Watch Out! Watch Out! The Scam Artists Are About!


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I have endured a spate of thefts since arriving in France and I am under no illusions, and in fact know that it is being perpetrated by a couple of ex-pats.


This happens every day, at all hours and can sometimes even happen while I am in my own house, asleep.


It’s not huge amounts – but the amount is irrelevant, it’s the fact that it continues to happen that annoys me.


I’d like to warn anyone in the 18 region of France to be on the lookout for them – one is seven and the other one is four. They will be all smiles and laughs but then later on you will realise that you are 50 Cents lighter and someone’s nicked all your Ferrero Rochers.


Their usual technique is to say ‘Daddy I love you, can I have a cuddle?’ while batting their eyelids. Then while you are cuddling them the other one will be standing on a chair and hunting for your chocolates.


I have looked into this but unfortunately it appears that there is no escape, and this scam will continue, unabated, for the next 14 – 20 years and will evolve into other, more sophisticated scams involving lifts home, radio controlled cars and ‘lending’ them a few quid ‘Just till Friday’.


Wednesday Fun With The Animals…


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Due to French teachers enjoying a glass of wine (or six) with their dinners to mark the half-way point of their working week, I pick the kids up early on Wednesdays. Our favourite thing to do on this day is to go and feed the animals in one of the local farmer’s fields. I say they are farmers, but to be honest they just might be people who enjoy having massive fields, and then shoving some animals in there.

Wouldn’t surprise me in the least, this is France after all where everybody has at least two or three things with four legs.


So here we head, during the week, just me and the kids. It’s a great, cheap way for them to see some animals up close (just the price of a bit of bread, or fruit) and the livestock have got that used to us that we don’t usually have to call them anymore, they just recognise my son’s mass of curls and come shambling over.

It wasn’t like that to start with, back then I had to rattle my (appropriately named) Asda Bag For Life in the air for a few minutes before I got any response. These days though, they are there like a shot.

It must be the nice bread.

Either that or they’ve realised that if they don’t get over quickly my daughter will eat it all (It’s very nice bread).

They don’t like buns though – we’ve discovered that if you offer buns or cakes to the donkeys or the horse, they’ll eat one then sniff your next offering, with a distinct air of mistrust, and refuse any more sweet baked goods.

Although if the goats are there you won’t have any problems off-loading four-day-old cakes  – they will eat anything.

They’ve even tried to eat my son’s hat a few times.

Either that or they were trying to eat my son.


The road that runs alongside the field is well travelled, and one of the weeks while we were feeding the animals a group of French visitors passed us. They made appreciative ‘cooing’ noises and voiced the opinion that it was great to see something like this: a bit of country life in the middle of a city.

I wouldn’t call where we live a city in a million years – but I got their point.

It’s great to be able to open your door on a morning and see ducks, geese and chickens roaming in the fields (and even the odd cow from time to time). And being able to throw on some clothes and be able to feed horses, donkeys and goats within five minute’s walk is also something I don’t think you can put a price on.


The kids love it and it’s such a thing to see, these giant beasts, taking food from their hands in a very delicate manner – as if they know they are small and fragile.

That lasts right up to when one of the goats or sheep get too close, then the horse or the donkeys lose their shit and chase them away. We love feeding them, but there’s definitely a hierarchy going on here – and the sheep and goats are definitely below the horse and his donkey buddies.

So yes, a great activity for me and the kids on a Wednesday.

Oh and if you thought we only fed them when the sun’s shining on a glorious day like today…



….you’d be wrong! Nothing stops our Wednesday fun!

English vs French Proverbs…


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‘What is a feather? what is ‘flock’?’ we focused on proverbs at last night’s English/French club meeting, and there was quite a bit that was lost in translation.

The best approximation of ‘Qui se ressemble s’assemble‘  in English – according to my French chums – was ‘Birds of a feather flock together‘. However flock does not exist in French, and feather is a different word too, so there was a bit of explaining on that one.

This was proverb 23 out of about 90 or so.

It was quite a long evening.

My personal favourite was the translation of ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks‘ (or ‘You can’t teach granny to suck eggs‘) which in French is ‘Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’on apprend à faire la grimace‘  – you can’t teach an old monkey how to make faces.

I discovered that they have a specific name for people lacking in the standard number of eyes in France, as ‘In the valley of the blind the one-eyed man is king‘ translated in French to ‘Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont les rois‘. ‘Borgnes’ being the name of a person with one eye.

When they queried me if there was a name for them in English, I dismissed their suggestion of ‘pirate’ (thinking they were kidding) and suggested ‘Cyclops’. They informed me that this would not go down well at all In France, and in fact would be taken as an insult.

So that’s something to keep in mind for this year’s Borgnes Convention.

Probably the highlight of the evening was when we read ‘Les petites ruisseaux font les grandes rivières‘ – little streams can make big rivers. This then had us all googling key words from the English translation of it – myself included.

There are now at least five inhabitants of a sleepy French town who are fully aware of what a ‘mickle’ is in relation to a ‘muckle’.

They are, however, still somewhat unclear on exactly how many mickles it would take to make a muckle, but they get the general idea.

A Virtual Cruise With The French…


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The cruise ship that Christian and his wife travelled on.

The snow obviously had an impact on attendance last night at my English/French club (where I teach them English and they teach me French), as there were only five of us in attendance. We didn’t let the weather dampen our spirits though, and so Christian, one of the members of the group decided to take us on a cruise. Not literally (though that would have been nice), but rather  via Christian’s holiday photographs from last December, which he displayed for us with a Powerpoint presentation.

He wasn’t just showing off though, he was actually using it as a learning tool – for himself and the other members of the group. What he had done – on nearly every photograph – was to put a subtitle describing what was going on – in English.

‘You must correct me though’ he said, just before we started to enjoy the ‘show’ ‘After all that is what you are here for’. The cruise had taken Christian and his wife around five of the Canary Islands and, despite looking a tad overcast, he had still taken some lovely shots. The interior of the ship itself – The Horizon – looked like it was ripped straight from the late 80s; lots of orange and brown. Seeming to notice this Christian pointed out that it was ‘Very dated inside – but it did the job’.

He had done very well with his subtitles, with just the odd spelling mistake here and there. One example of this was when he was trying to illustrate the fact that he was taking a picture of an island that was far away, he had put ‘Fareway, one island’. I explained to Christian, and the rest of the group, that fareway meant something else and that he could put ‘One faraway island’ or ‘Far away, one island’ (I also said that you could equally just put ‘A faraway island’, but then everybody got confused and started arguing with each other in French, so I dropped it).

The best correction of the night however came from a photograph he had taken on the island of La Palma. In the photograph, taken at the base of one of the mountains, in the crater of the volcano on La Palma, there is a statue of Christ. The subtitle accompanying this read ‘You can pray before on mount’.

I knew, as did the rest of the group, exactly what he was trying to convey – you can pray before you climb up/start your ascent. I then explained what ‘mount’ meant in English.

Now I know that there are other meanings for the word, but I decided to plump for the most basic one. So I then, using only my hands and a few sound effects,  mimed a pair of horses ‘getting it on’. I’ve only been there three weeks, but I like to think I’m a fairly decent judge of what kind of ‘vibe’ a  group has and, luckily, I’d judged this lot right. They didn’t throw me out of the class for this, but rather burst out laughing, immediately grasping the point.

I also spent a while at the end of the presentation explaining  why ‘bog’ and ‘lav’ are nicknames for toilets in England. I doubt they will find my ‘lessons’ on the curriculum in any French school.

Being Interrogated By The French: Part Deux


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I enjoyed another great evening last night at the English speaking group (where I teach them English and they teach me French) which has swelled from the 6 attendees last week to 8 (or 9 if you count me).


Our chat ranged over a variety of subjects, at one point moving from Badminton, to Winston Churchill’s best quotes. One of the ladies that attends writes down phrases that she wishes to go over, and so asked me to spell out a particular word from one of the war-time PM’s famous sayings. She seemed to struggle with the English translation, so I switched to French.


This, however, meant I had to pronounce the letters ‘e’ and ‘o’, one of my weak points in French, which the group immediately noticed. I then spent five minutes practising how to pronounce them with Isabelle, the chemist, who was sitting opposite me. If anybody had passed the window at that point, and heard the sounds emanating from within, they would have thought that we were either A. Filming the world’s worst pornographic film or B. Re-enacting Planet Of The Apes.


Following on from this they also wanted to know if I could say the alphabet in French, which I said I could and, knowing they would ask me to anyway, I recited it. I was then treated to a round of applause from the assembled French upon completion of it and, when I told my partner about this when I got home, she started laughing. ‘They applaud you like you would a performing monkey!’ which, given the sounds I was making earlier in the evening, was quite apt.


Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, I’ve stopped ‘cutting them slack’ and was correcting their English at every opportunity.

Running With My Son…


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Every day we do this son.


You look at me, your eyes glinting with fun.


‘My bag’s too heavy Daddy’ you say with a grin.


Then you pass me your bag and head off, eager to win.


You know it will slow me, and give you a head-start.


And so I grudgingly shoulder your burden, as you depart.


Every day we have a race across the park, to your school.


Every day you ‘win’, I let you, but that’s cool.


Because your legs are getting longer, your lungs stronger as well.


And soon you’ll really be the winner, that much I can tell.


So for now I’ll just treasure these mornings we share.


Running after your little legs, laughing together, not having a care.


Other parents watch us, as we race through the grass.


Or they move out of our way, happy to let us pass.


It’s our thing, our ritual, our little bit of fun.


We do it in all weathers, but I prefer the sun.


Because seeing you running, your golden hair lit up by its rays.


Will live with me forever, till the end of my days.

Being Interrogated By The French…


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I’m struggling to keep up with my kids in the French-language stakes. It’s simple really – their brains are young, mine is old. So while they are picking it up easily, I’m trying everything I can to ram it home. It’s going in. But It’s a slow process.

Those eight hours a day they spend at French school is really giving them an edge too.

So in an effort to boost my vocabulary, and possibly make some new French friends, last night I decided to head along to the local English speaking club – a group set up for French people who want to learn, or practise, speaking English.

I was met by 6 friendly French people, who all seemed very pleased that they had an authentic Englishman living in their village. They were all retirees, with the exception of the town Chemist. We decided – as me is already quite not bad at English talking – that I would speak French to them, and they would speak English to me.

‘But you must correct us!’ they told me ‘And we will correct you!’.

As it was my first time meeting them I didn’t want to ruffle their feathers, so kept any correcting of their speech to a minimum. They, however, had no qualms whatsoever about correcting mine.

This put my French to the test as, for the next one hour and 45 minutes they bombarded me with questions. It would have been shorter, but the amount of pauses I had to make in my responses, as I incorporated their corrections, dragged it out. They even corrected me when I told them that my 4-year-old daughter is already correcting my French – because I said the word ‘correct’ incorrectly.

I pointed out to them that this was like some kind of interview. They agreed with me but then corrected me and said no, it was more like an interrogation.

There were many funny little exchanges throughout the evening, as we discussed everything from Ed Sheeran’s singing, and his engagement, to how to make a Yorkshire Pudding, and why they were created in the first place.

My favourite part of the evening was when they were discussing their children. Some of them were clearly put out that they didn’t see their offspring often enough. The chemist piped up at this point, saying that her parents see her at least once a month. ‘Well they have to’ she said ‘I give them all their pills’.

Now that my headache has subsided I’m already looking forward to next Monday’s session.

How To Increase Your French Vocabulary At McDonald’s…


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We are in the middle of some seriously miserable weather here in our part of France. It’s basically a case of: Monday – Rain. Tuesday – Rain. Wednesday – Rain and wind. You get the idea. So, as crafts indoors will only get you so far before both you and your kids go insane and start trying to make a giant quilt made from string to cover your house or cat (or both), we decide to head to McDonald’s.

And by ‘We’ I mean ‘Me’. Well, until one of them learns to drive and gets a job I’m the dictator of this small state. At least between the hours of 9am – 6pm, Monday to Friday anyway. I then cede control to my other half.

I always bow down to a superior wage.

Especially when I don’t have one myself.

Anyway so I announce my intention to take us off to McDonald’s for a treat, and am met with happy shouts and cries of ‘Yes! Yes!’ ‘No more crafts!’ ‘Let me just finish stitching the third eye on this bird/crocodile thing!’. My daughter puts down her craft implements, and my son stops painting ‘NO MORR CRAfTs My THumBZ HUrT’ on his picket sign, and we head out the door.

I like our trips to the Golden Arches (TM), it’s not something we do often, for financial reasons as well as health reasons. The health reasons are more for me than the kids. There’s been a lot said about the nutritional balance now available in the meals, but at the end of the day it’s still chips and meat, and not much in the way of vegetables.

Unless you count the gherkins.

Also the kids never finish theirs, which means I invariably hoover up the detritus of their meals. I’m from Yorkshire – we don’t like waste.

So we roll up at the restaurant – eating in as usual as buying at the drive-thru, and eating in the car, is a recipe for everybody going insane. Going home with it isn’t an option either, as we are just distant enough for us to return home to some nicely congealed burgers, and some tepid fries.

The kids – as usual – plump for the Happy Meal, and I input their orders at the self-service kiosk. You can say what you want about stuff like this, how it’s detracting from the customer-service experience; how it’s taking people’s jobs. Say what you will. For me, as an Englishman whose grasp of French isn’t quite there just yet, having all these nice photographs to refer to when placing an order makes it much easier, and less stressful. The kids can see exactly what they want to order too.

We sit down (at our set of three couple’s tables, that should seat six, but my children have dominated the area, much to the annoyance of the other people in the rather crowded restaurant) receive our food and tuck into it. Well, after opening up the toys that is. As with any kids, my children’s priorities are: Toys first, food second.

This week’s promotional toy is from the Mr Men range, the Roger Hargreaves designed range of humorous characters. There seems to be 90 in total to collect. I don’t know if that’s more or less than the total Pokemon.The kids have two each. They hastily swap out the lady and man from each of their bags so that my son is left with two Mr Men awhile my daughter has the two Little Missus. Or Little Mrs. Whatever.

My kids don’t go in for all this gender-neutral nonsense. He likes boy’s toys, she likes girl’s toys, and that’s that as far as they’re concerned.

Once we have finished we head on over to the craft station, a great little corner that is – surprisingly – always empty when we go.

This is where I see the following drawings for the kids to colour in:


In case you are thinking ‘But where are all the ladies? Maybe on the other side of the paper?’. The answer is no, there’s nothing but blank space. There was only one lady to colour in – but she was massive, if that helps:


I found this very educational – please bear with me on this – as along with the pictures for the kids to colour in, there were also guides to the names of the characters – both male and female. Now this may sound silly to you, but with my level of French, things like this are really useful.

The Mr Men characters have always been named after everyday feelings, and effects – like Mr Bump, or Mr Angry, Mr Happy etc. So having a guide, with pictures that correspond to the characters, and give you a clue to what the names mean is a fantastic help for me:




I take every bit of help I can when it comes to learning the lingo in this country.

But does that mean that I’m going to try and collect all 90 of the characters?


My vocabulary would definitely increase if I did.

But so would my waistline.


What It’s Like: Watching A Film With My Four-Year-Old Daughter…


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Movie Night

The following is an example of my daughter’s dialogue, spoken over the first ten minutes of pretty much any film that you could think of, that is suitable for children aged four. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, it will always follow the same pattern…

‘What’s that?’

‘Why are they doing that?’

‘Is he the baddy?’

‘Why is he the baddy?’

‘Is he the baddy?’





‘Where has she gone?’

‘Can I have some chocolate?’

‘I have not already had some’




‘The baddy is a man?’

‘Why is the baddy a man?’




‘Why is he green?’

‘Are they the goodies?’

‘Why did he break that?’

‘Is it because he is bad?’

‘Is it?’

‘Can I have some more chocolate?’

‘Why not?’

‘Why not?’


‘Can I have some more chocolate?’

‘Where are they?’

‘What is that?’

‘Does the baddy want that?

‘Is he the baddy?’

‘I want a cuddle’

‘Are they the goodies?’

‘What is that?’

‘Is that a weapon?’

‘Why did it do that?’

‘What’s a bomb?’

‘Does the baddy want that?’




‘Can I have some chocolate?’

‘Why not?’

‘They are the goodies aren’t they?’

‘They are strong aren’t they?’

‘Daddy you smell bad’

‘And you need a shave’

‘Can I have some chocolate?’