YATS is the word

November 17, 2019 Bart Hulley 3

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 a sensible place from which to add some of Europe’s most respected operatic stages to their respective résumés. What little we knew of the opera circuit from long time friend and stage hero, Darren Abrahams, this all seemed like a very feasible idea. We made encouraging noises, and crossed our fingers for them. However their plans, for whatever reason, did not pan out. The cosmos had clearly decided that their fates lay elsewhere. Elsewhere – as in another sphere-slash-domain, for they are still in Strasbourg and pillars of the English speaking community. And rightly so. Victor Benedetti (Baritone) and Juliana Rambaldi (Soprano) are the driving force behind YATS – the Young Actors Theater of Strasbourg. According to the YATS website: The goal of the Young Actors Theater Strasbourg (YATS) is to provide opportunities within the Strasbourg community to promote American theater culture through plays, musicals and educational programs. That mission, I can safely say, has been met, nay exceeded, time and time again over the past 7 years. All of my kids have participated in shows directed by Victor – who, at the time of writing, is about to strike set on this year’s YATS spectacular production of Grease* at Le Point D’Eau in Ostwald. What sets YATS shows apart – are the incredibly high standards set by the production team [Read more >>>>]


November 15, 2019 Bart Hulley 0

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 careful removal guys. What followed, however, could not be explained by any level of incompetence in shifting household furniture around a second floor apartment*. For it would have taken about twenty men simultaneously throwing five or six large upholstered items to the floor to replicate the shockwave that thundered through the building. It was the sound that made me run to the window instead of staring daggers at the ceiling. The thunder had reverberated outside as well as in. Shock-a-lock-a, boom! What was that? That …was an earthquake! 3.3 on the Richter scale. Apparently it was followed by another the same night – but it was going to take more than a piffling magnitude 2 to wake me! On 10 June a 2.3 magnitude quake hit Selestat (45km south of Strasbourg) and neighbours tell me there was an even bigger one about 15 years ago in the city – which got up to the 4 mag region. So a French Fukushima is a real possibility – it wasn’t just ‘project fear.’** Even after Fessenheim closes next year (as promised – but it was originally supposed to have closed a decade ago!) the risk of radioactive material leaking out after an earthquake will remain for the next 300 years. The last quake to hit the region strong enough to crack open a [Read more >>>>]

Cretinism takes hold of France

December 14, 2018 Bart Hulley 1

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 sharing fake news or real news (despite pleas by security forces not to.) Raking through Facebook and texting our closest friends – we ensured everyone we could think of was out of harm’s way before heading off to bed. Although we didn’t hear back from everyone, all of our inner circle reported back safe. Many had been caught in the following security lock-down, people hiding in restaurants, cafés, theatres, the parliament buildings and the basketball arena until the all-clear was given. I awoke the next morning in the belief that the dickhead would have been caught by now, and that no-one I knew had been among the victims. I was wrong on both counts. My sorry tale does not end there however: the “gilets jaunes” say they are intent on returning to their anarchistic ways this weekend. With almost 2000 security personnel deployed in Strasbourg throughout the week the government has asked these idiots to forego their grievances this weekend out of respect for the situation in Strasbourg. “Respect” however is a word, among many others, these people do not understand. Some even spent Tuesday and Wednesday insisting that the cretin murdering people in Strasbourg was nothing but a government stooge hired to distract the nation from their plight. Since Macron’s appeasement speech earlier in the week, there has been little [Read more >>>>]

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Please update your list of acronyms

September 5, 2018 Bart Hulley 2

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 a meal on your izly card for them. ASPTT: Strasbourg’s largest sports association. Located somewhere west of the motorway – though no-one’s quite sure where. BNU: The National Academic Library on Place de la Republic. Beware the security guard on the door – his BO is quite something. CAF: Family Allowance Office. Take a ticket, wait, argue, go home to get the justificatif you forgot.. CEDH: European Court of Human Rights. Surrounded by people camped in tents who don’t understand what the court actually does. CoE: Council of Europe – Luckily this one works in English. CPAM: Social Security Office (basic health cover). Take a ticket, wait, argue, despair. CRIG: Illkirch-Graffenstaden Rugby Club. The best place to send your nippers to follow in the footsteps of Serge Blanco. CROUS: Student Union, sort of. They don’t do piss-ups but do run eateries and accommodation round the University. CTS: Strasbourg Public Transport. Run an annual open-air Bingo event outside the one and only office in September – if your number’s picked you get to go in and spend money! ESCM / IFCE / IFSG etc: Private sector higher education schools. Generally going for acronyms beginning with E or I in the hope they will be confused with a University faculty. GCO: The Strasbourg bypass project. The bane of the Great Alsatian Hamster and Brigitte Bardot – though I bet neither have tried [Read more >>>>]

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Flying to the UK?

January 2, 2016 Bart Hulley 4

It seems life in Strasbourg maybe about to get complicated for us expats, again. Having waited years for a direct UK flight to come to the city – Easyjet and Ryanair both opened routes the within the same twelve months to London. Up until 2014 we’d either had to endure the minibus service to Baden Airpark for Ryanair’s wonderless service to Karlsruhe, a lengthy train ride to Basel for the Euroairport or a day-long journey by train via Paris – in order to get to London. Yesterday however I noticed that both low-cost carriers appear to have withdrawn their services. Ryanair appear to have suspended flying to Strasbourg at least until late August while Easyjet appear to be closing their route completely on the 21st March – as neither route is now bookable online. If both carriers withdraw from Strasbourg, for whatever reason (and I suspect French protectionism might be in play), then it will be a big step backwards for Europe’s capital city.

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The fear of New Year

December 29, 2015 Bart Hulley 0

A few weeks ago I vowed to find us an escape from Strasbourg on the night of total madness – known to many as Saint Sylvester or New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately it seems every hotel, hostel, campsite, chalet and guesthouse within a two hour radius of the city has been booked solid – with the last few remaining rooms demanding prices akin to Davos during billionaire season. Despite the lack of snow, any hideaway in the Black Forest, Vosges or Jura mountains remains elusive and thus it looks as though we will have to endure the worst night of the year in Strasbourg once again. Clearly we are not the only ones with a fear of New Year.

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O yea of little nous

June 25, 2015 Bart Hulley 1

There is a small red Smart car that has been parked down at the end of our road for the past two weeks. Emblazoned across it’s side is the old English word for ‘moreover’ : Yea! (pronounced yay). Normally anyone who forgets to move their car from this particular spot, in less then three hours, would find themselves with a parking ticket; but this one seems to be immune…

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Pope Frank

November 26, 2014 Bart Hulley 0

Frank was in town yesterday to nag the bureaucrats about their lack of enthusiasm for encouraging peace and cooperation between the peoples of Europe. He came, he spoke, he left. The only difference between him and the elected officials in the audience, as far as I can tell, is that he wasn’t required to sign-in to claim his parliamentary attendance allowance. They came, they signed in, they sat, they politely applauded. It is unlikely however that a single MEP actually thought anything Frank said was going to make an iota of difference.  Still, it was nice seeing his chasuble pass through town. His what? His chasuble – you know the thing football players wear on the training pitch? Now I’m confused – the Pope plays footie? Er, I doubt it. No – the word chasuble (which exists in French and English and means exactly the same thing: the outermost liturgical vestment) is used in sport to refer to the bib players wear when training.  Why the French use the same word as the liturgical garment is beyond me. Maybe in France sport is a Catholic thing – and I wouldn’t understand?

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Juncker and all that

June 27, 2014 Bart Hulley 0

The staggering level of hypocrisy and anti-EU venom gushing forth from the political mouthpieces of the United Kingdom at the moment is really starting to get my chèvre. What makes matters particularly nauseating, for those of us who are little more seriously invested in the European project, is that the rhetoric is not confined to right-wing Europhobes. Shame on you Ed, Nick et al…

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Are you an asshole?

October 25, 2013 Bart Hulley 3

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 at velocity (which is why I wear a helmet); and one has drawn blood (car door opening on me). Now, here’s the irony for you: while I was living in London, cycling along it’s choked arteries regularly, I had precisely zero accidents over a period of 15 years.  How can this be? Perhaps it’s the fact that drivers in Strasbourg are not used to having to deal with cyclists (and vice versa) – because, normally, cyclists are separated from the traffic by cycle paths or lanes on the pavements.  It’s only when cyclists have to use the road that accidents happen – and that’s is where all five of my accidents have occurred. The rules state that cyclists are allowed to use roads but, conversely, motorists are not allowed to use cycle lanes. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that Strasbourg’s cycle lanes are a safe haven for cyclists. But clearly, some motorists regard these rules as unfair and feel that they should have the right to drive and park wherever and whenever they like, regardless … and indeed, you can meet some such motorists in front of the Robert Schuman International School, on Rue Vauban, twice daily. It is here that some parents (or assholes if you prefer) think that it’s OK to drive onto the pavement, cross the tram [Read more >>>>]