One amusing little aspect of the French language for us foreigners is having to adapt to an entirely new audio lexicon of sounds. Clearly, speaking French requires you to form different sorts of linguistic sounds from regular Anglo-phonics, such as having to phlegm-up your 'r's, make the monkey mouth for 'oo' and grunting through your nose for various vowels. Additionally it requires you to learn how to mimic other sounds and noises, but with a French twang. For example: A French duck goes 'coin' not 'quack' A French pig goes 'groin' not 'grunt' A French fire-engine goes 'pan-pon' not 'nee-naw' A Frenchman says 'Bah dit donc!' not 'lor, luv a duck!' This may seem trivial. However, if you're unable to even answer the most basic childish question 'what noise does a (insert animal) make' - you can appear, to the French, to be rather er... thick. Now - what noise does a car make? Er... bah dit donc!
I'm sorry to say that the 2009 summer seasons of Intervilles and La carte aux Trésors are not quite as spectacular as expected. The root cause appears to be budgetary constraints, with the dancing girls, roadshow element, DJ and A-list celebrity presenters all axed from Intervilles, and helicopter flight-time restricted to half of the show on La carte aux Trésors, most likely slashing costs by 30% in both cases. Even Nathalie Simon's airtime seems to have taken a hit. Oh how I miss the dancing girls! There is one 'small' ray of hope though for trashy summer TV: Joséphine, ange gardien. This feature-length family show, now in it's 13th season, is effectively a modern French variation on Mary Poppins, and plays to massive audiences across France whenever it hits the airwaves. The key to the shows success is not it's repetitive schmaltzy story-lines, nor the occasional injection of cheap special effects (when Joséphine clicks her fingers), it is Joséphine herself, played by the diminutive but brilliant comic actress Mimie Mathy. If the commercial breaks are anything to go by [...]
If you passed through Northern Alsace today you may have noticed a strange, discomforting odour wafting westward across the Rhine valley? Happily for you, if it smelt like something across between a cow's arse and a rotting corpse, I may be able to help identify the source: the Munster cheese festival in Rosheim. Munster is Alsace's only 'appellation' cheese, and famous for it's incredible odour when left to mature. An odour that becomes odious if by accident you leave it on a window-sill in summertime (although that is said to improve the flavour). While the smell of Munster may be enough to convince your nose to tell your brain "don't eat this stuff" it is usually not enough to convince most French people to avoid it; and rightly so, because if you can fight past that incredible stench, you will discover that it is in fact an astoundingly tasty cheese. (Right up there with Stinking Bishop) Although no-one is quite sure, it is said that the recipe for the cheese was introduced to Alsace by Munster-Irish monks in the [...]
As a telecommuter one major difficulty of working from home (or on the move) is convincing your employer or client that you are actually 'working'. While the reality of the home working environment is that you probably actually work hard and longer than if you were in an office, this fact usually escapes your employer - simply because they can't see you sitting at your desk. Having been on the road for the past five weeks, and therefore difficult to get hold of, I have been accused of taking 'holiday' by numerous members of my client base, and nothing I can say seems to have convinced them otherwise. (Not even showing up at the office looking totally shagged out!) It is well documented that "the average office worker admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per day, not counting lunch " ... and that's just what they'll admit to! So the boss-logic must therefore be: if someone you can see is p*ssing away 30% of the working day, someone you can't see must be doubly laissez-faire ... right? Wrong. For [...]
Just a quick note to say that I've just received an email from Google saying that my Adsense account has passed the minimum earnings threshold of €10, finally entitling me to be paid for having their ads on my site. So a big thank you to all of those who clicked on an ad. (please keep clicking - gratuitously) What will I do with the money? Well, I thought I'd go and buy myself a packet of frozen prawns from the 'Paris Store' on Faubourg de Saverne! Quel bonheur!
This Saturday hails the opening of the second annual comic-strip festival in Strasbourg. A week-long event that brings some of France's best comic-strip authors together under one roof, providing the backdrop to a ream of associated 'bande-dessinée' events around the city throughout the week. 'Strasbulles' is a typically French title for the event, a play on words combing the word for 'bubble' (as in speech-bubble) with the name of the city. If you've ever read any Franco-Belge comic books you'll know this kind of humour is mandatory and sometimes very funny (see anything written by René Goscinny). As I have noted before the French have a fanatical love comic strip which I have to say is rubbing off on me. I have been using my library membership to delve into the rich cultural pool of comic-art and bring my BD savoir up to scratch. Over and above Asterix and Tintin I have discovered Thorgal, XIII, Blake and Mortimer, Jo Zette et Jocko, Gaston Lagaffe, Spirou and Fantasio, Alix, Iznogoud ... to name a few. One author who is a [...]
… is a phrase that can have a number of meanings. If you’re American it implies a period of anger; for an Englishman it indicates a period of inebriation; but if you’re Strasbourgeois it is simply the (phonetic) name of a rather pleasant cycle route. The ‘Piste des forts’ is a little know cycle path that circumnavigates the city along some of the most beautiful and tranquil byways that Alsace has to offer. As the name implies the route follows the line of some of Strasbourg’s outer defences from, one assumes, the period between the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the start of WWI (why else would the forts be on the French side of the Rhine?). The only problem being however that the strongholds in question are now so overgrown with bushes, trees and undergrowth that even when standing on top of them – it is hard to imagine exactly where they were, or indeed what they looked like. This does not detract from the enjoyment of the cycle ride however, which from the Château du Pourtales [...]
A quick question for you all you regular readers - I have been offered a sum of money from an advertising agency to place a 'viral' ad on this site to promote a provider of online gambling services. What do you think - should I: sell-out and take the money? resist the urge to support the proliferation of vice? ask them for more money? do it provided they give me a good tip on the 3.30 at Kempton Park? offer space on the site to only genuine Strasbourg-Alsace firms? do something else?
Something suddenly struck me as I sat beneath a blazing sun on court No1 at Roland Garros this Monday; no, not a tennis ball served up by Maria Sharapova making her return to top flight tennis I'm afraid, nothing so exciting - rather it was the names of the tournament's lead sponsors pasted up everywhere. Unlike Wimbledon, the French Open relies on major corporate sponsors to keep the money rolling, to which end their names adorn the hoardings and boards that flank the courts in order to profit from the near constant TV coverage. The sponsors? BNP Paribas (Bank worth €44bn) FedEx (Courier worth $17bn) IBM (IT firm worth £139bn) Afflelou (French high street optician) Yep, that's right, a high street opticians is up there with the likes of IBM in having enough spare cash sloshing around to splash out on a major bit of international sports sponsorship. I had suspected for a while that running a chain of opticians in France was a license to print money, given that French commercial TV is saturated with spectacle ads, and [...]
People of this demeanour existed in the UK back in the seventies and early eighties; I remember them well. What drove them indoors and out of the limelight could be the subject of many a sociological study, but in France they still exist. Who am I talking about? Old-timers, pensioners, grannies, old men - but not all of them of course, just the ones who feel it is their duty to demonstrate that 'older' really is 'wiser', by pouring unwanted advice on people passing by, or indeed people who aren't passing by - but who obviously need a good talking to, which in France, unfortunately, is most of them. Old ladies in particular can't help but serve up childcare advice at the slightest opportunity: "Your child should/shouldn't be wearing a coat - it's very cold/hot today" "Here's a hanky - your child's nose/mouth/hands are dirty" "Your child shouldn't do that - they might hurt themselves." ... being among the most popular. For old ladies queue jumping is not impolite - it is a divine right. Last week an old [...]