Monday, 7 December 2009

this fonctionnaire made me laugh today, but the dream is dead

As I am sitting in front of a concours issued secretary at a university today I couldn't help but be blinded by the ironic string of words that were leaving her mouth.

I went there for some more information on a course that I'm interested in doing next year. My careers mentor at the ME of F asked me to get some more information on the course in order to determine what type of jobs graduates do, how many of them find jobs afterwards etc. Kinda important stuff right?! Well, it seems that these questions really cheesed this fonctionnaire off. She said that it wasn't information to be given out and she said that it was the first time anyone had asked, and totally didn't see the importance of why I was asking. I gritted teeth and explained that it was my career mentor that advised me to find out this information in order to create my project, but no, she still thought I was rude and even seemed peeved that I'd mentioned this career mentor.


I knew it was time to leave when she accused me of just wanting to be told what course to take, that she couldn't tell me what I should do, that it was for me to construct my dream and that they were just the people to enable me to follow said dream. Haha? Dream? So, you being a fonctionnaire, who had to sit a concours in order to be then 'placed' in a department of probably not even your choice, you have the right to talk to me about following your dreams? My cul.

I left saying that I might sign up for the course once I'd defined my 'dream' and forced a bonne journée. I know I shouldn't be angry or upset about this hollow woman, but I can't help it. She really annoyed me. How dare she talk to me about dream jobs when the country where I find myself doesn't recognise my degree and won't allow me to sign up to a course that needs (the French) high school diploma despite already having a bachelors? I'm just trying to save time by asking what type of jobs I would be able to do with certain diplomas under my belt. There is no way I am going to do another degree or diploma if the final outcome is unknown. I don't think that is stupid or rude to ask.

Unfortunately, if I do decide to do this degree, I'll have to go through her in order to get signed up and something tells me her concours certificate will make my route there less than smooth.

Are you doing your dream job or did you settle for something else now you are in France? I would be interested to find out!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

My good manners are wasted in France

I'm sorry Mum, you raised me well, spent 18 years forming me into a human being who respects rules and other people and taught me the art of politeness. I'm sorry I moved to France and all your hard work was wasted, that no one appreciates it.

In the bus queue yesterday, I hovered back as the bus rolled up to allow an elderly lady pass in front of me. The people behind me sighed loudly and pushed past me muttering that I was holding them up. The poor old lady got on last.

Today, again on the bus, I was the first at the bus stop, and was waiting ages for the bus. I was in the place to get on the bus first but yet as the bus pulled up, every single last person surged forwards leaving me to get on last and as a result, not get a seat.

It really drives me mad this behaviour. I almost want to shout out something but I know that this behaviour is quite normal in France. I always stand up too for elderly people or heavily pregnant women but I am totally in the minority.

You just can't change how you were brought up I guess.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The joke is on my Carte Vitale

I laughed out loud when I inserted my Carte Vitale into the machine at the pharmacy this morning, but to be honest I didn't expect anything different. 'Your card no longer works, please see the relevant authorities'.

I've had a hate-hate relationship with my carte vitale throughout my French life and now I can finally laugh in it's face at its uselessness.

When I lived in the North, I got my health insurance number like we all do and got my first green health insurance card or my 'carte vitale'. Great, that's done then. Oh no...

When I moved to the neighbouring departément picardie I never gave it a thought. After all, health insurance is a national scheme right? My card was going to work right? Wrong. I found out the painful way when I was admitted to hospital with a suspected burst appendix. 'Madame, your card isn't working (how are we going to prove you have the right to health care??)' What? You can imagine the fall out that caused at the hospital.

With investigation, I found that you had to update your carte vitale at pharmacies any time anything changes in your life....you move, change mutuelle etc. I also found that if your card couldn't be updated, you had to get a new one.

Wait a minute...why wouldn't your card be able to be updated? Surely that's the point of the machines to connect to the national database?! Ha, not so fast. With a shrug only a French fonctionnaire could manage I was told that moving departments 'sometimes' means getting a new card. Fine I thought, let's just it over with, fill in the forms and wait 4 months for the new card.

(As a side note, what do you think happens to the information on the old card? Is it just lost, forgotten about? Like my medical history doesn't matter? It's definitely not on my new card that's for sure. Worringly really)

Annnyway, I knew the next battle was coming when I decided to get out of Education Nationale. You see, teachers get their own super special branch of health insurance called the MGE of N. Same carte vitale, totally different approach. Not to mention their super dooper mutuelle to help pay for health care. Not being a teacher any more meant changing over to the general scheme CPA of M.

I was ready for the battle. I went to the office in town and explained that I was no longer a teacher (the woman looked at me like I'd just said I'd met santa...no one quits being a teacher) and I got all the paperwork to fill in. I recently received a letter saying 'You have been informed that it's possible to update your card, please do so'. Great I thought. They say it's possible, it must be. Zoom forward to the first paragraph of this post.

Please, was I really going to believe a bit of French paperwork saying that something was possible? No, I'm wiser than that. So, what's next in my Carte Vitale story? I will be sending off for my third carte vitale in 4 years. Unfortunately they have just started putting photos on them so that's something else to do. J had to get a new card too recently when he changed his official doctor to a local one. He waited 6 whole months for his so I won't be holding my breathe that I'll be getting mine anytime soon. He couldn't even fill in the form to get one as his request was in the 'system' and he had to wait to receive the form in the post, and wait he did.

I'd like to take this moment to remember all my medical history that has been lost and hope that one day a doctor won't need this information for alas, it went to carte vitale heaven.

The carte vitale. Not so vital after all.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

As I was saying....

... In my last post yesterday about how I've given up on my nationality and having loads of things to write about but not being able to......Yesterday I had a typical example of how I am received in the shop that I just had to share. At one point yesterday I was asked to explain the finer details of custard to a woman (yes, my life is stimulating) and after doing so, she turned to my boss and said, and I quote 'c'est une anglaise?' He just did his usual (unfunny, and not necessary) thing of 'no, she's Welsh' but I mean.....come on? What was more insulting? The fact that she turned and asked my boss if I was English, or that fact that she used 'c'est' (it) rather than 'she' or even that I didn't actually get angry until I thought about it. It's happened before (I may or may not have blogged about it about it happening in a lav-matic a few years ago) but seriously, I just helped this woman, and I was standing right in front of her. I can accept 'oooh, you're English, where abouts?' and I've even known to crack a smile for 'oh, it's not only the products that have been exported' but just don't insult my intelligence by asking my boss if I'm English when I've just helped you choose your Baked Beans. OK?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bouche Cousue

Things are fine here, and despite what the lack of blogging suggests, I actually have loads of things to blog about but alas, can't because it is all job related.

Working has opened my eyes to a lot of things, exposed me to loads of experiences (good and bad) and has confirmed above all that teaching is not for me. It's been heaven not preparing lessons and even though I work all day Saturday which is a bummer, I'm all up for going out in the evening - that never happened even when I was teaching.

All in all, I'm a lot better - my mood is infinitely better, I have more energy and I cope much more with everyday tasks. All these things were difficult a few months ago. J has seen a huge difference in me too and the dynamics between us have totally changed for the better!

Being bouche cousue about my job is quite hard. Working in a shop that sells British products provides masses of sketch show material....I'm compiling it as I speak!! Try explaining Marmite or Jelly or Lemon Curd to a very suspicious audience.... or that there are many types of curries......or most annoyingly that Le Welsh is uuur, Welsh and not English and that cheddar is not orange. Don't even ask me how I'm coping with my nationality. I just say 'oui' when I am asked 200 times a day 'Are you 'anglaise'. Sometimes a girl has to accept defeat.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The perils of food shopping in the rain

This is quite possibly my least favourite activity and one in which I have just gone through, with predictable outcomes. I'm soaked, clammy, have sore arms and am rather cheesed off.

You see, the formula goes like this: heavy bags x waiting for bus + attempting to maintain balance with said heavy bags whilst on bus = no fun at all. Added to this is the fact that the buses become saturated with people when it's raining and the floors get slippery and aggghhhh. Has anyone noticed how people smell worse in the rain too? It's like wet dog syndrome. As well as being up close and personal with people you'd much rather not be, you get to smell their wet cigarette smoky coats or damp leather jackets, or worse. yuck.

I'm just thankful it's not a permanent occurrence. It's just it's happening a lot recently as J is away all week long with work and will be for weeks to come.

One consolation today - at least I now have something nice to eat for tea!! Just got to dry out beforehand to enjoy it!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

One of those (good) days...

At the weekend, J's brother, girlfriend and 17 month old baby C came to visit for the holidays. It was a big event considering they live the other end of France now and only come back for holidays. C got baptised in the summer and as a lot of the family couldn't go (too far) J's mum decided to celebrate their arrival this time around.

So, on Sunday, 32 of us piled into the dining room for 4.30pm precise and we ate 'navettes' (long sandwich rolls - ham, cheese and paté bien sur) and had yummy cake and champagne. I used to get overwhelmed at family events but I cope great now following conversations and chatting away to my neighbour. And I didn't even think about having to bise 31 people.....haha

I am still amazed at how big J's family is. 32 was just the close family - and J's mum is an only child! If I had the same party in the UK, we would be 14 - including aunts, uncles, cousins and babies (and me and J!)

I was also amazed to see how baby C is developing. I last saw him two months ago and he's now started to talk - he knows me and calls me 'tata' (auntie). Coming from a tiny family, I've never had the experience of babies that know who you are and it really touched me. Much more so as it's in French, in France, in my new life that I'm creating for myself. If ever there was a moment where I realised that I'm here, that I'm doing it in France, it was the moment I heard C call me tata. *grin*

When did you realise you were 'doing it' in France?

Monday, 19 October 2009

My next knitting project begins...


Here is the start of what will be a very long knitting project. It will become a bedspread or a blanket one day. It'll probably take me until winter 2010-2011 to complete! eep.
A labour of love is born.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

PSBs - Personal space bubbles

I was once queueing with my best friend Rachie to go up the Eiffel Tower and I exclaimed that my bubble in which I don't like people to enter had well and truly popped. We were squashed in the queue and as I remember, a short dude (shorter than me!) behind me might as well have been sharing my own trouser legs - he was that close. Rachel laughed loads at the time and I have had problems with this ever since.

Everyone has a different shape bubble that they choose to claim as their own personal space. That day at the Eifffel Tower I decided mine was very large behind me, smaller at the sides, and larger again at the front. Confused?

What I'm trying to say is that I get very uncomfortable when people enter into this space that I choose to claim but it's obvious that some people have large bubbles, like me, others are walking around in shrink wrap. You know what I mean?

I'm talking about this as someone who has entered my life recently is a shrink wrap type and frankly, the more time I spend with this person, the more my bubble expands. Unfortunately, each time I step away from Shrink Wrap, they move closer and the other day I had to hide in another room briefly to regain my composure - I was on the brink of shouting, or crying., or both.

Do you have any coping mechanisms I should be aware of, or am I alone in this PSB problem? Although quite funny, it's becoming quite an issue!! Please share your own PSB experiences too.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Moving on up...in heels.

Well, it was about bloody time that things got a bit better for me right?!

My French lessons are starting on Monday officially! I can't wait although I'm sure I'm going to be a bad pupil. 4 years teaching English gives a person an insight into how language lessons are and/or should be. I'm so happy though I'm finally going to get some help I know for sure I'll hand in my homework on time!

I got myself a little job too!! and it's not teaching!! yay! Working part time in the British shop in the town centre. It's cool I get to be surrounded by Hobnobs, Dr Pepper (and Irn bru for princesse) and peanut butter all day long! And I get to taste everything too in order to be able to help the customers better! I have to work all day on Saturday but I figure that's ok too. Sundays are all the more special with J!

After months of looking, we finally found a bike for me on the now legendary leboncoin.fr that was cheap AND in good condition and we're picking it up tomorrow. Shame it's been raining like cats and dogs for days.... I want to have a bit more independence from the bus service and it means that on nice Sundays I can partake in J's favourite sport....although somehow I think I'll be the one lagging behind!!

In celebration of these three great things, I went out and bought some ankle boots today. Totally impractical - they have heels! Ha, Rachel, you are probably laughing right now. I don't 'do' heels ever (since a leg op) but I love these boots! I know J won't understand my reasoning but hey! I wanted to buy something for me! And it's never too late to learn how to walk in heels right?!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Did anyone go to the American Library in Paris yesterday?

I just saw on petite anglaise's website that there was an evening with a few well known ex-pat authors last night at the American Library of Paris. Did anyone go?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Esperanto? ne. singing? jes. French lessons, oui oui oui!

So, like a lot of things in my life at the mo, Esperanto is going on the back burner as it turns out that I am the only person interested to start lessons and they can't do a lesson with just me there. grrr. There is already one class but they are too advanced for me to join considering I'm a total beginner. I have been on lernu.net though so I can learn a bit on my own! Mi ne Komprenas!! It's refreshing to start a new language and maybe I'll get to go to a lesson sooner rather than later.

On a better note, I go to my first choir rehearsal tonight. They started two weeks ago but wasn't able to go as I was in the UK. That's something to be happy about!

I start my long awaited French lessons on Monday too. We're getting tested and then the lessons will start later in the week. Unfortunately I won't be getting 20 hours a week like I thought, but 5 hours a week. The lessons will last all year and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I kind of wanted to be out of here after Christmas. Being only 5 hours a week means I will have to find something else to do also. A job would be nice, but I won't hold my breathe.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Esperanto-International Language?

So, I'm looking for things to do in Amiens and I find out there are Esperanto lessons in Amiens. Not having a clue what this was (sorry linguists) I look it up on the internet and now I'm fascinated!

But people...have you ever met someone who speaks it? I didn't even know it existed until 10 mins ago and I'm hardly a language recluse! Really why would Amiens (coincé de chez coincé) have these lessons when they hardly do French lessons? I'm totally interested and I might go to one of these lessons just to find out more about these people. Do you think it would mean something on my French CV to say that I can speak Esperanto? Interesting, very interesting.

Linguists, speak up! What's the deal with this language? Why would I go to lessons? Is it really a living language?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Here again. waiting

I'm back in Amiens. I had a good, but brief time in the UK, but it's ok to be back in France. Like I said in my last post, I've come to realise, no matter how much my life is miserable at the moment, I DO have a life in France.

Trying to keep myself busy and not think about lack of job situation as that just makes me really sad. So, I'll be starting a new knitting project and I'm waiting for my French lessons to start. I'm interested to know if I will be considered as a student when they start and whether I would be allowed to do stages in that case. Not surprisingly, I have no idea when the lessons will start. I was told 15th September to 15 October at the latest. I've emailed to ask if they've organised them yet, but no surprise - no one has replied. I've rang too, but no one answers. It's cool. I have no energy to get annoyed at them. I might go to the centre tomorrow but it wouldn't surprise me if they were closed.

so, I'll just wait. I think I'll have to get used to it, I doubt my situation will change any time soon. If I'm waiting for France to be more organised and accepting of foreigners, I'll be waiting a lot longer yet.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

What is family?

I'm back in the UK. It wasn't planned, I only booked tickets three days before travelling but I thought I needed to get out of La France and spend some time with the fam.

In about an hour we are travelling 'up north' 3 hours to go to a family christening this weekend. I haven't seen my family for 2 years (gah, I was going to write 'since 2 years.....shoot me now) so it will be nice although a bit weird too. Being in France makes me realise that I can live quite comfortably without these people. We've never been close, only ever seeing each other once a year anyway, the distance was always an issue, and I think my change in attitude is as a result of being in France and constructing something of my own. I used to absolutely love catching up my them but now?! I now know we will never be close and just because we are family by blood, it doesn't mean everything.

Family is what you construct too. The people you love, who you know love you. That may be my 'grand frere' Damian in Mexico, or my SIL in France. Equally Rachie in Brussels than Cedric in France. My parents in the UK and of course, J, my rock, by my side. These people know me, get me, and support me. I've always chased the ideal fanily group, and I think at last I'm OK with the one I have.

I am looking forward to seeing the fam, but I'm not dwelling on it. Our distant relationship is what it is and I know that when I go back to France, I'll be seeing / speaking to my family, blood or not, too.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Another one bites the dust

or that should be 'another dream eats the French crotte'.

Interesting fact of the day: Every single person who works in a pharmacy in France was educated in France. I know this very interesting point as I was told yesterday that under law 45b, sub law 22g blah that no foreign diploma will allow access to the BTS 'working in a pharmacy'. So, it's official, my searching, reflection and work done with my bilan lady over the last three months has been a big fat waste of time. Woopi-doo. I now know I'd like to work in a pharmacy, but in fact will never be possible. Ever.

Thank you France once more for this beautiful moment in my life.
There are only so many times you can pick yourself out of the crotte before it starts to stick for good.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

mobilettes

I don't think I'm alone when I say I am passionate about the degree that I despise mobilettes/scooters/hair-dryer powered bikes. Call them what you like, I hate them.

Ever since moving into the house 16 months ago I've had to get used to the noise of them doing the circuit around our road. But it's got more sinister recently and I felt I had to react.

There is a small park next to my house that connects my quartier with the town centre and it's beautiful walking through it on a crisp cold morning or hearing the frogs croaking in the tributaries of the Somme that run through the park.

But you can scrap this peaceful mental image when the mobilettes pass through. The kids in the area race through the park and pedestrians have no choice but to jump out the way and walk on the grass to avoid getting run over. They very often don't have helmets on, I doubt that a lot of them are actually old enough to ride anything with an engine, and last week I saw one doing a 200m long wheelie through the park. Not to mention the noise that they make - they often tune up their engines so they make lots of noise and which allows them to go much faster than the engine is meant to allow. joy.

Last week was the final straw when I was brushed by the arm of one such mobilette. I'd heard it coming, got out the way by walking on the grass and yet the idiot still found a way to brush past me at speed. I jumped a mile and was frankly a bit shaken up. Yesterday on getting out the way for two very young motocyclists without helmets who were racing each other I decided to do something about it....i went to the police.

I went to the police municipal, pressed the buzzer, and was directed to press another buzzer...the second person told me to go to the police national. So I went to the hotel de police (a little less confident this time) and explained my thing at the desk....and guess what?! Well, I'm sure you can imagine.....I didn't get anywhere! The woman told me that I should call the 17 next time it happened and a patrol car would swing by. It's funny how even with the police, you get the run around and told to go to see someone else. Let's face it - how important is it to send a police patrol car to some idiot kids zooming around a park on mobilettes? Not very on the grand scheme of things.

To be honest, I didn't expect much else for my efforts but I am quite proud that I was brave enough and confident enough to speak to different police departments. That wouldn't have happened a while ago. Ringing the 17 is a different matter though....I think they'd laugh at me!

So, I will continue to wince and jump from fear each time I hear that screechy engine sound approach. One of these days I am sure there will be an accident and I for one will be able to say sadly 'I told you so'.

Friday, 4 September 2009

My non-rentrée

Just as everyone has been gearing themselves up for the return to school/work, I have been gearing myself up for my first non-rentrée since living in France and let me tell you, it's a mixed bag of emotions.

For the more informed amongst you, I've been doing my best to find a route out of teaching and the process has turned out to be heart-wrenching and well, dam hard.

I've been through relief when I finally decided to leave teaching, joy when an organisation took me on for a bilan de competences, and most recently I've mostly been through hell. It seems that it is genuinely THIS difficult to retrain. I have a BAC+4 in all things scienecy and yet my hoop jumping and administrative party tricks are still not enough to get me onto a BTS. Frankly, I'm done with my party tricks and I don't think it's necessary for me to degrade myself further. I still have a little self worth despite France having ripped most of it out of my chest along the way.

So, what's in store for me this rentrée? I could teach.... Only today I've been contacted by my boss at the uni and asked if I wanted to do a second year as a lectrice as they still have space. I turned it down. Tell me I'm brave and not stupid. On the way up to uni this morning I felt physically unwell. I was going to consider taking the job but seeing all the students on the bus reminded me how much I hated it. Yes, I have loads of stuff prepared already but the idea of doing the same things and having the same problems was enough for me to say no. It was hard though. I'm trading in a job for the job centre. It's a gamble but not too much of one considering I'd be in the same position this time next year anyway - jobless with no extra real experience to put on my CV.

People may think I'm mad to turn down a job but I'm never going to get out of the cycle without being brave. So, my rentrée is being dedicated in trying to pick up the pieces after the psychological damage I've sustained along the way during these last 4 years. Someone recently told me that I was too young to be so unhappy with life and I agreed.

I'm starting French lessons this month in order to regain my confidence in myself. I'm sending CVs left right and centre with the motto 'I can but try' to organisations that I think might need a 'me' and later in the year I plan to do more mini-courses at the adult education centre and maybe do some informal 'try-out' periods in jobs that interest me.

I don't think this year is going to be easy, but I have to try and find a non-teaching job in order to save my sanity. And today, just knowing that I have a non-rentrée back to a teaching job is enough for me.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Heaven is....

...finding a little bit of your homeland on your doorstep. A new British grocery shop opened in Amiens today and I happened to be its first customer! (lets not tell the dude I've been stalking it's opening for a while now!) I was worse than a kid in a candy shop...I was walking round with a grin on my face and I wanted to touch everything! Tea bags, biscuits, and wow, cadburrys chocolate bars and ginger beer!
I bought my favourite biscuits of all time HOBNOBS. As a little thank you present for being the first customer I was also given a pretty jar of lemon cheese. So cool!!

So, tonight I will be mainly eating these with my proper cup of British tea :

Monday, 31 August 2009

yarn shops please

Calling all knitters in France...(or not)

I'm deciding on my next project - I'm thinking cute winter patchwork blanket and was wondering where you guys buy your yarn. I always end up getting it online and would rather not as sending 20 balls to another country costs mega bucks!

So, where could I go to get my hands on chunky wool? I've found a pattern that uses sirdar big softie, but do you have any recommendations for something similar? or where to go look? purlease.... sorry, couldn't resist.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Looking for loved ones in the Battlefields of the Somme


Rachel came to stay at the weekend! J and I had already decided that we were going to visit some of the WW1 battlefields and memorials but what we didn't realise is that Rachel had lost two family members in the Great War.

We first visited Thiepval British memorial for the missing. Here there are 72,000 names carved onto a memorial to honour those whose body was never found.

Then we visited the lochnagar mine in La Boisselle which is a site of an enormous explosion on 1st July 1916. The huge crater brings it home the horrors that must have happened over 90 years ago.

At this point Rachel had got in touch with her family who were able to tell her exactly where her family members were buried and after looking at the map, we realised it was totally possible to go and find them. Both uncles were buried in small cemetaries in small villages and as ever with war graves, they were incredibly well kept. It was the first time that anyone from her family had seen the graves and I was very happy to have made it possible for her.

It was a beautiful day, and so moving in many ways. Reading the dedications in the cemetery register was choking. These cemeteries are often totally empty. We pass them in the car often and have never seen anyone in them and yet the register proves that people come in great numbers from all over the world on a regular basis. So wonderful to know that the soldiers have not been forgotten.
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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

itchy

I've got heat rash and it's horrible! I guess two weeks in the south during the heat wave didn't do wonders for my poor pale skin after all. I'm sooooooo itchy and trying not to scratch isn't working. Apparently there's not much you can do for it other than keep cool. It's 33oC here today and I was forced to go out in the sun for an appointment for my bilan de competences. Now I'm itching more. aggghhhhhh.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Back to real life.

We got back to Amiens on Sunday after a mammoth 14 hour car journey (2.5 hrs of which was spent asleep in the car in a service station). Amiens is a loooomg way from the med sea. Our hearts were lifted slightly as we went straight to the maternity to visit J's new godson who is a week old now. Then we went to pick up the hamster from the hamste-rsitter (aka, mamie) and then it was back to Amiens.


I was not too encouraged by the serious lack of post for me. I mean, I was away two whole weeks! What did I receive? A bank statement and a sephora advert. On the other hand J had loads waiting for him including a postcard! ggrrr.



I now have loads of housework to do - i've already done 5 machine loads of washing. and then there's the ironing. zzzzz. J's bro who is still on hols in the south rang me today and tried to be supportive....at least I won't be bored then, he said. sniff.



We had a fab holiday, I loved spending time with J's bro and baby C, loved the beach, but was happy to meet J's new godson N back in the North.



I'm now left with happy memories of the holidays. Some of which will continue on for a bit longer. thanks to the following: . In order left to right: muscat, muscat, st chinian red, st chinian rosé, pomplemousse rosé. There's a little shop at the tourist resort that sells wine by the 1.5litre plastic bottles. Thank you giant vats of wine in vrac. Thank you!! MIL and I got through one whole muscat bottle in less than a week. Vive les apéros! Summer can now last a little bit longer...well, until Rachel comes to visit me this weekend at least!





Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Massif Centrale and Toulouse heaven

I'm in destination number 4 of our holiday - Cap d'agde on the south coast of France. I have time to write as J is currently snoring out his siesta. Me, I'm in my bikini ready to catch some rays and probably sweat it out at the beach later on.

Destination 2 on the holiday was the massif centrale. Volcano land. There are over 80 in the region and we spent four days exploring some of them. It was stunning.

We spent a day at Super-Besse which is actually the name of the town and not the sports park like I thought. haha. Here we climbed yet another puy, did some luge d'été (summer sledging -amazing fun) and also tried out the grass karting. It's amazing what a ski resort can do to attract visitors in the summer. At the moment I would post a video of the karting that J filmed but I don't think the holiday wifi will cope. Think MarioKart. It was fantastic. I'll try posting it later.

Holiday destination 3 was Toulouse to see J's bro, SIL and baby C. Now, this is always a toughie for me as I look forward to going so much, have a great time, and then have to leave. That my friends is very hard. I feel so at ease in Toulouse, surrounded by people who care genuinely about me. I get to talk to a real life girlfriend who is also my SIL about girlie things and then it is whipped away from me. Tough my dears, that moment indeed. J's bro mentioned in passing after his girlfriend was being stupid that it was ok for me as I didn't have to put up with her as I only see her three or four times a year. We were all joking about the silly thing that had made us laugh so much and there was me thinking 'god, I want to see them more often than 3 or 4 times a year. I want to see them every weekend.' Leaving wasn't too bad this time as they are coming to join us at destination number 4 on Friday for a few days. but still it hurt leaving.
I don't even want to think about destination finale - Amiens. That's for another time. For now, J's stopped snoring so maybe we can go to the beach......

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Holiday spot the error


I haven't fallen off the planet, I'm in ze massif centrale on holiday for 4 days as part of our two week tour of Lyon - Clermont Ferrand and surrounding areas of ze massif centrale- Toulouse - Cap d'agde.

Lyon was expensive but it was nice to see J's cousin and his nicely new constructed house. We arrived at étape two yesterday and Clermont Ferrand is just that - two town centres, Clermont and Ferrand. That was unexpected! The buildings are often made of volcanic rock which makes them look dirty so it takes a bit of time to get used to. I found Ferrand prettier than Clermont.

Today we went to the regional theme park based around volcanoes. Well, there are 70 of them in the chaine de puy! Whilst waiting (for an hour I'll add) at one of the attractions, I read the notice in English only to to be left worrying about my health and what on Earth was in store for me and all ladies ahead on the Dragon Ride.

...can you spot the classic translation error?!



I'll be posting some photos of the area soon.
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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

I love Knitting!


This is my 'hate plastic, love knit' shoulder bag that I finished recently. It took me longer than I thought but I'm very happy with the results. It's the first time I've knit in cotton and I liked it a lot! No wool splitting but you have you be careful with your tension. I also learnt moss stitch which is used in the handles and the base pieces to give strength to the bag. Despite the original 'oooh, I'm learning a new stitch', I soon got bored with the repetitive of moss stitch and you have to concentrate a lot. ;o) Difficult when you're a knitter who likes watching the tele at the same time! hehe. The pattern is from the British knitting magazine 'Simply Knitting' which I love and I added a lining to the bag myself and the ribbon binding to give the bag more shape.

What's my next project going to be?
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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

British biscuits

After seeing the French version of this advert, I looked on youtube and it exists in English too. I mean, I am totally baffled to what they are trying to say about the Brits?! and in which country was this shown? Please let me know if you know....

FYI, these biscuits are yummy.

Monday, 20 July 2009

i'm back, just

I got back to Amiens last night and I think it's going to take me a little bit to settle down. My ears are well and truly blocked up and it's making me feel sick and dizzy and it's giving me a headache. Not the best welcome home. This is due to the Eurostar London - Lille. Since they've changed the route to make it quicker (now only 1h20mins) it plays havoc with my ear drums. Most of the journey is now spent coming in and out of long tunnels and the frequent change in room pressure has caused my ears to complain a lot. It's the worst it's been and I can't even manage to pop my ears so I'm stuck like this until they decide to return to normal. Yuck. Anyone got any tips? I'm an impatient kind of girl when it comes to illness.

This afternoon I'm going to wander into town to see if anything has changed in the two weeks I've been away. haha. The sales are still on I think so let's see if there is anything left that could be interesting to me. I'll probably come back with a woolly poncho and some shoes I'll never wear. I heart the sales.

Monday, 13 July 2009

car booty

Yesterday mum and I did a car boot sale in our local village. you pay £5 a place which goes to the scout group and then you're free to sell your junk goodies. There were about 20 cars and although it only starts officially at 2pm, we got there at 1.15pm to set up and we were the last car there and there were already people looking to buy! What's the point of the start time then?! Anyway.... we didn't have much to sell but we almost sold everything including my karaoke machine (haha) and a nice wall clock of mum's.

We didn't make millions but we only stayed an hour as we'd sold out practically there wasn't much point staying longer.
I think more and more people are coming to car boot sales what with everyone tightening their purse strings. I for one love looking for books. It is pot luck though. Sometimes you can find some gems and other times it really is just junk. But I guess one woman's junk is another woman's gold.
It was a nice afternoon but there was drama when a gazebo overturned in the wind and injured a little girl. She started bleeding a lot and was taken to hospital to be stitched up. Eek.

Dangerous stuff car boot sales.

Photo not contractual.

*** I'd like to thank the mighty Crystal for helping with html in this post. The girl's a genius even if she'll deny it herself***

Friday, 10 July 2009

In my other life, where thing seem different

I'm in Wales. Picardie beat me and I moved back to the homeland. (If only for 2 weeks, sniff)

I got back on Tuesday and since then I've been shopping, sunbathing - yes, it's possible in the UK, and chilling out. It's nice to be home as it always gives me time out where I can reflect on my life more objectively.

In Amiens, I feel like a goldfish in a very small tank, no coral, or little castle, looking out into the big exciting world outside but unable to get there. When I'm in Wales, I think about my life in that fish tank and it doesn't seem so small. Yeah, there is no coral, or little castle, but it doesn't seem so small.

The basics are there in my life in France. I'm loved. But I want so much more and vital things too.

Life shopping list (no expiry date to items on list)

1. friends...do you think rent-a-friend exists? This is still the biggest ongoing crappiness in my picardie life. I feel lonely A LOT. Not helped by the job situation (or lack of...)

2. a job other than teaching. In the process of my bilan de competances but unsure of the outcome...i fear slippery decent back to the classroom.

3. a garden. Yes please. my fish tank is smaller when the sun is shining and no where to go outside to soak up the much needed vitamin D. I'd love a garden where I can grow veggies and maybe keep a couple of chickens. ha, I'm turning into my mum.

4. a cat. When #3 is achieved, I will allow myself one. I've always had a cat and they bring joy and amusement. (sorry Rocco, still love you). This said, if one happened to wander into my fish tank, i'd be quick to shut the window behind and claim him right now.

Friday, 3 July 2009

It's not me, it's picardie

I'm so angry but it's not be unexpected. Picardie is rubbish.

I have finally (and I mean finally, I've been looking for years....) found that picardie has officially NO proper French classes. I kind of knew this as I've been looking but hey, it's nice to know it wasn't me.

The link proving that where YOU live is better equipped for foreigners than here. Notice the lack of Picardie in the list.

Also, I've been looking at training courses that are en alternance. That way I get to work and study at the same time. I found a fab website that helps people like me find these courses. Great! There is a map of France with it's 22 regions on it. With a booklet for each region about which jobs are recruiting in this manner. Fab! Except, picardie is (was) the only region that had 'in preparation' on it. I was so peed off. I waited, kept going back to see when they would put their info up, and joy, this morning they have.......replaced 'in progress' with the link to the national ONISEP site. I've been to these people, I know they are rubbish. Last time I went to the ONISEP advisors in Amiens I was told flatly that I should stay in teaching or do a masters in physics. Nothing else. When the nice people at the MEF rang them up for info for me, they said 'oh her, I've already told her to do a physics masters'. The MEF were horrified at their 'help'.

so, there is no way I can have french lessons, and it's not looking rosy on getting info about the training courses I want to do in the region.

Another wonderful day as a Brit in picardie.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The FrenchPaper anyone?

A new English language newspaper has just been launched about France and I was wondering if anyone has got their mitts on it yet? If so, what's it like? I haven't actually looked in the shops to see if Amiens has been deemed worthy of stocking it (I'd bet the world I won't find it here). It says on the website that it'll be stocked more heavily in places where anglophones live (again, not Amiens).

I'm interested to know if it's just centred on Parisien life or that of the South.....and if it's actually worth buying?

FYI, I completed a survey on their website about French way of life and I think they should be sending me a psychiatrist soon..... if you've got some time, complete it - you can totally see what they are getting at by the questions asked.

The FrenchPaper.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Amiens animated

Wow, try saying that five times in a row.... and I can hardly believe it the first time!
Loads of events converged this weekend in Amiens and it was so nice to see so much going on.

It was the fete dans la rue which is an annual event in Amiens now in its 27th year where there are loads of outdoor theatres, circuses and shows all weekend. It also happened to be our quartier's annual party too on Friday which was fun. Our road was closed off and we had brass bands and majorettes parading until 2am with a BBQ wafting our way throughout the evening.

The best show was a circus act on Saturday night that launched itself off the top of a 15 floor building in the tuwn centre and as they slid down a tightrope t the floor, they threw white feathers into the crowd. It was impressive but slightly scary! There were so many feathers it looked like it was snowing. Very beautiful at almost midnight!

Because it was fathers Day, we'd invited J's parents for the weekend which usually means mega stress for yours truly (is the house clean enough? will they like the food i'm cooking? is it up to MIL's standards?....) but I'd decided not to cook this time and so we went out for dinner instead! So much less stressful! hehe.

The weekend also coincided with the annual marché sur l'eau which reminds us of way back when the farmers/veg growers came to market by boat to sell their produce that they had grown in the hortillonnages or water gardens. These gardens are small areas of land surrounded by water from the river Somme that are only accessible by boat but are very fertile. Once a year the market is recreated, with the agriculturers dressed up in traditional costume. The boats arrive from the hortillonnages, they stop the boats in the town centre and unload the fruit, veg or flowers onto the quai and the market starts. Since arriving in Amiens I have missed this event each year so I was delighted to be here this year. We bought a few things, raspberries, flowers...and then we went to the hortillonnages to take a boat tour there which I've done a few times now with different visitors but never stop being impressed by its beauty and tranquillity despite it being practically in the town centre.



On the boat tour of the hortillonnages

J's parents left on Sunday evening, and we just couldn't make it out for the fete de la musique (so, you weren't the only ones L!) We were exhausted! We did get to hear a very amusing drunk man coming back from the fete de la musique though....at 5am we were woken by a man in our street who was shouting 'I ammmmm drruuuunnnnnnkkkkkk, la la la di da.....' The music was in him that night...

A really busy but very nice weekend. As I said, it's great to see Amiens with some things going on! It continues also as the fun fair is in town as of last weekend for a month...candy apples, candy floss.....and waltzes await me...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Did I mention that I've got British TV?

This is actually old news but I realised the other day that I haven't really told anyone about it!

For my birthday, J organised for us to have all the free British channels - that's over 300 (free to air channels) but I've got about 20 in my favourite's list.

We bought a bog standard 60 cm satellite dish, pointed it at the satellite Astra 28.2° (with the help of a professional who knew where to point it), bought a bog standard digital channel decoder, and voila, all my favourite channels - free. No need for a subscription or need to pay the tv fee that my parents must pay. hehe

It truly is that simple and not too expensive. All in all, including paying the pro to point the dish, 140euros. I've seen adverts from companies in Paris selling the kit and installation for a minimum of 450euros.... so I think it's possible to organise this for yourself if you want the British channels.

I watch an enormous amount of French tv, and have no problems following programs, hey, I'm even accepting to watch films in VF these days but it is soooooo nice to keep in touch with what's going on in the UK.

This way, I've got the best of both worlds.

Friday, 12 June 2009

My beautiful ring

As requested, here's my pacs ring that I was very lucky to receive. Let's not make any illusions here, I chose it and I was very excited in the shop! J has said on many occasions that he would never choose me jewellery in fear that I wouldn't like it.

I've never had a ring that was made to measure and it was quite interesting trying on all the sizes before deciding on which size I should get my ring shaped to. I'm a 48 apparently. :oD


As it's white gold, it will need re-dipping every 5 years or so as the 'white' rubs down with time to reveal the gold. You learn something every day...



Thursday, 11 June 2009

and the pascée ate sandwiches

J and I got pasced yesterday! 


After getting all the paperwork together, we waited for our appointment and at lunchtime yesterday, holding pinkies under the table, we got pasced. 


I even managed to OUTSMART a fonctionnaire by providing an orginal copy of my birth certificate which I'd paid £10 for and got sent to France just in case. The French are obsessed with original documents aren't they and us Brits only get 1 birth certificate that stays with us for life. Although I was told that I wouldn't need a copy, that they understand that our original is unique, I thought I'd pay for an official copy quand meme and bingo, the woman in front of demanded an official copy. Bye bye £10 copy, hello nice simple pacs procedure. Me: 1 Them: oh millions....


After the signing procedure, we ate cheese and ham sandwiches in the park and went to a café for a hot chocolate and a cake. I had a merveilleuse au chocolat cake for the first time and would totally recommend them. yummy. J left me to go back to work and in the evening we went to a new brochette restaurant in Amiens and we had champagne apéro followed by brochettes and beer! haha. It was great!


J was very wonderful and bought me a white gold and tiny diamond ring which I fell in love with at first sight in the shop. We picked it up just before we got pasced. It's simple but beautiful and I can't stop taking sneaky looks to see how it sparkles in the sunlight. 


I'm feeling very spoilt today!

Monday, 8 June 2009

The internet is back whilst I'm bouncing back

eugh, the neufbox broke the night of the scary storm two weeks ago and we've just been reconnected. Believe me, 2 weeks not being able to ring my parents in the UK for free every day, not being able to watch tv or check my emails/blog was horrible! Especially not being able to ring home. I think I use up the *free* phone calls for all of picardie! 2 monthly phone bill -30 minutes to France, free; 10 hours to the UK, free. So, am so happy to get it back!! :oD

Lessons started again last week after, urm, was it 9 weeks of the blockade? Whatever, it started again and with little point as the exams start tomorrow. I've got three exam sessions to individuate and about 200 exams to mark afterwards and then, yes, the summer holidays/unemployment will start! or summer holidays # 2....

I've been feeling better and better mentally these past few weeks/months. I started my bilan de compétances two weeks ago and although it's only the start, it has confirmed to me 1000 times over that I've done the right thing by wanting to get out of teaching. The Bilan lady voire shrink (ha) tells me that once you make the decision to get out of an unhappy career, everything else gets better and fits into place. Here's hoping, so far so good.

I've been so unhappy that I've been depriving myself of things as I didn't want to spend money on myself. The happier Emma tells me to go out, spend some money on things that will improve my life more....so, this afternoon I'm going to the ladies only gym and will (proably) sign up for the summer - histoire to use up my time, get fitter.... and I don't feel guilty about spending the money this time.

On a similar note, some of you will know how excited I am when I go to Lille and get to go to the UK clothes shop New Look...well imagine the squeal of delight I made when I found out that Amiens does indeed have one (Since when? Rachie, how did I miss that?) So, i think I'll be paying it an extended visit this afternoon too.... J just slowed down proceedings on Saturday...I've already got my eye on some sandals and a bikini....

Crystal, ring me!

Off for a nice British cup of tea....bon aprem everyone

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Toulouse, where the sun lives

I got back from Toulouse on Sunday after 3 glorious days there celebrating the christening and first birthday of J's nephew.


His christening was on Thursday (a bank holiday in France), and he had his first birthday on Friday. When the words 'ooh, christenings are becoming more and more like weddings' I knew I was in for a feast, literally. I wasn't disappointed. We spent three whole days eating and drinking and laughing oh and swatting mosquito. eep. Eating in the South is very different to the North I've discovered, and I prefer it down there. The christening menu was composed of entrée, main course, cheese and dessert and lasted 2 hours. In the North, there is usually another entrée, a sorbet to clean the palate between entrée and main course, and sometimes even a salad between the main and cheese. Meals in the North also last alllllllll day. Last Christmas, I spent 7 hours sitting at the dinner table. aggh. 


I overheard my MIL talking at the christening, and frankly, I wish I hadn't. It seems she's 'counting' on J to produce a girl. Woah, that would mean me, not J I guess. ;o) Boys are the rule of thumb in their family and to be honest, I myself would be amazed to have a girl. That won't be happening for ages yet anyway. Scary that the MIL is already thinking about it though. Christenings and weddings always do that don't they. Not content in enjoying the moment, family members always look to other couples and project them into the future. I remember a friend being terrified going to weddings with her boyfriend of 10 years as the enviable always got asked to why they weren't married yet.


Anyway, we had a great long weekend. It was hot, and I finally got to see the sun and feel its presence on my skin. I honestly think I've got S.A.D. 'cos I always feel much better in the sun. I'm also sad to say I shed a tiny tear on the journey back to Amiens. I mean, I actually laughed and had fun at the weekend. Even J said how happy he was to see me enjoying myself. In Amiens, there is no family, no friends, no sun, no laughs. It just brought it home to me that I am on a personal journey at the moment to create a better life for myself. Maybe a move to Toulouse wouldn't be a bad idea....

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Hilarious. Blackpool trying to put the ooh la la into the tourist industry

Warning ! This is NOT a joke. Just seen on sky news that Blackpool, a seaside town in North East England, has a new advertising campaign. If you are unfamiliar with Blackpool, it's famous for its tower, very much like the Eiffel Tower but smaller of course! What do you think? I love the reference to 'Lancashire casserole.....no no....'ot pot'...a meal like pot au feu in France where in the UK there is a divide on what to call the meal. I don't know how well this advert 'travels' but I think it's hilarious.


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Kin Ball

In my quest for an improved life, I've been thinking about doing some sport. Yes, even thinking about it is a huge step forward for me....

I was reading a local free regional magazine this afternoon and came across an organisation in Amiens that is introducing young people to sports and it mentioned Kin Ball as one of them. As I have nothing better to do, I looked it up and frankly, I'm speechless. You may or may not know about this sport, but you should watch this video twice as the first time I saw it, I just thought 'WTF' but now it's growing on me.... why doesn't this sport exist in the UK? gym lessons would have rocked.

There are 3 teams of four players. One team calls out another team and that team must stop the ball from touching the ground. If it touches, the team who called out gets the point. The players in the video are SOOOO into it. I do wonder about carpet burns though..... Video in French

Monday, 11 May 2009

I finally got my French test results back

I had a TCF test on the 27th March and finally got the results today.

Compréhension orale - 510
Structure de la langue - 547
Compréhension écrite - 490

Résultat global - 510 which is a C1 on the European Language level scale.

I am so happy with the results!!! I came away from the test convinced I'd totally failed the grammar bit - I honestly felt like I took educated guesses at most of it so you can imagine how I felt when I saw that I got the best grade in the grammar! The world works in mysterous ways.

Please note I have no idea how they work out the average as it obviously isn't a straight average of the 3 grades. Please also note that they told me the results would be with me within three weeks - 3 weeks stretched to 6 1/2 weeks. Vive l'admin.

It just goes to show you that you can get by in, hell, be good at a language without having a formal education in it. I've done it the hard way. I've learnt all my French in France and finally maybe I can start to have a bit of confidence in my language skills. I feel very proud of myself today. I know my French is far from perfect, but almost 4 years on from the day where I had to look up 'curtain' and 'knife, fork' and 'litter bin' in the dictionary in order to communicate crudely with the school where I was housed as an assistant, I can now easily watch the TV on any subject, read trash magazines, read novels and dam it, argue with fonctionnaires in French.

For those of you who are newer in France, it is possible. Hang in there.





Thursday, 7 May 2009

Why cleaning is bad


Death occurred during huge cleaning session (still in progress) in honour of my in-laws visit tomorrow. I hope J isn't too upset about this when he sees it...it's the souvenir from his godson's christening - so goes the tradition that the godfather buys something like this to give to everyone at the christening. I hope it's glue-able. eek

Monday, 4 May 2009

One up

For the observant amongst you, you will have noticed that my age in my profile bit on the right went up sneakily last week. It was my birthday and I was lucky enough to spend it at home in Wales with J and my parents. I did nothing special all week but it was great all the same.

I spent my actual birthday gardening, all day. My parents have a garden on all sides of their house and a hedge on all sides, some one metre high, others 3 metres high. We decided to help them out cutting them and mon dieu, I'm sending out respect to all gardeners. I was given the task of picking up the cuttings and I was exhausted after a day of bending, scooping and lifting. I would never again need to do gym squats if I had a garden. The only problem was that I really hurt my leg in the process of repetitive squatting. The next day was a write-off for me, spent knitting, whilst J continued with the petrol fuelled hedge cutter. He was in man heaven.

I don't have any photos of the gardening, but mum does so when I get some, i might add some here.

The night of my birthday we went to our local pub that serves amazing home cooked food. I had a huge spicy curry, lots of good wine and was told to leave space for dessert. I was expecting a huge chocolate cake to arrive (who wouldn't) and so was slightly miffed to receive a slice of chocolate cake with candle on top and alas, 4 spoons. They didn't even play the happy birthday cd. Worse, my mum was really disappointed. What with the 4 spoons, mum thought there would be 3 other slices arriving, but no.....we waited a while and then accepted we would have to share my slice. hmmmm. When paying, they asked if everything went well, and when mum said innocently that she was disappointed by the 'special birthday surprise', the boss was called over and mum didn't have to pay for it. She was thrilled but her jaw dropped when the waitress said under her breathe after her boss had gone that mum was lucky as that dessert cost £20. Yes indeedy....one slice of chocolate cake WITH candle £20 (about 25euros at today's exchange rate). yikes, candles are expensive it seems. It wasn't even a sparkly type. Again, lack of photos means you'll just have to take my word for it. Needless to say, we were all relieved that we didn't pay for it. phewee.

Friday, 24 April 2009

save money, wash your clothes the night

After our hideously expensive electricity bill the last time I almost fell off the sofa. I had never before paid so much. I decided to test out using the timer on our washing machine so it starts after midnight when electricity is almost half price and voilà, just got our next bill and we've saved about 14€ in 6 weeks. That's by just using the washing machine between midnight and 8am.

If your washing machine has a timer, try it out!

NB, not advised if you live in an apartment where you risk to wake up the neighbours by the vibrations! hehe

Thursday, 23 April 2009

today's things

1. I washed J's (urrm, I mean 'our') car today in honour of going to Wales tomorrow. It was done in damage limitation tactics as the car is filthy all the time due to the building site at the end of the road. I am permanently ashamed of how dirty the car is so I thought I should clean it before my Dad saw it. It's funny how wanting to please (or not disappoint) your parents never seems to go away with age. I was thus incredible shocked how much I enjoyed washing the car. I spent over an hour on it, soap, scrub, rinse, buff, dry. Don't tell J, he'll be asking me to do it all the time. It's out secret ok?! There will no doubt be an 'inspection' later where he will search for the missed fly poop etc etc. In his job he has to check the work of others all the time to make sure it's done correctly, and sometimes voire often, he brings his work head home and I'm on the receiving end....

2. Two teenage boys knocked on the door an hour ago and asked me about a 'caz' or something like that. I said I didn't understand what they meant, they repeated 'caz' again louder this time, I insisted that I didn't understand the word, what is a 'caz' and they said 'a caz'. agghhh. They tant pis'd me and moved onto the next house. It still tickles me the reaction of people when you don't understand that they are saying. Shout louder and then she'll get it. haha. I think it was some sort of lotto game where you pick a 'caz' and if your number comes up , you get some money, but I guess I'll never know now.

3. I'm getting my hair cut this afternoon and then I'll start packing for the trip home tomorrow. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

hold the fire, some good news at last

A friend of mine said to me last week over a very large glass of beer that it was about time I had some good news, that my marathon of bad luck and/or encounters with French admin had to come to an end at some point.

Well, it did, last Thursday in the form of a 'Yes'. The woman at the MEF was so appalled by the treatment received from the Education Nationale that she did the impossible and arranged that I get a bilan de compétences paid for by the MEF. She said it only happens in exceptional cases. She also said (and I felt this needed to be documented) that she is ashamed when she comes across this type of admin nightmare, because it gives France a bad name. :o I didn't know whether to cry or hug her. I did neither I'll add. She sould have been freaked out.

So, yes, I should be getting my 20 hours of talking and testing (as Milam has put it). I am worried that there will not be that moment where angels cry hallelujah and a light bulb appears where I decide on my vocation in life, but I am going to make the most of all 20 hours. It's my only real chance of change and opportunity to discover other job options. The only slight problem is that I'm waiting on the call from the bilan people and I'll be out of the country as of Friday for a week. Sod's law they'll ring next week eh?! For the moment, I'm just thrilled to have has the go ahead, let's concentrate on that.

It's super sunny outside today, I'm on holidays (yes, a real difference from the last 4 weeks imposed holiday re: the blockade) and will be going home on Friday to see my parents for a week. It's my birthday too next week. and my bum hurts from gym squats. There, finally some good things to write about for a change.

Bon aprem everyone!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

shoot me now

It's not very pc I'm sorry, but they shoot lame horses to put them out their misery. I'm that lame horse today.

The most cutting, heart trampling phrase left the lips of the director of human resources today at the uni.

'hhmmm, you have very little work experience, you're 25 you say.....hmmmmm'

Ouch. I wanted to leap on the table and say 'so, working for four years for the poxy French government plus lots of other student type jobs before is worth nothing?' followed shortly by 'well, is it MY fault that I am only ALLOWED 7 month contracts as an assistant, 12 month contract as a lectrice? Followed by 'France is so backward' followed by 'am I good for nothing at the hideously old age of 25?

Instead I smiled sweetly, fought back the urge to cry, and took the stupid appointment she 'so kindly' offered me for next Tuesday where she will be able to direct me to a career, with my ahem, 'very little work experience'.

I'm tired, I'm drawn and internally crushed. I orginally went to see her for the bilan de compétences....yes they do do them, but mademoiselle, with your status, you won't be granted one. and Mademoiselle, a bilan won't help you decide on a career path, that only comes from you. Come back next week and I (HR at a uni) will help you decide which career path to take.

Are they recruiting for SDFs?

big fat sigh.
all wine and chocolate donations, oh and addresses for knackers yards greatly welcome

Friday, 10 April 2009

When will I...?

When will I be more content with my life here in France? I'm asking myself this quite a bit at the moment and I'm scared of the possible answers.


I REALLY want to make a go of things here but the thing is, I've been saying this for YEARS. Nothing much has changed in all that time.


Yesterday my frenchie left the house at 7am and got home at 10:30pm. As I'm at home all day at the moment because of the continuing blockade at the uni, believe me, yesterday dragged. Yes, I did my usual paperwork chase (current projects - get degree validated in France to help find a job and bilan de compétances, the ultimate paperchase) but still it was horrible in the evening. 


Today he technically finishes at 12noon what with the 35hour working week but he's yet to come home at 16h50. I would joke that maybe he's cheating on me but it's not that. He's working loads and loads and this just reminds me how little I'm doing and how hard it is to do ANYTHING.


I'm terrified that when I get my degree validated, it'll come back that it's not even recognised in France ie, I don't have a higher education. If that happens, I honestly think it'll be the last straw.


As for the bilan de compétances, I have luckily found a great lady at the MEF in Amiens that is fighting my corner. She spent 40 mins on the phone yesterday to the Rectorat/chamber of commerce in order to get some info on if I have the right to get the bilan paid for me by the government. In theory 'yes' as my employer, but we all know the public service has other ideas. She was passed to 5 or 6 different departments and buildings, each time repeating herself like a parrot. In the end she gave up. No one was capable of helping her, she kept being questioned on my motives and in the end she just said to me blankly 'I now understand why you are so unhopeful and sad'. Yes indeedy. She got the raw end of the admin nightmare I live daily.


She assured me that this behaviour wasn't normal (ha, if only she knew) and that she was going to do all she could to help me. She gave me a list of things to read up on about or go and ask about and we have another meeting in a week. I've tracked down the person who deals with bilans at the university (result, not shorter than miraculous) but she hasn't replied to my email or the message I left with her colleague. There's a surprise.
 

I'm not hopeful that I'll get the blessed bilan, but at least I found a human being that is nice and French at that. Shame she's only doing her job. Something that I rarely come across here all the same.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Wales forgotten by Sarkozy

You all know my struggle to get my country recognised in France. Yet again yesterday I had another conversation where someone thought Wales was in Ireland.

My mum sent me this a while ago. It seems Sarko has forgotten about us. Just don't tell the French prime minister's wife...she's Welsh too. and comes from a town very near mine.

Names scrubbed out to keep my hometown a bit private. Sorry it's a bit small. Think of it as an eye test.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

and so what's the deal Mr Blocus?

The blockade is still on. Well, I think it is as I've given up going in only to be told that it's continuing. I didn't go into work yesterday and no one has informed me that it has been lifted....I'm still in my pj's and this is directly linked to the blocus.

Formula: More time off spent doing nothing because of blockade = more lazy I become.

I've been spending my time at home stressing about my future (no change there), dealing with admin (ditto) and abusing the internet connection (tritto).

and who says that my life in France isn't exciting?! ;o)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The curse strikes again

I'm in the middle of trying to get things sorted. My life needs a shake up and what is the worst thing that can happen when you are eager to turn things around? Yep, you guessed it, French admin/fonctionnaires.

Today in exactly 3 minutes I was meant to have RDV number 2 with the fonctionnaire who gave me hope last week but alas, she rang this morning and left and answer machine message to say that she hadn't had time to study my folder and that she would like to put back the RDV a week. *sigh* Surely she is paid to get things done? To have the time? Don't get me started there... Since she left the message I've been trying to ring her back like she asked to confirm that next Thursday would be ok, and *double sigh* she's not picking up!!!! aagghhhhhh

So, I donne my langue au cat and am trying orientation centre number 3 this afternoon that has been suggested to me. The BUIIO. Where students go to get help. Third time lucky right?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Update on last week's business

Last week was busy, mentally and physically! I took the whole weekend to recover. I blame the blockade for making my energy levels slump! The students are right at this moment deciding whether or not to continue the blockade...there's been rumours that they hope to continue it until the Easter holidays in three weeks. Imagine how lazy and lethargic I'll be by then if it does continue!


So, I had my two careers appointments and I'm so glad I had the two as the second one turned out to be an almost complete waste of time. More on that in a bit.


The first one was with the 'maison de la formation et d'emploi' in Amiens. I'm not sure if it's a national thing or not. I was sceptical but the lady was very understanding and gave me hope. Wow, a foctionnaire that gives hope?! I know, crazy. (maybe she's not a fonctionnaire actually). She suggested that I do the 'bilan de compétances' but said that she needed to study my rights before she could help me further as being a prof complicates things enormously. In theory my employer (the government) should pay for this bilan but she is going to check it out and I have another appointment with her this week. I cut right to the chase and said that I doubt the gov would pay for me and she gave more hope and said that there are other ways of accessing the bilan free of charge. hmmm. To be continued...


The second appointment was with the chamber of commerce and I was less sceptical about them but how wrong could I have been? The person made me wait 50 minutes after my allotted time and then didn't even apologise. As I had nothing else to do (blocus) I grinned and beared the looong wait as I was hopeful! and what else do you have in France if you don't have hope right?! I was sadly let down though when she seemed perplexed when I said I didn't like teaching (I didn't go into details with her of the extent I hate it...it wouldn't have been good French). She then took it upon herself to photocopy a mass of pages with physics and chemistry BTSs/DUTs when she saw I'd done this at uni...... and suggested that I get my degree evaluated for its level against French qualifications allowing me to see the 'gaps' in my qualification in order to complete it to achieve a French qualification. I love the fact that she assumed that whatever I had done in the UK would be inferior to anything in France! I left feeling the same I did when I had my career interview with my high school in which they evaulated a test we all did aged 14 that suggested I would be a good librarian. hmm, yes quite. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but so far off the scheme of things it's untrue. 


Friday I had my French test (TCF) in Lille. I had to get up at 5am to get the train to Lille for 8.30am. I found the place ok and felt quite at ease with all the students also waiting to take the test. There were only a few English speakers there and only one other clearly non student. We were about 40 and I was planning on trying to get a seat near the CD player in order to hear the listening test well but unfortunately we were assigned seats and mine was, sod's law, right at the back of the lecture theatre. I had to really concentrate to hear the listening part of the exam which lasted 25 minutes, 30 questions, ABCD type responses. It was okish although my early rise and tiredness didn't help things. The grammar part of the test was really hard for me. The same exam format but I wasn't expecting it to be mainly about conjunctions. In the following sentence should the conjunction be A tandis que B alors que C à condition que D pourvu que...... aggghhhhh. As I've learnt all my French in France, I've never once said tandis que and never even heard of pourvu que. We just don't speak like that (or the people I meet don't). I can't be too upset and I'm not as I've never learnt this type of grammar so I can't expect to be good at it. Luckily the written comprehension part of the exam was fine!! 


The exam will be marked within three weeks and I'll get a European language level for each part and then an average. I was hoping for C1 but now I'm not so sure. The exam is out of 699 and I need 500 to get a C1. I only did the test for my own benefit so if I don't do very well at least the next time I do it (maybe to enter a masters at uni) I know what to expect!

Monday, 23 March 2009

This week will be a biggie emotionally speaking

Ok ok, so, I'm not getting married and no one is ill but I am looking forward to the end of this week!

I have two appointments with different career advisors from different organisations (CCI and la maison de la formation if you're interested) and I'm trying to prepare myself mentally. They are obviously going to ask me what type of things interest me and I'm trying to look stuff up to get an idea so I just don't look blankly at them and then get told off for wasting their time. The thing is, I honestly don't have any fixed ideas on what I would like to do and I'm interested to see what I am capable of doing in France.

My main problem is my confidence. Yes, I can speak and understand French very well, but I can't really write it well as I've never really needed to. Thus I feel I'm rubbish and will not find any job!

I've also considered that I will probably need to retrain at something but I don't fancy doing a BTS as I feel it's a step back as I already have a degree in science but it seeme that BTSs are the dogs dinner when looking for jobs around here. I would consider doing a masters but I'm not sure I want to do research which is basically what science masters are about and would I qualify to do any other type of masters? In France I doubt it. Please tell me if you know differently!!

I've been told by the ANPE recently that the fact that I am bilingual means a lot to any employer and I know I definitely want to be able to use my English....but that's as far as my career plan goes at the moment.

and then there is the crise. It's not exactly the time to want to change career path is it?! I can be a lectrice for another year but then would that help much as teaching options will have dried up at this point...and I don't want to continue teaching....but it is the safest option for me...

I know I should stop worrying and wait to see what the career advisors have to say for themselves but I can't help stressing out about the unknown. It's my weakness.

This week I also have a French test - TCF. I don't know if it will actually achieve anything but I really want to see what level I'm at as the last time I did a French test I was 16 and my French has certainly improved since school days! I've since heard the TEF is better for employers, I can always do that later I guess. Does anyone have any experience with French tests and if they are 'worth' anything at all. For me, this time at least, it's a personal quest.....

I really do feel lost this week. The uni is still blockaded, I'm not working and stressing about my future is my main activity. Now that makes a refreshing change ;o)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Blocus!

Yep, I got to uni this morning to find that the students had blocked the doors from opening and were still adding to it. Tables, chairs, piled high, with table legs jammed into the door handles so there was absolutely no way of getting in. Or out as it happens...... how do the students that are blocking access plan on getting out? and what if there is a fire? eep. I also wonder what staff members said when the students started to pile the tables and chairs up? Did they just French shrug and let them get on with it? No admin staff are in either I'm guessing. Will I get paid anyway? Even though I'm now a pro at accepting the French need to go on strike weekly, this is new to me. Please don't take my money from me.... I was willing to have lessons today.

No one can can in or out of the uni. There are definitely no lessons today or tomorrow.
To be continued...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Blocus or no Blocus, that is the question

So then, it's official. There is now a blockade that is being formed at the uni where I work. They plan to block access until at least Monday. I wouldn't mind so much, but I still have to prepare my lessons for tomorrow just in case I can get in and hold classes. My Thursday lessons are suffereing loads because there is always a strike or demonstration on Thursday. I think tomorrow is a general strike day too so I'm not even sure i'll be able to get to see the blockade if there are no buses to take me to aforementioned place. I'm getting into the swing of things though...on hearing the blockade news, I shrugged, pouted and rolled my eyes all in one smooth, almost French action. Vive la frencness I say.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Do I speak patois?

This morning a mate popped by to see me and we were talking Franglais as usual as he is an anglophile and is always testing out his new English on me. We got onto the topic of children who whinge to get what they want. Pleurenicher he said. Schwiner I said. Schwiner? Emmy, that has to be patois (dialect)., it sounds like patois. He comes from the same region my Frenchie and he doesn't even know this word. Do you know this word? I have no idea how it's spelt (adding to the idea that it is indeed patois) but it sounds like shweener/shwiner and means to whinge.

Please don't tell me that I speak patois.....damn my Ch'ti boyfriend.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

When the going gets tough, ALL the unis go on strike, I get a day off and go to the ANPE.

Happy Strike Day everyone! I'm still in my pjs, yes it's 11.30am, and I'm very happy about it. All the unis in Amiens are closed today. Not even the cleaners or secretaries are working. I still am a bit clueless as to why (are they striking over the teachers having to work more? or the fact that you now have to do a masters to become a teacher?) I don't really know. 


All that matters to me is that I didn't have to get up this morning and drag myself to work only to be met with students who don't care one bit aboaut English, or what I am saying, or how they can improve in the exam. Brick, head, wall springs to mind. I mean, if they are so uninterested, why continue coming to uni? They still insist in coming so i'm assuming they want to pass the exam in June so why don't they make an effort? It really is atrocious. Most of my lessons are with first years which apparently explains a lot. It's true that my second year classes (all 3 of them, the rest are 1st years) are more motivated. If I could, I would quit right now. I know I don't want to continue teaching, and I want to explore all other avenues asap but I might be forced to wait. 


I went to the ANPE yesterday and was very frank with them, asked for help, said I couldn't stand teaching any more and it turns out that the person I was talking to was an ex teacher too, that he couldn't stand it either and retrained. If anyone has any experience of the 'bilan de compétances' from the ANPE please could you give me your views.... he suggested that I spend 14 hours over 6 weeks with an advisor in order to do a bilan de copmpétances so I can get an idea what options I have for employment, the types of things I would be good at or would like doing. I really wasn't up for the idea of going back into education until I'm 30 but what's the other option? spend the next 40 years in a job I hate? When it's put like that, I'm up for anything in order to change!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Thank dieu it's sunny

What a difference the sun makes to our lives... This coming from a woman who lives in the officially coldest place in France. Keep it to yourself that, else Amiens will be flooded with tourists. hum.
So yes, it's sunny! Right now, at 5.30pm, the sun is streaming through the window, warming my cheek. It's almost a miracle that it's light at 5.30pm and will be light for a while yet. Winter seems to go on for ages whilst summer, blink, and you've missed it.

The daffodyl's are coming out (very important for my Welshness), snow drops in full bloom and there's definitely spring in the air.

These photos were taken in when I was home in Wales last week. I wish I had a garden here in France....






Tuesday, 24 February 2009

It's good to touch the green green grass of home

In the words of this song, it is indeed too good to touch the green green grass of home......

This song gets me every time.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5IABqwVO2U















Photos courtesy of my home town (village!) and house in Wales. I'm looking at this tree right now......
It's so good to be home.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

There is light at the end of the tunnel and it's coming from the North.

Many of you will know about my recent struggles concerning validating my French language skills, you just need to look at Dear France. This was almost a month ago and since then I have been back to the person indicated on the government website who is meant to organise French testing in my region. I have been sent to another department, fought it out there for 3 days, they accepted that I had the right to take the exam (only after I showed her the official website) but were sorry they couldn't help me as I wasn't a student. Was given the names of other people in another department who 'can' help me, been to see them, left emails and NOTHING.

Imagine my surprise when 40 minutes ago I found a very informative website in Lille explaining in detail the dates and prices of every French exam possible. It even said that ANYONE could take the exams. Imagine that.... Imagine more my surprise when I email them to ask how to sign up for the exams and SHOCK HORROR....I have already had a reply. There is a God! 40 minutes flat.

Is it possible that I am the only non-French non-student in the Picardie area who wants to take a French exam ? It seems so as I am yet to find anyone who can help me. I really was losing all hope. So, it's a great thing that we have decided to move. I just don't think Amiens and I were cut out to be friends.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Teaching, I'm so over it.

Sorry to steal your post title of sorts Crystal but it's the best phrase to sum it up.

It's official, OK, it was official a long time ago but this time it's in a post, I WILL NOT CONTINUE TO TEACH. It saps the life out of me and I cannot continue this way. I have already started at looking at other things, this time with intention of deposing my CV. I also feel a move coming on..... Have spoken about it with J, and he agrees.

Things are gong to happen ladies and gentlemen, lets hope it's in the right direction.

I would like to dedicate this post to a certain, rude student who I had to send out of class today. Thank you for pushing me to write this post. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

All job offers welcome in my comments box.

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