Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sub-total immersion

Until last weekend, we had an eighteen year-old staying in our spare bedroom. Charlotte is the daughter of my best friend in Scotland and her plans for a gap year in Nepal fell through at the last minute due to that pesky Marxist coup. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about a teenage girl we hardly know staying with us for a whole month. However, I needn't have worried because she turned out to be the ideal house guest — she was in class studying French all day and out most evenings doing whatever it is that eighteen-year-olds do nowadays. When she was here she was a pleasure to have around.

I was constantly reminded of how much things have moved on since I was eighteen and came to work in France for the first time. In those days (can you hear my voice going reedy and see my body leaning lower over my walking stick?) I used to save up five-franc pieces for my weekly call home from a draughty phone box. Our broadband provider gives us free calls to just about anywhere in the world so Charlotte could call home any time she liked. Apart from the occasional letter, I was out of touch with my friends back home for almost all of the time that I was in France; Charlotte kept in touch with her friends through Facebook and text messages. I used to save up and buy the occasional English-language newspaper, Charlotte could have read any newspaper she liked on the internet. I went home after three months to discover that there were lots of new adverts and series on TV, Charlotte could have watched English-language television to her heart's delight via satellite (had we a satellite dish, hint, hint), cable (had she wanted to suffer through reruns of Dad's Army and The Good Life) and of course copious downloading.

I'll stop there before I get to the "well we lived in a shoebox in a cess pit" line from Monty Python. I suppose that what I'm saying is that it's actually much more difficult nowadays to achieve the total immersion effect in a foreign language.

Charlotte is off to New Zealand next month — I suppose the Maoris have broadband too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Spot on?

Typalayzer tells you what you're really like......maybe.

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

The Artists

The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

Well, I suppose the "not friends of many words" part is correct.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This is a good meme that was passed on to me by the Teuchter (what a lovely word Teuchter is). I have to provide a list of the last ten commenters on this blog and then answer some questions about them. They should then do the same thing.

1. Rosie: A Bitch About Brittany
2. Ms Mac
3. Engelsk
4. Lucy : Box Elder
5. Neil: Neil Writes the Blog
6. Deborah (independent commenter!)
7. Le Laquet
8. Anne : Belgian Waffle
9. Frankofile
10. Dick of Dick Jones' Patteran Pages

1. What is your favourite post from number 3’s blog?

I quite like this one - there was a similar one last year I think.

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that have moved you?

Dick's blog is about words more than pictures. His poems have certainly moved me.

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on their blog?

Deborah still doesn't have a blog but her daughter Lucie who is an extremely talented artist started a trilingual one recently. I give you Lucie Geffré.

4. Which part of blogland is number 2 from?

Ms Mac lives in the Village of the Damned in deepest Switzerland but as I know only too well you can take the girl out of Scotland but you can't .........

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7 what would it be?

I'd praise her rather than give her advice - well done lightweight!

6. Have you ever tried something from number 9’s blog?

I'm sure I've nicked something at some time from almost all of the blogs I read - and I'd quite like to borrow Sky, Frankofile's black lab.

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you?

Rosie's posts about teaching music to autistic children are more than inspiring, they are life-enhancing.

8. How often do you comment on number 4’s blog?

I comment on Lucy's blog quite often - usually to say nothing more interesting than that I love a photograph or agree with a beautifully expressed observation.

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly?

I have to be honest and say that I don't exactly wait excitedly for anyone to post, but when I see a new post from Belgian Waffle in Google Reader my cursor does tend to go straight to it.

10. How did number 5’s blog change your life?

Ha! I could write a book about how Neil's blog changed my life. ......... it would be a very short book.

11. Do you know any of the 10 bloggers in person?

I've known Deborah for a very long time. I have never met any of the others, I would definitely recognise a few of them if they passed me in the street (Ms Mac, bespectacled Neil, Rosie...) and would respond enthusiastically to a dinner invitation from any of the ten!

12. Do any of your 10 bloggers know each other in person?

Rosie and Lucy are friends. Ms Mac comments on Rosie's blog. Lucy and Dick link to each other. Le Laquet and Ms Mac link to each other. Does Ms Mac know Anne? Maybe because her friend Heather definitely does. (Does anyone else miss Heather's blog? Come back Heather.) I'm not sure about Frankofile. Engelsk and Neil are the wild cards in this group.

13. Out of the 10, which updates more frequently?

Ms Mac, I think. (although I miss the daily dose of her 365 photos on Flickr).

14. Which of the 10 keep you laughing?

Neil mostly (who wouldn't laugh at these photos?)

15. Which of the 10 has made you cry (good or bad tears)?

I can't say that any of them have made me cry. Smile. Worry. Frown. But not cry.

Monday, November 10, 2008


When you book the cheapest all-inclusive holiday ever at the very, very last minute you don't really expect luxurious accommodation, fluffy white bath towels and the best upper sets as fellow holiday-makers. And sure enough, we didn't get any of that in Gran Canaria. But we did get sun. And we did get a perfectly acceptable apartment, a nice pool, edible food, lashings of alcohol on tap and the dunes of Maspalomas. So as I lay on a sunbed reading David Foster Wallace's Consider The Lobster, thinking that many of the characters around me sounded a lot like people I had seen in Eastenders (there were even two Frank Butchers) — and feeling not a little superior (mostly because of my reading matter rather than any innate class) — I came upon this passage on vulgarity:
But of course we should keep in mind that vulgar has many dictionary definitions and that only a couple of these have to do with lewdness and bad taste [DFW is writing about the porn industry]. At root, vulgar just means popular on a mass scale. It is the semantic opposite of pretentious or snobby. It is humility with a comb-over.
So , there you have it — I am proud to have been a vulgar tourist and here is my vulgar slideshow.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


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 ...