Monthly Archives: March 2007

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A giant douche or a turd sandwich?

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:54+00:00 March 27th, 2007|Strasbourg|

Believe it or not there is a republican movement in the UK. Unfortunately for Britain however, they are far from having anything resembling political clout. If you take a look at their website: www.republic.org.uk Their arguements for a republic are about as compelling as a lukewarm cup of cocoa. Reasons for becoming a republic include "would be good for tourism". A spot of warm weather would be good for tourism guys! Under their 'what we believe' section it starts off by suggesting replacing the monarch with a directly-elected CEREMONIAL head of state! Why?! So that the entire populous could vote for the person who's myriad of duties would include showing up at national sporting events, being the 'host' to overseas dignitaries and snipping the ribbon at the opening of the occassional envelope? Fantastic - what a waste of time that would be. Who would we vote for? The best qualified person in my mind would be Basil Brush. Hello Mister Bush sir. Oo you've got a firm grip. I say a Bush in the hand is worth two in [...]

Oh dear, I’ve become a Republican

By | 2007-03-26T22:29:47+00:00 March 26th, 2007|Strasbourg|

A recent article by Agnes Poirier got me to thinking. She suggests that right about now would be a good time to seize the opportunity (of Lords reform) to do away with the artistrocray once and for all. At first I regarded Ms Poirier's comments as a good old-fashioned wind-up and judging by the comments she recieved I was probably not alone; but having subsequently read, by mere coincidence, Victor Hugo's tale of redemption in nineteenth century France ("Les Misérables") I am now given to thinking that she was absolutely 100% right. Never before had I considered myself a republican; is this what France does to a man? What changed my mind? Three words: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. [freedom, equality, brotherhood] These are the founding principles of the constitution of the Republic of France, and sound principles they are too. We have nothing like this in the UK, because we believe that our politicians have the moral disposition to govern us justly. How naïve we are! Think about it: Freedom: Out of the three this is probably the only one [...]

The Patron Saint of Binge Drinking

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:54+00:00 March 21st, 2007|Strasbourg|

It is a little known fact that When St Patrick chased away the serpents and introduced catholicism to Ireland, he was all the time, smashed out of his brains. Chasing serpents is hard work after all, and with so many great drinking establishments around the emerald isle, he couldn't but help partake of the odd snifter in between snake-bashings. By the time all the serpents had been chased from Ireland - St Patrick had visited almost every pub in the country, and was frankly in no fit state to preach. And that's why people of all races and colours around the world celebrate every Saint Patricks Day by getting ridiculously drunk. I used to think celebrating St Patrick's had something to do with being Irish - but judging by the ethnic mix of revellers outside my appartement last saturday night (when I had to call the Police), it is now clear to me that it has much more to do with being able to drink beer in vast quantities; and it's not just the Irish who can claim to [...]

Ten good things the EU has done

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:54+00:00 March 20th, 2007|Strasbourg|

I'm often asked by certain members of the preceding generation why I'm so pro-European. I would guess for some people the positives are hard to see when the media love to leap on all the negatives day-in day-out. The straight Banana myth lives on after all. So for all you sceptics - here's a neat little top ten from the BBC... EASY TRAVEL It is much easier now for Europeans to move to neighbouring states. In the old days, travellers in Europe had to put up with different currencies, regular border crossings and customs checks, and even trains of different gauges - you climbed out of a French train, walked across the border, and got into a Spanish train of a slightly different size. Now one currency, the euro, suffices for most European countries and border posts have been abandoned between the 15 countries that have implemented the Schengen accords. Holidaymakers are fully covered for any emergency hospital treatment they may need in another EU country, driving licences issued in one EU country are valid in any other, and [...]

Minority report

By | 2007-03-18T21:53:11+00:00 March 18th, 2007|Strasbourg|

I'm in a minority in more ways than one: Firstly, I'm a foreign national living in France. Secondly, I'm one of the 30% or so of British nationals who can speak a language other than English. Thirdly, I'm a man. Let me explain this last point. I can't help noticing that my French classes are somewhat heavily populated by the opposite sex. Rarely have I been in a situation where there were fewer than five birds* to one bloke**. I have tried hard to find a reason for this disparity; is it... that men simply don't have the cognitive capacity or desire for learning languages? that women have a tendency to giggle at men who can't pronounce 'appartement' properly, thereby embaressing them, hurting their pride and knocking their confidence sideways? that most men believe you can learn a great deal more over a pint in a pub than you can in any dumb old classroom? that most men believe that the only useful thing you can do with a foreign language is chat up foxy foreign birds - so [...]

Not-so-mean testing

By | 2007-03-14T21:12:51+00:00 March 14th, 2007|Strasbourg|

When we took our son along to the "Maison d'Enfance", to sign him up for nursery, and there was mention of 'means testing', we panicked slightly - because we were under the impression that all childcare in France was free. Not so. When you sign your child up for state nursery - you are required to bring along evidence of your earnings, tax returns, social security benefits, bank statements, passports, utility bills, paperwork-paperwork-blah-blah-blah; in order to ascertain just how much you will be required to contribute to the care of your child. But when we were informed of the amount we would have to pay - we were somewhat stunned: "Vous devez nous payer quatre-vingt-dix-huit centimes par heure." To be frank we had braced ourselves for something far worse than 67p an hour for childcare!

three stroke four

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:55+00:00 March 12th, 2007|Strasbourg|

When is a bedroom not a bedroom? When it's a dining area! (no it's not supposed to be funny) We have discovered, in our search for a new pad, that there are many shysters out there who are optimistically describing their two-bed places as three-bed. More exactly, they are hoping that a large living room will be regarded by prospective tenants 'as good as two rooms' even though it is blatantly just the one. They get away with this ambiguity because of the french real-estate taxonomy. Put quite simply, no-one talks about 'bedrooms', rather 'rooms'; more specifically - rooms excluding the hall, toilet, bathroom or kitchen. Ergo a 3-room appartment is effectively a 2-bed because the third room is the living room. So when someone advertises their pad as 3/4 rooms - they are actually saying is "This is a two bed apartment, but we thought you'd appreciate knowing that the living room is, in our opinion really quite large; no really - you could house an entire family of Pygmies in there and still have room to fit [...]

Pieces for Pieces

By | 2007-03-10T22:11:01+00:00 March 10th, 2007|Strasbourg|

After eighteen months above a bar that closes at 4am - we have finally grown sick, and very tired of being woken in the middle of the night by the occassional responsible drinker. So we have some six weeks remaining to find somewhere new to rent. But one of the most annoying activities to have to engage in, in France, has to be moving house, or rather in our case - moving apartment. This is primarily because it is an extremely expensive activity. For example, if you go to an estate agent, for your new home you'll have to pay: the 'Frais Agence' or agency fee, which usually amounts to a month's rent; two months deposit and the first month's rent in advance. Meaning you're looking at paying the equivalent of four-months rent before you've even moved in. [and if you can't speak French don't forget to factor in paying for a relocation agent too - approximately two months rent] What is more your former landlord is not required to return your old deposit until up to two months [...]