You may have noticed a slight down-shift in the number of blog posts here over the past two years. This is because I have been somewhat busy doing a Masters at the University of Strasbourg during this time. It is over now however, so I can finally find time to bring AEIS back to life. Indeed, writing for pleasure is once again a possibility. Over these past 24 months I have been regularly putting a thing called a "pen" onto sheets of "paper" in order to complete these things called "assignments". Much to the protestations of the muscles in my writing hand - who'd forgotten what it was like to move a pen across a page for hours on end. I've also had to take "exams" and write "dissertations". (What made the latter of these particularly taxing was that I had to do so in French.) I've had to read countless books and articles and have spent many days sitting resolutely in the languages library pawing through pages and pages of research. I've had to get my spoken and [...]
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...
Instead of a rambling post about the layout of the University Arts faculty I thought you might appreciate my musings presented in a more creative manner, today. There follows my March offering to the Strasbourg English Writers Group - a true story - enjoy! ****************** With his belly still luxuriating in its recently added contents Barney sauntered back across the campus to the arts faculty where he had an increasingly urgent appointment on the second floor. Why it was on the second floor, and not the third or the first, was a mystery. It probably had something to do with its location relative to other equally well furnished facilities in the faculty, of which there weren’t many of course. Barney was worried however that his little, secret, corner of the University could soon be destroyed in the same way so many others had been before. Indeed, evidence suggested that it had recently been discovered by those less stable members of society who revelled in the destruction and defacement of public property. At his last visit he had noticed that [...]
I first stumbled across the World Music section in Tower Records in my late teens. This, I thought, is where all the hippies must come to buy their whale and pan-pipe music. Considering it was supposed to represent the musical capacity of the majority of planet earth - it was pathetically small. [...]
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 [...]