Saturday, 16 January 2010

Teacher’s pit

I have been teaching English to 3 primary classes since 9th November last year. So how am I getting on?

Well, so far I have not been paid a centime, but I have faith that French bureaucracy will catch up.

I see my job as teaching the kids English, but unfortunately they have the attention span of gnats and they see the lesson as a chance to mostly whisper to each other, ask to go to the toilet, pass each other notes, etc.

Teachers over here maintain discipline by giving out lines or telling the children to go and stand in the corridor, but their favourite plan is to scream at full, piercing volume at them to regain their attention.

I have no intention of becoming a screamer. Continuously and fruitlessly asking them to be quiet is giving me a long lasting sore throat.

The nurse teaching is more interesting, as they are much quieter (at the moment) and are content to loll in their seats.

Last week I had a 3 hour session with half of the 55 students. I was accompanied by one of the course tutors, who also speaks a little English, but does not use it in class. She has a very quiet voice, and would be unheard by my primary classes.

The nursing college is in Nissen huts, which used to be a school, pending refurbishment at the College campus. Fortunately the huts are warm, very warm. We commenced the session, and I was getting quite hot. I noticed that not one student had taken off their thick coats or scarves, so I asked them if any of them wanted to take off their coats, as when it came to their smoke break out in the freezing playground, they would not feel the benefit of having their coats on. Not one student unwrapped themselves. The tutor told me that this was because they are French students and they feel the cold ........

One of the students’ main tasks was based on the questions in English that they would need to ask someone, in order to fill in the hospital registration form.

During the session, one of the students raised her hand and said “Do you ‘ave a jet?”

Now I know that technically this is South West France, but is isn’t the Cote d’Azur. I said that I didn’t understand. “Est-ce que vous avez un avion?” (Do you have an aeroplane?) I queried. No, do you ‘ave a jet?

I asked her to spell the word for me. “D-i-e-t” she said.

See how complicated language can be...

They seem like a nice bunch of students though and it will be interesting to see how things progress.

I haven’t been paid for this work either nor have my scheduled hours been authorised by the director of the college yet, but I suppose it is early days.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Snow - because everyone else has posted one

Yes we had snow Friday through to Saturday evening and managed around 12 inches of the white stuff before the sun came out on Sunday and started to kill it off.

Now Madame tells me that she likes the snow and indeed over the weekend she was to be seen in the garden photographing things. She has a new digital camera and has sent me and her friends. Here are three of them: Her powered gnome light and what I call "small dog" but whose real name is Liloo

Today is Wednesday. Yesterday I drove back from my weekly shopping trip to LeClerc. Despite having cleared the snow plough hills along the front of my parking area yesterday, I got stuck with the rear of my car still out in the main road. Fortunately the road was not busy and I was able to reverse out onto the road and try again. There was about 6 inches either side, between the wall pillar and Madame’s car, so it was a bit of a gamble. It took two attempts and luckily I did not hit either obstacle.

I put my shopping away and spent about 2 hours chopping away at the compacted icy snow, from the road to the rear wheels of the cars.

I noticed that Beeboy’s car (which he has left parked at a wonky angle for the last few weeks) had bits of red and amber coloured plastic from the rear, driver side lights, lying on the snow. I can only assume that he hit it while parking his van.

Now the sun is shining and the snow is starting to melt faster. On the news last night they showed how heavy snow has brought many parts of France to a standstill, with no schools open, school transport cancelled etc.

We seem to have been let off lightly. The snow ploughs had been out here, but there was not much evidence of salt or grit being used. The main roads were very treacherous even yesterday.

There was supposed to be an additional choir practice on Monday evening, but it was thankfully cancelled due to the weather. I had decided not to go anyway.

I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but this year we are performing a piece which has been written by our choir master, called “Le pecheur et sa femme”.

The fisherman and his wife. It is based on a Grimm fairy tale. There will be a children’s choir involved too, a couple of soloists and a narrator. It is a tricky piece, and I am not enjoying it at all. The CD that I was given which is

supposed to emphasise the tenor part, is worse than useless, and I cannot distinguish the tenor part even in the bits that we have already learned.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

WII are the champions

During my brief stay in Blighty, I joined a band called the Beatles. S’s son M has a WII, Xboxes etc. There was a little drum kit, with 4 drums, a bass guitar and a microphone. Other instruments and singer could be added.

The music appears on the Television screen and each instrument had its own road of notes.

I got quite reasonable scores on the “Easy” setting and only the foot pedal spoiled my game play.

I had a red, yellow, blue, and a green drum to hit as well as my foot pedal.

My colours to hit appeared on the graphic of a neck of a guitar, relentlessly scrolling towards me. Yes they still kept coming even when I was in bed half asleep.

There is a video and one or two photos of me in action, but fortunately S does not know how to get the photos off her phone, and the video files are probably too large to email to me. What a shame!

What will they think of next? A moving to another country game, where you can buy a property, hire a removal firm, deal with lots of bureaucracy, try and understand the locals, shop for strange foods, try new recipes using pig’s heads, join local associations, buy reconditioned furniture from small local shops, pay taxes, open a bank account,,,,, How long would it be before the novelty wore off and it got put back in its box for good?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Back in the USSR

I decided to sneak back across the border into the UK for Christmas and New Year. I had it all worked out. Flights booked, lifts arranged.

By chance I went on the Internet early in the morning on the day of my departure. A brief look at Toulouse airport flights showed me that planes seemed to be arriving and departing as per normal, with only one flight cancelled. I was going to leave it at that, but something made me click on page 4, where my flight was listed. Cancelled. Well that was okay then.

CAncELLED!! There must be some mistake. On to the EasyJet website and I got a message that said that my flight had been cancelled due to the weather.

We had had about an inch of snow a few days before, and I know that Bristol had not snow. I managed to change my flight to the following day, but this meant that I would not be able to catch my next flight, Bristol to Inverness as I would not arrive in Bristol in time.

I should have just left my Inverness flight alone, but I changed it to a date later in the year. Admin charge £50. As it turned out the flight was cancelled very close to departure, so I would have been able to transfer it to another date for free.....

In the event it was lucky that I did not get to Inverness, as the airport remained closed for many days and only reopened the day that I flew back to France. The papers carried a story of a lighthouse-keeper’s wife who had gone to Inverness to buy a turkey for Christmas dinner, who was still stranded in Inverness 15 days later.

Half way through the holiday, S knackered her back so more travelling was not an option. Fortunately we had managed to visit the Clark's Village shopping outlet at Street, before her back went, and also a trip to Dunelm (soft furnishings) and PCWorld (1.5 Tb external drive) so the essential shopping was covered.

The flight back to France was uneventful, except that we arrived about 2 hours late. The plane had had to find cabin crew from other flights to man our plane. Then the baggage took 35 minutes to arrive......

I hate driving in the dark. At least it wasn’t snowing or raining.

Which reminds me. There are all sorts of madness in this world, and a lot of it happens in the UK. Every New year’s day the life saving club at Clevedon, put on their Victorian swimming gear and take a dip in the sea.

This year was no exception and I met up with H and D by the Marine lake to watch human ice cubes being made. They were about 10 minutes late coming out of the pub, where they had got changed. This was very inconsiderate as I had not put on a hat, scarf or gloves, it was freezing cold, and there was a biting breeze.

They marched out of the pub and down to where we were standing. It was time for them to have a sing-song. Then it was time to sing Auld lang Syne.

Would they ever get into the sea so that we could return home to thaw out?

Then they set off towards the sea and entered the dirty water of the Bristol Channel which was glinting invitingly in the sunshine. The water looked blue. The day before it had been its usual muddy brown colour. The hills in the background are in Wales, the other side of the Bristol Channel.

The photos above were taken by D and H as my camera batteries died.  To see 12 photos taken by the local newspaper look here

Happy New Year everyone!
I am slightly miffed that the UK government did not offer me £3k to leave the country. If I had been Albanian it would probably have been a different story. Am I a victim of discrimination?