Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I'm at it again. I have a paper to write up and I hate rereading stuff I wrote last year because I'm sick of it and because it's so prosaic. So I'm procrastinating, and for me procrastinating means surfing. So here are three things I came across today and that seem to me to be linked in some way in that they all say something up bringing up children. First there are these lyrics (their punctuation, not mine, by the way).

maybe it's scotland that i hate. i know i hate so many things about it. i hate the way punishment's at the heart of everything. i hate the way parents speak to their children. i hate the way everything always has to be someone's fault even though some things just happen.

some things just happen...

i hate the way people bring up their children to be exactly the same as they are just so they can justify the way they've lived their lives. i hate the way that we expect to fail. and then we fail. and then we get bitter because we've failed.

maybe it's scotland that i hate... *

The song’s by a group called Ballboy, by the way, and you can listen to it on their site ballboy online.* I like the song but I don’t quite get the bringing-up-children-to-be-like-us bit. How else are you going to bring up your children? All I can say is, see you in ten-fifteen years matey when you've got a couple of sprogs yourself, then we'll see who you're bringing them up to be like and how you're speaking to them. (Oh, and by the way nobody likes to be bunched in with everybody else and referred to by the generic "people") Oh, yes, and do unto your parents as you would have your children do unto you. mr. nice guy knows what i'm talking about:

"we all found ourselves sitting around the table talking about how the crazy is strong with our parents. and then, slowly, we looked over at the baby who, with a little sparkle in our eye, made it perfectly clear that in 30 years she would be having exactly the same conversation with her friends."

and what about this from Scott Adams @ Arkansas Tech:

"The day after 9/11, I tried to write a piece about how it was an attack against what we stand for as professional educators, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I think that David Weinberger has. Educators here were liberally and courageously guiding our children into %u201Ctheir%u201D future by creating and crafting engaging and potent learning experiences. %u2026While the fundamentalists want us to go back to a world under control."

USA = liberal and courageous. USA's enemies = control freaks. I don't think so.

So to summarise today's lessons — my parenting skills require honing. I have to avoid trying to bring the little monsters up to be like me, I have to remember that whatever I do it will be wrong in the long run and I must strive to attain benevolent educating skills à la USA. Maybe licking that paper into shape would have been more fun after all.

* I'm sorry I can't materialise the quote in any way with eg. a frame, or indentation or italics. Blogger is still decidedly mac-unfriendly
** I found the Ballboy site via Said the Gramophone"a daily sampler of really good songs", which I found via : Craintes chez les audioblogs


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I did two stupid things today.

1. I locked myself and the children out of the house in the early evening while temperatures were still in the 30s and had to ask a neighbour to wade through his overgrown garden, perform acrobatics on a stepladder and jump over into our garden and then walk into our house through the conveniently unlocked back door.

2. I then took the children to an air-conditioned shopping centre and after an hour or so noticed that it had gone ominously dark outside and that the wind was howling through the glass concourse. I hurried them back to the car, holding their hands firmly just in case they blew away, and drove thorough horizontal rain dodging overturned dustbins and water gushing from drains to the house where, of course, I had left the upstairs windows wide open.

The temperature has dropped dramatically so perhaps I'll get my brain back tomorrow.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Summer in the City

• I hate getting electric shocks from newly installed kitchen appliances.
• I hate being so sweaty that bits of skin stick together.
• I hate having to close the shutters until at least 8 p.m.
• I hate it when the weather forecast says it’s going to be 39°C (102°F ) tomorrow
• I hate having to wear clothes to go out.
• I hate it when I’m so hot I don’t even feel hungry.
• I hate putting the children to bed in rooms that feel more like saunas.
• I hate still having workmen in the house.
• I hate it when I have to mark dozens of exam papers.
• I hate not having a swimming pool (and not being ridiculously rich).
• I hate having to spend 20 minutess of my Sunday morning in a check-out queue.
• I hate not living in a house traversed by sea breezes.
• I hate not being able to find an « I love … » item to finish this list off.


Friday, June 24, 2005


- E. celebrated her 3rd birthday on Monday. Where has my baby gone? Spent the day in Cap Ferret doing what she likes most, eating and jumping in water.
- The air outside has now cooled after seven torrid days and the whole of southern Europe breathes a sigh of relief.
- I have conjunctivitis in both eyes, apparently heat-related. Consequently, I am not allowed to wear my contact lenses, consequently children run away screaming at the sight of my bespectacled face.
- I've been doing some conference interpreting notably at Vinexpo — the world's biggest wine fair. It really is massive, more wine than you could possibly imagine. Now I have experienced the height of frustration: translating a slurping wine expert as he describes the "velvety" / "explosive" / "extraordinary" / taste of a couple of dozen expensive wines as they caress his taste-buds. Not a single drop passed the door of the translation booth.
- Have just done my bit for the future of blogging mankind by answering a few questions:

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

- One of the questions asked how much longer I thought I would blog. I wasn't quite sure how to answer. What would you have said?


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

50 Questions

It's sooo hot in Bordeaux and I have no blogspiration. So here's one of those questionnaires. Please feel free to zap if you hate these things. My only excuse is that I think I might use the same questionnaire (with a couple of changes) for new groups of students next semester — I got a bit fed up of The Proust Questions after reading fifty of them..

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7H50
2. Diamonds or pearls? Neither
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The one about Che Guevara riding a motorbike through South America
4. What is your favourite TV show? Six Feet Under
5. What is your middle name? I don't have one.
6. What is your favorite cuisine? French
7. What foods do you dislike? Offal
8. What is your favourite crisp/chip flavour? Prawn Cocktail
9. What is your favourite CD at the moment? Adam Green
10. What kind of vehicle do you drive? Renault Scenic
11. What is your Favourite sandwich? Egg mayonnaise
12. What characteristics do you despise? Dishonesty
13. What is your Favourite item of clothing? Flip-flops
14. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Mongolia
15. What colour is your bathroom? That's a very sore point, thanks for asking. It's yeucchy beige
16. What colour pants are you wearing? No idea and I'm not looking.
17. Where would you retire to? - Somewhere near the sea (Arcachon? Crinan? )
18. What is your Favourite time of the day? Early evening (apéritif time!)
19. What was your most memorable birthday? None stick out in my memory
20. What's the last thing you ate? a piece of toast
21. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? very deep purple
22. What is your Favorite flower? sweet pea
23. What Fabric detergent do you use? I've tried them all and am faithful to none
24. Coke or Pepsi? Diet coke
25. Do you wish on stars? No
26. What is your shoe size? 39/40
27. Do you have any pets? No
28. Last person you talked to on the phone? Mum when she got back to Scotland late last night
29. What did you want to be when you were little? Anything but a teacher
30. What are you meant to be doing now? Marking exams
31. What do you first notice about someone? How fat/thin they are
32. What was your favourite toy as a child? Lego
33. Summer or winter? Spring
34. Hugs or Kisses? How do you choose?
35. Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
36. Who is most likely to respond? Deborah
37. Who is least likely to respond? Those who hate navel-gazing and are looking for intellectual stimulation
38. Living arrangements? Sin
39. When was the last time you cried? I honestly can't remember
40. What is under your bed? Nothing at the moment because the bedroom is being rewired
41. How many countries have you visited? Most of Europe, + SW USA + Nepal
42. In how many cities have you lived? 2 (Edinburgh and Bordeaux)
43. Favourite movie of all time? Betty Blue (or 37.2° le Matin)
44. Mountains or beach? Both
45. The current friend you have known the longest? Douglas / Susan
46. Full names of your potential kids? My fully realised kids are called Zachary Hugh and Eloïse Iona
47. What is your Usual bedtime? Around midnight
It turns out there is only 47 questions, ask me another if you like, or suggest questions that the studes might enjoy answering.......


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Reclaimed living room

living room
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
The home improvements project is almost finished. All we need is rewiring upstairs, windows throughout and a new central heating boiler. I'm so sick of the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


That's it, I'm not playing this game any more, it's just too eerie. We played five games of twenty questions and it won four times (it got snail, washing-up liquid, television arial and credit card but it didn't get foie gras). I'm going to use it with my students too: a good exercise for understanding questions Try it for yourself in English, French, Spanish or German at

Monday, June 13, 2005


The other day I had to translate the following phrase from French to English: "en dehors de ces paramètres..." The solution that immediately sprang to mind was "outwith these parameters" which is probably not the first possibility that springs to your mind unless you're from my part of the world, as I quickly discovered when Word did its squiggly red underlining thing. After a quick google it transpired that "outwith" is a typically Scottish term. I can't imagine how the rest of you manage without such a useful word. And there are so many more: where would my vocabulary be without wee and pinkie and burn and brae ... Over at Blethers, Stuart Mudie has not only given his blog a Scottish title but his derrière is still Scottish too. You can take the laddie out of Scotland but you can't purge him of all those wonderful scotticisms.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Concert tickets

concert tickets
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
I found some of them in a yellowed envelope. I'd completely forgotten about Rory Gallagher and the Boomtown Rats and 10CC. And Elton John was in 1976 not 1979. I started going to concerts VERY young, okay.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Concert meme

As Profgrrrrrl remarks, there's a concert meme going around, so here's my contribution with a list of concerts I've seen more or less in chronological order listed under the place I saw them. You won't find anything even vaguely up to date here because it has been many years since I last clutched an overpriced ticket and stood in line to be frisked.

The Corries (of Flower of Scotland fame)

Elton John (this was circa 1979 and I think it was touted as his farewell tour. He sang "Don't go Breaking My Heart" without Kiki Dee)
Police (Fanastic concert. Sting wore a boiler suit)
Thin Lizzy (At that time my very favourite band. I loved Phil Lynott. I probably still would if he wasn't dead)
Ultravox (Vienna had just come out and Midge Ure had played with Thin Lizzy, but I still didn't enjoy it)
Gary Glitter (A Freshers' week freebie)
The Who (Brilliant)
Uriah Heep (hardly anyone there)
Elvis Costello (in a village hall somewhere outside Edinburgh (Wast Calder?), a massive loudspeaker fell on the audience)
Bruce Springsteen (a very long concert)

Silly Wizard (My first year in France and this Scottish folk group turned up in my provinical town.)
Hubert Felix Thiefaine (first French concert, I'd never heard of him)
Charlelie Couture (second French concert, I'd never heard of him either)

Luther Allison (first Blues concert)

Marillion (another Scottish group seen in France)

Bordeaux and environs
Eurythmics (loved Annie Lennox's attitude (yes, another Scot))
Celtas Cortas (loud and Spanish!)
Magma (crap)
Jagger (Mick's brother) (can' t remember his first name, says it all)
Sting (brilliant, especially his rendering of "Ne me Quitte pas")
Buckwheat Zydeco (first zydeco concert)
Paul Personne (free on the Place Saint-Michel)
Paul Young (also free on the Place Saint-Michel)
Fabulous Troubadours (fast and furious rapping in French with a Toulouse accent. I left before the main band, Massilia Sound System, came on)
Jacques Dutronc (I remember a song about sleeping pills and an interview with a journalist in the middle)
Al Jarreau (outside at Fort Medoc, dodgy sound system)
G. Love and Special Sauce (can't remember a thing about it)
Kevin Coyne (laconic Englishman)
Marva Wright and the BMWs (one of many great blues concerts experienced at the now defunct "Cricketers")
Leon Redbone (he asked everyone to stop smoking)
Jean-Jacques Milteau (brillaint harmonicist)
Linton Kwesi Johnson (frankly better listened to at home)
Jacques Higelin X2 ( first time in La Rochelle someone set fire to my cotton blouse by mistake)
Miles Davies (at the Andernos Jazz Festival. The bench I was standing on collapsed.)

I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of "gigs" as we used to call them in our incredibly hip and trendy way. I wonder what happened to my ticket collection. I wonder what happened to my youth.

Friday, June 10, 2005

In the privacy of my own blog

The question of privacy has popped up a few times in my activities over the past couple of days.

1. Someone just knocked on the door (literally — still no doorbell). I rushed downstairs to find two smiley people on the doorstep who immediately addressed me in English, a rather unexpected event in France. Of course, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses – you probably worked that out a couple of lines ago but it took me a few minutes.
Me: How did you know I spoke English?
Her: Well, we look up English names in the phone book and then come round.
Talk about sophisticated marketing techniques. I really must learn to be more assertive. Why didn’t I just say “Go away”? Instead of that, I ended up with the “Watchtower” in my hand and they left promising to come back. Oh no.
It also occurs to me that if they found my name in the phone book, they could also google my name and this blog would be first on the list. Oh yes, and before you tell me, the third hit on the Google list informs you that “really shag me” is an anagram of my name which is always useful to know. I can just imagine the crossword puzzle clue,
1 across “Really shag me” says this unknown blogger confusedly.

2. Still on the subject of phonebooks, and I’m going to have to be a bit hedgey on this one because I don’t want to invade an apparently nice man’s privacy à la Jehovah’s Witness. Yesterday, I read an article quoting another article in a major British newspaper which reported that a very famous Scottish author had said he used to “pore over phonebooks” when he first lived in London, looking up famous authors and marking them in his A-Z. Now, I learned last year that this self-same author has a house in a village not far from my French family. By some strange coincidence I suffer from the same virtual stalking instinct as said (or actually unsaid) author and immediately looked him up in the French telephone book and there he was. No, I didn’t phone him up and no I didn’t go and have a look at his house but my curiosity was satisfied.

3. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned an unhappy experience when I left a comment on another blog that went against the flow of other comments. It appears that the majority of readers of this sort of tell-all blog consider themselves as supportive, understanding friends rather than bolshy, questioning pseudo-acquaintances and quickly shout down any dissenting voices. What strikes me is that as I continue to read the blog, I increasingly wonder what motivates someone to share such an experience (separation) à chaud with a bunch of curious onlookers. The words laundry and public come to mind and I feel a little guilty about being a passive part of it, for without readers there would be no point in spilling all the poignant, and sometimes sordid details, out into a blog.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

I heart my Ipod mini

ipod mini
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
My new toy has arrived and it is pink. So far I've listened to a mixture of Capercaille, Ben Harper, Christophe and Adam Green. I love it, I love it, I love it. How did I ever thnk I could live without one? Any suggestions for sources of podcasts or new music? Tomorrow I will be striding down the promenade in Arcachon with my little pink friend in my pocket.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Unfinished bathroom

Unfinished bathroom
Originally uploaded by Lezzles.
As you can see, the bathroom isn't quite finished. It's only been about two months since the renovation work started. Roll on the "after" photos.

Monday, June 06, 2005


People who don't own a self-help book on principle shouldn't read personal development blogs, but I just have and it's official, I have a self-discipline problem. Have a look at Steve Pavlina's Personal Development Blog and the list of questions "you " should be asking yourself. Here are a few choice snippets (there are many, many more):

- Do you get up at the same time every morning? Including weekends?
- Do you have any addictions (caffeine, nicotine, sugar, etc.) you’d like to break but haven’t?
- Is your email inbox empty right now?
- Is your office neat and well organized?
- Is your home neat and well organized?
- How much time do you waste in a typical day? On a weekend?
- Could you fast for one day?
- Do you have clear, written goals? Do you have written plans to achieve them?
- How do you look right now? What does your appearance say about your level of discipline (clothes, grooming, etc)?
- Do you primarily select foods to eat based on health considerations or on taste/satiety?

And here are my answers.
- Are you joking?
- Yes, yes, yes and many others.
- It has never been empty
- No
- No
- The entire weekend
- I couldn't fast for two hours
- I repeat, are you joking?
- It says I'm a busy working mother. Get off my case.
- Oh, health of course, not.

Conclusion. I'm a lost cause (but at least I don't seem to be in "a state of denial" about my level of discipline). It has to be said though, this Steve guy himself does not sound like a bundle of fun.

"I get up at 5am each morning. I exercise six days a week. I eat a purely vegan diet with lots of fresh vegetables. My home office is well organized. My physical inbox and my email inbox are both empty. [...] A binder sits on my desk with my written goals and detailed plans to achieve them, and several of my 2005 goals have already been accomplished."


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Weekend waffle

Well, the thousand mark has been passed. I know it's fairly puny compared to the number of hits a lot of other blogs get, but I was pleased anyway. Here are a few more events from my weekend in no particular order.

Went to an incongruous "Country Festival" in the middle of the French countryside where people did line dancing and ate chilli con carne. Listened to someone called Leslie Ryan sing. Okay, so it was kitch, but it was enjoyable kitch.

Lost my purse with all of my credit cards in it. This happened somewhere between the laundromat (washing machine still not plumbed in) the médiathèque and the supermarket. A nice man found it in the middle of a roundabout, took it home and looked me up in the internet telephone directory. He tells me that there are two people with my name in France. I offered to come round and pick it up but he insisted on bringing it over. This confirms my faith in human nature. (Things like this often happen to me)

Visited some friends who have a new baby. Did a lot of cooing and cuddling. Almost made me feel like pushing back the limits of medical science and having another one. I said almost. (I also read mr. nice guy's hilarious blog about new babies which makes me glad I've been there and done that)

Hope you had a good one too.


Friday, June 03, 2005


If you come and visit in the next twenty-four hours or so, you might be the thousandth visitor to my blog. Look at the counter in the sidebar, about half way down. Wow!


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Appropriated Words [sic]

Here are some excerpts from my students' blogs summing up their reactions to the blogexperience. Some of the English is pretty atrocious, so please be indulgent. Phil B. asked about error correction in the Blogstreams Salon last week and I have to admit that, for me, this is a thorny problem. I simply don't have time to correct written productions every week and I'm not at all sure that student posts would be as spontaneous and authentic if they felt they were writing for correction rather than reaction. I'm going to have to think more about this before next academic year.

Shablog: "First, the blogs were on original way to make us reflex. Indeed, it was an exellent exercise since we had to write a sensefull text with built sentences and with the appropriated words. We could work to exprime ourselves in a quiet good english in order to make us understand by the others. Moreover, the blogs were a bright alternative to make us 'speak' when we weren't in class."

madikera: "Moreover, the blog is a very good idea in my view because it has permitted us to know things about the others but it was very difficult to talk about myself."

Suck the marrow out of life: "I found the idea of the blog excellent. We should start it at the beginning of the year to be used to going there. It was really convenient to go on the computer to do your homework (grammar exercises or litlle essay)"

moonlight: ".and it is probably very interesting because each one talked about what happens to him, what he thinks so he could compare his opinion, his experiences...with the others' ones."

My english: " The blogs are a very good idea as homeworks, it's an original work to learn english but, for me, it wasn't "work" so it's a way to progress easily in english and in the same time to enjoy what we do."

Stories: "Other thing,the idea of doing a blog is very good:if I can,I think I would keep mine because it's like a kind of diary!And I like this very much!"

the chicken blog: "I enjoyed the blogs because it was a way to practice english without being too much conscious of it...(hey ! am I writing in english ? no, I can't believe it !)"

tiziozio: "About the blogs: first, I was a little pessimistic. the fact to write things about you that 'everybody' could be able to read didn't pleased me a lot... But when you accept this principle and play the game, you become 'hoocked'!!"

britneyfornever: "Overall, now I know what a blog is and what a blog could be; because when the teacher said ' you're going to create a blog'...I thought : a WHAT!!...I've never heard about this before!!But now, if somebody talk about blog I could say 'oh, yes...I know what it is and I've even created one!...'It's sure that at first I wasn't very, very enthusiastic because I don't really like talking about me and expose this on the web...even if it's about small personal things but I 've to admited that , lessons after lessons, I was more and more interested and at last I found that very funny to learn some details on people, like the five original things that people has done.The proust questions make me discover details on people life and It's always interesting to see how people react towards some questions or situations.To end, I think it was a good way to learn and 'play' with English and a good idea for people who have difficulties with oral...because it's easier to talk throw a computer!!..."

english option: "But nothing is perfect. What I really disliked was : - the day chosen in the week : many persons are off duty on Wednesday afternoon- the constant use of computers. I must admit that new technologies offer a lot of possibilities for the exercises. But everyone doesn't have an easy access to a computer and even less persons to the Internet ( when it works )."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Books (and house renovations and insomniac children)

I didn't realise quite how many books I have until I started sorting through them in preparation for the ongoing house facelift which is turning out to be more like a nose job and a boob job and liposuction plus a lot of nipping and tucking all at the same time but not all of it entirely successful. I came to the conclusion that I had a lot of paperbacks taking up a lot of bookshelf space (that's a lie, they're mostly in cardboard boxes taking up floor space) and that I would never read them again. First of all I took a bundle into work and tried to flog them to colleagues for 2€ a piece (because that's the sort of friend I am) but only sold about half of them. Then I spent ages registering them on Amazon and sold a grand total of one — a very common sense book about helping babies to sleep to a paediatrician in Paris. (Remind me to tell you some time about the numerous failsafe techniques for getting children to sleep that I've tried and that simply do not work. Also remind me to tell you about all of the mundane common-sense advice the paediatrician has given me at a rate of 35€ per ten minutes). Then I tried to sell some on E-bay, also a resounding failure. Eventually, I took them into a second-hand bookstore near the university where the grubby owner bought the lot for a quarter of the price marked on the back — a great deal since some of them had originally been bought at discount prices. I've been back a few times now bearing carrier bags stuffed with novels, but my little bouquiniste is becoming increasingly picky. Recently, he refused "Colorado" by Philippe Labro because the style is too "lisse". He's absolutely right about that one but I often find myself having to defend the books I'm trying to offload, until in the end I persaude even myself that it's really an excellent piece of litererature and wonder why I decided to get rid of it in the first place. And of course as I'm walking out the door with the cash in my pocket, I always catch sight of a really interesting book and have to go back and buy it which rather defeats the whole point of the exercise. (Yesterday it was Foucault's "Les Mots et les Choses")
I suppose I could always just bin the books I don't want. It had never occured to me that this was a possibility until I read Helene Hanff's "84 Charing Cross Road" in which she declares that there is absolutely no reason to be sentimental about books and treat them like sacred objects. She gaily turfs them out with the New York garbage. Now if only I could find the the dust-covered box that contains the book, I could give you the exact quote.



Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...