Yearly Archives: 2008


A play for Christmas

By |2008-12-21T23:44:53+01:00December 21st, 2008|Strasbourg|

Family tradition. I write something theatrical and kind of amusing for the family to perform (script in hand) on Christmas day. Usually goes down well with a few glasses of wine. This year it's a pastiche of 'How the Grinch stole Christmas' by Dr Seuss - I hope he will forgive me. If you'd like to have a read or perform it yourself, you're more than welcome to (as long as you give me credit for writing it!). To download 'How the credit Grunch stole Christmas' - click here. Merry Christmas

Let’s help John and Nancy

By |2017-01-06T11:16:46+01:00December 19th, 2008|Strasbourg|

I received this email today and thought it might best to respond via the blog. While I did consider composing a direct response - there are anglophones in Strasbourg better informed than I (and so hopefully they will chip in). I was so pleased to run across your blog. My family is going to be moving to Strasbourg in the summer and are desperately trying to sort out the school situation. Your information was helpful, but could you tell me more? I understand that there is a school just opened in September - an International school. Can you give me more information about that? I have children up to age 13, so the more information I have the better. I have seen that BISS closed, so I am trying to figure out what we can do without driving the kids to Karlsruhe every day. Thanks so much! Oh, and if you have any good ideas of where to rent a house that is good for a family of six, that would be very helpful too!! The first place to [...]

Government infomercials

By |2008-12-02T10:14:12+01:00December 2nd, 2008|Strasbourg|

There are three infomercials (I think that's the word) playing ad-nauseum on television screens across France at the moment. While at first they appear to have the wider public good at heart, I can't help but think they're little more than state propaganda. The first points out that if you take antibiotics for a viral infection this will not automatically cure you, "Antibiotique est pas automatique" and in fact you may well be better off by not taking antibiotics at all. Er, thanks for the info, but why are they telling us this when it is usually the Doctors who prescribe the antibiotics in the first place? There are two possible explanations: 1. the government and health authorities are genuinely concerned about the number of antibiotic resistant viruses developing across the known world, or 2. the government and health authorities are genuinely concerned about the cost of the number of antibiotic prescriptions they have to pay for each year.... call me cynical - but I think point 2 is probably closest to the truth. Underlying message: we're broke! The [...]

How many peas have you got?

By |2008-11-21T17:40:08+01:00November 21st, 2008|Strasbourg|

There are many words in the French vocabulary that sound a bit like another. Hence the French are rather fond of the odd pun, as a double-hearing (or double entendre if you prefer), can lead to much mirth. But in day-to-day communication it can make things quite infurating, if you're not quite used to the double-hearing thing in given situations. One that always seems to catch me out is whenever someone asks me my weight. (e.g. at the chemist when collecting a prescription) "Combien de poids avez-vous?" sounds exactly like "Combien de pois avez-vous?" There is usually this confused silence and look (from my direction) while my brain computes this bizarre request. "Did she just ask me how many peas I've got? She did. I'm sure she did. My god she's as mad as a brush! ... oh, hang on ..." "69 kilos"

So what is Guy Fawkes night all about?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:46+01:00November 11th, 2008|Life in England|

So went the question punted my way by a Frenchman standing in front of a bonfire last Saturday night. How to answer? At school we're taught the 'official' version of the origins of the celebration, which recounts how a group of bad men plotted to blow up the houses of parliament but failed. However, even when you're only five years old - you have to ask what on earth the bonfire, effigy burning and fireworks are all about then? Indeed, there are many theories behind that one, as an Irish friend put to me once "It's all about burning Catholics". In Lewes in Surrey they also celebrate the 'glorious revolution' on Guy Fawkes night (when William of Orange invaded and sent the last Catholic heir to the English throne packing) by, amongst other things, burning effigies of Pope Paul V. So it would seem that there might be a modicum of truth in the whole anti-catholic thing? And it does seem that many Catholics, and Irish in particular, take offence at the very idea of Guy Fawkes night. But [...]

Ouch! – update

By |2008-11-04T10:33:23+01:00November 4th, 2008|Strasbourg|

My naivety knows no bounds. The very same day as I was hopping on a train to London, another social security bill dropped through the door* asking for an amount that made my knees buckle under me, and collapse, sobbing, to the floor. Taking into account the bill from my accountant, health insurance, social security, income tax, pension, council tax and TV license - I am seeing some 45+% of my income fly out the door in the last 12 weeks of the year (while I'm preparing my accounts for next year). Needless to say, much of that 45% has already been spent on boring things like rent and food, so I'm now facing the prospect of having to borrow money to pay the government. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the fact of having to pay - there has to be a bit of give and take when you're on the receiving end of world class healthcare, public transport, municipal libraries etc.. what makes me angry is that I had precisely no warning. Without warning, [...]

Is this really ‘news’ … ?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:46+01:00November 3rd, 2008|Life in England|

Every time I take a trip over to the UK I usually take the opportunity to bring myself up to speed with current affairs. After all, what we hear in France of Britain is usually little more than politics or a little bit of European social commentary. It says a lot about Britain then, when there is war in DR Congo, financial meltdown across the planet, bombings in the middle east and the US presidential election - that the lead story for the entire three days of my visit should be taken up with celebrity scandal. It was only recently that I noted the home nation's obsession with celebrity, but nothing demonstrated it more aptly than the events last week. Even the BBC were guilty of giving in to tabloid pressure and saturating their own broadcasts with 'giving the people what they want'. In a nutshell this is the story:Two celebrities are a bit rude to another celebrity on a national radio show. Insulted celebrity complains to radio channel, sparking off a media storm braying for the blood of [...]

Feeling naked?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:47+01:00October 28th, 2008|Strasbourg|

It's almost November. The weather has turned. The central heating is on. The clocks have gone back. You go to work in the dark, and return home likewise. The winter wardrobe is getting an airing. It almost feels like winter ... yet you still feel there's something missing ... right? No, it's not Asbo's letting off bangers in the street in premature anticipation of Guy Fawkes night - because you get your fix of that at New Year. Poppies! While the French might 'celebrate' Armistice day with a national holiday, they don't indulge in the post-war solidarity the way we Brits do thanks to the British Legion's distribution of artificial poppies. Indeed, any British citizen with any kind of a soul, at this time of year would not be seen dead without a poppy neatly attached to the lapel of their overcoat. Which means many Brits who live abroad will be feeling, well, practically naked without one right now. It is fine news then that the first 100 Strasbourgeois to make it to Thomas Green's this week will be [...]


By |2008-10-20T12:53:45+01:00October 20th, 2008|Strasbourg|

A few weeks ago I was gloating shamelessly over the size of my tax bill. After all, paying out just 5.26% of your income to the state comes as a welcome surprise at the end of the Summer. What I failed to realise however, was that once your tax return is in the system - all the other bills tumble onto your doormat* in quick succession. Five weeks after paying the tax bill I'm faced with a new bill for pension contributions (slightly more than the tax bill), then a demand for health insurance contributions arrives (approximately the same amount as the tax bill), the following week our tax d'habitation arrives (equivalent to one month's rent), and today the social security bill arrived (again, approximately the same as the tax bill). It's as if it is all timed to remind you to be prudent in the run-up to Christmas. Not a bad piece of advice given the recent goings on. But having already shelled out for train tickets and car rental for the Christmas break, I'm already feeling the [...]

Sunday Trading

By |2017-01-06T11:16:47+01:00October 17th, 2008|Strasbourg|

When we first moved to France, one of the hardest things to get used to was the seemingly random opening hours of shops and restaurants. For instance, our local 'convenience' store is usually open from 8am til 12pm then 3pm til 6pm, but that may change if they get a late delivery, or if the store holder feels like kicking back for an extra-extra long lunch. Then you have to account for annual leave (two weeks closing), Saturday afternoons and Sundays (closed) and late opening (one day during the week, which one escapes me - but the afternoon hours change to 4pm to 7pm). Convenient is hardly the adjective I would use. That said, you get used to it, and after some months, the idea of having to come up with something else to occupy you on a Sunday (other than spending money) becomes a welcome and creative challenge. Many French see Sundays as the 'family' day - a chance to spend some quality time together, to enjoy a traditional 'Sunday Lunch' (remember that?). For me, Sundays have become [...]

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