pebbly...but the tiny smooth pebbles. not painful to walk on, but like quick sand in the water... I had an unfortunate moment when the waves took me under and I couldn't get up again so Ju had to rescue me. It was difficult to do that in a dignified manner....waves + quick sand type surface + flimsey bikini = comical situ for Ju, horifying for Emmy. Luckily Ju didn't have time to take photos, although he did mange the aftermath...merci

Biarritz was beautiful and from practically anywhere in the city you could see the sea. There were lots of coastal paths and the sandy beaches were crammed. Biarritz is famed for bringing surfing to Europe and there was definately a presence of surfers. As someone who grew up holidaying in Newquay, I was used to the waves but it was the first time Ju had seen waves - he grew up holidaying on the med ocean. hot, but no waves.

We went to a bull show or however you'd say it in English that are famed in the Basque region. They were cows actually, but cow show doesn't sound as good eh??! I've always hated bull fighting and such as I think it's cruel, but this show boasted respect and tradition and I accepted it. I was pretty terrified though - one of the men got knocked unconscient and another got trampled on, all lived to tell the tale. All's well that ends well I suppose. ;os

Bayonne had its festival when we were there (this is the reason why we couldn't find any accommodation in the region....everything booked up). La fête de Bayonne is a crazy festival where 100,000 people descend on the city dressed in red and white and they font la fête for five days. I have never witnessed anything like it. There are people absolutely everywhere, and music being played, people eating local produce of Bayonne ham and hot chocolate (??), people dancing and...



...oh, people drinking. I was quite worried about going after reading the posters beforehand (rape means 15 years in prison, the street is not a toilet, nor is the river..,) and yes, I should have been worried. By 1am, there were cadavres or corpses as Ju said, left right and centre. People being carried to the SAMU, pools of sick not uncommon, people so pissed that they bash into you because they have no idea what the are doing. So, in order words, another Friday night in any UK city then?! Yes, I have seen these types of behaviour before but never in France. The festival has got a bad name for itself but as usual it's the minority that spoils it for the majority. Moral of the story...go to the festival in the day time where we were surrounded by families and old people dancing in the street to brass bands. much nicer.

I did enjoy the holiday, but with all the bus journeys and car trips I was ready to leave after a week and I know next year will will be booking a holiday much more in advance to stop a repeat performance. I guess I'm used to staying in a holiday village where everything you need or want is at your doorstep.

The next stop on our travels was Toulouse where we saw Ju's brother who has recently become a Dad for the first time. I had a fantastic time! The baby is gorgeous and I couldn't help singing to him...he seemed to appreciate my renditions of twinkle twinkle little star even if no one else did!

A week passed really quickly with a detour to Andorra to do some shopping - crazy cheap alcohol and gorgeous scenery in the the mountains :o)


We also went to Rocamadour which was pretty and we visited the grotte de padirac which is the second biggest in Europe - a waterway 100 m down and you go on a guided boat tour of the underground rooms of stalactites and stalacmites. Really spectacular.
In the evenings we played UNO plus lots of mariokart on the Wii (does anyone else play? Send me your Wii numbers and let's play!) and all in all we had a great time.

I was very sad to leave the South and sadder to leave the sun behind - it averaged 32 oC daily, but leave it behind we must and now we're back in Amiens and Ju has gone back to work. I'm going back to the UK at the end of August - why not, but other than that, no plans, and no one to share my days with apart from Rocco the hamster and the turtles. Oh yes, Ju's turtles have come to stay as his parents have gone on holiday. I dreaded that the move would be permament considering his mum asks us continually when we're going to take them but she said (on hearing we were going to put them in a bigger aquarium) that she wouldn't take them back if they grew. So, fingers crossed that they don't because I wouldn't like to become a petmum to two 18 year old turtles.
Rocco on the other hand is my sweetheart...everytime I look at him i think how cute he is....

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Coming soon...

I'm back from our yearly summer holidays. After working in the UK for a few weeks, I came back to France and headed straight to Biarritz where we went to the Festival of Bayonne amongst other things. After a week in the Biarritz area we went to toulouse for a week to see Julien's brother and his new baby.

We got back to Amiens last night after collecting our pets from the petsitters....one hamster and two turtles.

all this, the explanations and more coming soon...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

From the dark side

I am quickly stealing a few minutes at summer camp to write this. I've been here a week now, and only a week to go. It has been harder than I remember from last year....

The kids are slightly older this year (up to 13 years old) and they are, on the whole, pains in the bums. The oldest ones are officially 'teenagers' so do not want to cooperate in any way shape or form, making lessons, activities and bedtime quite tough!

I teach up to 4.5 hours of English lessons a day to French, Russian, Spanish and Italian children and then supervise the activities the other times. I have 4.5 hours *off* every day and in this time I have to prepare all my lessons for the next day. By 11pm I am exhausted and flop into bed only to be woken up at 6am usually by a kid on the phone to his/her parents outside my bedroom. It is relentless.

I had my only day off today and I went to see my friends in a neigbouring city last night. We went to a bar but I was practically asleep on the sofa in the bar by half past midnight and had to go to bed.

In a week and a half I'll be back in France and on my way to Biarritz in the South for a holiday. I can't wait!

Monday, 30 June 2008

Today's crotte

I've just come back from a paper chase, a paperwork chase to be exact, and I'm empty handed. bien sur.

So, my working contract runs out today so I went to the jobcentre (assedic for those in the know) to sign up as unemployed so I can start to get paid unemployment benefit. In fact, i've been trying to sign up for the last three days on their website but each time it says that it can't register me and that I should phone up.

I rung up this morning and faced the ULTIMATE french test. I had to annonounce why I was phoning and by the magic of voice recognition they would direct your call. Ju had warned of this and said that if the machine didn't understand my accent, i would be put through to a real person (who would try to desiper me). I was(n't) reassured. So, congrats to me, the machine recognised my voice first time and correctly identified what I wanted!! Wooooo!!

Bad news though after that...the telephone sign up service is 'exceptionally' out of order today, so please use the internet. Well I would if it worked dumbass.

In despiration, ju picked me up and we went to the jobcentre only to be greeted by the rudest woman ever.

Hello, I'm a fonctionnaire (state worker) and my contract finishes today. I'd like to sign up
But you'll get paid until the end of August...
Not with my contract.
Not really believing me....(she knows EVERYTHING)
Oh, well, you must sign up online madam
I've tried, it doesn't work
On hearing my accent........
Oh, maybe it's because you don't have a social security number
Yes, I do
Oh, but it's not your own (she looks at Julien......obviously I have married a french man to stay in the BEST country in the world, and escape poverty in my own)
Yes I have my own social security number
Well, I can't help you. No one here can help, we do not sign people up in person. You will have to sign up online.
But madam, it doesn't work
I assure you it does

At that point I realised that we weren't going to get anywhere. We left, me, very angry.

Then I went to the rectorat (education dept) to get my papier jaune that I have to give to the jobcentre in order to get my unemployment benefit and was told I wasn't in the correct building...that primaire teachers have to go to the inspection academique instead. So, I go, even more cheesed off, to be greeted by another rude woman who announces that she can't magic the paper out of thin air and I will have to wait for it. Well, that was obvious madam, we are in France after all, but there was no need to be rude about it.

So, after being pushed pillar to post, I have come home with nothing. On the bus home, no one gave up their seat for an elderly lady...

I'm feeling pretty sad now. There is definately something wrong here.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Let me intruduce myself: Lectrice, formerly known as assistant

yes, it's official! I went to the uni this morning and the shiny lectrice contract is winging its way to me in the post!

As one door closes, another one opens....

I just had my last ever lesson as an assistant. Never say never I know, but I just had my last lesson at primary school. I was a bit sad to leave them as I really like the pupils at my Friday school, but with the fab news this morning about my next adventure jobwise, I couldn't be too sad could I?! I've promised to go back and see the teachers (and pupils) next year..It's not really adieu (goodbye forever) considering I live in Amiens. I'm not going anywhere just yet. Lots of the children gave me little notes with 'i love you' or 'thanks for teaching me this year' which touched me.

Right, I will have to go as we're getting ready to go to a wedding, my second in France. This time I'm well prepared for the marathon meal.... more on that in my next post i'm sure.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

La poste, pain in the poste-iria

Did I tell you the one where we bought a new letter box so to avoid going to the post office to collect my parcels (i get a lot....ration packs usually) I was not expecting what I have just returned home to find......a note from the post office telling me collect my parcel of a dvd. Grrr. My letter box was packed full of todays crap ie, shop magazines........ and so postman pat couldn't fit the parcel in. But get this...... today is Tuesday. I have the right to collect my parcel (2 km from my house) on ......SATURDAY. I'm sorry, is it going to be transposrted there on the back on an ant? 4 whole days in limbo. Not so amusingly we're not here this weekend. So, I will be able to pick it up at the first opportunity on Monday. If they're open on Mondays.....

PS, I have 14 days to collect the dear parcel before it is destroyed. nice touch.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

When being bilingual (ahem) means pimping out your keyboard

I recently had to accept that my system of plugging in a second keyboard into my qwerty laptop to make it azerty was being a pain in the arse, so I ordered keyboard stickers. I have just stuck them on and am totally disorientated!! So, when I change the language on my computer I now have to think....white or yellow?! What do you think?




Tuesday, 17 June 2008

found my camera!

So, here are a few photos of the house, minus bathroom and store room (hope you won't be offended!)










...and now, the end is near, and so I face the final....

...please add a word to the finish the sentence. I can't quite decide. I'm this close to finishing work and can't wait. The assistant chapter in my life is about to come to a close. It's been 3 years, I think it's time. Don't you? more on that later.

It's been yonks since I wrote. I have good excuses but the last excuse (that of being too scared to look on blogger and realising the enormity of the task) is not so good. Sorry.

So, my good excuses: We moved! Hurrah! We waved goodbye to the noisey neighbours and the rising damp at last. Unfortunately, with that, comes a whole lot of merde, of the French variety of course. I'm talking about PAPERWORK, and mountains of it. Change of address for anything and everything under the sun. To-ing and fro-ing of letters from organisations X, Y and Z to confirm and reconfirm I moved, not to forget the 'thank you for letting us know you've moved' letter from each X, Y and Z. So thoughtful of them, such a waste of time, money and effort.

The worst thing about moving was the lack of internet connection meaning no internet, cable tv and telephone. It was a verrrrryyyyyyyy long 5 weeks. Work was a nightmare without access, I had to resort to drawing all my flashcards and worksheets and I generally felt very out of control during this time. Also, not being able to ring my mum or my friends back home at no extra cost whenever I wanted was torture. Being France also, the time was elongated that it took to reconnect us. Julien just thought it was normal where I was tearing my hair out.

All us well now (after a few hiccups) and I can finally start to feel settled in our gorgeous F3. It's a terraced house, which are famed in Amiens, on 3 floors and it has two good sized bedrooms, one of which is my office, but has a sofabed in it, ready for visitors.

Work is almost over....6 working days and that's it. With it, a horrible thing is happening.....i'm seeing things with rose tinted glasses. Maybe the kids aren't so bad, maybe the teachers do support me, maybe they do care after all. eep. What's happened to me? I have to admit, the end of school concerts were great....I got classes to sing 'another brick in the wall' by pink floyd and 'Animal Fair' which I used to sing when I was little, and I felt so proud of them. I might put snippets on here if I find out how to upload videos. The classes are becoming so unbearble to live through though, it's almost funny. The children smell the end of year coming and as a result, there is almost nothing any one of us profs can do to control them except wish each other 'bon courage' at the beginning of each class. I'm crusing from this point on. Revision, the less noisey games and....I'm planning a party in each class for the last lesson. Great UK children party games. Pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs. It will probably turn into a nightmare, but I will try. I have been warned that the children won't accept the rules of games that they don't know and will probably sulk if they don't win, but don't all young children do that?!

In other news, we bought a hamster yesterday. It's been planned for ages but as I didn't want to fork out 60€ on a cage before buying anything else, so we'd been looking on leboncoin.fr for good deals on secondhand goods. We also found the ad for the hamster on there too. an excellent website if you haven't already come across it. Like ebay, but with a more local feel to it. Rocco (the hamster) is settling into his new home but is already causing problems....jeeze, the wheel is soooooooooo noisey!! I am sorry to admit, on his first night in his new home, his cage had to be bansihed to the store room at 1 am as I jusst couldn't sleep. Maybe I'll get used to it, maybe, the store room will become his new night time place of rest, we'll soon find out!! I will have to start taming him soon as he's only one month old and not that happy about our presence at the moment. again, watch this space!

Ok, long over due, I will (try to) post some photos of the house and of Rocco..... here goes....

and voila, just as I want to post some photos, I can't find the camera!! grrr. I will find it and post some photos soon. promis.

In the meantime, thanks to the other bloggers in France. I am going through a positive phase in my French life and a lot of strength comes from reading your blogs. It's so great knowing that I am not alone in this cheese eating tricolore place, and that our experiences are similar everywhere. Keep sharing the insight.

Friday, 18 April 2008

into the fire...

We went back to Wales last week for a week's 'holiday'. I'm putting the speech marks around this as it turned out to be quit stressful (in a niceish way). The computer went on the blink the week previously and mum was waiting for us to come home to sort it out! The problem was, when we turned it on, it started smoking!! I ran for my life thinking it was gong to explode and the computer was declared good for the scrapheap! All this meant that it became our task to kit my parents out with a new computer. Three return trips to the pc shop (on three consecutive days) and voila, we have a new computer. I then had to install everything on it and figure the new Windows Vista for myself. I'm pleased i could do it all otherwise my parents would have had to pay someone to come do it for them!

I was left feeling that the week was all about reparing stuff and taking trips to shops to get things replaced (the first monitor we got with the new pc was damagd too!) grrr and was looking forward to coming back to France to have my second week of school holidays.

So, back in France and the very first thing I hear is a voicemail message from our new landlady who has just thrown another spanner in the works concerning my paperwork I need to provide to be able to be a tenant. So it goes, I need a guarentor for the rent (if i can't pay, they pay in my place) but as I'm not French, there is no one in France that can be my guarentor. There are schemes in place to deal with this problem but the landlady has to pay a nominal fee in order for it to be put through. She has just refused. Tight fisted indeed, especially as it was her who told me about the scheme. So, earlier this week I went to the bank on the hope that they could do something for me. Apparently not, the bank man didn't know of any sort of the thing that could help me. Spontaneously, I burst into tears! Classy, composed girl that I am, but this seemed to rouse something in the bank man (he probably just didn't know how to deal with a sobbing foreign girl) and he swiftly rang his boss to ask if they could help me....and yes, they could in fact help me! I felt totally ashamed that I cried in front of the bank man but it seemed to do me some good I guess. Knowing that my landlady is a bit odd, he even handwrote a note to give to her so that she will believe me when I say she needs to give the bank a document....

It's ridiculous the hoops I have to jump through here in France. It just got all too much for in the bank man's office. I wouldn't worry too much if I wasn't written on the house contract, but I fear it will cause problems further down the line...how would I prove where I live? and I doubt that the landlady would talk to me like a tenant if I wasn't on her dam contract!

Just another day in the life of my franglophone life in France I guess.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Happy anniversary to me, and only me

Ju and I have been together 2 years today and what best way to celebrate this, than ....alone. Ju is away in Lyon with work and won't be back until Thursday. We agreed not to 'celebrate' it as such as we're moving soon and could use the money for something else like uum, a towel rail. How romantic. But still, I would have liked to actually see him today. To make up for things, I'm planning on opening a bottle of rosé, making some popcorn and watching dirty dancing / love actually. maybe both. Don't get me wrong, I'm not annoyed with Julien, nor sad in anyway....maybe I'm just using this as an excuse to drink, eat badly and waste time on a chick flic!

I can't honestly believe it's been 2 years. Boy, it's been, and continues to be, a rollercoaster of an adventure. Julien and our relationship is stable, but everything else dips and climbs around me. Thank god for naivity, for without it, I would never have made the leap of faith and I wouldn't be where I am today without it.

Would I have really moved here if I had realised that finding work is as hard as it really is?

Would I have moved here if I had realised how hard French was to grasp and how the more you learn, the more you realise you can't speak a word?!

What about the French? Understanding them is also a work of art. I find them much more myserious and closed than us Brits. Just a thought; if people all over the world were just a tiny bit nicer to people that don't come from their countries, there would be a lot more smiles in the world. Believe me. I've had that 'look' a thousand times too many. That look that says 'I'm scared/confused/horrified/worried/ashamed that I can't understand you because you are not French' followed by 'Can you repeat what you have just said? I don't understand.' Or more commonly 'hein? (pronounced 'eh'?) where I live. It's frustrating.

Yes, the rollercoaster continues but I'm learning to control it, ride it better. 2 years ago, I would have never imagined my life as it is here today. So, I can't start to imagine where I'll be in another 2... watch this space.

Monday, 31 March 2008

and can the boys wear skirts?

Today I showed a class some school photos of mine to show them that we have to wear school uniform in the UK and I got a mixed response! Some of them thought it was cool and others thought it was ugly! And then the questions started.....

Remember I teach primary school children....

1. Can the girls wear their hair how they like?
2. Why do the girls have to wear ties? (It's a man thing apparently)
3. Can the boys wear shorts in the summer?
and the best.....
4. Can the boys wear skirts......? Well, this is what I understood and was frankly stumped for words until I realised he wanted to know if the girls could wear trousers! I swear sometimes it's comical with my french, their english and competing with all the noise in the classroom! This is the reult, a very odd question indeed.

Talking and explaining in French was also a bit wishy washy for me. I'm practically fluent give or take a few thousand words and yet when I have to explain stuff to the children I hate making mistakes in front of them. Partly because I don't want them to notice I make mistakes, partly because I teach 6 year olds and they don't notice my mistakes and might start copying my errors when they speak. This said, today I got corrected a few times by them....masculine and feminine words get me all the time and I make mistakes. Well, now it's official, it's UNE tenue. Thanks Manon.


Showing them the photos made me ask myself some questions that I have never thought of. Why do girls in the UK have to wear a tiny pleated skirt for doing sport in? Whay can't the boys wear shorts in the summer? Uniforms have their pros but they also create problems and finally 7 years after I finished school, I am only starting to see them.

It's the first time I've done something really cultural with the children and they were really interested...except for one little boy who asked....Can we do some work now?! Charming.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Oops, I did it again....

It has been brought to my attention that I've been neglecting my blog and as a result my nearest and dearest are at a loss to my movements ... I tend to assume people psychically 'know' things about my life and then realise that 'no, i didn't actually tell you did I?!'

So, time being imited, I'll fill you in in a bullet point fashion (sorry!)

1. We're moving house ! We found the cutest and cleanest terraced house ever in Amiens and we're moving in at the end of April. It was meant to be sooner but the landlady is away in April so we can't do the papers in time for it to be sooner. I'm so impatient to move in. We have already chosen the new bedroom furniture we're going to buy and the sofa we want and alas, we can't buy it yet. I'm having nightmares that in the meantime every single branch of a certain swedish shop will run out of the furniture and that likewise for the sofa. I want to buy it all right now just to be sure, but seriously, nothing much else will fit into our 35m2 shoebox. aggghhhh.

2. Easter was super early this year wasn't it? It's usually near my birthday in April, but March 23rd?! eep. I realised this year for the first time that Easter in France is not like at home. In France all the chocolate eggs etc aren't really 'branded'. I guess there're not in fashion. At home, you can't see the Easter bunny for Mars, Twix, Maltesers, Dairy Milk, Celebrations chocolate eggs. Here, chocolate chickens are quite fashionable. hum, quite. We had a very festive raclette party at Ju's parents' house as they weren't there, and I spent most of the night serving myself drinks (French girls don't drink, and well, I do!) and listening to all of Ju;' friends who are having houses built for them, or are getting married or pasced (don't ask) and I was feeling quite out of the project! I got asked when we were getting married and when we were having a baby....like, no! Stop.

3. Work is much the same. Although to be honest, I think I'm coping a lot better with the monsters. I expect less from them, stress less when they are frankly nighmarish and chill out much more quickly when I get home. I have learnt to cut off from them! Hurrah! Their English evaluations are starting on Thursday in my three schools which should see me through until the end of next week when, yes, I have two weeks off (Easter holidays...two weeks late!) Doing the evalautions are exhausting and SOOOO repetitive for me. Imagine...I have 3 schools, 8 classes, uum, 100 pupils... Yes, you get the picture! I will be doing the same thing 100 times over. yikes. At least it doesn't requite much preparation because......

4. Tomorrow I'm going to see England Vs France in la stade de France in Paris with Julien, his Dad and Brother. Go England Go!! It will be slightly amusing to be sitting with them but cheering against them! I hope we sit next to some England supporters otherwise I will be outnumbered in my cries of ROONEY and be drowned out by cries of HENRY. Dear god let England win, else I will never live it down! I'm outnumbered!

5. As we're moving, the paperwork is starting all over again, I have to change everything....so, I'm off to the banque now to get am estimation on house insurance etc etc. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

2 kisses or not 2 kisses, that is the question.

Here is a very useful link. Yes my friends, kissing in France is a serious business, and VERY complicated that someone has produced a map.

Notice how in the North, there is a 'blip' in the region where you have to give 4 kisses to greet someone.....this might well explain the time I headbutted one of Julien's relatives when meeting him for the first time....I was terrified and totally shocked when he wanted to go in for 2 more kisses, getting to a total of 4. I saw this guy again recently and was much more physically and emotionally prepared to being facially assaulted.

The next time you meet a Frenchie, ask them if they have a copy of this map in their wallet...I think I will be adding it shortly.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

different country, same problems

Being the school holidays, I dashed back home to see my parents, the cat and generally chill out. Even though it has only been 5 weeks since the Christmas holidays, i was definitely ready for a break.

I find slipping back into everything such easier these days. The language change over goes more smoothly (although I do find myself slipping up now and again) and getting used the the UK culture is much easier than it used to be.

I was very happy to meet up with an old school friend today, totally by luck...we both happen to be back at home on the same weekend, no small feat at all! I haven't seen her in 2 years but nothing much has changed between us, and it was fascinating listening to her news and it dawned on me that she seems to be living the same life and problems as me. I tell myself that a lot of the problems I encounter is because I'm a foreigner living in France, but it seems she is going through the same things. She lives with her boyfriend, has had a huge downturn in her social life and wondering when did she got all so 'grown up'. Obviously it'd not quite the same as me, but it did make me feel better about my life!

I'm actually really missing Julien and my French routine. Sarah Turnbull in 'Almost French' says that once you have lived in another country, you can no longer feel totally at ease and at home in either country and I totally understand and agree with this.

For the moment though I am making the most of being at 'home' in Wales. Tonight's menu of yummy home cooked food and crap on (British) TV will do me nicely thank you very much........

Sunday, 27 January 2008

My 5 things about France

So, Crystal has given me the task of writing 5 things I love and 5 things I hate about France.

Here goes:

5 things I love about France:

1) Julien
2) French bakeries
(it's at this point where I have to start to think very hard......and moved with ease to my 5 'hate' phrases)
3) Umm, France is so diverse - you can sunbathe, go skiing, see beautiful mountains, and let's not forget the flat North. We Heart the flat North.
4) 35 hour week (or in my case, less). Never ring a French company on Friday afternoon, you will most likely get the answerphone....everyone has already left for the weekend.
5) long summer holidays that teachers get. But hell, we need them.

5 things I hate about France:

1) You have to be 'qualified' to even work in a pet shop
2) The paperwork you have to do even to get permission to sneeze
3) Being so far from my friends and family that are starting to forget about my existence
4) Small mindedness of people - yes, I'm not French, accept that I have an accent and that I'm not deaf - I'm Welsh, not deaf.
5) Finding girlfriends is seemingly impossible. Please will someone enlighten me how to acheive this other than clamping onto the group of friends of your French boyfriend.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Not giving up on giving up

My half hearted new year's resolution was to stop apologizing for not being French. Well, it seems this is working, I no longer care one monkeys what people think of me when I make a mistake in French etc etc but it has also had a side effect of that I want to move.

I have decided that I can no longer continue teaching the children. In fact, if I could, I would quit today. I hate it. Nothing has drained me more, physically or emotionally. I'm a shell of my former self and I know things have to change.

The problem is always the same though, what is a Native English speaker actually qualified to do in France other than teach English? It seems practically nothing. Well, certainly not working in a pet shop, that's for sure. Long story.

I think it would be a very good idea to move cities and to start a fresh. Also, easier said than done considering I have no idea what I am good for other than teaching, and I don't want to do that. I prefer teaching at the uni although it's really tough going, but I'm not prepared to be a replacement teacher forever because it's practically impossible to get a real, permanent contract.

Answers on a postcard please.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Blood, sweat but NO tears

In October I blogged about my nightmare school where all hell breaks loose on a regular basis and where a boy bled everywhere on trying to prove that a compass point being poked into one's arm didn't hurt. Well, today, in the same school (no surprises there) a little girl of 7 years cut her bottom lip with the scissors that she was munching on and bled EVERYWHERE. Thankfully there was another adult in the room and she took care of it. It was like vampire blood. It streamed from her lip like she had eaten teacher for lunch. Amazingly she didn't cry, although I nearly did because I was left with the job of clearing the blood up that was left on her desk and the floor. I think the other children learnt a valuable lesson there (well, two...the second being you can't use the board eraser sponge to clear up blood....two seconds later and they would have done, with only nasty consequences for smearing blood all over the blackboard...nice.)

Another wonderful day at school, n'est-ce que pas?!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The next year begins...

December went by in a flash - and thank god! I spent a lot of time with my primary schools doing their evaluations...loads of hard work and exhausting, but at least it took up a lot of time. After that I did some Christmas stuff with them that got them even more excitable. Who would have thought colouring in a Christmas tree and making a Christmas card out of it would have gone down so well?! I had my last lesson at uni mid Decemeber as well, so i was definately winding down to Christmas.

Christmas itself was very different to usual. I spent it in France and so lost all of the usual traditions that make it Christmas - hearing carols on the radio, seeing classic naff films on tv, eating all things related to Christmas...turkey, cranberry jelly, mince pies. all gone.

But fear not, i had my fair share of food alright. In fact, we sat down to a 7 hour Christmas Day meal. no, this is not a typo. 7 glorius hours were spent around a dinner table. 1pm - 8pm to be precise. There were 14 of Julien's nearest and dearest and the food was, well, very french. apéro - munching on what we would call snacks - peanuts, little toasts with savoury things on them and alcohol - champagne bien sur. salmon and fois gras for starters, ostrich as the meat for the main course, cheese in varying colours and whiffiness, la buche (christmas log) ice cream stylie - 3 flavours to choose from, and coffee. it went on and on. and on. I didn't drink much at all as I had been quite ill a few days before Christmas but i wish I had have done as it might have passed quicker. I even thought about the Queen's speech that i missed, the episodes of eastenders that had gone to waste and the twiglets that we being neglected back in the UK. yes, i was a bit sad. It was funny to see the drunk uncles though - they drained a bottle of digestive cognac of such. Then they promised to go for a bike ride on boxing day morning, which of course never came to fruit! ha

As for opening presents etc...the tradiation is to open the presents on Christmas Eve which was very odd to me. Also, I still feel a little uncomfortable receieving presents off Julien's family. All in all, Christmas was ok although a bit odd for me. Just not the same.
We came back to the UK on 27th to spend the New Year and my Dad's Birthday with my family. As usual I was ashamed of the state of public transport. The train got delayed by an hour when we were on it meaning the journey from London to Wales took 3 hours. A joke for the money we pay. Anyway, we arrived in one piece and had Christmas #2 a la welsh style. It was great to see my parents and recover a little bit of Christmas spirit.

I was meant to see my best friend but again due to the shocking train services, she decided to give up as a job job and stay at hers.

New Year's Eve is also my Dad's birthday and we went to get an indian take away to celebrate. I was very happy as spicy food is a bad word in france and so hadn't had a curry in yonks. It was fab. The New Year was drunk in watching Big Ben and having a webcam link to Julien's friends in France who always have a big party on New Year and were missing Julien a lot.

The few days after New Year were spent sorting all things out for my parents that they need help with - how do I replace the ink cartridge in the printer? Can you sort out the new sky box and how do i now watch a video with all the new connections (and buttons to press). I realy like helping them with these things and it brings it home that I don't see them all the time. *deep breathe Emma*

I've made a New Year's resolution although I don't know if it will be easy to keep - to stop apologising for not being French. IE, stop worrying if someone notices I make mistakes, or if people are rude to me because of it. I've lived in France two years and I've had enough of rude, narrow minded people. Last year was a toughie for me and thought on more than a few occassions to giving up on things here. I think it's time that France accepts me. Whether or not that will happen is another thing.

I've also realised recently that no matter how hard you want to keep in touch with people, unless they too want to make an effort, and value you, then there is no point in making an effort in the first place. Being away from home makes me want to stay in touch with people from home more, but it's not as easy as all that. I spent time writing Christmas cards to people that matter in my life and hardly received any back this year, not even from family. I think I'll not bother next year, save about 20 euros on cards and stamps. bah humbug and all that, but I genuinely felt sad and hurt that no one bothered about me. Like because I now live in France, then I no longer exist. Thanks. Julien sees how hurt I am, although he can't imagine how I feel as all his family and friends live in the area.

Anyhoo, what will 2008 bring my way? We're hoping to move into a bigger, less damp apartment. Then I have to decide what to do with my life. Much easier said than done. I can't seriously think about being an assistant for the 4th year, and I don't really want to go through the pain and likely failure of 'real teacher' exams. Then what else? I really wish I could just work in a café, have a circle of girlfriends that I see regulary, and have a little less stress in my life. A British girl in France can dream can't she...?

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