Tuesday, 3 February 2009

What the Dickens!? I couldn’t be happier

Blog entries are just like buses. There might be none for days, or even weeks, then two or more come along together. Look on this one as a bonus treat, or decide that you will not waste your life reading it. The choice is yours. Money for nothing or your blogs for free, as Mr Knopfler might have sung.

Phone and internet went down early this morning just as I was speaking to my mother to see if my sister, (who arrived at Heathrow from Canada yesterday and due to the snow was unable to fly up to Inverness and had to stay in a hotel overnight) had managed to get a flight north this morning. So now I still don’t know.
Anyway it was time to walk into town to meet with my French language teaching establishment. I walked passed it in the street as it looks like another abandoned medieval building. A grubby notice in the grubby window had the word “Formation” on it. I crossed the building threshold and into the huge, dim corridor. On the wall on my right was a white buzzer above which was the faded name of the teacher. Press and enter the first door on your right.
I pressed. Don’t you just hate it when you press a doorbell and hear nothing? There are old stone steps leading up to a very ill-fitting and old plank door., from behind which light leaks out everywhere.
I open the door and see a smallish room with a long table running up the centre of the room at which about 16 teenagers are sitting, books open and notepads akimbo, writing notes. There is also a smaller table at which an older lady and a teenager are sitting.
Imagine a room in Dicken’s time, and you would be right. The lady speaks to me, then a man comes into my vision from my right.
I tell him my name. Ah yes he remembers. There is then an altercation between the man and the lady, did she not know that I was coming he says.
This is France. They have not received any paperwork. The lady gets up off her chair and I have to sit facing the girl, who seems to me writing notes from a book about French history.
They begin phoning to find out why no paperwork has arrived. The lady gives me a very old, rebound French grammar textbook. I have to read the page, then do the exercises. My first task is to count the words in the sentence. My next tasks involve counting the number of syllables in various words etc. I now know that if a word has e.g. two “f”s in it, and it is too long to fit all of the word on one line, you split the word with a hyphen between the fs, putting the latter half of the word on the next line. No really I am very happy.
It seems that I cannot start a course with them due to the missing paperwork. The Instep lady cannot sanction a language course, it has to be the first ANPE person who saw me. (One stop shop my arse!!!).
Who had I seen first? This is France so I have a sheaf of papers with me just in case.
This person is phoned and I have to go and see her at 13.40 today. Do I have a letter of motivation? He asks rhetorically. He then dictates a letter of motivation which states that I wish to have French language lessons to help me in my mobilisation towards work. Such letters are handwritten, which is just as well. They have light, a microwave, a fax phone and maybe a computer but I didn’t see it. There is heat though which is a good thing.
Next they want to see a copy of my CV and I need to write down my name, contact details. Date of birth.
I cannot be taught today because there is no paperwork. Taught!! I did not see any taughting going on the whole time I was there. Once the paperwork comes, probably tomorrow, he will contact me to arrange when I can start. The learning facility (ahem!) is open every day from Tuesday to Friday. I think they said from 9am to 5pm. Would I be coming in the morning or the afternoon? I said that it was all the same to me. They thought that as afternoons were not as busy, that would be my best time.
If this is the French educational style I am so happy. I really couldn’t be happier.. Who wants to build up aural comprehension skills, modern vocabulary, engage in debate when you have an ancient grammar book and two of Dickens’s finest teachers. Shock and awe is what I want. “P-Please Sir. C-Can I have some more Sir?”


  1. I love my French classes (well except for one absolutely obnoxious participant)...but yours are free...so don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You'll definitely learn SOMETHING, it just might not be grammar!

  2. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful and it could be a real hoot. Re- your obnoxious fellow student, try "Ta guele espece de merde" next time he annoys you. Roughly translated it means "I say old chap (old girl if it is a woman) please keep your opinions to yourself".


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