Monthly Archives: May 2007

A cowly good donkey bridge

By | 2007-05-29T22:07:07+00:00 May 29th, 2007|Strasbourg|

It is incredible to think, given the sheer size of our vocabulary, that there are some French words and phrases that simply don't have an equivalent in English. I am at that stage in learning the language where just understanding the literal translation is no longer good enough. The sense of a phrase or word-combination is becoming increasingly important to me; certainly if I am ever to reach the dizzying heights of fluency (but believe me - I'm still years away!). Take this phrase for example: "Un vachement bon pont de l'âne." Amusingly the Microsoft online-translator Worldlingo thinks this means "A bloody good bridge of the ass." Which actually is not that far from the literal translation of "A cowly good donkey-bridge", which as you can see - means absolutely nothing in English. So you can imagine my confusion when I heard this particular phrase in conversation!? It means (more or less) : "A tremendously good mnemonic." but the only way I could possibly have known this was if I had already been told so. Now I know what [...]

France loves paperwork

By | 2007-05-15T13:57:34+00:00 May 15th, 2007|Strasbourg|

Having recently moved house, I am forced to contact all my agencies to inform them of my new details. My accountant assured me however that this process would not be as harrowing as when I first arrived - because this time I am 'in the system'. What he neglected to point out was that this does not necessarily involve any less paperwork. While my UK bank was happy to take my word for it, my french bank wanted to see a utility bill as proof. I took a utility bill with me when I visited URSSAF - the social services, but I still had to fill out a long form even though the agent in question had my record on computer - right in front of him! At the health assurance place - the utility bill was appreciated, but they asked me to write a letter instead detailing the changes - so I wrote one there and then. I have yet to inform INSEE, the inland revenue, customs, my dentist ... but to be frank I'm losing enthusiasm for [...]

Rip-off Opodo

By | 2007-05-08T13:35:27+00:00 May 8th, 2007|Strasbourg|

Opodo, the online flight reservation service, is a classic example of how international businesses take advantage of consumers in the UK. Comparing seat prices between those intended for UK customers (on opodo.co.uk) with those for French customers (on opodo.fr) demonstrated a discrepancy of £20 for exactly the same seat on exactly the same return flight. At first glance this appears to be a ploy to make money from linguistically-challenged anglophones. Not so. If that were the case, then to get the best price, Brits could just learn a bit of French and book their flights through opodo.fr. The problem comes with payment - if you are booking a flight through opodo.fr, your credit-card will only clear if it is issued by a French bank. I know this because I tried several times to pay with my LloydsTSB card - which is registered to my French address. Eventually I booked the flight through airfrance.fr - who were able to undercut opodo anyway, and were perfectly happy to take my credit-card, regardless of where it was issued. While in theory prices [...]

The result

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:54+00:00 May 7th, 2007|Strasbourg|

As I predicted Nicolas Sarkozy won the election hands down, but I'm dissappointed. While I had strong reservations about the suitability of Mme Royale for the job, I would have preferred to see her have become the next Presidente of France. While I do not doubt that Sarkozy was most likely the best man for the job, any candidate that is regarded by the US president as an ally has to be something to worry about. Furthermore, should Sarko succeed in dismantling France's socialist model, all that is good about France may well disappear, and me along with it. After all, if I had wanted to live in an ultra-capitalist society where money and wealth are worshipped above all else - then I would have stayed in Britain. Socialism is no bad thing - when it works. But Sarkozy recognised that under it's current guise it had become a millstone around the neck of the Republic and something had to change in order to create jobs. With 9% of the workforce on the dole, employment was always going to [...]