A few weeks ago I noticed that the wheel rims on my town bike were looking rather mucky, and although I didn't resolve to clean them at the time, today they are sparkling like new. However, this is not because my Virgo natured self could not live with such uncleanliness but because, in the space of two weeks, I was forced to replace both wheels following two separate collisions with motor vehicles. These two incidents bring my total tally of cycling accidents since moving to Strasbourg to 5. Now, to put this in perspective - I don't own a car so go just about everywhere on my bike and I've lived in the city since 2005. That's less than one accident a year and, I reckon, about one every 1000 kilometres cycled. Three accidents have involved cars, one - a fellow cyclist and one - a pedestrian (neither of whom seemed to have read the highway code). Each time, bar one, I have been forcibly dismounted; three of the incidents resulted in my head making contact with the tarmac/car [...]
It's not often that the manufacturers slogan on a shopping trolley is worth a second look, in fact it's never worth a second look unless you happen to be a buyer for a chain of supermarkets, however a recent visit to one UK chain store had me sniggering to myself ... During my short time as Corporate Brand Guardian for Invensys plc I was invited to attend a presentation at London blue-chip agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT), where they intended to present the 'solution' to our advertising problems. The problems we had were many as our company totally lacked any sort of coherence as to what it actually did; "Widgets" we used to tell people. The slick presentation by the suits at the very new and plush HQ in Knightsbridge was almost convincing. However, as our own Director of Communications rightly pointed out, sticking 'MAKE IT HAPPEN' under our logo wouldn't really help to explain that we made food processing equipment and railway signals. We rejected the idea and left. Happily for JWT the next big client who sat [...]
The French are rather fond of their acronyms. If you've spent any significant amount of time in the country you'll already know SMIC (minimum wage), CAF (family allowance), CMU (basic health cover) and maybe FFF (French football federation). Unlike these 'official' acronyms VDM is more likely to be discovered in posts on Facebook, in emails and on blogs - and like all acronyms there's no way to know what it means without a little explanation. A French friend recently tried to explain it to me: It's basically French for FML. What? FML. F*ck my life. It was here that I had to point out that no Anglophone I knew said FML or F*ck my life. Shome mishtake shurely? In order to convince me that FML was standard English - I was directed to a website forum where people shared stories about how crappy their lives were. It's title: FMylife.com. However, it turns out that this website is in fact created by a not-so-clever Frenchman under the illusion that English folk wander around saying FML at every opportunity. I cannot [...]
Any visit to the Strasbourg-Alsace region wouldn't be complete without a quick nip across the border to the famous spa town of Baden-Baden for a dip in the waters. There are two sets of baths that you can check into for a few hours of relaxation: the Friedrichsbad, which is advertised as a "Roman-Irish" spa, and the Caracalla, an all-encompassing spa for the masses. The Roman-Irish experience, although I have yet to experience it myself, combines classic hot baths (Roman) with sadistic cold ones (Irish) [...]
My current status as a student, and teacher of students, has recently required me to make a bit of an effort in the hipster department. I am no hipster, and I usually wear regular trousers, but having some grasp of what's hip in France is becoming more important as I try...
The verb for "to fart" was something I learnt early on in my studies of the French language. I don't remember why now - but it probably had something to do with an awkward situation in a lift. Anyway, the verb in question is "péter" (pronounced petay) and it is, for obvious reasons, seldom heard in everyday adult conversation. It goes without saying then that when you do hear it in polite conversation this can only mean that someone is chipping-in with a bit of toilet humour - right? Well, not necessarily. Elle a pété une cable. When I heard this phrase for the first time I logically deduced that it must mean "she farted a cable" - clearly some sort of idiom that parallels the English one for a very long turd (she laid a transatlantic cable). But the context seemed not to support this idea as it was about someone who was very angry on the telephone. It was when I met someone who had... Pété le mur du salon ... that I realised that perhaps my [...]
If you've ever flicked through the channels on offer on France's digital terrestrial service (TNT) in search of some quality late-night entertainment, it is very likely that you will have skipped past channel 17 on more than one occasion... and I don't blame you. Currently labelled as "D17" (D for dross or diabolically-bad I assume) this low-level digital channel has proved itself to be somewhat of a waste of space since it's launch as Europe 2 TV in 1995. It's barrel-scraping viewing figures are currently propped-up only by: the couch-potato favourite "le Zap" - a madcap clips show chock full of stuff downloaded from YouTube; and "Very Special Enquiry" - a magazine programme about the porn industry (or a flaccid excuse to fill the screen with tits and flesh for an hour or so). While you can forgive a channel for pandering to the lowest common dominator, it's entirely another thing when they treat the audience like memory-challenged goldfish and repeat their programmes from one week to the next. OK, I admit it, I have watched both aforementioned shows [...]
Antonia with THE Cookie Dingler It was Australia Day 1998, when I happily found myself being driven along the Great Ocean Road by a local Aussie lass - to see the Twelve Apostles (12 great hunks of eroded cliff-face separated from the coastline by a few meters of open water) just west of Melbourne, Australia. There, as we cruised along the highway, which has to be said didn't really live up to it's title, we listened and hummed-along to Triple J's rundown of classic tracks from the recent past. Suddenly, Janey yelled (for that was her name - and probably still is) "Ah do you remember this one?" and cranked up the volume. "No" I replied after some reflection. She looked confused. How could I not know (insert name of band/track)? Everyone knew (insert name of band/track)! I mean you'd have to have been living on Mars to not know (insert name of band/track)! That is unless (insert name of band/track) was only successful in Australia..? Ah ha! Exactly. It was an Aussie band singing a track [...]