Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things that make me smile

Here is a list of some of the things that make me smile...

Old people
Aren't they just so adorable? The way that they strain to hear what you're saying, the way they make self-defacing comments at checkouts, and the way old people often take the stairs when everyone else takes the lift.

Ducks which stand under a bridge when it rains
When I walk to and from work every day, I cross over the puente de Malecon (which happens to wobble, and I've also noticed that if there are lots of people on the bridge, they start walking in time to the wobbles and thus make it worse). Generally there are lots of ducks in this part of the river because there's a little island in the middle. Most of the time, thus far anyway, it's sunny here in Murcia, but when it rains, all the ducks stand in line under the bridge following its curve across the river. And I just think that's sweet.

People who wear inappropriate clothing to church
It just makes me smile.

My family
Who always make me laugh because all of them are mad in their own way.

What makes you smile?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Hello, again, the few people who read this.

I'm sorry for not updating, but my excuse is that I've had better things to do. Oh, wait, that's not really an excuse, is it? Well, to be honest, I have been settling in a new country, starting a new job, making new friends, learning Spanish and Arabic (yes, I've started Arabic lessons, because I decided Spanish was already hard enough, I'd throw in another language!), etc.

So, where do I start? Oh, I'll tell you about the most terrifying experience I've possibly ever had, perhaps save nearly drowning in the deep blue sea. The said experience was... wait for it... going to a church. Which was Spanish speaking. It was well scary, I tell ya! First of all, people started to speak to me as I walked in, so I just told them "No hablo mucho espanol". But the pastor, who I spoke to briefly, introduced me to the entire congregation and got me to stand up. In front of everyone. I pretended at first not to understand what he was saying, but the lady kept on waving her arms until I stood up. So there I was, standing at the back of the church with everyone looking at me and the pastor saying "No habla mucho espanol pero esta aprendendo."

After that initial embarrassment, the songs generally went fine since a) I could read the words on the screen and b) the songs were often translations of English ones and thus had similar lyrics. The sermon, I have to confess, bored the pants off of me because I had to strain to understand it so I just gave up. But no-one seemed to notice, so cue next embarrassing moment: communion. As they were bringing all the bread around, I duly took my piece, but not having noticed that no-one had as yet eaten their bread, I put my piece in my mouth. The lady next to me (she had the patience of a saint!) waved frantically at me and I took the piece of bread out of my mouth and held it on my tongue until the prayers were said. With the wine, I had learnt the protocol...

At the end several people tried to talk to me but with my limited Spanish and the fact that by this point I was very tired, I could hardly say anything, and made a quick departure. I am planning to go back though...

Anyway, that'll do for now, even though I have lots to say, because I suppose it's better to get one blog entry out there then have a super-long one which never gets finished (I've been writing bits to this entry for over a week!).

So, adios, mis amigos!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

To kill two bitches with one stone

Hola! So, since my last update, I've got a new job and moved to a new country. I'm now living in Murcia, Spain. And it's hot. Blimmin' hot... But it does mean unbroken sunshine for weeks on end, sitting by swimming pools, going to the beach, yada yada. So, since I've arrived, most of my free time has been doing nothing (except swimming, sunbathing, enjoying the sun...). Workwise, it's been easy-going, with the last two weeks being training. Last week was the Callan method. I'll give you a quick example:

Me: Is this a table? Is this a table?
Student (with me guiding): No, it's not a table, but it's
a chair.
Me: Is this a chair? is this a chair?
Student: No, it's not a chair, but it's a light.

And so on.

Except in my first class today, I was translating into Spanish the expression "to kill two birds with one stone", which is matar dos pájaros de un tiro. Unfortunately, seeing as one of the students laughed, I evidently mispronounced it. After consulting my dictionary, I worked out I probably said pájaras (sneaky bitches) instead of pájaros. I could even have said pajas (wanks). So, "to kill two bitches [or wanks] with one stone" is now an English idiom.

In other news

So, I've moved into a new apartment. My landlady is lovely. She's a lovely old Spanish lady who told me "mi house es tu house." And gave me bed sheets. I am also living with Dan, a housemate/colleague from Swanage, which is very cool. It was a bit weird when he arrived because it felt like he was visiting me for a holiday, so I had to keep reminding myself he was coming to work too. It was a strange coincidence.

I went to Burger King twice in my first week. The first time an old man stole my ketchup. Actually, he asked me if I wanted it, and I, flustered with my basic Spanish, said "no", and he took it. The second time, my stomach protested muchly (I'm not surprised, to be honest).

I've also developped a habit of forcing my Spanish onto people. In restaurants and supermarkets, I ask questions just to practise my Spanish ("¿Qué es esto?" "Dónde están los aseos?") to waiters, shopkeepers, passing strangers...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

China, China, China...

It seems that China is the theme for the last few days.

Since being unemployed, I've been applying for teaching jobs across the world. Today, I received an offer for a school in China. I'm not sure whether I'm going to accept it or not, but I'll inform all my loyal (non-existent) readers as soon as I make a decision.

My blog has also had a recent attack of spam from Chinese porn websites. If you could tell me what...

...means, I'll be much obliged.

Anyway, that's all for this post. A plus!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back home, and unemployed!

Ok, I haven't updated in 5 weeks... But that's because I've been ridiculously busy and the internet at Swanage wasn't particularly reliable. So, I've been a teacher for 6 weeks. Apart from the rather interesting arrival at Harrow House, the rest of my time there was really enjoyable. Ok, it's hard work teaching 6 hours a day and then going on excursions on Saturdays (well, I did every other Saturday), but it was really fun. The other staff were awesome and I got on with them really well. (A special mention goes to Emily who has her own blog) But now that's over, and as I lie in bed in the morning, I actually feel as if something's missing, as if I should be standing in front of 16 apathetic teenagers who want to be in bed as much as I do. At least there's always next year!

Of course, it's good being back home, and I've been rather busy despite the lie-ins. On the Sunday that I left, my dad forced me to walk five miles to a nearby village (Worth Matravers) just to go to the pub there, the Square and Compass. Ok, so the views on the walk were wonderful, the weather was amazing, and the pub was very cool, but it was exercise! On a Sunday! And there was no rest for me on Monday, either, as our house experienced its annual invasion by the Hampton clan. It was lovely to see them all again, but goodness, don't they talk! What I'm most impressed by is how two Hamptons can talk at each other simultaneously and still apparently understand what the other is saying, although I'm not convinced...

On Tuesday, I went into Southampton. I had to buy a new pair of jeans because I didn't realise until it was too late that I was wearing an old pair of jeans which had a nice big hole where you wouldn't want a hole, and had no pockets either since we cut them out. So after buying said new jeans, I went to see where Thomas works, then had my haircut (I've lost a stone in weight by doing that), and went home. In the evening, I went to Southampton again for a school reunion. My friend Karen is getting married tomorrow and then moving to Germany, so a group of friends from school decided to meet up. In total there were six of us, and it was the first time we'd all been in the same place for five years I think. It was great to catch up with everyone and share stories. We should definitely do it again.

Yesterday I didn't do too much. I applied for some jobs, I did some cooking. On Monday, someone, who we've worked out was probably me, didn't shut the freezer in the garage properly, so all the food inside defrosted. So my brother and I had to cook what we could save.

Fact(s) of the day
  • "Uncopyrightable" is the longest word which has only one of each letter in it.
  • My favourite punctuation mark is the ellipsis...

    So, that's it from me, and hopefully, since I now have more time, I'll update more often.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First week at Harrow House

Ok, so again I've failed at updating my blog recently, so here's a few facts about what's happened in my life:
  • I moved from Paris for good.
  • But shortly after I went on holiday to Corsica, which was amazing, and where I nearly drowned. For a good lowdown of the holiday, head to my brother's blog.
  • I got a first for my degree, so I now have a BA in French Studies. I also passed my online Tefl course.
  • And finally, I got a job teaching English at Harrow House in Swanage, which I shall describe below...

So, I got a telephone call last Tuesday and was asked to start the job on Monday. I accepted despite the short notice, and moved to Swanage on Saturday. The journey was nice, the weather lovely, and the housemates all seemed very nice. On Saturday I did quite a bit of window shopping with housemates, went up to the pub and met several other colleagues and then went up to the lighthouse with two housemates, Pete and Adam, in the middle of the night. On Sunday morning, a group of us went to have brunch at a cafe, and then a group of us went and did more shopping and then went and played games at the arcade on the beach/went for a walk, etc. So everything was lovely. Except...

On Saturday night, one of the housemates got rather drunk and his behaviour was slightly weird. But on Sunday, he started drinking very early on and carried on. By the afternoon, his behaviour was completely erratic. He went up to the school, following some of us who wanted to play tennis, and began swearing loudly across the tennis and basketball courts in front of students and other staff. So we were told to take this housemate home, where on the way back he made lewd and offensive comments to students. Skip some more erratic behaviour to the evening. At this point, his behaviour was incredibly weird, where he said that we should taste our blood and he said that he would cut us in the night and drink our blood. And then he cut his arm and asked an Argentinian guest to drink his blood. So we phoned the police and left. We ended up spending Sunday night at the school and then in the morning collected our stuff. The aforementioned housemate's behaviour became more normal and he seemed shocked and ashamed at his behaviour. He resigned.

Because of that, my first few days were chaotic, but by the end normality resumed. Although the days are long, I'm really enjoying it and the other staff and remaining housemates are all very cool and very helpful, which means the lesson planning isn't so arduous.

Today I went on an excursion to Portsmouth. The weather was rubbish and some of the students miserable, but the HMS Victory was amazing, and the children who the staff had to look after in the afternoon were lovely and so easy to look after.

Donc, voila, that's my first week.

Friday, May 29, 2009

En Angleterre

Hi, I'm back in England now. I haven't been updating my blog over the last few days for the simple reason that my laptop was at the bottom of a suitcase. But now I'm reconnected to the internet, and, even more excitingly, using a wifi connection, so I can blog from anywhere within a decent radius of my house! Yay!

So, my final days in Paris...

It seems that closing my bank account on Friday (see my last blog entry) was a bit of a premature move, as I still have a cheque that CAF has yet to bank. I told my bank this, and they've halted the closure of my account, but I'm probably going to have to write them a letter asking them not to close it after all. So, as my brother has pointed out, there's a certain irony that an example of French efficiency has turned out to be detrimental.

Friday night I went to a party where I talked almost exclusively in French. It's nice to see that living in Paris and studying the lingo for three years has had some benefits.

Sunday night was my last church service, which was tres triste. Coincidentally, Ekkardt and Rebecca were in Paris, which was amazing, since they arrived in Paris the same week I did, and was there when I left. I was called up to the front of the service to be given a parting gift (a Starbucks Paris mug). I was rather nervous, however, that I would drop the mug, and have it shatter in front of the entire congregation. The nervousness was due to a past similar experience... Tuesday evening was my last actual evening at church, where Heather made a French-themed chocolate cake with the icing coloured in red, white and blue. I was duly impressed. And we had rose (I do wish I had accents on this keyboard).

What else? Tuesday I spent most of my time lugging things around Paris. Wednesday I had a cup of tea with Nicky in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and after my etat de lieu (more on that story later) and then had an indian near Gare du Nord with Leanne and Laura as Laura came in to Paris but was spending the night at Leanne's. About the etat de lieu, which is when the landlord checks to see what state your apartment is in, I had a bit of a crisis. 10 minutes before the landlord was to arrive, I checked to see if the various electrical appliances were working, and I blew a fuse. My money's on the microwave, but the power went out for the entire kitchen section, so I couldn't find out. Typical. Everything was working before then. But the landlord was very nice about it and said it wouldn't have been anything to do with my actions, and gave me back the full deposit. Yay! So I went to Gare du Nord with large amounts of cash in my pockets - not necessarily the brightest of ideas - but made it to Nicky's alive.

I spent the night at Nicky's, well, actually at Lucy's, but since she no longer lives there..., said goodbye to her and left for the airport in the morning. The journey to the airport was fun, lugging a great big heavy suitcase and a back pack across the RER. Plus there was this American couple who were blocking the entrance to the train with 6 suitcases/bags for TWO people, and they didn't move to let people into the carriage. How rude. My suitcase turned out to be 23.5 kg, (weight limit: 20 kg) and after a little readjustment I got it down to 21 kg and the lady checked in my suitcase anyway, which was very kind of her. And after my flight was delayed about twenty minutes I arrived in cloudy England.*

Now that I'm half-way through unpacking my stuff, I have come to a few conclusions:
  • I no longer need any teacups/tea pots or tea coasters for the rest of my life.
  • I have three drawers of underwear. I am thinking that I don't need any more of those either.
  • I have a similar amount of socks, but only of one sock of each pair. If you find three drawers of unpaired socks, you know who to call.**
  • I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books. British Library, eat your heart out.

Today, I've been quite productive, having done two units of my TEFL course, a bit of unpacking, and written an essay for my blog! So, on that note, I think I'll leave it there...

Speak to you soon.

* It's now lovely and sunny.
** Ghostbusters!

Quick update: I've just phoned HSBC France and my account is actually being closed. Donc, voila, interdit bancaire here I come! Yay!

Friday, May 22, 2009

French Banking efficiency

I didn't think I would ever say this, but I had a pleasant encounter with a French bank today. I went there to close my bank account and within 15 minutes it was all done. It's incredibly scary not to have a bank account here. If I knew it'd be so efficient, I might have waited till next week, but I was anticipating that multiple visits would have been necessary. So, I no longer have a French bank account. Which, for some reason has me feeling somewhat vulnerable. (Possibly because I can't remember the PINs for my English cards and therefore am stuck without money and may well starve to death...)

This is also possibly the last time that I'll be in uni, which is equally scary. It's as if my Parisian life is dissolving before my eyes. First Lucy leaves, then my mother and brother strip my apartment bare, then I close my bank account... it's all very depressing.

So on that note, adieu.


I should be tidying my apartment, but for some unknown reason, I'm not... In fact, I'm doing everything I can not to be tidying my apartment. I even did a facebook quiz in German and didn't understand what it was about. It turns out it was a quiz on "what sexuality are you?" Despite the language barrier, I turned out to be heterosexual. It's mainly because I went for words I recognised (steak, Frauen, cool...). So, if you speak German with lots of English words, it probably means your heterosexual. Because that makes sense.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blasted Bank Holidays!

Yes, I know what you're thinking. I can see it in your eyes. "Aren't bank holidays a good thing?" you're asking yourself. Don't deny it; you know it's true. Unless of course, you, like me, are in France, and are fed up of having an entire month disrupted by bank holidays. Four bank holidays in one month! What are they thinking? Actually, I know what they're thinking. I can see it in their eyes. I'm on to you, Frenchies. You're thinking that you get one month off in August, and if you write off May too, you're conveniently left with two months floating alone in a sea of holidays, and you might as well write those months off as well. But isn't four bank holidays in one month going a bit overboard?

Well, the reason I was annoyed about it was because I wanted to go to uni, to sort out my bank account and plan my lessons for this evening. But since both uni and the banks would be closed, all three of those tasks became impossible. I decided to cancel my lessons for this evening because I had lost my voice and had nothing to teach, so there wasn't much point in me going. So my afternoon, after a nice productive morning, became somewhat less productive. I didn't even get round to having any lunch. How disappointing.

Anyway, I think I might finally do something constructive, and do a unit from my TEFL course.

Adios, mis amigos...

On a bleach high

I've just spent the last twenty minutes standing in my shower spraying inordinate amounts of bleach in every direction. I know it says on bleach bottles not to use in a confined space, and I know it's not best to spray cleaning products near your face when you can hardly breathe anyway because of a cold. I nearly fainted. That's a lie. I did.* If, therefore, you find this blog to be somewhat incoherent, you know where to look (yes Cillit Bang, I'm on to you...).

I've had quite a productive morning; I did some clothes washing, did the washing up, went shopping, cleaned the shower and ate a bar of Milka Daim. Mmmm... This, I feel, has made up for my highly unproductive yesterday, where I achieved to do absolutely nothing.

Having just logged onto facebook, I have noticed a surprising number of statuses (and no, the plural of status is not stati), i.e. three out of the last four, have a particular theme to them:

Person 1 is getting (legally) married in 3 months today!

Person 2 is getting married next week!!

Person 3 is counting down!!!! 9 more days to go:) Ooh la la!!!

Try and guess what Person 3 is counting down towards... Doesn't the excessive use of exclamation marks make you sick?

Lisa: Dad, do you know what Schadenfreude is?
Homer: No, I don't know what "shaden-frawde" is. Please tell me, because I'm dying to know.
Lisa: It's a German term for "shameful joy", taking pleasure in the suffering of others.
Homer: Oh, come on Lisa. I'm just glad to see him fall flat on his butt! He's usually all happy and comfortable, and surrounded by loved ones, and it makes me feel... What's the opposite of that shameful joy thing of yours?
Lisa: Sour grapes.
Homer: Boy, those Germans have a word for everything!

In other news, I have a bone to pick with my brother. Just two words will suffice to explain why: yellow mini. In the game of Yellow Mini, you hit people on the arm everytime you see either a yellow vehicle or a mini, and if you see a yellow mini, you hit them twice. Throughout Thomas being in Paris, I was being repeatedly beaten under the auspices of the regular appearance of yellow vehicles and/or minis. Being more mature than him (or so I told myself) I avoided taking part most of the time, but now he's left, I'm constantly seeing yellow vehicles and wanting to hit someone. I'm probably going to get arrested for assault before the week is out.

Anyway, I'm going to have some lunch. Tschuss!

*I didn't really pass out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The end is nigh

Lucy has left Paris for the last time. My mum and brother have been and gone, and have stripped my apartment bare. I'm now living in a half-empty apartment and on what feels like borrowed time before my Parisian days are over. On the plus side, Lucy has started a blog, and has the internet chez elle. So contact will now be easy-peasy!

I really enjoyed having Thomas and my mum here, despite coming down with a cold/man flu/swine flu. I think I wore myself out, and it finally caught up with me yesterday. On Sunday, we walked a bit around canal St Martin, and then went to church. On Monday, we went to Galeries Lafayette, then had tea around the Grand Mosquee de Paris. After strolling around the very quaint quartier of Mouffetard, which I'd never really been around before (even after three years there are areas of Paris I haven't properly explored) and a little visit to the Jardin des Plantes we went inside the mosque. In the evening we went and had a huge kir on Place du Tertre (you can read Thomas's account here) and then had dinner in a restaurant by the Bassin de Villette. Yesterday I was a bit miserable, but we went to la Sainte Chapelle, and then to Tuileries. We were attempting to go to the Orangerie, but I, being stupid, forgot it was closed on Tuesday (or more accurately, I forgot it was Tuesday). We then went to Trocadero, then had dinner chez moi, which Thomas cooked and was absolutely delicious, and then had a stroll through the Marais. This morning I got up at six to help take suitcases with mother and brother to Gare du Nord, and then went back to bed. I got out of bed at 11h30.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Guest Blogger: Lucy

Today, I have a guest blogger, my amazing friend Lucy, who wanted to share with you our experience last night. See, without further ado, I shall hand this blog over to the capable Lucy.

A night of superficiality

My pet hate has always been being crammed into a small space with too many people, finding it difficult to breathe and not being able to hear yourself think. Well, I’m proud to announce that (since last night) I am now able to give this scenario a well (and almost too well) deserved name: ‘The Mix’. Yes - clubbing.

I never thought for one moment that I would ever come to like this activity and I have to say I was absolutely right. Bloody awful it was. I’m glad I know myself well enough to have realised that in advance, shame it doesn’t work for future life plans.

Actually to be fair I must congratulate Stephen, Natasha and Nicky for putting up with my classic ‘English moan’ at the beginning, they really are long suffering friends putting up with my constant complaints on modern day society.
I’m not going to bore you with little details that would force me to relive the occasion as I’m sure you can picture the scene, but here are just a few memory joggers : Crazy strobe, flashing lights, lots of overheating, sweaty, horny people giving each other lip massages, no room to move thanks to said oversexed bunch who find it difficult to keep their hands off of other peoples bottoms whilst sucking their partners lips, toungues, ears etc.

Apart from that I had a really enjoyable night out, when looking at the floor and trying desperately to block out unwanted images whilst avoiding ‘pick up glares’.

I’m a miserable sod aren’t I ? I’m honestly quite a positive, happy person to be around, just not when clubbing, even then, after I’d managed to block out the worst bits, I danced for 3 hours… and almost managed a smile… just ask Stephen.

Lucy’s clubbing rules :
1. Don’t go
2. Failing this, take Stephen (who often refuses thereby offering the perfect excuse)
3. If he accepts stay next to Stephen all night and try to pretend you can have a conversation
4. Dance crazily to warn off scary, horny men
5. Failing this wrap arms round Stephen and deaftly switch places with him
6. This always works as said men all found Stephen strangely alluring
7. Failing this go with the flow and drink copious amounts of alcohol, or slip the odd pill; this will turn the whole sweaty event into some kind of forgettable trance which will need to be repeated… watch your bank balance plummet

PS- I totally understand Stephen if you don’t publish this.

And back over to me...

In reference to number 6: yes, several gay men did make advances. Some were more physical than others (I won't give any details). It was quite disconcerting when I saw a guy looking over at our group, and thinking that he was eyeing up Nicky, Natasha or Lucy, (because that's perfectly fine!) and then to see him later being intimate with another guy and realising it was me he was looking at. Oh well.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ou sont les neiges?

So... my weekend. Friday I went to the end of year ball. It was really good, and I enjoyed myself muchly. The boat that the ball was on was really cool; it was huge for a start, and there was a bar, a dance floor, a terrace and a swimming pool (which I had no intention whatsoever of getting into). I spent most of the evening with Lucy and Natasha, the latter of which got somewhat drunk and began going on about getting kidnapped by FARC (her future ambition) and wanting to be able to fly. Sometimes it's interesting being the only sober person there... The music, the food and the drinks were also really good, particularly since it was an open bar. And here's a photo of me looking nice and smug with Natasha and Lucy.

I got to bed at quarter to seven in the morning, so yesterday I didn't do much except I went back to Lucy and Nicky's in the evening where I stayed for dinner. I think I was in a bit of a bad mood though, so to anyone reading, sorry!

Today was quite busy and cool. I helped with Sunday school in the morning which was fun since the person who was running it did lots of activities. Then I bought some lunch with the others doing sunday group, then met up with Natasha, Nicky and Lucy and we went to the Musee de l'Orangerie. It is possibly my favourite museum in Paris, although the sewer museum takes a bit of beating. There's currently a temporary exhibition on Didier Paquignon, a contemporary French artist, whose works are very impressive. I had a snooze and then went to church in the evening. On the way to the metro with two other people from church, a lady asked me to carry her bag down the stairs. She then gave us a speech in broken French (she seemed to be slavic, but which particular language I don't know) about the importance of the message of the Virgin Mary. Fun. And I think I've just been bitten by a mosquito on the back of the hand. Yay!

Friday, May 08, 2009

End of uni

I have now finished uni. I had my last final yesterday, so by 5 o'clock, I was no longer a student. I think my exams went well, but I don't know what result that'll give me; I'll just have to wait and see. Because of exams, everything else in my life has become somewhat chaotic. I haven't properly washed up in about a week (eek!) and have been eating large amounts of junk food, including pizza, a kebab and a Big Mac meal followed by a McFlurry. Last night, after my last exam, we had some drinks at university, and then went to a restaurant for a meal, which was very nice food, although I don't think I made the best choice. It was really nice, but the size of the meal was only large, compared to the gargantuan steaks and other courses people had.

Despite my exams, I have found time to play on as my brother suggested in his blog. Although don't worry, it doesn't take up too much of my time!

In other news
I'm looking forward to my mother and my brother coming to stay, but I can't actually remember the dates that they're coming, which doesn't help too much.

The British film "Easy Virtue" (which was released last year in the UK) is currently being advertised in France. One poster exclaims that it's "un film so British!" Who says "so British"? The French do, apparently. Actually, I already knew that, and they also think that British say, "my tailor is rich". And that we call shampoo shampooing.

Anyway, I need to do some ironing for the end of year (and uni) ball. A plus!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Really interesting article

Just a quick note. I found a really interesting article about a church opened at night time in Bournemouth. You can read it here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An independent Texas?

Last week, the Governor of Texas made a comment about possibly seceding from the United States to become an independent country, and according to one survey, half of all Texans support independence (another survey suggested that only 25% of the population supported such a move). The comments came during protests about the increase in Federal spending since the start of Obama's presidency, where some more conservative Americans believe the country to be sliding towards socialism.

On this topic, I found an amusing YouTube video, "Houston, We Have a Solution".

On another note, there are plans underway for a musical about the life of Jade Goody. No, I am not making it up. What I want to know is if they can have a musical about Jade Goody, what about Princess Diana? Or Anna Nicole Smith? Or anyone else who spent unhealthy amounts of time in the public limelight only to die a tragic death? Where's the sense of equality? Or, maybe they should just not bother.

This title is intentionally blank.

I couldn't think of an original title, so I decided I'd be clever and make it a self-referencing paradox. I like paradoxes, such as the famous Monty Hall paradox. You can play the game here.

Beki's telling me off for moaning because I ate a whole bar of chocolate and now feel sick. Lucy was being nice (which is worth being recorded for prosperity), but as soon as I started writing it, she stopped. Never mind. According to Lucy, I'm a geek. She might be right, though. In other news, I hardly slept because some wacko was playing very repetitive music till four in the morning. Ok, I'm off to revise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunshine in Paris

I'm back in Paris. It's scary to think that this is the last time I'll be in Paris as a student, and soon I'll be leaving. And that I've done three years of a degree even though it feels like a few weeks. I've actually yet to book my ticket back at the end of May, and yes, it's getting closer and closer and ticket prices are getting higher and higher, but I think I'm in denial... But on a positive note, the weather's lovely. Nicky, Natasha and I had a revision session this morning which I found reassuring as I actually knew things, and then we had lunch on the Esplanade des Invalides in the sunshine. Paris is lovely in the sunshine. This is my favourite time of year: sunny but not too hot, and without the hordes of tourists roaming the streets like zombies.

And now for today's enigmatic etymology: asparagus
Asparagus, the vegetable, comes from the greek word asparagos. However, folk etymology has resulted in various variants of the name, such as 'sparrowgrass', or even 'asper grass' or 'spar grass' due to the resemblence of these pronunciations to the Greek. Folk etymology has also led to other corruptions in English, such as the silent 's' in island. The word comes from Medieval English iland from ieg ("island") + land, but because of its similarity to 'isle', which derives from Latin via Old French, an "s" was inserted. False etymology has even led to the resignation of a US public official, who used the word 'niggardly' and was accused of racism because of its similarity to the N-word. Although the origins of the former are unclear, it precedes the latter, which derives from the Latin word niger, meaning "black". In a similar vein, a paediatrician in Wales had her car and house vandalised by vigilantes confusing her profession with the word 'paedophile'. After the murder of Sara Payne in 2000, the News of the World, a newspaper not worth the wood pulp it's printed on, launched a name and shame campaign that led to a witch hunt including, as well as the attack against the doctor, driving five innocent families from their homes in Portsmouth.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The humble honey bee

I've just ordered a bee box for my mother! It's not quite the same as buying a apiary (something that I'd like when I'm all grown up) but it's a sweet little thing. And, it's to help the environment, since there's been a recent dramatic decline in bee numbers here in the UK and across the globe. Honeybees not only make honey but pollinate a third of the food we eat. Without them, we'd be without apples, strawberries and carrots to name three examples. So you can do your bit by buying a bee box. In fact, you can get them reduced as a part of the Cooperative's "Plan Bee". To do so, go to and in the e-Value box in the left-hand column, type "coop" and "pa06". And then search for "bee box", et voila! You get 15% off the price of a bee-box (or about £1).

In other news
I'm going back to Paris tomorrow. For the last time! Soon, I'll be leaving. How tragic.

Enigmatic etymology
There are several words which come from place names, even though their links with that place may well not be that evident. Here are some examples.
  1. Turkey: although arriving from North America, the origins of these large birds of the order Meleagris seem to have escaped Europeans. In several European languages, the bird is named after a place where it isn't actually from. Apart from the English naming it after the country occupying the Anatolian peninsula, confusing it with the similarly named bird the turkey fowl, the French named the bird dinde ("from India", or d'Inde) and the Portuguese named the bird peru. A similar geographical inaccuracy arose in the word gypsy. Although gypsies, or the Romani, most probably come from India, the name reflects the belief that they came from Egypt.
  2. Brummagem: This word can be used as either a noun or an adjective, and describes something that is showy but worthless, or a counterfit. It comes from a local pronunciation for the English city Birmingham, where counterfit coins were made in the 17th century.
  3. Milliner: A milliner is a hat-maker, and his trade is millinery. This word derives from the word "Milaner", or an inhabitant of Milan, a city that is still today renowned for its fashion industry.
  4. Denim: The hardy fabric derives its name from another fabric, serge, which was manufactered in the French town of Nîmes. It was thus called serge de Nîmes, which was shortened to denim. Denim is most associated with clothing like jeans. The word jean itself derives from the French word for Genoa (Gênes). Another item of clothing made from denim, dungarees, possibly derives its name from an Indian village Dangidi, or from the Dongari Killa fort, both in or near modern-day Mumbai.
  5. Also named after Mumbai is the Bombay duck, which, despite its name, is not a duck but a type of fish.

And that's all for now.

Another Internet Meme

I don't like the word 'meme', but anyway, I couldn't think of a better title. There has been another video circulating the internet in the past week, and that is the one of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent. If you haven't heard of Susan Boyle, where have you been this last week? (To be fair, I only heard of her yesterday) Videos of her have been watched over 50 million times since she appeared on the ITV programme last weekend. She is, as The Times put it, the story of the ugly duckling who didn't need to turn into a swan. Susan Boyle is a 47 year old spinster living in a council house in Scotland. She has been repeatedly bullied for having learning difficulties, involving children throwing things at her front door. And when she went on TV last week, everyone in the audience dismissed her as another deluded contestant, but that was before she started to sing. You can watch the video here.

I personally feel sorry for the girl at 1:23 who rolls her eyes incredulously. She's been pointed out individually, but she was only doing what everyone else was doing. But Susan's story is a perfect example of the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back in England

So much has happened since I last blogged. Actually that's a lie, but let's pretend my life's interesting for the moment. Shortly after my last update, I was so bored I decided to go to the cinema to watch Slumdog Millionaire. It was really good, despite being dubbed into French. The film has however had mixed reviews. Although in some ways trying to present itself as an accurate portrayal of Mumbai slums, I don't think Slumdog Millionaire should be seen as much more than a fantasy film set in Mumbai. And then all the problems with its accuracy just disappear! And let's face it, in the words of Lisa Simpson, films don't have to be one hundred percent accurate one hundred percent of the time. One the other hand, we shouldn't dismiss the manifold social problems in India, such as poverty, class, religious and racial violence, and so on.

The next day, I arrived in Angleterre. Since being back, I haven't done too much: I've visited relatives, seen friends, done some clothes shopping. Thomas's girlfriend visited for several days (having left about half an hour ago), and this was the first time I've properly met her. I apparently met her once before she and my brother were going out (I hate that expression), but I'll be damned if I can remember.

Enigmatic etymology
Since I like words, I think I'll add an 'enigmatic etymology' to the odd entry, following my post from eons back of the same name. Today's word is: cretin. The word means:
  1. a person suffering from cretinism.
  2. a stupid, obtuse, or mentally defective person. (

Although the etymology is somewhat disputed, the most commonly accepted theory, is that, deriving from French, the word ultimately has the same origins as the English word 'Christian'. Does this mean that all Christians are cretins (or vice versa)? Well, not really. The word 'christian' gained the meaning of 'cretin' via the following route. In Franco-Provençal, a language spoken in the south of France and northern Italy, the word creitin/crestin (Christian) gained the more general meaning of 'person', since everyone in the area was a Christian. In a similar vein, to ask someone in Greece if they're Greek, you can ask if they're Orthodox. The form creitin then began to be applied to people with mental handicaps (apparently cretinism was common in the south of France), to highlight their humanity despite their disability. It then became adopted in standard French to refer to someone suffering from cretinism, a condition of stunted physical and mental growth due to a lack of thyroid hormones as a foetus, or a lack of intake of iodine. After this, cretin became a term to describe a stupid person, but has now become one of the several words associated with deformities (spastic, idiot, dumb) to have become politically incorrect to use.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Buvez de ce whisky que le patron juge fameux.

I'm going back to England tomorrow. Indeed, I've already finished packing. Pity the flight doesn't leave for another 20 hours. Having achieved what I wanted to do today (i.e. pack), I am now bored, which is one of the reasons I am writing this blog entry, and is also the reason why I have a French pangram as the title.

I always feel restless for a few days before travelling; right now I feel homesick, even though I'm going home tomorrow. It's odd, because I hardly ever feel homesick when a departure home isn't imminent.

My local supermarket, Auchan, has changed its name to Simply Market. The Académie française must be apoplectic about this; not only is it a corruption of the French language, but it doesn't even make sense in English. Its new slogan is "Be happy ! Be simply.", which is translated, as required by the loi Toubon, as "simplement heureux". At least the translation makes grammatical sense. I first read it as "be happy, be simple", and thought it was an instruction to reject consumerism and live as a Mennonite, which would have been inspiring if it were true. I don't particularly understand the French's obsession with dubious English (un people, le shampooing...), but it looks like it's here to stay.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Woah, long time no see!

I have recently been very poor at updating this blog, and some people, okay, 1 person has been complaining that I haven't written in a while. So, my excuses: 1) I've had lots of essays; 2) I've had friends around who I was the tour guide for, and 3) my internet decided to stop working chez moi this week, to much annoyance. But now I've finished all my essays and my friends have come and gone.

Having two friends here over the weekend was really cool, but very tiring. We did a heck of a lot, but the highlights for me was going to Dans le Noir?, a restaurant where you eat in pitch darkness, so you can experience what it is like to be blind. All the waiters are blind, and the menu is a surprise, so you don't know what you're eating until they tell you at the end. Of course, you can specify the menu to some extent, such as no fish or nuts. But the food was good, and also varied; both the main and the dessert was really an ensemble of several smaller dishes, so there was a range in taste and texture, which made the experience even more interesting. There was definitely something that everyone on the table loved, and something they hated. I'd definitely recommend it; even though it's quite expensive (38€) it's a worthwhile experience, and something I'll remember. There's one in London too.

The other experience I really enjoyed was going inside the Palais Garnier, as I've seen the outside, which is beautiful, but I've never been inside. Going around it definitely makes me want to go to the opera, so afterwards, we decided to plan a trip to the Royal Opera House in London for this summer! And on another note, I mentioned in passing, "I'd like to go to Italy". Within an hour at most, Ali was saying, "So, when we go to Italy...". I told her she'd have to arrange it! Should be fun!

On Wednesday, I went to see an interesting film with Natasha, The Burning Plain, directed by the scriptwriter for Babel, which was a very good film, but unfortunately I lost my bag somewhere that evening. And even more unfortunately, I was borrowing a book from someone, which was in the bag, so I'm going to have to buy another copy. It's very annoying, since I've been really good about not loosing things in Paris, but in the last two/three months I've lost quite a lot of things. Either it's just that things always seem to come in groups, or it's the stress of it being my last semester at uni.

On another note (my last, I promise), on my brother's blog, he talks about Christians who refuse to support non-Christian charities. Thomas expressed his disappointment much more tactfully than I am going to: I think that this is appalling. It's narrow-minded and unbiblical. Christians are called to support justice for everyone, and in everything we do. Social justice isn't a pick-n-mix affair, it should be our way of life. We can't choose to let children be abused in a country which isn't Christian, or not to support a charity because it isn't Christian, we should fight justice where we see it whenever we can. Of course, we can't support every charity in the world, but if there is a situation where we can make a stand, we should, regardless of who we are making a stand with. If his friends said, "I'm not going to support this charity, because it's not Christian, but I'm going to do this instead," then fine. But not doing anything is definitely worse than doing something with non-Christians. Others might be making a stand because of humanist values; Christians should make a stand because we are standing for justice. And as my brother says, our God is a God of justice.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Ok, ok, ok, I haven't updated for ages, and I have been duly chastised by my brother (the only person who reads this) for not updating it. There are two main reasons for that: a) I've been exceptionally busy writing essays, and b) my life has been rather boring of late. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. My life is boring. Ok, enough self-pity for one blog entry.

Not this weekend, but the weekend before was Nicky's birthday, which wasn't that boring. On the Saturday evening, we got two pizzas from pizza hut and then Nicky, Natasha, Lucy and I watched a French comedy "Le Code a change". It was quite good, for French films. And then on the Sunday, we went to the Paris Sewer Museum, and no, you have not misread that. After that, we went for lunch at a restaurant, which was nice despite the waitress dropping Natasha's plate. For her dues (the waitress's that is) a customer did walk into her. Oh, I forgot to wash my hands between the sewers and the restaurant, but more than a week has gone and I'm still alive, so voila.

Friday, Nicky and I went to a uni quiz, as a team of two, and came last. Well, we were by far the smallest team, and we didn't loose so terribly...

And that's about it really. Lent's going fine, although I've already lost some of the motivation I had at the beginning. Not that I've broken it at all, I'm just not so enthused about it. But it's still going well.

Right, that's enough for this entry. I will update it when something interesting happens.

Bonsoir a tous!

Friday, February 27, 2009

This week...

So, what have I been up to this week? You might be wondering why I'm asking you this question; it's mainly because I can't remember. Let's see. On Sunday, I went to church and I did the powerpoint projecting, and then went to Bugsie's afterwards for Sally's leaving do. On Monday I went to a rather strained cinema lecture in the morning. It was all my fault, I suppose, since I didn't watch the film, and am, by default, the main contributor. Rollet did say two weeks before that she didn't want just a dialogue between me and her, so I took her for her word and completely forgot to watch the film for this week. But I've learnt my lesson now. After the lecture, I went to the Orangerie, an art gallery in the Tuileries garden (hence the horticultural name) with Isabella, someone from church who is on holiday at the moment. It was a very impressive gallery, much larger than I thought it was (much of it is underground), but by far the most impressive bit was the two galleries displaying the nymphea (waterlilies) collection by Monet. That was truly amazing.

On Tuesday, I went to a lecture about Let It Come Down by Paul Bowles, where we watched a rather bizarre extract from the film Naked Lunch, which involved, among other things, a typewriter eating another typewriter (one word: drugs). The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, so I can't really comment on it.

On Wednesday, also known as Lyleday, I had translation and then litterature de la fin-de-siecle (I apologise for the missing accents) which I enjoyed. It was about the play Ubu Roi, which I haven't quite finished reading, despite being very short, but is better than what I thought it was. I tried to watch it with Nicky, but the quality wasn't very good, and it was hard to hear what was being said. That is possibly the main contributing factor, because it's actually very easy to read. Afterwards, I went around Nicky's and Lucy's, after a bit of shopping, where we had baguette and pate, chicken curry and crepe, obviously not at the same time. We had crepe today to make up for not having anything on Tuesday, which was pancake day. Just to let you know, I have decided to give up for lent chocolate, snoozes, procrastinating and some time to read the Bible every day (as in, I read the Bible every day, not make a conscious effort to not read it).

On Thursday, I went to two lectures in the morning, came home, had lunch, read the bible, posted a letter to CAF and did some shopping. I briefly went to uni to email myself something, and then went chez Nicky and Lucy again to have chicken nuggets and couscous for dinner! Scrumptuous. I also got to briefly meet Nicky's brother, who arrived from London around 10 o'clock. He seemed very nice, on first impressions.

Today, I got up around 10-ish, did some washing, read the Bible, went to uni, and prepared for a presentation I have to do on Monday, then came home, had some soup, and updated this blog. Hope that was sufficiently entertaining for you!

How, for now!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quiz time!

Ok, so I was bored, and decided to write a quiz. If you're getting the first part of this on facebook, it's an idea I stole from my brother. I just thought you might like to read it, and have a go at the questions. Now, no cheating (despite me having to look up several of the answers myself...)! I've divided it into two rounds, to make it extra fun!

Acronyms, abbreviations, and anomalies
  1. What is the NIMBY effect?
  2. Why was SOS chosen as the Morse Code distress signal?
  3. What does 'scuba' stand for?
  4. When talking about weapons, and not role playing games, what was RPG originally an abbreviation of?
  5. What is Nazi short for? (English and German answers accepted)

Dates in history

  1. When was the last foreign invasion of England?
  2. When was the last occupation by a foreign army of any part of the United Kingdom?
  3. In which century was the earth conclusively demonstrated to be an ellipsoid?
  4. When was the last formal peace treaty signed to end the First World War?
  5. What date was land first sighted on Christopher's first voyage to the Americas?

And that'll do for now...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taking Liberties

I've just spent the last hour looking at a very interesting interactive as a part of an exhibition at the British Library. It looks at various questions about our personal liberties, including English devolution, detention without charge, and NHS treatment. It has lots of information, including interviews with professors, MPs such as Tony Benn and activists such as Shami Chakrabarti. You can play too, the website is here!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm rich!!

I've just found this website on the blog of a friend of my brother's, which tells you how rich you are on a global scale. With my student loan of £4000, I am the 832,998,239th richest person in the world. In other words, I'm in the richest 14% of the world's population. And that's not including gifts I get from family, nor the small amount of money (I say 'small' hesitantly now) I earn doing odd jobs. In other words, I'm pretty rich. If you got 5 random people from around the world, I'd probably be the richest there. To make it into the richer half of the population, you need to earn just over a tenth of what I do, or £461 a year. A YEAR! That wouldn't pay for a month of my rent... Well, that's food for thought, isn't it?

Friday, February 20, 2009


You might have noticed the Amnesty International widget in the sidebar ----> I added it because Amnesty International is cool. In fact I'm a member, twice. I decided to join, and my parents decided to buy me a year's membership for Christmas. Either way I got a cool T-shirt and a pin. Yay!

Yesterday, Nicky and I went to Fontainebleau. It was a lovely day for it too: perfectly sunny without a cloud in the sky, which was particularly lucky since Wednesday and today are perfectly cloudy without a sun in the sky. And what's even nicer is that, since it's the French holidays, we got there for free, and we got into Fontainebleau for free too, except the 1€ to rent an audio guide where the people reading out the information pronounced Fontainebleau as "the shatoe of Fontayneblow". Apart from that, it was very nice, as were the large gardens, which we only saw a fraction of, missing the big lake and the canal entirely. How we managed that, I'm not overly sure, but we did. At least we didn't waste any money in the process. And here are some loverly photos...
After Fontainebleau, Nicky and I went chez elle to eat chocolate and drink champagne (well, sparkling wine) left over from Lucy's and my birthday meal a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hello Everyone

For everyone who has been missing my absence (all of zero people), here's a quick entry. It's 0:22 and I can't sleep, so I thought I'd write a quick post... So, here's the lowdown.

I went to England for the weekend, to go to my cousin Holly's wedding. It was very nice, with lovely food, and a lovely setting. Holly cried most of the time from happiness. My grandparents had Thomas and I a GIANT birthday cake made, and we only had two days to eat it. So, along with wedding buffet food and birthday cake, I think I ate very healthily over the weekend. The rest of the week I've been essay writing, website designing, and presentation planning. I also went to Pizza Hut on Tuesday night with people from church, which was cool. On Monday, Nicky and I tried to watch Ubu Roi. That plan ended in failure.

Tomorrow Nicky and I (being the only people from uni still in Paris) are going to Fontainebleau as it's the French holidays, so we have free transport throughout Ile-de-France. Yay for French transport!

I hope you're all well and happy, and for people who haven't been updating their blogs recently, please do. I know I'm a hypocrite, but hey, I never said I wasn't...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mad Wednesday

This Wednesday was insane. Tuesday night I got a total of 3 hours of sleep, which contributed greatly to the sense of detached euphoria. It was Lucy's birthday. So, as a surprise, I was around Lucy and Nicky's apartment with a bag of croissants, pains au chocolat and pains aux raisins, at nine thirty, for a "champagne breakfast" (the wine wasn't actually champagne, but it was sparkling) with Lucy and Nicky. That was tres cool, as the French sometimes say...

Then I had three hours of lectures, which left me feeling as if I was experiencing an out-of-body experience. So I went home, and had a sleep for quite a while. I then tried to wrap Lucy's present, but realised I didn't have any cellotape, and I didn't have enough time to buy some. That teaches me for leaving things to the last minute. I think I did quite a successful job of it considering.

Natasha, Nicky, Lucy and I went to a restaurant in Montmartre with a pianist. And it was insane. Natasha took objection to one of the waiters calling English girls "legere", Nicky flirted with the Algerian crepe-man (Monsieur Crepe, as Nicky called him), and Lucy drank lots of wine. Fun was had by all. Monsieur Crepe even smuggled us each half a crepe.

A good, but slightly mad Lyleday...

In other news
Why does it have to have the largest snowfall in England for my entire life when I'm not there?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snnnnoow!! Lovely, slushy snow!

Yes, as you might have guessed, it snowed last night. Quite a lot actually. Since it's raining now, it'll all probably be gone by the afternoon, but it's set to snow tomorrow too. At a guess, I'd say the snow is about 2 inches deep, but the majority of it has already been trampled into a nightmarish sludge. The roads look like they're earth tracks, and all the footpaths are fatally slippy. On the bright side, the Esplanade des Invalides is a nice white field. Pretty...

In other news...
I tidied my apartment on Friday! Yay! It's already becoming somewhat untidy, but nothing a bit of cleaning won't solve.

Saturday I got up early, posted some stuff, and then went to buy a book. I decided to get of at Châtelet and walk to Gibert Jeune (a book shop) at Place St-Michel by crossing over Ile-de-la-Cité. I noticed the queue for la Sainte Chapelle, a church on the island, was unusually short, so I decided I would go in. It cost 5€, and was definitely worth it, although I was somewhat disappointed the lady at the ticket desk (a hardened woman she was) wouldn't accept my 'histoire de l'art' student card, when they accept art and architecture ones. I'm quite sure someone studying 'histoire de l'art' has more right to get in free to a church displaying fourteenth century artwork (i.e. historical art) than someone studying plain old boring art. But, that said, the 5€ probably did go to the preserving the lovely church. As I didn't have a camera with me, I'm stealing a picture from Wikipedia.

The picture shows the upper chapel; Sainte Chapelle has two, the lower one, which is underneath the upper one. It was built to hold relics of the crucifixion, such as the crown of thorns, and it's famous for its stained glass windows and its ornate decoration.

After buying the book, I watched Fort Saganne, quite possibly the longest film of my life. It might not be the longest film in the purest sense, it's probably shorter than one, two, if not all of the Lord of the Rings films, but boy, didn't it feel long. I felt my life dribbling away in the library as I watched Gerard Depardieu swan between various parts of North Africa, Paris, rural France and the trenches of WWI. I knew I had stopped following the film when about half way through (about the time most films end), I noticed that Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve were having sex for apparently no reason whatsoever. The only time I'd seen them together in the film was at a press conference, and although Depardieu spoke very convincingly, it definitely wasn't enough of a reason for old Catherine there to jump into bed, even by French standards.

Yesterday, I had a very lazy day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Argh! General Strike!

I cannot believe there is going to be a general strike this Thursday. It's in protest against the downturn in the economy, the rise in unemployment, etc. The fact that the cause for this global recession was the subprime mortgage crisis in the US seems to escape the still red-blooded French unions. Everything will be on strike on Thursday; even television company employees will be on strike. Oh well...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"Today is very boring, it's a very boring day,
"There's nothing much to look at, there's nothing much to say."

Those two lines from a children's poem sums today up for me. If you've read the poem, you'll know that the narrator actually has an exceptionally interesting day; I, alas, did not. I had an exam this morning, which went without problem, then a lecture, then a three-hour-long wait till the next lecture. I was planning to go home, but by the time I had finished preparing my teaching stuff, I'd ran out of time, and was instead left being very bored at uni. The next lecture was ok, but not fantastic. Then I went and taught. Out of the three children I teach, it went well with 2 of them, but not so well with the youngest. Because the lessons are so short, sometimes I feel like I'm forced to either rush it with him, or only do really easy, but more entertaining activities. If you have any hints or ideas, share the wealth.

I then came home and fell asleep, woke up some when in the last hour or so.

I shall see you in the morning. Maybe.

End of an era...

It's the end of an era, and one I'm not going to be too nostalgic about. That is the US Presidency of George W Bush. In ordering the closing of Guantanamo Bay and other oversea detention centres as his first presidential act, Obama is sending out a clear message that his presidency is a rupture from the one before. In my last entry, I said that Obama was sure to fail to meet up to the high expectations the world has of him, but perhaps, particularly this early on in the precedings, clear symbolism is what we need. We want to be comforted that the right choice has been made by the American people.

Is this the end of the War on Terror?
Obama, in his speech today, said, "The United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism," but "in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals." I believe that this shift in ideology, from the Bushist 'we have the right to do anything necessary if we need to', a concept that increases fear in the unkown other, the mysterious terrorist, while at the same time denying more and more rights to the known, that is, the normal American people. And America, it seems, is no longer going to be the lone wolf on the political stage, defying the UN and international community. Of course, America was never completely alone in its fight, but international support wasn't unanimous and became significantly weaker as time went on. Obama is putting America back in line with the world, which will be welcomed by many.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Che Guevara and Barack Obama...

¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

Yesterday, I saw the 'controversial new film' "Che: El Argentino" by Steven Soderbergh. It was a good, albeit slightly long film, with Benicio del Toro as the Marxist Rebel Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It is beautifully shot, with wonderful views of the harsh but magnificent Cuban landscape, and the colourful cities filled with the sound of ricocheting bullets, compared somewhat cynically with the sterile black-and-white scenes of New York and the UN building. The film is definitely pro-Che, depicting him as a just, emotionally moderate rebel filled with integrity and love for his cause. He dispenses harsh justice (firing squad) to those who severely break the rebels' rigid discipline, but even that is done with an amount of compassion. And the guys being shot did rape and murder a teenage girl... He is also depicted as an unwavering doctor and teacher, emphasising the necessity of literacy. His humanity comes from his main weakness, his debilitating asthma attacks, which often leave him wheezing despite trying to hide from Baptista's soldiers. This very positive presentation of Guevara is somewhat inevitable since the film is based on his own memoirs, but does somewhat lend support to the now effectively moribund Communist cause.

However, a criticism of the film that I've read elsewhere, and one that I would agree with, is that in such a sweeping film, moving from Mexico, where Castro and Guevara plot the revolution over dinner, to Cuba, to New York, and back again, several times, is that the humanity of those involved is somewhat forgotten. We see rebels, soldiers and civilians being shot, burnt, and blown up, but we hardly feel any empathy with them. Death seems coldy inevitable in the course (or cause) of the revolution. I am, however, looking forward to part two.

Poor Barack Obama

Am I the only person to feel sorry for Barack Obama? Why should I feel sorry for the person who is now the first Afro-American US President, the most powerful man in the world and who has already made history? Because, it seems, the entire world is resting its often mutually exclusive hopes on his shoulders. Outside the US, it seems everyone is glad to see Bush go, and it isn't difficult to see why: bloody conflits in Afghanistan and Iraq, his resolute obstinance to any environmental causes, the economic crisis, his own lack of intelligence, the list goes on. Because of this, the majority of people around the world (70% according to a BBC poll) are glad to see him, and the Republican party, out of power. But more than this, the world is hoping Obama to change the world, to lead us all out of economic ruin, to save the Gaza strip, end the War on Terror and stop global warming, and he's going to fail, unequivocally. He's almost bound, in comparison to the last eight years, to make a much more positive impact on the world. But no-one can individually save to world from all its problems. And I think that is what a lot of people are expecting Obama to do.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lazy Day

My plans for a lazy day have been going better than expected. I've only managed to do one of the three jobs I set myself for today. I did some washing, but I have not posted the letters I was planning to, nor have I tidied my apartment. I did however, fill in my first ever census! Yay for French censuses (not sure that's the correct plural).

In France they do censuses (censum, censi, censae? I'm not that good on my Latin declensions) differently. Instead of having national, everyone-does-it-at-once censuses, the French do it bit by bit. And this may well have been the second census I would have done. When I lived in Montreuil, it was their turn to have the census. I obviously just missed the nice person who comes around giving you the forms to fill in. Another difference is that French censuses are short. A lot shorter than the British or Australian ones that my parents have had to fill in. Yes, my parents spent a day of our holiday in Australia filling in a census. That's because they're not allowed to ask things such as religious beliefs or ethnicity, because everyone is equal in the eyes of the state... It only took me ten minutes. So today, the full run down of what I've done productively is:
1) put washing in washing machine.
2) put washing on drying rack.
3) fill in census.

And update this blog, of course (twice).

Wishing you a merry second half of January!

[insert witty title here]

Phew, I'm so glad I made it to today! I thought I wouldn't for a minute. There's no terrible reason why I thought I would expire before today; the actual reason is that I've been suffering from too much of a good thing. I have been so busy of late that I needed a little time to recharge. So here is a snapshot of the last week.

Last Thursday: Went out for dinner in Southampton with Kaylee and Thomas. The restaurant wasn't that good, a disappointment, to put it bluntly. It wasn't terrible - none of us came away with botulism, a nasty disease caused by a bacteria producing the poison botoxin (the stuff the inject into your face to get rid of wrinkles) - but it certainly wasn't Michelin standard.

Friday: Went to our grandparents so that I could, with my mum and brother, escort our grandmother into Southampton to buy an outfit for my cousin's wedding. I then left my mum and my aunt in Debenhams, while Thomas and I went ice skating with friends. If my memory isn't deceiving me, I then watched Mamma Mia! with my mum. Bit of an... interesting film.

Saturday: Got up early to go to Devon. Popped into my grandmother's, and we went out for lunch at a pub. Nice food, but the pub was quite cold. I then went to a wedding which was absolutely lovely. The balance between tradition and the modern was just right. It made it feel as if it was a part of history, a part of something that has been going on for centuries, while not feeling stuffy. It was also understated, but not cheap. The bride wore a simple cream dress with a dark blue cardigan to make it more, well, understated. Once that was all finished, my parents drove me home.

Sunday: Got up quite early to pack. I spent about an hour, to no avail, searching for my French mobile. It is still AWOL. I then had lunch with my other grandparents (the Friday lot), my aunt, uncle and parents, as it was my grandmother's 80th the next day. After the meal, my parents dropped me off at Southampton Airport so I could fly back to Paris.

Monday: Had lectures, went shoe shopping with Beki, then tried unsuccessfully to transfer money. Then went to church council, which was rather long.

Tuesday: More lectures, then went to church youth group.

Wednesday: Lots of lectures. Had dinner in St Michel with Lucy, Lucy's boyfriend and Nicky.

Thursday: More lectures. Prepared my lessons for the evening, went home and had a quick sleep and then taught. The parents of the children I teach said I could stay for dinner. I did, and left around 22h. Got home towards 23h absolutely knackered!

Today: Nothing! I'm free as a bird! Except that I'm going out tonight for drinks to celebrate a friend getting an MA. I really need to stop living the high-life. I've yet to eat at home.

I've also started going through some online lectures at Yale University about the Old Testament, and it seems very interesting, one-and-a-half lectures in.

Hope you didn't find this post too boring at all.