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?’

The Christmas Market At Baugy – Cold Enough To Freeze The Balls Off A Brass Monkey!


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Nothing screams Christmas like a metal Minion. Handcrafted, and yours for just 750 Euros.

Brrrrr. Whose idea was this? Christmas markets sound lovely in theory, don’t they? Then you get there and there are loads and loads of people, browsing stalls that are – unhappily – selling loads and loads of tat.

Then there are the stalls that are selling artisanal items, handcrafted and carefully painted, they’ve clearly had a lot of effort put into them. You’d hope so anyway, after you look at the price tag. 250 Euros for a Flamingo made out of copper and bamboo? Are you having a laugh?

I also love the fact that – no matter what the theme of the market, or for whatever reason it’s being held – you will always, always find a hook-a-duck stall doing a roaring trade. These things are essentially pound shops with hook-a-ducks stuck on the front of them. And they will always have at least one toy that your child will want, that they can’t have for some reason.

So the plastic sword and shield are ok?’. Oui, they will nod at you.

And the plastic Slinky is ok?’. Oui, they will nod at you.

But not the radio controlled drone with 2.4 megapixel camera?’. Non, they will say to you.

Honestly, hook-a-duck stalls and those carousel* rides are just another form of tax for parents.

I sound like a Christmas-market Grinch don’t I? I do like them, really, but not when they are so busy and sooooooo cold.

You’d think I’d know better, time of year and all. Maybe I should start a campaign to hold Christmas markets in June, and then limit the amount of attendees to something reasonable. Like ten people. That’s me, the missus, the kids and 6 stall holders.

And nobody is allowed to sell goods in excess of 30 Euros.

And no smelly cheeses.

And no stalls selling tat.

And no tiny dogs that I keep nearly stepping on.

Bah humbug.

Anyway, enough moaning. We went to one near us in Baugy recently, a quaint little village tucked away in central France. It had the usual stuff. Here are some photographs for you to have a look at.

Oh, and in case I haven’t impressed it upon you enough – IT WAS BLOODY COLD.

And that’s coming from a Yorkshire man.



42% of this shot is pavement – I had it measured by Yourphotographyskillssuck.fr



Bit more like it, nice Christmas tree – note women who has 5% of face visible, did I mention it was cold?



Yes, that is indeed a 1100 litre Rubbermaid Brute wheelie bin. Magnificent isn’t she?



Here we have a depiction of the lesser-known Santa, Freak Santa, so called because he has no arms, and he’s been in the game that long that his sack has fused to his body. Poor Freak Santa.



Another fabulous shot of mostly-pavement.



Note the juxtaposition of the foreground star and background tree, such a union of Christmas imagery that one’s soul could weep. Actually no, it was the cold making my eyes water.



I had tried to trick my kids into entering this, allowing me to then leave them safely trapped within it. But they are wise to my ways, and now carry wire-cutters and stihl saws with them at all times, so that they can break out of whatever I try and lock them inside of.



Oh joy. Oh Christmas. Oh wow. I can’t feel my fingers anymore. And I’ve just asked somebody for a ‘Verre ob hob chobolabe’ because my lips have gone numb.



38% pavement.



Every single person in this shot is thinking the same thing: ‘It’s bloody cold, I don’t want a 5 foot metal butterfly for my garden, can we go home now?’.



Take one shed. Add Christmas lights. Hey Presto! One Christmas-themed shed! This one sold Monster energy drinks in case you are wondering.



All I want for Christmas is a pair of scissors and five minutes alone with Giant-Inflatable-Santa.



Now this was more like it! She had heat, she had sausages…but no brown sauce 😦



Look who’s eyeballing me – it looks like Mark Lamarr! Could be too, I’ve not seen him in years.



These Santas seem to have gotten quite commercial. This was the third we’d seen at various markets, and they all had professional photographers with them. We didn’t hang around to see what they were charging.



52% pavement



That poor man with no hair and no hat. Can you get a frostbite of the head?



This has to be the worst picture of the lot. Why have I even put this in here?



‘Mummy mummy, buy us some rubbish that we will later lose interest in and/or break. Buy it for us, or we will make your life hell for the next 30-90 minutes’.


I hope you enjoyed my photographical-feast**, full of positivism and love for all the things that make a Christmas market in France what it is.

Next time I will wear gloves.

And stay at home.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone xxx


*You know the ones I’m talking about, loads of cars and helicopters and crocodiles with badly painted Disney characters on them going round in a circle. They always dangles some weird-looking thing down so your kid can grab it and have another go for ‘free’. I say for free like that – in inverted commas – because they generally target parents with more than one kid on the ride. This is because they know that the other kid(s) will immediately kick off and so they will be forced to pay for another go round for the other child as well. Win-win for the carousel-owner.

**Yes, I know photographical isn’t a word. It’s redlined – twice – as I’m typing this. I don’t care.

My First Film In A French Cinema…


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Went to see my first film in a French cinema today – no subtitles, all in French.


It was a harrowing tale of an illegal immigrant who has made his way to England, and settled in with a family, only to have his life turned upside-down when he is wrongfully accused of burglary.


The film then follows his life as it further deteriorates after he is imprisoned.


All hope is not lost though and, with the help of his heretofore under-utilised culinary skills, he manages to charm the other prisoners, and is accepted as one of them, despite his strange mannerisms and foreign ways.


The community where he used to live is seen to fall apart without him, as he is clearly shown to be the ‘glue’ that held it all together.



I won’t spoil any more of the film, or the ending for you, but will just say that Paddington 2 is very, very good.


Belote – A Dummies’ Guide For English Players. Part 3: Using The Online App


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In the final part of my Belote guide I’m going to introduce you to the online app that allows you to play this game on a daily basis. I cannot emphasise this enough – if you want to get good at Belote USE THIS APP. It’s a fantastic, easy to use way of sharpening up your game and taking you from the player who gets on everyone’s nerves – because you keep forgetting the rules – to the player that people have to watch out for, because you’ve suddenly become much, much better.

The app can be found here is free to download, and can even be played while you are browsing Facebook. A word of warning on the ‘free’ part. Like all of these other free games there is a definite hint that you can, if you wish, spend money on this game through the process of buying more chips to play DO NOT DO THIS. I have been using this app to refine my game for the last few years, do you know how much I have spent? Nothing. Not a single penny.

The way to do this is easy. When you sign up for it you are given 2,000 chips to play. Each game you play ‘professionally’ that is, with other players, costs you 200 chips to ‘buy in’. You will then win 250 back if you are successful (so a 50 chip profit). There are different levels you can play at, where the stakes are higher, but stay on the ‘Relax’ level (that’s its name) and you won’t go far wrong.

Every day you go online and play, the app will invite you to ‘spin a wheel’ that grants you free chips. This can be anywhere from 100 – 400 chips (rarely 400 though). This helps to top up your chips for free. Another way of adding free chips is to ‘befriend’ other players during gameplay. This is not like adding friends on Facebook – they won’t suddenly start ‘liking’ your statuses. No, they are your friends on the Belote app, and that’s the only place they will see you, and you will see them.

These players can become your friends by simply hovering above their faces whilst playing – the options to add them are there. In the early days of playing I would say add as many players as you can. What happens then is each day these people can send you presents, and you can send them presents back. These presents take the form of chips and range from 11 – 18 chips (or so). These chips are not taken from your existing pot, but rather are a bonus amount that you have in seemingly infinite supply (but only to give as presents). This may not sound like much but if you have 20+ players sending you chips per day, coupled with the free spin each day and conservative play (stick to the relax level) you can see what I mean when I say you never have to spend a penny.

If you do ever run out of chips however there is the training mode of the game that you can fall back on, until you have enough chips from free spins and presents to get back in.

The training mode sees you pitted against three computer players, and costs you nothing. This is where you will start out on the app, before you are deemed good enough to move up to the relax level. I would strongly recommend you stay at this level – training that is – until you have enough confidence in yourself to play with real people on the relax level. each day you practice at this you will also be entitled to free spins, so do make the most of them.

If you do have the odd losing streak – and I’ve had more than my fair share of them – then simply turn it off and call it a day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

If I had anything negative to say about the app it’s this – it will have the occasional glitch. This could be down to too many players, system updates etc I don’t know, I’m not a programmer. What this means though is that from time to time your game may freeze, other players may disappear and strange things may happen. Sometimes this passes, but sometimes it doesn’t and you will need to reset the game. Unfortunately this may often cost you your stake – so bye bye 200 chips. People have told me that you can complain on the Twitter feed of the game makers, and they will send you your chips plus extra for your time. I don’t know if this is true because, to be honest, I couldn’t be arsed with that – I just reset and reload. If it happens more than twice in a short period of time though then give it up for the day – there’s clearly an issue.

That’s about all you need to know about the app. In case you are wondering I have no stake in people clicking on the link to the game’s site. I get nothing back financially, and I am not affiliated with the creators in any way. I just recognise it for the fantastic learning tool that it is. Play it, learn from it, then take it and let it loose on your French friends – they won’t know what hit them!



So that’s all from my guide on how to play Belote. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope it all made sense. I think that a combination of reading this guide, using the app and playing with friends, should be all you need to become a seasoned pro at Belote!