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So far Bart Hulley has created 428 blog entries.

YATS is the word

By |2019-11-17T16:47:12+00:00November 17th, 2019|Strasbourg|

This is the life of illusion. Wrapped up in trouble, laced with confusion. What are we doing here? Having emigrated to France with only a rudimentary level of French, a six month old baby and no particular career to speak of - many people described our decision to set up life in Strasbourg, fourteen years ago, as somewhere between 'very ambitious' and 'flipping bonkers.' That said, the very same people have recently described our move as 'very lucky' or 'incredibly wise' following the Brexit shitschturm unleashed on our former home nation by the Conservative party. Nonetheless, it is comforting to know that, now and again, Strasbourg has welcomed other couples with an equal sense of adventure. We sat down for a coffee at Café Brant some years ago with one such couple. They were from the United States and were hoping to use Strasbourg as a base for a new chapter in their respective careers. Careers as - opera singers. Being at the very centre of western Europe - equidistant between Milan and London, Paris and Vienna, it seemed [...]

Housequake

By |2019-11-15T10:57:32+00:00November 15th, 2019|Strasbourg|

A mild shockwave of hysteria hit France soon after the Fukushima disaster. If locating a nuclear power station right on top of a fault line was now deemed a bad idea - then wasn't a disaster of the same magnitude also possible right here in Alsace? After all, the Fessenheim Nuclear power station, and France's oldest, was sitting on top of its very own tectonic plate boundary. At the time, I, like many others, thought that any comparison to Fukushima was nothing short of hysterical scaremongering. Shut up already, damn - we thought. When was the last time Alsace had an earthquake? When was the last time Alsace had an earthquake strong enough to crack open a nuclear reactor? This Tuesday however, I had to change my - admittedly hastily formed - opinion. When the first thud rumbled through the apartment block I was convinced that my upstairs neighbour was clumsily moving heavy furniture. The wooden floors had flexed slightly - as if a large 3-seater couch had been dropped onto its side by a couple of less than [...]

The Brexit party: in it for the money

By |2019-05-20T09:18:48+00:00May 20th, 2019|Brexit|

The European elections are upon us once more and once again the British electorate, if the polls are to be believed, are going to return Mister Farage to his very well paid position as uncooperative anarchist at the heart of the EU. However, despite the fact the Farage will continue to live life on easy street (as he has done since he was a child, despite his one time claim to be 'skint') it is hard to begrudge his success. After all, democracy is to blame, not Nigel. The fact that successive governments and the media have failed to explain to the common man what the EU is and how it functions has allowed Farage, Boris Johnson and others to paint their own picture of the institution, to their own, personal, benefit. And, as yet no-one has been able to hold them, convincingly, to account. There are a few simple facts that could do wonders to get the public to actually do something worthwhile with their European vote rather than simply use it as a protest for national issues [...]

Brexasperated

By |2019-04-04T09:10:03+00:00April 4th, 2019|Brexit|

Like the Truman Show, we've all been asking ourselves "How will it end?" since the whole thing began back in 2016. Now, with the 'end' already in the past, we're wondering if it will ever end at all. I hate to think of the hours I've wasted following the 'crucial votes' over the past few weeks - naïvely thinking each time, it would be settled once and for all. But no. Next week maybe - when there will be another 'crucial vote' in the house of commons. Cliffhanger followed by cliffhanger. Currently, the representatives of the people of the UK have until the 10th of April, 6 more days, to come up with a viable plan to leave the EU on terms with a majority backing in Parliament. If they don't, then there is a very strong chance the decision will be made for them by the EU - and the dreaded 'no deal' scenario will come into force on the 13th of April. The problem is, of course, is that there are so many differing views and agendas [...]

Cretinism takes hold of France

By |2018-12-14T10:43:33+00:00December 14th, 2018|Strasbourg|

I write this with a heavy heart. Strasbourg, my home town, was torn apart this Tuesday night when a gun-wielding cretin took to the streets. Having randomly picked out innocents to execute he fled into hiding. Three days later, with his killing spree brought to an end by the forces of order, the city and its people are still coming to terms with what happened. I spent much of the evening watching the #Strasbourg twitter feeds to keep track of developments, the first time I have done so, and for news of the victims; for, I have made so many good friends in this fair city, I knew the chances of knowing one or more of them was a distinct possibility. I shall not bother with Twitter again. News of real events was muddied by egotistical cretins simply trying to ensure they got more likes or follows than anyone else, cretinous politicians who wanted to make capital out of the deaths of innocents, cretinous extremist sympathisers, cretins in general (gilets jaunes), racists, conspiracy theorists, adolescents sharing memes and idiots [...]

The Gilets Jaunes – France’s answer to Brexit

By |2018-11-20T08:43:56+00:00November 20th, 2018|Brexit, Life in France|

Reading the BBC's "Have your say" comments yesterday, at the bottom of an article about Mrs May's attempts to sell her deal to the populous, I was once again struck by the ignorance of the Brexiteering public. One comment particularly stood out: someone complaining that May's deal to reduce immigration from the EU was not what he/she had voted for - it was immigration from OUTSIDE the EU they were concerned about! For me, the only thing that the Brexit vote underlined, was progressive governments', and to a large extent the EUs', inability to explain/educate people as to the way the EU functioned for the good (or bad) of the populous. After all, good education is fundamental to a tolerant, cohesive society - and likewise fake news (like the myth of the straight banana) will achieve precisely the opposite. Yet self-serving politicians, concerned only with their own prosperity, since the 1980s, never saw the need to invest in education. I recently had an online altercation with a old school-friend who thought that the camps in Calais were because of [...]

Has Le Monde gone populist?

By |2018-10-09T08:03:25+00:00October 9th, 2018|Life in France|

When I became a student again back in 2013 I took the opportunity to benefit from a very attractive student discount on the nation's daily, Le Monde. For a mere 16€ a month I could get it 6 days a week, including the magazine on Saturdays, and get into the habit of keeping abreast of French news, politics and opinion while improving my level of French. However, in recent months, perhaps as my understanding of French politics has improved, I have become a little concerned with the political agenda of the editorial team, leading me to ditch my daily subscription in favour of a weekly one in the hope that their machinations will become less obvious. What am I talking about? Well, Le Monde is supposed to be centre-left leaning in its politics. That is largely supportive of a social agenda, balanced with practical economics. A position which I applaud. Or at least would, if they actually wrote articles that made you think as much. Since the election of Macron, Le Monde appear to have decided that they are [...]

Please update your list of acronyms

By |2018-09-05T07:45:34+00:00September 5th, 2018|Strasbourg|

RCS (not to be confused with RCS) If there's one thing the French love it's a good acronym. Acronyms are basically sequences of capital letters that serve as a shorthand way of referring to something that would take far longer to say or write, or indeed to avoid rewriting or repeating the same words over and over. For example, it's a lot simpler to write UNESCO than it is to write the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, especially if you plan on referring to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization more than once in a sentence (see what I mean?). However, as there are no strict rules about how and when acronyms should be used or invented, the French like to create them ad-nausea with the deluded assumption they will make your life easier. So, if you're new to Strasbourg, here's a handy list of local acronyms to get you through the day. AFGES: University service which runs the two large campus restaurants. Beware the bums at the door asking you to put [...]

Bad cop, bad cop

By |2018-04-25T16:55:04+00:00April 25th, 2018|Life in France|

I had my first proper brush with the law last week and it's not an episode I'd care to repeat. I had heard stories of mean, vindictive cops roaming the streets joyfully spot-fining ordinary folk for minor misdemeanours - but had not actually seen it with my own eyes, let alone been on the receiving end of it. French cops, or agents de police to use the correct term, are nothing like your friendly neighbourhood bobbies of yore. The raison d'etre of a French policeman is to strike fear into all those around - rightly or wrongly - to act as a deterrent to potential law breakers in the vicinity. Kitted out in blue military fatigues and carrying lethal hardware they strike an imposing figure of invincibility wherever they appear. While the law-abiding public might appreciate the work they do - few would approach an agent to ask for anything as trivial as directions for fear of being accused of wasting police time. I did once ask a cop for directions following a road closure, due to a security [...]

Ideologists or idiots?

By |2018-04-17T12:25:00+00:00April 17th, 2018|Life in France|

If you have paid any attention to the current wave of strikes, or even last year's presidential election, you may have noticed that much of what is being said by the discontented often bares little relation to the 'controversial' changes being pushed through by the government. Students in Strasbourg are currently blockading the city campus because recent changes to the law enable universities to 'select' students (via the new website Parcoursup). On an ideological level, they see this as unacceptable because no one should be barred from an education on any basis. Ideologically speaking, they are absolutely right. But, practically speaking, they couldn't be more wrong. The basic premise for the change in the law was to enable universities to manage the number of students walking through their doors. Sure they can take anyone - but a lecture theatre only has so much space. It's all very well saying every school leaver can go study - but if there are only 300 seats in the room what are you going to do? Close the doors, right? And that's exactly [...]