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