Friday, 12 August 2011

Fetch The Engine

People got angry and stole things. Shortest version of that story ever to be told, I bet.

Watching Question Time last night was an interesting experience - David Davis was great, Camila Batshitomiddjalilipicalilliexpialidocious was utterly ridiculous, as per, and John Prescott looked as if he was ready to have a heart attack at any moment. Listening to them squabbling about which government was responsible, however, was pathetic. Utterly absurd. These people didn't loot because of politics or because many of them had fewer opportunities than others; indeed, the vast majority of people in exactly the same situation didn't loot or riot, and actively defended their communities and condemned the actions of the looters. The reason for the violence is pure and simple: they're absolute cretins; they wouldn't recognise a political point if it hit them in the face, branding their faces with the words "This is a political point". That's all I'm going to say on the matter here.

For those of you who care, I'm still in Frankfurt and am working bizarre non-hours. 2 days a week, 4 hours at a time, either very early in the morning or late in the evening. It's not massively exciting, but it's nearly over.



Thursday, 4 August 2011

Review - "The Ledge"

Today I'm going to do something a little different: a film review. Why, I hear you ask? Well, it's a film about which I had heard a lot and of which I had very high hopes, but sadly it did not meet these expectations.

"The Ledge" is a film written and directed by Matthew Chapman and features as its protagonist an atheist, which is how I came to hear about it. From what I had been told, the film dealt with secular morality, love, loss and good, old-fashioned debating. And it did. Sort of. It had lots of debating - he debated his gay flatmate about his desire to remain connected to the Jewish faith; he debated the fundamentalist Christian with whose wife he was trying to do the dirty; he even debated with the aforementioned wife. The problem was, these debates were the most inorganic conversations I have ever come across in a serious film: they were as artificial as American cheese and as nuanced as a Glenn Beck rally. Furthermore, some Christians have complained that the film used a caricature of a fundamentalist instead of presenting a realistic image of a devout believer; while part of me wants to tell them they're idiots and to get over it, they sort of have a point. While each individual action the character took was in isolation consistent with a fundamentalist Christian, the entire package felt somewhat...unrealistic. By the time the film had reached its dramatic climax (n.b. it wasn't very dramatic), I no longer cared what happened. It had become a bit silly.

My second objection was to the question posed by the fundamentalist to the atheist, "Would you die for your beliefs?", as if this were somehow a valid question. Yet (wait for it), the atheist actually said that he probably would. Quod the proverbial fuck? Life is far too precious to die for the lack of a belief in a deity, and to potentially throw it away for the sake of scoring a cheap point over a deranged lunatic seems a tad...irrational for someone who claims to be a bastion of logic and reason. So yes, that bit didn't ring true either.

To be fair, it was always going to be ground-breaking, and these things certainly take time. I credit Chapman for his idea, but the actual filmcraft left a lot to be desired.

Big love,


Friday, 29 July 2011


11 days have passed since I reported the anticlimax that was my leaving State Street, and the new job is up and running, albeit at a dangerously early time in the morning in uncomfortable shoes. Cue sore feet and bleariness. Every cloud though - I usually finish work between 12 and 2, meaning I have the afternoon to catch up on some sleep. So yes, life here is somewhat different from 2 weeks ago, but that's not necessarily a terrible thing.

Regarding the Norway incident, did anyone notice how the term "terrorist" wasn't used at all by the media. You see, we must now reserve the word for Muslims, because they're the only ones who can be terrorists. Forget Oklahoma; forget the IRA; forget ETA; forget every Christian, Hindu, Jewish and secular terrorist attack and remember that terrorists can only be representing Islam. If you don't believe this, you're obviously part of the problem and are too tolerant of Islam in our glorious Western culture. Or something like that. The most important thing to do, of course, is to panic. That is pivotal. Panic and run. Shoot your local corner shop owner. Lynch a Pakistani boy. Burn a turban, even though they belong to a Sikh, because hey, they all look a bit similar, don't they?

Or we could finally address the extreme right wing in this country - being intolerant of intolerance is not intolerance. Hate speech legislation is a tricky business, mainly because it can curtail freedom of speech, but to quote Matt Dillahunty, our beliefs inform our actions and actions affect others. By all means rally against Islamic doctrine, but do so consistently. Rally against Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Scientology, Raelian and Mormon doctrine, because a fanatical belief in the supernatural can manifest itself in dangerous ways. The important thing though is to criticise the belief and not tar every adherent with the same brush. The word "terrorist" should not be synonymous with "Islam" - imagine the fuss the Christian right would kick up if terrorism and Christianity were inherently linked. It could so easily be done as well, because at the core of both is an irrational belief that demands servitude to a malevolent, celestial dictator.

On a lighter note, I'm delighted to see Stuart Broad hitting his straps again. I've been less-than-complimentary about him at times, but he's certainly stood up and made his presence felt. More of the same please.

Peace x

Monday, 18 July 2011

Interoperem and the Tabloids

One internship down, one job to go. Finishing work on Friday was quite possibly the most anticlimactic thing I've ever done, but I wouldn't have it any other way. A brief handshake with my supervisor/colleague and a quick word to the HR lady and I was out of there. It was as if I had never been - fine by me. If working in Luxembourg last year established the idea that I don't want to work in investment banking, working in Frankfurt cemented it. The people were nice, but they certainly seemed to hate their job and I don't want to become them in a few years time.

Alors, I have an interview with a hotel tomorrow, so hopefully that'll give me some extra cash to survive here, thus enabling me to pay my ridiculously overpriced rent.

My apologies that this isn't a particularly interesting post, but nothing of any interest has been happening in the world. Well, it might have been, but none of us would have heard about it because the media has suddenly become obsessed with Rupert Murdoch and phone-hacking. My attitude towards this is the same as it was during the whole Andy Gray debacle - we all knew Murdoch and Brooks were conniving little shits before this happened, so why are we surprised? Get over it and start talking about things that matter. This wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been Milly Dowler who was hacked - the tabloid press have an almost Diana-esque love of this girl and I find it highly hypocritical of them to suddenly be outraged about something that they wouldn't have given a shit about had it not been MD.

Dear tabloids: you have vilified journalists, MPs, doctors, pilots and pretty much every profession under the sun at some point. There is a reason for this: we are all human. Our pre-frontal lobes are too small; our adrenal glands are too large: we are poorly-evolved apes who are trying to make our way in the world as best we can. Latching onto some people as pariahs and some as martyrs is a vulgar, unnecessary thing to do - nobody is perfect, least of all you.

Apart from that, all is well.


Charlie x

Sunday, 10 July 2011

2 in 6 days? Dear Oh Dear...

Writing this on a very humid Sunday evening in July, it suddenly hits me that I am theoretically going to be unemployed in a week unless one of my leads/contacts comes back to be sharpish. Having tried to organise a job at the InterContinental in Frankfurt, I was put in touch with the HR lady, sent three separate emails asking her about the interview procedure etc and have still had nothing back – something which seems odd for a job which I had effectively been offered. Therefore, if she doesn’t respond, other avenues may have to be explored pretty soon. Calling her seems out of the question as well, seeing as, “Hi, I’m the guy whose emails you’ve been ignoring” is never a good way to start a conversation regarding a potential job.

German bouncers are no nicer than English ones, it transpires. While waiting for entry to some bar/club in East Frankfurt, I was unceremoniously shoved out of the way by a stocky chap with obvious self-esteem issues. After my (surprisingly polite, given the circumstances) inquiry as to why he had taken such a course of action, he responded by saying that I was “in his way”. Naturally I proceeded to ask why he had been unable to merely ask that I move – something which I would have gladly done – but he seemed unimpressed with my irrepressible logic. It’s times this those when I wish I were Dexter Morgan.

Nothing much to report elsewhere really – I’m pretty delighted that the News of the World is being scrapped, but I somehow doubt it’ll stick. Murdoch knows how to cater to the masses (the trick is to give them breasts, large headlines, beer adverts and sloppy, hysterical journalism) so he’ll be back before we know it with another typically vulgar tabloid. How someone can own both The Times and The Sun is somewhat beyond me – it just sounds dangerously paradoxical.

Has anyone else wondered why there were so many Canadians protesting Prince and Princess whatserface while they were out there? It’s on the same level as protesting against turbot, or a minor cast member of Midsomer Murders – completely inconsequential.

Charlie x

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Let’s Do This Equality Thing Properly

Given the recent eruptions in the sceptical/atheist community after Rebecca Watson’s vlog discussing her experience with a male “admirer” who propositioned her in a lift at 4am after she had given a talk about women and sexism in the atheist movement, I thought it only right that I should throw my twopence-worth into the proverbial hat. Richard Dawkins responded, dismissing her concerns by comparing the situation to the atrocities committed against women every day all over the world, to which there was the inevitable backlash from feminists and (most notably from my perspective) PZ Myers and the Pharyngulites (no, they’re not a band – links will be provided at the bottom). While I hesitatingly agree with Dawkins’ comments, insofar as there are probably more important things for the movement to be worrying about, his tone was overly-dismissive and misrepresented Watson’s actual attitude to the whole affair. 

Nobody should have to walk the streets or stay in a hotel and fear being raped, attacked or unwelcomingly approached – that should really go without saying. What I do object to though, is the automatic assumption that all men are prospective rapists until proven otherwise. Agreed, the stakes are certainly higher for women in these situations, but “innocent until proven guilty” exists as a legal norm for a reason. The actions of the man in the hotel were not intelligent; he should really have known better than to proposition a total stranger at 4am after she had said she was going to bed, but neither should he be condemned as a pervert or potential rapist. He clearly misjudged the situation and, given the backlash over the last few days, probably regrets immensely an action which he at the time probably thought was perfectly innocent. Understandably to Watson, it was not considered as such, but let’s not be too hasty to turn this chap into a pariah.

Which brings me to Pharyngula. Needless to say, there was a split between the unfortunate number of raging misogynists who thought that they had the right to proposition women whenever they damn well please and the ardent feminists, who reserved the right to consider every man they meet a potential aggressor. In this case, however, the answer is somewhere in the middle. There are misogynists wherever you go, no matter how socially unacceptable such an attitude is in this day and age, so it is disappointing to see some of the outrageous comments that were being sent Watson’s way. However, I resent the notion that all men somehow have “a lot to learn” about these matters – I am not a child and I know how to act accordingly. Just because one tosser made a mistake and a few internet trolls decided to jump on the bandwagon does not mean that all men are predatory adolescents who can’t control their hormones. Most of us care deeply about women’s rights, want genuine equality, want to break every glass ceiling that we encounter and want to live in a world where people are judged by their character and not by their reproductive organs. Yes we often encounter obstacles, but we are your colleagues, your boyfriends, your husbands and your friends. We are not your enemy; let’s ditch this “us versus them” attitude on both sides and start working together properly. Only then can society truly progress.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Tuesday Morning - What Fun

It would appear that I’m writing this blog post at work as I have been given nothing to do this morning. Ergo I am being productive, albeit in a slightly different way.

Re German life, I got to pay for the privilege of being blind for an hour, as part of something called “Dialog im Dunkeln”. Basically we were led around in total darkness by a blind man in order to experience first-hand what it’s like to be blind. I must say I quite enjoyed it once, despite it being a somewhat bizarre concept on reflection. Apart from that, life here is as per, so I shan’t bore you with further details of it.
I shall, however, attend to a few sundry matters while I have the time to do so. Despite being a staunch opponent of the Mexican Wave, it did amuse me to see Prince William and Princess Whatserface partake in one during their gracing of Centre Court yesterday. It must be a tricky conundrum for old Bill; if he doesn’t take part, he’s seen as being out-of-touch with the people; yet if he does, he’s actively contributing to the deterioration of society as we know it by condoning people’s frightening appalling attention span by joining in. This is Wimbledon after all.

During one of my boredom-at-work-induced forays into the depths of the internet the other day, I stumbled across a post by Jacob Fortin wherein his site is assaulted by Flat Earthers. They even have a site of their own (link provided at the bottom), in which the first FAQ is “Is this a joke”. Surely you must twig that something’s amiss if that is your most oft-received question? Apparently not…

That’s all from me today,

Charlie x

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Bit More Germany & Opinion

It appears that Frankfurt is still treating me rather well - the people have been nice, on the whole, and work is settling into something resembling a rhythm. I managed to spend a longish weekend in Heidelberg, met some lovely people and generally had a pretty decent time - the "Schlossbeleuchtung" and accompanying firework display being a nice surprise.

But enough of that. There's something that started off as a mild irritation but is gradually becoming more and more annoying as I become increasingly aware of it. I had a bit of a rant in one of my first ever posts last year that it was unacceptable for David Cameron to be giving such moral weight and value to Pope Ratzinger after his visit to the UK last summer, yet he appears to be (very rudely, may I add) ignoring my obviously devastatingly contstructive advice. It still astonishes me that, in a society where the House of Lords is quite rightly losing its hereditary peers and there are increasingly loud calls for further reform, the role of bishops remains unattacked. Indeed, Mr. Cameron even proposed that representatives of other religions should be allowed into the Lords to voice their opinion as well. My response to this is as it was last year: There is absolutely no room for faith in politics. Why on earth would we want to give more (admittedly non-executive) power to people who base their most important life decisions on irrationality and misconception? Like hereditary peers, who certainly have not earned their place in the Lords, the role of bishops on the red seats should come under very careful scrutiny. Moreover, giving more places to other religious leaders is simply going to make matters worse; a scenario in which, say, a piece of legislation is passed onto the Lords to decide whether to block a proposed increase in government funding for faith schools. Certain from a financial perspective, surely the people who vote on this issue within the House should be disinterested parties, so as to produce an objective decision?

I had some more things to postulate, some of them concerning Rowan Williams and the New Statesman, but they can wait I think. Besides, I get a Bank Holiday on Monday, so life's not at all bad.

Wishing you all a Merry Wednesday,

Charlie x

Friday, 27 May 2011

2 Weeks of Frankfurt

Welcome to the German edition of my blog – I thought I’d give it a couple of weeks before writing anything in order to give me a little bit of time to find something interesting about which to write.

The only vaguely noteworthy event of my first day at work (State Street Frankfurt for those of you who are interested) was the busker at the train station. In front of hundreds of commuters, all walking silently to their offices and the like, he elected to play “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles. Quite how belting out the lyric, “All the lonely people” is supposed to endear him to a horde of grumpy Germans on their way to work is somewhat beyond me, but maybe he enjoys being a pariah. Speaking of trains, the first ticket inspectors across whom I came on the S-Bahn were clad entirely in denim – not exactly the attire one would expect; they were certainly more Huckleberry Finn than anything else. Germans, eh?

 Another notable fact about the Germans is their apparent obsession with ice-cream. I know this has been alluded to before, but it really is astonishing how much they enjoy a cheeky Eis. This, however, got me thinking about Italians. Everyone knows that Italians are famous for being top-notch ice-cream producers, but the sight of an Italian eating one is far rarer than a German, leading me to only one conclusion: the Italians outsource all their ice-cream-eating to Germany, allowing them more time during the day for important matters, such as adultery. The Germans, you see, have no time for adultery (given how hard they work), but can certainly fit in time for a Cornetto every now and again. Everyone’s a winner.

Very briefly, the State Street Intranet Homepage had this delight as part of a poll:
“Should Ronald McDonald retire?” Brilliant.

Much love,

Charlie x

Thursday, 28 April 2011


So I have a couple of weeks before I head off to Frankfurt, but thought I'd share a few thoughts in the meantime:

Firstly, I have extraordinarily mixed feelings about this whole wedding shenanigens thing happening tomorrow. A large chunk of me wishes everyone (by which I mainly mean the press) would just shut up about it - it's banal, completely irrelevant and and wholly unnecessary. However, given the nature of the world we live in at the moment, with pockets of violence erupting throughout the Middle East and Africa and a West that can't seem to sort its ideals out, this event seems to have brought people together somewhat. Apparently over 2 billion people are going to be watching this union of 2 people as part of an outdated institution in a ex-colonial backwater, thus proving that people of all nations, shapes, sizes, races and creeds appear to quite like our Royal Family. The thing is, I have no idea why.

There have been increasingly loud mutterings and rumours that Donald Trump is planning to run for President of the USA; while this is by no means a bad thing for the Left, given that they can present themselves (once again) as the voice of sanity, it does present a not-so-slight problem for the world. This is the USA - they're actually quite powerful. Admittedly Trump isn't as bad as someone like Ron Paul, he's still anti-abortion, anti-vac, thinks Obama wasn't born in the USA and is generally just a few sausages short. While it would be vaguely amusing and patronising to look at a country like Tuvalu if they elected a cartoon character to the highest office, America is actually rather powerful. We don't need another 4-8 years of craziness, please. No no no.


Peace x

Monday, 18 April 2011


So I appear to be finished in France - the Caen-Portsmouth ferry dropped me off at some unpleasant hour this morning and I arrived home bleary-eyed at about 8am.

I'm not going to do a massive spiel about what an amazing, eye-opening experience it was, and how I'll treasure the memory of everything I did and everyone I met. It's boring - no-one wants to hear it, and I'm not prone to hyperbole anyway. France was fine, the people were pretty friendly on the whole, and I didn't die or anything, so I'll consider the whole experience as a success.

Some final thoughts on France then, in no particular order:

- The majority of French boys have no shame whatsoever and will attempt to fuck anything with a pulse.      Quite how this is an attractive quality is beyond me, but such is life.

- The notion of being "fashionably late" is taken to the extreme. Indeed, if anyone I'm supposed to be meeting turns up in the same week me, I consider that to be a relative success.

- There is nothing to do on Sundays. Anywhere.

- People drink considerably less over here, though pretend they drink just as much. Machismo?

- French keyboards are confusing; returning to a QWERTY keyboard is a rather strange experience.

Next stop: Frankfurt.

See you all then, folks.

Charlie x

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Cake - The True Way To A Man's Heart

I was considering putting "If he likes cake" in brackets at the end of the title, but that would have been unnecessary to say the least.

So yes, one of my BTS classes this morning baked me a cake for our final ever lesson, which was a rather wonderful surprise. It had chocolatey bits in and was generally pretty wonderful, even at 9am. There was also a note attached, written by the strongest student in the class, describing the sequence of events that led to the chocolatey bits being added to the cake (spoiler: it involved a rabbit...). So yeah, they're high on my good list at the moment. To quote Dylan Moran:

- "I love you, I love you, I love y-"

'Nuff said.

Less than two weeks now before I have to head back to Blighty, and it appears that time has passed rather more quickly than I had expected; indeed, this is probably fortunate as I'm definitely starting to run out of ideas for what to teach people, especially the brats that I have once a week instead of once a fortnight. My solution to this problem this week has been to show the classes I like (by which I mean the older ones) an episode of Peep Show of my choosing, while hoping it's not too inappopriate. Happy days.

Peace x

Monday, 28 March 2011

Tanzania, U-Turns and RC

It is not exactly uncommon knowledge that superstition and irrational beliefs are rife throughout certains parts of Africa, where the combination of local shamanism and the insurgence of Islamic and Christian missionaries has resulted in a bastardised form of religion and pagan beliefs. It should therefore come as no surprise that a so-called pastor in Tanzania has been flogging his "miracle cure for all ailments" for the price of 500 Tanzanian shillings to the gullible (and tragically desperate) Tanzanian public. And what, I hear you ask, is the magical concoction that he uses? Herbs and water. Herbs and fucking water. Congratulations, you despicable little charlatan - you have succeeded in killing hundreds of people by convincing them that your own brand of homeopathic holy water is somehow superior to modern medicine. Yes, the medical services in Tanzania are rudimentary at best in certain places, but encouraging superstition and peddling your own moonshine horseshit is not exactly the way forward: the Tanzanian medical authorities have been involved to actually test the stuff he's selling, but one doubts whether their verdict will have any bearing on actions of such a man.

I have just downloaded the long-awaited AETV show with Ray Comfort as their special guest - I am sincerely looking forward to the bloodbath that will be Matt and Russell disintegrating this man's pathetic and dishonest PRATT arguments.

Slightly angry peace,

Charlie x

Monday, 21 March 2011

Attitudes To Race in France and Guardian Commentators

It would appear that the French section of my blog has been somewhat underused lately, mainly due to the fact that nothing much has changed: the majority of my students/pupils still mildly irritate me, there is a tad more sun than there was a month ago and some of my French friends got treated to a flurry abuse from a drunken Scotsman. So far so good, oder? However, there has been this vague nagging at the back of my head regarding the French attitudes towards ethnic minorities in what is essentially a relatively old-fashioned provincial town. A student of mine remarked a while ago that he "hated Arabs" for no particular reason, a Vietnamese girl was subjected to a volley of supposedly "Chinese-sounding" noises by her French peers, and one of the teachers at my school had to suspend one of her pupils for saying something along the lines of, "not bad for a black guy". Now, this is no indictment of France and the French as a whole, and I accept that these are isolated incidents, but it does make one wonder about the levels of tolerance afforded to young people about the acceptability of race-related conduct.

Speaking of which, I come to my second point of today: the Guardian. Being the one-man manifestation of coalition politics, I tend to read both the Times and the Guardian, though with a slight leaning towards the former. However, it has come to my attention that two of the more mainstream opinion writers, David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker (both of whom I hold in high regard), often talk about exactly the same subjects on the same weeks. This week it was the Midsomer Murders furore (of which I am thankfully blissfully ignorant), and in past weeks they have each talked about Nick Clegg's "Alarm Clock Britain" idea and the fact that football pundits are (unsurprisingly to my mind) complete bigots, in the same week as each other. Ok, so these were possibly some of the more high-profile cultural stories of the week, but surely they could come to some agreement to take it in turns? Otherwise it becomes rather tedious listening to two sarcastic people being sarcastic about things I really don't care about.

Peace x

Monday, 14 March 2011

American Conservatism

Having been catching up on PZ's blog over the last few minutes, my attention was drawn to a collection of responses to the catastrophic recent events in Japan by some illiterate American facebook users, some of which I shall quote here; see the link below for the full compilation. The mind truly boggles...

"ya know Japan, this earthquake is just gods way of getting you back for that Pearl Harbour deal"

"Eat a dick Japan! That's what you get for pearl harbour, karma son! Hahaha!"

"Hell yeah that's right japan 3-1 you may have had pearl harbour but we got Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and, since God is on our side, we have this. SCOOOREEEBOOOAARRDDD."

Yes, I concede that these views are (hopefully) in the minority, and that there are people who hold views of equal bigotry in the UK, but one is currently seeing a wave of right-wing activity across the Atlantic, given the recent rise of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party and various ultra-conservative legislation being passed by Republican-run states (see the anti-choice law in Nebraska for a dangerous, inhumane example of right-wing politics at its most illiberal). Add to that the lack of acceptance of global warming, a frighteningly self-righteous attitude towards sectarian Christianity, the antipathy towards scientific education and the apparent spinelessness of the Democrats to stand up to these troglodytes, and the USA has a serious intellectual crisis on its hands. Since the change of government in the UK, the "special relationship" between the UK and USA has cooled somewhat, a change about which I am in two minds. Yes, we want to support a progressive, liberal president in Obama, but his liberalism certainly appears to have its limits when it comes to his attempts to appease the right-wing lobby.

There are about 100 other things I could say about this, but I don't want to be accused of ranting.

Yours sincerely and with love,

Charlie x

Monday, 7 March 2011

How Offensive Are Words?

Yes, yes, I'm back from my unnecessary holiday and can start blogging again so all 3 of you can relax now. Anywho, enough of that - I have something I actually want to talk about today.

There are 7 countries whose names end in "stan": Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. So far so good. Now, for 4, arguably 5 of those counties, it is acceptable to call a native of that country 1 of 2 things - either take the full name of the country and add "i" (Afghanistani), or drop the "stan" or "istan" (Afghan). This also works for Tajikistan (Tajik), Kazakhstan (Kazakh), Uzbekistan (Uzbek) and arguably Turkmenistan (Turkmen), though not for Kyrgyzstan, since the chronic lack of consonants would make even a Welshman struggle. You will notice, however, that I've left the most obvious one off, for equally obvious reasons, namely that it is offensive to Pakistanis. I would still argue though that the term itself is not intrinsically offensive: had it not been adopted by xenophobic bigots throughout the history of Pakistani immigration into the UK, the word would be, I'm sure, perfectly socially acceptable. So as a result of a minority of racists who elected to use the term pejoritavely, we have been robbed of a timesaving and otherwise innocuous word, despite the word carrying no inherent offence. I'm not advocating that that word be somehow reinstated - that would be extremely tasteless given the current climate - but I find the development of language fascinating and wonder whether what should be an insignificant word will find itself in the mainstream within 100 years or so.

On another note, I saw a man on a bicycle overtake a man on one of those disgusting motorbikes (about which I've complained before) going up a hill - I found myself most amused.


Charlie x

Monday, 21 February 2011

2-week Holiday, Rubbish Weather And A Town I'm Starting To Be Able To Pronounce

Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the French: they're barely back at school for six weeks and they decide to have another holiday. Magnificent. I remember the agony of the Michaelmas Term at school, lasting all of 78 weeks with a measly 9 days for half term (weekends either side included) and cannot help but feel that this truly is the life. However, it does raise an interesting point: aged 7 to 18, I spent roughly 40 hours at school every week, holidays aside, and thought nothing of it; it was just what one did. Now, however, owing to the vaguaries of a languages' degree that rewards end-of-term assignment and end-of-year exam cramming, without any sort of continuous assessment, I find the notion of a 40-hour week utterly abhorrent; surely that's some form of child/student/Charlie abuse!? Case in point: one of my BTS classes (they're doing archaeology) never seem to cease working, being made to do hours upon hours of coursework, exam preparation and other dossiers. I can only imagine that this activity is vaguely reminiscent of what I probably had to do at school (albeit at a younger age - these students are between 19 and 22), but that part of my life has completely fallen out of my memory now; anything beyond 14 hours per week is now beyond my comprehension. I feel reality may hit me rather hard when I arrive in Frankfurt to commence my internship...

You might have noticed that the titles of my posts sometimes don't refer in any way to the content of the post itself. I have; I quite like it; it keeps people on their proverbial toes. For that reason, I shall be talking about neither the weather nor the town I can now just about pronounce (Mansles - I blame the southern accent of the person who first told me how to pronounce it...order has been restored now). I shall instead leave you.

Charlie x

Monday, 14 February 2011

Some Updates

We can start with the exciting news: after several months of searching, I have finally been offered an 8-week internship in Frankfurt at StateStreet, though I'm not entirely sure what my role will be there; hopefully my chronic lack of financial experience won't count against me too much. My general attitude that common sense tends win out may in fact help, though whether this is wishful thinking on my part remains uncertain. Indeed, while at AGI Lux, I managed to acquire a sufficient amount of knowledge to allow me to survive the month of desperate tedium and lack of work - this time, however, I'll actually have to do things, which is both a breath of fresh air and positively cheeky on their part; expecting me to work? Dear me...

Re French things, I discovered a suitably exciting salon du thé yesterday; it basically involved wandering into some chap's (converted, I hasten to add) house, ordering a hot beverage from a friendly man with an intruiging beard and plonking yourself down on his eclectic collection of settees and armchairs with gay abandon. I had a "thé chocolat épices"  (chocolate and spice tea), which, to be honest, tasted of neither spices nor chocolate, but had the reassuring presence of fruit tea, whereby you're sure there's a satisfying taste somewhere, but your tongue hasn't quite located it. All in all, I was impressed, and will definitely be returning.

Looking back over some of my previous posts, it appears that I have fallen prey to the Eton comma; I suspect this only offends me, but if it does happen to irritate any of you (of my roughly 3, I imagine) readers, I urge you to accept it as being intentional; I can justify it (ish) by using the somewhat conversational tone of my posts.

That's all for now,

Charlie x

Monday, 7 February 2011

February Already? Here Goes...

It has come to my attention that the Science Museum now has exhibits dedicated to homeopathy, acupuncture and Chinese medicine - something which must come as a disappointment to all real scientists who would rather proper science be taught and promoted in such an institution. Furthermore, they actually state that homeopathy helped a girl who "had allergies". Instead of telling us what the allergies were and how the homeopathic treatment helped her, they just leave it at that. Really scientific guys - congrats etc. Chaps, if you want to be taken seriously in the world of science/technology, appealing to the woo-woo merchants (horseshit peddlers) of society isn't a wonderful way of going about it.

Something bizarre happened today in the otherwise-uninspiring world of my local laundrette. I was sitting there, merrily reading a book while waiting for my drying to finish, when 3 boys of a similar age to me walked in, one of them bearing one of those large, fluffy microphones that people use for television. They proceeded to approach one of the empty dryers, stuck the microphone thingy in the drum, left it there for a few seconds, recorded whatever sound was made (very little, from what I could tell), and promptly vacated the premises, giving me (the sole witness to this aberrant behaviour) a cheeky grin. I was most amused.

Charlie x

Monday, 31 January 2011

Some Slightly More Surreal Stuff

As some of you may recall from a previous post, it was requested of me by one of my teachers to conduct a slightly more vulgar lesson for one of my classes - cars, girls, beer and the like. Well, I was approached by the same teacher a few days ago and was asked whether it would be possible to talk to them about Stephen Hawking this time - apparently she had discussed one of his books with them and they were absolutely fascinated by him. So we've gone from FHM to New Scientist (figuratively speaking) within the space of a couple of weeks; I have absolutely no idea what will be next, though nothing will surprise me now.

Speaking of surprises, I had to undergo the indignity of cutting through the inner lining of my tracksuit trousers with a key in order to retrieve them. Having been running my usual route, I suddenly felt my keys shift position and fall unceremoniously down my leg. Cue 5 minutes of scrabbling with the sharpest one I could find, all to the amusement of the passing locals and their dogs, who took it upon themselves to make my job as difficult as possible. So thank you for that, my ever-loyal canine friends.

Finally, Angoulême played host to a comic book festival this weekend. Apparently it's an international thing, albeit geared towards French-speaking comic geeks. So, curiosity barely aroused, I decided to take in a show of some description, which involved the following:

- A young man beatboxing.
- A semi-naked bald gentleman with body art doing all sorts of interpretative dances.
- A lady dressed up as a peacock.
- 3 gramophones.
- Random drawings popping up on a screen behind them, apparently giving some sort of theme to the evening. None could be ascertained.

Quod the proverbial fuck would just about sum it up, but it was light entertainment nonetheless.


Charlie x

Friday, 21 January 2011


So, lots of 2s, 1s and 0s - the excitement is unbearable.

Another week has gone by without a huge amount changing - I discovered that if you're going to let other people borrow your clothes, make sure they smoke cannabis instead of tobacco, as the smoke doesn't linger. That was a pleasant surprise. There has also been a gradual realisation that people, mainly the younger kids, actually enjoy their lessons from me. Whether this is simply because it gives them an hour away from "real" work or because I'm a good teacher remains to be seen, but I'll take it for now.

What I really want to talk to you about today, however, is Michael Flatley. Yes, the chap who did "Lord of the Dance". As most of you will know, there was also a hymn (of sorts) written under the same name, and effectively involved Jesus being named thus. I think the idea was that Christianity was supposed to be fun, likening the process of religious indoctrination to a dance - in my mind a little bit like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, leading brainwashed rats into a river to drown. However, my question is this: if both Michael Flatley and Jesus are the "Lord of the Dance", does that make Michael Flatley Jesus? Indeed, if you go along with the idea of predestination, it could even be said that Sydney Carter (the chap who wrote the hymn) was given divine inspiration to write what he did, thereby predicting the advent of Mr. Flatley. The plot thickens...I think John could give us the answer:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things danced with Him, and apart from Him nothing danced quite like he did. For He was Irish, and thus had life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on stage, and the graceless did not comprehend it."*

Charlie x

*Ok, I might have changed it a little...

Friday, 14 January 2011

Reason? Who Needs That?

There was, as I recall, a striking similarity between the first few presidential and prime ministerial (respectively) speeches of Barack Obama and David Cameron. The nature of both of them was something along the lines of, "Times are hard. Voting in one chap and one government isn't going to suddenly make everything better; we all need to club together to make our country a better place." This attitude of realism is not new - JFK famously talked about not what the USA could do for its people, but what its people could do for it. My argument is this: everyone wants to be a popular leader, and people are (arguably rightly) angry with Nick Clegg for making promises he couldn't possibly keep. However, the problem is not with his actions, but the very fact that he made these promises in the first place. I'm not advocating the dramatic lowering of public expectations per se, but instead proposing that outlandish, principle-driven promises can often fail once power has been attained. Being the voice of reason and being realistic is a far more acceptable prospect to a public that has already braced itself for widespread changes. False hope is, as ever, unforgivable in such a situation.

While helping a colleague translate a work experience handbook, I was reminded of the stunning difference in lexicon size between French and English. I shall use the French word stage as my example. This word can mean, in no particular order, training course, internship, apprenticeship, work experience, and various other things which are of less importance here. You will notice that, while we distinguish between the subtleties of each respective enterprise, French does not, making their lives a lot easier. My colleague's suggestion of internship could not have possibly been right, as the work undertaken by these students has certainly nothing do with any form of cerebral training. They are, to put it bluntly, the drone bees who repair machinery in factories, and drone bees do not go on internships. I had to settle for practical work experience. Who'd learn English, eh?

Charlie x

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Cash Machines and Umbrellas

First of all, to the bastard who stole my umbrella from my doorstep (within a locked building, no less) between the hours of 2200 last night and 1000 this morning, watch your back. There will come a time when I shall find you, corner you and set a pack of wild animals on you (think of that truly woeful scene in Hannibal with the pigs and the guy in the wheelchair). No joke. Run and hide.

I noticed something about the BNP Paribas cash machines today. No, they don't spout racial hatred (ho ho ho), but they do have a small cartoon figure on the display helping you make all your financial decisions. So far, so good. What is bizarre, however, is that this little chap refers to himself in the first person, saying things like "I'm currently preparing your banknotes", albeit in French. As much as a like the idea of large banks employing cartoon midgets to act as the friendly face of financial institutions, I do worry about their working conditions. I wonder whether Bob Crow would be willing to set up his own union specifically for them...

Charlie x

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Whoa, January

So I'm back for a new year in France after what felt like an incredibly short holiday. Still, mustn't grumble began with aplomb on Tuesday and was met with general apathy by both teacher (me) and students. It was, however, requested of me this afternoon to conduct a different sort of lesson with one of my older classes, the majority of whom happen to have the attention span of a gnat with ADHD. The suggested lesson plan: "Beer and cars." So basically I'm going to have to turn myself into Jeremy Clarkson for an hour a week, just to satisfy their woeful attitude towards language learning. Ho hum, it could prove entertaining I suppose.

The only other thing I'll say in this edition is my consistent shock at the Ashes performance - I keep expecting to wake up and discover that this whole thing was a cruel joke perpetrated by the Australian press, and that Ricky Ponting in fact scored 800+ runs in a 2006/2007-style thrashing, leaving the entrails of the English bowling attack to be picked apart by Michaels Clarke and Hussey and then by messyrs Atherton, Haigh, Boycott and whoever else happens to be writing about this tussle at the time. Fortunately though, the reality of the situation appears to be as we are all perceiving it, so I rest a happy man for now. Roll on tomorrow morning, where I shall hopefully be reading, bleary-eyed, a suitably reasonable report by the BBC about England's 3-1 victory. Rest assured the Aussies will come back hard in 2013, but let's just enjoy this now while we can.

A very happy new year to you all,

Charlie x