Last week's excursion to Auchan was educational. Our final shopping list before Christmas had all the usual suspects upon it - except Mince Pies, which we already knew were strictly British fare. So, this being our first proper Christmas in Strasbourg we had the chance to find out exactly what the French do and don't have for Christmas Dinner. On the downside - Christmas crackers play no part in the festivities. Which means no funny hats no silly little toys and no lame fun-for-all-the-family jokes. Which frankly is the best part for most of us. Boo! On the upside - no Turkey or cranberry sauce, both of which are derivative of American tradition anyhow. Instead, the French appear to opt for either Goose (which is what we traditionally ate in Britain until we discovered Turkey was a lot bigger and cheaper) or "Chapon". Now look up "Chapon" in a French-English dictionary - and you'll find that the equivalent noun in English is "Capon". If you're still in the dark this might be becuase it is a word that is [...]
'Join a club or society' is the advice I've had from several quarters, when I have complained of my limited exposure to French people. You see it's all very well chatting away in French to your fellow students, but this won't advance your understanding of the language beyond what you already know. Furthermore - you'll only ever get used to listening to French pronounced with a foreign accent. So prolonged exposure to the opinions of my German, American, Irish, Slovenian, Italian and Dutch classmates over a cup of coffee isn't necessarily going to do anything beyond boost my confidence with the language. Pronounciation, new vocab and grammar has to be picked up in class - or out on the street ... So, following advice, I have joined an French-speaking group to play Dungeons and Dragons once a month. The game, which I had a passion for in my youth - but has alluded me since my later teen years, has already suceeded in expanding my vocabulary vastly after just two sessions. For example, I now know these handy, everyday [...]
Someone pointed out this amusing little article in The Times to me. Clearly it's slightly skewed, being based upon a Fulham & Kensington lifestyle (which is hardly representative of the country) but there are many chortle-worthy truths in there that apply to us all. It is an extract from a book by Hortense de Monplaisir; entitled Le Dossier: How to Survive the English.
Today my thoughts are featured on whatenglandmeanstome.co.uk - a website dedicated to studying the concept of Englishness. The site has been set up by a group of Academics at the University of Ulster who are hoping to gain some insight into the way England is regarded, now that devolution has paved the way for a possible break-up of The Union. There are submissions from a number of prominent MP's as well as from ordinary bloggers like myself. It makes interesting reading. Please feel free to add your comments to the site. [Go there now]
... on a daily basis. The work of the former Strasbourg University Professor who fathered the process now know as 'Pasteurisation' is still regarded as an oddity here in France. In fact it seems most people have no idea what Pasteurisation is. Why else would milk producers feel the need to write on their product: La pasteurisation douce de ce lait permet de retrouver les saveurs et les qualities du lait frais. Il est inutile de la faire bouillir avant consommation. Translation: "Mild Pasteurisation of this milk lets the flavour and quality of fresh milk remain. It is pointless boiling it before consuming." Bizarre!
Previously I had been advising my friends and relatives to buy their London to Strasbourg train tickets via the Eurostar website. As it was a cheaper and easier option than buying the Paris to Strasbourg leg separately through SNCF. To my disgust, it now appears that this is no longer true. Eurostar are shamelessly capitalising on their customers' ignorance and making a killing. For example - when I tried booking a Strasbourg-London return on Eurostar.com for this coming December, I was given three options: Business flexi â‚¬600, Leisure non-flexi â‚¬300, Standard semi-flexi â‚¬400. But by booking exactly the same train without the Strasbourg leg I obtained standard non-fexi return for â‚¬77. Booking the Strasbourg leg separately through SNCF - I managed to find a standard return that gave me a first class seat on the way back for â‚¬125. That beats Eurostar's best all-in price by about â‚¬100. There should be a law against this sort of practice ... if there isn't already?!
The BBC should be ashamed of themselves. Once-upon-a-time their international news website was held up as the benchmark by which all others were judged, now it's starting to look about as hip as a tweed jacket. In the past, as a regular 'international' user of the site, I have been frustrated by dead links and 404 pages, but now the final straw - advertising has come to the BBC. Today the BBC news homepage makes a bigger feature out of it's ad banners for British Airways than it does of the crisis in Pakistan. From bbc.co.uk: You will have noticed that the BBC website features a limited amount of advertising when viewed from outside the UK. That's the only alteration - the content of the site remains unchanged and continues to feature the same high quality journalism and entertainment that the BBC has always pioneered. We've introduced advertising to visitors outside of the UK because the new revenue created will allow us to further improve our journalism, our programmes and our website in the years ahead. Impartiality is of [...]
'Merde' is probably one of the few French words english-speakers understand from a very early age. I can't remember how or why I happened to learn the French for 'shit', but in all likelihood it wasn't thanks to my French professor at school. 'Merde' also happens to be in the title of Stephen Clark's best-selling novel, a funny and well-observed take on French culture, in France, from a British perspective. Now the French, in their love of wordplay and puns as humour, tend to find this title somewhat offensive - as it suggests that France is shit. And seeing as the hero, Paul West, spends a year in France - this would seem to be the logical association. However if you've read the book, or indeed lived in France for any length of time, you would know that 'in the merde' actually implys 'stepping in shit'. This title alludes to the plotline of the book - as well as highlighting one of the most revolting facts of French life. That is - France is covered in dog shit. Nowhere [...]
England's rugby team played their joker on Saturday night. The unsuspecting French failed to notice the competitive advantage attached to Josh Lewsey's top lip and chin before it was too late. The winger bounded over the line within the first few seconds of play to score the opening try - thanks in no small part to the blond goatee attached to his face. It's no conincidence that Lewsey's five points also happened to be the winning margin. The final against South Africa could again be decided by facial hair. Boks forward Victor Matfield has been sporting a fine chin of roughage throughout the tournament, and with Lewsey out of the England squad, it may well be the decisive whisker.