Friday, 11 May 2012

Air on a C string

I have been struggling to learn the electric guitar since last August. I have bought books, computer tutorials, DVD's. Apparently this is not enough. Something called "hours of practice" is required, and not just any old practice. Targeted practice.
The only other thing that I haven't tried, and which is strongly recommended, is taking lessons from a professional teacher.
Searching the Internet, I have found a man who lives on the outskirts of town. His web site is complete crap, inaccurate and not up to date. However, he has been a professional musician for over 30 years, so web sites are not his main area of expertise. He can teach many different styles of guitar, types of guitar, and also the drums. For the drums, you have to have your own set, and he will come to you for the lesson. There are lots of photos of him teaching children, but he is willing to teach octogenarians.
What he doesn't say, is how much lessons cost. This always pisses me off. If you are selling a product or service, the customer wants to know how much they will have to pay.
So I continue to procrastinate. The other thing that pisses me off, is that they use the French equivalent of Doh, re, mi etc to name the notes / chords. instead of the sensible C, E, F, G, A, B, C etc

 It is hard enough learning the chord / note names / shapes in English, without having yet another barrier placed in the way. The first lesson is free and lessons will be structured to the needs of the individual student.
Did I mention that 2 weeks ago I bought a Lanikai L21 soprano ukulele from a supplier in Germany?
The You tube prophets say that they are, and I quote one Youtube teacher here "piss easy" to play, having only 4 strings, and, in my case 12 frets instead of the 6 strings and 21 frets on my guitar.
I am trying to learn "king of the road" after struggling with "twinkle, twinkle little star" , "frere jaques" in the free booklet that came with the ukulele.
Us experts refer to them as "Ukes". I thought that this was going to be my musical grail...... I am having problems with my C string, it is in tune, but it just doesn't sound right. I doesn't ringgggg.
There is no Uke club in my departement and no listed Uke teacher. Perhaps I could start a club by leaning on the lamp post and the corner of the street ....  It might look good on my CV.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Health, wealth and and the pursuit of happyness

On the financial front, things are looking up. I have a new tenant that has just moved in to the studio apartment below me, so that will help towards paying my income tax bill in September, and because I meet the criteria, the French government are going to pay me some unemployment benefit. This will be up to 70 percent of what I was earning from my school job. If  I earn any money, I have to send Pole Emploi a copy of my payslip. I presume that they will then deduct that amount from my benefit money.
Since I worked 3 hours teaching English last month, and will be teaching for a final 3 hours later this month, I will have to declare this, when they decide to send me a payslip. This can take months... and with this being the month of public holidays .......
Now that I have received some documents from Pole Emploi, I need to take them along to my health insurance / social security provider MGEN, so that my advisor there can make copies of them, and file them in my dossier.
Things are beginning to move in the right direction. Now if only I could sort out the long spell of bad weather, I could start working on my tan.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

En Forme

Two weeks ago I began my "formation" or training with Pierre, my advisor. I had taken along the bag that I use for cabin luggage, stuffed with a big French / English dictionary, copies of all my pole emploi  documents, my CV and lots of other papers concerning my previous employments here in France and in the UK.
Pierre had been a bit worried about me coming to see him as he doesn't speak English and his only other English client not having spoken any French. They had tried to communicate with her using the dictionary that she had brought along, and with him typing things into Google Translate. This was obviously tedious and not very efficient or accurate.
He had ended up phoning his daughter, who spoke some English, putting his mobile on speakerphone, and his daughter translating for them as best she could as they went along. Lord knows how the client managed with filling in the paperwork.
As usual there is lots of paperwork. I had to sign at least 6 different documents, presumably a contract, agreeing that I understood and agreed to do anything that I am asked to do, or my money (should they give me any) would be stopped.
I had come prepared for a possible full day of training, perhaps in a large room stuffed with computer terminals, but no, it's just me and Pierre in  a room.
Do you know what the training entails? he asked. I replied that apart from CV's, letters of motivation and how to search for a job, I had no idea no idea.
Were you told any other details of the training?
No, I said, and I don't know how long the training lasts....
He explained that I was to come along once a week for up to three months, or until I find a job, whichever comes first. He qualified this by saying that although these meetings would be once a week, some of the meetings would be carried out over the phone. He then gave a sheet with the "training" overview. Sessions would last from 25 minutes up to an hour. After 25 minutes I emerged into the sunlight, 8 pages of questions nestling in my heavy bag, my homework for the next week's meeting.
Last Thursday, I returned to see Pierre with my questionnaire filled in to the best of my ability. I left an hour later, with another 8 pages of questions to fill in. Once this first 4 week phase is completed, Pierre will have all of the information he needs to make a judgement on what firms / jobs to target.
He has told me that only 20 percent of the available jobs are advertised on the open market. We will be targeting the hidden jobs.
Whilst arranging the date and time for our next meeting, Pierre explained that May was the month when the French make "le pont". There are about 4 bank/public holidays in May. If for example the holiday is on a Tuesday, most workers make le pont / the bridge, and don't go to work on the Monday, to enjoy a long weekend. This means that I have until 31 may to do my homework. Vive la France!!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Stand and deliver

Back at chez Rigsby, I logged on to the Internet and filled in an 8 page form which was similar to the paper one that I had just filled in at Pole Emploi.
This generated a choice of three rendezvous dates/times to return to Pole Emploi to meet with an advisor.
On the allotted day, I arrived at Pole Emploi in good time and waited in the queue. I told the lady at the desk that I had arrived and she ticked my name off the list.
I sat and waited. My fashion model advisor kept me waiting at least 15 minutes, but finally she acknowledged my presence, shook my hand and ushered me into interview room 2.
She found me on their computer system, checked details, then started to fill in a form. We were doing splendidly, but I said that form is very like the form that I filled in online, and the paper form that I filled in here last Monday, but which the lady kept.
My advisor left the room, returning 10 minutes later to say that they couldn't find my form and other paperwork that I had left, anywhere, but that they would have a good search for it that afternoon.
I was asked for more paperwork, which wasn't on the original list of things to bring along. I was now subscribed on a course to learn how to write a CV, a lettre of motivation, and how to search for jobs.

So off I went home again.
The next day, my "lost" paperwork arrived in the post.
I returned to the counter with it  more of my evidence. The lady took away my passport to copy it for my growing evidence file. Then she looked at my language teaching contract. She decided that it wouldn't fit the bill, and went off with it to see her boss.
No it wouldn't do. I needed to  contact my employer and get a proper contract,  then return once I had that.
2 weeks later, the required document arrived in the post. Hands shaking with excitement, I opened the envelope and discovered that the last two dates were missing from my contract.
F**** it I thought, and set off with my pile of paperwork to face Pole Emploi. Before I set off however, I riffled through, only to discover that the copy of my passport was missing from my file (a further delaying tactic perhaps?). I therefore copied my passport.
At Pole emploi, the lady barely glanced at my new "contract" but started hunting for my passport copy. What a surprise it was there....
We will now process your dossier, and you will hear from us in about 18 days, she said.
I headed off into the sunset, no hint of a smile of triumph on my face, lest some punishment excercise be handed out.

Monday, 7 May 2012

To begin at the beginning

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
As a newly unemployed person, I was at the door of my local Pole Emploi, just after opening time on the 2nd of April. A young man with a spring in my step eager to embark on the next player level of my "life in France" adventure.
Knowing the love affair that France has with bureaucracy, I was clutching a carrier bag of documentation which might aid me in my quest for unemployment benefit "allocation" and perhaps even a job.
"I've come to sign on"
here's a form, you can sit at the table over there and fill it in.
I filled in as much as I could, then went to the counter again (a tip, early morning is the best time to turn up, otherwise you risk standing in a long queue). I explained that there were some bits on the form that I wasn't sure about. The young man came back over to the table and we  went over the form. Next came checking through the necessary supporting documentation that I had brought "Oh dear" he said looking at my major weapon, my confirmation of the end of my contract. "They haven't filled it in properly"
There was a section which was blank"
"Can't we just fill it in now" I asked. He sucked in a breath through his beard and looked at the form again. There was a pause, then "Non"
So I packed up my forms and headed off across town to the Lycee that had sent out my document.
Reaching the office, I explained my problem. The lady apologised and it transpired that all that was missing, was an X in the box to say that my contract was finished!!! If only I had looked at the form, I could have saved myself the trip.
Back in the Pole emploi queue, I handed over my paperwork again. The lady riffled through the papers. Have you signed on? she asked. I thought, this is a bit odd, but I went along with it. "
"But that's what I'm here for" I said.
Oh no, she said, you have to sign on by telephone or via the Internet. She hung on to my paperwork, and I set off home to sign on.....

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

French letters

Since my Portuguese labourer left mid December, I have 2 vacant studios to let. The boss of the labourer continued to be a pain in the arse as he did not come and collect the furniture until 3 weeks ago. So if there had been people seeking a studio to rent I would not have been able to house them. I notice from my bank statement that the agency failed to get me any rent for December, January or February, so they continue to impress me.
However, for the first time ever, someone from the agency has come out and put a "to rent" sign in the window (facing out to the road no less!!). This is the first time that they have ever shifted off their backsides, so perhaps my notaire has changed the letting agency.
Times continue to be hard here on the employment front, with unemployment continuing to rise. This being a rural area with very little industry, except the seasonal tourist outdoor pursuits, such as skiing, climbing, canoeing, etc the area is suffering more than most.
There is a modern block of flats opposite my tumble-down lodging house. Sometimes he has had vacancies, but there are already tenants waiting to move in. At the moment he has at least 4 empty flats out of a possible 8. No jobs = no workers looking for a place to live = no tennants for little ol' wine drinker me.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Au chomage lycra or not

Hello everyone
As of the 1st of April I am now unemployed. I have 3 hours left of a contract teaching English to student nurses then zip.
All is not doom and gloom however. Last Monday I went to the Inspection Academique for an interview to become an AVS. Assistant de la vie scolaire. Whereas my last job was for a maximum of 2 years, renewable in 6 month chunks (or possibly not), this post is for a maximum of 6 years, renewable (or not) in 12 month chunks.
So, notionally I have a job, but it may not start until at least the start of the next school year, in September. I am on their waiting list.
What does the job entail? Well you are paired up with one or two children who have a disability, and who need a bit, or a lot of help to fit in to a normal school class, and to help them keep up with the classwork as necessary. The post does not entail teaching, that is the class teacher's job.
So I wait for the call up. Because I have been working and paying my cotisations, I will be entitled to some unemployment money.
I was at the local Pole Emploi this morning to start claim process. I then had to return in the afternoon with my completed form, RIB, copy of my carte vitale etc.
I also had to sign on to claim benefit. The only way to do this is by telephone, or on the Internet. So  once back home I went online and filled in pretty much the same form that I had just filled in in hard copy. (If only I had done this first).
I was then given a choice of 3 interview times to meet with an adviser, to discuss my claim and my proposed project to get back to work.
Tomorrow I will try and sort out my health cover. I believe that I can remain with the very efficient MGEN for some months if I continue to pay them a fee monthly.
I started looking to buy a breath test kit for my car. This will be  a compulsory piece of kit for all cars, from the start of July. Leclerc had none, so I will have to try elsewhere.
Now some cycling news. The Tour de France will pass about 30 metres from my house, so I will find it very difficult to miss seeing it. I must by some lycra cycling gear and a flag to wave, I have the time to shop now that I am "resting".