A little while ago I came across this one-liner on Facebook which I duly shared with my students: Grammar: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit. I thought this was a neat way to demonstrate to those learning the language of, albeit far removed from, Shakespeare how a simple apostrophe can dramatically change the meaning of something. It also helps demonstrate the flexibility of the noun "shit;" which in literal terms we know signifies excrement but here implies two polar states of enlightenment - first devout knowledge and then half-wittedness. While some might frown on me for teaching the youth of France English swear words it is worth considering how many everyday, anglophonic conversations might contain one of the following uses of the excremental word: To shit on someone from a great height To be full of shit To be in the shit To take someone’s shit To shit or get off the toilet To say "No shit" or "Are you shitting me?" To talk bullshit To talk shit When the shit hits the fan etc. [...]
It's approximately a year ago that I began a new diet and on this first anniversary I thought I'd share the results with you. So if you are fed up to the back teeth with the US election please read on... Some background first: I first put on flab in my mid-teens. My mother put this down to an excessive intake of fizzy drinks (sodas) and soon had me drinking 'diet' varieties; while these didn't make me lose weight one could argue that I didn't get any flabbier. By the time I reached University age I weighed-in at 58 kilos (9st 2lb in old money) and was selected to cox for the rowing team. But despite weighing the same as a super featherweight boxer - my physical appearance looked far from athletic - I was somehow skinny and flabby at the same time. How could this be? I was practising sports six days a week! My high consumption of beer seemed like the obvious culprit. Then I truly began to pile on the pounds when I graduated from University [...]
I was on France 3 TV the night before the Brexit vote. The main point I raise for British expats living and working in Europe is that without the four freedoms afforded by membership of the EU - most of us are going to be righteously stuffed if we attempt to carry on our lives abroad. Taking French nationality, I propose, may be the only solution. In case you're wondering what these four basic rights are: The free movement of goods. The free movement of services and freedom of establishment. The free movement of persons (and citizenship), including free movement of workers. The free movement of capital. At the moment the UKippers and Leavers are pretending that the UK can simply do away with half of number 2 and all of number 3 and carry on as before - reducing it down to two-and-a-half freedoms. Aside from it sounding less snappy - the implications are massive, and arguably all negative in their outlook. At the moment the EU are saying they won't be nasty about the settlement for the [...]
About five minutes into an under-8s rugby match I was refereeing last weekend one of the fresh-faced little "rugbymen" briefly interrupted proceedings with "I have a question." I obliged him with a moment's attention - did the penalty need explaining perhaps? "Are you Breton?" he quizzed. I'm sure Nigel Owens doesn't have to deal with these kind of left-field challenges, but seeing as we were pressed for time I simply smiled, said "No" and reminded him he should be standing 5 metres from the ball. That's what Nigel would do - I thought to myself. To be fair he won't be the last Francophone to comment on my strange pronunciation, but I was happy he'd picked me out as vaguely French rather than obviously foreign. That English accent is rather difficult to get rid of after all. Now entering my tenth year in France, I'm happy to report that I can express myself in almost any situation - with perhaps one exception. That is when faced with someone who presumes, because I speak with an accent, that I must [...]
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.
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. Happy New Year! Why such dread? Well last year, to celebrate the passing of another calendar, the citizens of Alsace: set fire to 117 motor cars (61 in Strasbourg itself) held onto exploding fireworks (resulting in 17 people having their hands mutilated; 2 youths from Mulhouse lost their thumbs) smuggled over 2 tonnes of contraband fireworks into the region [...]
If you've lived in France for any length of time you will be familiar with the frozen-foods store PICARD. If you've never heard of it - imagine something across between Marks and Spencer's and Iceland: rows of chest freezers brimming with top-quality, petrified nosh. To help customers identify what's in each freezer...
If my time as a freelancer in France has taught me anything - it's not to trust the French state when it comes to handling anything to do with, er, anything. This rule should be applied even when things appear to be going your way. Today, I'm faced with one of those situations which at first hand appears to be quite a stroke of luck: a 509 EURO tax rebate has magically appeared in my bank account! Now, if I had not been resident in France for as long as I have I'd already put on my dancing trousers and be planning on how to spend this sudden cash windfall, however, there are a few things to consider before ordering that new TV: I haven't paid any income tax for years (being below the threshold for a family of five) The taxman has rebated the money into an account that I haven't used since I was last self-employed under the EI (travailleur independent) statute. i.e. he shouldn't even know that the account exists! This has happened before and back [...]
I guess you might call it a case of mild reverse culture shock. Although I've returned to the UK regularly since emigrating, nearly ten years ago, each time I come back there is usually something about British Culture that feels somewhat alien to me. For example, this time around it's coffee. I'm amazed at how much coffee is consumed in Britain; there are now as many coffee shops as there were once pubs, where it's not unusual to see people drinking caffine-based beverages in quantities you'd once-upon-a-time have associated with beer. The average coffee cup seems big enough to hold a whole pint (500ml), and a "small" coffee equates to something half-pint sized. In France the biggest, or rather "longest", of coffees might come close to a small British one, but that's where the similarity ends. In France coffee is usually consumed in receptacles not much bigger than a shot glass. Quantity, in addition to quality I might add, is what seems to matter to the UK consumer. Having come accustomed to enjoying just two "petits noirs" per day [...]
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...