Saturday, August 05, 2006

Concert at the Castle

Today I need to tell you about our evening activity. Still in France and to be honest the weather appears to be getting worse. However, yesterday Katie and Danny tell me how they have found on the Net information about one of the local castles. Apparently, there is concert on with music and fireworks. Now you need to be aware that through a few good contacts, last month we manage to get to go to the concerts in Kenwood Park and got to sit in the VIP enclosure. It was brilliant all round and therefore we sort of had the same thing in mind. You take a picnic, maybe some champagne and listen to music, chat and generally chill out. We knew the castle which is quite small as castles go but it�s unique feature is that it is on a lake.
We had a plan. Arrive early with umbrella in case it rained, something to sit on and some alcohol. Katie had even phoned up to check the details. We arrived an hour early so we could get something to eat at the local restaurant. When we arrived it did look very empty but we could see seating in the distance and what can be best described as lawned terraces were freshly mowed. We climbed up the sides of the embankment to the nearest restaurant which over looks the castle. We mentioned to the owners that we were in a rush and did they know what time things kicked off and they told us we had just over an hour. The restaurant was packed and we imagined that people were getting their prime position for the firework spectacular.
We ate our meal and walked back down. The car park still seemed somewhat sparse but we could see some people on the seats. We took our things and paid the 5 euro entrance. Bargain we thought, 5 euros for a night of entertainment. Once seated we noticed that there appeared not to be an orchestra but instead speakers. Oh well we thought, still for 5 euros not a disaster. Then we saw a screen with a laptop connected. Hmm, ok a little bizarre. Then the title �Mars explorer lands� written in French. Then some pictures of stars and a man with a microphone starts to talk in French about the stars and the sky. He has slides. We suddenly realise we are not going to listen to wonderful music and see fireworks but instead listen to scientific facts about our solar system, in the dark, on a Friday night and of course the whole presentation was in French making it near impossible to understand. At this point, the three of us started to laugh. Not just a little but full on giggle fest. The more we tried to control it the worse it got. People started staring which made us laugh even more as we tried to look away. We eventually managed to control ourselves and regain our composure. I was crying with laughter by this time.
The sad thing is we stayed for an hour before we felt we could leave. I have never had hysterics in a French lecture in a castle about stars before and I can say it is surprisingly uplifting. Especially when you have told lots of people about how much you are looking forward to the concert and fireworks and so you start receiving text messages such as �Hope you are enjoying the concert�.
Moral of the Story is: Even though Katie has French A-level it clearly does not mean she can speak French.
Au revior for now and if you want to know about our starry skies I can recommend a castle in France!
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Back to the Blog

Well, I am back. Back in the land of the blog. Have to admit to being amazingly slack and have not posted for almost a year. That�s quite a long time. So why have I decided to start blogging again? Well I am currently in France and to be honest the weather is not looking too good. More Preston than Paris. I am staying at Dan�s mum�s house which I have stayed in before and it is such a brilliant house. Dan�s here and Katie�s here and then there are �the others�. More about them in a moment.
So what�s been happening over the last year? Well to be honest so much that that itself would be an epic tale so to highlight. Left old job, started new job, hated new job, left new job and returned to old job. That was an interesting year and at times incredibly stressful. Now am looking happier career wise.
So here I am in France it is almost 11am. Katie and Dan are asleep which is about normal. We were invaded late on Tuesday night by 2 families who are also staying here. Now, I know it sounds harsh but I thought there were probably going to be 5 people staying with us but it turns out to be 10. Four adults and six children ranging in age from 12 weeks to 12 years. I work with kids all year and get on well with them on the whole but in the summer holidays I do try and limit the dosage I am exposed to unless they are a niece or nephew or children of close friends. Well not this week.
We were woken yesterday at 7:30am by loud piano playing from downstairs. Not a popular choice of alarm.
One of them (the oldest) apparently has ADHD. I say apparently which is controversial in itself as I am a believer that sometime this is a convenient label for children who are poorly behaved. I have worked with some genuinely ADHD students at school and they are poorly behaved but there is something else about them that makes it more. Perhaps it�s their frustration or lack of social skills with peers that makes it stand out. Now I have only met the boy for a short while but from what I have seen so far he is just a preteen trying it on with his parents who to be honest seem at the end of their tether. I have seen nothing so far that would suggest ADHD. I am no expert but they we can all play psychologist for a while and that would be my thoughts. This is also strengthened by them telling us that he is fine at school and everywhere else. That makes me think the common factor of when he misbehaves is when he is with his parents. Harsh, but true. Dan, Katie and I had escaped the Maison de Circus earlier yesterday for the sake of our sanity and had discussed this. I had given my thoughts to the others and they had given me theirs. . Was therefore not so impressed when Dan tries to drag me into a conversation over the first proper sit down meal with the parents. I was not happy. It is one thing to play Doctor and quite another to start trying to hand out a diagnosis to parents you have never met. Dan sometimes is not so good at understanding where private conversations need to be kept private. To say it was awkward would not be far from the truth. I really wanted to say �well if you allow your child to stay up to after midnight, leave him to wake up in a house of 3 strangers whilst the rest of you leave to go on a outing, talk about all his issues in front of everyone including him, label him as troublesome and are generally quite unpleasant to him then what do you expect to happen?�. I took the 5th instead and glared quietly at Dan for thinking it appropriate to drag me in. I know he is a difficult situation of seeing a child who he feels he can help but to be honest it is not his place to interfere. On the other hand, the parents have asked him to help. I think that he is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is like being a fire fighter (random metaphor alert) and seeing a fire and being told we want it sorting but we don�t want you to put it out. His gut reaction is either to leave well alone which is frustrating as the boy�s behaviour is inappropriate or to dive right in and help the parent�s assert themselves which will probably end in major tears all round. Only time will tell I guess.
On a lighter note, we decided that we would have a day of being nice to each other (that�s me Danny and Katie). We had started to get into the habit of being ultra sarcastic and nasty to each other in a very light hearted way. Seeing who could come up with an insult to top the last. It sounds cruel on paper but in reality it often results in a large number of original insults which makes us all laugh. We decided as we were having visitors to have only nice comments to each other. It was surprisingly difficult with us racking up over 20 insults to each other despite a real effort. Katie lost badly. Insults are now back in play so I will go and see what the morons are up to in a minute.
Just got off the phone to my mechanic. Thought I would be very technical and have my car �serviced�. I have always been sceptical about this as I feel it is a chance to have your car cost you money. Things are always found wrong with it and then you end up paying for repairs. Much better I feel to be blissfully ignorant of any problems. Much cheaper in the short term too. Anyhow, as it had not been serviced since I bought it 3 and a half years ago, I thought I would bite the bullet. Especially as recently it had sounded like more like a tractor than a car. I have a tame mechanic who broke the news by saying he could probably keep repairing it for the next 5 days and at what point did he want to stop paying for repairs. He had done the cam belt, the exhaust and the service. He was considering doing the radiator and other things which to be honest I did not understand but apparently are broken. I made the �ahu�s� in the right places as if I knew exactly what he was talking about but fell short of suggesting that I had noticed the same myself. I have decided to halt the haemorrhaging of money to the car for now. Will have to consider whether it is worth getting a new car instead later in the year.
Right, all has gone very quiet in the house so I had better see where everyone is and try and catch up on some sleep before �they� return from wherever it is they have gone.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Well yesterday, We spent the whole day in or in close proximity to Ikea. Now I only discovered Ikea about 2 years ago and immediately fell in love with the whole experience. It is generally quite cheap but tends to be relatively well made. Had not been for a while and was looking for a TV stand so I could try and control the spaghetti of wires and boxes that live in and around my TV. Am hoping that I will have it tamed by tomorrow. The thing about Ikea is that I suddenly get upset when I see a kitchen utensil priced over £5. This is unusual and anywhere else I would probably pay this, but because everything else is so cheap it seems overpriced :) Where else can you get 4 plug extensions for a couple of quid?
The same goes now for clothes shopping. Having been somewhat spoilt by my visits to the states, It seems crazy to buy something that is not reduced. Had to settle for a shop closing down and got a reduction from £60 to £18. Not bad. Even if I say so myself.
The other thing I love about Ikea is the free pencils. Now here is a question, How many "free" pencils can you take per visit before it is classed as stealing? We decided 10 was reasonable and were fine until JP had the Ikea bag with all the pencils in at the checkout and suddenly realised. Not wishing to draw attention to herself she tried to walk through with the bag and was promptly sent back. It was quite amusing. We then spotted a dispenser after the tills. Unfortunately, the security guy was stood right there. How annoying. I didn't feel like I could boldly walk up and start filling my pockets. So had to wait. It felt like I was doing some major covert police operation but the sad fact is that Ikea probably do not audit there pencils that closely. You may be wandering why I would want the pencils in the first place. Well I can hand them out to all those kids who manage to forget theirs on a daily basis at school. Easy to spot and very cost effective should they end up being smuggled out of the class. Everyone is a winner.
One question we have about Ikea, is why are people so keen on their meatballs? No matter when we go large number of people are eating them? What's all the fuss about? Do let me know.

Now, on to my awating computer. This is sadly already deviating from being straightforward. Was sent an Email last week whether I would accept an alternative component. I agreed as it made little difference. I heard no news so thought I would email this week to be told they were still waiting for me to respond. How bizzare. This could be the start of an epic.

Right, I am off to unpack my Ikea purchases (all those things I did not know I needed till yesterday and now feel I could not live without).


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Oo lah lah - Learning French

Well I was casting my mind back today, to my time last week in France. Dan and I were trying to do our bit for international relations by learning French. This is partly due to both our inabilities to speak anything vaguely resembling the language. My technique was to say a few French words and then mix it with a little Spanish. I was vaguely understandable but had to prepare mentally first. This was ok provided that the innocent person I was speaking to kept to "my script". Therefore one encouter where I needed to know where the toilets were went like this.

Me: Bonjour - Fine so far

Her: Bon Soir - Now this was unexpected as I was hoping for a Bonjour. I Panicked

Me: Au revor - What can I say? it rhymed!

Je m'appelle les toilettes? - Reverted to a Year 7 phrase that was pure instinct and unfortunately totally wrong.

Por Favor - I wanted to be polite! Ok so it was Spanish

Fortunately she spoke English and promptly directed us to the toilets. This was lucky as Dan, who was stood behind me was wetting himself with laughter.

So it came to be that we spent several evenings following a CD tutor. It was kind of weird but did sort of work. It gave us at least a chance to be a bit more confident to ask questions even if we did not have a clue what they were saying back.

However, we are now able to say "We Like France" and "We have no money". Very useful!

Till tomorrow


Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Well I am now going to try and do a few daily blogs. After all, as a teacher I get the summer off so might as well eat up my time one way or another (It's a hard life I know :) ).
I want to talk today a little about coasters. My complaint is that having not broken a coaster for many years, in one week I managed to break two. More annoyingly, they weren't mine. Whilst on my hols I suffered from innocently picking up my coffee and having the glass coaster weld itself to the bottom of the mug. Then it waited till it was over the hard tiled floor before commiting coaster suicide.
Only a week later, (funnily enough at exactly the same location - think conspiracy) I was feeling compelled to participate (fearing force would be used shortly) in the holiday house clearup. This is commonly known as "Oh my god - How did we make such a mess in such a short space of time?" . So I jumped up and eagerly started to wipe off the crumbs from the cola bottles (sweets), chocolate biscuits and Malteasers (our diet was at least consistent) and in doing so, possibly due to a sugar rush or panic, wiped the coaster clean off the table and once again down to the tiled floor. Oops. Now if that's not enough the house owner (Dan's mum) is likely to conduct a coaster survey at some stage during her stay next week. Cunningly, I thought I would mix and match coasters from several rooms in the hope that this causes adequate coaster confusion. You might wonder why I would be bothered, but Dan's mum in too many ways is "Judge Judy". A lovely woman but someone who you do not want to have a coaster conflict with. I feel I might be sentenced to at least 2 years! Dans told me he won't cover if goes to inquest! Where are your friends when you need them?
Finally, I have bitten the bullet and decided to order my new computer. I was in a catch 22 situation as every online store had some bad press from some website or another. So I just went with the cheapest who seemed to have been long established. I suspect that it will either all go to plan or it will be a disaster. My last two have been disasters. I'll keep you updated.
My plans for the rest of the day (sorry if you are still at work) will revolove largely around going to see "The Wedding Crashers". It is not high on my list of things to see but at least I will get to feed my current Malteaser addiction.
Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Return to Reality

Well, I know it's been a while so this is a longer version than normal. Two things since my last blog. First I have now left my old school so it was time to say goodbye. It seemed really weird that I was saying goodbye after 8 years. That's a long time. What I found ironic was the number of nice comments that I got from colleagues, kids and even parents. It makes you wonder why people wait till you leave before you are told these things. It has not quite sunk in yet but I am sure it will soon.
Only got back from France at the weekend which was cool. Went with five friends. We went to the same place as last year and had a really good time. I am surprised how well the five of us get on seeing as we have only known each other on and off for a year. We all go to a big house in the middle of the countryside and chill out by the pool and occasionally muster up the strength to cycle to the local bar. The weather was pretty hot and we ate stupid amount of food. I would have happily stayed there for the rest of the summer break!
Anyhow back to reality now and managing to waste stupid amounts of time doing nothing. Have to buy a new computer in the next week but the big question is where to buy from. Everywhere I turn I hear horror stories about this firm or that. How on earth do you choose? I'll let you know how I get on. Also toying with the idea of doing a podcast for teachers. Not sure how that will go. Will have to wait and see I guess.
Well till next time...
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Sunday, July 03, 2005

For England these were big hail stones. All about the size of marbles! Posted by Picasa

This was my garden path after the storm. Not snow - Hail and yes it is summer and it is June! Notice the Debris :( Posted by Picasa